4.6 An Open Door

by Matt P.

The room was as plush and well appointed as the rest of the house. It had a long desk of richly dark wood standing on a carpet made with the designs of a medieval tapestry. Large bookshelves and antique cabinets lined the walls, and a heavy chandelier lit the scene in soft but steady warmth. It also had a lived in quality, the sense that this was a room the owner had spent a great deal of time in. That sense came from a quality to the air, a warmth to the furnishings, and an intangible sense that there was a life that had been lived out here.

The only difference between the room and the rest of the house was the clutter. The bookshelves were crammed with books on dozens of subjects, leaning heavily on mythology and folklore. The cabinets were opened, apparently by the intruder looking for something, and full of newspaper clippings and articles. More of those were scattered across the desk as well. Putting the feather down carefully on the desk, Walter gingerly moved a few pieces of the pile to see the headlines.

Every single one was about the Three Stripes killings. Each of them also had notes written on them in a small, neat hand. Walter held up one to read the notes, finding it labeled ‘Copycat’.

“Kind of begging for a conspiracy wall.” Leah murmured as she carefully looked through one of the cabinets. Andre nodded slowly, stepping back to take in the room at a glance.

“Yeah. Pictures with strings running between them.” He agreed. “And a big label saying ‘Three Stripes’ above the perpetrator’s name.” He added as he looked across the room. “Cause that would be super helpful, I’m not going to lie.”

“I think that’s what he used his desk for.” Walter said as he carefully shifted some of the research around to pull out a picture. It had no name, date, or other identifying information, but it was very obviously his old friend. “Ninja grandpa.” Walter introduced his partners to his assistant. “Sadly without a name, address, or Social Security Number.” He continued to leaf through the articles carefully with his gloved fingertip. “Are all of the files on the Three Stripes?”

“No.” Andre answered from where he had moved to a cabinet. Both he and Leah were moving from cabinet to cabinet, giving them cursory glances. “This cabinet has other files. Uh…” Andre paused. “Labeled ‘Salvation’, ‘The Duke’, and ‘The Bells’.” He pondered them. “Not nearly as much information on them as on the Three Stripes though; maybe he thought they were related? Or he had ADD.”

Walter nodded as he slid the desk drawer open. “Hmm.” He murmured as he reached down to pull out a small key on a ring. It had a tag hanging from it, like an evidence tag. In the same neat handwriting as the notation on the articles it was labeled ‘Safe delivered to T.S.’ Walter considered it. “Do we have anything in here related to a person or place whose initials are TS?” He asked.

“Yeah.” Leah spoke up, from where she had been in the corner. She was next to a more mundane looking cabinet, out of place among the rare and rarefied for its simple utility. “I’ve got a filing cabinet filled with pay stubs from the Herald.” Andre winced as if this were not only terribly informative, but also terrible information.

“And?” Walter prompted.

“And the owner of the Border Herald, and about two dozen other newspapers, is one of the richest women in the State. If not the midwest.” Leah explained. “And her name is Tania Summers.”