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WHO KILLED THE BILLIONAIRES?

A billionaire couple are found murdered in the backyard of their mansion in Toronto’s tony Kingsway area. The husband and wife were thought to be pillars of the community, public benefactors who endowed many charities with their fabulous resources. Who would want such paragons dead and posed so bizarrely in death? That the question Inspector Cameron Rande must try to answer after using his clout as head of the Toronto Police Service Homicide Division to force himself into the investigation. Rande might have been smarter to ride his desk while his minions sought answers.

So, Who did kill the billionaires? Some police departments, including Toronto’s, has been asking that question. Does Rande get farther than the real-life sleuths?

Here’s Chapter One of the thriller by G. R. Daniels, available at #AmazonBooks and other ebook sites.

WHO KILLED THE BILLIONAIRES

CHAPTER ONE

Phil Bender looked across the polished surface of the table dominating the conference room into the pale blue eyes of the man who was doing his best to bankrupt Phil’s company and to ruin the future of his family.

Elgin Weatherbee seemed so benign, friendly even. Beside Weatherbee was Frank Liederman, his pit bull, and the soft-featured Weatherbee left it to the hatchet-faced, gray-haired lawyer to rip out Bender’s throat.

The plumber, Bender, had his own lawyer but Bender couldn’t resist. “Come on, there couldn’t have been crap on your floor. Maybe some water but…” He came to a sputtering stop as Sally Starr held up her hand.

“Let me handle it, Phil.” Starr turned to Liederman across the table. “I think that’s hyperbole, Frank,” she said mildly. “I wish you would stick to the facts.”

“Those are the facts, Sally,” said Liederman gruffly. My client, Mr. Weatherbee, states that the toilet overflowed and that human waste flooded his bathroom. He will have to have the entire floor – and it’s a marble floor – replaced at a heavy cost. There is no way Mr. Weatherbee should have to pay this cost. It is up to Mr. Bender to redress his negligence, incompetence and breach of contract.”

“You are asking that my client pays more than two million dollars to your client,” groused Starr, “so Mr. Weatherbee can bring in another plumber to put in a new toilet. That’s what all this amounts to, Frank. And your client knows it. A new toilet worth less than a thousand dollars. And you want two mil.”

Weatherbee smiled across the table and maintained his warm gaze into Phil Bender’s brown and very angry eyes.

Elgin Weatherbee appeared so understanding. Bender knew that Weatherbee understood. The pudgy-faced Weatherbee understood that he was ruining a simple, reputable plumbing company whose owner had made the simple mistake of working for the Weatherbee’s home contractor.

Weatherbee knew what he was doing but didn’t care. He enjoyed using his wealth and the law against lesser beings. The courts were a tool to hammer down anyone he encountered, like nails into wood. It didn’t matter whether these nails were working for him or arranged against him, they were there to be pounded down. They were there to hold the Weatherbee power in place above the hoi polloi. If he let people like Phil Bender move upward on his dollar, the whole floor could move and Elgin Weatherbee could be standing on an infirm platform.

In this case, the platform was Elgin’s $10 million home, a house he had bought three years ago and had been renovating ever since. Today was the deposition of Phil Bender, his telling of his side of the story in a pre-trial exploration of the ‘facts’ of the case being pressed by the Weatherbees, Elgin and his wife. The couple’s ‘facts’ were told in a Statement of Claim:

“Elgin Weatherbee and Virginia Weatherbee, own and occupy a luxury, detached house in Toronto in the area of Etobicoke and on the western bank of the Humber River. They allege that the renovation has been hampered by six major construction defects. One claim is that the toilet in the master bedroom’s ensuite bathroom was installed incorrectly through the incompetence of the plumbing firm, the negligence of the plumber’s employee and in breach of the contract between the plumbing company, P. J. Bender Inc., and the Contractor, Dreamy Homes Inc., both of Toronto. The incorrect installation of the toilet caused an overflowing of human waste and water that flooded the bathroom, the adjoining bedroom and areas beneath the bathroom.”

The Weatherbees claim went on to encompass the work not only of P. J. Bender Inc. but the renovation contractor, engineers and even the realtor who sold them the house three years before.

While Bender’s company was being sued for $2 million, the total claims of the Weatherbees amounted to $12 million or $2 million more than the couple paid for the home originally. It was a typical legal action brought by Elgin Weatherbee, the benign, soft-looking, almost palsy man in the rumpled checked sports jacket and cheap pants sitting at the conference table.

