Jimmy's librarian friend had proved worth her weight in gold. Without questioning his request, she'd fired back the names and license numbers for all the brokers in our office.
There was James Patrick Dolan, Deborah Enid Alston, Wilhelm Ernesto Jaffarian and Barney Dunbarton, aka Frederick Emile Dunbarton.
"I think we have a problem," I said. Jimmy stood and leaned over the e-mail he'd handed me.
"Why? Everything looks right to me. Only I don't get why our boss goes by Barney when his real name is Frederick."
I looked at Jimmy. "That's not Barney's real name," I said. I didn't tell him about Harriet's confirmation hours ago that Barney's name was Franklin Edward. His initials "Eff-Eee" worked in any case. Interesting.
"He goes by Emile? Way worse than Barney."
I folded his e-mail in quarters and put it into the pocket of my suit jacket. "Let me check this out," I said. "Maybe it's merely a clerical error."
I walked to the door. Jimmy sat down again. "So where you going?"
I grinned. "Research," I said. "Every English major's dearest friend. We must renew our acquaintance."
Jimmy put his long legs up on top of his desk and grabbed the remote control. "Enjoy," he said. "I'm watching the stock report, then calling more of Deborah's clients."
I walked across the room to kiss him on the cheek. I squinted at the small TV on the opposite wall. "Are you sure you're not watching reruns of Green Acres on cable?"
Jimmy pretended to cringe. "Shhh," he said. "Someone will hear you!"
I left as he cranked up CNN. I didn't think the two different names for Barney both starting with the same initials was a mistake. I thought it was planned by a pretty clever operator. However, I didn't tell Jimmy my suspicions because I didn't want to get him into trouble. If I was right, Barney could be Deborah's killer, and what Jimmy didn't know, he couldn't get killed for.
Either way, I needed to make a quick trip to the Winnebago County Clerk's office during lunch break and hope that some of the civil servants actually minded the store at lunchtime.
I was in luck. A very nice older woman, much nicer than Harriet would ever be, helped me look up the birth certificates for my dear uncles, Franklin and Frederick. The family angle occurred to me when the nice woman asked why I needed the information. The first thing that popped to mind was genealogy—one of my mother's principal hobbies. So I cast myself in the role of dutiful niece.
It appeared that Franklin and Frederick Dunbarton were twins born two minutes apart. Franklin was older.
"Do you need the death certificate, too, Dear?"
The older woman straightened the cat's eye glasses on her nose. "For genealogy, most people want both the birth and death dates."
"Oh," I said. "I'm new at this."
She smiled at me. "You did appear a little nervous. I won't bite, Dear, and your uncles will appreciate being remembered."
I sincerely doubted that "Uncle" Franklin would appreciate my thinking of him in this way, but I smiled back at her anyway.
She came back in minutes. "Hmmm," she said. "All I can find is Frederick. He died as a child. Says here it was Scarlet Fever. It's a little hard to read."
She handed the photocopy of the birth certificate to me, and I paid her the modest copying fee of 50 cents a page. It was hard to read all right, but Frederick Emile had clearly died some 30 years earlier of natural causes, as attested to by the coroner at the time.
"Shall I look for the other one?" she asked.
"The other one?"
"Yes, your Uncle Franklin, Dear. Didn't you say that he died before you were born? Maybe he went by another name or died in another town. What if you tell me. . . ."
Oh, he'd gone by another name all right. Good old Uncle Franklin, aka Barney, had borrowed his dead brother's name to apply for a broker's license. Now why would he have gone and done a thing like that? Unless his own name was somehow tainted.
The woman gazed at me over the top of her glasses as I clutched the copies of the birth and death certificates to my chest.
"Um," I said. "My lunch hour is over. Could I come back tomorrow?"
"Come back as often as you like," she said. "Genealogists are always welcome."
I smiled and waved as I walked quickly to the exit. Genealogists were welcome. I wondered about liars.
In the lobby of City Hall, I found a secluded corner and pulled out my cell phone. When his voicemail picked up, I left Lieutenant Karlson a message.
"Would it interest you to know, Karl, that Barney Dunbarton has a broker's license in his dead brother's name?" I said. "Check out the brothers Dunbarton—Franklin Edward, aka Barney, and Frederick Emile. You know you want to."
I hung up without even identifying myself. By now, Karlson knew who I was. I was the Detective Queen reigning supreme.
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Death and the MotherlodeMystery / Thriller
You can contact the AUTHOR at firstname.lastname@example.org. Paulette Goddard lives in a world of contradictions. For example, Paulette is a feisty, size 24, smart mouth, while her best friend and gal pal is a blond bombshell who goes home at the end of the...