Even ROGUES really love their Mums!!!!!
Happiest of Mother’s Days to all!!!
Dorian, Georgie Mae, David and Marty
Even ROGUES really love their Mums!!!!!
Happiest of Mother’s Days to all!!!
Dorian, Georgie Mae, David and Marty
All of us Rogues – the MW team,
Wish you good things for year 2014!
Good health, happy writing,
And good books by the score –
May your new year find you joyous, wealthy, and more!
No, it is NOT Santa Claus. Well, at least not yet. But it’s almost as good!
With the annual Florida Writers Association conference in Lake Mary coming up, I heard that my good buddies Georgie Mae and David Haas are going to be up for an award!!! So, you’d better believe I’m going to be there come Saturday!
Marty’s not going to be able to join us – he’s off being a terrific dad, but we know he’ll be there in spirit … and I even heard that Georgie Mae has been out looking for a Halloween Costume that will knock your socks off. We might get a picture here later this week.
And we’ve even discussed maybe a little contest for our followers! Track us down! Hope to see you there!!!
MORE TO FOLLOW…
Travelling at the speed of light has its consequences. Recovery requires down time. Rest. Relaxation. Time to re-discover goals, dreams and abilities. Time to make new plans, new time lines, new friends and associations. We’ve discussed the possibility of a sequal to The Method Writers since so many readers have sent us AWESOME comments and reviews. Time will tell.
While we’re off for now, we wish everyone of our readers, fans and followers, the very best Christmas, Hanukah, Ramadan, Kwanza, Winter Solstice, or whatever winter holiday you celebrate. And a truly awesome 2013, as well. One that is full of awe and wonder and miracles, both large and small.
Be well, stay happy and remember to follow your dreams. Just pace yourself! If you need to contact any of us, refer to the ABOUT US tab to get to our individual websites and emails. We’d love to hear from you!
Nancy Q./Dorian N.
I called Elise at the hotel. I was secured in my office; the officer assured me the ex was still safe and sound. And asleep. I asked her to have Elise call me in the next half hour.
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.
“I know, Elise, but this is for your good. You want to become the next corpse on this guy’s list? It’s possible that could happen, you know. You need to calm down.”
I held the phone away from my ear so I could retain my hearing. She ranted at full steam about her freedoms and how unfair it was that someone was after her when I was the bastard. I had no defense that would work with her, so I just waited her out.
“I can’t come up there right now – I have to work this case. You’ll be fine. The officer with you will see that you have all you need.”
She switched to whining which was almost worse than the screaming. However, I knew her well enough to know she was about out of energy. “I know. I agree it stinks. Just try and be patient a few days, okay?”
I closed the phone and wished for coffee, too drained to go find some. The desk phone rang and I hit the speaker button without opening my eyes. “Holmes.”
“Mick, I just spoke to the Bergen County coroner. The Myers woman was killed in exactly the same way as the Oberhauser woman. That prompted me to do some trajectory studies. You want to come take a look?”
I declined and Bill forged on. “Killer is left-handed for sure. Thrust measurements indicate the probable weight is between one forty and one fifty pounds. The entry wound is almost straight in. I’d have to say killer is about the height of these women. Around five foot seven or eight, maybe.”
I listened and jotted some notes. “I’m back to thinking we may have a female killer here, Bill. This info’s good, but I need more. I’m going to call Bergen County. Keep me posted, buddy.”
The speaker went quiet and I got up to pace. I think better when I’m pacing for some reason. My email gong clanged. I wandered over to stare at the screen. An on-line message flashed. From Joseph Oberhauser.
I typed back. “Good afternoon, Joseph. What can I do for you?” A moment’s pause.
“I have a question for you, Detective. Do you have a moment?”
“Sure. Go ahead.” I crossed the office to close the door.
“I was going through the desk drawer tonight to find the checkbook to pay the funeral home for Daphne’s buriel.”
“I’m sorry, Joseph,” I keyed.
“I know Detective. And I, for you.”
My cop radar went nuts. “How so?”
“Do you know an Elise Holmes?”
“Why do you ask?” I hedged, trying to swallow around the lump in my throat. What the hell had she done now? Now it was my turn to wait before putting my fingers back on the keyboard.
