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Murder in Crepuscular Meadows

Post 21

paulh, making lemonade from the lemons that life has given me


14.Spotlight on murder in Crepuscular Meadows: another witness, but how credible?

You can call them hobos, bums, derelicts, winos, or whatever, but there always seem to be some of them around. One of them came into the police station while the sleeping habits of fish were being discussed.

He didn't seem to have washed in months, he was ragged, and one hoped that he could find some place warmer than the outdoors before long.

His appearance was a mixed blessing at best. He had been sifting through the dumpster behind the store when the jeep arrived, and had crept to the edge of the parking lot to see what was happening – little chance of being seen, as he was well camouflaged with grime.

The police asked him to describe the two men – he said there were two, no more and no less. One older, one younger. One difference in his testimony, though, was that he thought he saw Peters writhing.

So, was Peters killed at the reservoir after all? Or had the witness been drinking and imagining things or making things up completely?
A clerk named Zelda came through with coffee and donuts – it was midmorning. She offered some to the witness, who eagerly wolfed it down.

“Where can we find you if we have further questions?” Sergeant Friday asked the witness.

“Here and there” was the vague reply.

“We'd check the dumpsters behind stores and cafes,” Officer Phelps
observed. The witness nodded. There were convenience stores and coffee shops not far from the 7/24, as well as cafes like Emma's on the edge of downtown. He'd probably not travel much further into town, but he wouldn't need to. Unless he was really hungry.


Murder in Crepuscular Meadows

Post 22

paulh, making lemonade from the lemons that life has given me


15.Spotlight on murder in Crepuscular Meadows: yet another witness.

The reservoir was a busier place than the police had imagined on that fateful first day of November. Naomi Fenster, a young woman who had run away from home, was living in a makeshift tent not 50 feet from the spot where Peters was found.

The bad news? Her testimony diverged from that given by Gaia and the derelict. “It was dark, like. I only saw one man. He was big and burly, with a tattoo on his right bicep. He hopped over the guard rail, dumped something on the ground, and then left in a hurry. Oh, and he dropped this in his haste to get away.” She produced a phone that had fallen out of his pocket.

Sergeant Friday feared that it was an anonymous burner phone, but it was upscale enough to have sensitive info on it. A techno geek could probably decrypt it.

Sergeant Friday sighed. Technically, camping near the reservoir was illegal, but her testimony, if useful enough, would be enough to let her not face any charges. And useful it turned out to be!

“Gus Grommet!” Sergeant Friday exclaimed later that afternoon when the phone's owner was identified. There were texts to Salieri about Grommet's waiting in the shrubbery down the street from Peters's house to ambush him. Salieri sent no answers to the texts, which left doubt as to whether he really wanted to be involved.

“Some welcoming committee!” Zelda exclaimed, breezing through the room with the afternoon coffee and pastries.

“Why didn't we notice Naomi's tent?” Sergeant Friday exclaimed.

“Because she saw us coming and removed it?” Officer Dodge said.


Murder in Crepuscular Meadows

Post 23

paulh, making lemonade from the lemons that life has given me


16.Spotlight on murder in Crepuscular Meadows:

Establishing that someone was at the scene was only part of the battle. Motive counted for plenty, too. Why would Gus Grommet want to harm Peter Peters? And where might Grommet be lurking? Also, why would he be driving Weembly's jeep if Weembly himself wasn't there?

Grommet had a checkered work history consisting of odd jobs. He frequented the pool tables at the Freedom Saloon and seemed to be out late at night in seedier sections of town.

But his residence was known, at least: The Meadows Rooming House. He'd been there three years. The rooming house had not been an upscale place, but the residents now included some down-on-their luck show business people thrown out of work by the Coronavirus. A call to Pat Schneider, the manager, established that Grommet had not been seen in two days.

“Oh, Lord, I hope he hasn't been murdered too,” Officer Phelps exclaimed.

No, as it turned out, Grommet was passed out drunk in a secluded spot in the back of the Community Garden on High Street. The Zucchini still had some huge leaves, and he was well hidden by them. Bear in mind that this was across the street from the rooming house. But if he was that near to his room, why not just cross the street and sleep in his own bed?

