In Search of Fate
Chapter 14: The Bethesda Sherlock
A few minutes later Sandra walked quietly into the detective’s office and lowered herself into his side chair with just the slightest rustle of her skirt. Detective Manning did not look up immediately, although he knew she was there. He wanted to finish his perusal of a page he was reading. When he finally acknowledged Sandra’s presence, his raised eyes seemed to be gazing past her.
“You know, Sandra, Global Pharmaceuticals is one of the largest corporations in the world. Its research facilities rival the size of many national laboratories in the West. What is most interesting is that the work Adam Questor directed is not listed anywhere in their publications. Yet, according to his secretary, he managed six different labs, including Adonis where John Smite worked. Another interesting bit of missing information is the nature of John Smite’s work at Adonis. We know that his field of expertise was genetics, which he actually taught in graduate school. Doesn’t it seem strange to you that a high profile company like Global would go to such lengths to hide the nature of this project? I can understand why they would want to secure their research findings from competitors, provided they were merely trying to protect patents for future marketable drugs. But why would they hide the very intent of their research efforts?” Finally, Detective Manning focused on Sandra. “With all the concern about cloning and genetically altered foods, it makes you wonder whether this Company was dabbling in controversial areas. They obviously didn’t want any public awareness of the nature of their enterprise until they had something to sell.” Sandra listened attentively to her boss’ stream of consciousness. She had long resisted the inclination to interrupt him. His mental process was often external. She feared her questions might distract him from one of his insightful conclusions. “So what do you have for me? Did the reporter offer any sources of interest to us?”
Sandra jumped to attentiveness. “No, he didn’t; his resources were just the security guards, Wyman’s office assistant and us—that is, you, Archie.” She could see disappointment growing on his face so she quickly continued. “But I checked with the reporter of the Associated Press article as well. He refused to reveal his source, but admitted that it was another journalist. Also, he told me that this other journalist has knowledge of a letter that further implicates the Reams Detective Agency and Mr. Edwards.”
“Good work, Sandra! You know what this means? There’s a connection! Well, at least there’s a possible connecting thread that runs through these apparently disparate events. Allow me to reprise what we know. Global is involved in secret research, most likely related to genetics. Edwards hires this shady detective agency to investigate Adonis. Harold Reams and this ex-con Bud Black are possibly the last two people to see Smite alive. After Smite’s death, Adam Questor disappears—twice. The second time he leaves, he collects Evelyn Wyman. They’re on the run together. There’s only one explanation that connects all of this. Adam Questor has something or knows something that Edwards wants. This something relates to Smite’s work. We know that Questor lied to us when he said that Smite’s work was routine. A corporation doesn’t go to the lengths Global has in order to keep routine matters secret. Also, he left our guys with the impression that his relationship with Smite was purely work related. But we know that he actually knew him in college. In fact, he was often seen with him in coffee shops, conferring with him as one of his professors. Maybe he was telling us the truth that he had no idea why Smite would want to kill himself. But I think he knew Smite well enough to have an opinion about his death and he certainly knew what Smite was working on. Otherwise, Edwards and Reams’ crowd would not be pursuing him. We have to find this Adam Questor before Reams. He’s the key to all these connections.”
Sandra sat in awe of Detective Manning. “Archie, you’re a regular Sherlock Holmes.”
Just at that moment Henry reappeared in the office. “Yeah, Archie is the Bethesda Sherlock. Didn’t you know that?”
Detective Manning did not acknowledge Henry’s presence. Instead, he continued to talk to Sandra. “We’re not even close to solving this case yet, Sandra. But everything is coming together to affirm the direction of our investigation. We still don’t know why Evelyn Wyman is involved in Mr. Questor’s affair—unless she is just involved with Questor . . . interesting parenthetical there—perhaps the whimsy of fate. More importantly, we don’t know the nature of the crime we’re investigating. Is there a kidnapping case here? Unlikely! Is there just a misdemeanor case involving corporate confidentiality? That would justify a subpoena, not a manhunt. We know there isn’t a missing person case, even though we don’t know where that person is. But the really big question already has an answer.” Detective Manning turned and fixed Henry with a cold stare. Sandra followed the direction of his eyes. “Hopefully, Henry has it in his hands. Can you tell us, Henry, the answer to the really big question?” Henry wanted to say something really smart, but nothing came to his mind.
“Tell us, Henry. What is the major concern of this investigation? Why do these articles in the New York Times have such interest to us? Who should we suspect as the source of those articles and why? The answer is in your hands, isn’t it?”
Henry’s hand started to shake slightly as he held up the documents he was holding. “You mean the handwriting analysis?”
“Yes, Henry, I mean the handwriting analysis. What does it say?”
“Well, sir, it seems a bit murky. According to the analyst, the Request for Waste Disposal was signed by John Smite, but not in his hand.”
“Did the analyst use the word ‘transcription’?” Detective Manning’s tone of voice revealed a hint of irritation.
“Yes, sir, that’s exactly the word she used. She concluded that the signature had all the characteristics of John Smite’s handwriting, except that it was an obvious transcription.”
“So, people, we now have a murder investigation!” Detective Manning rose from his chair. “Let’s question Bud Black again.”