Endgame – Michael Haggerty’s point of view
Having finished a cursory inspection of Jessica’s bedroom, I extinguished my
flashlight and stretched out on the comfortable canopied bed to await her
return. With minimal effort, I had ascertained
that she was dining that evening at a new restaurant on
As I lay in the dark, I realized just how little I knew about Jessica. On the rare occasion that we had been fortunate enough to find ourselves in the same place at the same time, the settings had always been considerably more formal than this – airports, fancy hotels and even once, the British Embassy.
I knew J.B. Fletcher, world-famous mystery writer, quite well, but this was different - much more intimate, one might say. I was not lounging around in a fancy hotel suite in D.C. I was relaxing in the personal bedroom of Jessica Fletcher, Cabot Cove resident, substitute English teacher, and member of the PTA. I can’t say that I have ever been attracted to a woman who fit into that mold, but somehow knowing that about her and being in her home only made Jessica more intriguing to me.
The décor was simple, yet charming, from the quilted pillows that decorated the window seat to the small wooden rocking horse situated high above the fireplace mantel. The floral pattern on the walls mirrored Jessica’s soft, feminine side and the telescope her inquisitive nature. Her extreme intelligence could be found in the books that lined the shelves of a walnut bookcase and those that were stacked on both bed side tables.
As I pondered the possibility of the two of us spending some quality time together after concluding my business for MI5, I heard Jessica enter through the back door. She would undoubtedly be as happy to see me again, as I was to see her. Of that, I was sure. Unfortunately, I hadn’t thought to start a fire, a gesture that she may have found to be thoughtful and romantic. Next time, old man, I thought as I listened quietly to her footsteps as she climbed the stairs.
When she finally opened the bedroom door and turned on the bedside lamp, I greeted her with a huge grin. I had obviously startled her because she let out a frightened squeak and jumped back a step.
“Michael, what are you doing here?" she demanded.
I have to say, I was a slight bit discouraged by the unfavorable welcome that I had just received, but all things considered, it could have been worse. I was trespassing.
"Is that the best greeting you could come up with?" I asked. "After all we’ve been through!"
She stared at me with hands firmly placed on her hips and retorted, "You mean after all you’ve put me through.”
She wasn’t truly cross with me, I knew. That was one of the amazing things about Jessica Fletcher – no matter what kind of trouble I had gotten her into, she had always found it in her heart to forgive me.
I stretched lazily and sat up on the edge of the bed. "Did you know, Jess, that it took me five minutes of fiddling with your lock before I realized the door was open?"
"You really shouldn’t do that,” I went on. “All sorts of unsavory types might decide to drop in for a visit."
"I know one that wouldn’t have been deterred even if I had locked the doors," she said, looking pointedly at me.
Was that a flicker of a smile hidden under the façade? I sincerely hoped that it was. Our friendship had survived more than its fair share of misadventures and I hated to think that my surprise visit might create a rift between us.
"Make that two," I said, having decided it best to be on the up and up with her. "Tell me what Mr. Dennis Stanton is doing visiting you here in Cabot Cove."
Jessica shook her head. "I haven’t the faintest idea."
I shrugged off her response and patted the bed, inviting her to sit down next to me. "No matter, we can talk about it later. Right now I would like to discuss other matters - matters pertaining to some of the other unusual visitors being hosted by your fair village. And after that, we can resume discussion of more pleasant matters…such as us."
Jessica looked at me suspiciously. "Forget ‘us,’" she answered, firmly entrenched in her position next to the door. "Why are you interested in our visitors?"
I sighed internally. It was frequently difficult to mix business with pleasure, but when Jessica was involved, it had been damn near impossible to achieve any significant degree of success on that front. Resignedly, I began to explain my interest in the foreigners.
"It’s actually one particular person that I have a vested interest in and I have reason to believe that he is hiding among the various East Asian contingencies that have descended upon your village.”
Jessica nodded and I continued. “His name is Patrick O’Hansen. He’s an intelligence gatherer with terrorist connections and he is also a master of disguise, once escaping our grasp by disguising himself as a nun."
