Authors: Penelope Sotheby
After getting little sleep from going over all the possible suspects, Anna was startled by the courtesy call to the room telling her it was time to get up for work. Knowing that meant the day would be a long one, she tried to muster a smile and hit the shower.
Standing under the hot running water, she wondered if there was a possibility someone on her team could be committing the murders. They did have access to the cake that killed Tony and the black rum that killed Charles. It wasn’t out of the realm of possibility that someone could be helping people, perhaps pushing people to kill. Deciding the best way to handle this is to ask people directly and look them in their eyes, she finished her shower, got dressed, and headed down to the kitchen.
As she walked into the room, a blast of warm air opened her eyes. Smelling fresh coffee brewing, she poured herself a cup and took a sip of the black liquid. It was nice and strong, the way she liked it. Then she glanced over the room. With the exception of a few local cooks making bacon, sausage, and other morning dishes, the only member of her team on hand was Pierre.
Walking up to him, Anna smiled. Pierre caught her eye and gave her a toothy smile in return. Feeling her face grow warm, she sat next to the man and put an arm around him.
“I have a question for you.” Anna began. “I want you to think about it and answer me honestly.”
“Nothing is going on with Cassandra.” Pierre replied. “I was comforting her. She seemed upset over the body. Nothing is ever going to happen between us.”
“But you both flirt so much.” Anna continued. “But that wasn’t what I was going to ask you about. I wanted to run a theory by you. It has to do with the murders that have taken place.”
“You already know who the killer is!” Pierre’s eyes grew wide. “You are a brilliant woman!”
“No, I don’t know who the killer is. Well, not yet.” Anna continued. “But I think we might have someone on our team who may be helping people commit murder.”
“That’s preposterous.” Pierre shook his head. “Who would risk their own life to help someone get away with murder? It doesn’t make sense!”
“It does make sense.” Anna pressed. “If someone attempted to touch the cake or the rum, one of the staff would have put a stop to it right away. But who could gain access to both without being considered suspicious? A member of our team. There are four of us who had opportunity to assist in committing murder. You, Pauline, Cassandra, and myself. One of us could be a killer.”
“Well, I am too nice to be a killer.” Pierre began. “You are too busy trying to find out who killed everyone else, so you couldn’t be the killer. You draw so much attention to yourself and your crazy theories. Pauline wouldn’t go unnoticed because of her limp and Cassandra is too ditzy to be a killer. So, all of your suspects don’t make sense. None of us could get away with it.”
“So the only reason Pauline couldn’t be a killer is because she limps?” Anna asked. “That’s not a good enough reason.”
“Have you seen how people look at her?” Pierre sighed. “People notice her because she limps. She stands out. Most people would deny looking at the woman with the limp, but the truth of the matter is that if you watch the room, there are always people staring at her. I know it sounds hateful, I really do. But, Anna, you can’t be blind to it.”
“I never noticed people staring at her so I guess I was blind to it.” Anna replied. “That is pretty hateful. She has gone through hell in her life and for people to pick out a flaw instead of the good person she is, well, it is disgusting in my book. Why didn't you tell me about this? I would have given them a piece of my mind!”
“Anna, you are being silly now.” Pierre flashed a toothy smile at her.
Anna gave him an icy glare. She wasn’t in the mood for one of her close friends to be looked at in the manner that was discriminatory.
Pierre leaned over and kissed her on the lips. For a moment, Anna became lost in the spark between them in the moment and closed her eyes. He was warm and good. She knew that, but she pushed herself back to reality and looked at him and shook her head.
“I like you, too.” Anna replied. “But this isn’t an appropriate time for it. Please don’t take offense, I am just not in the frame of mind for it right now.”
Without saying more, Anna stood up to leave the kitchen. Stepping into the lobby, she found herself in the midst of a swarm of cops tearing things apart. Rushing up to the front desk, she noticed Cassandra and went up to her.
“What is going on?” Anna asked.
“Looks like the cops are destroying the place.” Cassandra replied. “Hopefully, Mr. Puccio doesn’t find out.”
Anna was about to reply when her mobile phone went off. She looked down to see Mr. Puccio was calling her.
“What the hell is going on down there?” Mr. Puccio screamed in the phone.
Anna looked at Cassandra, who shrugged her shoulders but appeared to have a slight smirk on her face.
“The cops are looking for evidence.” Anna replied in the phone.
“Do they have a warrant?” Mr. Puccio demanded.
Anna walked over to a middle-aged man in a uniform and tapped him on the shoulder. He had blonde hair and blue eyes that seemed to question why she was bothering him.
“Yes, ma'am?” the officer asked, focusing on what his men were doing.
