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The dead man had obviously been coming into the room, but had only managed two or possibly three steps before he was shot.
"I'd guess he interrupted a robbery," Blair said. His voice held a considerable degree of sympathy.
Jim looked up from where he was kneeling beside the body lying on the floor to gaze around the cluttered room, shaking his head in what could only be called bewilderment. "It's possible, but how could anyone even see, in all that, that anything was missing," he said.
"He would probably have known." Blair indicated the corpse.
"How? And how would anyone breaking in manage to find anything worth stealing? Everything's just piled up... and a lot of it looks like junk. This looks to me like a hoarder's den, not a collection of anything valuable."
Blair moved away from the body and began to examine the items that littered the room. "Yeah, you do get people who can't bear to throw anything away, no matter how useless it is," he agreed. "I knew a kid once... his pockets were usually stuffed with candy wrappers. He only had them because they were around candy he'd bought, but he reckoned he'd paid for them and he wasn't going to throw away something he'd paid for. Every now and then his Mom went through his pockets and emptied them. I don't know if he ever outgrew that," he added. "We moved away... " He drifted on around the room. "I don't think this is just a hoard of stuff like that, though. There does seem to be a bit of selectivity... I think he was a collector, rather than a hoarder."
"Much the same thing, surely. Anyway, don't collectors just stick with one thing?" Jim asked.
"A lot of the time," Blair agreed. "I collected basketball cards when I was a kid - didn't take up much space, easy to cart around any time Naomi moved us on. There was just one thing in my basketball collection that took up much space... " He tailed off, a reminiscent note in his voice.
"Go on." Blair so seldom spoke of his past, Jim surprised himself by his anxiety to hear more.
"I had a ball. Got it autographed by all the Jags team at the time - "
"As well as the card Orvelle Wallace signed?" Jim remembered.
"Yes. But though I never lost my liking for basketball, I outgrew the collecting - a lot of kids do - and sold most of the cards I had. Kept the one Orvelle signed, though. Sold the ball, too - it was too difficult to carry it around. I think... I think it was deciding it wasn't practical to keep the ball that made me decide to stop collecting stuff. Even later, when I got into anthropology - I got a few things here and there, but it wasn't a collection of anything specific, just some representative samples of things, one or two presents I was given or craft items I bought to support a tribe..." He shook his head, as if bringing his attention back to the present. "Some collectors, though, go though what you might call phases; they collect one thing then although they haven't lost interest in it, they move on to collect something else. Or their interests are varied, and they collect things to cover all their interests. I think this guy was like that."
"There's some good stuff here, and some of it - collector's editions of several things, for example, is relatively new."
"Worth stealing?" Jim asked.
"So the dead man heard something, came to see what it was... "
"Looks like it," Blair agreed.
Jim looked around the room again. "So how did he get in? The window's broken, but - " He crossed quickly to the window and looked out. "It was broken from the inside. All the glsss is out there in the garden."
"So whoever killed him got into the room through the door?"
"Meaning it had to have been someone he knew."
"His wife said she heard the shot, and ran in... "
Jim nodded. "I think we need to have a word with her. Where is she?" He was already turning towards the door.
They found her in the living room, two policewomen sitting with her. She had clearly been crying, but was trying to answer the questions being put to her.
"Hello, Detective... Blair," one of the policewomen said.
"Hi," Blair said.
"If I might interrupt?" Jim said, though it was clearly not a request. He turned to the widow. "Mrs. Davis, does anyone else live in the house?"
"No. Just Terry and me."
"No visitors just before this happened?" Ah. Her heartbeat had suddenly soared.
"No. I heard the shot and ran in... the window was broken, Terry was on the floor... I went over to him, but it... it was obvious he was dead and I called the police... "
"But whoever killed Mr. Davis didn't come in by the window, because all the glass is outside. How did he get in?"
She stared at Jim. Her heart was pounding so fast, he was surprised she didn't have a heart attack.
"I don't think there was a third person involved," Jim said, almost gently. "I think you went into the room either a few steps in front of Mr. Davis or you were already there when he entered, and you shot him."
"Why?" Blair asked, equally gently. "Did you resent the amount of money he spent on his collecting? Did you think that if he didn't waste money on all that stuff, you'd be rich?"
She looked at Blair. "You understand," she said.
"I think maybe I do."
"It wasn't so bad when we first married. He'd inherited the house from his parents, and although he had that room where he'd been collecting stuff since he was quite young, he was... I suppose you'd say more selective about it. But then he got more and more obsessed with adding stuff, saying it was an investment. Eventually everything he earned went on buying more and more junk to clutter up that room. I had to work to get enough money to buy food and pay the bills, save a little in a seperate bank account I opened so there'd be something for emergencies. I'd begun to think that I should leave him, try to make a new life for myself. And then I discovered that he had forged my signature so he could withdraw money from my account - he stole my money so he could buy something more for his collection. It was too much... "
The two policewomen took her away. As their car drove off, Jim and Blair looked at each other.
"You know," Blair said. "I don't think I'd ever have developed that degree of obsession, but I'm glad I outgrew my urge to collect things."