The Case Files of Natasha Riviers, Case File # 1: Return To New York City

Case File # 1:
Return to New York City
On a hot day in the bustling NY PD, a little girl could be seen sitting in the lobby. You might've wondered what the small child was doing in such a place. Her name was Natasha Riviers, a 12-year-old British girl. Her dark blonde hair fell just above her shoulders, matching well with her fair creamy skin. She brought herself in a well-mannered fashion, making her seem more mature than her physical age. Although she stuck out, she seemed to fit into the scene quite well. A lone child in a room filled with grown-ups.

She crossed her legs, rested her chin on her hand and sighed impatiently.

"Nervous are you, Natasha?"

She looked up to find Christopher Fidéle Diamanté gingerly sipping his hot coffee. His light green eyes stared back at her gently, with a look of understanding. He had always seemed to have powers of telepathy, seeing through Natasha's most convincing charades. She had spent most of her childhood with him. He was like a brother to her. He was 22 years old, a decade older than herself, but seemed to have kept some of his childlike demeanor. He had the most fiery red short hair, and fingers that were exceptionally long from long hours on playing the piano.

"Are you referring to the press conference? Poppycock, Christopher. This is just the chance I've been waiting for! Imagine a live global broadcast! The whole world shall know the genius of yours truly, Natasha Riviers!"

There it was again, Natasha's confident facade shielding her anxiety. The past four years had taught her that adults sympathized young orphan children. She wasn't allowed to show signs of weakness. She had to be strong, and prove herself to the world.

"I'm sure your father will be proud of you," commented Christopher.

There was a pause. Natasha nervously swept back her hair. "Yes... Of course, he will. I'm continuing the family legacy, aren't I?"

Natasha gave a weak smile. It must've been hard for someone so young to experience a painful loss. She could still remember her father lying on the study floor, covered in blood. The moment she left to call for help, the body had disappeared. Whether he was alive or dead, no one could tell. But that small chance was what kept her sane... The small chance he was still alive. Four years had passed now. Perhaps it was time to let go of that false hope...

"Natasha," called Christopher standing up. "Let's meet the chief now, shall we?"

Natasha stood up as well and they rode the elevator to the second floor. They entered the door just in front of them, the Chief of Police's office.

"Good morning, Chief Starnez," greeted Natasha with a small bow.

"No need for formalities, Natasha. Haven't you grown since the last time we met," commented the Chief with a friendly hug. Natasha accepted the gesture in an awkward and stiff manner.

"It's only been a year. Now, what reason did you have to invite us?" She plopped down onto a swivel chair, sat bolt upright, and crossed her legs.

"Straight to the point as usual, I see. Sorry about the wait, by the way." He gestured to a young woman standing by his desk. "Allow me to introduce, Ms Reginald Policia Sanders."

"You can call me Reggie," the brown-haired woman said. She gave a sheepish smile towards Christopher. She had been staring at him since they had entered, but he didn't seem to notice. To Natasha, she seemed oddly familiar. And when Reggie laid eyes on Natasha, she shared a look of recognition.

"Hey..." they both chorused simultaneously.

"You're the officer who tripped in front of us!" exclaimed Natasha.

"And you're the little girl I saw come out of the office!" exclaimed the woman.

"Ah, so you've met," said the Chief.

"Briefly," replied Natasha. "She was outside the office last year and we bumped into her after I solved the case."

"Wait a second," interrupted Reggie. "Right after you solved the case?"

"Yes, Reginald, allow me to explain. This young child prodigy is Natasha Riviers, the detective that solved the Miranishi kidnapping case. She asked for her identity to be kept hidden until she was ready."

"Until she was ready for…?”

"Ready to open up my own Detective Agency," chimed in Natasha proudly. "I was sure the press wouldn't buy a word of this, so I spent the last year sharpening my intellect, to prove my worth once the Agency was opened. Passing college was a breeze."

Reggie's jaw dropped. "You've passed college? B-b-but I thought he solved the case," she stammered, pointing at Christopher.

"Then you are mistaken. It was I who cleared up that unfathomable case."

"And why must I bodyguard her?"

"Bodyguard?" wondered Natasha. "Why would I need a bodyguard?"

"You see, this press conference will clear the speculation and rumors of the public, but with her identity revealed, we are afraid someone might do her harm. Like the Jingkuja mafia, the kidnappers last year. This is just a precaution, the Interpol has decided on."