Phelps and Dodge were sent out to retrieve Grommet and question him.....


Murder in Crepuscular Meadows

Post 24

paulh, making lemonade from the lemons that life has given me


17.Spotlight on murder in Crepuscular Meadows: Grommet calls for his lawyer

“You ain't getting diddly from me unless my lawyer is present,” Grommet protested. And who was his lawyer? Seneca Salmon, the scourge of policemen everywhere! This was going to be quite some show.

“We didn't get the lawyer bit with any of our witnesses, or with Salieri,” Sergeant Friday grumbled.

“Salieri knew there would be evidence exonerating him. He probably talked with Skronton Weembly after the fight, and knew he was all right,” Officer Phelps said.

Sergeant Friday sighed. All right, he was a hardened veteran of many struggles, but he did sigh every so often. Seneca Salmon arrived twenty minutes later, grumbling about being pulled from a party for his nephew. Not everyone knew he had a nephew.

“I hope the nephew isn't going to go into the legal profession,” Officer Dodge said.

“Well, there are worse things he could do,” Sergeant Friday observed. This was met by raised eyebrows. “You only run into lawyers in police stations and courtrooms. And law offices, of course.” More raised eyebrows. “Unless he runs for office, which would be annoying, but non-lawyers do that, too.”

The others resumed what they had been doing. No one won or lost these discussions, and they all knew it.

When Salmon did arrive, he was a sight to behold, with a three-piece dark gray vested suit, a pristine white shirt, and a power tie.

The questioning started.

“Mr. Grommet, a witness placed a man resembling you at the scene where the victim was found. She found a cell phone on the ground shortly after, which was traced to you,” Sergeant Friday said.

“My client has nothing to say,” Salmon said.

“I suppose we would get nowhere if we asked him to show his right bicep,” Officer Phelps whispered to Officer Dodge, and was met with an icy stare from Sergeant Friday.

“If this were August, he'd be wearing a short-sleeved shirt,” Officer Dodge whispered back. This time, Salmon fixed him with an icy stare.


Murder in Crepuscular Meadows

Post 25

paulh, making lemonade from the lemons that life has given me

18.Spotlight on murder in Crepuscular Meadows: Breakthrough or dead end?

The questioning continued for another half hour. He was asked if he had a cell phone.

“My client is not saying, one way or the other,” Salmon said.

“Oh, for Pete's sake, Salmon!” Grommet exclaimed. “I'd be nowhere without that phone! I want it back,” he told Sergeant Friday. “It's my property.”

“It's a piece of evidence,” Sergeant Friday shot back. “Your lawyer just said you might or might not have one. Now, which is it?”

This put Grommet and Salmon in a bad mood. “Let's say that my client does have a cell phone. That's not a crime,” Salmon said. “What would be a crime would be planting a phone that's been engineered to make him look guilty at the scene.”

This was exasperating. The same techies who had decrypted the phone could also have put things into it that weren't there before. Or could they? They'd have to be too brilliant for their pay grade. Sergeant Friday gave a mean smile. “We can see how that plays out in a hearing,” he said. “In any event, it's in our possession now, and
the ball is in your court.”


Murder in Crepuscular Meadows

Post 26

paulh, making lemonade from the lemons that life has given me


19.Spotlight on murder in Crepuscular Meadows: DNA evidence

What had not been mentioned yet was that the crime lab had found DNA under Skronton Weembly's fingernails as he tried to gouge the hands of his attackers. Grommet blew his nose before he left the station, and Officer Phelps noticed a speck of blood on the tissue. He saved it for DNA testing.

Three days passed with no more witnesses coming forward. Then the DNA lab called to say there was a match between the material under Weembly's fingernails and the blood on Grommet's tissue.

“We're partway there, exulted Sergeant Friday.

“But only one murder,”Officer Dodge said.

“No, both murders,” Sergeant Friday corrected him. “There was stuff under Peters's fingernails too. That matched Grommet, too.”


Murder in Crepuscular Meadows

Post 27

paulh, making lemonade from the lemons that life has given me


20.Spotlight on murder in Crepuscular Meadows: Probable cause, but the suspect has vanished.

