“You can’t possibly have solved the case already,” Jeremy White said in utter disbelief. “We just got here!”
“It’s obvious,” Isaac Black replied, in that nonchalant manner that drove Jeremy crazy.
“How can you possibly know who killed this woman without knowing who she is, what she looks like or how she died,” Jeremy demanded, exasperated. “You don’t even know what color the drapes are,” he added.
“Her name is Beverly Goldman, tall, brunette, green eyes. She was shot. And the curtains are yellow,” Isaac replied without skipping a beat.
“How does he do that?” Detective Brown asked, looking at the yellow drapes, then back to the dark glasses Isaac was wearing. “I thought he was blind.”
“Yes, he is,” Jeremy confirmed. “But that doesn’t mean he can’t be an arrogant show-off. Go ahead,” he said to Isaac, “let’s hear your brilliant deductions.”
“Hardly any brilliance is required. We were summoned to this crime scene with great urgency in the middle of the night indicating this is a case of much concern to someone with great influence, someone willing to bring in an outside consultant to expedite a matter of great sensitivity. When we arrived we had to go through a checkpoint. The air outside smells of the East River. We climbed exactly ten wooden steps up to a wide porch to enter, and we’re on the second floor of a building that only has two stories.
“Obviously, this is Gracie Mansion, the home of the Mayor of New York, and the woman who was shot is the mayor’s wife, Beverly Goldman—who, according to New York Magazine, decided to change the color of all the drapes to yellow to match the outside of the house.”
“That is incredible,” one of the uniformed police officers remarked.
“Don’t encourage him,” Jeremy cautioned the policeman, then he whispered to Isaac, “Nobody likes a show-off.”
“How do you know she was shot?” Lieutenant Green asked.
“There is an odor of burned gunpowder in the air. A gun was recently fired inside this room. Since there is a dead body, it is no great leap to assume she was at the other end of a discharged firearm,” Isaac explained.
The others in the room sniffed to try and catch the scent Isaac had detected.
“And you say you know who did it?” the lieutenant asked.
“Yes, of course.”
Everyone waited patiently for Isaac to continue.
“Well?” the lieutenant asked.
Jeremy sighed, “He doesn’t know. He’s just doing that mind-game thing. Isaac, just tell them what you do know so they can find out who killed the mayor’s wife.”
Isaac walked across the room, directly to an overstuffed, leather upholstered armchair and sat down as if he wasn’t completely sightless. Jeremy rolled his eyes as some of the police officers in the room oohed and aahed. The trick was simple. Whenever the two of them entered a room, Jeremy would give Isaac a quick description of the major features, telling him things like, “large wooden desk with body in front of it at twelve o’clock, cocktail cart at two-thirty, overstuffed leather armchair at nine.” Issac would then build a map of the room in his mind, so he could navigate it as if could see.
The injury that had blinded him had also ended his career as a police detective, but after a period of depression and despair, he reinvented himself as a private detective, using his accumulated knowledge, deductive reasoning and remaining senses—such as his heightened sense of smell—to solve mysteries and, as on this occasion, lend support to the police.
Jeremy, his assistant, and also a registered nurse, had long ago stopped being impressed by the various things Isaac did to amaze and confound those around him. He knew the theatrics were part of Isaac’s process. A lot of the time, people around him simply volunteered information because they assumed he already knew it. It was effective, but once you’d seen it a hundred times, it got annoying.
“The killer is in this very house right now,” Isaac pronounced. “I suggest you make sure nobody leaves.”
Lieutenant Green barked orders to some uniformed officers, who passed the commands on through their radios and quickly left the room.
“I want to speak to everyone who was in the mansion since the time of the murder,” Isaac commanded. “Inside and on the grounds.”
“Including us?” Detective Brown asked.
“Everyone,” Isaac repeated. “Bring them in here.”
Lieutenant Green gave a node to his subordinate.
The detective signaled for the people in the room already to gather on one side, then left to retrieve the others.
