“I can’t believe you told the Detective we’d work the case before I even agreed.”
“And I can’t believe you’re still complaining about it. What’s done is done Lex, leave it in the past.”
They argued as they showed their passes to the police officer and he lifted the yellow tape to let them pass.
Lex adjusted her bag on her shoulder and smiled at the officer, “Do you know where we can find Detective Newman?”
“Yes ma’am, he’s already inside.”
They walked through the parking lot with lamp posts decorated for Halloween and fall leaves scattered among the parking spaces. Lex tightened the scarf around her neck as a chill wind blew across her face. She’d forgotten it was Halloween. This year was really flying by for Lex and she had only managed to start one thing that was on her New Year’s resolution. Time needed to stand still so she could catch up.
Lex stopped at the store entrance, Essential For Life was an essential oil company run by Mason Waltman, a small town businessman who’d married his college sweetheart. They’d started the business together, but Ella Waltman had drifted from the business scene and was usually spotted at the town's salon rehashing stories of the glory days. Small town gossip could make or break an investigation.
“Lex, you comin’?”
Did she want to? It had been two years since the last case she’d worked. Two years since Danny--no, she wouldn’t think about him. Geni had her reasons for not taking a case since Todd passed, but Lex had her own reasons for staying away. And she needed to remain focused on what Detective Newman needed, not on troubles from the past.
She nodded, “Let’s do this.”
The store was slightly warmer than outside, but Lex could tell the heating system had been off for a while. The place itself was in shambles with glass shattered along the floor and large holes in the wall.
“Oh what is that smell?” Geni said and covered her mouth and nose with her sleeve.
“It’s the oils.” Detective Newman said as he gestured to the the broken oil bottles on the floor. “The thief managed to break quite a few bottles before leaving. I’m glad you agreed to help us on this one ladies. It’s been too long.”
Lex glanced at Geni who looked at her feet, “Well Detective, we’re glad to be here.” Lex said and slipped plastic gloves on her hands.
Geni said, “Where do you want us to start?”
“I called you ladies in because this is an odd break in and you two specialize in odd.”
Lex laughed, “That’s us, the odd couple. What makes this different than other break ins?”
“Well, no forced entry, all the cash is still in the register, every glass case is broken, but nothing is missing.”
“Nothing?” Geni said.
“Nope. The owner went through his cases and gave us an inventory list--we’ve determined that nothing is missing.”
“So why break in but not take anything?”
Lex asked, “Has the scene already been processed?”
“Yep. I called you in when it was discovered that nothing was actually taken. There’s millions of dollars worth of merchandise in this store, so why break all the cases and not take anything.”
Lex looked at the front door with every shard of glass in tact along with the front windows that showed no break and entry. It was an automatic door system and nothing looked rigged or forced to make it open.
“Is this the only way in or out?”
Detective Newman shook his head, “There’s a back entry for employees. It’s as in tack as the front door. You want to take a look Lex?”
“Lead the way.”
Detective Newman was correct, the back door was as intact as the front.
Lex said, “No deadbolt, which would have made it easy to pick the lock.”
“The lock’s been checked, and it hasn’t been tampered with.”
Lex opened the door and ran her gloved hand over the strike plate, rubbed her fingers together and sniffed, then quickly pulled her hand away.
“Geni, what do you think this is?”
Geni touched her gloved hand to Lex’s finger tips and rubbed them together.
“It’s an oil of some sort.” She lifted her hand to her nose and gagged, “That’s nasty!”
“Hahaha! Do you want to taste it as well?”
“You’re evil Lex.”
Geni rolled her eyes, “Detective, was any oil found on this door when the scene was processed?”
Newman flipped through the file he was holding and shook his head, “There was nothing on the door when the officers got here. You thinking someone came back after us?”
“It’s a possibility.” Geni stood and glared at her fingers, “And that person decided to use the stinkiest oil they could find. It smells like the sea, like fish. I hate fish.”
“I’ll have trace run it and see what it could be.” Detective Newman pulled out his phone, dialing while he walked from the room.
“The thief could have come back to get whatever it is he wanted in the first place.”
Lex nodded and stretched, “What do you think he was after if nothing was taken?”
She shrugged, “Practically every oil is broken, but I’ll have to cross check the inventory list with the broken bottles before I can determine what the thief could have been looking for.”
“I’m sure Newman will let you look at the inventory list.” Lex pulled a small glass bottle from her bag and rubbed the oil from her gloves into it then screwed the lid on tight, “I want to run a test of my own on this substance--it could be the key to who did this.”
“No forced entry, nothing was taken. What happened here Lex?”
“I think it’s time we talked to the owner of Essential for Life.”
“Hey, what are you doing in my store?”
“Speak of the devil.”
Lex chuckled at Geni’s words.
“Are you Mason Waltman?” Geni asked.
“Yes I am and this is my store. So I’ll ask again, what are you doing here?”
Lex cocked her head and answered, “We work for the police. What are you doing here Mr. Waltman? This is an active crime scene and closed to the public, including you.”
He folded his arms across his chest, “It’s still my store. And nothing was taken, so why are the police still looking for the guy.”
“It’s a break and entry Mr. Waltman, until the police find who did it and why, the investigation will remain open. Since you are here, would you mind answering a few questions?”
“I’ve already told the police everything. I left work Monday evening and everything was fine and then the next morning I arrive to this mess. The alarm didn’t go off and my security cameras are broken--they didn’t catch anything.”
“Is this the first time you’ve returned to the store since the break in?”
His Adam's apple moved up and down, “Yes. I haven’t had a chance to come back till now.”
Geni inquired, “Why did you come back today?”
He shifted his gaze to the main room then back to her, “I left some personal belongings that I need.”
“Mr. Waltman you can’t be in here.” Detective Newman said as he walked toward the trio.
“I need to grab some things and then I’ll be gone Detective.”
Lex said, “You can’t take anything Mr. Waltman. This is an open investigation and nothing can leave the premises until the case is closed. Whatever you need will have to wait.”
“It’s my stuff!”
Detective Newman placed a hand on his shoulder, “She’s right. You’ll be contacted once you can enter and retrieve anything from the store.”
“I can’t believe this. You’ll be hearing from my lawyer.” Mr. Waltman stormed back into the main show room.
“Phew,” Geni blew air from between her teeth, “What a nice man.”
Lex gave her a half smile, “I want to know what brought him back to the store. Weren’t all personal belongings gathered up and moved to the station?”
The Detective nodded.
“Then what personal belongings was he coming back for?”