IT WAS SUMMER. Yet, her body was stiff and cold. A few police guards stood solemnly at the crime scene. The victim deposited face down on a marble floor; struck dead from behind. This is how a man snuffs out a woman, Lissette thought. The prey was Glenda Canon, a billionaire’s 25-year-old daughter. Her wet hair was still tousled. Rigor mortis was stiffening the body. She wore a short bathrobe and not much else. Fresh from the bath, not a very glamorous way to die for someone so snobbish, thought Lissette.
Lissette Zeller squeezed the mean thoughts out of her mind. A good investigator was analytical, not a social commentator, she recited in her head.
Lissette was clothed in the customary dress for detectives on the force. Her camel hair blazer contrasted with her navy-blue pleated skirt; almost a schoolgirl’s uniform – except for the black stiletto high-heels. Too high for comfort, Lissette’s black spike heels were a statement of her unmistakable hunger for male attention. In her late twenties, her shape was graceful and attractive, a Looker who couldn’t find Mister Right.
“Earl, come here. Take a note of this,” Lissette said. Earl Gressi was Lissette’s superior and her investigative partner. She didn’t enjoy male bosses, but Earl was more opened-minded than many. A stuffy middle-aged bachelor, he appeared clumsy compared to Lissette’s light shape. They both wore the same status of clothing except Earl wore blue slacks and black penny loafers. Lissette hated it when his apparel colors matched hers. It was as if he deliberately was embarrassing her. The truth: they both just had small wardrobes.
“What’d ya find?” Earl asked. He pushed his large glasses up with one finger.
“Look. The victim’s only got nail polish on one hand,” Lissette replied.
“So where’s the nail polish?” Lissette questioned.
“Good point, Zeller. Let’s look around for the bottle of greenish – it’s green, isn’t it?”
“Sort of an iridescent color, I’d say, but tinted green.”
“OK. Green it is.”
Lissette knelt down by the bed and lifted the dust ruffle. Peering under, she came to a quick conclusion: Glenda definitely had a maid. The floor was spotless. Not a single dust bunny.
“Nothing under here,” Lissette said, “I’Il check the balcony.”
When she stood up, it was apparent the men in the room were all staring. She chuckled. She relished this startling power she felt – as always. The men shifted their gaze – sheepish. Earl frowned and shook his head. Lissette clacked elegantly across the hardwood floor knowing the “boys” were still secretly gawking.
She stepped outside and eased off her suggestive performance by slipping off her shoes. I should be so lucky as to have a balcony, she thought, there I go again: more class envy. The balcony was gray cement railing with a black-and-white marble floor. Plants garnished the ends. Fake plants, she noted. There was no green fingernail polish bottle on the balcony but there was polish remover. It lay tipped over on a round cast iron table. Yet no nail polish.
“Earl, do you have your field glasses with you?” the barefoot Lissette shouted.
“You know I always do, Zeller.”
“Well, be a dear. Loan them to me for a moment, please?” Lissette said in her most honeyed voice.
“Please don’t use your female manipulations on me. It makes me ill,” Earl said.
Scowling, he tossed the battered glasses to her from the balcony door. She caught them and feigned slipping them over the edge.
“Hey! Careful We’re on the top floor!” Earl was always nervous about loaning his things. Lissette enjoyed playing on his paranoia. She pushed back her dark shoulder-length hair from her face. Peering through the field glasses she scanned the grass and concrete far below in the courtyard. Something gleamed in the grass.
“Earl, I need your help.”
He popped his head out from behind the sliding glass door. He had a quizzical and astonished look.
“I suppose you want me to fling myself down and retrieve my demolished field glasses.”
“Nothing of the sort. I need you to go down the elevator. Then retrieve whatever is glinting in the grass there. Do you see it?” She pointed down. He stepped over, took the glasses and peered down.
“All right. There is a reflection. You keep looking for more clues.”
“Of course,” Lissette said, “I’ll be looking for a brick to throw when you’re on the lawn.”
He glared at her and left. Lissette went back into the apartment and reclined on the couch. She was tired. Her five foot six inch frame fit perfectly on the soft leather couch. She ignored the ugly corpse on the floor and the few silent guards. After awhile, Earl return from the courtyard. He was out of breath and perspiring. He stopped walking the instant he saw Lissette. His mouth dropped open in disbelief. Lissette was asleep on the leather couch. Earl paled.
“Zeller! Wake up!” Earl shouted, “The elevator’s out of order. I’ve been hustling my fanny off for you – and you’re sleeping!”
Lissette yawned and stretched. She’d known the elevator was on the blink.
“This is a great couch,” Lissette said, sitting up, “Would you like to try it?”
“I can’t believe you. I’ll report you one of these days for your insubordination!”
“Such a frightening word. Does it mean you want me – to submit to you, Earl?” she said in a throaty voice. Lissette tilted her head back, shook her dark-red mane, and smiled. Earl blushed at his visible excitement.
“Please! Stop! Don’t even elude to such notions, Zeller! Forget I said anything at all.”
Slowly without a word, Lissette stood up – too close for Earl’s comfort. Earl floundered gulping air. His breathing rhythm was off.
“Don’t you dare… ,” He glanced around to see no one was observing. Earl hiccuped.
Lissette grinned. Earls hiccuping was merely applause verifying Lissette’s charms. Such a risky game she played with poor Earl’s nervous system.
The coroner was preparing the body for removal. A dull thump sounded when he moved the corpse to the black body bag. Earl and Lissette both cringed “What did you find in the garden? The nail polish?” Lissette said.
“No. This.” Earl held out his hand. He clutched a plastic sample bag containing a large silver-ladle. A tag dangled from it marked ‘Evidence’.
“Fantastic. Did it fall from the balcony?”
“Because of the distance, better said, tossed. The deceased name is engraved on the handle.” The large knob at the end was bloody.
“The murder weapon,” Earl said proudly and nodded at Lissette, “Good work, Zeller.”
“Still – where’s the nail polish?” Lissette asked, ignoring his compliment with calculation.
“Who cares about nail polish? We’ve got the murder weapon. This thing has fingerprints all over it.” Earl’s hiccups were disappearing with his growing irritation.
“But no suspect and no motive?” Lissette raised an eyebrow and produced a coy smile.
“You are so arrogant sometimes,” Earl said. She said nothing, but turned and sashayed out of the apartment. She jogged to exit ahead of the men removing the cocoon body bag. Earl shook his head. He’d let her take off this time – again. They both knew nothing more could be done until after the coroner’s report. Still, her smugness ate at him. Lissette was so beautiful but such a prankster.