Dear Detective Nora Morgan
Orphaned at five and murdered at 14, Elliot Cormier follows Detective Nora Morgan as she solves the mystery behind his death.
Dear Detective Nora Morgan,
One of the greatest mysteries in life is the way it comes to an end. Many begin with the three following questions:
- Who died?
- When did they die?
- What killed them?
But one must look past these to find out how and why someone died.
Despite laying in the dirt with my head split open, meeting you at the crime scene filled me with hope. A red gash divided my brown mop of hair like the red sea, sending a small river of blood trickling down my cheek. After talking to the other officers, you opened with a kind but curious, “what happened to you”. How I wished to have met you when I was alive. I hope you didn’t mind me following you solving my case, but my unfinished business remained… unfinished.
After the drive back to the precinct, we had an unexpected run-in with one of your old friends, Dante El Salvado.
“Nick,” you called to your partner, “what’s he doing here?” Nick had just left Dante in the interrogation room.
“Your old buddy Dante was spotted fleeing the crime scene with blood on his clothes.” A look of disgust was smeared over Nick’s face, leaving you hanging your head with shame. It had been years since you had last seen Dante. Taking a moment to compose your thoughts and anxieties, you headed into the interrogation room. I knew you needed privacy, so I waited near Detective Nick’s desk. That room was no place for a 14-year-old boy.
Shifting uncomfortably in his cold, silver seat, you said something to Dante that made him upset. He glared at you. Lashing out and standing from his chair, I could hear his muffled tirade from outside the room. He paced back and forth as you kept your cool. A few moments later, he was back in the chair. History hung between the two of you like the crooked picture frame on the peeling cream wall of the interrogation room.
I remember seeing Dante when I was alive. I’d often find him watching me from his car or in the parking lot by EZ-mart on Fifth street, intimidating the locals and probably stealing. Once, I had made the mistake of walking too close to him on my way back to a foster home.
“Yo kid!” he yelled out. I froze in my tracks, faintly hearing scattering footsteps behind me. Walking up to me, he stopped a meter away and took a drag of his cigarette. In fear, I hung my head, not daring to look up. “Yo kid, you deaf.”
“N-No sir,” I trembled, rubbing the worn end of my shirt in my hands.
“You better watch where you walk, alright? You don’t wanna cross the wrong people.”
“Y-yes, sir.” I was shaking like a leaf.
“Go on! Get out of here,” he spat, throwing his burnt-out cigarette in front of me. I ran faster than my feet would let me, tripping on the gravel as I made my way around the corner and out of sight.
Shaking myself out from my memory, you swung the interrogation room door open.
“Yo Nora— I mean, Detective Morgan,” Dante called, making you swivel your head around to see him, “you believe me, right?” Without answering, you turned and walked over to Nick’s desk. As the door closed slowly behind you, I caught a glimpse of Dante’s eyes, full of guilt and regret watching you walk away.
“So, you think he did it?” Nick asks, reading through my preliminary autopsy report.
“I don’t know,” you reply, struggling to decide between past feelings and present facts, “but we’ll keep him in custody for now.”
A few hours after Dante had been placed in the holding cell, a large and burly man had arrived at the precinct. With a thick red beard and broad shoulders, this man carried with him a sizable ego as big as his phoney smile.
“Thank you for coming in today Mr Morton,” you greeted, ushering him into your private office.
“Please, call me George. Everyone calls me George,” he replied, his cheery voice betraying his brawny exterior. “Can we please make this quick detective? I need to… get back to my shop.”
“Yes, of course. I just wanted to ask you about Elliot Cormier. Did you know him at all?” Opening my file, you watched carefully as he shifted in his seat.
“Did I know Elliot? I knew his parents very well; they owned the shop next door before they passed away. Such a tragedy that was. I was just lucky the fire didn’t spread to my store, heavens knows how much meat we would have lost. We’re the best butcher in town, ya know.” His eyes darted the room.
“I’m sure you are. Were you aware that Elliot was found dead last night next to your store?” you pressed, pulling out photos of the scene. My body on the ground in one and my blood splattered on the freshly painted mural in another.
