When the phone rang, I braced myself as I hit the speaker button.
“If you haven’t called to tell me I’m free to go home Mickey, you should just hang up now.”
“Sorry, Elise. I called to get some answers. The nasty part about being involved in murder, even remotely, is that everything about everyone gets investigated.” I heard an intake of breath on the other end of the line.
“I want permission to access your bank records. Some interesting facts have been brought to light.”
“Like what?” she hissed.
“Like your arrests for prostitution and fraud. You neglected to mention those to me. Ever.”
“So? You were a cop for god’s sake. You didn’t ask, and I didn’t tell. Those things were misunderstandings, anyway. I didn’t do much time. You knew damned well I wasn’t an angel.”
That was true enough. From the first time in the back seat of my Monte Carlo it was evident that Elise was no novice. Hell, the sex was always so hot – not to mention interesting – that I didn’t even care.
“Fair enough. Anything else you omitted, Elise?”
“You know, if you want my permission to look at my finances, you’d better change your tone, Mickey. I don’t know what you’re inferring, but I don’t like it.”
“I don’t need your permission, Elise. My partner is getting a court order in case you decide not to cooperate.”
“On what grounds?” she growled. She’d learned a few things during the years she was a cop’s wife.
“On the grounds your name was found in a murder victim’s check book.” I filled the silence with a smirk. The woman was finally speechless.
“That’s impossible,” she offered weakly.
“That’s what I thought. But I’m looking right at it. A quarter of a million dollars and you’re calling me for money? What was the money for, Elise? You gambling again?”
“My life is none of your business. And my attorney says I don’t have to stay in protective custody if I don’t want to, so I’m leaving. You are out of time with me, Mickey Holmes.”
“You are no longer in protective custody, lady. You’re the suspect in a murder investigation which means you’re now under arrest.”
I hung up the phone when I heard the knock on the hotel room door. Elise would be on her way to the Ocean County Sheriff’s office, if only for a few hours. I hoped it would buy me the time I needed to get more answers.
I pulled up to Joseph Oberhauser’s house and parked to the side of the large oval. The snow from the other night had been cleared. Cobblestones dried in the sunlight. I rang the bell.
“Detective,” Joseph said, taking my hand in his. “I knew we’d meet again. How are you doing with the investigation?”
“That’s why I’m here, Joseph. Some confusing things popped up.”
“What can I help you with?”
I smiled and pulled off my coat. Although I wasn’t happy in the shirt and tie, I played the part for this man. “Who are you, Joseph?”
His smile only faltered a second. “You know who I am.”
“Sure, I know who you are now. Who were you twelve years ago?”
“I’m sure I don’t know what you are asking, Detective. Do I need my lawyer? Am I under suspicion in the death of my wife?”
“The husband is always a suspect. But my job is to put profiles together on everyone in the case. My research on you starts eleven years ago. Can’t find any family business or any family at all for that matter. We did locate a Joseph Oberhauser, but he’s been dead almost sixty years. Know anything about that?”
Joseph’s robust color drained from his face but he remained silent. He got up and poured himself a brandy, then sat down on the couch across from me.
“You are going to have to come to the station to have your fingerprints processed, Joseph. We need to account for all the prints in your wife’s car. We’ll find out who you really are anyway.”
The good Reverend Oberhauser stood up and walked across the Alice in Wonderland floor and reached for the door.
“My attorney and I will be there, this afternoon, Detective. Until then, you and I are done talking.”
Just as I’d cleaned up the last of my lunch and tossed the brown bag in the trash basket, Patrolman Knight stopped in. “My report, sir.”
I took it and thanked him, but he stood uneasily in the doorway. “Anything else, Officer?”
He nodded, shifting his hat in his hands. “Yes sir. I saw the pictures of that woman. I know her.”
I smiled. “A lot of people know that face, son. Daphne was a professional model for years. You’ve probably seen her on magazine covers or television.”
“No sir, that’s not it. I saw her here. Just a few weeks ago.”
I stood up. “Are you sure, Knight? You saw her here in the station?”
“Yes sir. She was sitting outside in the waiting area when I came in with a transport. When I went back out front to see if she was being helped, she was gone. Nobody else had seen her. I thought maybe I’d imagined the whole thing.”