Dear reader, you probably thought the case was about wrapped up, didn't you? Eleven days early, at that! But no, fate held more surprises up its sleeve.

No one could be certain, really, if Peters was killed by the reservoir, or merely moved there after his death. The least reliable witness was the only one who thought he might have been “writhing.”

No one could be certain how many men were involved – or even if any of the “men” were women. The witness who was closest to the scene only saw one man. The others saw two men, but from a different vantage point. They all might have been correct, but who knew?

Was Peters already on the ground before Grommet arrived? Naomi said that a burly man “dumped something on the ground,” but was the something necessarily Peters?

Grommet was the best suspect by far, compared to the others. But when Phelps and Dodge showed up at his door to bring him back in, no one answered the door. Manager Pat Schneider revealed that Grommet had taken all his things and left the premises within hours after the questioning.

So, there was no joy in Mudville. Then Officer Phelps revealed that he had surreptitiously put a tracking device in Grommet's right shoe.

“That's illegal, you know,” scolded Sergeant Friday.

“It can be just between you and me,” Phelps said. “No one else need know. If we find him because of it, we can claim superior police skills.”

Sergeant Friday smiled. “We'd better remove the device quickly, though.”


Murder in Crepuscular Meadows

Post 28

paulh, making lemonade from the lemons that life has given me


21.Spotlight on murder in Crepuscular Meadows: Then Grommet changed shoes

The tracker in grommet's shoe led the police to a warehouse next to the Convention Center in Crepuscular Meadows. It was next to the town cemetery. What they found was two shoes, but they were not on Grommet's feet.

A bulletin was issued to police departments asking anyone who had seen Grommet to contact the authorities. It was fortunate that the surveillance cameras at he police station had captured his image, so people would know what he looked like.

“Typical needle in a haystack, though,” Sergeant Friday grumbled.

Tommy Nemo, who wrote for the Evening Sentinel, published a story about the search for him.

Grommet;s mother helped a bit, though, by showing up and revealing that he had visited her an hour ago. She had slammed the door in his face. It was a busy time of day, and a few people had seen him go by. He seemed to be on foot (Weembly's jeep was no longer available, and Grommet seemed to lack transportation of his own).

At last, in a makeshift hut on Monument Hill, near the Botanic Garden, the police cornered Grommet, read him his rights, and then brought him to a holding cell in the police station.

This time his lawyer was unavailable, and Grommet was not the sort to let someone else speak for him.

Here the terrain got trickier, though. There was enough evidence to proceed, but no one had a clue as yet as to whether Grommet even knew Peters, let alone wanted to kill him.


Murder in Crepuscular Meadows

Post 29

paulh, making lemonade from the lemons that life has given me


22.Spotlight on murder in Crepuscular Meadows: Peters had thrown Grommet off the Reservoir property

One of Peters's employees, rooting around in logbooks of the reservoir authority, found mention of an incident in which Peters had evicted Grommet from the reservoir lands for hassling tourists a few weeks earlier. A call to one of the tourists established that he had heard Grommet threaten Peters, who seemed unconcerned.

So, the case against Grommet was getting stronger. The police could use better evidence, though. This came in the form of a complaint from Matteo Chelone, the groundskeeper at Clematis Station (an elderly living complex), about Grommet's attempt to obtain his help in “teaching peters a lesson.” Grommet didn't know Chelone from a hole in the ground, but had heard that he was strong, and had had some issues with Peters when he was a high-spirited teenager who took liberties on reservoir property.


Murder in Crepuscular Meadows

Post 30

paulh, making lemonade from the lemons that life has given me



22.Spotlight on murder in Crepuscular Meadows: Peters had thrown Grommet off the Reservoir property

One of Peters's employees, rooting around in logbooks of the reservoir authority, found mention of an incident in which Peters had evicted Grommet from the reservoir lands for hassling tourists a few weeks earlier. A call to one of the tourists established that he had heard Grommet threaten Peters, who seemed unconcerned.

