Late Lattes – Part V – A Julie Smithland Story

Nothing.

Between Josh’s arrival at 5:33 and my entrance at 8:29, not a single person entered Late Lattes’ front door. So the criminal had come and gone through the back, avoiding the city council cameras. Figures.

After texting that info to Bill, I stare at the computer screen. Now what? I suppose I could go back to Late Lattes and look around again, but I’d rather wait until I hear where Bill is on his to-do list. He may have a lead to pass on.

I lean back in my chair and slowly allow my gaze to travel about the room. A closet area I hadn’t noticed before catches my eye. A small padlock dangles from the latch.

Padlock.

Lock.

My chair nearly topples as I jerk upright and reach for my camera. I scroll back through the crime scene pictures I took. If I remember correctly…

There it is. A shot of Late Lattes’ back door. Deadbolted. The killer didn’t go out that way unless he had help from the inside.

And if he didn’t use the front or back doors, the only other exit is through Carl’s attached apartment. But the connecting door had also been locked when the police arrived. Hadn’t it?

I need to get over there. As I exit city council’s breakroom, I dial Bill’s number and roll my eyes when it goes to voicemail.

“Hey, it’s Julie. I’m headed back to Late Lattes, and I need you to call me or get over there ASAP.”

I drop the phone into my pocket and cross the street. The crime scene hasn’t been released yet, so they have to sign me in.

Bill arrives just before I enter the building, so I wait for him to join me before donning the necessary rubber gloves and shoe covers.

“What you got, Julie?”

“Remind me. Was the door to Carl Sphagen’s apartment locked when you knocked?”

He pauses to hold Late Lattes’ door for me. “Yes, I believe I heard an extra click before he opened it. Why?”

“According to the security footage, no one came through the front after Josh did, and the back door was locked. From the inside. The killer had to go through Carl’s apartment.”

“And locked up after himself?”

“That’s what I’m wondering about. He could have been buying time, but why not take the opportunity to rob the place if he was already in there? You looked when Carl let you i

n, right?”

“Yeah, nothing was visibly disturbed.”

“And Carl said the safe in his bedroom was untouched – that no one even came in there.”

“He could have been wrong.”

About someone entering the room, possibly. About the safe, not likely. But I don’t say that. Yet.

“You think he’d let you have a look at it?” I ask.

“What, the safe?”

“Yes.”

Bill shrugs. “I don’t see why not. You want to come too?”

I shake my head. “No, I want to look around here some more.”

I wait for Bill to leave, then move behind the counter, carefully avoiding the chalked outline where Josh’s body had been. I want to take a closer look at the cash register. The CSIs have already checked it, I’m sure, but it’s still open, and I’m curious.

 

The tray is empty, as I expected, but it isn’t sitting quite level. Sliding a finger under one corner, I lift it to see what is underneath.

A stack of credit card receipts and notes in what I assume is Carl’s handwriting meet my eye. They don’t appear to have been shuffled through though. If anyone moved them to look for extra cash, they did it very carefully. Something about that doesn’t sit well with me.

What am I missing? I turn in a slow circle, eyes scanning each crack in the tile, every recess in the shelving, until something catches my eye.

A torn piece of paper, barely two inches wide is resting half-under the microwave set beneath the counter. I grab a nearby pen and use it to pull the paper into view.

The handwriting is the same as the notes from the register and I almost disregard it, but then the words sink in.

Marshall – 5:15 –  100gm

One hundred grams of what?

I start to flip the paper over, but a noise stops me.

Still crouched behind the counter, I watch as Bill emerges from the door connecting the shop and the apartment. I draw in a silent breath. He isn’t alone, and whoever stands behind him is holding a pistol.

To Be Continued…

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Tea Review: Candied Apple Flowering Tea by Pinky Up

Here’s a fun one for you tea lovers out there! Some blooming teas are heavy on the floral taste, but not Candied Apple. With this green tea you get a light dose of caffeine and just a hint of true apple taste (no fake fruit flavors here!). So fun, and the tea ball is just the right size for an individual mug.

Tip: After the tea has fully bloomed and steeped the desired length of time, use a spoon to lift it from your cup and gently slide it into a glass of cool water. You can keep it as a small flower arrangement/centerpiece for a few days!

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