“Do you?” he typed.
“Not any more. We’ve been divorced for almost a year. How do you know Elise?”
“Oh, I don’t know her, Detective. But apparently my wife did.”
“What makes you say that?” I swiped my palms on the knees of my slacks.
His reply flashed across my screen. “Daphne handled the finances. In the drawer is a birthday card, obviously made out to her lover. There is a carbon duplicate of a check made payable to Elise Holmes. For two-hundred-fifty thousand dollars.”
I sank back my chair. Lovers? A quarter million dollars? What the hell was going on?
“Detective? Are you there?” I reached for the keyboard, but my hands were disembodied. This was like something from the Twilight Zone. None of this could be true.
“I’m here, Joseph,” I replied. “Confused as hell, though.”
Someone knocked on my closed door but I ignored them. I waited to see if Joseph had anything else for me.
“Will you need these for your case, Detective?”
I blew out a long sigh and wished the answer was no, but of course it couldn’t be. “Yes, I will. Please put them in a plastic bag, and I’ll have them picked up from you. Thank you, Joseph.”
“I’m sorry, Detective. We will speak again, I’m sure. Goodbye.”
The dialog box went blank and he was gone. I looked up to find Megan Cyrus stationed in front of my desk, Glock on her hip, coat slung over her shoulder.
“Where do we start?” she asked in her smoker-husky voice. I shook my head.
I’m assigned to the Toms River State Police barracks. The good thing about that is that it’s in Ocean County where the Sheriff’s department has one of the best crime labs in the country. The downside is Toms River is a long way from Bergen County.
I left my partner to research the Oberhauser’s and get as much background on Elise Kenney Holmes as possible. I apparently didn’t know the woman at all.
It took me two hours to reach the county courthouse and find the coroner on Marge’s case. He pulled out the file and photos and pushed them in my direction. “Since you had the first murder, you’re a primary on this investigation. The County boys said to cooperate.”
I looked at the photos. Poor Marge. A bright, energetic woman in her early thirties who thought everyone deserved to have a friend, even Elise. It’s always tougher to look at crime scene photos when you know the victim personally. I swallowed the knot in my throat.
“Do you think a woman could have done this?” I asked Amos Schultz without preamble.
The coroner brushed his dark brown mustache with his index finger. “Sure. A pretty pissed off woman, but the height and weight of your perp could be that of a woman. Of course, it could just as easily be a slight man.”
I pulled out some photos of my own. “This is Damien Harbinger. We were really close to nailing him last time – would you have any records on him?”
He took the photo and left the room. Five minutes later he was back. “I’ve asked Paula to run it through the data bases. We may learn something.”
We discussed the file and findings for another hour. A tall, dark-haired woman with glasses popped into Amos’ office and dropped a report on his desk. Without a word, she vanished.
He picked up the report and scanned it. “Well, if it was Harbinger last go around, it isn’t him this time.”
“Take a look.” He handed me the report and leaned back in the chair.
Harbinger, arrested, tried and convicted of child molestation in Texas, had been murdered while in the prison exercise yard. Over a year ago. Damn.
“Can I keep this?” I asked as I stood up. He nodded. I put everything in the folder he’d given me when I arrived. We shook hands and parted company at the door.
I was on the Garden State Parkway, aptly named since you are mostly parked in traffic when you are on it, when Cyrus called. I pushed the button for the hands free speaker.
“When you going to be back here, Holmes?”
“At this rate? Some time before my forty-fifth birthday. Why?”
“We have a lot to go over. And you aren’t going to like any of it.”
I sighed. What the hell? I didn’t like any of the rest of this case. Why should I be surprised now?
Putting aside her strong feminist instincts and not biting my head off for suggesting dinner, Cyrus met me at The Grill for something to eat. It had been a long time since breakfast for me. We ordered, and over tall colas, we compared notes. I ticked my findings off first.
“How well did you know your wife before you were married?” She led with a right upper cut.
“Not very, I’m afraid. We met in a jazz club that I frequented. She was lovely, willing and quite smart, so when we weren’t in bed, we could actually have conversations that were challenging.”
She let my sexist comment slide. “What happened?”
