"Look, Saks, wrap this up quick. Ok, you know what I mean. I mean we are on the verge of winning the league since Cosmo Iacavcazzi ran the ball. This is big, Saks. We beat Yale Saturday, go undefeated and win the Ivy. I know, I know, you’re not from here, a transplant, a guy with no roots. But Christ Saks solve this case, get that body out of the Nassau and it never happened.”
Thus spoke Princeton’s illustrious police chief who was in no mood for a death investigation at the Nassau Inn that in 24 hours would be filled with Princeton alumni dating back to 1919 to watch a 9-0 Princeton football team finally beat Yale and take the trophy. The town always had its normal sense of entitlement but this year, this November, Princeton was destined. Besides that, if all the stay-at-home moms put the black and orange on their Range Rovers, that meant PU had to win. Besides being promised A’s on all their work, undergraduates were promised an Ivy League football title. If they were promised, then it had to be. How could parents explain to little Hansen and Piper that Princeton lost?
Princeton had more likes on Facebook, they had to win. Twitter wars between New Haven and Princeton ran more intense than an eighth grader’s SAT prep course. Hotels all around the area were booked, Gulfstream jets were scheduled to fly into Mercer Airport, and even the governor was staying in the Garden State for the weekend.
That mattered little to Detective Billy Saks. Saks was assigned to investigate the death of Elden Morris. A maid found Elden unresponsive lying face up with a dumb stare as if Elden just embarrassed himself by dying in the Nassau Inn. The problem was that Elden died on Thursday before Saturday’s game. The chief actually wondered if Elden knew he was going to die and was actually a Yale supporter trying to ruin Princeton’s economy and magic.
Saks took the Princeton job because it paid $30,000 more than Blairstown. It was not to work for a brilliant chief. But it was a tad odd that a man died in room 305 at the Nassau Inn just before the championship. Even Saks, a cynic since age three, was fighting the conspiracy.
Saks walked into the Nassau with his detective shield hanging on his overcoat and toward the elevator when a sloppy gap toothed drunk with a tweed jacket and big orange button reading F Yale on it ran up to him and blabbered, “Hey officer, was he a Yale man?”
Billy Saks learned to play the game working in Princeton but he never liked it. He hated having to spend four hours performing an investigation into the theft of a deck chair at some financial guy’s home near the Hun School. And trying to explain to a parent that another fourth grader shooting a spit ball at her kid was not really assault with intent to maim. But the pay, oh Christ, the money was great. It was Saks’ greatest weakness. He disliked the rich Princeton intelligentsia but envied their money.
One night Saks found a BMW some kid from Trenton took for a joy ride from a lawyer who lived off Vandeventer. Saks brought the car back and the owner actually whipped out $500 and tipped Saks. Saks took the five bills and went to Atlantic City that weekend. He knew deep down he was a concierge with a badge in Princeton but he tried to fool himself that early in his career he actually hustled and worked the street in Jersey City. But after the injury he was not the same man.
The first thing that jumped out at Saks was Elden’s large purple lips. There were no signs of violence, a struggle, nor was there a hint of illegal activity prior to death. This was some poor shlub who died in a comfortable bed in an expensive room; a room that really needed to be cleaned soon.
“Please sir, please, how long do you think it will take to finish and get him out of here? I have early check-ins for our Ivy League package.”
Saks ignored the assistant manager as he looked over at the bed table and saw an 8×11 while envelope. Suicide note? No. Maybe. “Leave now pal… This is a police investigation. Close the door.” Saks walked around the bed seizing on that envelope when he smelled Elden’s last physical action on this earth. Can you still fart when you’re dead? I don’t know. I heard of their nails or hair growing, but not bowel movements. Whatever.
Saks could see writing on the front of the envelope. Maybe a tip. Nope. It read, “Please Open If I Die” Holy crap. Saks ran around the bed, fell into the desk, bounced off the chair like Keith Elias in ’92, hit the door, and locked it. Saks felt a drug high as he sat down next to its author on the bed and read.
