The breeze from the oscillating fan rustled Grant Rourke’s hair as he loosened his tie and reclined back in his office chair. The weather had been unusually warm for that time of year. Of course, the air conditioning unit went on the fritz right as the temperatures began to soar to near scorching levels.
Grant gazed at the skyscraper across the street. The sun glinted off of the glass building as it began its descent behind the horizon. He was sitting contentedly at his desk. He and his partner, Greg Nelson, had just closed a case.
Supervisor Williams entered the room. “Grant, I was hoping you were still here.”
Grant swiveled around and straightened his tie. “Greg left a few minutes ago. I was about to leave myself.”
“Are you aware of the jewelry gala that’s being hosted by Hugh Bradley Jewelers?”
Grant pulled the corner of his lips down and shook his head. “Not really. I may have seen something about it on a reader board.” He chuckled as he stood and slipped his hands in his pockets. “It’s not exactly my scene.”
“Yes, well, there was a death there last night – overdose. How would you like your first case as lead agent?”
“That would be great!”
“Well then, it’s yours.” Williams slipped his hands in his slack’s pockets. “Greg will be there every step of the way to help you.”
“Thank you, Sir.” Rourke reached for the file his supervisor was handing him. “I’ll get right on it.”
“Good.” Grant’s boss headed for the door.
Rourke flipped open the folder and turned the cover page over as he took his seat. He scanned the few case notes, then checked his watch. It was too late to stop by the gala. He’d have to go in the morning.
For now, Grant would settle on reviewing witness’ statements and reading what the local LEOs had put in their notes. With this being his first case as lead agent, he wanted to be sure he did this right.
Grant closed the folder, grabbed his sports jacket, and switched off the lights. He would read more at home.
The next morning, on his way to the office, Grant planned to make a stop at event center where the gala had been hosted. It wasn’t until he arrived that he realized the center was owned by the catering company that Hugh Bradley Jewelers had hired.
Rourke pushed open the door and entered a lavishly spacious room. Several chandeliers hung from the ceiling. Even he, who knew nothing of décor, could tell it was exquisitely decorated. Round tables boasted red tablecloths and ribbons tied into bows graced the back of the chairs.
Grant could hear a few people bustling about behind the now closed door. It sounded like they were washing dishes.
“Can I help you?” An amply plump but attractive woman stood across the room, having just come through the doorway behind her. The door was slowly swinging shut. Her hands glistened with water, before she wiped them on her apron.
“Good morning, I’m Agent Grant Rourke. I work for the DEA.” “Oh,” she sounded sad. “You must be here about that poor girl who overdosed.” The woman surmised.
“Yes,” Grant confirmed her suspicions. “Were you here when it happened?”
She nodded and began weaving around tables toward the DEA agent to continue her conversation with him. “I was here the entire evening. I’m Cora Wingford the owner and operator of Oceana Catering.” She fiddled with the towel. “I’m not sure I can tell you anything more than what I told the police.”
“Have Hugh Bradley Jewelers used your services before last Friday?” “We’ve catered a few times for them in the past, but this was the first big event. They and one other jewelry company were hosting the gala.” “I wasn’t aware there was a second company being represented that night.
Do you remember the name?”
She withdrew a notebook from her apron pocket. Then wet her finger with her tongue and flipped past a few pages, slowing as she got closer to what she was searching for. “Ah, here it is! Amour Jewels.” She tapped the name. “They originated in France.”
“I see.” Rourke changed his stance, putting his right foot forward slightly and shifted most of his weight to his left foot. “It says in the report that you weren’t in the room when Eliza Wilderman passed away. Is that correct?”
Cora clucked her tongue. “Yes. Poor girl. I heard the commotion from the kitchen and came out to see what it was all about. You can imagine my dismay when I saw it was that sweet girl.”
“You knew her?” Grant asked, raising his eyebrows in surprise. “She was my contact for Hugh Bradley Jewelers.”
“Yes. She was the one who booked an event with my company when they required our service.”
“Would you go over what you remember that evening when you came into the room?”
Cora drew her eyebrows together in thought. “Well, I had just taken an empty tray of lasagna into the kitchen and was about to give it to my dishwasher when I heard gasps and yelling. I ran out here. That’s when I saw a ring of people forming. I went to go see what it was all about when someone shouted for 911 to be called. Several people were getting their phones out. I finally saw Eliza laying on the floor, white as a sheet. There were so many people around her, I couldn’t get close to her. A couple of minutes later the paramedics were here.”
