Re: Your Murder
Christopher Gooch

Durkin Confidential Investigations
Cahuenga Building, Suite 204
Los Angeles, CA

Byron Ginsberg
Centennial Apartments
Bismarck, ND

January 20, 2004

Dear Mr. “Ginsberg”:

On November 26, 2003, a Mr.Derek Smyth of this city retained Durkin Confidential Investigations to find out who, in his words, was “out to kill” him.

The facts, which I have ascertained through research, interviews, and deduction are as follows:

1) That you, Mr. Ginsberg, are in fact Derek Smith.

2) That on November 22, you received a threatening note in the mail that, in barely legible handwriting, said, “You will die.”

3) That, upon first receiving the aforementioned note, you claimed you had dismissed it as a practical joke and had no noticeable reaction to it (as later confirmed by family members).

4) That, on the night of November 25, you felt sick to your stomach and were nauseous after drinking some hot chocolate. Suspecting it was food poisoning, you didn’t drink any more of it. Despite your protests, your daughter drove you to the hospital where, upon a physical examination, a Doctor Houston said you had suffered a severe gastrointestinal disturbance.

5) That, on the morning of November 26, you hired me to find out if, indeed, there had been foul play.You explained, quite clearly, that you wanted me to find if in fact an attempt had been made on your life and if so, to obtain enough evidence to warrant a police investigation. You recalled that your wife made the hot chocolate. Shortly before she made it, however, one Lawrence Melton, your former business partner, dropped in to talk to you. This escalated into a heated argument as the hot chocolate was made, and you threw Melton out.

6) That the hot chocolate, upon analysis by Acme Forensic Services (see attached report) which you insisted upon, was found to contain 115 milligrams of arsenic which, combined with the 4-5 milligrams of arsenic you had already consumed, would have proved almost certainly fatal, had you finished drinking it. This jibes with the Doctor Houston's diagnosis, as arsenic poisoning often first appears to be indigestion.

7) That you claimed to have no enemies other than your Mr. Melton. This was substantiated further upon subsequent interviews with your wife, daughter and Mr. Melton himself. You said, I quote, “He’s a grandstanding jerk.”

8) That, in Melton’s words, he “hated [you]enough to want to kill him,” but that “scruples” held him back.

9) That, on the morning of December 5, 2003, a body was found in a deserted car on the side of the road wearing your clothes. Apparently, the car had been pushed off the side of the road. Gasoline had been poured on it, and the car had burned considerably. The car appeared to be yours, and the body was identified by your wife as yours. Death occurred sometime on the fourth of December.

10) That, on December 6, 2003, upon learning of your death from your wife, I immediately took steps to present the case to the police and suggested they pay particular attention to Lawrence Melton.

11) That Melton had been missing since December 4, 2003. None of his relations had seen him since then, nor had they heard anything about where he intended to go.

12) That, on December 6, 2003, an all-points bulletin was put out for Lawrence Melton.

13) That you had insured your life so that on your death your wife received a substantial amount, in addition to all your properties and monies.

14) That, between December 7 and December 18, I called your house a total of eleven times trying to reach your wife. I left eight messages on your machine and spoke with your daughter three times. Your daughter repeatedly told me she had no idea where your wife went, that she woke up the morning of the seventh to find her bed empty and the car gone. If I wasn’t able to contact her soon, I told your daughter, I would be forced to bill her for my services. She seemed to think that was fine, until I told her my fee. Since she had nowhere near that amount, I urged her to file a missing persons report and/or retain me to find her mother (your wife). She did both. With exactly $500.00 (all she could afford), she retained me to find your wife so I could bill her.

Working from these facts, I did the following:

1) I researched the reasons for the hatred between Lawrence Melton and yourself. Former employees of Smyth and Melton Marketing and Public Relations Services, the business you and Melton had owned and operated for two years, told me the two of you were high school rivals, always trying to outdo each other.

2) I found out from your daughter that you are a very resourceful man, which was further substantiated by Melton earlier. She said, and I quote, “Dad’s smart. Usually he can work his way out of his problems.” Furthermore, she told me about how you had once tackled and held an intruder in your home. This led me to wonder why you could not evade Melton.

3) I discovered that your daughter, had not identified the body because the police and medical examiner had been understanding of her remorse and didn’t want to shock her.

4) I found out from your daughter and several of your neighbors that you left sometime in the afternoon of the fourth of December. Your daughter assumed you did not return that night, as she had fallen asleep and hadn’t heard him come in. Your neighbors confirmed you did not return.

5) I was struck by three things: first, you had not drunk enough of the poisoned hot chocolate to die; second, that your body was unrecognizable; third, your wife had apparently disappeared.

I came to the conclusion that you had not been murdered at all. It was not your body that had been found in the car, but Melton’s body in your clothes and your car.

Therefore, before I started looking for your wife, I asked your daughter for permission to search your house. You certainly were careful about not leaving any trace of the plot. I couldn’t find anything until I requested that your daughter sign on to your e-mail. She was able to recover one message confirming two seats on a flight to North Dakota on the seventh for “Mr. and Mrs. Byron Ginsberg.”

It wasn’t easy to find you in North Dakota, but, a fellow investigator traced the Ginsberg alias for me and discovered you leased a two-bedroom apartment for twelve months beginning January 1, 2004. I've confirmed your identity from photos he provided.

It is my theory that you had hired me to draw attention to the threat and attempted poisoning so that I could point the finger at Melton. Furthermore, you had written the warning note and deliberately poisoned your own hot chocolate. Then, I speculate that you murdered Melton, put him in your clothes and your car, pushed the car off the road and lit it on fire. Finally, a few days after that, your wife met up with you.

I have no idea what your motive was -- it may have been pure hatred or perhaps just the insurance money -- but, regardless, I have solved the matter of who attempted to poison you.

Attached is my invoice, the total coming to $100,000, which is, I admit, considerably higher than my original estimate, but which I feel is justified due to the extra hours and expenses entailed, owing to the unforeseen difficulties of this investigation.

As a licensed private investigator, I am -- as I'm sure you know -- required to turn over any evidence of a crime to the police.

I await your response, and your prompt payment.

Yours sincerely,

Bob Durkin
Durkin Confidential Investigations

Copyright © 2005 by Christopher Gooch.

Christopher Gooch has had over fifteen non-fiction articles published, including a weekly column he writes for  Recently, two of his short stories were accepted for the Spring Mystical Tales anthology.  Despite all this, though, he assures us that his real passion is mystery fiction--both as a reader and a writer.  He's also a member of the Short Mystery Fiction Society.

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