“You doing a profile on her or me?”
“You each relate to the other. Need to know both, don’t I?”
Of course she was right. A recent grad of the FBI academy for law enforcement members, Cyrus knew she was on the scent.
“I worked a lot of hours, spent a lot of time alone. Elise needed company as well as money to keep her in a manner she wanted to become accustomed. She took up gambling and sleeping around. I wasn’t happy about either hobby to be honest with you.”
“How long before you caught on?”
I sat back to let the waitress put our orders on the table in front of us. “Almost four years. We split up for a couple of months, tried to put it back together once. Our divorce was final eleven months ago.”
“I read the divorce decree. You were pretty generous.”
“I didn’t want anything. She wanted the house – I still help pay for it. She can manage the rest, even though she says she can’t.”
“Okay. Well, aside from her financial records which she hasn’t consented to let me see, I’ve got about as much as I could find. Did you know she’d been arrested?”
I almost spit my Greek salad in her face. “Arrested? When? For what?”
“Prostitution. About six months before you two were married. Hope you got tested.”
I was speechless. Who’d have thought I should run a background check on my future wife? Now I was wishing that I had. “That the only time?”
“The only one in NJ. Seems she’s been picked up in Vegas, too. Apparently she was running a scam of some sort out there. She was busted with a guy named Otto Josephson. Got six months for that one.”
“You’re a thorough investigator, Cyrus. The bad guys don’t stand a chance.”
“By the look on your face, neither do the good guys.”
I washed down my food with soda. “What do you have on Oberhauser?”
She shrugged, took a bite of her chicken sandwich and chewed a few times before swallowing. “He was tougher, believe it or not. Info trail doesn’t even really start on him until about eleven years ago. Where did you say he got his money?”
“He claimed it was a family business of some kind. Nowadays, he makes his money selling God to people who watch too much television at three in the morning. “
“I couldn’t find anything in industry or any of the business directories on Oberhauser until he became a minister. Found a marriage announcement to a Lisa Needham. No record of death or divorce that I could find. Nor could I validate the marriage.”
“Where were they married? Someone would have records.”
“Aha. Well, the marriage may have been real or not; annulled maybe when everyone sobered up?”
“Maybe. But if he was married to Lisa Needham and never divorced her, then his marriage to Daphne would be null and void. And how would it look for the good minister to be a bigamist?”
“Wouldn’t look very good, that’s for sure. The donations might slow down a bit if that got out, I guess. Good work, Cyrus.”
We finished our meals and paid the check. I sat over coffee to think before I headed for home. “Can you get any proof of that marriage? I’d like to have a big stick in my pocket when I call on Joseph Oberhauser.”
“I don’t right now, but I’ll have it for you by tomorrow if it exists. I promise.”
I was sure she would.
This guy had a signature that nightmares were made of. “Why her? She doesn’t fit his old MO at all. ”
“He’s been out of action for five years. Maybe his MO has changed. Maybe he’s been locked up someplace and learned new tricks? I have no idea. However strange it is, he’s got your new business cards and he’s connected to you somehow. This guy knows you better than you know him.”
That was probably what terrified me most. He’d always seemed to be a step ahead of me. Facing him scared me to death, and yet I’d been obsessed with catching him. Obsessed with making him pay for killing that young girl…
But I hadn’t made it happen. When we’d busted through the door to his cold water flat in South Trenton, all that was left was a note for me. In that same, meticulous handwriting he’d written: “I’LL BE BACK.”
“You okay, Mick?” Bill asked quietly, pushing a cup of what he called coffee into my hands. I nodded, but didn’t trust myself to open my mouth. Years of psychotherapy down the drain with one dead woman and three little words. My nemesis had murdered four people before he suddenly disappeared. I’d celebrated by marrying Elise. Somehow a musky perfume like hers had been in the air at that run down apartment and I’d taken it as an omen of good things to come. A year for major errors, it would seem.
I sipped the hot liquid and ran my fingers through my hair. “Okay. I’m better trained, have better resources and don’t have a family to worry about this time around. This time we win, Bill. I promise.”