Grant scanned the room, then turned back to Cora. “I see you have security cameras. Are they hooked up?”
“Yes, always,” she replied.
“I’ll need to take a look at that.”
“Of course. Give me one moment.” She went over and popped her head through the kitchen door.
Grant heard her mumble something, then rejoined him.
“Follow me,” Cora instructed. “I keep the digital files in the audio room. You know, the electronics with electronics – all in one place.” “Makes sense,” Rourke responded.
Entering the room, Rourke understood why it was coined the audio room. A mixer board on a counter, microphones, and other sound paraphernalia was put neatly away where it was easily accessible.
Cora woke the computer up from sleep mode, entered the windows password, and pulled up the video files from that night. She found the correct time. “The commotion started about a minute before I entered the room.” Cora clicked the play button and let it continue until after the paramedics arrived. She paused it at the point where the police arrived on the scene.
“Is that what you needed?”
“It is,” he answered. “May I take this to study? I’ll need the entire evening. From the beginning of the event until the last guest leaves.” “Of course.”
A few minutes later and Grant was bidding Cora goodbye. “Miss Wingford, you have been very helpful. Thank you for your time.”
“You’re welcome,” she replied. “I’m glad I could help.”
Instead of going to his truck right away, Grant went to the corner of the block and waited for the light to change to cross the street. There stood an espresso stand in the parking lot. He walked up to the window and ordered a coffee and bagel. The girl, who looked to be in her teens or maybe a college freshman, told him the amount.
Grant dug out his wallet from the breast pocket of his sports jacket, slipped the card out, and handed it to the barista.
As he waited he went over his conversation with Cora in his head. She seemed nice enough. And helpful. Was she too helpful? She would have had means and opportunity to slip Eliza Wilderman a deadly dose of cocaine. The question was, what would have been her motive? If she was the murderer she must be pretty sure of herself to have given him the surveillance footage of that night.
The barista’s voice cut through his concentration, interrupting his thoughts. She handed him his credit card, then his coffee.
Grant inhaled the aroma of the warm beverage. A vanilla hazelnut latte might be what would get the gears in his brain moving.
He walked back to his truck and climbed in. Rourke dialed his partner’s number and pulled out into traffic. “Greg Nelson,” the voice on the other end of the line greeted.
“Hi Greg, it’s Grant.”
“Hey, what’s up?”
“Did you get the email I sent you last night?”
“The overdose case? Yeah,” Greg answered. “Williams left the file on my desk for me.”
“Great. So you’re caught up?” Rourke asked.
“I have a few more witness statements to read. Williams assigned you as lead agent, huh?”
“Good for him,” Greg said. “You’re ready for this.”
Not sure how to respond, Grant volunteered, “I stopped by the catering company where the gala was held,” Rourke explained. “I just finished there.” “You’re headed here now?”
“Yeah, I’ll be there in a few.”
“Did you find anything helpful at the catering company?” Nelson wanted to know.
“I found out a few more facts that the original reports missed. And I got the security footage from that night.”
“Okay. I’ll let you go so I can finish catching up. See you when you get here.”
“Right.” Rourke pushed the end button on the steering wheel.
By the time Grant had gotten to the office, Greg had finished reading the rest of the notes on the case. “Fill me in on what you found out at the catering company.” Greg dropped the case file on his desk.
Grant took a few moments to tell Greg the information he had gathered at the event center while he booted his computer. “I believe we can rule out the owner of the catering company,” Grant said.
While he waited for the computer to finish loading, Grant inquired with a smirk on his face, “How was your date last night?”
“It was okay, but don’t let me agree to go out with anyone that your sister suggests again. I’m not the kind of guy who goes on blind dates.” Grant laughed as he stuck the thumb drive in the port and pulled up the surveillance video. “Noted.”
“Oh, I know! But that doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate the reprieve from my sister’s matchmaking.” He shook his head. “Ever since she got married, she’s been trying to set me up with one of her friends.”
“All I know is that I don’t want your sister’s help with finding me a girlfriend,” Greg said.
