Insomnia had become a close friend of mine since the beginning of the trial so I’d taken to staying up at night poring over my law books.
This particular night though, my mind wandered and began asking questions that I’d previously overlooked.
First of all, why had Ruby been using a fake name?
What had she hoped to gain from that?
I sat down with the file that Charlie the firm’s investigator had compiled on Eleanor Bright. I hadn’t taken more than a perfunctory glance at it since I’d picked it from Del’s office.
Now I read it from beginning to the end, noting down important things.
It interested me to know that Ruby had been a stripper in a nightclub in Arkansas, yet she’d managed to pay for a house as big as the one she’d been living in here in New York.
She’d no known job during the time she’d moved to New York, except the photo shoots she’d done for my husband’s company.
So, my question is; who’d been financing her? Someone had to be, because we’d found an offshore account with hundreds of thousands of dollars in it. Such money hadn’t come from work, nor her parents, because her mother who’d raised her was dead. She’d no known relative.
Although it was nearly 2am, I picked up my phone and dialled Charlie.
He answered on the third ring.
“Charles Cates here.” He sounded groggy.
“Hi Charlie, its Kemi. Sorry to wake you at this time but I have some questions about the Eleanor Bright file.”
“Did you talk to anyone at the strip club?”
“Yes. The manager and several others. I posed as a VIP customer. What you wanna know?”
“Did they tell you why she left? She give any reasons?”
He hesitated. “They said she told them she got another gig somewhere. Something better that paid more.”
“She give any details?”
“None that I know of,” He said. “It seems she was cagey about the new gig.”
“Cagey, huh?” I took a sip of coffee from my Thermos.
“Yes, their words.”
“What about her phone records?”
“I included that in the file.”
“You sure? ‘Cos I can’t see anything on that.”
“I’m pretty sure I did.”
“Well, it isn’t here. Maybe it slipped out. So please indulge me.”
“How about I fax another copy of the phone records to you, right now.?”
“Oh, that would be lovely. At least I can let you go back to bed then.”
“Thank you Charlie.”
I hung up and while waiting for the fax, I went through the file again; perhaps I’d missed the phone records the first time.
It wasn’t there.
I sat back to think. So, Ruby had gotten a strange job offer with a bigger pay which needed her to be in New York. Yet all the while she’d been in New York, she had no job.
So what was that gig? I knew something was missing. The problem was what.
The fax came in and I hurried over to it. I took out the paper and scanned the phone records.
It turned out that over the past six months, Ruby had made several calls to two major numbers.
Mo’s and another number.
I picked my phone and dialled the second number. I got an ‘out of service’ reply. Strange.
Ruby had made several calls to this number and received as well. So why out of service?
I knew I had to disturb Charlie again tonight. I called him back, this time he sounded more alert than before.
“I owe you big, Charlie.” I said, as soon as he answered.
“I know. What do you need?”
“The other number that appears so many times on her phone records, you know who it belongs to?”
I sighed. “Not that one. The second one.”
“Oh, that. I checked it out. It’s registered to a John Smith.”
I scoffed. “John Smith? That’s like John Doe!!
“Exactly.” He said. “I investigated further; apparently John Smith is an alias. He doesn’t exist officially.”
“I know the feeling ma’am. But there’s something interesting I think you’ll find on the phone records. It could be good news.”
“The last call she made before she died was to your husband…”
“She made four calls to him that evening. Three before his phone went dead. He answered one, two went unanswered and the last one went to voicemail.”
“The last call began by 8:10 and ended by 8:35. However, it went into voicemail.”
“Wait, the estimated time of death was between 8 and 9pm. So, you’re saying she made a call to my husband within that period?”
“Yes. Either she left a voice mail message or she left the phone connected while her killer was around.”
“So, are you saying it’s possible she recorded her murder?” I was getting excited now, this was the best news I’d heard in ages.
“It’s a probability. I’m not sure though, but to make sure, we’ll have to find your husband’s phone and check it. Does he know where it is?”
“Er… no. He lost it when he was hit on the head. But, Charlie if what you’re saying is true…”I gasped.
“I know what you’re thinking.”
“Oh my God! Thank you Charlie! Thank you!” I quivered with happiness.
“Don’t get your hopes high. If we don’t find the phone we’ll never know.” Even though he tried to sound gloomy, I knew he’d contracted my optimism.
“But are you really sure of the voice mail thing?”
“Simply put Kemi, she was making a phone call when her killer walked in on her. Either she didn’t have time to hang up or her killer seized it from her but for reasons unknown, left it connected.”
“Oh my!” It was becoming more real every second.
“Let me get some rest Kemi. For Chrissakes, you should too. You sound like a woman having an orgasm.”
I smiled. “Okay Charlie. I get the hint. I’ll let you sleep now. Thank you so much, you’ve been a darling.”
After hanging up this time, a sudden tiredness overcame me and I fell asleep on the couch. That night I dreamed of Mo’s release.
By the time I woke up the next day, I knew what I had to do.
Operation Phone Hunting.