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Murder in Malibu


Chloe Ho

Sam Archer struggled past the crowds of children and exhausted parents. He was glad to be off TWA flight 501 from San Francisco to Los Angeles. Holiday weekends were the worst time to fly. "Wouldn't you know it," Sam thought, "only I would catch an assignment on July 4th."

He stretched his six-foot frame and removed his sunglasses. He looked around expectantly because his client, Joe Nemo, was going to meet him. Sam gave Joe a description of himself when they spoke on the phone yesterday, and finalized the details of Sam's assignment as Joe's bodyguard. "I'll be wearing jeans and a UC Berkeley T-shirt." Sam told him. "Dark hair, good tan and about 30 years old. I'll meet you right outside the gate."

Suddenly, someone tapped Sam on the shoulder. Instinctively, he turned around ready to protect himself. "Hey buddy. Take it easy," said a middle-aged man wearing a strained tan windbreaker, baggy slacks and carrying a hat as squashed and wrinkled as his face. He must have been about 50 years old, judging by the lines around his eyes. "I just wanted to know if you are Sam Archer."

"Who wants to know?" Sam replied.

"I'm Harry Nemo. My brother hired you to be his bodyguard. He asked me to pick you up." 

"Why the change in plans?" Sam asked. 

"Let me bring you up to date while we walk to my car." Harry almost whispered. As Sam and Harry walked towards the parking lot, Harry continued to whisper harshly. His neck muscles strained and his bald head was turning red.

"Somebody took a shot at Joe this morning while he was on the beach outside our house in Malibu. He was lucky to get away. He won't go out of the house now. Can't blame him really. Anyway, I know he'll feel a lot safer when you get there."

"Nice car." Sam complimented Harry as they got into a long, pine-green Jaguar.

"This is Joe's car. I just borrowed it."

"Any suspects? Did you call the police?" Sam asked.

Harry turned from the wheel to peer into Sam's face. His breath was sour and his voice sounded nervous. "I'll let Joe brief you on that."

"This is the life," Sam thought, as they drove through the winding streets of Malibu. They turned off the main road, onto a private lane that ran like a straight hair though dark green trees. They kept on going until they reached a spectacular house. 

"Who lives here? Madonna?" Sam asked jokingly. Harry grimaced as he opened his car door and started towards the front porch. Sam followed at a distance, taking in the splendid excess that was Southern California.

"That's funny..."said Harry, "no one's answering the door." Sam could hear the loud buzzer sound over and over again as Harry pressed it frantically.

"Maybe he's taking a nap." Sam offered.

"Joe has an extra key somewhere..." Harry muttered, searching under the polished rocks that decorated the small Japanese garden at the entry. "Here it is!" he cried as he grabbed a rusty key.

"Great security," Sam mumbled to himself.

As they entered the house, they heard a piercing scream. "Call the police. I'll see what's going on." Sam said calmly.

"Don't leave me here! I'm coming along!" cried Harry.

"Make yourself useful. Check your brother's bedroom." Sam instructed.

Sam rushed from room to room on the ground floor. He finally ran downstairs and entered what appeared to be a large room for entertaining. He called out "Anyone here?" while he took his gun from the holster on his leg. He started at the first door on his right. Nothing but an empty bathroom. When he opened the next door, the room was pitch black. He fumbled for a light switch. Finally, floor lights flicked on and Sam realized he was standing in a home theater. "What money can buy." Sam thought as his eyes became accustomed to the dim light.

"Sam? Are you in there? I can't find Joe." Harry yelled .

"I think we might have found him now..." Sam said softly as he discovered what seemed to be a body crushed under the weight of the theater's fallen chandelier.

"WHAT?" Harry screeched, as he rushed into the theater. "Oh my god! It's Joe." As he sunk to his knees he cried "Is he dead?"

"I'm afraid so..." Sam replied as he looked for signs of a pulse. "I'll call 911."

Sergeant Alice Jefferson watched as the coroner removed Joe Nemo's body from the house. She was medium height with dark brown hair and piercing green eyes. She was very business-like both in her dress and her manner. She turned her attention to Sam Archer. "And who might you be?" She asked.

"Actually, I'm supposed to be Mr. Nemo's bodyguard."

"Remind me not to hire you." Alice smirked.

"Very funny. I just arrived to start working when all this went down."

"Can you give me a statement for the record Mr...?"

"Archer. But my friends call me Sam. And yes I can."

"Alright Mr. Archer. Just tell me in your own words."

"Not too much to tell... I arrived with Harry Nemo - Mr. Nemo's brother. No one answered the door. So Harry found an extra key and we let ourselves in. A few seconds after entering the house we heard a scream and we found Mr. Nemo at the bottom of a big chandelier. That was about an hour ago."

"It sure looks like a terrible accident." Alice Jefferson remarked. "But of course looks can be deceiving. You say you heard him scream?"

Sam answered, "I heard somebody scream and I didn't see anyone else around. Where's Harry?"

"We've let him lay down in the living room. We'll question him after he has time to recover from the shock of finding his brother dead." replied Alice.

