100 What do you say for R.M.?

“Here’s to another but shorter week of half-baked ideas about the POPS and its sinister cast of characters.”  Martinelli raised his coffee cup; because it was the first morning after a holiday, it proceeded to let go, sloshing its brown contents onto his clean white shirt. Martin left his own cup untouched on his desk, wary of early morning gremlins lurking still, and returned the conversation to the investigation.

“I’ve been thinking,” Martin began, “about that realtor.”

An example of a flyer touting a broker's open event, sent by the listing agent to invite other agents to tour a new listing.

An example of a flyer touting a broker’s open event, sent by the listing agent to invite other agents to tour a new listing.

“What, you planning to move?”

“On my salary?”

“What about a realtor, then?”

“He’s just beginning to bug me, the way you said about your sister.” Martinelli wasn’t listening; he was leaning way over his now stained napkin strewn desk and taking low and prudent sips from what remained of his drink. Martin waited.

“My sister…?” Martinelli spluttered it out.

“Mm, yes, you said she was always around when trouble happened but was never to blame, just under the radar like Kitty Doyle.”

“Not enough coffee in my system, yet, I guess, ’cause I’m not following. What’s this got to do with a realtor?”

“I’ve been thinking about people we may have overlooked. Other, under the radar, people.”

“And a realtor is one? Which one, now?”

“That R.M., that we see at the POPS.”

“OK, up to speed. What about him? Opportunity, motive, means?”

“Plenty of opportunity, mostly. He was outside, the morning after the drowning. Why?”

“Returning to the scene of the crime? Classic. But didn’t he have an appointment with a resident?”

“Who we never interviewed.”

“Keep going.”

“It’s like nobody sees him when he’s there, seems to be just part of the furniture.”

“True, even Gervase left him off the list of people entering the building.”

“And we only have R.M.’s word for it that he’s there, whenever and wherever he says. He could be lying.”

“And he should be different, why?”

“He has the means to get in the building with that lock box outside, anytime.”

“But that’s only been there since the drowning.”

“But before the tampering.”

“Yes.”

“He knew where the Karon’s parking spaces were, no hesitation.” Martinelli was looking more interested. “He knows every nook and cranny in the building, though he called it ‘due diligence’. Maybe he’s just using his job as an excuse to get up to no good, under cover.”

“Hidden in plain sight.” Martinelli shifted around to face his steel cabinet, full of case files.”Ever tell you about the guy we nabbed at the building materials store?”

“Before my time?”

“Maybe. The security guard got suspicious. At the end of every shift, this employee left pushing a wheelbarrow covered with packing material. The guard poked around in it each time, found nothing but reported it anyway. When we investigated, we brought the guy in.”

“And? You asked him what he was stealing?”

“Wheelbarrows.”

“Bit early, isn’t it?” Martin looked resentfully at his now cold coffee.

“OK, OK.  So, opportunity, yes. Gervase screens visitors but R.M. could easily get by.”

“And means, too. What if he has keys from sometime before. He says he’s been working the building since construction. What if he let Mangold in?”

“I’ll bite. Why would he?”

“Not sure. They’re both realtors. Maybe there’s a business connection we don’t know. That Hans has a connection with Kitty that we had to weasel out of him. Maybe there’s a vendetta against the uncle.”

“A little far fetched. What about motive?”Chapter 100 What Do You Say?

“Hey, we’re just talking. Aren’t we supposed to figure things out?”

“Not sure I can detect why R.M. would hurt the girl. Can’t figure that out about anybody, really.”

“Some other personal connection or conflict? Or, how about in cahoots with another resident, a set-up?”

“All right. Let’s talk to him. You organize it. I’m going to go soak my shirt.” Martin reported back that R.M. would be hosting an open house for other agents at the POPS today. He could see the officers there, after that, if that was acceptable.

Martin and Martinelli went up to the unit a little early; they wanted to check out if R.M. was doing what he said he would be. Gervase had admitted quite a few groups of realtors today, explaining that they often arrived in packs on tour days. R.M. was just saying good-bye to a colleague, and welcomed them as if they were about to tour the place themselves. Martin figured it would be as good a place as any to talk to him, though the furnishings were mostly gone. They all leaned on the breakfast bar, R.M on the kitchen sink side, the police team facing him on the other while he gave each of them his business card.

“You never know who’s in the market. I’ve worked before with officers. I pay attention when the Force is with me.” It was an overused joke but new to them coming from a realtor. “How can I help you? I’d be surprised if anybody else shows up so we can talk here. But the owner may be back soon. If this takes longer than that we’ll have to go someplace else. Professional courtesy.”

“You’re in the building a great deal. Any particular reason?” Martin led off, with his first question.

“Monetary ones, mainly. I’ve met a lot of people here but wouldn’t describe anybody as a friend. I come for the business and hope to realize a sale. That involves multiple visits with the same people. I have to be here for every showing, or another agent bringing his customers must be, for a registered showing. A realtor sometimes concentrates on a condo building. Farming, we call it. I seem to be running into a spate of business here, in spite of some recent problems. But I have to say it, death and commotion aren’t good for business. We like to point to the positives, as well as reporting any negatives.” R.M. gave complete answers. Martin was skip jumping his prepared questions.

“You said before that there were certain things that all realtors do when they’re showing a building?”

“All realtors, well, the competent ones – unfortunately, there are always those bad apples – follow the same procedure to allow showing a property. It gets a bit more complicated in a condo building. Gervase handles it very well. There is the individual unit for sale, of course, but also the common amenities to view plus the garage. It takes a while to do, with lots of keys and side trips.”

“And the bad apples? Anyone you don’t get along with, the Mangolds, maybe?”

“I make it a point to stay on good terms.” R.M. was surprised by the directness of that question. “It often happens that you have to work things out, negotiate deals with other agents and developers. Morrie and I are on good terms though I disagree with some of his choices. Same with Rusty. I did condole personally with Morrie just after Rusty drowned.”

“Was discovered in the pool.” Martinelli threw it in, as a test.

“Can’t help repeating common knowledge, I suppose. That’s what I’m hearing.”

“How much do you know about bicycles? Have a working knowledge of repairs?” R.M. was completely thrown by this one. It finally occurred to him that they were regarding him with suspicion, not as a trusted source of real estate information. And at this moment, in strolled Sebastian.