103 A Friend in Deed

“Good morning, Mrs. James. We’re looking for Gervase.” Martin and Martinelli had arrived on Wednesday morning, ready to place their print-out picture.Chapter 103 revised

“I’m afraid he’s suffering from toothache and had to make an emergency visit to the dentist. I’m wearing his hat today, as best I can.”

“My sympathy to him.” Martinelli regarded dentists as even worse to see than lawyers, and equally outrageous in what he ended up paying them. Whenever the dental office called to schedule him for an appointment, he always grumbled to his wife that it meant a car payment must be due on the dentist’s luxury car. He didn’t have to work inside the mouths of people but he had to know way too much about their inner lives, weak underbellies and all, and he didn’t get paid like dentists did. He thanked Mrs. James and left her on patrol, explaining, “We need to go down to the garage. We know the way.” Down in the garage, they walked the aisles. “Not seeing that car anywhere, are you?”

“No, but it could be gone for the day. Let’s look for a space that matches.”

“We’ll have to do this again at night, when more of the cars are here. Needle in a haystack, if you ask me.”

“It’s not that bad. This photo is not only date stamped the day before we found Mangold but time stamped about the time of death that night. If we find something even close we can get forensics in to measure. Look for something that doesn’t get moved, like an overhead light fixture.” They went round again, slower this time, stopping and taking the long view shown in the picture at every space until they got the lay of the place in their minds. After that, they began to see its variations and details more readily.

“Hold up a sec.” Martin did in fact hold up his picture, at arm’s length, toward an angular view of a row of parking spaces. “See that?”

“What?”

“That light fixture over that, what is it, some kind of storage or mechanicals unit? And look, here are some numbers painted on the floor. I can see some of these numbers now but if the cars were parked, no way.”

“So if the cars were here and matched, we have a go?”

“Think so.” Martin stepped forward to be sure of the number, its paint nearly worn off, on the garage floor. “That’s the one we need to know about.”

Well-pleased with his detection, Martin took a picture of his own, pending the arrival of the experts, maybe even in the person of Georgia Mendel. Earlier, Gina had let him down, had nothing to report, as they passed each other in his haste to leave the station. She hadn’t had a chance to ask her sister about what, if anything, she’d taken in the garage: they’d been so busy with the kids this morning. Martin never could understand this excuse but then he’d never had kids. Maybe he should just take her word for it that kids disrupted plans, rather than ask her to explain it to him. She’d just tell him a joke instead anyway, but it would be a good joke. They returned to the lobby.

“Mrs. James, is there a list of what parking space number goes with what owner?”

“Of what space is assigned each unit? Yes, in the condo docs. The occupants change of course. Can I get back to you?” Martinelli realized it would be better to wait than to push here, despite Martin’s impatience.

“It’s important.”

“Yes. I’ll check.” Mrs. James looked a bit startled. “Shall I call, or will you come back?”

“We’ll be back and hope that Gervase will be, too. Thanks, Mrs. James.”

  • * * * *

When they returned on Thursday morning they had Georgia in tow. Mrs. James was hovering, clearly fussing over an ungrateful Gervase.

“No need to bother, Mrs. James, but thank you. It’s such a little thing, not to worry.” She left him to attend to Martin and Martinelli.

“Here’s that list you asked for. The spaces travel with the unit.” Mrs. James handed it to Martin, and corralled Georgia for a brief chat.

“What’s worse Gervase, the pain or the payment?” Martinelli joked. Gervase smiled toward Mrs. James.

“Possibly the cure.”

“This garage list and the current occupant list you gave us before…”

Gervase interrupted, ” When I indicated the likely pool users?”

“That one. Now this garage space goes with the unit belonging to Hans Knopupik. That sound correct to you?”

Gervase only nodded. Maybe his teeth still hurt.

“Hans told us he didn’t have a car and he wasn’t renting it. Can you identify whose car this is, parked in his spot?” Martin handed Gervase the picture; he appeared thoughtful, even a bit perplexed.

“Haven’t seen this car around for awhile, nor the guy who drove it. He’s a friend of Hans’. Never a unit owner here, though. Peter, I think. Mrs. James will remember.”

“Would you say you hadn’t seen him around much, even before you found Rusty Mangold in the pool?”

“That I’d have to think about. But wouldn’t Hans know that, for sure?” Gervase indicated by this reply his assumption that Hans would tell the truth about this. Martin wasn’t so sure. Gervase pictured Hans and Sebastian together that day at the elevator, only a week after the drowning, “I’d say I haven’t seen him around, for a several weeks, at least.”

Mrs. James did confirm that Peter was the name of Hans’ friend, though she’d have to check her cookbook committee notes to see if she had his last name.

“Committee? Thought he wasn’t a resident.”

A typical means of communication in a condo associaltion id the flyer/notice slipped under a unit's door.

A typical means of communication in a condo associaltion is the flyer/notice slipped under a unit’s door.

“Not an owner, no. He heard about the cookbook project and volunteered, was one of the first to contribute a recipe. But Hans told me Peter wouldn’t be on the new committee, and to scratch the recipe. I suppose I assumed that they were no longer, well, ‘good’ friends.'” Martinelli was putting this together with what he remembered of the gym trainer. Now that they had Peter placed in the garage, they’d see just how good he was at concocting a good story.

“Gervase, would you please call up to Hans’ unit and tell him that we’re here to see him.”

“Sure, but I saw him go out awhile ago.” Gervase buzzed the unit but Hans did not respond.

“I’ll leave a note for him in his mailbox.” Martin prepared to scribble a note.

“Or, you can do what we do and slip it under his unit door. Residents don’t always check their boxes. I can take that upstairs for you.”

“Thanks, Gervase. Georgia, sorry to keep you waiting so long. Let’s go down and get those photos now. Goodbye, Mrs. James.”