“Do you have a warrant for this?” Anna asked. “I am speaking on behalf of one of the hotel group directors.”
“Yes, ma'am.” the officer replied. “Here is a copy for the hotel.”
Turning to leave, Anna returned to her phone call. “It does appear he has a warrant.”
“Well, do you know who the killer is yet?”
"It hasn’t even been 24 hours. How am I supposed to know who the killer is already?”
“What suspects do you have?” Mr. Puccio demanded. “Give me something.”
“Well, I think it could be Wendy. She had motive.” Anna began. “I also think Darko and Branko are also good suspects. Heck, it could be any one of a hundred different people. I am finding out new information every time I turn around. We have some of the Serbian Mafia here.”
“Please don’t tell me you said that out loud.” Mr. Puccio hissed. “Don’t say we have members of the mafia at our hotel with the police there. Do you know how much trouble you can cause with that information?”
“You’re right.” Anna sighed. “I’m sorry. I won’t mention it again. But we need to do something. I don’t know what there is to do, but we need to figure out how those people are playing into all this, if they are. I have a feeling that something dangerous is coming from them. I really do.”
“Just get things figured out. I’ll be there before you know it. Remember, if I get back and the murder isn’t solved, you are done with. This is the second time a murder has been committed at a reception you were handling. I have good cause. Heck, Cassandra has shown interest in your position and I would be open to taking her on if needed.”
“I won’t let you down, I promise.” Anna replied and hung up the phone.
“What did he want?” Cassandra asked a little too eagerly.
Anna chose to ignore her for now and went to the elevator instead. Jackson greeted her with a disheartened smile.
“What’s wrong?” Anna asked.
“Until they find out who the killer is, I am stuck here.” Jackson sighed. “My daughter doesn’t know yet. Her visit is so close, Anna. I don’t want to let her down.”
“You will see your daughter.” Anna replied. “I can promise you that. I will do everything in my power to make sure that happens. Now, I need to get up to the 5th floor if you can. I need to get into the victim's room.”
Jackson nodded, closed the door, and the elevator crawled up toward the 5th floor.
“You don’t know how much I appreciate your help.” Jackson whispered with deep gratitude.
As they reached the 5th floor, Anna nodded her head and smiled. Then she walked down the hall to Room 514, which was Charles’s room. Using her key card that granted her access to every room, she walked in. The lights were off, so she switched them on and looked around.
Passing the desk, she noticed light pink lipstick on the nightstand. She assumed that Charles must have had company at some point and shrugged it off. She then noticed the checkbook on his desk was open. There was a check made out in it for $100,000 to Darko. It was dated with the wrong date though. Charles had been killed yesterday and the check was dated for today. Flipping to the next check, she noticed the date had been corrected and the check had been removed. This meant that someone had noticed their own mistake and left behind the duplicate and evidence. Going back a few checks, she looked at the handwriting on the duplicate imprints. They looked close, but there was some subtle differences. Probably not enough to be noticed by a teller and by the time Darko had the cash, he’d be gone and if anything turned up later, there wouldn’t be any kind of recourse available.
This left Anna with a new problem. Who had access to the room and why would they write a check to Darko? She doubted the mafia member would have cut the check for himself. After all, it would be too obvious. Then she remembered how he had been speaking with Branko down by the pool. Could this have been what the pair were talking about? Perhaps in an effort to get away with murder, Branko hired Darko to commit the murder.
Anna paused and thought back to the argument Charles had on the beach with another man right before he had been killed. The second voice was too hushed for her to make out, but now she was wondering if it wasn’t one of the two men down by the pool earlier. She knew she had to do something and figure it out as soon as she could.
Reaching into her pocket, she dialed Pauline on the phone. “This is Pauline.” the other woman answered.
“Hey, I found something in the victim’s room.” Anna began. “There were checks written that don’t mesh with previous ones the victim definitely wrote and I know the one to that Darko guy is forged. It’s for a hundred thousand dollars.”
“Sounds like blood money to me.” Pauline replied. “What are you going to do about it?”
“I don’t know what to do at this point.” Anna sighed. “Everything is pointing in that direction. The problem is last time I thought I had a surefire closure to a case, I accused two people who were innocent the entire time. It then turned out to be someone who was completely off the radar.”
"I have to admit, this does seem too obvious. I feel like someone is leaving clues behind because they know your history." Pauline offered.
"Perhaps you are right." Anna replied. "I need to get going. I have an idea and I need to check on something with Pierre. I'll meet up with you after I finish talking to him"
"Okay, but be careful." Pauline warned. "The last thing I want to find is your dead body in the hotel pool."
Anna slowly made her way back to the kitchen. She hated knowing that the hotel was in trouble yet again and people were counting on her to fix everything. Sure, there was more confidence flowing through her veins, but she still felt like she could be doing more.