He nodded, knowing how painful the whole thing had been for me. The killer, who’d become the “Ice Man” to us, had almost destroyed my life. My very own Jeffrey Damler. Just what I needed.
I stood and looked at Bill. “Can I have a copy of that report when you’re done? Today I’ll get clear to handle this. Tomorrow I start to track down Damian Harbinger.”
He nodded and looked at me like an older brother who knew I was headed for a broken heart. “Promise me you’ll ask for help with this. You were way too close to the edge last time.”
“Sure, Bill. Don’t worry. But I’m going to get him. That’s a promise, too.”
The Captain called me in, and I stood at parade rest before his desk. “Close the door, Holmes, and have a seat.”
I sat in the chair, resting my left ankle across my right knee. “Yes, sir?”
“Judging from this autopsy report and the evidence collected from the victim, looks like the Ice Man is back in town. Should I put someone else on this case?”
My heart just about jumped out of my chest, but I kept the Captain from seeing it. “No sir, I want to work this case. I wouldn’t mind some help this time, though. The only thing that counts is that we catch him before he murders again.”
I looked at him closely and knew I was already too late for that sentiment. The Ice Man had been a busy, busy man. I hung my head. “Who and where?”
“Just before dawn, we figure. Your ex-wife’s next door neighbor.”
“Not, Marge? Please, tell me it wasn’t Marge.” My resolve to stay professional oozed out through my slumped shoulders.
“I’m sorry, Mickey. We’ve put your ex in protective custody, but she’s not happy about it.”
“Tough. Does she know about Marge? Does she know how lucky she is to be alive?”
“Doesn’t sound like she considers herself lucky about anything, if you ask me. Will your talking to her make any difference?”
“Yeah. It would probably make it worse.”
“Try. Next time she calls your cell phone, answer it. Get her calmed down.”
I shook my head, but there was no use arguing with the boss. “What do we have on Marge’s murder?”
“Ice pick to the throat and a few other places. Mutilated breasts. The killer’s one very angry fellow.”
I ran the old files back through my brain like a worn out black and white slide series. “By the time the killings stopped last time, I wasn’t so sure our killer was a man.”
“You did the work at Quantico, Holmes. You know women serial killers are few and far between.”
“But not all together absent. And we both know this is personal. It’s connected to me, somehow.”
Cap waved me toward the door and reached for the phone. “The press will be all over this Oberhauser murder. I expect the FBI will be sniffing around end of the week.” He picked up a pen and pointed it at my chest. “You be careful and take Cyrus with you. You’ll need a partner. A sharp one.”
I closed the door behind me and wondered how the day could get worse. Ordered to talk to an ex-wife who would like to see an ice pick sticking out of my anatomy and enlisting a partner who had a chip on her shoulder like Mike Tyson. Damn.
To be continued….November 23
I watched the tail lights on his van disappear down the long, tree-lined lane, then turned to join the others in the house. I was too tired for another long night. I needed to get this done.
Interviewing Joseph Oberhauser seemed straight forward. He looked to be shattered by his wife’s demise. He was her senior by almost fifteen years, but by his account, they were devoted to each other. He pulled out photos of happy times; black tie and evening gown affairs that showcased how perfect they were for each other. They had no children although he had two from a previous marriage. One lived in Ocean County, the other all the way across the country in California. Where it was warm.
Officer Knight had finished his coffee and left after I’d come in. He was going to knock on the doors of the other homes on the lane just in case anyone had seen anything. We doubted it, but it was protocol. We needed to locate our tipster if we could. And the tow truck still had to pick up Mrs. Oberhauser’s car.
“When can I have Daphne back?” the husband asked quietly.
“The coroner will call you to make arrangements as soon as the autopsy is done, Joseph. He tries to be quick about it. Usually twenty-four to forty-eight hours if he’s not worried about toxicology or anything.”
“I still can’t believe she’s dead. How do I go on without her?” He asked me as tears streamed down his face.
I never have an answer to that question, and it’s been asked of me dozens of times in all the years I’ve been a cop. I shook my head. “Have faith that time will heal, Mr. Oberhauser. That may sound empty at this point in time, but it’s my experience that it is true.”
He looked me in the eye. “Has time healed your pain, Detective?”