To whom it may concern:
First, I shower every night before I go to bed so if you happen to find me, I am clean. I cannot promise what happens after I am gone, but I showered just in case. Second, I apologize. No one should have to see a corpse in a hotel bed. I am sorry if I cause you any inconvenience and I especially apologize if you need therapy for finding me. I will handle that later. I am also sorry I have not taken better care of myself. I travel three weeks out of every month and do not eat well. It’s not that I do not have the means to eat in a good restaurant, but I enjoy bad food and I hate to exercise. I never stay in a hotel with a pool.
This letter should act as my last will and testament I live alone and have no relatives. I was never married and had no children through any sexual liaison. I do not even watch pornography in the hotel room. And by the way I am not naked. I always sleep in shorts and a t-shirt so if I die no one will have to view my body.
I have worked very hard my entire life. I have made good, honest choices, and except for my diet, I am a good person.
To the police who I have always admired. I do not do any kind of illegal narcotics. I abhor drugs although my mother made me take “happy pills” when I was a boy to stave off anxiety and feelings of sorrow. But pushed through it, graduated high school, attended and completed a very impressive university, and took a position as a salesman. I have been with the same company since 1981. I have lived a good life with no real regrets.
As I do not have anyone to take care of my body, please cremate me in a local funeral parlor and spread my ashes, if possible, and conditions permitting, in the nearest body of water. Before arriving in Princeton I was in Boston. In my last letter I instructed the funeral professionals to spread my ashes in the Boston Harbor. As I am in Princeton, please deposit me in the D&R Canal.
As for my estate. I am worth nearly 6 million dollars. I want that money to go to the person who found my body. I stay in hotels all over the country and the people always nicest and most considerate towards me were the maids and servers. I know it will be an early morning maid who will find me. My money is for them. They value things most of us never will.
I instruct Mr. R. Bartholomew Smith to provide the person who finds me with all of my possessions including my baseball card collection. I own my late mother’s home in Greenwich, Connecticut. After my mother dies you can have the house and the summer home on Cape Cod.
I do not have friends to speak of so please treat me with kindness and a little respect. I am tired of writing these letters but have been doing so since I started traveling to ensure the person who finds me will be rewarded and know what to do.
I truly hope I have not inconvenienced anyone with my death and please no obituary as I want to remain
Anonymous except to my attorney. My life was bittersweet. I find people and living…
The door seemed to slam as the knocking forced Saks to stop reading what his ultimate lottery ticket was now. All the while reading Saks knew he was the man who found Elden Morris of Greenwich.
“Open the door Saks.”
“I’m coming, Chief.”
Saks opened the door and gave a hurried explanation that he needed privacy to look around. The letter was in Saks’ jacket pocket as he fought the energy running up and down his body.
“Is it what I thought?”
“Oh yeah, Chief. Real simple. Natural causes definitely. No problem. His ID is here and I’ll look for a next of kin.”
“Good, just get him out of here and write up the report. Not even the papers know about this. I think we can keep it quiet until Monday, OK Saks?”
“Yes sir, no problem sir.”
“Are there any witnesses?”
How do you mean sir?”
“Well, it was a maid that initially found the guy, fright? Just take a statement and forget. She probably can’t speak English anyway. Just get it done, Saks.”
“Got it boss. No worries. No tweets, just kidding.”
“Poor bastard. I hope he at least had a good last dinner.”
Three Months Later. “He was in San Francisco and we had a scare. His constant panic attacks made him go to the hospital because he thought he was having a heart attack. He left the letter on the desk. It was not even finished. He usually puts his philosophy on life at end, but it ended abruptly.”
The translator relayed the lawyer’s words from English to Spanish.
“So, this hotel bus boy finds the letter and thinks he hit Park Place. He calls me up and says he gets the money. The kid thought my client died and someone must have forgot the letter.”
The woman shook her head and smiled.
“So, you see Mrs. Cortez, from that point on I told Elden he had to keep two letters and put one in a safe. Elden followed my advice. You see, Elden was a very kind man who did not believe humans could be so greedy as to take advantage of a dead man’s wishes with the dead guy right next to him. I looked out for Elden when no one else would. So with that, my dear woman, here is your check.
Jason Blum is an aspiring writer who works full time for the federal government. He maintains residences in central New Jersey and northern Virginia. His goal is to one day write a novel and a screenplay. He and his wife are the proud parents of a six year old rescue beagle named Nola.