Natasha considered it. Interpol, she whispered unbelievingly in her mind. “Fine,” she decided. “I’ll accept her as my bodyguard. But, you must abide by my orders. You will follow me wherever I go, and must be fully alert at all times.”

“Fine then,” Reggie said at last, “as long as this body guarding job pays.”

“When did you schedule the press conference?”

“Four-thirty p.m. sharp, in the station’s lobby.”

“That’s quite a while away…” Natasha pointed out.

“Well, I had to reschedule it.”

“Why did you have to reschedule?”

The Chief tossed out two Broadway tickets. “How about you go catch a show?”

Natasha stared at them curiously. Her intuition began to tingle. She could feel an incident had occurred. In spite of herself, she gave a small enigmatic smile. “What kind of show?”

“It’s a mystery show… a murder occurred, one I want you to solve.”

*  *  *

They seemed like a strange trio, standing in front of the theatre. A British girl dressed in a brown jacket over a white blouse and jeans, with a handsome, tall man wearing an “I ♥ NYC” t-shirt, and a woman wearing a badge, by her side. Even stranger was the number of policemen swarming the renowned theatre. The Chief had already explained Natasha’s presence, and they let inside, giving off looks of curiosity, disbelief, and even respect. Together, they stepped inside.

The Broadway Theatre was massive in size. Red velvet seats lined up the carpet-covered floor, under the balcony and private booths, with their golden railings. A crystal chandelier above, gave off a soft golden glow that illuminated the large hall. But amidst this grand scene, something was out of place. The stage at the end of the hall, framed with red silky curtains, was broken in the middle… and covered in blood.

“I believe you were the one who reported the crime?” Natasha addressed a well-suited man, busy with his BlackBerry, who was leaning against the wall. He briefly looked up from the screen, and seeing only a little girl, went back to looking at his phone.

Natasha tapped her foot impatiently. “If I’m not mistaken, you were the one who requested my services.”

“I asked for that ‘Unknown Detective’, kid, not you.”

“On the contrary, I am that ‘Unknown Detective’.”

The businessman and theatre manager, Aaron Miverdy, scoffed. “Yeah… sure, kid.”

“I am not joking, Mr. Miverdy. If you are still in disbelief, you may call the Chief of Police himself.”

And Aaron did just that, seeing Natasha was too focused on playing detective. Kids these days had no manners… How did she get into the crime scene anyway? Mr. Miverdy thought.

Chief Starnez picked up the other end of the phone, and a look of surprise came to Miverdy’s face. He hung up with a look of distaste. “Fine, kid, if you got any questions, ask away.”

“What exactly happened here?”

“Well, the victim was our lighting technician, Richard Chance. According to the witnesses, he was up on the catwalk and his girlfriend, Tracy, went up to talk to him. The must’ve gotten in an argument and Tracy pushed him off. He fell hard on the stage, and broke the trapdoor. A splintered piece of wood pierced him right in the chest. With all that blood he was losing, he let out his last breathe.”

“They’ve already taken the body for an autopsy, haven’t they?”

“Yes. And the suspect, Tracy, is sitting right over there,” he added, pointing to a corner seat.

Natasha spotted the woman. “Thank you, Mr. Miverdy. I’ll be sure to wrap this case up, posthaste.”

“You’d better, kid. With the theatre closed off, I’m losing lots of money. I’ve already had to refund the tickets for the next showing… Hah… all those dollars gone…”

Natasha left the businessman alone to mourn his lost money, wondering how greedy this man was to act like this murder didn’t mean anything. Didn’t someone’s live, stranger or underling, mean something of value? She shook off that thought for now, suddenly focused on solving this brutal murder.

“Excuse me, ma’am,” she said politely to the woman Mr. Miverdy pointed out. “May I have a word with you?”

Tracy Young was in her early 20’s, yet her face seemed like she was 52. Sadness and anxiety weighed down on her face, making it look pale. “Oh, sure, whatever…” she said depressively, not seeming to care who she was talking with.

“You’re the suspect aren’t you? I’m sure you could give me any story regarding what happened, but before I ask, I want you to answer one question. Did you murder Richard Chance?”

“No!” shouted the woman. “Of course, I didn’t! He was my boyfriend, how could I?” She buried her face in her hands and began to sob. “Yes, we were fighting these past few days, but I didn’t even touch him yet! He fell on his own…”

Natasha handed Tracy her handkerchief. “So you admit you went up the catwalk. What do you mean he fell on his own?”

