Chapter 54: March 15th

Special Agent Red Richards was a quiet, discerning man of forty-seven. He had a plain, straight face and knew everything there was to know about antique clocks because he and his wife collected them. He liked his work, but he never took it home with him. He was awaiting a promotion to lieutenant, but he knew it would be a long time before he saw it, especially because one of his investigators had just been murdered by a suspect. His boss was not happy about this. Of course, neither was Red Richards, but he'd been in the business too long and it was starting to desensitize him.

But it was still his responsibility to see the case through to the end.

Special Agent Red Richard pulled up in his car to the crime scene at eight in the morning of March 16th. He was tired – he'd spent all night trying to find his guy. And now he had.

"Agent Richards, I'm Sergeant McGill," said the police officer in charge of the scene when Richards got out of his car. McGill was a heavy, round man with friendly eyes and little hair, but Richards knew he didn't have the time to get to know him. McGill lifted the yellow tape to allow him onto the property.

Richards just nodded. "What do we have?" he asked as the two men made their way into the house.

"Two dead. Carpenter and his father, we believe."

"Times of death?"

"Coroner put the kid at one-thirty, March 15th – yesterday, that is. And the old man at around one, hard to say."

The agent stepped inside. He turned up his nose at the unfortunately familiar smell of death. Four or five other people were there, some taking pictures, some collecting evidence, and, of course, the two bodies collecting dust.

He instantly recognized the first as Julius Carpenter, his suspect.

"That's him, I expect?" said McGill. "The guy that poisoned all those people?"

Red Richards said, "Yeah, that's the guy. New Amsterdam police found his prints on a coffee cup found in the car with Simon Keller. That's probably how he poisoned most of his victims." He approached the two bodies, both lying on the floor. "So this is his father, then?" He knelt down to examine them, but there wasn't much guesswork to be done: John had been strangled, probably by his son, and Julius had choked on his own vomit until he died, probably from poisoning himself.

Sergeant McGill nodded. "Haven't found any ID yet, but this is Carpenter's father's house. There's a woman a few doors down, a family friend, says she can identify the bodies at the morgue."

This didn't much interest Special Agent Red Richards because he was an investigator, not a mortician. He said, "Carpenter has a brother; I don't suppose he's been here, as far as you know?"

McGill took off his police cap and rubbed his round, bald head as he said, "Just got a call about an hour ago, he's been found in New Amsterdam City at his residence."

"Alright, we'll need to bring him in for questioning later," Red said, slightly distracted by the bodies in front of him.

Sergeant McGill wasn't the kind of man to be clever about his work, so he simply told Special Agent Red Richards, "That won't be possible. He committed suicide at five o'clock this morning. Jumped from his apartment building."

Red Richards winced despite his self-declared desensitized state. "Probably had no clue." McGill just nodded solemnly.

The two were joined by Special Agent Amanda Post, a short woman with long black hair and a serious demeanor. "Sorry I'm late," she said, "what did I miss?"

Richards filled her in with the help of one of the forensic analysts. Carpenter had beat and killed his father and then poisoned himself, they informed her. Amanda had asked if it was possible that Julius, too, had been murdered, but the forensic analyst assured her that, not only were there no prints except those of Julius and John, but Julius had also written a note to his brother confessing to the murders.

"I'd like to see that," Red Richards said. The analyst nodded and went to retrieve it from the evidence bags.

Amanda Post inspected the bodies briefly while they waited. McGill tried innocently to get more information on the FBI's investigation into the cyanide poisonings, but Red Richards simply told him that the information was confidential.

"Here you go," said the young forensic analyst when he came back.

Red Richards took the bagged piece of paper. "Thank you. Anything else we should know about?"

The other man considered this. "Nothing too special, just that. We also found his poison, he must've taken it with him when he fled the city. He'd been using cyanide, right? Well, we also found aconitine, which is pretty rare –"

"We'll have our lab figure it out," Richards said with a bit of an abrupt tone. He didn't mean to be rude, but he was an investigator, not a chemist and he knew the report would tell him everything he needed to know later.

The forensic analyst just gave him an odd look and left. Post gave Richards a frown, but simply asked him to read the suicide note aloud.

"Right. It's kind of hard to read, but... 'Desmond, I'm so sorry. I never wanted you to know. It was never my plan, it started with Gordie Duncan, who I killed because I couldn't stand him, I couldn't stand anyone being better than me. And from there it got worse, out of control. I couldn't stop it. I didn't want to kill my professor, my roommate, my boss. And I shouldn't have killed Simon Keller. But killing Dad was the best thing I've ever done. It was right.

"'I never wanted to leave you, Desmond, I promised I never would. But I have to, now. I love you so much. I'm sorry.'"

Red Richards looked up from the wrinkled paper in the plastic bag. "Who is Gordie Duncan?"

Amanda Post raised an eyebrow in thought. "I think I've heard the name before..."

Sergeant McGill interrupted. "Did you say 'Gordie Duncan'? High school kid, killed a few years back, I think. Never found anybody, though."

"You never found out who killed him?" repeated Post without masking her judgmental voice. Amanda Post was the kind of woman who believed that the Bureau was infinitely more capable than any local force in the country. She didn't wait for him to respond before asking, "How did he die? Was he poisoned?"

McGill thought about this. "I don't think so. It was a long time ago, I'm sorry I can't be of much help, but I can call somebody to –"

"Don't worry about it," Red Richards said, because he was an investigator, not a reporter. "It must've been before Carpenter killed his professor. Invisible first victim."

"Alright, is there anything else we have to see?" asked Amanda Post.

McGill said, "Nothing too interesting. We can wrap it up here, if you'd like."

Red Richards nodded. "Thank you. We'll be in touch for your forensic report." He shook Sergeant McGill's meaty hand and he and Special Agent Amanda Post started for the door.

"Shame we didn't catch him first," said Post, leading the way through the hallway. "Would've liked to see the fucker rot in prison."

Red Richards was mildly surprised by his usually-professional co-worker's language, but was distracted by something shiny on the floor, next to the outline of Carpenter's body and hidden by a shoe, catching his eye. He knelt down to get a better look.

"Find something?"

"You go on, I'll be right behind you."

Amanda Post just said "okay" and left the Carpenter house. Richards took out a plastic glove from his coat pocket, put it on, and picked up the object.

"Huh," he murmured to himself. He stood up, flagged down an evidence bagger and wondered nonchalantly to himself why Julius Carpenter had had a woman's compact mirror with him when he'd committed suicide. He just shrugged and decided to leave that to the psychoanalysts and the criminologists, because he was just an investigator. His job here was done.

Red Richards left the house and got back into his car. He sighed, feeling a grand sense of finality fall upon him. All this time he'd spent tracking down this killer, and all that had come from it was more death. But he shook it off, because now the investigation was over and, though Special Agent Red Richard liked his work, he never took it home with him.