I didn’t answer him and he waved the question aside. I let it slide by me like a smelly dog that wasn’t mine.
“Can your daughter stay with you tonight? You probably shouldn’t be alone. I can call her for you if you’d like.”
“We are not on speaking terms. She disagreed with my marriage to Daphne. Some nonsense about being unfaithful to her mother.”
“And her mother is where?” I asked, taking notes as fast as I could.
“She’s been dead for fifteen years. You’d think Jenny would get on with life, wouldn’t you?”
I shrugged. “Kids handle things in their own way, I guess. At least you’d hope she’d want to see you happy again.”
“She doesn’t. She believes I should be miserable my entire life. And now I will be.”
“How does your son feel about it all?”
“David’s in the Navy. San Diego almost ten years now. He felt he should devote himself to one career and he didn’t chose a family. I gave my children horrible legacies, Detective.”
“How so, sir?” I asked.
“My daughter thinks I killed my first wife. Not literally of course, but by not being around enough. I was fighting to keep the family business alive, amassing the money it would take to care for them in style. It required a lot of hours and travel. Jenny feels Mandy died of loneliness.”
What the hell could I say to that? After all, my marriage had been a victim of too many hours and days absent, too. Not for money maybe, but I was responsible none the less. I stood quietly and concentrated on not shuffling my feet. “When did you become a minister?”
“Ten years ago. After a certain point, the money lost its sparkle. After Mandy died, I took a good look at my life. The company is strong, and I made sure that the family would be taken care of in the sale. I can do the Lord’s work, now.”
“No vow of poverty, huh?” I asked, realizing why I’d recognized the man when I saw him at the kitchen table. He traded salvation for personal checks three nights a week on the local cable stations.
“It isn’t money that’s the sin, Detective. The sin is what we are willing to do for it.” I was usually wishing I had more, so I couldn’t relate to a man who collected millions from blue-collar people like me every week.
“Is there anyone who can stay with you, Joseph? You shouldn’t be alone right now.”
He shook his head, his hand on the gleaming brass door handle. “I’ll be all right, Detective. The Lord is with me. And with you. Thank you for your time and your compassion. You’ve made this somehow bearable.”
I shook his hand, pulled on my gloves and shoved through the heavy door into the blistering wind. My head down, I forged through the snow toward my car. I turned the key and let the engine idle for a few minutes. When I looked at the house, I could feel sorrow reaching out to me through the arched Tudor windows. Secrets. The fireplace flickered in the parlor, the only light in a house of many windows.
“No Elise, I’m not giving you any more money. I’m paying you what the judge ordered and I’m paying you on time. That’s it. Get a job if that’s not enough.” I was having this conversation at seven fifteen in the morning, after four hours sleep and no coffee. If I hadn’t been sound asleep when the thing rang, I wouldn’t have answered it. Even after eleven months apart, my ex-wife could still push my buttons.
I listened for another minute and swung my legs out of bed. “I’m not angry with you. I’m just tired of this whole thing. I’ve moved on. It’s not my fault your boyfriend did too. Don’t call me again.” I closed the phone and turned it off. If the station needed me, they would call the unlisted house phone.
After a trip to the bathroom, I crawled back into bed. The dawn was not bright and glorious, so my bedroom was still dark. When I woke next, it was eleven o’clock.
I started the coffee, took a hot shower and dressed for doing nothing. Coffee mug in hand, I put down tuna and whitefish dinner for my three-legged feline housemate, collected a soggy paper from the front porch, and settled in at the kitchen nook to read what was dry enough to decipher.
The kitchen phone rang at one o’clock. “Mickey Holmes.”
“I finished the autopsy on Mrs. Oberhauser,” said Bill. “You might want to see some of this.”
“Fair enough. I’ll be there in forty minutes.”
We signed off; I changed into jeans and a sweater, my partially dried boots and my parka. “’Bye Cat,” I called to my independent but pretty housemate.
I strode into the coroner investigator’s office and tapped on the door before entering. Bill was pounding his keyboard at a feverish pitch. I peeled off my coat and gloves and dropped into the worn, black swivel chair on the other side of his desk. By the look of him, I’d had much more rest than he had.
