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 firstname.lastname@example.org or on Facebook.
Tyler hit the “send” button on his e-mail draft to Carol. He knew his career at the firm was just as dead as Ken Thrax. He wondered how long he had. Days? Weeks? He had no idea what to do next. But he had a sudden empathy for John Tiburon. He decided to go up and thank him for the help on the memo. Fortunately no one was in the men’s room when he climbed up to open the ceiling tile.
As he reached the trap door to the roof, he heard voices yelling. One was Tiburon.
“You idiot! All you had to do was get back into Thrax’s office once his body was discovered and clean that one lousy key before the police started sweeping the office. Your office is just down the hall, and it would have been so natural for you to be first on the scene. It was the perfect crime! Totally untraceable! You plant the frog, and it’s a bizarre freak accident. How could you ruin everything?”
“I’m sorry, I guess I got distracted.”
“Distracted with a bottle of Scotch, more like. Did you muck something up with a client? Is that why Thrax wanted you out?”
“Of course not. I’d never let my, er, hobbies interfere with work.”
“Well, it wasn’t the sexual harassment scandal. We all know you can beat that. You’ve never been interested in a woman in your life.”
Schlosh! Tyler thought with alarm. Gay and an alcoholic? The things he missed by preferring Asimov to office gossip . . . .
“You should know, John.”
“Now, Dick, there’s no point in discussing that now. We have to figure a way out of this.”
At the realization that Dick and John had a more-than-professional relationship, Tyler nearly fell off the rope ladder. And, indeed, he must have gasped audibly or rattled something, because the next thing he knew, he was staring into two sets of angry eyes.
“Been there long?” Dick asked.
“Not really,” said Tyler. “I was just coming to talk to John.”
“We met last night,” John said.
“Really?” Dick asked, with a faint hint of jealousy.
“He found my rope ladder. We talked about contracts,” John said.
“I see,” said Dick, hauling Tyler up through the opening. Tyler was surprised at his strength. Dick held his arms behind his back tightly.
“Just the fellow we need,” said John.
“You don’t mean . . . .”
“We have no choice,” said John. “Like my criminal law professor always said, when there’s a stiff on the floor, someone’s gotta hang for it. I’d rather it not be me. Or you, for that matter.”
“But did he have motive or opportunity?” asked Dick.
“Sure. I’ve been lining up his frame for a while as a backup plan. Tyler here bills about 2000/year, about 300-400 hours less than the average associate. Ken was about to give him the axe anyway. He’s got nowhere to go in this economy.”
“How on earth do you know that?” asked Tyler.
“Hacked Ken’s computer through Dick’s account,” John replied.
“John!” yelled Dick.
“Oh, stop complaining, it’s going to save your sorry hide,” John retorted. “So anyway, I happened to be on site at Solstice getting my daily allotment of leftovers when I saw Tyler coming for his appointment. which was on Ken’s personal computer calendar. I shot him with a tranquilizer blow dart so he would miss the meeting and have some time mysteriously unaccounted for.”
“But that wasn’t when I poisoned the keyboard.”
“Of course not. You did it early that morning when you slipped in to leave your weekly billing file, when you knew Ken was in the conference room. And we knew that since he had meetings scheduled for most of the day, he wouldn’t likely touch the +/= key until later that evening. But Tyler didn’t. Not having access to the schedule, he could have slipped in just after Ken left for drinks, knowing full well what would happen when he returned. And he might have just fainted under the pressure.”
“But how would he have access to the poison or know how to use it?”
“Easy enough to find these things on the Internet nowadays. I got our phyllobates terribles and the necessary melyrid beetles to feed it off eBay and had them delivered to Tyler’s work address. It was easy enough for me to intercept it at the loading dock. No one wanted to touch them.”
“Why me?” asked Tyler.
“Because you’re just such an easy target,” said John. “Of all the associates at the firm, you’re the least likely to notice the real world around you. And even if you do notice, you’re terribly naive.”
“I am not!” protested Tyler.
“Then why have you let Dick tie your hands with my tent rope without even trying to kick him where it hurts and get away? Thought you were going to talk your way out of it?”
“Touché,” said Tyler meekly.
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 email@example.com or on Facebook.
Earlier: Prior installments of My Job Is Murder