I figured I might as well check on the recently deceased Mr. William James Johnston of 226 Beacon Hill Road.
A phone call to his house found no on at home. The phone book carried no listing. The phone company revealed that there was only one name on contract, Mr. William Johnston, and that the bill was overdue. I started the paperwork for the phone records to be sent to police headquarters. Judge Holloway was always quick to sign off on those matters for us. We fix his parking tickets and he expedites our paperwork.
Finding no next of kin at the moment, I thought I best check in with his place of employment. Billings & Johnston was a rather late-comer to the world of high-finance, not one of those long-standing institutions like Putnam. Whereas Putnam offices were decked out in mahogany, soft leather, and original oil paintings bought at some Sotheby's auction; the offices for Billings & Johnston were smartly decorated in off-white paint, cloth furniture, and reprints of the classics probably purchased from Penny's Department Store. Putnam wanted to let you know that the money they had earned had been piling up for many a year, Billings & Johnston wanted to let you know they were the up and comers, lean and hungry. But whether these investment guys are old school or new, they are all men who trade in greed for the wealthy and in dreams for the want-to-be-wealthy.
"Good afternoon. Welcome to Billings & Johnston. My name is Catherine Smythe. How can I help you?" That smooth as silk voice came from a face that was quite pretty, a young lady with a look of acquired class.
"Yes, Ma'am. I'm Lieutenant Ian MacKenzie of BPD. I need to speak with someone in charge about one of your employees. Personnel Office, possibly?"
"I think possibly Mr. Johnston's secretary might be where we ought to start." She spoke into her intercom, "Gracie, there is a Lieutenant MacKenzie here and he needs to speak with someone in authority."
A voice crackled back, "...I'll be right out, Cathy..."
Before I could find a seat, Gracie appeared. "Yes, sir. How can I help you?" Whereas Catherine was groomed for charm and grace, you instantly could tell that Gracie was groomed for business and brass tacks.
"Ma'am, I was wondering if I might talk to you about a Mr. William Johnston."
"I'm sorry, .. Officer MacKenzie, is that right? ... "
"I'm sorry but Mr. Johnston is out of town. How can I help you?"
"When did he leave?"
"Two days ago. he should be back next Monday."
"Well, ma'am, I'm afraid I have some bad news. You see Mr. William Johnston was found dead this morning and we trying to reach his next-of-kin."
Both ladies broke into gasps and looks of horror, the real stuff, I could tell. "Oh, Lord," came from Catherine, "That can't be," came from Gracie.
"We are reasonably sure, ladies, but we need to locate his next-of-kin."
His secretary took the lead. "Mr. Johnston was single and had no children. i believe his parents are both deceased. I'm not sure he has any family, officer."
"Wait. You may want to check over at Saint Francis Catholic Church. I believe he may have a relative who is a nun over there. Sister... oh, shoot, what is her name. He calls her every now and then.... Sister... Sister Madelyn. Yes, Sister Madelyn. I reckon she must be a cousin or something.'
'Well, ma'am, I'll check that out. I hate to ask you to do this, but we do need someone to identify the body."
She knew what was coming. "If I must. You will call me?"
"Yes, ma'am. Is Mr. Billings here?"
"Sir, it's Miss Billings, Angela Billings, and she will be in tomorrow. Would you like me to have her call you?"
"I really need to speak to her as soon as possible. Might I have a number where I might reach her?"
"Certainly. And I'll call ahead to tell her you're trying to reach her." Grabbing a company pen and a business card off the reception desk, she wrote the number.
"Thank you, ma'am. And thank you, ma'am."
As I left they seemed to slip down into a deeper state of shock.