“Thank you, Knight. You’ve been a big help.”
The young man left my office, and now I had even more to chew on. As they often do, the puzzle had more pieces than I originally suspected. Cyrus appeared next.
“Safe to come in?” she asked, not waiting for my reply.
“What do you have, partner?” I pulled out a fresh notepad and got ready to jot down more questions.
“Elise Holmes has quite a portfolio. She’ll be able to retire long before you can.”
“What was the last deposit amount and when?”
“A hundred thousand dollars. The large dollar deposits don’t go to her bank account. They go directly into an investment account.”
“Is she using a fund manager or picking her own stock?”
“About half of it is stock. A publicly held corporation known as In God We Trust, Inc.”
“Damn. And let me guess, J. Oberhauser is the CEO.”
Megan smiled and the room lit up. I almost told her she should do it more often, but comments like that ended many a career these days. “Not exactly,” she said.
I sat in the observation booth while Megan Cyrus interrogated Elise. I watched with admiration as she came right to the point.
Elise didn’t blink an eye when confronted with her growing fortune or her association with the dead woman’s company. Her attorney sat quietly by her side, taking the occasional note and nodding yes or no to indicate reply authorization.
Her attorney allowed the questions to go on for twenty minutes, then stood and piled notes and pencils into her briefcase. “My client has answered your questions. She bought stock in the company of a good friend. That’s not illegal. She has not traded nor obtained that stock illegally. Do you intend to file some charge against her? If so, let’s get on with it. If not, we’re leaving.”
Megan stood and faced the seasoned lawyer. “If we can put your client at the scene, we’ll be charging her with murder, Counselor. I recommend you get the facts from her now.”
The lawyer pulled on her overcoat and laughed. “Witnesses? In a raging snow storm? I doubt it. However, if you are interested, my client does have a suggestion.”
Megan headed for the door, but remained cool, aloof. “And that might be what? That her ex-husband did it?” Elise laughed with glee, and I grit my teeth.
“Don’t be silly. Daphne’s husband did it.”
“Counselor, you may not be aware, but a second woman’s been murdered. By ice pick, no less. The next door neighbor of your client. Think the good Reverend killed her too?” Megan pulled open the door. “We’ll be in touch. Don’t go on any trips.”
I entered the conference room to speak with Joseph Oberhauser and his attorney. I was waiting for the fingerprint information to come back. If he’d been arrested any time in the past twenty years, we’d get a hit.
We shook hands like civilized men and took seats. The lawyer indicated, for the record of course, that his client had come in of his own free will and would cooperate in any way he could. He was after all, grief stricken and desperate to find his wife’s killer.
“Joseph, can you think of any reason why your wife would have been here in the barracks a couple of weeks ago?”
“I’m sure I have no idea. I didn’t know she was.”
“How much do you know about your wife’s life, Joseph? I was surprised to find out you’d entrusted your earthly gains to her.”
“It’s purely at matter of corporate structure, that’s all. Daphne was the CEO, I was the CFO. George here,” he said, nodding toward his lawyer,” is on the board, too. He’s the Secretary and Legal Advisor. It’s all quite legitimate, I assure you.”
“We’ll see. I’m waiting for the financial statements, now. Even privately held companies must provide them for investors, right?”
The lawyer spoke up. “Of course, but you are not an investor, Detective. You could of course, obtain an Annual Report.”
I smiled. “Yes, I could. But my ex-wife is an investor, isn’t she, Joseph?”
“I’m sure we have many investors, Mr. Holmes. I don’t know about your ex-wife.”
Megan appeared at the door and signaled thumbs up. Then she slipped me a piece of paper. My knees almost gave out. I turned to his smug counselor.
“Counselor, let me introduce you to Otto Josephson. ”
I had nothing to hold Josephson on, since name and career changes aren’t illegal, and I couldn’t prove his religious movement was a fraud. However, I did intend to have the IRS take a good look at his books, and warned his attorney to make sure the man stayed around.
I headed for the Captain’s office where I found my partner waiting for me. I dropped into the remaining chair, the tension in my six foot tall frame emphasized by a killer headache. “Well, I don’t know what we’ve found except a lot of people playing a lot of games.”
“I’ll say,” Megan muttered, looking at the Captain. He nodded.
