80 She Loves Me Not

R.M. waved a tearful Mrs. James goodbye and exited the lobby, weighing whether to put off any showings until things in the building settled down again. Guy returned to the hospital with assurances of a police report to follow. Martin & Martinelli re-appropriated the meeting room.

“Not much to go on. And we’re back in a common area where any owners can legitimately be, though not messing with somebody else’s vehicles.”

“Both the Karon cars went out before Lee’s first ride this morning,” said Martin.

“But it’s moot. No vehicles there, then – well, they were – and the bike was, earlier.” Martinelli often struggled with tenses as he thought out loud, a disadvantage in police work. He knew what he meant, anyway. Chapter 80 She Loves Me

“So a resident did this sometime late morning, noon-ish,” hypothesized Martin, “if Gervase didn’t see anyone else besides the realtor, who was in the garage too late.”

“Begins to look that way.” There was a knock at the door. “Come in!”

Mrs. James stepped in, stuffing away a telling tissue up her sleeve. “This is so upsetting! But I have to explain what I saw.”

“Please sit down, Mrs. James,” Martin invited. “What is it?”

“Hans and I were returning from an appointment with the association attorney a little after noon, probably half-past. I was driving my car. I always wait a moment before pulling into the garage – for my eyes to adjust to it being darker inside – and we saw Kitty Doyle’s car stopped in the driving lane opposite Karon’s spaces. We were still at the top of the ramp.”

“What she was doing?”

“She was near the back of her car, with the trunk open. I couldn’t see what she was doing. I got the impression when she reached up to grab the lid that her hand was darker, like she was wearing gloves.”

“Did you speak to her?”

“No. It’s usually best avoided, most people find.” Martin suppressed a grimace. “She ignored us. I heard her slam down the trunk. I drove in, pulled into my spot. She tore up the ramp before we even got out of the car. Hans and I talked about it, that it was odd behavior, well maybe not for her.”

“How so?”

“Most people here would do that sort of thing in their own space, before starting to leave, so as not to inconvenience another driver.”

“Could you see if Lee’s bike was still there?”

“Their spaces were empty of cars. Not sure about her bike. Maybe Hans can tell you.”

“Thank you again, Mrs. James.” Martinelli gently teased. “Be sure to tell us if you remember anything else you didn’t see!” She had the grace to smile.

Hans was home and had no excuse to defer the request for another interview, though he had no idea why they wanted to see him. He was as yet unaware of the incident. In the meeting room, he corroborated Mrs. James but saying that he hadn’t specifically known that it was opposite Karon’s that Kitty had stopped. He wasn’t in the garage much, he explained, having no car of his own. He remembered seeing a bike way in back in that otherwise empty space, though. He didn’t say he wanted nothing more to do with the police or with Kitty Doyle; she seemed to be taking over his life.

“Do you own a parking space?”

“Yes.”

“That you don’t use, you say. Couldn’t you rent it out?”

“Only to another resident.”

“And you don’t because…”

“It hasn’t been empty for that long. I did have an arrangement with another resident until recently. But he moved away.”

“Do you have a relationship with Miss Doyle?”

“God, no!”

“You live on the same floor, don’t you? Wouldn’t you run into her more often than some?” Hans now had to quickly think. Need he disclose to them that he was buying her unit? Was this relevant? Would he have to tell them why? His self-examination took a bit too long.

“Anything else influencing what you say about her?”

“Strictly financial.” Hans took the plunge, thinking abandoned, caution overlooked. It was something about the way Martin was holding his pen, balancing it across the top of his forefinger, poised to snap it up when it inevitably flipped one way or the other.

“Go on.”

“I’m in the process of buying her unit, the one across the hall, as you said. It’s a private sale. Hers has a den, that I’ll use as a home office.”

“She’s moving out? Where? When?” Martin bluffed; she’d already told him she was moving out.

“Soon. Not sure. She didn’t ever say.”

“And you’re putting yours up for sale?”

“No. Well, listen, this is all private, nothing to do with anything else happening here. I’m not free to tell you all of this.”

“I’d suggest to you that you are. Assisting police inquiries is a wise choice, Mr. Knopupik.” Martin choked out the surname straight-faced, with true side-kick panache. For this he earned the stony face, the approving face, of Martinelli.

“I can’t see that it’s relevant.” Hans threw it out, last-ditch.

“You don’t have to. That’s up to us.” Martinelli authoritatively stepped in, detective fervor familiarly nipping at his heels.

“Another private deal. The Cabot brothers are selling their parents’ unit and are buying mine, for a place to stay when they’re in town,” sighed Hans. “They like it here.” Martin often heard the unbelievable.

“And this has been arranged since when?”

“A week ago.”

“After the drowning?”

“Yes.” Hans felt himself going in deeper and deeper.

“When does this real estate daisy chain go into effect?”

“It’s all privately done with our own banks, so it usually goes a bit faster.”

“How does that work?”

“She’s accepted my offer, and I’ve accepted the Cabots’. I’m trying to set the same closing date for each and after that, everyone moves.”

“Is Miss Doyle still living in her unit?”

“I guess, if she was going out today.”

“Do you live with anyone?”

Hans inwardly winced but said as straightforwardly as possible, “No.”

“And you say that other than the residents involved, these moving arrangements are not generally known? Why?”

“It’s perfectly legal, just private. Any change in ownership, once completed, will be public record and be noted by the association.”

*   *   *  *  *

A sample disclosure form showing proof of homeowner's insurance, a closing requirement.

A sample disclosure form showing proof of homeowner’s insurance, a closing requirement.

Upstairs, Mrs. James was composing a letter to Kitty Doyle. She couldn’t remember a time when her role as association secretary had afforded her so much enjoyment. She referenced association policy, as stated in the documents, that it was in the interests of all of the residents that repairs to common areas be completed promptly, regardless of any pending, private insurance claims, with damage costs assigned to the owner that the association underwriter determined to have been negligent. The estimate the association had received in this instance was in the neighborhood of $1,000. Miss Doyle would shortly be receiving a bill from the association upon the satisfactory completion of the required repairs. Pleased with her matter-of-fact effort, she made four copies, and kept one for her own records. She sent the letter to Kitty Doyle, to Hans, and to Earnest, then slipped a paper copy under each of their unit doors.