The two men walked into the building and soon found a secretary to help them in their research. Price provided her what little details he had about the charity, and she went to look through a wall of filing cabinets, flipping through index cards at random.
“So does the family think they’ll get the money back somehow?” Daley asked Price while they waited. “I mean this can’t be too great of a shock after he told them off, can it?”
“Well there were the prenuptial agreements, so yeah, Mrs Davies was expecting her payday. Apparently those agreements highly favored her, and the judge decided they were unfair, so he’s superseding them with the will.”
The secretary came back, carrying a single index card back with her.
“I don’t have very much,” she said to the men. “The only reason I have anything at all is because yes, the institution was set up by an American.”
“No, someone named Maria Guzman.”
“But she’s an American?”
“Yes. Not by birth, this mark right here means a naturalized citizen. You can go check the census records for more information if you need it, I’m afraid that this is all I have.”
“Oh this is plenty,” Daley smiled.
The two men did indeed follow up on Maria Guzman, and Price presented the information they found on her to Mrs Davies the next day.
- Maria Guzman is a woman (obviously)
- Thirty-seven years old
- Born in Mexico, but went through the immigration process in her twenties
- Maintains dual citizenship, and has a home both in Mexico and in the states
- Florida specifically
- Within five miles of the Davies’ residence to be even more specific
“And you…spoke to her?” Otto’s wife asked, her face pale as a sheet.
“No, can’t,” Price shrugged his shoulders. “Well I mean I could, but it would have to be over the phone and that’s just never very effective. She’s in Mexico right now, has been for the past month.”
“Mm,” Mrs Davies pursed her lips together. “And you can’t go to Mexico?”
“Not officially, no. Well I mean I could, if we had an understanding with their government, but I highly doubt that my superiors are going to approve me continuing to chase this case any further.”
One week later Price and Daley were on a plane out of the country. Price had introduced Mrs Davies’ to his “private detective” friend, and she had readily agreed to send him to follow up on things. Then, the next day, Price decided he might as well sit down with Commissioner Howell and request permission to go to Mexico just in case. At first Howell dismissed the notion entirely, but took it under more serious consideration when he learned that Daley was already planning the trip.
“I know you’re worried about what he might do down there, same as me,” Price said. “You know we can’t leave him alone. He needs…looking after.”
“So that’s the official police business now?” Howell snorted. “Looking after rogue private detectives?” But even though Howell was shaking his head, the corners of his mouth twitched with concern for his friend. “However…” he said slowly, “I am worried about how this might blow back on the rest of us. I can’t stop Daley from going, obviously, and I’m worried he’ll foul things up royally! It’d be a PR nightmare if he did something stupid and people learned he was an ex from our department!”
“Yes, that’s my thought as well.”
Howell narrowed his eyes as he weighed his options. “Of course…I wouldn’t want you starting to think that this is how things are done now. That Daley can keep pulling these crazy stunts and we’ll be there to save him all the time…”
“No, of course not. I understand you completely, this would just be a one-time thing.”
“And if I did send you, it would only be because I know you would do your job right. You would be there as a bright and shining example of proper, decent, police procedure. Hopefully so bright as to prevent Daley from summoning all unholy Mexican wrath on our heads!”
“That’s all I want. One week.”
And so Daley and Price flew to Mexico on the same flight, Daley in first class on Mrs Davies’ dime, Price in coach on the precinct’s. Daley breezed through customs without any wait, while Price showed his documents and had a long conversation with an official. Then the two grabbed an unlicensed taxi and made camp at a nearby motel. The next day they went to the address they had for Guzman Charitable Services, which was a single room rented out of a dinky office building in the heart of the city. They knocked on the door but no one answered.
“Not in the office at 10 am on a Thursday?” Daley clicked his tongue. “Doesn’t sound like a very reputable institution if you ask me.”
“I’d be curious to see how many charitable services Guzman Charitable Services has actually done since being instituted,” Price nodded. “We need to check in with the local precinct anyway, let’s see if we can’t get a warrant to look at this place’s books.”
Daley looked at his watch. “And then try and catch Ms Guzman at her home this evening?”
They submitted their request for the warrant, killed a few hours walking the streets, and then that evening went to the residence for Ms Guzman, accompanied by a local officer named Torres. The house was in the suburbs, and though it was small, it was very well maintained. They knocked on the door, and a moment later a slender woman in her thirties answered.
“Hello, Ms Guzman? My name is Detective Price, and this is my friend James Daley. We’ve been sent–“
“Yo no hablo inglés, lo siento.”
“Por favor señora,” Torres leaned forward, “esto solo tomará un minuto.”
The woman sighed. “Come on in.”
She turned her back and Daley flashed a grin at Price. The four of them walked over the tiled floor and into a receiving area that doubled as the dining room. The woman waved nonchalantly at the seats around the table. The three men ignored them, but she took the one at the head.
“You are Maria Guzman?” Price clarified.
“Sí…I mean, yes. And you are here about the money?”
“Some American sent some money to my institution the other day. I assume you are here to take it back, but it won’t do you any good.”
“Not to take it back, that’s not how we work…. Why wouldn’t it do any good, though?”
“I don’t take money from people I don’t know,” Maria said indignantly. “Rejected it as soon as I heard about it.”
“You turned it down?” Daley’s eyebrows raised. “My understanding is that it was quite the sum!”
“All the more reason to not get tangled in it. What do I want with a dirty fortune?”
“Well you might have left it to me,” Daley chuckled, which caused Maria’s eyes to narrow.
“I don’t think I care for your sense of humor, sir. A death is a terrible thing, and I have no wish to profit from that.”