“What’s up with you two?” I asked warily. “Another murder?”
“No, no more murders. But we did Elise’s fingerprints when she came in. Her name is not Elise Kenney.”
“Sure it is. We had to have raised seal birth certificates when we got our marriage license. I saw it.”
“Yeah, probably paid for by Otto Josephson. So much cheaper than divorce.”
“Spit it out, Cyrus,” I growled.
“Elise Kenney Holmes is really Lisa Needham. Wife of Otto Josephson.”
Damn. I’d married a prostitute and a bigamist. Nice going, Holmes. At least she isn’t a murderer, I thought to console myself.
“Should I continue?” asked Cyrus in her clipped, chip-back-on-her-shoulder tone of voice.
I didn’t bother to answer since the question was rhetorical. She handed me a copy of the marriage certificate issued by the City of Las Vegas.
“Bergen County Sheriff’s office got a lead. A neighbor saw Daphne at Elise’s house last Friday afternoon. Also saw the other victim come out of the house. Looked really upset.”
I leaned over and settled my elbows on my knees. I was so tired every muscle in my body ached. Did Daphne kill Marge? Did Josephson kill Daphne? How the hell did we prove anything? The snow storm had eliminated the crime scene and most of the forensic evidence. Elise’s fingerprints would have been in Marge’s house, but Daphne’s shouldn’t have been. Unless, unknown to me, they’d all become friends…
“You know, I have no idea where to go with this. I’m going home. I’m going to bed for eight hours, and in the morning I will try to sort it out.”
A commotion in the hallway caught our attention. Trained to react quickly to shouting voices, the three of us dropped to the floor, pulled our guns and belly crawled to the door. I opened it a crack. Then a little further. Most of our coworkers were behind furniture, judging by all the hands on the floor in my field of vision.
I made it across the hallway to an interview cubicle. I could hear Elise. Josephson was gasping for air. I rose up on my knees, Cyrus beside me. I whispered in her right ear. “I’m going closer. Maybe I can talk her down.”
“She’s not only a killer Mickey, she’s gone over the fine line. She may not hear you.”
I looked her in the eye. Some of this was my fault. I hadn’t had a clue and I should have. “I have to try,” I growled before I darted to the desk closest to the commotion. I could make out Josephson lying in a pool of blood, his attorney’s arms around him. A letter opener stuck out of his chest.
“Elise, talk to me. It’s Mick.”
She cackled and held the dispatcher’s gun to her attorney’s graying head. “I know who you are. You’re a piece of shit. You never thought I was good enough for you. Well, you were right, weren’t you?”
I lowered my weapon in hopes she’d lower hers. At least nine other guns including a shotgun were aimed at her. If she got me, she and the attorney would be toast. The attorney and I would be collateral damage. Like Marge. And Josephson. And maybe even Daphne.
“Tell me why, Elise. You killed the other four before Daphne, too, didn’t you?”
“Got your attention, didn’t it, Mr. Supercop?” The lady lawyer gasped as Elise jerked her head back even further. “No one has ever thought I was good enough. Well, the almighty preacher can just explain this to his Maker. We were going to be rich. Then he runs out, changes his name, leaves me in jail and marries a model who better suits his new image.”
I moved a few steps closer. “Why Marge, Elise? She was your friend.”
She nodded, the heavy handgun wavering in her hand. “I know, but she walked in the house when Daphne was trying to get me to take the quarter mill to get lost. Marge was making me crazy about how I should go to the police. She was going to go for me. Thought she was helping.” A tear coursed down her cheek.
I dove and dropped them both to the floor, slapping away the Glock in the process. Troopers of all ranks, size and sex piled on. When we were untangled, Elise was in custody, the attorney was in the arms of the Captain and Otto Josephson was as dead as his beautiful Daphne.
Megan Cyrus was visibly shaken as she stood at my side. “She’s the coldest woman I’ve ever seen, Mike.”
“Yup,” I said as I turned toward my office. “Cold as ice.”
Did you know that in addition to the Ebook and hard cover of The Method Writers and Fictitious Fiction, the paperback edition will be available in time for Christmas??? Stay tuned for more on that – and keep an eye out for that Kenny Black fella if you haven’t bought YOUR copy yet!! See you in two weeks.