"Ah, really," she responded coolly.
"He’s a slippery one, he is. And he could be disguised as anyone or anything. He could be hidden among the Japanese financiers or the Buddhist priests. He could even be mixing in with your local population, driving a pickup truck with a bumper sticker reading, ‘Why’s it called Tourist Season if we can’t shoot at them?’ He’s a very fierce, dangerous man, Jessica."
"No doubt. Michael, get out,” she replied calmly.
"But Jess! Surely you want to know more about him than that!" I pleaded as I stood up from the bed.
"I most certainly do not," she said firmly. "Every time I know more about anything you’re involved in, I end up in the middle of it myself. I am too busy right now to be in the middle of anything except my new book. Good luck on your search, Michael, and get out," she finished, aiming an unwavering finger in the direction of the stairs.
"But Jessica, darling …"
"And don’t call me ‘Jessica darling!’"
It was obvious that she had made up her mind and knowing her as I did, I knew that nothing was going to change it, at least not tonight. I paused at the bedroom door, considered giving her a peck on the cheek, but decided better of it. Instead, I bid her good night and then descended the stairs to the ground level. She would calm down by morning and then everything would be back to normal, I assured myself as I closed and locked the back door behind me.
The next morning, I shadowed
From my vantage point in the gardening section, I observed the tall, lanky man as he perused the tables in the library’s basement book sale. He made a decent show of appearing interested in a series of travel books, which were fifteen years out of date, but it was obvious that he was looking for something else.
When he was approached by a woman in a wheelchair, who offered her assistance, my suspicions were confirmed.
"I was looking for something in the way of American classics,"
A Mark Twain book - that was indeed an interesting bit of information. There was no point in continuing my
surveillance and risking the possibility of being exposed now that I had
My only option was a public pay phone located several blocks away. Fortunately, the booth offered an adequate degree of privacy.
"Yeah, it’s me, lad," I greeted young Comstock. "I’ve finally got a line on the material
we’re looking for. Riley was right; the list was in the Twain book that was
stolen from the
Comstock assumed incorrectly that I had the case as well as wrapped up at that point. He was still a bit green, but he was coming along.
“It’s not as simple as that, laddy. First I have to find O’Hansen."
As I was relaying my plan, I noticed one of the Buddhist monks passing by out of the corner of my eye and was astonished to see that he was wearing … an earring?
"Patrick O’Hansen," I muttered to myself. "I’ve got to go – I’ll contact you later,” I said, ringing off.
I spent the remainder of the day following the man who I believed to be O’Hansen, slipping from shadow to shadow, keeping my quarry well within range while remaining unseen and undetected myself. I was lurking in the vicinity of the Hill House Inn, expecting that at some point O’Hansen would make a move, and when he did emerge once again, I followed him … to the library basement, just as I had expected. I watched from a darkened corner as he cleverly picked the lock on the back door, letting himself in without a sound.
I continued to observe from a discreet distance, incorporating myself into the night and waited for him to re-emerge. When he did, I allowed him to pass, then drew my gun and slipped behind him.
Now that O’Hansen had recovered the book, I was prepared to make my move. But before I could, I heard a muffled shot – a sound that was all too familiar. I plastered myself to the grass, thinking that O’Hansen must have spotted me, as impossible as that was to believe.
I waited, but there was no second shot, nor any other sound for that matter, which seemed quite odd. Cautiously I got up and approached the bushes where I’d seen O’Hansen disappear just moments before, and I nearly fell over his body. He was dead, shot with a single bullet.
I quickly recovered from my surprise and searched his coat pockets. No book. Where was it!
Just as I realized that I had neglected to plan for the possibility that O’Hansen might fail in retrieving his own book, I heard the hammer of a gun being pulled back, and the area was flooded with bright lights.
"Don’t move," a deep authoritative voice commanded.
Silently cursing myself for being so careless, I shaded my eyes against the glare. Then, I dropped my gun and kicked it toward the man, who, although I had never met him, I knew to be Jessica’s good friend, Sheriff Mort Metzger.
