Cold Case, Hot Bodies(6)

By: Jule McBride

He was hardly a miracle worker. “I’m on an arson case.”

“Nope,” countered Eliana. “I tried to call you earlier, and wound up talking to Pat. He said you got bumped down to desk duty because you were dating criminals, and I told Pop.”

Chalk one up to sibling rivalry, but Sheila Carella wasn’t exactly a felon. “She forgot to pay her parking tickets,” Dario reminded in a hushed tone.

“A hundred of them?” returned Eliana.

Then Luther captured their attention. He was speaking again. “Gem O’Shea may have been the madam of Angel’s Cloud, but no one’s sure. We do know that her death in a carriage accident was rumored to have been a murder. She was believed to have a son, but he vanished, the father unknown. We have found a record of his son, however. He married a maidservant named Bridget in 1910. She had a daughter, Emma, who had Fiona, who had Erin, who—”

“Should be none of my business,” Beppe finished.

“Not so,” countered Luther. Erin is the mother of Cassidy Case.” Approaching the bench, he showed a letter to Judge Zhang. “Cassidy forwarded a copy of this letter to the museum. As you can see, it indicates that a will existed, giving Cassidy’s ancestor, Gem, all rights to the property in question.”

Beppe gasped. “Who wrote the letter?”

“Clearly, the owner of the property,” said Luther. “But it’s signed only, ‘your beloved.’”

“The property has been in the Donato family for over a century,” countered Beppe.

“Cassidy will be in town next week, with part of the actual will, as well,” Luther went on. “Legally, Mr. Donato may have only squatter’s rights to this property, Judge Zhang.”

“You say…” Judge Zhang stared down at his notes “…Mr. Case is going to be here next week, with the documents?”

“On Tuesday,” Luther confirmed.

“We’ll reconvene then,” said Judge Zhang. “Ten o’clock.”

“There’s just one problem,” said Chuckie Haswell, speaking for the first time. “Because my firm, Haswell Realty, had hoped to make Mr. Donato an offer on this property, we’ve been doing our own research.” Heading to the bench, he put a folder in front of Judge Zhang. “As these documents prove, the property was owned by my ancestor, Nathaniel Haswell. Even if Angelo Donato had wished to will the property to Gem O’Shea, it wasn’t his to give. He was a front man for Nathaniel Haswell. To protect his reputation, my ancestor only used Angelo Donato to conceal the true ownership of Angel’s Cloud—”

“Used Angelo?” Beppe shook his head. “The first guy wants to declare my building a landmark, so I can’t sell it, and now this one’s saying I don’t even own it.” Hearing his father’s disbelief, Dario winced. Beppe had hoped to use proceeds from a sale to pay for Eliana’s elaborate wedding.

“As you’ll see,” continued Chuckie, “Nathaniel Haswell willed the property to his son, Dirk, and his wife, Isme. The original records, of which you now have copies, are still on file at the courthouse.”

Judge Zhang said, “This is all the more reason to reconvene next week. Then we can take a look at whatever documentation Cassidy Case is bringing to town.”

“Next week!” exploded Brice. “On behalf of the tenants, I have to protest! We’ve already had a cold snap, and the boiler didn’t come on. And like I said, there’s something fishy happening. We hear music late at night. Sounds of dancing. I’m a reasonable man, Judge Zhang, and I don’t believe in ghosts, but—”

“Apparently, Officer Donato has promised to oversee the property during this upcoming week, as a favor to his father,” Judge Zhang said. “That means you’ll have on-site police protection until the matter is resolved.” The judge’s dark eyes landed on Dario. “Am I right?”

Dario bit back a sigh of annoyance. He hadn’t anticipated the dovetailing cases to entail him moving into an old brothel. “Absolutely, sir.”

“Then I’ll see you next week. Mr. Matthews, you may inform Mr. Case.”

A second later, Bianca said a quick goodbye and forced Beppe toward the door, clearly fearing he’d unleash his temper on Chuckie, Brice or Luther, and Dario took the opportunity to open the folder Luther had given him, feeling glad he wasn’t going to have to hunt for a cold case to work on. He’d never heard of Gem O’Shea, much less her possibly unsolved murder, but now it looked as if he could both help his dad and appease his boss by delving into the matter.