"One other thing I guess I should mention..." Sam added. "Mr. Nemo hired me because he said that someone threatened him and according to Harry , someone took a shot at him on the beach this morning."

Alice frowned. "He didn't report it. I just checked on this address with headquarters."

"Sorry...I really don't know the details because I never had a chance to talk to Mr. Nemo." Sam apologized.

"You know I have to ask you to remain in LA for the next few days." Alice stated. 

"No problem. My holiday weekend is shot anyway." Sam groaned.

"Excuse me Sergeant Jefferson." A fresh-faced young patrolman interrupted. "They need to see you in the theater right away." 

Alice Jefferson started towards the theater with Sam Archer close on her heels. The senior crime scene investigator turned towards Alice and motioned her forward. Alice brushed her long brown hair from her face as she knelt close to the blood-stained carpet and chandelier.

"This was no accident..." The CSI said. "Look at the supports holding the chandelier. Someone clearly has cut them. They tried to fray the edges so it would look like an accident, but we're getting traces of steel particles from a knife."

"That makes things more interesting." Alice commented. "I think it's time we talked to Mr. Harry Nemo."

"If at any time you feel like you need to stop, Mr. Nemo, please let me know." Alice Jefferson said reassuringly.

Harry Nemo looked even older and more withered. "If this will help find my brother's murderer, I will do my best." 

Alice paused for a moment and then asked "Why do you mention murder, Mr. Nemo?"

Harry flinched and seemed flustered. "Why... I don't know if it's murder or a terrible accident, i-it's just that he's had so many problems lately..."

"What kind of problems?" Alice asked pointedly.

"Well... he's been having a war with the neighbors on the right over the property line... I even heard them say they wished he would just disappear." 

"Anyone else?" Alice asked while writing in her notebook. 

"Umm... his old employer was threatening to make trouble for him. I guess Joe knew something about his business, he was employing illegal aliens. I think he threatened Joe... but I don't know how far he'd go. Luckily for my brother, he inherited the bulk of our parents' estate, so he really didn't have to work anymore." Harry continued.

"Aren't you forgetting about the little incident this morning?" Sam Archer said from the corner of the room.

"Oh yeah! S-Somebody shot at Joe this morning!" Harry stuttered nervously.

"Were you with him at the time, Mr. Nemo?" Alice asked.

"No, no. He just told me on the phone. When he asked me to pick up Mr. Archer at the airport..."

"Do you still have the key that you used to enter the house today, Mr. Nemo?" Alice inquired. "If there were no signs of forced entry, then somebody else must have used that key to get inside and tamper with the chandelier. There might still be some residual finger prints on it," she explained.

Harry shifted uncomfortably in his seat. "Oh... I think I put it back." Harry said.

"Actually Harry, you didn't." said Sam. "I saw you drop it in your jacket pocket. It's probably still there. Let me get it for you." Sam picked Harry's jacket from the back of a living room chair. 

"Wait! Let me get it..." Harry yelled desperately.

"No problemo, Harry. I've already found it." As Sam gingerly removed the key, a small remote control slipped out of Harry's jacket and fell onto the floor. "Sorry man." Sam said. "Let me pick that up." As Sam grabbed the remote off the floor, he accidentally pushed a red button at the top of it.

A piercing scream rattled the walls. "What? What was that?!" Alice shouted, jumping to her feet.

"It's the same scream I heard when we came in the house..." Sam revealed.

Harry turned pale, as if he'd seen a ghost. "I don't understand... how that happened." Harry said lamely. 

"Oh, I think you do." replied Sam. "It was a setup wasn't it? And I was your alibi! I'll bet you a week's pay that the murderer is... YOU!"

Harry 's face flushed and turned red. "Impossible! How could I have done it? I was there with you. Why would I kill my own brother?" Harry shouted, pounding his fist on the coffee table.

"When you pressed this remote control," Sam said, throwing the remote on the table, "Joe Nemo was still alive. "Alice, when the autopsy is done, I predict you'll find that Joe Nemo has a substantial amount of sedatives in his bloodstream. Our friend Harry was going to say that Joe needed to calm down because of all the threats and the attempt on his life. But he drugged him and placed him underneath the chandelier. When we separated to look for Joe, Harry actually went to the theater and finished cutting through the support ropes."

"But... but wouldn't you have heard the chandelier falling?" Harry asked weakly.

Sam paused for a minute then Alice quietly said, "The theater is soundproof. No one could have heard the chandelier fall." 

"And no one could have heard Joe scream from inside the theater, unless the scream was pre-recorded and played on speakers in the house."

"I never saw my brother today! I just spoke to him on the phone! I came here the first time today with Archer. Prove that I didn't!" Harry stated defiantly.

"Actually, Harry, you were here when you picked up your brother's car to give me a ride from the airport."

Alice Jefferson stood and looked at Harry Nemo. "You have the right to remain silent. You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford one, one will be appointed for you. Anything you say may be held against you in a court of law."

Sam Archer shook his head and thought, "What money can't buy."

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