As he was helping me into the back seat, I realized that all was not as bad as it may have first appeared. Because Jessica and Sheriff Metzger were good friends and Jessica would most certainly vouch for me, I was suddenly confident that this wee scrape with the local constable would be nothing more than a minor inconvenience and I would soon be able to resume the task at hand – finding Patrick O’Hansen’s book.
The following morning, much to my surprise, I was still a guest of the Cabot Cove Sheriff’s Department, even despite my nearly full disclosure of the events of the previous evening. It was ridiculous, I grumbled to myself as I stood and stretched. Jessica should have been here hours ago.
"Jessica, at last!" I exclaimed when she finally entered the cell block. "I’ve been here for over eight hours! Where on Earth have you been, lass?"
She looked at me with a bemused expression. "Where I’ve needed to be," she replied.
I grinned. That was just like her. "As evasive as ever," I said, lightheartedly. "No matter; you can tell me all about it as soon as you get me out of here."
"What makes you think you’re going anywhere?"
A sudden sense of worry came over me. "I assumed you were here to bail me out," I replied with the slightest touch of annoyance and concern.
"Well, I was, but on my way over here I had a change of heart," she began.
A change of heart? I repeated to myself silently, now dreading to hear what she had to say next.
"It occurred to me that Mr. O’Hansen was killed not more than thirty paces from you. If it’s true that you didn’t kill him, then there is an excellent chance that his murderer knew you were following him."
"And since he knew you were in the vicinity and in all likelihood saw you, then it seems to me that this would place you in considerable danger."
"Jessica, I am perfectly capable of looking after myself!" I reminded her.
"Oh, I’m sure!" she replied with all sincerity. "But the killer has shown remarkable cleverness so far, and if something were to happen to you in Cabot Cove, well, you can image how I’d feel about that. No, I think that the safest place for you is right here."
I had a terrible feeling that I knew exactly why Jessica had had a change of
heart. "You’re still vexed about
She shook her head and smiled. "Michael, really. Do you think that I would carry a grudge, just because you once abandoned me in a jail cell ‘for my own good’?" she asked innocently.
My reply was nothing short of grim. "The thought crossed my mind," I admitted.
She said nothing more and turned to leave. In a panic, I called out to her: "Jessica – are you really going to just let me sit here in this bloody cell and cool my heels?"
Jessica turned at the door and fixed me with eyes that twinkled with mischief. "Yes," she said simply, "- for your own good."
Later that day, a new neighbor joined me in the adjoining cell. Dennis Stanton sat on his cot with his legs drawn up, idly tapping a complicated rhythm on the metal bars with his fingers. I watched him for a brief moment and then resumed staring at the ceiling from where I was lying on my own cot.
“So,” he said, looking over at me. “Pleasant facilities they have here.”
“Yes,” I agreed. “I’ve been given to understand that they are a marked improvement over the old ones.”
“Funny, that such a small town should need so many sophisticated cells,”
“This is not an ordinary small town,” I explained.
There was a long pause as we each returned to our own thoughts. At length,
“How long have you known Jessica?”
I frowned as I counted. “Nine
years. I met her in the
“The very same,” I verified. “And it worked for awhile, at least. Anyhow, her search and mine were linked and we ended up working in tandem. She managed to put the whole thing together in a couple of days and since then, we’ve run into each other on and off over the years. How about you?”
“I met her six years ago at a party in
I mulled the scenario over for a moment. “And she’s been running circles around you ever since.”
“No doubt. So have I, but that doesn’t change the fact that whenever that woman’s around she ends up with the upper hand, no matter how much control you or I had over the situation to begin with.”
“She’s running circles around both of us,” we decided in unison.
When Jessica finally blessed us with her presence, it was not for a social call. Any hopes that we might have entertained that she was there to bail us out vanished when we saw the determined look on her face – this reunion was strictly business.
