I drove to the Oceanside Fuel & Service shop. It was around noon and the sky was clear and cloudless. There weren’t many cars on the road, so I made good time.
I could tell I was getting to a nicer part of town. The streets were clean. The buildings were new. Everything looked like it had money.
I pulled into the lot of the shop and walked inside. A man sat behind the front counter with half of a sandwich in his hand and was skimming through a parts magazine. He took a bite as he looked up at me.
I spoke first and said, “I’m looking for James.”
“Who’s looking for him?” he replied with his mouth half full.
“The name’s Edward Whitney, I’m a private eye. I need to talk to James regarding a possible double homicide.”
“A double homicide?”
“What’s James got to do with it?”
“Nothing. Just need to ask him a few questions since he worked on the car of the people that died.”
He looked me up and down and said, “He’s in the third bay,” and motioned to his right.
He took another bite of his sandwich and went back to his magazine.
I walked through the lobby and opened the door to the garage bays. A smell of oil and grease hit me as I walked through the door. A radio was playing and I heard shouts and clanks from the mechanics working.
I got to the third bay and saw a man standing in front of a car with its hood up. He was working at the bench and taking a screwdriver to a small metal part.
“James?” I asked.
The mechanic turned around from what he was doing and looked at me. He had grease marks and dirt all over his coveralls and a small smudge on his left cheek. He had a thin layer of sweat on his forward.
“Yea,” he nodded.
“My name is Edward Whitney. I wanted to ask a few questions about a car you worked on last month.”
“You with the police?”
“No, I’m a private eye.”
“What car you want to know about?”
“The car owned by Arthur Goodman.”
“Something happen to the car?”
“In a way. Arthur Goodman and his wife are dead. The car got wrecked in an accident, but someone suspects there might be foul play.”
“Damn. Something wrong with the car?”
“I’m here to ask you that question.”
“Well, we got their file in the office.” He motioned back to the office where I came from and started walking towards it. I followed him.
Back in the office, the man behind the counter was now on the phone looking at the parts magazine. I guess he had found the part he was looking for. I followed James down a hallway into what looked like a manager’s office. One wall was lined with filing cabinets and near the other wall sat desk and a wooden chair. The desk had papers and empty part boxes spilled out all across it. The office looked like it hadn’t been cleaned in about a year.
James opened up a filing cabinet marked F/G and started flipping through folders.
“Shame to hear Mr. Goodman and his wife passed. He was always one of the easier guys to deal with.”
“He come here a lot?”
“Only place he had is car sent to. Asked for me every time.”
James found the Goodman’s file and pulled it out to set open on the desk. He found the most recent record and looked over it. “It was a brand-new car. A Chrysler Imperial. They bought it 3 months before and were just doing a routine check on it. Everything is marked good here and that’s how I remember it.”
James showed me the file and everything he said was true.
“Did you check the brakes?”
“I did. Why?”
“The Goodman’s were killed on their way home from a party. Police say the brakes went out, and they sped out of control. You think that could have happened?”
“I’d say the chances were low. Really low. Like I said it was a brand-new car and those Chryslers, they’re built good.”
“Hmm.” I grumbled as I looked over the record again.
“You think somebody killed them?” he asked me.
“I don’t know,” I replied as I handed the paper back to him, “but the brakes going out doesn’t sit right with me.”
“Well, I’m not a detective, but maybe there wasn’t anything wrong with the car. Maybe there was something wrong with Mr. Goodman. Could have been drunk or something.”
I nodded my head slightly in agreement.
“But if they were killed, for what it’s worth I hope you find out. Mr. Goodman was a good man. Not a lot of his type in the world he lived in. Anything else I can do for you?”
“No, that’s it. Thanks for your time.”
I walked out of the room and back to the lobby. The man behind the counter had disappeared.
I drove back to my office unhappy with my small findings. It didn’t seem right that the brakes would fail, but it didn’t seem wrong either. New cars break all the time. I also thought about what James had said about Mr. Goodman. Maybe he left the party drunker than he thought. Maybe he was more tired than he thought. I needed to speak with someone who was at the party.
By the time I had made it back to my office it was almost 1:30 in the afternoon. Everything on the desk was as I left it in the morning when Sarah and I went for lunch. I sat down in my chair and picked up the phone.
The operator answered and I asked for the Goodman residence. After a few seconds, the phone started ringing in the receiver. In about three rings, what sounded like an older man picked up on the other end.
“I needed to speak with Sarah Goodman.”
“May I ask who is calling?”
“Edward Whitney. Sarah hired me as her private detective this morning.”
“Of course. Please hold a minute, sir.”
I sat and waited. I kept the telephone up to my ear and heard the clock in my office ticking away. It was a quiet Monday afternoon all around the building.
I heard footsteps on the other end, and they grew louder as someone walked up to the phone. Sarah’s voice came on the line, “Hello?”
“Sarah, it’s Edward Whitney.”
“Hi, Mr. Whitney. How did the mechanics’ go?”
“It went alright, I suppose. The mechanic said the car was in top shape, and he showed me the record. But he gave me an idea and I wanted to look into it.”
“Do you know who was the last person to see your folks that night? Somebody at the party I could talk to?”
“I don’t know who last spoke with them, but I know Thurston Hagedorn should have seen them at the party. He’s the chairman of the board I was telling you about at lunch. You might be able to get in touch with him. Can I ask why you want to talk with him?”
“I want to see how your parents were feeling when they left the party.”
“You mean if my father was drunk?”
“Possibly, or tired perhaps.”
“My father was never one to get drunk in public.”
“I’m sure, but I just need to follow any leads I get.”
“Well, you can find Mr. Hagedorn at the Goodman Industries building at 54th and North. I’m sure he’ll be there.”
“Thanks. I’ll go see if I can talk with him now.”
“Take care, Mr. Whitney.”
“You as well.”
I hung up the telephone, leaned back in my chair, and watched the ceiling fan slowly spinning around.
I didn’t like the start of this case. Two leads if you could call them that, and both seemed like they were heading to dead ends. The police likely had already talked to Mr. Hagedorn and if Goodman was driving drunk, I’d already know about it. Still, I had to check.
I got up, put on my coat and locked up the door. I took the elevator down to my car and headed to the office of Goodman Industries.