Turning the corner, she pressed on the door just as Pierre stepped into the hallway. “Oh, Pierre.” Anna began. “I wanted to talk to you.”
“I think we do need to talk.” Pierre nodded. His usual toothy smile missing from his face. “What I did. That was wrong.”
“No, it’s fine. I wanted to talk about−” Anna tried to continue, but she was cut short.
“I’m not interested in finding a girlfriend.” Pierre sighed. “You are a very kind woman. I really enjoy being around you, but I am not looking for anything right now. It was wrong of me to lead you on like this.”
“Okay.” Anna replied. “Now, I want to –”
Placing his finger on her mouth, he made a shushing noise at her that left her glaring and anger beginning to rise.
“We can’t date. It will ruin the dynamic of the group here at work.” Pierre continued. “I’ll tell Cassandra the very same thing.”
“But I want–” Again, his fingers touched her lips as he shook his head and turned to go.
Anna was dumbfounded. So, he didn’t want to date or have a girlfriend, that’s his prerogative, but he could have at least talked about the case with her. His behavior was strange and annoying and she felt anger simmering within her. Deciding that the best thing to do was to walk it off, she made her way to the beach bar. Right now, a glass of ginger ale would calm her so she could focus on her next step in finding out who the murderer was.
Walking up to the young man behind the bar, she looked into his face. His frumpy brown hair wasn’t standard grooming for the hotel but his blue eyes were friendly and welcoming. The bartenders here were all hired by Joan Williams, so there is a good chance she found his eyes sold more booze than his haircut and overlooked how his hair looked. Anna couldn’t help but smile at the thought.
“What can I get for you, ma'am?” the young man asked.
“Just a ginger ale.” Anna replied.
“You look familiar.” he offered. “Have I seen you around before?”
“I am in charge of events for the hotel group. I handle the catering.” Anna smiled.
“You are Anna Winters?” His eyes lit up and a smile crossed his face. “I’ve heard so much about you!”
“People are talking about me?” Anna asked.
“Several people have come into the bar asking about you. They said that knowing you were on the case brought a feeling of relief to them.” He beamed. “Now, I can tell everyone I have met you! This is really a great day for me!”
“I’m glad to hear it.” Anna smiled.
With that, the young man poured a ginger ale and made a notation in the book next to the register. “What’s the book for?” Anna asked.
“We keep a register of who is getting served drinks, their room number if we are charging it to the room, and what and how much they drank.” the young man replied. “This helps us avoid legal trouble should someone have too much to drink and gets into an accident or a fight. The server comes in, makes a note of the information, and then logs it out.”
“Was this in effect yesterday when Charles Weathersby died?” Anna asked. “Is it possible to see who served him the black rum?”
“Yeah, I can check for you.” The man nodded.
Flipping through several pages, he searched the records and then stopped.
“Ah, here it is!” He smiled. “It says C. Wilson served him the black rum. I remember her. She was a little cold.”
“Cassandra.” Anna whispered.
“Oh, yeah, that was her name.” the man agreed.
“Did anyone else touch the glass?” Anna asked.
“I couldn’t say.” the young man continued. “There isn't much chance anything happened to it here. I inspect every glass before it leaves. The glass was clean when it left the bar. The black rum came from a sealed bottle. I recall having to open it for her.”
“Has anyone else had the black rum?” Anna asked.
“We go through several bottles of the stuff each week.” The man sighed. “No one else died as a result. So the time of poisoning was from the moment Cassandra handled the glass to the time Mr. Weathersby drank the rum.”
“That’s very interesting.” Anna whispered.
“Now, I will say that I saw Mr. Weathersby arguing with Branko before he died. They exchanged some very heated words. I couldn’t say what they were. I just know that Mr. Weathersby picked his glass up off a table and it had been unattended for some time.”
“So, there was an unaccounted period of time where someone could have slipped poison in it.” Anna couldn’t hide her disappointment.
The man nodded. “I wish I could be more help to you, but that is really all I have right now. If I think of anything else, I will get hold of you and let you know.”
“Thanks.” Anna smiled. Taking her ginger ale, she turned to go. As she walked back into the hotel building, her cell phone rang. “Hello?” she asked.
“It’s Pauline.” her friend chimed in. “When were you going to stop by?”
“I’ll come over now. I had a very strange experience at the beach bar.” Anna replied softly. “Are you having flirty drinks with rich men again?” Pauline laughed.
“No, I was talking to the bartender.” Anna replied. “I’ll explain it to you in a minute. I’ll meet you in your room.”
