A Jump To Conclusions No. 18

“His death bears all the hallmarks of an intelligent man’s last frame job. There is an obvious target in Heath. There is a clear motive for the man being framed—Heath discovers that he is being framed, and the police laugh at him when he suggests he is not involved. They send him to trial, the state’s prosecutor explains that he was simply silencing his accomplice, and he rots in prison, or, as McKenzie likely hoped, swings from the gallows. McKenzie’s vengeance is complete.” I realized I’d been pacing, and sheepishly I stopped.

“What of the man on the security footage?” Carpenter asked.

“Coincidence,” I said. Carpenter rolled his eyes. “Did Heath’s alibi check out?”

“To the extent that a doorman is an alibi,” said Baker. “Nobody can conclusively place him at home that evening.” Amber’s desk comm rang, and she stared at it in surprise while Baker kept talking. “Circumstantial evidence that Heath was at home doesn’t discount circumstantial evidence that suggests he had motive and opportunity to kill McKenzie.”

“Were there cameras in Heath’s building?” I said.

“No,” said Baker. “Not enough to verify whether Heath left the building. The landlord says he caters to people who value their privacy. The technicians are going over what footage there is regardless.”

“I wonder if his split with Marchand had anything to do with his valuing his privacy,” I mused. “Perhaps—”

Amber cut me short. “Would you do me a favor, Sam, and think back to the night of the murder?”

“Or suicide,” I said.

“Maybe not,” Amber replied. “Start from just before it got interesting.”

I closed my eyes and leaned back. “We’d just gone over the affair of Doctor Larson, and why he couldn’t have written that note, I believe, when we heard the gunshot.”

“Describe it,” Amber said. I heard a note of emphasis in her voice, and cracked an eye to see her watching me intently. I closed it again, and again called to mind the scene that night.

“Loud,” I said. Another word darted around at the edge of my awareness, evading my attempts to seize upon it. “More a crack than a boom,” I said, and some association with ‘boom’ got me far enough ahead of my elusive word to lay my hands on it. “Echoing. Hmm.” I let the memory play on in my head. “There was one sharp echo, to begin with, almost immediate. I would guess it came from the building across the street. The second echo was very clear, almost louder than the first, and—” I strained my ears to hear it amidst the muddle of my recollection “—yes, it was followed by an echo that also sounded as though it had bounced off the building across the street.” I could all but hear Amber’s smile, so I opened my eyes.

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