The burly outline of Officer Jerry Simms filled my office doorway. “Treka? We’re here.”
A young man in a puffy green parka trudged in front of Simms, eyes fixed on the floor.
Simms took a deep breath. “Treka, this is Ron Washburn, the son of Davis Washburn. He’s the only surviving kin. Ron, this is Mrs. Treka Dunn. She’s the medical examiner investigating your father’s death.”
“Hello, Ron. Have a seat.”
Without looking at me, he said, “Which one?”
“You can take the chair closest to you.”
He did as he was told.
Simms took the other chair. “Ron, you can ask Mrs. Dunn any questions about your father’s case. But she makes the final decision.”
Ron looked up at me. “I know who killed my dad. It was Les Ingalls.”
Simms had told me about Ron on the phone, how we’d have to explain everything to him. Ron Washburn was autistic, twenty-four, with a pleasant, expressive face. Hazel eyes, now bloodshot. Sandy hair, cut short, with a stubborn tuft sticking out over one ear. When he spoke, he worked his jaw in exaggerated movements, uttering each word with awkward precision. He wore a military-style parka with a fur lining around the neck, just the thing for a nasty January in northern Missouri.
I said, “Ron, we don’t believe anyone killed your father. From all indications, it was a heart attack.”
He shook his head so violently I thought he’d hurt himself.
Simms placed a giant hand on Ron’s shoulder.
Ron pushed it away. “No, no, you haven’t done the au—au—Officer Simms told me a word. What was the word he used?”
I glanced at Simms and said, “Autopsy. But we only do autopsies when there’s a good reason.”
“You need to.”
“Les Ingalls is Dad’s boss. Dad says Les Ingalls learns stuff about the companies his programmers help, and uses it to make money. Dad says that is inside—something.”
“Yeah, Dad thinks Les Ingalls is breaking the law.”
Dad says. Dad thinks. As if he were still alive.
“Ron, you did the right thing for your father when you called 911.”
“I had to. He calls me every day at six o’clock when I get ready for work. And at ten o’clock at night. But he didn’t call this morning.”
“And after you called 911, Officer Simms went to your father’s place and rang the doorbell. There was no answer, so he called you back for the access codes. When he found your father inside, he called my office. So Officer Simms did his job. I drove to your father’s house and made my investigation. That’s my job.”
No need to mention that when Simms let me into Davis Washburn’s house, he’d told me he’d found no evidence of forced entry. When I examined the body, I saw no signs of trauma. Nothing on the bedside table but a flashlight and a cell phone.
A gas space heater sat near the foot of the bed. It was empty, and cool to the touch. There’d been no reason to use it. The electric furnace was running, and the thermostat registered a toasty 74 degrees. But since it was January in Northern Missouri, I checked for carbon monoxide in the bedroom and in the adjoining rooms. My hand-held detector registered zero.
What I did find was a deceased, overweight, fifty-something male wearing a medical bracelet showing he had congenital heart disease. The purplish discoloration on his forehead corroborated the likelihood of a heart attack as the cause of death.
The emergency contact number on Washburn’s medical bracelet was for Indevor, Washburn’s employer, which Officer Simms had already called.
Simms, his face now reddened, leaned toward me. “And after you returned to your office, I drove to Ron’s apartment to tell him what we’d found. But he insisted on talking to you, so I brought him here.”
I tilted my head. “You see, Ron, we’ve all done our jobs.”
Ron wiped his eyes. “No, I haven’t done my job. This is the only time I could do something for Dad, and I can’t get anyone to listen.”
A knot formed in my stomach. I wanted to ease this young man’s anguish, but how?
“Officer Simms told me you have your own apartment.”
Treka is a great investigator!