Tracy took the hankie and wiped away her tears. “He was ignoring me, leaning against the railing. When I reached out to touch his shoulder, he just fell.”

“Strange… could he have just slipped?” murmured Natasha.

“I don’t think so… He fell forward, and the railway is just under-chest level,” replied Tracy. “He would’ve been able to stop himself from slipping… unless he was…”

“Pushed,” finished Natasha, and Tracy’s face sank. “Or, some other force made him fall…” Natasha considered the possibilities. Her eyes wandered to the stage. Behind the curtain, she could see the catwalk above head. The background paintings and props hung from the ceiling, ready to anchor down by rope. Sandbags were also hanging mid-air acting as weights. Natasha’s eyes lit up with an idea.

“Miss Tracy, would you please show me your positions up on the catwalk?”

Tracy looked up and realized that she was talking to a young girl. The way she spoke, Natasha had sounded like a mature adult. Without question though, she followed her up to the catwalk. The catwalk was a rectangular metal platform furnished with a single chair facing the controls for the stage light’s and music control panels. Tracy showed exactly where Richard was standing. Natasha stroked the railway, and found a streak of red. It seemed to be blood.

“That’s odd… he was already bleeding before he fell?” If you looked up you could see a fixed pulley without its rope. Natasha looked down to stage, and spotted a piece of rope buried under a plank of wood.

She rushed downstairs immediately, with Tracy at her side. Under the plank of wood was, as Natasha suspected, a sandbag. “I might be able to prove your innocence after all, Miss Tracy. Now I’ve found the real reason behind Richard’s fall! This sandbag must’ve fallen on his head!” Natasha sounded triumphant, and Tracy looked hopeful. She had established the ‘how’, all Natasha needed was to prove the ‘who’ and ‘why’. Perhaps it was one of the witnesses…

Before Natasha had a chance to think it through, she was approached by a woman. The black short-haired woman was tall and slender, wearing a pair of round-rimmed glasses on her nose. She had gentle eyes, and creamy skin. An over-sized lab coat hung down on her shoulders, covering her casual ensemble. “How did you get in here, dear? This is a crime scene, you know.”

“I’m perfectly aware of that, ma’am,” answered Natasha patiently. “I am here to solve this crime.” Natasha was sure she wasn’t going to believe her. Was it really that hard to accept that a child would have the intellect sufficient enough to be a detective? But unexpectedly, the woman seemed surprised for only a moment. Then, she put on a smile and nodded approvingly.

“Who would’ve thought a kid would be the ‘Unknown Detective’, everyone was talking about? I suppose you’d want to ask me about the autopsy results? My name is Maria Gomez, by the way. I work at the NY PD’s forensic department. The moment I heard the ‘Unknown Detective’ was on the case, I rushed down here right away!”

“And what are the autopsy results?”

“Well, I uncovered a few strange details.”

“Please elaborate, Ms. Gomez.”

“One, the body had strangely gone through some slight rigor mortis, the stiffening of a body after death,  indicating an earlier time of death than his fall.”

“You mean he died before all of this?” asked Reggie in disbelief.

“Yes. We suspect he died around 8 a.m. this morning.”

“That would explain the dry blood on the railway. Anything else?” asked Natasha.

“Yes. The cause of death was a stab to the chest. Strange thing is, we analyzed the wound and found it was too long and deep to have been made with the short piece of wood.”

“So, he died before Tracy supposedly pushed him, and now it seems the cause of death was made by a different weapon,” summarized Christopher. He and Natasha looked at each other. “Are you thinking what I’m thinking?”

“Yes indeed, Christopher,” Natasha said with a smile. She had expected nothing less from him; after all he was her father’s apprentice. “This was neither an intended murder nor a simple accident. This was an attempt to frame Ms. Tracy and cover-up the real murder that occurred earlier. If it wasn’t Ms Tracy, it must’ve been someone else. We should interview the witnesses. Now, they are all suspects.”

The theatre was mostly empty as the staff prepared for the next showing. The dancers and other staff were out on lunch break, and the only two who had seen the incident was Millie Karligan, a newly discovered actress, along with one of the theatre’s make-up artists and wig designer, Bethany Strauss. Natasha decided to interview them separately to see if their stories would match. She started with the actress, Millie Karligan.

