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Detective Randall Part 3

2004-10-12

Category: prose
NOTE: the earlier parts of this are in the Prose section. Just follow the Prose link on the left hand side.

The detective turned away from Fiona and looked at the gardener, who sat in the corner of the dining room. "There were other suspects as well. Since Mr. Cole was murdered with a gardening tool, we naturally wanted to talk with Theodore."

* * *

Theodore sat at the potting bench of the garden shed. His smaller tools hung from a wall-mounted tool rack. The larger tools hung individually in a room in the back of the shed. Flowerpots of various types, sizes, and materials sat scattered all over and around the table. The gardener packed soil into a large terra cotta pot.

I approached cautiously. If you step on the wrong plant, these gardeners become your enemy for life. If you make friends and show proper respect, a gardener can be source for dirt on everybody in a household and their visitors. It didn't help that this one might be a murderer. "Theodore, wasn't it? I 'd like to ask you a couple of questions if I can."

True to his stereotype, he kept working when he answered in his gruff voice. "What can I do for you?"

"Well, it looks like someone may have murdered Mr. Cole. You wouldn't happen to know who that was?"

"Nope."

"Do you know anyone who would want Mr. Cole dead? Did he have any enemies?"

He kept arranging dirt. "Don't know that it's right to speak ill of the dead."

I shifted for a moment to come up with a response. "I'm not really asking you to speak ill of Mr. Cole. I'd really like it if you could speak ill of someone who might have killed him."

He stopped with the dirt and sat the pot on the floor. Then he turned on his stool to face me. "Cole was a rich man. The wealthy always have somebody after them, with or without good reason. In his case, his kids are spoiled and could always use a little more inheritance. His business partners think he gives too much money to charity. It's rumored that he loves his wife and anybody else's too. The same rumors say he's got more kids that aren't on the inheritance list. It could be anybody. Too bad too; he was a nice man."

The answer made the case more complex. I never liked complex cases. It was time to see if I could simplify it again. "One last thing, Theodore. Are you missing any gardening tools?"

He gestured to the tool rack. "Each tool has a place and all those places are filled. Everybody knows better than to bother my tools. I've had the same tools for all twenty years I've been here."

That was one dedicated gardener and I said as much. "Twenty years, that's a long time. You must really love these grounds."

He smiled a little. "Yep, twenty years to the day yesterday. The gardens here are my masterpiece." The pride didn't show through for too long. "I know why you asked about the tool. I saw that trowel. You might want to ask his Claudia, Cole's daughter. She's taken up gardening lately."

"Thanks a lot," I finished. With an acknowledging nod, I turned and walked away.


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