The House of Missing Keys, Part 9.

Before they knocked on Glenn Makia’s door, Chan and Yamamoto walked out on the pier. The boat was a double-masted schooner with dual outboard motors. It looked like a pretty good-sized party could take place below deck.

Yamamoto let out a low whistle. “So how much you think this dinghy set him back?”

Chan said nothing, thought about days when he’d fished with his father in their little outboard motorboat. That had probably cost his father a pretty penny back then. No telling how much this one might be worth.

“I don’t know,” said Chan, “but I have a feeling a quarter interest in The Palms is not Glenn Makia’s only source of revenue.”

“Yeah,” said Yamamoto, “whatchoo think? Import-Export?”

Chan had to laugh at this. His partner, whenever he heard that someone was in the import-export business, automatically assumed that something illegal was being smuggled somewhere.

The two walked back to land and up to Glenn Makia’s front door. Chan knocked. They waited. Chan knocked again, called out, “Mister Makia, police.”

Still, there was no answer.

“You did talk to him, right?” Chan asked.

“Yup. Told him we’d be coming in a short while.”

Chan checked his watch. It had been nearly two hours since he and Yamamoto had left the station. Maybe the man had grown impatient.

The two made their way around the house clockwise, looking into any windows that allowed a view inside. When they reached the back, they came to a tiled deck surrounding a good-sized pool.

“Sheesh,” said Yamamoto, “as if being able to swim in the ocean right outside your front door wasn’t enough. Rich people, I tell you.”

Chan tried the sliding glass doors, one after the other. One slid open and the two stepped inside.

“Mister Makia,” he said again, “it’s the police. Are you here?”

Making their way forward, they passed through an open kitchen-dining room area, and into the large living room.

“Shit,” said Yamamoto.

Chan walked over to the plush green chair where Glenn Makia sat slumped over, a police-style Smith & Wesson .38 snub-nosed revolver on the floor beneath his right hand, a neat hole through his right temple and a glassy stare looking somewhere out very far ahead.

“You know we’re supposed to jump to the conclusion that this is suicide,” said Yamamoto, “so I’m going to play devil’s advocate. I say right off the bat here we should go at this as a homicide staged to look like suicide.”

Chan knelt and examined the gun, its position relative to Makia’s hand. “You may be right, Vic. Take a look here.”

Yamamoto had been half joking. He got down on his knees beside Chan.

“See?” said Chan, pointing.

“Ah, see what?” asked Yamamoto.

“Right there,” said Chan, “there’s a bullet under the chair.

Yamamoto lowered his head a little more. There, in fact, was an unspent .38 cartridge. “What the hell?” said Yamamoto. “So the shooter dropped one and what, didn’t notice?”

“That would be my guess. Definitely not a pro. Someone so nervous they couldn’t count how many they had. Hands shaking. Improvising.”

“So we’re going to find out,” said Yamamoto, “that this is Makia’s gun, that the killer knew where it was, that it was unloaded to begin with so the killer loaded it, and in the process dropped a cartridge that he didn’t notice? Man, David, that’s pushing it.”

Chan turned to his partner. “Wild enough for you to make sense?”

Yamamoto shook his head. “I don’t know, boss. If you’re going to kill yourself, all you need is one bullet.”

“True,” said Chan, “but I’m going to pick up this gun by the barrel with my pen, and we’re going to see that all six chambers are loaded.”

“Go,” said Yamamoto, “let’s see.”

Chan took out his pen, inserted it in the gun barrel, and picked it up so they could both see the front of the gun’s chambers. All six chambers had cartridges in them, including the one in the barrel, and the one just after the barrel had been expended.

Placing the gun back on the floor, Chan went to the phone and called for the forensic people to come over. When they arrived, Chan instructed them to dust the cartridges, including the one on the floor, for prints.

“I want to know if they don’t match the victim,” said Chan. “If they don’t, let me know immediately.”

The two detectives did a further inspection of the premises.

“Lieutenant,” someone called from downstairs.

Chan went to the top of the stairs. “The prints?”

“Yeah. They aren’t his.”

“Including the one under the chair?”

“Right, not his either.”

Yamamoto shook his head. “So now what, boss?”

Chan said, “Let’s check the boat.”

They went out, walked over to the sloop and stepped aboard. After a quick look around topside, then headed down into what was a very spacious living area. There was a dining area, a bathroom, a galley, and, Yamamoto swung open the last door opposite the stairway, a bedroom.

“Shit,” said Yamamoto.

A woman lay face down in a mass of bloody sheets.

Chan stood over the body. It appeared there were multiple bullet wounds.

“Vic,” said Chan, “can you please go get the boys to come out here.”

Yamamoto disappeared topside. Chan paused for a moment. Although he normally would never touch a body until the crime scene people had done their job, he couldn’t help himself. As gently as possible and with as little disturbance as possible, he turned the head of the woman. His heart sank. The woman was David Pomeroy, the man he’d met at Tia’s Place yesterday, the friend of Kazu Hatanaka.

“Jesus fucking Christ,” Chan hissed.

Turning, he stormed out into the main cabin and up the stairway. Out on the pier, he blew past Yamamoto and the forensic people headed for the boat.

Turning to follow, Yamamoto trotted to catch up with his partner. Chan went back through the patio doors and headed for the living room. The coroner’s men had removed the body.

Chan stared at the chair where Makia had died. “That’s it,” he said.

“Huh?” asked Yamamoto.

“The phone’s right there next to the chair. He was shot right after he talked to you. He’d come up from the boat, was in the house for some reason, and answered the phone. Whoever shot him did so right after he hung up. Then the killer went out to the boat and shot David Pomeroy.”

“That’s Pomeroy out there?”

“Yeah,” said Chan. “We gotta stop this maniac before he kills anyone else. I don’t know how many more people he – or she – has in his sights, but I don’t think this is over, not by a longshot.”

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