Jerome O’Neil threw a curve ball into the motive department by being so open about the lease holding and what he stood to gain from St. Andrew’s dissolution. The hard part now was to figure out if it was the 1%’s chance at misdirection within the investigation, or directing Speare away from the red herring and onto the right path. But Mrs. Lowery had directed him to look into the financials of the church, which meant a visit to Geoff Hasselback the treasurer of the church or more aptly to set up an appointment at the church which is what this Saturday morning visit post men’s group breakfast was all about.
The office had not changed in the past few days since Speare had been hired, it was obvious in the hallway leading in that the janitor had not repaired the cut pieces of flooring of the areas dusted for prints which probably would be about as useful as DNA testing a hotel room bed. But it was showing the police were going through the motions on trying to solve the who dunnit, even if there wasn’t much to go on in the case of the church secretary shooting and they had deemed the minister’s murder accidental and case closed yet it appeared both were tied together now.
Geoff was a sweater, not one that enjoyed wearing the apparel deemed such, rather he sweated profusely, and the yellowing of his shirts proved it. Speare fought the desire to offer up a body spray to quell the body odour permeating the small office space. The balding middle aged man was seated on the couch with file folders open, that from the sheer volume of numbers and black/red ink were tax records and financials for the church.
Speare quickly looked at the last number for the last 3 years, bright red ink into almost six figures. “Geoff, how does the church burn through this much money?”
It was a valid question, yes there was a ministerial salary, yes there was cost of utilities and up keep, yet that was still a staggering amount of money. Speare’s eyes moved to the salary column, before O’Neil’s arrival, the pulpit was vacant and staffed by volunteers. Since his arrival, he had been at a ¼ time salary rate.
Geoff started to sweat more if that was possible. “Well, uhm…” There was a stack of 3 inch binders labelled combined board meeting minutes.
“So if I was to read all those minutes,” please God let Geoff tell the answer Speare prays quickly for reading meeting minutes was about as thrilling as a Christian erotica novel, “will they show me where the money went…keeping in mind I will be billing the church each excruciating hour of my slow reading ability.”
First time Speare noted Geoff had a white ceramic mug of coffee he was drinking from. His fingers were tinged yellow from cigarettes. Obviously a heavy smoker. “Gould handled expenditures, I just co-signed, never asked questions. I tried to look more into the personnel file for O’Neil and the entire O directory is gone from our files.” He is dabbing a sweat on his brow with his shirt sleeve now. His breath is getting shallower, it is when the stronger aroma hits Speare’s nostrils. Almonds.
“Shit.” His left hand swings out knocking the cup of coffee across the office shattering through the office window, as Geoff pitches forward convulsing.
His flip phone clears his pocket and Speare hits 911. “Ambulance.” He answers the questions of the dispatched tersely but quickly as he struggles to role the sweaty body into the recovery position. There is promises the ambulance is en route. He states he believes it is a cyanide poisoning.
And wait for the sirens to be heard. This is not going to help the city police service’s thoughts around him, being around the church with another body. Literally speaking to the person when the decided to pitch off. But maybe it would be enough now for the police to actually dig deeper into the padre’s death and not just right it off as misadventure in robbery.
That is unless Speare was right, and the murder of the minister was misdirection.
Detective MacKay came in with the ambulance, basically a formality as the time it took them to arrive Geoff had stopped moving and breathing. MacKay made Columbo look put together.
“You again Speare. What the hell is it with you and bodies?”
Speare laughed, the steely glare made Blue Steel of Zoolander lame. Obviously MacKay was not one to be joked with when it came to body counts climbing in his case load. But it was Speare’s default, he did not like bodies, especially not ones that died in front of him by means of a circa 1930’s pulp mystery novel.
“The board of this church hired me a few nights back to look into what they saw as the murder of their minister.” MacKay arched an eyebrow. Speare pulled the wrapper off a black licorice sucker and placed it in his mouth as he continued. The plastic shoved into his jeans’ pocket. His eye catches the almond flavoured creamer next to the almost empty coffee pot, since the end of the breakfast, Hasselback had almost gone through an entire pot of coffee on his own with creamer. Another reason Speare knew to avoid flavoured creamers.
“Since then, the church secretary and now treasurer have been offed. The entire O section of their directory is missing, possibly lifted before this all began, or on the night that Ms. Lowery was killed. Today I was meeting with Geoff here, as Ms. Lowery had told me to follow the financials. So I did to the treasurer.”
MacKay glanced at the open files on the coffee table. He noted the large amounts in red ink that didn’t seem to total with the numbers in the debit column. “They do a lot of benevolent aid out of this church?”
“Ah not just an Irish name, were you an altar boy to?”
“Fuck you Speare.” Speare could tell by the look in the detective’s eye that if he hadn’t been on duty that comment would have very likely earned him a sock in the jaw. Obviously it was not a relationship with the established church that had ended well for this man. “So you going to put your card on the table or should I take you in?”
“Not many cards Detective. I am just trying to piece this puzzle together myself, same as you. The church is dying, there is a huge amount of borrowed money leaving the building; three people are dead; there is some weird alluded to agreement when the congregation folds the land goes back into the Saturn Estate, whom Jerome is a beneficiary, he’s the widow. For some reason I dislike the combined board chair, Gould, but don’t know why.”
“So why not just say its Jerome sounds like a good motive for chaos to me.”
“Except detective that Jerome told me about the land deal, and he really didn’t have to because no one else appears to know about it.”
MacKay nods. “Seems I should speak with Gould then.” MacKay walks out to the desk of the receptionist, there is a church directory he flips open and dials a number out of it.
“Hello Mr. Gould this is Detective MacKay I am at your church with a man who claims you hired him, his name is Speare. Is that so, well thank you if you could come here that would be great.”
MacKay hangs up the phone and motions for the two constables that just walked in.
“Speare, if that is your real name, you are under arrest.”