“You sounded like you found something that surprised you, Bill. What’s up?”
He handed me a clear plastic bag with my current business card in it. On the back of the card, in neatly printed letters was a warning. “SHE’S NUMBER 5.”
“So we’re right, huh? He’s back.” I dropped my head in my hands. “Why is he back?” I asked Bill who knew exactly who I was talking about.
He patted my shoulder. “I don’t know, but we have to catch him this time. You know how bad this will get.”
To be continued…November 9
After too many years in homicide, the last ten of those with the NJ State Troopers, I knew what to look for. There was no sign of struggle here. I glanced into the parlor to my right and looked longingly at the inviting fireplace which was of course, lit and burning warmly. A book lay flattened, its spine broken, on the plush gray sofa, a discarded blanket beside it. Someone had been cozy as bear in a cave.
My cell phone rang again. I pulled it out and glared at it. “Holmes.”
The coroner’s investigator was a bit breathless. He was still at least twenty minutes away. The exit at the Route 9 turnoff was closed with an overturned tractor-trailer
“Anyone hurt?” I asked, hoping he wasn’t going to get sidetracked at the accident scene.
The injuries seemed to be minimal, but the required detour meant they had to go back to Egg Harbor and go around. He asked if we needed anything.
“We’re fine. The vic is still out there in the snow with a patrolman watching over her. I’m in the house trying to determine if this is part of the crime scene.”
“The way this wind is whipping around, the snow will have her and any other clues covered up in no time.”
“I know, Bill,” I sighed, understanding his upset. “We parked the cars to block as much as we could – it’s too damned cold to do much else.”
He agreed and signed off, needing to concentrate on his driving so he would eventually arrive, investigate, and transport the then-frozen Mrs. Oberhauser to the morgue.
I returned to my task. There was no blood trail, inside or outside the house. If there’d been an argument in this house, someone had been very quick to cover it up. But then, that was not at all in keeping with what our tipster had relayed.
The kitchen was likewise, spotless. I moved to the door that led to the garage where the dead woman’s car would have been parked an hour ago. Nothing to indicate she’d been stabbed in there either.
The house was so clean it made me grimace. I’m not a complete slob, but even on cleaning day, my place didn’t sparkle like this one. I sniffed the air; no bleach, no detergent, no spray cleaners had been used recently. A faint scent of vanilla hung around…
By the time I’d walked through the entire thirty-five hundred square feet of house and garage, the coroner’s truck was outside. I closed the door behind me and hiked back to the road and the puzzle at hand.
I knocked on the window of the patrol car which by now was so steamed up the cop couldn’t see an ax murderer if he was standing next to him. “Yeah, Detective?”
“Why don’t you take Mr. Oberhauser back inside, Officer? Maybe put on some coffee? Stay in the kitchen if you wouldn’t mind.”
“Yes sir, I will,” he said, scrambling to get moving. Undoubtedly the idea of hot coffee had made the man nearly delirious. He opened the door and let Daphne’s husband out of the inescapable back seat of the cruiser.
“Knight, would you mind taking the husband’s statement for me? And I’ll want your report by tomorrow at quitting time, understood?”
The rookie almost stood at attention and saluted and I nearly laughed, but then my face would have cracked because I was so damned cold.
“I’ll try, sir. He hasn’t answered a single thing I asked him. He’s either in major shock or he’s deaf.”
I sighed. “Give it some time. He’ll come around in a little while.” I shooed him toward the walk. They disappeared in the blowing snow to the big house on the hill with the darkened windows.
I stomped my feet, kept my gloved hands stuffed as deep and tightly in my coat pockets as I could and tucked my chin into my chest to hide in the parka hood. Bill moved around as though it was a chilly fall night, not eight below. However he wasted no time. He took her body temp, checked her gorgeous blue eyes for broken capillaries and examined her alabaster throat and wrists for bruises. He took more photos, finally stood up and closed up his bag of tools.
“How long’s she been dead, Bill?”
He shrugged his shoulders. “With these temps, who knows? I have to get a liver temp back at the lab – that will give me a better idea.”
“Give me a guess? An hour? Two? Ten?” I was walking beside him, tossing out my smartass remarks as we moved to his truck.
