The next morning, Greg was kneeling in front of unit four’s back door with a pen cap and an old bank card in his hands. Ellie stood behind him, watching him work.
“Since when did you know how to pick locks?” she asked.
“You mean I didn’t tell you about my history as a cat burglar?”
“No. I think you forgot to clue me in on that bit of your darkened past.”
“Well, when I was young and hungry and in dire need of food, I used to break into people’s houses and burgle their cats.”
“Alf never broke into anyone’s home.”
“But he ate cats.”
“And so do I. Or do you not remember?”
Greg smiled at her. Ellie smiled back, blushing a little at his bawdy remark. “Stop it, Greg. Seriously, how do you know about picking locks?”
“Well, back when I was a pot-smoker and a womanizer, I used to sneak out, a lot. I learned how to pick locks as a way to get back in quietly.”
“Why didn’t you just leave your window cracked?”
“Because we lived in a bad neighborhood and I didn’t want anyone crawling in.”
“If it was just slightly cracked, they’d never know.”
He shrugged. “You never know.”
Ellie shook her head. “That’s just stupid, Greg.”
“Well, I was young, horny and high. You can’t hold that against me. Those offenses are now expunged.”
They had spent a few minutes checking the front and back around Ms. Peabody’s unit and found nothing of consequence. Before setting about picking the locks, Greg had checked the windows only to find them locked. They also rifled through her garbage and peeped on her mail (not opening it, of course), combed the bushes out front and the alleys between the buildings. Nothing.
“The beauty about these doorknobs is that they are about as generic as you can get. They are practically no better than interior locks for bedroom doors, probably less dependable, actually. All it takes is the right snap and the lock is opened.”
After jiggling the cap inside the lock for a few seconds, he pushed and turned and there was a click. He started turning the knob back and forth.
“See?” he said.
“Okay, what about the deadbolt?”
“Well, I was looking at it and it’s so old I’d be willing to bet it’s the original. Which means two things: judging by the age of this complex, it’s well passed worn out; and also, it’s probably about the deadbolt equivalent of that crumby doorknob. All I have to do is push the door in just enough to slide this card between the bolt and the inside of the lock, and I should be able to force it open.”
“You mean you don’t think it’s been changed even though other people have moved in and out of here?”
“Probably not. I doubt they do it of their own volition. Why do you think I had Rick change the locks when we moved in?”
Greg fidgeted with the knob while pushing the door in and out, trying to find the right spot for the card.
“I feel like such an outlaw watching you work,” Ellie said flatly.
“It’s exhilarating isn’t it?”
“Yeah. I’m getting turned on.”
“Cool,” Greg said, forcing the old bank card into the crack by the deadbolt.
It only took a few seconds of jimmying before the lock pushed back with a clunk and Greg pushed open the door.
“Voila,” he said.
Ellie looked genuinely surprised. “Cool. You actually did it.”
“Did you not have faith in me?”
“I didn’t know you could be such a criminal.”
“Oh wait, it gets better.” Greg reached into his pockets and produced a pair of blue latex gloves and thrust them at Ellie. “Make sure to wear these.”
She took them and put them on. “Golly, you thought of everything.”
Greg pulled out another pair and slid them onto his own hands. “Okay, remember, no deep digging, no lights, and no moving stuff around. In case Ms. Peabody comes back, we don’t want her knowing anyone was in here.”
“Why not? The cops were here. It’s not like she could trace it back to us.”
“Well, perhaps, but just in case,” he said and walked in.
The kitchen was first. There was a small table with a vase of red and yellow flowers on it, and a few pans on the stove. There was no microwave, but there was a refrigerator. A few small dishes were in the sink and there was no bag in the garbage can. Greg noticed that.
“You think somebody took it out?”
“Well, someone did,” Greg said. “But, that’s not the point. Why did they take it out?”
“Because it was full?”
“Yes. But of what?”
“Or Ms. Peabody?”
Ellie shook her head. “No. That can is small. She couldn’t fit in that.”
“If she was diced up she could have.”
“That’s disgusting, Greg.”
“The police said they didn’t see anything. If someone was in here butchering Ms. Peabody, there would have been some blood or something.”
“Maybe not,” Greg protested. “They could have cleaned it up, or laid down sheets before going to work.”
Ellie thought about it and realized with horror that Greg could be right. “How could you even think of that?”
He shrugged. “I don’t know. I read a lot?”
“Too much,” Ellie nodded.
They looked around the kitchen for a few minutes, gently going through drawers and cabinets. Greg found a thin metal canister full of bills and other papers and checked it, finding nothing useful. Ellie thought to check the calendar to see if anything of importance had been marked. There was nothing. Greg opened the dishwasher, the fridge, and the stove for clues, but came up empty-handed.
“Guess the kitchen is clear,” he said with a hint of dejection.