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A Detective Story

Better Watch Your Back

By C C FarleyPublished 4 months ago Updated 4 months ago 19 min read
A Detective Story
Photo by Ian Schneider on Unsplash

Painful Memories

Dick Kingsley nodded politely to Diana Mah, a sprightly 65-year-old, who hunkered nearby, effortlessly pulling up weeds in the neatly manicured front garden. He felt at ease in her presence, and considered her like an old, weathered gray blanket, providing him with a sense of warmth, despite the occasional uncomfortable feeling.

He admired the freshly planted pink begonias, and soft pink roses and knew it was all due to the agile hands of this slight senior citizen, whose back was turned to him as he opened the door to the front of his one-story bungalow. A small blast of wind, as he closed the door, scattered a few pieces of mail from his kitchen table.

He looked at the mail and discovered he'd received his basement tenant's mail by mistake -again.

Diana was his basement tenant for as long as he could remember. He charged her a paltry $500 a month in return for some light housekeeping and gardening. And since her rent was a few days late almost every month, his friend Buddy told him he should evict her in favour of a $ 1200-a-month foreign exchange student.

Dick shrugged his shoulders and told him he preferred no-fuss tenants and he had empathy for this single mother who had kept to herself for years. He admitted to Buddy that he didn't know too much about her --other than she was a second-generation Canadian-born Chinese who was abandoned by her long-distance truck driver husband a few decades ago on a bitter November morning. Since his basement was empty, his sister-in-law Ellie had told him that this itinerant cashier who sometimes worked in a Chinese herbal store, needed a cheap place to stay to raise her young daughter. One year turned into 25 years, and he accepted Diana as his basement tenant.

Diana was the least of his worries. As he neared his retirement, there was one case that was needling him like the drunks that occasionally staggered out of Al's Neighborhood Pub, which was kitty-corner to his 50's era bungalow house.

The constant noise of the drunks who came out from the pub on the next street irritated him, especially during Spring break and the Christmas holidays. He could hear the twenty-somethings belching and spitting late at night. The men giving cat calls to the young women with high heels after 2 am sometimes woke up his nearly 65-year-old body. But he realized he was once a badass too, as a young man in his thirties. There was once a time when he went to the pub one evening when he met an attractive twenty-something blonde. She acted as though she knew him as though he was an old pal, and he immediately took it as a green light to bring her home. The next day, he was furious to find his ID missing after the woman left him in the light of the early morning.

Nowadays, Dick was more concerned with planning his retirement. But he didn't like to leave files open, especially this one that was close to his heart. One dark November, 30 years ago, his twin brother, Adam, who owned a successful used car lot, was discovered by his wife stabbed multiple times and lying in the living room with countless defenceless wounds on his hands.

The crime scene was a mess: blood splatted the walls and photos and lamps were upturned --there appeared to be signs of a vicious struggle. Detectives collected a few things like a blade handle, as well as one weird item --half a ticket stub from a Michael Jackson concert.

There were a few quick taps on the door, and Dick pulled the door open. He smiled widely, as Buddy Neilson, his “brother from another mother” tapped him on the shoulder. He joked about that often. His large, slightly chubby friend was an old classmate from Catholic school and he lived nearby in his recently deceased mother’s house.

Buddy limped into the room, grimacing a little, because of an injury that he said happened years ago when he was working in a warehouse at UPS.

“Glad I caught you at home, Bro,” Buddy said, easing himself slowly into a kitchen chair.

“Sure nippy out there,” Buddy said. Outside the rain pattered hard against the kitchen window, and Dick figured a surprise storm could be on the way. The last atmospheric river, or pineapple express caused a foot of rain gushing into his suite last year and the detective frowned a little at the memory. They talked pleasantries for a while before Buddy cut to the chase.

“Could you lend me something til next week?” Buddy asked, grabbing a cigarette from the counter.

“Sure, twenty bucks ok?” Buddy shook his head, “Hey, with your detective salary, surely you can be more generous.”

Dick reached into his wallet and took out a twenty-dollar bill, plus some change. “That’s all I got today. You also can’t hang out today because “you know who” is coming.”

Buddy laughed. “You call your niece “You know who”? I get it! Family times. Sure, I’ll go. Isn’t she 40-something now? Her name is Anna, right?"

"Anna Kingsley was 40," Dick said, adding, “I don’t even know if she likes cats or dogs. If she is a snake worshiper, darned if I know. I need to talk to her before she leaves for good."

Buddy got up and looked around the room which was tidy and decorated with several tables and chairs.

“She’ll be so impressed with how you are living. You never see your niece, Bro. Why now?”

Buddy took a long drag from the cigarette, and exhaled a few smoke rings. Dick smiled at his tall friend and raised a hand to his mouth, thoughtfully.

