Warning: This work has been rated 18+ for language, violence, and mature content.
The widow sat on a love seat in the middle of the office with the maid, Ms. Scrabok. There was no sign of emotion on either of their faces, they were completely blank slates as he sat down in front of them. Winslow took his notebook out of his pocket, laying it down on the table beside the leather chair he was soon sinking into. His cigarette case made its way into his hand as the detective tried to decide how to start his line of questioning.
This attempt at thought wasn’t necessary as Mrs. Johnson asked, “Did Sean really take his own life, Mr. Smith?”
“We don’t know the situation yet, ma’am, but considering the circumstances-”
“You think he killed himself,” interrupted Ms. Scrabok. “Either that or you think that Queenie and I had something to do with his death.”
Winslow blew out a long cloud of smoke, rolling his cigarette between two fingers, and looking back to the ladies on the love seat. He could see the small mannerisms of the relationship he had missed on the first night. Their hand holding and tender words were signs of a very close friendship. As Sean had pointed out moments before he died, this relationship was most likely far more than a friendship.
The detective chose his words carefully as he stated, “You two ladies are potential witnesses in multiple suspicious deaths that took place in the same house within the same week. If you were in my position, with the police chief and media breathing down your neck, wouldn’t you have questions too?”
Mrs. Johnson and Ms. Scrabok whispered to each other on the couch, somehow managing to keep to a volume that Winslow couldn’t hear. He saw Scrabok grab Mrs. Johnson’s hand even tighter before the widow began to speak.
“May we ask,” the widow started, with absolutely no sign of hesitance in her voice. Then she repeated, “May we ask why you were here at our house at such a time in the morning?”
“My associate and I had received an anonymous tip in the middle of the night recommending that we come to speak to Mr. O’Keefe.”
Winslow went back to smoking while watching their glances. He knew that his story about an anonymous tip had no way of holding up in court, but tried to keep his mind from running away on a train. These ladies were most likely used to no questions being asked about the relationships going on in their house. And the detective could feel the gut-wrenching emotions coming off them in waves.
Perhaps he should leave the autopsying to Doctor Reilly.
When he didn’t get a response from either woman, Winslow continued, “And the information that Mr. O’Keefe shared with us in the moments before his death has been deemed vital to our investigation.”
“I presume that the information supplied by my butler is entirely confidential?” The widow Johnson asked with a slight smirk spreading across her face. “Did Sean also reveal the details of his relationship with my husband?”
“Mr. O’Keefe revealed the details of many relationships,” Winslow quickly answered with a glare back at Mrs. Johnson.
The maid remained silent, her head now hung as hints of tears rolled down her cheeks and collected on her apron. Winslow didn’t know where this conversation was going to go, but he knew it wasn’t going to go anywhere good.
“Mr. Smith, perhaps we should speak in private. As you can see, my maid is becoming quite distressed with your line of questioning.”
Mrs. Johnson passed a handkerchief to the weeping maid to make her point clear to the detective. On a regular occasion he might be inclined to accommodate a witness request. He just wasn’t in the mood to give the prime suspect any more lead way.
“I understand where you’re coming from, ma’am.”
“Then are you going to let us have a moment of discussion before you separate us for your interview.”
“I’m afraid that request goes against police procedure, Mrs. Johnson. If you both wish to be interviewed separately, I will call in a constable and we can do this down at the station.”
Ms. Scrabok suddenly broke into a fit, holding herself ever closer to the widow. The detective wasn’t sure if he was witnessing a performance or not, but went along with the situation anyways. In a movement of slight sympathy, Winslow passed his own spare handkerchief to the maid with the hope that she wouldn’t mind the spot of blood next to his initials on the corner.
The maid broke her crying to ask, “Is this blood, Detective Smith?”
“I’m sure this nice detective wouldn’t hand you a blood stained handkerchief, Lily,” Mrs. Johnson said before Winslow even had a chance to speak. She then delivered a matching glare to Winslow and asked, “Isn’t that right, Mr. Smith?”
Winslow didn’t have an answer to her question. He just had the embarrassment that was spreading across his face by the second. The cigarette in his hand became a convenient escape once again.
Mrs. Johnson leaned across from her seated position, coming close to forming a bridge with Winslow, and repeated her question.
“Isn’t that right, Mr. Smith?”
“Yes, that’s right, ma’am. Now I did have one more question for the two of you that I didn’t have the chance to ask on New Years.”
Ms. Scrabok had evidently required from her weeping as the two ladies sat as blank slates once more. Winslow was now sure that their entire interview had been an elaborate performance for the detective’s benefit.
He was tempted to give them a round of applause for their encore worthy act. It might have been in bad taste but it would have been a Doyle and Christie worthy move. It was too bad that the detective wasn’t at a point of being able to have his major wrap up.
The detective leaned over to match the bridge that Mrs. Johnson was trying to build and asked, “Do you have any idea why the United States government had a wire tap on your phone?”