44 Silt Happens

Martin was on the phone, passing along the possible identification back to the medical examiner’s office. He hung up and gave a thumbs up to Martinelli.Chapter 44

“Our first break.”

“That, plus our victim apparently wasn’t at a shower.”

“Yup. This shouldn’t take long, now.” The ID was confirmed within the hour by the developer, himself. The deceased was Rusty Mangold, his nephew.

Kitty Doyle arrived downstairs, over an hour after being asked and, at their invitation, demurely sat down.

“Why ever do you want to talk to me?” she twanged, working on a southern drawl for her new twirling position. “Why, I haven’t the slightest idea of anything going on.”

“Miss Doyle, we’re investigating the death of the man found this morning in the pool.” Martinelli placed the photo on the table. “Recognize him?” Barely even bothering to glance at it, she dismissed the deceased with the slightest of waves.

“Who, him? Naw.”

“Rusty Mangold. Did you ever know him, at all?”

“I just said no, didn’t I?” Her tone sharpened.

“Do you know who he is?”

“Look, I give presentations every week to hundreds of people I don’t know.” The drawl petered out. “If you’re trying to suggest that he knew me, well that just doesn’t work. I don’t know him, I don’t recognize him. Is there anything else?”

“Where were you, last night?”

“Driving home from out-of-town. I parked my car in the garage sometime after nine. I waited and waited for the stupid elevator and took it to the lobby. I collected my mail. I waited and waited for the stupid elevator, again, and took it up to my floor.”

“Did you see anyone? Talk with anyone?”

“Yes. Think his name’s Stoner, Stinner, something like that… he was waiting for the elevator in the lobby, with a dog. We made small talk. He stayed on the elevator when I got off.”

“What did you chat about?”

“Nothing. It was just chat.”

“I understand that you’re a regular swimmer. When did you last use the pool?”

“Can’t recall. I’m a trained lifeguard, not a regular swimmer.”

“And do you store equipment in the cupboard on the deck?”

“No.”

“Or ever use equipment from there?”

“When I do go in the water, I just swim.”

“What do you know about the proposal for the building next door?”

“Not much. Don’t really care. I’m getting a new job. Different place.”

“Was anyone in your unit, while you were away?”

“No.”

“Were you in the exercise or meeting room, last night?”  As she replied, Kitty rose to leave both the room and the questions about her involvement, and tossed down a diversionary tactic.

Some condo buildings have dedicated rooms for meetings of the association or for the use of owners.

Some condo buildings have dedicated rooms for meetings of the association or for the use of owners.

“Not me and so you know, this room is the Social Networking Lounge. The SNL, not the meeting room. Some stone-age idiot residents don’t know the difference. They aren’t too bright, around here.” She threw this back at them as she sauntered out, past the ‘Meeting Room’ sign on the door. Martinelli avoided looking at Martin. Martin stood up and struck a pose, virtual mike in hand.

“Live from the POPS,” he announced, in his loudest stage whisper, to a suppressed snicker from his partner,”it’s SNL, the Social Networking Lounge!”

“Cut the comedy and sit down, already. It’s inventory time. Two swimmers heard from, one a piece of work. Too many choices. Is this revenge? Drowning the nephew to get back at the uncle for something proposed for next door? Is that even possible? Could somebody deliberately bring him here and try to drown him? Because of that?”

“Or conversely, is it exactly because of the project’s controversy that somebody didn’t want to be the one who found him here, already drowned?” Martin reversed the thought.

“People do lie because they don’t want to be connected. But wouldn’t it be the swimmers who live here, the ones most likely to use the pool, who’d also be most likely to bring in a guest to swim, or to come down for a swim, themselves?”

“Or even to have seen this person last night, alive or dead, and deny it today?” Martin stuck to his theory.

“Or while they were here, to have added all the props? Though any resident had the right to be in there, so can’t see that prints will be any use, if we do get any decent ones.”

“But getting back to the rope, if it wasn’t stupidity in attempting to use empty bottles for flotation, or suicide by deliberate weighting down, could it be murder?”

“Not if he’s already drowned, by himself. Hell of a lot easier to do though, if the guy’s already floating face down. What do suppose has become of the bottle tops? If we found them, and they had prints on them that might help. Not turning up.”

“Trash removal might put a cap on that line of inquiry.” One more up for Martin, in the pun tally. “Those would be real needles in the haystack.”

“Aw, keep a lid on it, would ‘ya.”

*    *    *   *   *

The second commotion of the day, as the wailing of sirens re-commenced, occurred outside the building. Out on the street, police lights twitched, as yellow tape stretched and draped back towards the lake. A whole section of bluff had slipped, was still slipping. The path and drive below the slide was similarly cordoned off. Breaking news reports cited the cause as the heavy rains of the last several days. Hovering, echoing, news helicopters ratcheted up the volume; photographers and press shifted focus away from the events inside the Prospect.

Adding to the general din an ambulance veered in, disgorging a team of rescue personnel.  An agitated, Wrested Development workman had inadvertently triggered another debris flow and was stuck in the mud up to his knee. Emergency procedures included maneuvering a series of planks across the bluff as the team cautiously, gradually, worked its way towards him and began gently lifting the afflicted leg.

Concern over the possibility of setting off another mudflow led to a discussion of whether to attempt a lift by helicopter. During their day-long, bluff side training exercises of the previous fall, there had been ample time for explanation, evaluation, and demonstration of rescue techniques. Faced with insecure footing in slippery mud, a dislodged, now re-oriented network of brush and tree limbs and a distressed accident victim, here was an example, if ever there was one, of making decisions on the ground.

Lee Karon, drifting along on the way home from school, was put off-course by these traffic digressions but she was still able to make her now regular stop at Max and Nate’s for her favorite afternoon snack of Day Old Delights. Curiosity driven and munching as she went, she traversed the sidewalks that remained opened and followed the length of the yellow tape to gain a vantage point. There wasn’t that much to see from the road; all the action was apparently down closer to the water. She decided to make for home and check out the view from the solarium, instead.