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Chapter 2: "Looking For Hotspots"


From the couple's bungalow, the detective went to the university campus, it was not far. Foster's office and its contents were indistinguishable from that of the entire building, just of a slightly different scale, all, cluttered with art, art in progress, art books and charts, shelves, easels, paint, chalk, ink, stain and fume of every shade and stripe. Cans, thinner, lumber, boxes, crates, paper, cardboard, print rolls, newsprint, canvas, tarp, masking tape, binding. The windows were open and several fans were moving the sweet paint-spattered air around the central studio. The doors to most of the smaller dwellings, offices, and classrooms, were closed.

Some of the closed doors had been long painted over. Some of the open doors led to overstuffed closets or whole rooms overstuffed, with the clutter inside covering every square foot and sometimes every cubic foot. Their original purpose mooted, some doors had been removed from their hinges for use in improvised applications among the cosmology of the building. There were no clocks on the walls. A couple of students worked at the regular endless task of cleaning and organizing the building's paint-stained and paint-soaked interior, an exception to a reasonable expectation that one can't find college students and faculty on campus on Sunday.

Foster was not in his office. He was contributing to the housework, in front of a large plastic tub sink, rinsing out brushes and cans and setting them up to dry on a towel-covered drafting table. He looked up when Smith entered the central studio; when he realized he did not recognize the visitor the professor shut off the faucet, set down his work and dried his hands on a towel which hung from the sink's backboard. He looked down to see the police badge hanging from Smith's neck. The detective introduced himself, explaining that he had just paid a visit to the professor's apartment and talked with his housemate, in the course of investigating the murder of Tina Santos Friday night.

“Did she have any real debts, were there any jilted lovers, are you privy to any private habits or personal walks that might have brought this about, is there anything you can think of, anything at all, that may help move this investigation forward?” he asked Foster. "Professor?" he nudged.

“Well, her band played – plays rather – nightly, at a hotel lounge. But that's a public venue, it would be no secret,” he answered first.

“Yes, the bass player is who found Ms. Santos, and her bandmates who prompted me to ask you and Ms. Wilson for leads since the three of you were close,” Smith said. “They said they couldn't think of how come or who would kill Tina. Please tell me more.”

“No, I'm at a loss. Hers were Swiss politics, she a musician,” he said. “I can tell you that she gave no one any motive, ever. Tina was genuine, pleasant, a gentle breeze. And a sharp, observant, canny former wilderness firefighter. Frankly I'm surprised anyone was able to get into any blindspot of hers undetected. Further I'm surprised if she had any blindspots at all.”

“When was the last time you or Daisy saw Ms. Santos?” Smith asked.

“Last weekend. Friday before last, it was one of the band's nights off,” he said. “The three of us met at our favorite pub.”

“What's it called?” he asked.

“Kelly Sammys,” he answered.

“Did she mention anything new, anything unusual, anything different, anything out of the ordinary, anything of the like?” he lightly pressed further.

“No,” he answered. He thought. "No."

"What did you all talk about at your last meeting?"

He thought back, "work, more or less, the usual. My work, her work, Daisy's work. Mostly art, music, artists, and musicians. Off duty shop talk and analysis. That's generally all we ever talk about."

"What does Daisy do?" Smith asked.

"She's a cook at a couple of the restaurants in the area, keeps our house. She opted therewith instead of pursuing doctoral work," Foster answered.

"Were you or Ms. Wilson romantically or sexually involved with Ms. Santos?" the detective asked.

"We had our moments," the professor answered, very steadily, with mixed emotions. "We met Tina at Kelly Sammys, pretty soon after Daisy and I had gotten together," he answered. "It's usually thick with graduate students and faculty, and conveniently within walking distance of both this office here and our apartment, and Daisy's jobs. The three of us became close immediately, and have been so every since. Very much like family."

...


Monday morning, about five minutes after he got there, Smith left the office again and went for another look at Santos' apartment. There was jewelry, but it wasn't rich ware. Simple woven bracelets, beachwear hemp stuff, seashell necklaces. Sensible, subtle things, practical vanities. The tools of her trade, her horns, were there, which, along with a lot of outdoor sporting gear in stow, were the only real property Santos seemed to own. The apartment was a rental. It had not been burgled during the crime, nothing was noticeably missing, the windows, doors and all latches were intact, it was evident that Santos' killer did not break in. Her killer, he or she, was either invited in, or had a key, or entered through an unlocked door or window, or pushed in when the door was answered (presumably by Santos). The den/living area, where she was discovered, was setback from either of the apartment's front or back egresses. She died between the couch and the T.V. right where she struck as the blood marks on the floor and the light spray in that area indicated.

The detective walked through the two bedroom apartment. She had used one of the rooms to store all her gear, musical and otherwise. Smith opened up the cases and looked at her saxes. She had three very nice horns, they were weathered but immaculately cared for. He sat on the bed for several minutes, thinking about the transient audience whom Santos' band nightly played for. He went to the couch in the den area and sat. He looked toward the front door, picked up the T.V. remote from the coffee table and turned on the set. It was on the all-weather cable station, with the volume turned all the way down. He locked her front door, and went outside. He went and knocked on the doors of the neighboring apartments, receiving no Monday morning answers except for one, two doors down. It was a middle-aged woman who explained that she was a relatively new building tenant, for only about six weeks there. She said she had only spoken brief, passing courtesies to Santos, and that she had presumed her to be a moonlighting graduate student of some sort or another. He went out to the lot and unlocked Santos' compact sedan. The car was clean, economical, practical, inside and out. There was nothing in the glovebox but the owner's manual and insurance, nothing in the trunk but a spare and a jack. Washington state plates. All neat as a pin. He walked around the perimeter of the complex, the extremities of which were buffered with slightly wooded setbacks in some areas. But going in any direction, none of it was far from asphalt and concrete of neighboring residential or residential business infrastructure.

Santos' next of kin was an aunt on the east coast, where the body would be shipped when Smith released it, probably later in the week. The coroner's report was facile and complete, and he could not think of any reason to hold it for further forensics.
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