The second detective walked up to the top of the stairs, turned left and entered the master bedroom. The layout of the house was the same as his, so he felt right at home as he approached the king bed. Both side table lamps were on and the other detective was standing over the deceased discussing something with the Medical Examiner.
“So,” the second detective said, “Can I get a cup of coffee around here?”
A patrolman indicated he’d bring one right up and exited the room as the two detectives spoke to each other for the first time. “Suicide,” the other detective announced. “Early this morning maybe two or two thirty. She took a whole bottle of sleeping pills.”
“Suicide, huh? She leave a note?” the second detective wondered.
“Yeah. It’s on the bed.”
Picking up the note, the second detective read it several times and then handed it to the other detective. “Short and sweet. Two words, right?”
“Well, technically, yes, it’s two words. But you could say it’s really three words. The contraction really is two words in my opinion. So you’ve got the contraction and the other word . . . three words,” the other detective proposed.
“I don’t know. I’m still going with two words,” the second detective stressed. “Where’s the hubby? Downstairs?”
“Yeah. He works nights. Came home about an hour ago and found her like that,” the other detective replied, pointing to the deceased.
“Bring the note. I want to talk to him. Okay? Is he in the kitchen.”
“Yeah. He’s pretty broken up about this.”
The two men headed downstairs and found the husband sitting in the kitchen, a patrolman in attendance. “Where’s my coffee?” the second detective asked. He was handed a fresh cup by the patrolman as he sat down across from the husband.
“You got home about an hour ago from work. She was already gone by then? Is that right?” he asked him.
Sniveling, the husband sputtered out his answer, “Yes, and I don’t know why she did it. Everything was going so well.”
“You read the note? Did that tell you anything? I mean, it’s just two words, but there might be something there,” the second detective asked.
“Two words? No, it’s definitely three. The contraction counts as two words, detective. I’m sure of that,” the husband explained, suddenly perking up.
The second detective looked at the other detective and realized that he was outnumbered two to one on the word count issue. He turned back to the deceased’s husband and continued, “Look, it’s two words, right? No way it’s three words. If we say it’s three, it may take on a whole different meaning. But if it’s just two, well . . . it’s pretty straight forward. So, just for the sake of argument, consider it just two words and think about what they might mean. Okay?”
The husband took a sip of his coffee, shook his head and countered, “But it’s not two words, detective. It’s three words and I can’t think about them unless I see three words. You’re dead wrong, detective. It’s three words.” He paused, stared at the detective and then went on, “But even then, they don’t mean anything to me. Maybe they will mean something to her mother. She lives downstairs in the basement. She’s still asleep and knows nothing about any of this yet.”
“Your mother-in-law?” the second detective said, surprised. He looked at the other detective and asked, “You knew about this?”
“No. First time I’ve heard of any mother-in-law. How do you want to handle this? Shall I have her come up here? Or what?” he asked the second detective.
“What I want is for her to read this note before she knows about her daughter’s death. If we try it the other way around, it may take hours before we can get her ideas on what this little note really means.” He turned to the husband and asked, “Would you be willing to go down and wake her and show her the note? Nobody else in the room. Just the two of you. Ask her what she thinks it means. Okay? And don’t say anything about what’s happened. Got that?”
“I’ll be right back, detective,” the husband said, grabbing the note.
The two detectives and the patrolman waited in silence for the return of the husband. It didn’t take long. They could hear him climbing the basement stairs and yelling, “Okay, I’ve got the answer!”
Waving the note in the air, the husband entered the kitchen excitedly and announced, “It’s three words! She says it’s definitely three words, not two. And she was a primary school teacher for thirty years!”
Shaking his head in exasperation, the second detective asked him, “Did you ask her what the two words, or whatever, meant?”
“She didn’t know,” the husband replied, “but it’s definitely not two words. It’s three.” With that, he sat down, crossed his arms, leaned back and nodded in a decidedly self-satisfied fashion. “Yep, three words, not two! No doubt!”