Ruth Ann Hixson | Daniele Murtas
Jim knocked on the door. No answer. He was sure his Grandmother was home. She wouldn’t have invited him and his sister if she wasn’t going to be there. He pounded on the door.
“Granny,” he shouted. After waiting a few minutes, he tried the door. It wasn’t locked. The TV was blaring loudly which could account for Granny not hearing.
Jim picked up the remote to turn off the TV. “Granny?” he called louder. No answer. He followed his nose to the kitchen. Something smelled like it was scorching. He found that the potatoes that had boiled dry. He moved the pan off the burner. “Granny!” Where could she be?
The dining room table was set for six with Granny’s best china, crystal and silver. Granny, Jim, Kristen and her two kids made five. Who was the sixth person?
He methodically checked the downstairs before going upstairs. He found the doors to the bathroom and Granny’s bedroom open. A quick glance told him no one was in the bathroom. He moved down the hall to the bedroom. “Granny?”
He stepped into the room. The closet door was open and a chair lay on its side in front of the closet. Had Granny fallen? He hurried across the room. As he stepped past the open door, he froze in his tracks, feeling like someone had just kicked him in the gut. Granny hung from the clothing rod.
He took several deep breaths and stumbled to the bed where he sat down. Taking out his cell phone, he punched in 911. “This is FBI Special Agent James Sutter. I just found my grandmother dead. She’s hanging in her closet. Send the police and a forensic team.”
He called his sister, Kristen, and explained what he’d found. “I need you to come over but don’t bring the kids. I called the police.”
“You’re an FBI Agent…”
“This is a matter for the local police unless they ask the FBI for help. Then it won’t be me.” He went back downstairs just as a knock sounded on the door.
“Police! Open up.”
“The door’s unlocked,” he called.
Sgt. Dennis Edwards opened the door. They’d gone to school together but hadn’t seen each other since Granddad’s funeral five years ago. As they went up the stairs, Jim gave him a rundown on what he’d found. “Something keeps bugging me. Why would she go to all the trouble cooking a big dinner if she was going to kill herself? I have a gut feeling that she didn’t. But I can’t think of any reason why anyone would want to kill her. She was just an old woman. She was harmless. I can’t think of how anyone could profit from her death.”
“Who stands to gain?”
“I don’t know. I called Kristen to come over. She knows more about Granny’s affairs.”
The coroner arrived a short time after Kristen. While Kristen told all she knew about her grandmother’s affairs, Jim was upstairs when they took Granny’s body down.
After a cursory assessment the coroner pronounced, “Not suicide. She was choked multiple times before she died.” He pointed to the ligature marks on the old woman’s neck.
Downstairs Denny talked to Kristen. “Who’s her attorney?”
“Hampstead. He handled all her legal affairs.”
Denny took out his cell phone and stepped outside. He came back in a few minutes. “We can’t locate Hampstead. His wife said he went for a walk. She didn’t know where. We put out a BOLO.”
“Granny was a millionaire,” Kristen declared. “She got Grandpa’s life insurance, the money from her lawsuit against the drunk that killed him. Plus what she saved. She lived a simple lifestyle.”
“Who stands to profit?”
“Me, Jim, my children. I don’t know what’s in her will.”
Jim came into the kitchen. “Her false teeth are gone and there’s blood in her mouth. The M.E. will know more after the autopsy.”
“I need to be doing something,” Kristen said. She sliced turkey and laid out other food to feed the investigation team.
“We need to find Hampstead to find out about her will,” Dennis said as he made a thick turkey sandwich to go with a glass of cider.
After everyone went home and Jim was alone in the house, he went up to the room that had been his as a kid. One of his books lay on top of the others on the shelf. He took it down and opened it to find an envelope with his name on it and, “To be opened in the event of my death.” He tore open the envelope and took out a paper and a key. “The safe combination and key.” He grabbed his cell phone to call Denny. “I found something. Come over.”
“I don’t have to. We found Hampstead. He has a bite mark on his nose and your grandmother’s teeth in his pocket. He killed her for the money but she wouldn’t tell him where it is.”
“I know where it is,” Jim said. “I found the key and the combination to the safe in a book in my bedroom.”