“Don’t tell anyone but I think she knows more about my brother’s death,” Dick said, handing Buddy a can of coke.

Buddy slammed the open can of coke hard on the table, spilling some liquid.

“No, you don’t say! Your daughter is a murderer! She would have been 10 years old at the time!"

His face suddenly flushed, Dick answered, “I didn’t say she was a murderer! I said she knows more than what she is saying.”

“Ok, ok.,” Dick said, adding, “I overreacted. You just want to question her. I get it.”

"You're the psychic, you tell me, " Dick said, opening the oven door to check the tenderness of the roasted chicken.

Dick wasn't being sarcastic. Buddy spent hours in the library, reading books about psychic awareness and intuition. He told Dick he could see auras and liked to watch Dateline, where he often correctly guessed who killed whom.

“ spidey sense says it's someone you know...that leaves half the city, ” Buddy said, laughing loudly. He said nothing for a few moments before adding, "It's someone you know." The door closed the door behind him.


As his clock on the mantelpiece moved towards 6 pm, Dick checked the oven to make sure the chicken was cooked a deep brown before his niece came to dinner.

Then...three sharp knocks on the door got his attention. He peeked through the curtain in his front window and recognized her. It was his Anna Kingsley! She was nearly the same height as himself --5'8. Her hair was fashionable short and slightly curled. She was neither pretty nor plain and Dick considered her average-looking. She was dressed in a CK T-shirt and jeans, accompanied by a Prado purse, and wore a long red silky scarf draped around her neck.

“Hi,” she said, smiling. Dick gave her a quick hug before welcoming her to her to sit on a fading loveseat. After offering her some wine, Anna talked mostly about herself and her plans to live and work in Germany with her friend, Gwendolyn, whose family owned a candy shop.

“Great idea, Anna,” Dick said, adding that hoped he could visit her soon.

Dick brought out the chicken and prepared the gravy and mashed potatoes. During the dinner, the conversation was sparse and Anna ate her chicken with a few words here and there, sometimes adding, “It’s a bit salty, Dick. But it’s ok.”

After the plates were put away, Dick offered Anna some chianti wine, and she took a sip before making a face.

“It’s a bit sour. Do you have water instead?” Dick got up and brought her some tap water.

“No bottled stuff or mineral water?” Anna asked.

“For 30 years as a cop, I have never bought that bottled stuff. Why bother, when the stuff is free and just as good,” Dick explained. “I’ll make you tea instead.”

Anna nodded and got up to look over some family pictures on the wall.

She raised one picture of a young man in a tweed jacket standing next to a blond-haired woman.

“My father,” Anna said, “I miss that guy.”

The kettle with the water blew a loud whistle and while he reached for a mug, he felt the steam from the kettle reach his face, and he felt his words tremble a little.

“Anna, I need to ask you what happened. Tie up loose ends you know.”

Anna sat up and her words came so fast she almost dropped her purse.

“What? Thirty years and you haven’t found the killer or killers yet? I can’t believe it! What do you guys do there all day? I loved my dad, and I still miss him dearly.”

“I am sorry, Anna. I am going to retire soon, as soon as I tie up this loose end. I am doing my best. I just need to know if my brother was happy before he died. Did he have enemies?”

Anna raised her eyebrows and offered some information.

"Well, you know mother and dad didn't always get along. They were always fighting. Course you can't say that she did it because she and I were at the Michael Jackson concert."

He sighed and said, “I thought you and Ellie went to a movie?”

Anna got up and looked a little flustered.

“I was 10 years old at the time. How can I remember? It was either a movie or a concert.

Dick nodded. “Ellie told me you went to see a movie and now you are saying it was a Michael Jackson concert.”

Anna’s eyes lit up and said, “OK. I stayed at my friend's house that night and we played some games. Mother went to a concert and picked me up later."

Dick stopped talking and felt his heart racing.

Anna continued, "There's a lot that you may not have known about my Daddy. Father wasn't ever at home much. When he did come home, he was always with this Chinese woman that he said he was tutoring. She lived in the basement and kept to herself but I saw her a few times. Mother felt lonely and I saw her kiss a guy once when Daddy wasn't home."

"Go on," Dick said. He took out a notepad and began scribbling.

"Mother went out with this big, chunky guy. He worked for her to install carpets but he kept hanging around a lot. He always brought her something in a package, and they smoked a lot. Then they went to the bedroom and closed the door."

"Continue, I am interested," Dick opened a bottle of beer and slowly eased himself in a chair.

"Well, you know the story now. Daddy and Mommy were not so hot for each other. Daddy kept going downstairs to tutor the Asian girl downstairs. He was always gone for hours. Mother hated seeing him close the basement door. They always had big fights and I was always sent to the room before I could see them."

