Ed. note: Welcome to ATL’s first foray into serial fiction. “My Job Is Murder,” a mystery set in a D.C. appellate boutique, will appear one chapter at a time, M-W-F, over the next few weeks. Prior installments appear here; please read them first.
Susanna Dokupil can be reached by email at email@example.com or on Facebook.
The detective hid with Katarina just out of sight, listening, hoping to overhear a confession. But once he realized John intended to poison Tyler, he decided to step in, one way or the other.
“Hold it right there,” he said.
Instantly, he saw he was too late. A golden leg squirmed between John’s glove and Tyler’s mouth.
“Honestly, officer, there’s no need for the gun anymore. The killer is incapacitated. In fact, he’ll be dead in a matter of minutes. There’s no known antidote for batrachotoxin.”
At that, Katarina sprang into action. She e-mailed everyone in the office: “Trapped on MakoProphet roof with Ken Thrax’s murderer! Call police!”
Katarina looked at the time. It was 12:05 p.m. She texted Alex, who regularly got sushi takeout for lunch. “Going to O Bento today?”
He responded immediately: “There now — why?”
“I need you to get me something….”
“You’re either a hero or a murderer,” said the detective to John, without lowering his gun.
“Self-defense!” cried John. “I found this guy playing around with a golden poison dart frog in my tent, and I could only assume he was trying to poison me the way he did Ken Thrax, rest his soul.”
“And what were either of you doing up here, anyway?”
“Well, officer, if you must know, I live here. In a tent. I’ve been out of work for some time. So, arrest me for vagrancy if you must. Last night, this fellow found me. I thought he was suspicious from the moment I laid eyes on him, and as we talked, I could see he was pretty shaken up. I tried to help him with a legal matter, but I suspected there was more to it. He told me Thrax was dead, and he wasn’t even shaken up about it. Pretty cold, even for a lawyer. I asked him some follow-up questions, and I guess he figured I was onto him, so he had to eliminate me.”
“So who’s Dick?”
“Dick. You said the frog spent a long day in Dick’s pocket.”
John blanched momentarily, then recovered himself. “Dick Schlosh. A partner at the firm. He was apparently in on it. This fellow mentioned that he had helped poison Thrax. I never would have believed it.”
Katarina shivered. If John was right, she had just tipped him off with her firmwide e-mail. One minute had passed.
Dick was pulling the car around when a vibration in his pocket let him know that he had an e-mail. He read Katarina’s message. He panicked. He removed the silver flask that he kept for emergencies from his glove compartment and gulped its contents. He had to remain calm and concentrate.
Even intoxicated, Dick was no fool. He knew John was a self-centered, self-promoting sort who would sell him out to save himself. He assumed that if John were in a tight spot, as it appeared he was, John already had implicated him.
Dick looked at his distorted reflection in the flask. He had been a really great lawyer once, before his vices had gotten the better of him. Mentoring a talented lawyer like John had reminded him of how much he still had to offer — and how much he had lost along the way. Oh, he had always known John was using him to get ahead, but he was using John too, in his own way. But their use for each other had ended, and the time had come to say goodbye. He knew John would understand.
Dick took another long look at the flask. He called a lawyer that specialized in advancing alcoholism as a defense to full responsibility for violent crimes while he drove south, deep into the hills of Virginia, to Hazel Hollow, and the promise of a sober life.
Susanna Dokupil is a former appellate lawyer who abandoned regular employment in favor of raising four kids. She wishes to emphasize that the resemblance of any character in “My Job Is Murder” to any actual person, living or dead, is purely coincidental. (Except for the geeky stuff. Appellate lawyers really are that geeky.)
Susanna can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Facebook.
Earlier: Prior installments of My Job Is Murder