Grant sat back to watch the proceedings at the jewelry gala. It had been a black tie event. The empty tables he had seen earlier were filled with attendees. Hors d’oeuvres were served on trays being carried around by servers. Both men and women wore white blouses. The women had on black pencil skirts and the men wore black slacks with matching vests and black bow ties.
It was the tables filled with gems that caught Grant’s eye. The two vendors had their wares out on tables manned by girls dripping in sparkling diamonds and jewels dressed in evening gowns of all styles. There was no doubt in the agent’s mind that the jewelers had spared no expense on this event.
The angle of the camera was such that it showed the whole room, so that the chamber orchestra could be seen in one of the corners of the large room playing softly in the background, amid the hum of conversation.
The video had been playing for nearly an hour. There was something off with the French vendor. He couldn’t place the suspicious feeling he felt in his gut.
Grant watched the model wearing the Amour Jewels’ and the employees closely. It was then when he placed it. The vendor had two cash boxes. “Why would they need two cash boxes?”
“What?” Greg, who was doing more research on the catering company, looked over at Grant questioningly.
“One of the jewelry vendors from the gala had two cash boxes. Why?” “Maybe they expected business to be good,” Greg suggested. “No, it’s more than that,” Grant said. “I can feel it.” He paused to think.
“Look into their financials. See what the amount of the deposit was after the gala.”
Grant continued watching the recorded surveillance footage while he waited on his partner.
“That’s interesting…” Greg said, clicking and typing away as he double checked his findings.
“What?” Grant asked.
“There hasn’t been a deposit made since the gala.”
“That’s odd. You’d think that they would get that money to the bank as soon as possible,” Grant commented.
“They are a jewelry store,” Greg pointed out. “Maybe they keep some of their money in a vault with their merchandise.”
Grant shrugged. “Maybe, but that doesn’t seem likely.”
“I didn’t say I believed that,” Greg returned. “It’s just a possibility.” He went on, “While we’re talking financials, I also checked the catering company’s owner, Cora Wingford’s, bank accounts. They’re clean. I didn’t find any suspicious activity.”
“I didn’t think you would,” Grant returned, intent on the recorded footage. “Aha!”
“What?” Greg asked.
“You know how I said there was something suspicious going on with that French vendor? I believe I just found it.”
“What is it?”
“Come here and see for yourself.” Grant backed up the video and waited for his partner to move to where he could see the screen. “Watch.” The model who was selling the jewelry, handed a small box to her customer.
“Watch the customer, not the employee,” Grant instructed. The customer walked to a secluded corner behind a lattice room divider that was covered in flowering greenery, away from prying eyes but not out of the security camera’s view.
Greg recognized the individual. “She’s our murder victim.” “Uh-huh. Keep watching,” Grant replied.
The woman opened the jewelry case, slipped her newly acquired bracelet on her wrist. Greg expected her to place the box in her purse and go on her way. Instead, she peeked over her shoulder, making sure no one was watching.
Grant zoomed in closer to her hands.
She removed the small fluffy cushion out of the black case, and stuck her finger in, breaking the stitching. Drawing it out, Greg saw that white powder clung to her appendage.
Carefully tipping the bag, she dumped a small amount into the palm of her hand. Next, the woman brought her hand up to her nose, and sniffed the contents.
“How much do you want to bet that white powder is our murder weapon?” Grant leaned back into his chair.
“That would fit the timeline.”
The amount of drugs that pillow would fit, could definitely be enough for an overdose if taken within too short a time.” Greg straightened from leaning over to see Grant’s computer screen. “We need to interview that employee.”
Concealed is currently only available by signing up for my newsletter.
A Deal Gone Wrong, A Journey Begun
An Agents of Justice Short Story.
wo major jewelry companies, Hugh Bradley Jewelers and Amour Jewelers, are hosting a lavish gala. Unfortunately, someone is selling cocaine along with the jewels. Amid the festivities, a young woman collapses. She is an employee of Hugh Bradley Jewelers and is the liaison between the company and the caterer. Tragically, she dies from an overdose of cocaine.
Investigating the source of the drug, Grant and Greg use their resources to seek out the drug dealer. This is Grant’s first case as the lead agent and he wants to make sure everything goes well. However, one of their suspects creates a complication that may cause a setback in Grant’s career.
Can Grant and Greg catch the killer before someone else dies or Grant loses his position?