Before he could say anything else, there was a gentle tap on the door ---Diana Mah entered the room, carrying a tray of congee soup.

“Oh, I am sorry. You have friends. Soup? Congee?” Diana walked over to place the bowl in the kitchen. “Enjoy yourself."

Anna took a look at the other woman in the room and promptly dropped her wine glass, which splattered the liquid over the rug.

"That's her! That's the woman Daddy was seeing." Diana touched her face, and her face reddened. She turned around and shut the door behind her without saying a word.

By the time Anna grabbed her blazer and kissed him goodbye, Dick knew he had to see someone as soon as possible.


Dick knocked and without waiting for a reply, turned the doorknob to Diana's basement suite The room was dim, save for a small lamp near her bed. He strained to see her in the room and once his eyes adjusted, he found her head slumped on a small table.

He felt an urge to take her by the shoulders and slam her against the wall. Knock some sense in her. But instead, he took her hand gently and said quietly, “Were you my brother’s girlfriend?”

Diana nodded and said nothing. He kept asking questions, one after the other and gradually the words came out from her like a waterfall.

Yes, Diana was his brother’s girlfriend, she admitted. Diana explained that he came downstairs to tutor her and one day a few years before he died, he put his arm around her and pulled her down on the bed. It happened only once and the next thing she knew, she got pregnant. Kept the baby. He helped her with money and visited her often –up to three times a week. Yes, she hated him. He always promised that he would leave his wife. Her husband left her and why didn’t his wife leave? She hated him so much and yes, she did think about killing him. She wanted him dead so badly because she kept him on a string for five years.

She paused a little while to take a sip of water.

He felt the final question rush to his throat. “Did you kill him?”

Diana shook her head.

She said quietly, “I didn’t. I didn’t get the chance. Someone else said.”

“Who was that?”

Diana looked Dick in the eye and glared at him. “Ask Elle. She knows everything.”

His left hand slumped to his side before he felt his way to the door. He passed by several long sharpened knives in the kitchen before concluding that it was too easy to rule her out as a killer.


Elle Kingsley was the kind of woman who liked everything big. She didn’t just live in any old house. Her tastes extended to a grand palatial white house, attached to an indoor swimming pool and housekeeper residence.

Dick reached for the door knocker that was carved into a lion’s face. He tapped it a few times before Elle herself appeared, wearing a shimmering metallic dress paired with high silver heels. Her long blond hair was tied into a neat little bun.

“Well, look here. Fine time to see you when I am going out.” Elle pecked Dick’s cheek.

“It’s been so long. I thought you forgot about us.”

Dick moved a step back and looked at his deceased brother’s wife. He admired her svelte shape but was a little taken aback by her abruptness.

“Just wanted to pay a visit. I wanted to wrap things up before I retired.”

He moved past her to sit on a white leather couch.

“I know it’s not the time,” he continued, “ But I need some answers.’

Ellie threw her Gucci purse on the hall table and let it out.

“I got an important date tonight and I don't have time for this right now. You got to get out, and get out now before I kick you out.”

“You haven’t changed a bit, have you, Elle?" Dick said, adding, "You're still the same piece of shit for a bitch Daddy.” Elle’s hands were on him now, and as he reached to put her hands on the side, she lunged at him, scratching him with her long, pink varnished nails.

“You have the right mind to come here and rail off me. You stupid, lying man. I can’t believe you are saying all this to me, of all people! You told me you loved me and because I wouldn’t leave him, you killed him, you’re own brother.”

Dick stumbled backwards, knocking down a floor lamp and felt himself falling against the couch.

“What are you saying, Elle?!”

Elle stood over him and as she did so, the light from the knocked-over floor stand, illuminated her shadow over him. The bulb facing his eyes momentarily blinded him, and all he could see was a large, dark figure that hovered over him menacingly. Her hands held up a small silvery item and his heart skipped a beat as he half expected to feel the blade of a knife strike his aorta.

“What are you doing? You are a cowering freak of nature.” Elle began filing her nails and blew on it. “You wrecked my nails.”

As his eyes adjusted to the light, he remembered years ago, touching and feeling Elle’s hair that felt soft to his touch. It was long ago but he saw himself drinking Jack Daniels in a bar close to his home. A young blond came to him and he offered to buy her a drink. She was dressed in a form-fitting red dress, cut above her knees, accentuating her long legs. With a seductive wink, she effortlessly drew him in, as if he was a metallic object irresistibly pulled towards her, a human sexy magnet.