"All right, you two," she began. "For the last couple of days you’ve been making nuisances of yourselves running around town and prying about my house looking for something that neither of you will name. Now a man is dead, this ‘thing,’ whatever it is, remains unfound, and there may be more deaths if this mess isn’t cleared up soon. So – level with me.”
"First of all, what is it exactly that both of you are looking for, and why are people getting killed over it?"
Stanton and I exchanged glances.
"But it’s not just any book, Jessica," I continued. "Like I told you, the British government
has suspected for some time that O’Hansen had ties to certain terrorist groups,
including the IRA. A week ago we learned that a list of coded high security
radio frequencies for the British embassy in
"Hmm," Dennis said, mostly to himself. "Had we known Mr. O’Hansen had such dubious connections, we would never have issued him the policy."
"But if Mr. O’Hansen was a master of disguise, how were you able to recognize him?" Jessica asked.
"By his earring," I explained.
"It was small, and he was wearing it in his right ear. Not the sort
of thing you would expect to see on a Buddhist monk – which, by the way, is the
cover he used to sneak into Cabot Cove. He was hiding in plain sight, right in
the middle of that cultural exchange tour from
"The trouble is, lass, we don’t know who his contact was – only that this was where they were supposed to meet. With O’Hansen’s associate still at large, you’re in a dangerous position, Jess – if you do, in fact, have that book," I explained, troubled by the thought. I would never forgive myself if something happened to Jessica.
"I do," she confirmed. "And thanks to the amount of time you’ve both spent lurking around my house, you might as well have posted a neon sign over my front door shouting ‘Here It Is.’”
An hour later, Stanton and I debated what Jessica might be up to while we were still stuck behind bars. Even though she had mentioned something about a relaxing cup of afternoon tea, we both suspected that she was more likely neck deep into the investigation of Patrick O’Hansen’s murder. And we were absolutely right.
“Jessica, you’re amazing,” I exclaimed when she and Mort returned to explain her plan to flush out and subdue O’Hansen’s accomplice (and likely his killer).
The waterfront was quiet and dark; all of the fishermen that worked there had long since gone home. The night was still, the only sounds coming from the lap of wavelets against the wharf and the creaking of boats leaning against their moorings. A single lamp on a pole cast a pool of light beneath it, and there Jessica waited until she heard the quiet footsteps she had been expecting.
"Good evening, Mr. Leeamu," she said. "At least, that was how you were introduced to me – I doubt it’s your real name."
The figure of a man – one of the members of the Japanese business delegation, as she had expected – came forward into the lamplight. "Who I am is unimportant," he said, “and your presence here will soon interfere with a business meeting, so I must ask you to be on your way.”
“Mr. Stanton has been unavoidably detained and will remain so for the remainder of the evening,” said Jessica. "I am here on his behalf."
“And you have with you the piece of property that we discussed?”
Jessica removed the leather-bound Twain book from her totebag and held it up in the dim light. "This, I believe, is the piece of property that you are interested in purchasing – and what you murdered Patrick O’Hansen to get your hands on."
Leeamu gave a short laugh. "Mr. O’Hansen’s death was unfortunate," he said. "But what makes you believe I came to Cabot Cove to meet with him?"
"Your earring," she explained. "When the mayor introduced me
to your group, I noticed that you were the only one wearing one – it’s not a
piece of jewelry usually worn by Japanese businessmen. O’Hansen wore a matching
one. That’s how you were able to recognize him among the group of Buddhists
"The Japanese and Buddhist groups have been picking fights with each other ever since they arrived in Cabot Cove – it would have been easy for you to pass a message to him in the confusion during one of the brawls, setting up a meeting. Who knows, you may have even incited one of the fights to create just such an opportunity. Either way, O’Hansen went to retrieve the book from its hiding place in the library’s used book sale the night of your meeting. He couldn’t find it because it had already been sold … but you didn’t know that until you killed him and failed to find it on his body."
"You cannot prove any of this," Leeamu declared.
"I think we can," said Jessica. "The gun you used to kill O’Hansen can be fetched up from the harbor at next low tide. We also have the testimony of your fellow travelers that you didn’t join the trade mission until the last moment. And I’m pretty sure that a background check will find that all of your business credentials have either been borrowed or fabricated."