“She’s not frozen stiff, or completely buried in snow, so I’d say she’s been laying there less than two hours.” He grabbed a folded sheet and looked Daphne’s way.
“Help me get her into the truck will you? I told the assistant I could handle it so we weren’t both out in this awful weather.” I nodded. We carefully rolled her and her bloodied fur coat to the side and slid the sheet beneath her. We repeated the procedure in the other direction. Bill tied the ends of the sheet, and we lifted her easily.
“What is she, maybe a hundred twenty pounds? No defensive wounds. She knew whoever it was that killed her.”
Bill shook his head. “Or she didn’t see him coming.”
“Or her,” he agreed quietly. I hadn’t corrected him to be politically correct. It was important that we both remembered not to make assumptions. We’d made that mistake years ago and a serial killer still roamed free.
He jumped down from the back of the truck and slammed the doors. I double checked them. We didn’t want to lose our corpse before we’d decided what had happened to her.
“Did you get a call this time?” he asked as he stomped his feet to get off some of the accumulated snow.
“Sure did. Woman called it in. Hung up before dispatcher could get any verifying information.”
He thought a moment and nodded his head. We’d been here before. He climbed into the SUV without another word and drove off.
What he didn’t say terrified me.
To be continued… October 26
Detective Mickey Holmes is on the scene again, another stabbing victim, another rich community. But the weather’s brutal and the twist on this one almost does him in…. hope you enjoy a cold weather story to cool you off! NL Quatrano
It was lung-burning. Vicious.
Eight below zero was too damned cold to be hanging around outside. What survives in this kind of howling, grueling cold, anyway?
The body I was standing over hadn’t. Of course, by the way the ice pick still stuck up out of her full length rabbit fur coat, obviously the cold had nothing to do with her death. It would account for the unusually small pool of blood beside her lovely blonde head, however.
“Hey Detective Holmes, we can go in the house, right?” the patrol cop called to me. He’d been standing around for the better part of a half hour waiting for me to get to the scene so he was possibly colder than he’d been in his entire life.
“No you can’t. Why don’t you sit in your patrol car? I’ll do the photos and wave down the coroner.”
He nodded and ushered the dead woman’s bereft husband into the back of his car. Then he climbed into the driver’s seat and started the engine to get the heat running. Folks from Wisconsin or Winnipeg might be acclimated to these temperatures, but people in New Jersey certainly were not.
I pulled the instant Polaroid camera out of the oversized pocket on the inside of my arctic parka and snapped a few pictures of the victim. As fast as my gloved fingers could manage it, I stuffed the photos into my shirt pocket so my body heat would help them develop. When I’d shot the first eight frames, I headed back to my car to load a new cartridge. The wind screamed at over thirty miles an hour, the snow was driven sideways.
I was in the car and had just ejected the spent film pack when my cell phone rang. I glanced at the number and decided I didn’t need any more aggravation tonight. After the third ring, a lovely disembodied voice from the phone company would take a message for me. My ex-wife, Her Royal Pain-in-the-Buttness. It was the third time she’d called today.
I snapped the film into place and pulled the photos out of my pocket to take a look.
Mrs. Daphne Oberhauser was a lovely corpse. Long lashes graced her translucent cheeks like those on a fine porcelain doll. Her lips were full and perfect if not just a touch bluish, her hair thick and shoulder length and the exact color of clover honey, spread out on the snow-covered ground beneath her like it would on a glistening satin pillowcase.
I glanced into the rear view mirror but still no sign of the coroner’s office. I tossed the photos on the seat of my car and headed back outside to finish the body shots. When I was happy with all the angles, I trudged through the snow for the house. The cop in the squad car started to open his door, but I waved him off. I pushed open the front door of the house and stood in the quiet hallway, listening.
I pushed the heavy door closed with the toe of my snow covered boot and pulled off my leather gloves, replacing them with clear latex ones. The foyer was amazing. The lights glistened off the Austrian crystal chandelier overhead, like moonlight on an ice-coated lake. The black and white tiles made me think of Alice in Wonderland. Where was that strange rabbit now? Was Daphne’s husband the Mad Hatter?
To be continued Oct 12….