“Jesus, Mary, and Joseph!” he shrieked, covering his mouth with his hand. “My… my goodness. Who would do such a thing?”
I remember Mr Morton always being protective of his butchery, hating anyone who would come in without buying some freshly slaughtered meat.
“Clear off kid,” he’d roar, “sulk about your parents somewhere else.”
“But Mr Morton, I was wondering if I—”
“I said beat it, kid! I’ve got paying customers to attend to.”
Truth be told, Mr Morton’s kind face masked immeasurable greed and pride in his butchery, especially now that his logo was plastered on the side of the building for all to see. The logo featured a grotesque cartoon of a large man surrounded by sausages, strangling a chicken in one hand, and holding a knife in the other.
“So, you have no idea what happened to him?” By now you had tucked the photos back into the file.
“No ma’am. But I’ll make sure to ask my many customers and let you know if anything comes up,” he offered, imagining the long line of customers he’d have to serve when he returned.
“That won’t be necessary Mr Morton. I’ll let you get back.”
“Thank you, detective.” He got up to leave, stopping at the door of your office, “and do let me know if you find anything.”
Then it was just us. You opened my file again and scanned through the documents.
“Don’t worry, Elliot,” you said, “I’ll find what happened to you.” Thank you, detective.
A new day had dawned and with it, another potential lead. Coffee in hand and already hard at work, your office buzzed with thoughts and possibilities, ready to get to the bottom of my case.
“Morning Nora.” You were too focused to look up or respond. “Noooraaa?”
“Hmm?” Snapping out of your trance-like concentration, you looked up to see Nick poking his head out from around the door. “Oh. Morning Nick. Sorry. I’ve just been going over Elliot’s files.”
“Well, we’ve got a Ms Fern Vaselif here to see you about the case.”
“Brilliant. Send her in. Thanks, Nick.” Tidying up your desk, you stood as a middle-aged woman entered the office, wearing a flowy green dress and rose petal earrings. “Ms Vasilef, a pleasure to meet you. I’m Detective Nora Morgan.” Your outstretched hand was met with prayer hands and a “namaste” from the very unusual woman.
“The pleasure… is all mine… Detective.” She spoke with a tone that could only be described as snail-like, her voice vexing up and down in pitch. “I suppose you’d like… to ask me about that boy… um… Elmer… Elton was it?”
“Elliot Cormier, Yes. I’m sure you’ve heard that Elliot was killed in the empty lot across from your shop.”
“You mean… my natural oasis?” she smirked. “And yes… I did find out about… Elwin. My plants had warned me he was… in terrible danger.” It was like she intentionally forgot my name.
Even in death, I could never forget Ms Vaselif’s… peculiar behaviour and intense love for plants. Sometimes I would visit her shop and marvel at her floral babies.
“Now remember… Edgar… never touch my flower children,” she warned, shifting her salt rock ever so slightly, “they’re worth… more than you are.”
“Yes, Ms Vaselif.” I had just finished sketching a ruby delphinium in my notebook.
“How revolting?” she hissed, “That dullard is at it again… marvelling at that his… monstrous excuse of a mural.” She peered through a pot of dracaena towards the butchery. I tried to follow her gaze but slipped and accidentally knocked over a plant.
“MY BABY!” she shrieked, diving to save the pearl-white pot of butter-yellow narcissus. Clutching it in her hands, my apologies fell on deaf ears. Placing it safely back on the shelf, she shifted her attention to me.
“I’m sorry M-Ms Vaselif, I didn’t mean to—”
“Ooo, you rotten child! How could you be so—.” Cutting herself off, she got an idea. “Now, now there… Elan,” she said calmly, her fury seemingly dissolving in thin air, “All is… forgiven. No harm… no foul. But to pay me back… for such a fright… I’d like you to do something for me.” Venturing into the back room and rummaging through some boxes, she re-emerged with several small buckets of paint and a handful of brushes. “Now, I want you to paint a nice… big picture for your… dear parents… on that wall over there. I’m sure they would… really like it.” My eyes followed her finger to Mr Morton’s mural.
“But won’t Mr Morton get upse—”
“Don’t worry about him. After all… you did almost break my precious Delilah.”
I wish I had never set foot in that plant store.