So, the case against Grommet was getting stronger. The police could use better evidence, though. This came in the form of a complaint from Matteo Chelone, the groundskeeper at Clematis Station (an elderly living complex), about Grommet's attempt to obtain his help in “teaching peters a lesson.” Grommet didn't know Chelone from a hole in the ground, but had heard that he was strong, and had had some issues with Peters when he was a high-spirited teenager who took liberties on reservoir property.


23.Spotlight on murder in Crepuscular Meadows:

Questions were never in short supply, but these developments only seemed to make them multiply. It had been acoup0le days since the article in the sentinel. Why had Chelone waited to come forward with this? Also, Peters's death had been publicized weeks ago. Did Chelone have something to hide, or was he just not a regular reader of the paper?

The latter proved to be true. “When Grommet came to me, I thought it a ridiculous idea.,” he said. “The initial reports of Peters's death didn't include Grommet. Peters could have had many enemies, so why worry about this one?”

Why, indeed?

And why kill Peters now, if the offending eviction was weeks ago?

For that, you needed to consider that Grommet was biding his time, looking for an accomplice.

Enter Salieri's sister.

Talia Salieri, who told the police that she had seen Grommet and Salieri talking in an animated manner, mentioning Peters repeatedly. She wasn't close enough to gauge whether they were on the same page, but figured that they were. Unlike a wife, a sister was allowed to testify against a suspect. And where was Salieri now?

“He's in Pittsfield working in an auto body shop,” she said. “You're lucky the Covid-19 menace prevents people from crossing state lines.”


24.Spotlight on murder in Crepuscular Meadows: a brief recap

For those who are confused about all the suspects, here's a lit of them:

Arnold Peters, nephew of the deceased. Probably begged off the alleged fishing trip early. No known involvement. Under his grandfather's watchful eye since.

Orlando Salieri. Not a particularly nice man, but he was seen at Peters's door shortly before Peters's death, and lead suspect Grommet had texted him. He was capable of violence (c.f. footage of him trying strangle another suspect), but no one knew if he had a beef with Peters. Even if he would do almost anything for money, no one knew if Grommet had any to offer, or if he had an independent beef with Peters.

Skronton Weembly, who died not long after Peters, and whose only proven connection to the case was his aunt's jeep, which was apparently used to carry the body.

Gus Grommet, the leading suspect. His cell phone was found near the body. Reservoir records revealed that he resented Peters's evicting him from the area a few weeks earlier. The state of his mind was anybody's guess.

Multiple witnesses had said that two men carried Peters's body form the jeep to the land near the reservoir. Who were they for sure? How and why had they assembled for the murder of a fairly harmless and inoffensive victim? Peters was not known to have much money, and posed no threat to anyone.


25.Spotlight on murder in Crepuscular Meadows: The tunnel at the end of the light

There was an abandoned railway tunnel near the reservoir. Naomi Fenster, seeking warmer lodgings than a makeshift tent, foud her way to the entrance, when she smelled food cooking. She peeked around the corner of the entrance and saw a teenaged boy in ragged clothes.

He lloked at her with misery in his eyes, and said, “on November first I saw the most horrid sight in my whole life. I am in fear for my life. I saw a burly man with a tattoo on his arm strangle the beloved supervisor of the reservoir. He did it at the mouth of this tunnel, early in the morning. Why? I do not know. Probably to avoid being seen.

Then the burly man noticed me and forced me to help him carry the body to a jeep, which was driven to the edge of the reservoir, where he carried the body. I managed to get away from him, and went back to the tunnel. I even wrote it all down in my diary.”

The name on the diary was that of Jason Dandrich, who had been reported missing from his home in Lost Village three weeks ago.

Naomi brought the diary to the police.


Murder in Crepuscular Meadows

Post 31

paulh, making lemonade from the lemons that life has given me


26.Spotlight on murder in Crepuscular Meadows: Jason Dandrich is found barely alive, deep in a tunnel.

The police found Jason in the tunnel, and had him airlifted
to Memorial Hospital in Workchester to be checked out. He confirmed what had been written in the diary.

The attending psychiatrist believed that he had suffered a trauma from bullying at school, and wanted some time alone. The tunnel seemed to give him that. His extended family rallied around him, but they wondered why he would return to the tunnel rather than go home.