With that, Anna headed for the stairs so she could get to the second floor quickly. The idea that Cassandra could have been involved in the murder raced through her mind. Part of her didn’t think it was possible though. What would Cassandra have to benefit from killing the man?
Anna decided it was best to bounce these ideas off Pauline to gain some insight. Pauline was her best friend after all and she was usually spot on with her assessments. She walked up to the large wooden door to Pauline’s room and knocked.
Pauline answered it, smiling and opening the door enough so Anna could enter the room. Anna noted that Pauline’s room had the same layout as all the other standard rooms in the hotel. The consistency was somewhat a relief for Anna.
“Well?” Pauline pressed.
Still shaking at the thought of what she might have just stumbled upon, Anna spoke. “I had a strange conversation with the bartender.” Anna began.
“Kevin? Frumpy brown hair but killer blue eyes?” Pauline asked.
“That’s him.” Anna nodded. “I didn’t know his name. Anyway, the bar in this hotel keeps track of the drinks guests get to help avoid liability problems.”
“All of our hotels do that, dear.” Pauline laughed. “You really need to look into everything that takes place behind the scenes.”
“If I may continue?” Anna replied, giving Pauline the evil eye. “Kevin recalled opening a new bottle of black rum before filling a glass he recalled as being clean for Charles. Which means that between the server and the final sip, someone poisoned the drink.”
“So, who was the server?” Pauline asked.
“Cassandra.” Anna sighed.
“I could see her killing someone.” Pauline shrugged her shoulders. “If you recall, I also thought she was the one who killed Tony with the slice of cake. She is the obvious choice for a killer. I think we should keep her at the top of the suspect list.”
“We know her.” Anna said, shaking her head. “She wouldn’t do something like this. She has been acting strange, I’ll give you that. I think she is reporting things to Mr. Puccio to try to get me in trouble. He even said she has talked about my job with interest. But I don’t see her exactly as the killer type trying to get what she wants.”
“Well, I never liked her.” Pauline offered. “I called her evil and vindictive from the start.”
“You are a little too biased where she is concerned. You want to get to the truth, right? The only way we can do that is to stop looking at people from the standpoint of whether we like them or not. We need to find actual proof that someone is the killer.” Anna snapped.
“Excuse me?” Pauline replied. “You should take your own advice. You are the one being biased in this matter and basing everything on your own emotions. I’m done. You want to talk down to me, fine. You can say whatever you want, I don’t care. You want to blindly go into this investigation, then go. I don’t have time for your games. I can enjoy my time in the sun and not bat an eye if something happens to you. Get out of here. I don’t need a friend like you.”
“Now, Pauline.” Anna began.
“No.” Pauline shook her head. “I’m not a punching bag for anyone. Just leave me alone. I am done being there for your meltdowns when you have a crazy idea while I sit back and blindly support you. Those days are done. Get out.”
“You are being silly now, Pauline.” Anna smiled. “Our friendship doesn't have to end over this.”
“Yes, it does.” Pauline replied. “There hasn’t been one bit of respect from you since I met you. I’ve always just been that sidekick who ends up receiving one sided information and backhanded compliments from you. I won't take any more of it. I’m done, Anna. I really am. I don’t see any point to this friendship. Now, go.”
“Pauline.” Anna begged. “We’ve been friends for years. I don’t know what has gotten into you.”
“Here’s a thought.” Pauline replied. “When I do something wrong, you have no problem pointing it out. When Cassandra does something, like maybe killing people, you brush it off as being impossible. In most cases, you try to help cover up for her. To Cassandra, you are a great friend. I get bullied for calling out Cassandra and her dishonest, self-serving ways.”
“I stand up for you all the time.” Anna sighed. “When I have a problem with something you have done, I tell you face to face and not to anyone else. I’ve never once spoken ill about you to anyone. I am very protective of you. You know better.”
“The only thing I know is that everything you do is for yourself.” Pauline hissed. “I can’t believe a word you say to me. Just leave. I don’t want you here.”
Anna looked at her friend, shook her head, and turned to go, shoving the door open and slamming it behind her. Realizing how loud things had gotten, Anna turned to look around. Fortunately, no one was in the hallway or noticed her angry outburst. Her face grew warm with embarrassment nonetheless and she decided to take to the stairs.
As she slowly walked down the steps, she thought back to the check she had found in the victim’s room. The check had been made out to Darko and part of her wondered if there wasn’t something else there that needed to be explored. Part of her wanted to call Pauline to let her know where she was going, but ultimately decided that doing so would only cause her more pain. Instead, she went to meet with the dangerous man and see what information she could pull from him. Hopefully, she would gain some new inside information that would help her. The alternative was that she would die when he recognized her as the woman who had been snooping around by the pool.