“Where were you at the time of the crime?” asked Natasha, straight to the point.

“I was in my dressing room with Bethany. She was retouching my make-up for the next show. Afterwards, she said she was feeling tired and wanted to grab a coffee at the café across the street. I heard her scream outside my dressing room and when I went out saw her running over to Richard under the rubble. I did see Tracy on the catwalk, but I didn’t see her push him.”

“No one did, so there might be a possibility that someone else killed Richard. Do you notice anyone acting strange, lately?”

“Well, yes, I did. Bethany’s been acting strange lately, like she was hiding something. And if you ask me, she seemed a bit too eager to pin Tracy as the culprit.”

“You’re suspicious about Bethany, then? But, would there even be a reason why she would do it?”

“It seems a bit impossible for her do have done it. She wasn’t up on the catwalk. But, if I had to say a reason, it would probably be because of jealousy. You see, Richard and Bethany used to date, and then he dumped her for Tracy.”

“A love triangle…? Hmm…” Natasha began considering the possibility. If it was Bethany, with jealousy as a motive, how did she kill Richard in the first place? “One last question, when was the last time you saw Richard?”

“Come to think of it, I didn’t see him at all today… He was probably here early this morning, preparing for the show.”

“Alright, then, thank you for your cooperation. Please call in the other witness, Bethany.”

Soon Millie gracefully walked away from the seat in front of Natasha, and Bethany took her place. Natasha didn’t hesitate with the questions. “Ms Karligan states that you had exited the dressing room right after the fall?”

“Yes, that’s true. I just finished retouching Millie’s make-up.”

“What was your relationship with Richard?”

“I, Richard, and Tracy used to be best friends in high-school. The two of them are dating, and had been fighting recently.” She sighed quite convincingly. She didn’t bother to mention that she and Richard had dated as well. On her waist was a utility belt. As the make-up artist, she had kept her tools on it. There was a can of hairspray and red hair-dye on her right side. Natasha noticed that there was a scissors pocket on the belt too. It was made of leather, and was long.

Probably for her barber scissors… reasoned Natasha. Then the jigsaw pieces all fell into place, as the answer hit Natasha.

“I can’t believe Tracy would do this,” continued Bethany. “We’re best friends, and it pains me to have to testify against her… She doesn’t seem to have the heart to do something like this…”

“You’re right, Ms. Strauss, she doesn’t.” Natasha looked her straight in the eye. “But, according to the evidence, you do. You are the murderer of Richard Chance.”

*  *  *

Everyone watched in shock and suspense, as Natasha was about to play the final act in this murder story. Bethany stood up, shocked. Tracy stepped forward towards her best friend. “What? Bethany… was it really you?”

“Of course not!” she snapped. “Stop playing innocent, Tracy. Although you’re my friend, you’re the murderer! Who else could it have been? And you, little detective, should know better than to make an accusation without any evidence! I knew you were a fraud, right from the start!”

Natasha merely smiled as she took center stage, ready to explain. “Now, now, if you truly are innocent, Ms. Strauss, I don’t see a reason why you should be so enraged. And if I truly am a fraud, than letting me explain my fraudulent claim shouldn’t be a problem.”

She turned to address Ms. Tracy. “Now, there were a few vague details about the series of events. Tracy did indeed climb up to the catwalk, but there was no direct evidence that she pushed Richard to his death. And according to her, he fell on his own. Stranger still, I spotted a streak of blood on the railway. Why was Richard bleeding before he had even been injured? Now, if we assume that Ms. Tracy is innocent, and that Richard fell on his own, the question now is how. How did Richard fall?”

Natasha walked onto the stage, picked up the sandbag, and pointed up into the catwalk. “Richard’s position was right under a sandbag, which was found near the body. If someone were to send Tracy up to the catwalk to Richard, a timed release of the rope would send it tumbling down on his head. Imagine a plank of wood was leaning against the railing. If the sandbag were to hit the higher end, it would tip over to the other side. That was how Richard fell. This was planned to make it seemed like Tracy had pushed him.”

“Now I had to establish who or why had done that. During my interview with Ms. Karligan, she stated that you had been acting suspicious today. And you exited her dressing room, right before the incident. Tell me, Tracy, did you bump into Bethany before heading upstairs?”

Too shocked to speak, she merely nodded.