He looked at the older blond woman in front of him. “It was you, wasn’t it? Elle nodded and then Dick saw another image in his mind from 30 years ago. He took the blond lady by the hand, and gradually they made their way into a dark bedroom. He switched on the night lamp, andfocused his attention on her; they began kissing.

“Will you look at me, you fool?” Elle threw a pen at Dick who was l lying on the couch, with his eyes still closed.

She kicked at him with her shoes.

"You killed him, and cleaned up everything, I never knew you would just take off and disappear for the rest of 30 years. Of course, I moved on.” Her voice became soft now.

“You can solve this detective story because you killed him yourself. Stupid! You must have blacked out.”

“No!” Dick mumbled some more things that were unintelligible before he found himself stumbling out of Elle’s house. He felt her face meet his and then her red lips sucked on his cheeks, then his mouth.

“I still love you!” Ellie called out to him from the doorstep, her lipstick smeared.

Somehow, he found the composure to find the key to his Mazda CX7 and was determined to make a Buddy’s house. Buddy would clear things up –after all, they shared everything.


It was nearly 8 pm before Dick arrived in Buddy’s neighbourhood, sandwiched between a highway for truckers and a row of neat, single-family dwellings built in the cities. A gray misty fog descended around him and Dick turned on the fog light, narrowly missing an UberEats courier driver.

Since no one answered the front door, Dick figured he might find Buddy tinkering in his garage out back.

“Buddy? Are you there?” Dick picked his way through a row of broken potted plants, a few old tires, and some bags of leaves. He looked around him and because of the fog could barely make out the back of the garage.

“Hey, bro.” A voice called from within. Dick turned open the knob and saw his old friend lying back on an old, green lawn chair, holding a can of beer. The music was blaring the plaintive wailings of Janis Joplin.

“Grab a chair. What’s up? Wanna beer?” Buddy opened a mini fridge and handed him a drink but Dick waved it away.

“Got to tell you what happened today,” Dick offered, pulling himself down on a fold-up lawn chair. “Saw Ellie and she gave me a kiss.” Buddy’s face twitched a little.

“What’s wrong?” Dick eyed his friend closely.

“Nothing. Elle? How’s she doing?” Buddy sat up straight in his lawn chair.

“Seems that she thinks I killed my brother. Out of jealousy for her.” Dick put his hands over his head. “Could she be right? I was drinking heavily then and I tended to blank out a lot.”

Buddy stood up straight and he peered out at the fog from the window of the garage. “Naw. You couldn’t have. You were at the rehab center the week your brother died. Check the records.”

Dick studied his fingers back and forth as if he was inspecting. He said quietly, “Yes, I loved Ellie. I hadn’t known she was seeing my brother, too. As soon as I found out that she chose him over me, I was mad. I might have killed him. Honest.”

Dick continued, “I met Elle at Al’s Neighborhood Pub one evening. She was a beautiful girl. I was lonely and one thing led to another. She later told me she took my ID and couldn’t believe that I wasn’t my brother. She thought she was making out with my brother, who had walked out on her. As soon as she found out I was not my brother, she dropped me like a brick of coal. I was never so heartbroken.”

Buddy didn’t say anything but his face was turning red, as though something was burning deep within him.

“I confess, Dick. It was me. And I can prove it.” Buddy walked to the closet and pulled out a bag that contained a few knives, plus half a Michael Jackson concert ticket.

Buddy sat down and opened another can of beer. “That woman cheated on her husband and cheated on me, too. She kept giving me money to fund my businesses and one day her husband found out. He wanted to put a stop to it and found me at her house, cleaning salmon. He hit me with a hammer. I fought back by slicing in a few times with my fishing knife. Here it is.” Buddy pulled out the clean knife.

He pulled Dick towards him and gave him a bear hug.

“Let’s forget the whole darn thing. Let bygones bygones. Wrap it up. We both made mistakes. After all, we are true brothers with a different mother.”

Dick picked up the knife and turned it around, feeling the blade again and again.

He pictured his brother using his hands to ward off the blows but it was no use. He died with 30 stab wounds to his neck, shoulder, chest, and heart.

He took out a plastic bag from his pocket and carefully placed the knife inside.

Turning to Buddy, he calmly said, “Let’s go downtown, Buddy. I got to book you for murder.”

“Why, Dick? Why me of all people? Why can’t you let it go?” Buddy looked genuinely surprised.

Dick didn’t answer for a while. He wet his lips before saying, “I could never see you as another brother. I only had one.”

As they both exited the garage door, somehow the evening fog had cleared and Dick could make out a full moon sandwiched between a large Cypress tree and his Cx-7.


About the Creator

C C Farley

I loved reading at an early age. Writing is also a passion and I love writing, reading, and spending time with my pets.

I also love photography, independent film making, travel and writing.

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