The Tragic Elk Accident
Metro detective Gary Pitak was just completing a phone interview with the teacher from Minnesota as his boss approached his desk.
“One last thing, Mr. Irvin. Do you mind if I ask about how your wife died?”
“Is it important?”
“It could be?”
“My wife and I were on the way to a Halloween costume party. We were traveling through a rural area when I blew a tire. I got the jack out of the trunk and started to raise the wheel. It was then that I realized I had forgotten the tire iron to loosen the lug nuts. While I was looking for the tire iron, my wife bent down to look at the tire. She was wearing an elk costume. She really wanted to wear the Elsa’s princess costume from the movie Frozen , but they were all out. She had to settle for the elk costume. That would have been fine if a small band of elk hadn’t chosen that moment to emerge from the woods behind her. At night and from behind, she looked like …”
“That’s okay, Mr. Irvin. I get the picture. There’s no need to go on,” Pitak said as he tried to suppress a laugh.
“I know it sounds unbelievable, but that’s how it happened. There are days when I can’t believe it myself. I keep a copy of her obituary in my wallet. It’s hard to explain, but it helps keep me centered when those days occur.”
Pitak regained his composure and expressed his sympathies to the man before hanging up.
“So, what’s the story?”
Detective Pitak looked at his boss before bursting into a fit of spontaneous laughter that brought activity in the bullpen to a standstill.
“Pitak, follow me!”
The two men headed for the senior detective’s office. After closing the door, Acerno got in his detective face.
“You mind telling me what that was all about?”
“Sorry, boss. It’s just that when I asked Irvin if he was traveling with his wife, he mentioned that she had died as the result of a tragic elk accident.”
“And you found that funny?”
“I did at the … you see, she was dressed as a …,” Acerno wasn’t smiling. “No, boss. I only asked because the rental agent said that the person who rented the car said his wife had died in an elk accident. When Irvin confirmed that’s how his wife died, I couldn’t figure out how a stranger would know that. It turned out that Irvin carries a copy of her obit in his wallet.”
“Could someone have gotten hold of his wallet?”
“I thought of that, but he was eating in the Bacchanal buffet while the car was being rented. Irvin says he had his wallet the entire time. He said the only time it was out of his pocket was when he dropped it on the floor while he was eating.”
“Didn’t he take out his wallet to pay for the buffet?”
“He used a 24-hour Buffet of Buffets pass that he had in another pocket. Computer records confirmed the time. Still, the car rental agent swears that Irvin showed him identification and used a credit card issued in his name. I checked out the car rental contract and everything was valid.”
“Then how did he end up dropping a wallet that he didn’t have?”
“He said he was eating when a waiter came by and picked it up off the floor by his chair. Are you thinking what I’m thinking?”
“It’s entirely possible that he didn’t have his wallet when he walked into the buffet and someone dropped it there after using it.”
The two men looked at each other in silence as the realization of what that meant hit home. Detective Pitak was the first to speak.
“That’s not standard operating procedure for a pickpocket. They usually discard the wallet after removing the money and credit cards. That means we’re dealing with …”
“Someone who only needed to borrow the wallet to rent a car in order to commit murder,” Acerno said as he completed the thought. “I think we’re dealing with a professional who’s killed more than once in the last 48 hours and may kill again. Check with the doc and see if he’s been able to figure out what killed the housekeeper and the Secret Service agent.”
“Will do, boss. Anything else?”
“Contact the feds and Interpol. See if they have anything that matches up with our homicides.”
“On it, boss.”
Detective Pitak left the office as Acerno sat down behind his desk. What the hell was going on? Why would a hitman kill a Secret Service agent and a hotel housekeeper? What could they possibly have in common? He had a gut feeling he knew someone who could supply some, if not all, of the answers. He leaned forward and pressed Pitak’s intercom button on his phone console.
“Get me the surveillance team on the writer.”