“Yes, please excuse my friend,” Price piped up, “he’s incorrigible. But do you mean to say that you did not know Mister Otto Davies?”
“No you don’t mean to say that, or no you didn’t know him?”
“No I did not know him.”
She frowned. “At all.”
“Why would he leave you all of his money then?” Daley asked.
“I would say you’d have to ask him, but apparently that’s impossible. Perhaps he saw our charity in the phone book and decided to do some good. I don’t know.”
“Saw your Mexican charity in a phone book from Florida? We barely found any record of your place at a business registry, and that was only because we were specifically looking for it!”
Maria’s nostrils flared, but she didn’t rise to the implied accusation that she was lying. “That does sound odd when you put it like that, but I don’t know anything about it.”
From that point forward Daley settled back. He folded his arms and patiently waited as Price and Torres covered the last of the formalities. Then the three left the place. As soon as they entered the car Price dropped his professional demeanor.
“Well that was useless,” he slapped the dashboard in frustration.
“What do you mean?” Daley asked. “That was great! She’s lying.”
“Yeah, you think? But so what? She knows this isn’t a murder case, and she knows we’ll have to drop it before long, so she has plenty of incentive to not cooperate. I don’t see what you have to be all happy about then.”
“Because we know that she has the information we want. This is the place to dig. Sure, I don’t know how we’ll get it out of her yet, but we’re going the right way…. I’d say we finally found the person who cared the most for Otto.”
“Well I’ll tell you one thing, I’m sure going to enjoy tearing her office apart once the warrant comes through. There’d better be something there.”
The next morning the two detectives checked in at the precinct and by noon they had the warrant ready to go.
“Officer Torres, could you get Miss Guzman on the phone?” Price grinned. “Tell her she needs to open up shop for us.”
“Let me know what you find down there,” Daley smiled.
“What, you’re not coming?”
“Nah, it’s a small space, I’d just be in the way.”
“Nuh-unh, that doesn’t fly. You came all the way to Mexico because you had such an itch for this case, and now you’re telling me you aren’t going to be there for a search? How come?”
“Not feeling so good. I was going to go lay down and hopefully feel better this afternoon. I’d rather be there for the interrogation after you find something to pin on Miss Guzman.” Daley turned and started to walk towards the exit.
“Hey, hey, hold up,” Price hurried to catch up to him. “You know that you’re fooling absolutely nobody, right?”
“I don’t know what you mean.” The two exited the building and continued their argument down the street.
“I don’t know where exactly you’re headed, but it’s to do some detective work that you know I couldn’t approve of.”
“If I were, then I wouldn’t be very motivated to tell you about it, now would I? Far better to just keep mum and not vex your poor, little conscience.”
“Listen Daley, I came here to do real detective work! To do things by the book!”
“And you are.”
“And I was the one who even introduced you to the Davies and told them they should send you to Mexico. So don’t pretend that your vigilantism doesn’t affect me! You get caught doing something indecent and it’ll all blow back on me!”
“Please, I’m a very delicate man!”
“And that’s to say nothing of the principle of the matter!”
“Well let’s say nothing of it.”
“Daley, come on!”
“No, you come on,” Daley finally stopped and turned to look Price in the eye. “You made it more convenient for me to be here, that’s all. I was already coming anyway, remember? So it’s not on your conscience that I’m here. And speaking of your conscience, you set the trip up this way to ease your anxieties, not to help me. Don’t pretend otherwise. Thus far I’ve indulged you in that, I’ve made you feel respectable for hanging around me. But now I’m not. That must be hard, and I’m sorry, but that’s just the way it is.”
Price shook his head and took a step back. “You say all those words like you actually mean them.”
Daley shrugged and started to walk away again. He spoke without turning to look back at his partner. “What are you going to do, Price? Arrest me? You’re far outside of your jurisdiction here.”
On Monday I discussed how the different parts of a story will interrupt one another in order to have their say. The hope is that these transitions will not be jarring, and that they will combine to form a unified message, but there’s no getting around the fact that all but the smallest of tales are going to shift gears now and again.
Last week I had a scene that changed its focus partway through, and then went back to its original intent later. In today’s piece things were broken up at a much more granular level. In short, each scene of this story is focused on one thing and one thing only. The transitions of focus only occur when the next scene begins. This approach is certainly simpler, though it perhaps lacks some of the immediacy of making the change on the fly. I settled on this approach because I wanted the story to move at a quick pace, and get through multiple settings in a hurry. This meant many short scenes, which are far more difficult to interweave multiple voices within. To put it another way, it is usually better to not paint an intricate landscape when you’re working on a small canvas.
Even with the simpler approach of separating focuses into different scenes, it was still important to ensure that each story moment made sense with where I put it. For example, I knew I wanted Price and Daley to have their argument at some point during this chapter, I knew the case needed to be pushed forward, and I knew that Maria Guzman needed to be introduced as a major character. Introducing Maria while advancing the case made sense, and so I dedicated that scene solely to those two tasks, and saved the argument for later. When I considered when I should put the argument, then, I realized that it would be the perfect final note to a piece of increasing tension.
Thus there was careful consideration for when each theme would take the reins from the others, and how they would build the overall experience.
There’s one other element of this story I’d like to take a look at. If my readers had not figured it out already, this is not one of those mystery stories that is steeped very heavily in sensationalism. There’s nothing wrong with having sensational elements in a mystery story, but I wouldn’t want any of my readers to have the wrong idea about what they’re getting into.
I would like to examine this idea of sensationalism in stories more closely. Come back on Monday where we will discuss what it is, how it is different from fantasy, and how to use it, or not use it, properly.