“What are you doing?” Jeremy asked.
“I always wanted to be an armchair detective,” Isaac replied, running his hands along the padded armrests of the chair he was sitting in.
“This is serious,” Jeremy said to him. “You’ve just asked Detective Brown to bring God knows how many people into a room with the mayor’s dead wife lying on the floor.”
“I know, it’s perfect,” Isaac replied.
Within five minutes, a dozen more people crowded into the spacious study, various staff of the mayor’s residence along with security personnel and the entourage that had accompanied Isaac and Jeremy.
They were all obviously aware of what had happened. But some of them still gasped in surprise when they saw the lifeless form of Beverly Goldman lying on the floor, a hole in the middle of her chest and blood soaking her blouse and the rug underneath her. Some began quietly weeping, and there were more than a couple exclamations of “What the hell?”
Once Detective Brown returned, Isaac crossed his legs and raised his hands in front of him, touching his fingertips together in a contemplative manner.
Everyone turned their attention to him. Someone whispered the question on many of their minds, “Is he blind?”
“Yes, these dark glasses are not just a fashion statement,” Isaac said. “I may not be able to see you, but I have other powers that will let me divine the identity of the killer.”
“I thought you said you already knew who it was,” Detective Brown challenged.
Isaac smiled. “All in good time, Detective. What I need to know from each and every person in this room is their name, and what they had for breakfast, lunch and dinner yesterday. And any snacks.”
“What is this, some kind of joke?” one of the policemen asked.
“I assure you, if I was joking, you would be laughing right now,” Isaac said. “We’ll start with the woman standing there,” he said, pointing unerringly at a one of the housekeepers.
Jeremy rolled his eyes. “Show-off,” he said under his breath.
“My name is Maria Juarez, I…” the woman began, her voice cracking nervously. “I had toast and coffee for breakfast, a meatloaf sandwich for lunch, and…” She struggled to remember her last meal. “Salmon! I had salmon with asparagus and roasted potatoes. And a brownie. I had a brownie for a snack.”
Isaac nodded. “Thank you, Maria.” He turned his sightless gaze to the gardener standing next to her. “And you?”
“Jack Hough, uhm… I skipped breakfast, had a couple burritos for lunch, and a cheeseburger with loaded fries at Henri’s on First. Couple power bars for snacks.”
“Okay, Jack. Next?”
Isaac went through each person in the room, listening intently as they recited everything they had eaten the previous day. Some of them could barely get the words out, struggling to speak in the presence of the body that was starting to stink. The police were more accustomed to being in the same room with a corpse, but the tone in their voices was resentful for having to be—what was this? Interrogated?
Lieutenant Green only had to admonish the first officer who showed any attitude to get the rest of them in line.
Jeremy engaged in a little game he played with himself, trying to figure out what exactly Isaac was doing. What was it about what they ate the previous day that was relevant to the identity of the killer? He scanned the room, hoping to find some morsel of food that Isaac might have caught a scent of, but nothing was apparent.
Was he just trying to detect stress in their voice? He had always dismissed Isaac’s claims that he could sense when someone was lying by the inflections in their words. The detective had a knack for identifying people by their voices. Many blind people had auditory hyperacuity, some to the point of being able to actually echo-locate. Isaac hadn’t been able to master that particular skill, but maybe there was something in their tone that was perceptible to him.
More likely, it was something unobvious to Jeremy and the others that was perfectly conspicuous to Isaac, and once he explained it, Jeremy would feel like an idiot. So, it was his ongoing futile quest to figure out Isaac’s reasoning before he could reveal it.
He noticed that Isaac would tap his fingers together during some of the recitations. Was that a clue? Jeremy watched closely, and then at one point in the puzzling examinations, Isaac’s fingers rippled in an frantic pattern. Had he sensed something? Was the woman he was listening to right know the one who did it?
Then Isaac turned his tinted lenses in Jeremy’s direction and winked.
