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Guardian Angel. By Martin Green.


It started as a routine crime drama; something like, say, Law and Order. Two young ambitious secretaries at the Ashfeld-Rumsworth advertising agency, coming into the office early to impress their bosses, found the body. The DOA (to use a technical term) was Milton Ashfeld, the senior partner, found slumped over his desk, dead, his head bashed in by a metal statuette, an award from Advertising Age.

The two detectives, Lupo and Green, examined the body. Cause of death was obvious; time, judging from body temperature was sometime late at night. Earl Peebles, one of the building janitors, who was in charge of the two floors in which the advertising agency was housed, said he'd finished cleaning Ashfeld's office by nine PM and the senior partner was still there, so the murder occurred sometime after that. Questioning of agency employees revealed that Ashfeld was brilliant, arrogant, ruthless, bullying, hit on any good-looking girl who worked there, and had a host of enemies in the industry..

One of the good-looking girls Ashfeld had recently hit on was a young copywriter named Marilyn Roberts, who was from the Midwest and had been working there just a few months.. He'd asked her out for drinks, then had her come to his luxurious hotel suite, to discuss some copy ideas, he'd said, kissed her and tried to do worse but, she said, she'd managed to get away from him and ran out the door. That had been a few nights ago. On the night of the murder (around midnight, CSI had determined) she'd been home in her modest apartment; her roommate confirmed this. There were plenty of other suspects to go.

* * *

My name is Earl Peebles and I'm a janitor at the Ashfeld-Rumsworth advertising agency. When Marilyn Roberts came to work for the agency I immediately noticed her. She was beautiful, long blonde hair, large innocent blue eyes, lips as red as strawberries. She was not only beautiful, she was intelligent, friendly and charming. I came around one evening when she was working late and, unlike most people, she didn't ignore me. She asked me my name, where I lived, how long I'd been in the city. She told me that coming to New York was like a dream.

When I returned to my small place in Manhattan, affordable because it was rent-controlled, I told my cat Guenevere all about Marilyn. She's like a princess. But she's so trusting and naïve. She must be protected. Luckily I'm here to do it, Guenevere. I'm going to be her guardian angel. Then, after finishing my supper, I once again read my favorite book, the Morte d'Arthur. Oh, how I wished I lived in those days, when knights protected damsels against villains.

Milton Ashfeld was a villain. I wasn't surprised when he noticed Marilyn and began asking her into his office. The next step was to ask her out for drinks. . I wish I'd been able to follow and protect her, but I had to be at work. The next evening, I started work early and came into her office while she was still there. I could see she was distressed. Her eyes were red and her face pale. I spoke to her gently and she told me what had happened. I was incensed. I told her that there were men like that in the city and that she had to avoid them. But I knew that Ashfeld wouldn't give up after that one setback; he'd keep after her. And he was a powerful man. There was only one thing to do.

I waited a few nights, then came the chance I was waiting for. Ashfeld was still in his office when I came in to clean it. "Working late, sir?" I asked.

He didn't even bother to look up; I was just the janitor. "Yeah, got a big client meeting tomorrow." I left, then came back at midnight. He was still there, still bent over his desk. Again, he didn't look up. I picked up the heavy statuette. He never knew what hit him.

* * *

Lupo and Green looked into all of Ashfeld's activities and came up with some interesting discoveries. He'd had an affair with his partner Rumsworth's wife, but Rumsworth had been out the country at the time of the murder. He seemed to have hit on every female employee of the agency and Lupo and Green spent hours interviewing the women, their boy friends and a few husbands. They also found something else. Ashfeld had been systematically skimming off money from the agency. He'd accumulated millions in an offshore account. But before they could investigate further the FBI stepped in, saying they'd been watching Ashfeld for three years as part of an ongoing operation. They couldn't say what it was about but it had to do with national security. Lupo and Green reported this to the DA, who then got into a jurisdictional dispute with the FBI that promised to last forever. Lupo and Green hadn't questioned the janitor, Earl Peebles, since that first day.

* * *

I'm happy to say that the murder of Milton Ashfeld is still unsolved. If the police had found someone I'd have to step forward and confess. As it is, I'm still keeping watch over my princess, Marilyn Roberts. She's become a little more sophisticated, but she's still very trusting. Of late, another copywriter. Peter Cheney, has been dropping into her office. He's obviously taken with her, as he should be. He seems like a nice young man, but I'm keeping my eye on him. If his intentions are anything other than honorable, I'll know what I have to do. I'm her guardian angel.

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