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Twist

Suspense short stories with a twist

"Murder by Lembeck" by Richard Ciciarelli

Twist #293 - January 2015

(Page 2 of 3)


All morning Harvey had to force himself to keep his mind on his work. He kept reminding himself that everything must appear to be normal. Try as he might, though, he couldn't keep his hands from shaking as he wrote out the details of the Lathrop merger.

Mr. Martin came in at nine, as usual, and instructed Janet that he would be very busy and did not want to be disturbed before noon. Just before entering his office, he turned a bloodshot eye to Harvey and snarled, "I want to see you after lunch." From the split-second pause in the work being done, Harvey knew the others had heard Mr. Martin's remark.

At eleven-thirty Harvey rose from his desk, announced to Janet that he was going to lunch, and made a quiet exit, as he always did.

That day, though, instead of turning right and heading toward the stairwell, Harvey turned left and walked to the outer entrance of Mr. Martin's office.

With tensed white knuckles he lightly tapped on the door, one, two, three times. No answer, but then he didn't expect one.

Slowly, silently, Harvey turned the doorknob, around which he had carefully wrapped a handkerchief. Thanks to books and television, even someone like Harvey Lembeck knew enough to avoid leaving fingerprints. Harvey entered the office and closed the door behind him with a light click.

Behind the huge mahogany desk in his genuine leather swivel chair sat Mr. Martin, puffy eyes closed, pudgy hands folded across his stomach. How peaceful he looked in sleep, Harvey thought. Last night must have been a bad one; his flaccid face was pasty.

Harvey trod silently across the carpeted floor until he stood directly in front of Mr. Martin. Taking the small pistol from his pocket, Harvey raised it and aimed it with both hands. The barrel of the little revolver was no more than three feet from his boss's head. Closing his eyes, Harvey pulled the trigger.

There was a sharp crack and Mr. Martin's head recoiled a little, cushioned by the swivel chair's headrest. A small hole appeared in the center of the businessman's forehead.

For an instant Harvey froze. He knew Mr. Martin's office was soundproof, and the pistol made a lot less noise than he had expected, but still he waited for the door to the inner office to open and a curious staff to enter. But the door remained closed.

More calmly than he ever believed possible, Harvey put the gun back into his pocket and left Mr. Martin's office, careful again to leave no fingerprints.

Once in the hallway, Harvey did something he hadn't done in over thirty years: He got on an elevator. Pressing the button with his elbow to again avoid those telltale prints, Harvey held his breath and said several prayers as the mobile room made its way to the garage level of the building.

After leaving the elevator and sighing in relief that he wasn't killed by the mechanical beast, Harvey checked his watch. The whole episode had taken just about the same amount of time as walking down the nine flights of stairs from the office. Perfect.

Sam, the parking lot guard, hadn't seen Harvey leave the elevator, but Harvey made sure Sam saw him enter his car. They always exchanged pleasantries, so there was nothing unusual in this, but it did serve to establish the time of Harvey's arrival in the parking garage.

Harvey stuffed his brother-in-law's pistol under a pile of papers in the glove compartment and went about his business as usual -- lunch, a trip to the bank to cash his check, and then back to the office.

This time as Harvey reached the office after having scaled his daily nine flights of stairs, he was greeted by two uniformed policemen. After explaining who he was and where he had been, Harvey was allowed to enter the office.

Inside there were several more uniformed policemen and three detectives in plain clothes. One of these approached Harvey, who by now wore his best look of bewilderment. He had been practicing this at lunch and was confident he could play innocent and confused.

The detective asked Harvey the questions he expected to hear: Who was he? Where had he gone? Did he usually go to lunch at that time? Did he see anyone in the elevator when he went downstairs? What? Never took the elevator? Well then, did he see anyone on his way down the stairs?

Harvey was truly sorry he couldn't be of any help, but he really hadn't seen anyone. No, he didn't know of anyone who might want to kill Mr. Martin. Oh, no, he and Mr. Martin never associated socially. Yes, of course Harvey understood that they would have to check on everything he said. And on, and on, and on.

That night when Harvey walked through the kitchen door, his wife and brother-in-law assaulted him with another barrage of questions. News bulletins of Mr. Martin's death had been flashing on television all day long. Did Harvey see who did it? Did he hear anything? Did the police question him? What did he say?

Harvey excused himself, saying he had to change his clothes. Then he'd answer their questions.

Once upstairs, Harvey replaced Bill's pistol beneath its camouflage of socks and changed into his leisure clothes. As he walked back downstairs, Harvey actually found himself whistling a little tune.

Conversation at dinner that night centered exclusively around the assassination of Mr. Martin. Harvey kept pleading ignorant to all the intimate details of the murder demanded of him by his wife and brother-in-law. They were more than a little disgruntled with his lack of knowledge about the affair.

"Really! A man is murdered right under your nose and you don't know anything about it. No wonder people call you dull. Weren't you even a litle bit interested? Not even enough to ask a few questions? Well, honestly, at least you could have thought about me. You know I love this sort of thing. Why couldn't you at least have..."

Harvey's normal bedtime was ten o'clock, but that Friday he decided to stay up and watch the late news. That's when he got the first shock.