The Weatherbees owned a large, prosperous, technology company based in Toronto and were worth an estimated $2 billion.

 Elgin Weatherbee sat silently while his lawyer eviscerated Phil Bender. Eventually, the billionaire strolled out of the conference room, said a quick goodbye, but gave no thanks to his attorney, and went to his second appointment of the day.

The ballroom at the hotel on Bloor Street was full of people milling about, some with drinks in their hands. It was coming up to 11 a.m. and most of the crowd expected to be out of the room in time for lunch. They applauded loudly as Elgin Weatherbee entered. He was the man they expected, the paunchy, rumpled, very rich philanthropist who never met a charity he didn’t endow.

Elgin’s wife, Virginia, was the first one to go to Elgin who was standing just inside the ballroom with a bemused look on his chubby face. He wasn’t wearing his horn-rimmed spectacles and his eyes were wide as he looked around. He smiled as Virginia took his arm.

“Hello, darling. You’re just in time. How did the morning go?” She studied him closely with her violet eyes. He was ten years older and she constantly assessed his physical and mental health as though he would fall apart and start babbling any minute. So far, he had held up well. She had too, thanks to expensive cosmetics, the occasional nip and tuck and a general lack of stress.

“Fine,” Elgin answered with a smirk. Quickly, he lost the conceit, trading it for modest appreciation of the applause. Virginia led him to the podium on the other side of the room as the crowd parted like the Red Sea.

“Ladies and gentlemen,” Virginia said in a loud voice. Her commanding tone carried to every corner of the room over the loudspeaker system. Everyone stopped their chatter and turned to her. Every person there smiled in welcome and respect for the golden couple.

“I want to thank you for coming here today. This is my husband, Elgin…” The mere mention of his name brought a thunderous ovation from the adoring audience. A few sports fans began to chant ‘Elgin, Elgin’ until Virginia held up her long fingers laden with three rings of solid gold and diamonds. “… who is joining me in announcing today a gift of one million dollars to Nurses Beyond Borders.” There was more applause.

Virginia went on to describe what NBB was doing abroad and what the organization could do with the cheque she was now waving above her head. While she repeated several times that her husband was helping to announce the gift, he said not a word. He stood beside his well-preserved wife and smiled just as he had done when facing Phil Bender an hour previously.

The gift-giving ceremony ended abruptly at 11:30 a.m. when Virginia handed the cheque to the executive director of NBB giving the flustered woman no opportunity to speak to the crowd. Clutching the cheque in her hand, the director was escorted from the stage by a security guard and was swallowed in the throng. By the time the last clapping died, Virginia and Elgin had left. It had been a perfect occasion and everyone was in time for lunch elsewhere. The Weatherbees were such wonderful people and generous to a fault.

Virginia Weatherbee had a lunch date with one of her friends from Toronto’s Rosedale. The two were going shopping after their meal and that would take the rest of the day.

Elgin’s limo was waiting curbside when he left the hotel. The driver of the vehicle, Lanny Meldrum, was one of three people who worked for the Weatherbees. One of the others was a housekeeper and the last was a gardener. The Weatherbees tolerated these three who put up with the strange habits and customs of the billionaire couple. They had driven off the others who had served their personal and household needs. Now, the Weatherbees hired temps whenever they wanted something beyond their capabilities.

“The office, sir?” Meldrum was used to Elgin’s routine. He should be used to it since Elgin was the definition of a creature of habit. Elgin stepped into the back seat of the car without a word and Meldrum closed the door behind him. He returned to the driver’s seat and drove away from the hotel, heading for the headquarters of Weatherbee Technologies.

Elgin had a corned beef sandwich with a cola while sitting behind the big, ornate desk in his office. His office was surprisingly old-fashioned for the CEO of a large technology company. The truth was that Elgin, who had an engineering degree from Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, didn’t care much for advanced technology. He knew about it, certainly. It just didn’t fill him with enthusiasm. He enjoyed other things more, like suing people or giving small amounts like a million dollars away to causes that sounded good in print.

About Sandi Ralph

I am an artist living and working in Toronto. My work can be seen at Oeno Gallery, Prince Edward County, Ontario, Canada House Trafalgar Square, London U.K. I am a member of Gallery 44 Centre for Contemporary Photography, Open Studio, Toronto and Centre 3, Hamilton Ontario

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