My dope fiend friend Hunter Maddocks has suckered me into investigating the clearly accidental death of one of his doper pals.
After leaving Maddocks, I went across town to the police headquarters. At the desk I said I wanted to talk to someone about the death of Harrison Ogilvy, because I had information that might mean that it was something other than an accidental death. I was told to wait. Eventually I was shown into an office to meet one Sergeant O'Bannion of the Homicide Division. He asked me what I had to say and I told him Maddocks' story.
"That's about the size of it".
"Well look, I've checked up the files. Mr Ogilvy was found in the river. There were no signs of a struggle. Everything indicates to us that he was just walking along there one evening and he fell in and drowned. Sad business, but it happens all the time".
"Sure", I said, "but don't you think it's a bit suspicious that my friend saw him being roughly taken away from the dope den and then later that night he ends up in the river? Isn't it worth looking into? My friend is willing to give a statement on this".
"Look mister, if you know this friend of yours, then you know what dopers are like. That stuff messes with their brain, makes them imagine all kinds of bullshit. I can't be wasting police resources on every random piece of crap that dribbles out of some doper's mind."
"My friend is pretty clear that he saw what he saw."
"I'm sure he is. I'm sure he is. But look, there's another side to this. Harrison Ogilvy was a respectable man from a good family. He did in a tragic accident. His family are very sad. But now you want to say that he wasn't quite such a respectable guy after all? You want me to start asking all kinds of questions, insinuating that he was a doper and that he was mixed up in some kind of criminal activity? You think anyone's going to thank me for that? Jeez, mister, have some humanity. Leave these poor folks with their nice, good Harrison Ogilvy. I'm not going to take him away from them just because of what your doper friend has to say. It's bad enough that we all pretty much know he didn't fall into the river, he jumped in there all by himself, but we're not going to say that, and we're not going to start upsetting a respectable family by raking through the dirty laundry of his life. So that's it. Do I make myself clear?"
"Well that's that then. OK, mister, I've got real crimes to look into now, so I'll have to ask you to leave."
I thanked Sergeant O'Bannion for his time and left the precinct house with as much good grace as I could muster. I was now angry. When Maddocks told me his story about his doper friend I had no interest in pursuing it - like I said, I'm not a detective. But I am a law-abiding citizen who pays his taxes. As such I like to think that when the police are given evidence of a possible crime they will at least look into the matter rather than dismiss it out of hand. But that's just what the sergeant had done. Well, if he wasn't going to do his job, I would just have to do it for him. Someone had to get to the bottom of the Ogilvy business. Looks like it would have to be me.
But I wouldn't be doing this on my own. I knew I could rely on Bobby Lomax. I called over to him that evening and filled him in. He wasn't so sure.
"Gee, I don't know, we don't really have much to go on, and what do we know about this kind of thing? Maybe the cops have good reason to leave this one alone."
"The good reason is they're too goddamn lazy to bother. They think he killed himself and they don't see why they should make work for themselves looking into it further. Come on Bobby! When you read books about people having adventures, haven't you ever wanted to be in one yourself?"
"Sure, but is this really the thing for us? We're not detectives. Maybe we should hire a private investigator to look into it. I'd say between us we could afford it, especially if Hunter's willing to cough up".
"I'm not hiring a private dick. I was brought up to believe that if you have a problem then you sort it out yourself. So that's what I'm gonna do. Are you with me, Bobby?"
"Aw, heck, I suppose I am. But I hope we're not making a big mistake".
"Don't worry pal," I said. "This is no mistake. Come on, let's see what we can find out about this Harrison Ogilvy."
We began to make inquiries. We mentioned the death notice to people and suggested that we had heard the name Harrison Ogilvy before but could not place him. Some of our acquaintances could, though no one we knew was well acquainted with him. It appeared that Ogilvy was a man at that indeterminate point between youth and middle age. He was unmarried, which we had already gathered, as the death notice made no mention of a wife. Some suggested that he been a confirmed bachelor, with all that implies. He had had some involvement with the Rotary Club, but that had not become the kind of passion for him that it does with some people. He worked in the company his father had created. He lived in a large house in the suburbs, with his now aged parents and a younger sister, though he also kept an apartment in the city.
In character he appeared to be a quiet and bookish individual, with many suggesting that he was not blessed with the kind of temperament that would mark him out for a successful leadership of the family business. The opinion was expressed that if it had not been for the wishes of his father, he would have continued further with his studies and sought out an academic career. But he had kept in touch with his friends from university, who were now mostly employed by the city's various institutes of higher education, and had taken a keen interest in their research.
One titbit struck Lomax and I as being particularly interesting. He had kept in touch with his old college friends - until about a year ago, when he had apparently cut them all off. Could this be when he had taken up with his accomplices in whatever criminal endeavour he had become embroiled?