“See? Your timing was perfect. You directed Tracy up to the catwalk and released the rope. Richard fell, and you pretend to help him, again making it seem that Tracy had pushed him, and you were just a witness. Ms. Karligan also informed that you were Richard’s former lover, and he dumped you for Tracy. Your motive was purely because of jealousy.”

“An interesting theory,” interjected Bethany. “But that is all it is, a theory.”

“Please, let me finish. Afterwards, Ms. Gomez brings me the results of the autopsy. I’m sure this information will intrigue you. Would you like to tell them, Ms. Gomez?”

“The odd thing is, the body’s state of slight decomposing shows an earlier time of death,” Maria announced.

“It seems that Richard was dead long before this happened. The Richard up on the catwalk was merely his corpse. This explains the blood on the railway, were someone left him leaning on,” explained Natasha.

“Also,” continued Ms. Gomez, “the wound was too long and deep to have been made with the splintered wood. The murder weapon was something else. Something much longer, like…”

“Like a pair of barber scissors?” finished Natasha. “On your utility belt is all of your make-up tools, this made me wonder why your scissors pocket was empty. My final deduction is that early this morning, you and Richard met and had a fight. In a blind rage, you grabbed your barber scissors and stabbed him. That’s why no one saw him today at all. Not wanting to get caught, you decided to frame Tracy. You placed him on the catwalk under the sandbag and timed the release.”

“Yes, I use barber scissors to trim the wigs for the costumes, but you can’t prove I killed him!”

“Very well, then, Ms. Strauss. If you’re innocent, then I suppose you won’t mind emptying your jean pockets?” Natasha requested pointing to her right pocket which was slightly bulging in a triangular shape.

That simple request was like an arrow hitting Strauss’s chest. This little girl was on the verge of catching her. And oh how smug she looked! It made her want to scream! In a blind panic, Bethany pulled out the bloody scissors from her pocket and jumped at Natasha…

Clang! With a well-aimed kick from Reggie, the scissors fell out of Bethany’s hand and skidded to the floor. An officer casually picked up. “Nice kick, Reggie,” praised Natasha.

Reggie put Bethany in a headlock as she tried to jump at Natasha again. Her face was distorted with rage and hatred. The killer’s true nature had come out from that innocent charade. “You little brat!” she shouted at Natasha. “If you hadn’t come here my plan would be perfect! My revenge would be complete!”

On the floor, Tracy had fallen to her knees as tears flooded down her face. “Your revenge…? Why, Beth? What did I do to make you hate me…?”

“You idiot, don’t you realize! You stole Richard from me! I protected you all throughout high-school, and this is how you thank me! He dumped me for you! What do you have that I don’t? You’re a wimp, Tracy, I hate you! I HATE YOU!”

The hysterical shouting of Bethany rang throughout the vast hall. Her words stabbed Tracy in the heart. Natasha felt like comforting her, but knew it wasn’t her place. She handed her handkerchief and told the officers to take Bethany away. Before she left, Natasha gave her these harsh words, “You’re pathetic, you know that? You’ve done all this over a love quarrel? Don’t you think Richard’s live is worth much more than that? And worst of all, you’ve hurt your best friend. You deserve to go the jail.”

The officers and theatre staff stepped aside as Natasha exited the theatre. Aaron Miverdy, clearly impressed with Natasha’s work invited to watch a free show. Natasha politely accepted the gesture, (Maybe he isn’t so bad after all.) and drove back to the Police Station.

*  *  *

At precisely, 04.30 p.m., a press conference was held in the lobby of the New York Police Department. Natasha sat nervously (though she didn’t show it) beside the podium. She calmed herself, by reflecting on this afternoon’s case. A tragedy it was, and she hoped for Tracy to recover. But despite all that, she quite enjoyed the experience. Her first official case and she had made quite a good first impression. There was also that feeling of satisfaction and thrill when she had pinned the real murderer. There was a lot of injustice in the world, but that was why she had decided to become a detective. She was going to find the truth wherever it may hide, and she was determined to deliver justice. Just like her father did for so many years…

“And now,” started Chief Starnez on the podium, addressing reporters, “I present you with the ‘Unknown Detective’.”

Natasha walked onto the podium and smiled. Everyone in the world, watching the live global broadcast, gasped. “My name is Natasha Riviers, and starting today I am opening the Riviers Detective Agency to help those in need. Feel free, to ask any questions now.”

Silence followed that simple statement.

Natasha kept on smiling. This was only the beginning of her career.


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