"There is a Mr. Haki Leeamu," the man said, "but you are
right: he is not here on this trip." With a surprisingly swift motion Leeamu
whipped out a switch blade and held it mere inches from Jessica’s face. "I
am Lee Duck Wan, agent for the People’s Republic of
Jessica retreated from the knife point until she was backed up against the wall of a tackle storage shed. From there, there was no where else to flee. Wordlessly, she handed over the book.
Wan grabbed it and immediately peeled back the front endleaf, taking the piece of tracing paper out of its hiding place. When he opened it, his expression of triumph turned to one of dismay.
"This paper is blank," he said. "O’Hansen cheated me!"
"Actually, no," said Jessica calmly. "I did."
Wan looked at her in amazement. "You?" He dropped the book and raised the knife for a quick stab … then froze where he stood at the touch of cold metal against his own throat.
Stanton and I stepped into the light flanking Wan, Dennis never letting the tip of his umbrella cane sword waver from the Chinese man’s neck. I stepped in front of Wan, shielding Jessica and keeping my Glock aimed steadily at his chest. Mort, Andy, and Floyd were only a few steps behind us.
"Take one step toward her," I warned Wan, "and I swear, it will be your last."
The party held at Jessica’s house the next evening celebrated her birthday and the closure of the O’Hansen homicide. Stanton and I were both pleased to attend. Doc Hazlitt had apparently felt it necessary to provide us with a gentle reminder to be on our best behavior. We did, after all, owe Jessica a debt of gratitude for getting us out of jail and cleared of homicide charges, and were happy to oblige the good doctor.
After dinner Hazlitt got up to clear the plates, and headed into the kitchen. Jessica watched him go, then after a moment, got up and followed him. She obviously wanted to speak to him privately, but I couldn’t help but eavesdrop. I dreaded the thought that there was no hope for the two of us, but if that was the case, I would like to know sooner rather than later.
"Seth," I heard her say, "there’s something I need to tell you."
Jessica must have caught him off guard because I heard a plate crash into the sink. Hopefully it hadn’t broken. "Um, funny you should say that, Jess,” Seth replied. “There’s something I need to say to you too."
"You first," she prompted.
Seth was slow to reply and I adjusted my position to better hear what he had to say. "Well, um, I think I was a little harsh on your friends Michael and Dennis. They care about you, and they aren’t half as bad as I thought they were."
Hazlitt was right. I do care a great deal for Jessica, but his comment made me wonder exactly what he meant by “they aren’t half as bad as I thought they were.”
Jessica sounded surprised. "That’s all?"
"Well, um, yes. I mean, given their tendencies for getting into mischief … I was just looking out for you, is all."
Mischief? I would hardly call my line of work ‘mischief.’
"Oh, that’s a relief," said Jessica. "I was beginning to think that you were jealous of them or something."
Of course he’s jealous! It seemed that Jessica was the only one who hadn’t picked up on the fact that Seth had romantic feelings for her. Takes one to know one, I guess.
"Uh, no, nothing like that," Hazlitt replied nervously. "Now you."
Bollocks! I exclaimed to myself. The good doctor was a horrible liar.
Jessica’s voice softened. "The pendant and the earrings are beautiful," she said. "But I have to confess … I found the scrap of paper in the book you gave me. I thought it might have something to do with the case, and I looked up the website – and that’s when I realized my mistake. I’m sorry."
"That’s all right, Jess," he said. "I shouldn’t have carelessly left it for you to find. After all, you can’t help what you are."
In my mind, I could see a faint smile cross Jessica’s face – a smile that mirrored my own. "No, I suppose not,” I heard her agree.
It was suddenly quiet. I peaked around the corner just in time to see Seth give Jessica a quick, friendly embrace – definitely not romantic, I thought, smiling inwardly.
"Now let’s get out there so you can cut that cake,” Seth suggested. “I’ve been looking forward to it all day!"