I hoped the bad guy would not think to return to the tunnel, but get as far from Crepuscular Meadows as possible,” Jason said. “And with all due respect to my parents, they fight all the time. I wsas lonely in the tunnel, but it was more peaceful.”


Murder in Crepuscular Meadows

Post 32

paulh, making lemonade from the lemons that life has given me


27.Spotlight on murder in Crepuscular Meadows: more loose ends to tie up

So, that was where Peters was murdered. Dandrich had carried the body under duress, and would not be charged. This assumed that he would ever recover enough to cope.

“You took an awful risk returning to the tunnel,” his mother scolded.

“I hoped that the bad guy would be on the lam,” Jason said weakly.

Which was the case. Especially with his cell phone gone, and the risk of being tracked. Which was why he slept among the zucchini rather than in his room. Dear reader, we never said he was particularly logical, especially when inebriated.


Murder in Crepuscular Meadows

Post 33

paulh, making lemonade from the lemons that life has given me

[I kind of ran out of steam. I started without any ideas on how to end the story, trusting that something would occur to me. It didn't. I apologize to those few who might be reading this....]


Murder in Crepuscular Meadows

Post 34

paulh, making lemonade from the lemons that life has given me

28-30, to end this thing!


28.Spotlight on murder in Crepuscular Meadows:

Salieri realized that Jason, as an eyewitness, would finger him for bring the driver, so he admitted to that, but argued that he, too, acted under duress. Grommet was too powerful to resist, and might have had some hold over him that he couldn't undo.

So, there were three men in the jeep, but only two got out. In court, a prosecution lawyer would wonder why Salieri didn't just drive off. But maybe he felt sorry for Jason, alone with Grommet. Besides, Grommet dumped the body and raced back to the jeep. There wasn't time to flee, maybe.

Jason was on a lot of meds, and was seeing a therapist. Arnold Peters dropped by to see him and offer some comfort. “I could have been involved in that sorry mess,” he said.


29.Murder in Crepuscular Meadows: Aren't you tired of this case by now?

In the weeks that followed, very little new evidence turned up. People rallied around Jason Dandrich and Arnold Peters, who were basically decent kids, if a bit stressed out.

Salieri talked to someone from the Evening Sentinel, hoping to refurbish his image. Cynics said it would take more than a newspaper article to do that.

Grommet worked on a defense that claimed Peters threatened
him. Salmon doubted that a jury would buy that, but there were slim pickings as far as credible arguments went, given the eyewitness testimony from Salieri and Dandrich.


30.Murder in Crepuscular Meadows: Wrap-up

November ended with a cold spell. The only fishing from now on would be ice fishing, which violated reservoir rules.

Sergeant Friday missed the big family get-togethers his family usually gave. The Coronavirus prevented that. Undaunted, he bought a roasted turkey for himself. On November 30, he was still bringing turkey sandwiches to work.

“I'm sick of turkey,” he told Zelda, who just smiled.

A new supervisor was named for the reservoir, though the duties would be light this time of year.

Jason was likely to return to schooling at home by Christmas.

Salieri was told not to leave town. The judge almost incarcerated him, but empty jail cells were in short supply. He was kept under the watchful eye of his wife.

Arnold Peters was free to leave town, but decided to stay. He wrote a nice article praising Peter Peters for the evening Sentinel. Public opinion seemed to be in his favor. He decided to apply to the community college and take some business courses.

Bernard Philpin passed the site of the murder on his way to a meeting in Workchester on November 1. He was happy to note that no bodies could be seen. He mused about what would have happened had he not stopped on that fateful day.

Then he reminded himself that Peters's family would have filed a missing person report, and the reservoir would be checked, because of the neighbor who reported seeing the start of a “fishing” expedition. Maybe Naomi Fenster would have felt obliged to tell the police about what she had seen. The derelict might or might not have come forward. Gaia Philpin would definitely have come forward.

Yes, the body would have been discovered, if a bit later.
Bernard Philpin smiled about doing his duty as a pillar of the community....

The end


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