Back in your office, Ms Vaselif sat up straight in her seat.
“Can you explain how your prints were found on the paint cans and brushes Elliot was using?” you asked.
“Well certainly. Those were… my all-natural paints. Ely said that he wanted… to paint something… for his parents,” she fibbed, “I haven’t a clue… why they wouldn’t give him paints of his own… but if it meant covering that animal killer’s heinous excuse of a logo… then I was… more than happy to… assist him.”
“You do know that Elliot’s parents died in a fire 9 years ago?”
“R-Really?” she sobbed, “Oh… oh no… the poor dear was… an orphan.” The woman forced crocodile tears from her eyes, searching her pockets for a bamboo tissue. Seeing the apparent distress and little assistance Ms Vaselif would be, you offered her some tissues and ushered her out.
Things just weren’t adding up. I watched over your shoulder for hours as you scoured through files, again and again, hoping something would come up.
“Quitting time Nora,” Nick called, standing at your office door with jacket in hand. “You still going over the Cormier case?”
“Yeah… I just… I can’t figure it out,” you replied, confusion derailing your train of thought.
“Well, if it were up to me, I’d just charge Dante and be done with it. He’s the only suspect we got, and the evidence is pretty—”
“I’m going back to the scene to see if we missed anything,” you countered, ignoring Nick, and grabbing your things.
Before long, I found you standing in the empty lot, scanning the scene for the smallest drop of overlooked evidence.
“You’re that detective that was here before, aren’t ya,” a voice called from behind you. Swivelling around, you were met by a homeless man with a scraggly beard and ragged clothes. You nodded in response. “I’m really gonna miss Elliot.” He leaned his elbows on the trolley and stared at my painting with you.
“You knew Elliot?” you asked, prying your eyes away to look at him.
“Yeah, I knew him. He used to bring me food every other day. ‘Stan the trolley man’ he used to call me.” He chuckled. Wiping his hand before extending it for a shake, you hesitantly returned the greeting.
“Do you know what happened to him?” you asked; a final ditch at a solution.
“Oh yeah, ol’ Mory got rough and… it doesn’t matter. No one would believe me anyway,” Stan lamented, his voice admitting defeat.
“I believe you, Stan,” you attempted, but he’d already begun toying with the end of his tattered and torn shirt. “If you know something, Stan, you owe it to Elliot to speak up.”
After a moment’s hesitation, he finally came back. “Well,” he started, taking a deep breath, “I was all set up for the night when I heard a commotion. I got up and saw Mory yelling at Elliot and knocking over the poor kid’s paints. He even slapped the brush clean out of his hand,” Stan explained, pointing to the spilled paint on the ground.
“Sorry, but who’s Mory?”
“George Morton. And when Elliot went to grab the brush, he stopped him and… shoved him… hard… into the wall.” Stan barely managed to finish explaining when your phone rang. Nick had a breakthrough in my case.
“Nick, hold on, I’ve got a witness here who—”
“What?” You were as shocked as I was.
“Yeah. Turns out, Dante had ties with a few gang members who heard we were keeping him in custody. They tracked down Morton and threatened a confession out of him before he skipped town.”
“Right. Well… I’ll finish up here and meet you at the precinct.” You ended the call and turned toward Stan, showing him a photo of Dante. “Did you see this man at all?” He nodded.
“Yeah, he’s the guy that always looked out for Elliot. He’d always circle the block and stop every once in a while to check on him. Never spoke to the kid, though. He pulled up to check on Elliot after Mory drove away. When he saw Elliot on the floor, he broke down, cradling the kid and tryin will him back to life. Seeing that he was too late, he ran back to his car and drove off.” It all made sense now. Seeing all the pieces fall into place, you stood there in shock.
Turning to thank Stan only to find that he was already gone, your eyes caught sight of my unfinished mural. On the wall on the side of the butchery, flowers bloomed around two blue figures, reaching out towards a splatter of red that was never meant to be there.
I write this knowing that you may never fully understand my appreciation for solving my murder, but I am truly grateful, detective. The world needs people that don’t give up or take the easy way out. It needs more people like you.
Many believe that death is the most mysterious part of life. But the real mystery is what happens after.