The cheeky bastard, Jeremy thought.
Once the last person had completed reciting their dietary diary for the previous day, Isaac placed his hands on the armrests and pushed himself up to a standing position. “Detective Brown, please close the door.”
The detective, who was standing next to the entrance of the study, grabbed the edge of the door and swung it shut.
There was movement at one end of the room..
Isaac grinned, knowingly. “Mr. Heller, I suggest you relax. There’s no point in trying to make a run for it.”
The mayor’s wife’s bodyguard stiffened.
Isaac turned in the direction of Lieutenant Green. “You’ll find his holster is empty, I doubt you’ll find the gun it held, but you might want to have divers check out the river anyway.”
Lieutenant Green signaled two of the uniformed officers and they all approached Justin Heller. Green knew the bodyguard, they had served together at the Midtown South Precinct years ago. “Hands on your head, Justin,” the lieutenant ordered.
Heller shook his head as he complied. “I didn’t mean for it to happen,” he confessed. “It was an accident.”
Green undid the buttons and lifted Heller’s jacket fronts to look underneath. There was indeed an empty holster. He nodded to one of the uniformed officers, who took his handcuffs and bound the bodyguard’s hands behind his back.
“We… we were having an affair,” Justin explained. “She liked to role play. I should have cleared my gun, but before I knew it, she…”
“If you want to make a statement, you can do so downtown. Right now, you have the right to remain silent, anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law,” Green reminded his prisoner.
Detective Brown opened the door, and the uniformed officers escorted Heller out of the room.
“Excuse me,” Maria Juarez said, “can we go now?”
Lieutenant Green looked over at Isaac, who granted his permission with a wave.
Most everyone exited the study quickly, anxious to get away from the deceased woman in the middle of the room.
The only ones left were the lieutenant, Detective Brown, Jeremy and Isaac.
“Okay,” Green finally said, “can you tell me how you knowing what they ate for breakfast, lunch and dinner identified the killer?”
“Oh, it had nothing to do with it,” Isaac replied.
“Of course not,” Jeremy said. “I knew he was just playing a game.”
“But he identified the killer,” Detective Brown countered.
“It was when you closed the door,” Green suggested. “He wanted to see—or rather hear—who would react, which of them would feel trapped.”
“Good guess,” Isaac said. “But did any of you actually see Justin Heller react? You were all, I suspect, looking at the door. And as good as my hearing can be, I had no idea who exactly had made the noise.”
“Then how?” Jeremy asked.
“I told you, I knew who had done it the moment I walked into this room and smelled the scent of gunfire. I had encountered that smell moments earlier when we had entered the house on one of the people we passed. So, two plus two equals he was the killer.”
“Then what was all the ‘what did you eat yesterday’ stuff about?” Detective Brown asked.
“Well, I knew that the person who shot Beverly Goldman was someone in the house, but I had no idea what his actual identity was. Fortunately, I managed to bump into him on the way in, and he offered an apology when he saw that I was blind.”
“You heard his voice,” Jeremy said, finally putting it all together.
“And you needed to hear everyone talk to identify him,” Green added.
Isaac smiled, that Cheshire grin Jeremy found so irritating. “Jeremy will send you an invoice.”
“I’m sure the chief won’t have any hesitation authorizing it,” Lieutenant Green said. “Thanks for your help, Mr. Black. Again.”
“You’re welcome as always,” Isaac replied.
Jeremy took Isaac’s elbow and led him out of the room, passing the staff from the coroner’s office on their way to collect the body.
“You know,” Jeremy said, “I was the one who read that New Yorker article about the mayor’s wife to you. I don’t remember anything about her changing the color of the drapes.”
“Yeah, that was a total guess,” Isaac said. “Pretty cool that I got it right, though. I’ll bet everyone was impressed.”
Jeremy sighed as they walked out of the mansion toward the waiting car. “Nobody likes show-off, Isaac,” he reminded his friend. “Nobody.”