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Mayhem, Mystery and Murder

by

John A. Broussard


DEATH OF AN AU PAIR

        

            Detective Jill Waliewiski wasn’t the least bit hungry. But Detective Sergeant Gina Nolan had insisted the quiet night could turn into frenzy at any minute, and it was never a good idea to go into battle on an empty stomach. They had been working together long enough to be on a first name basis, but Nolan could still pull rank.

            Waliewiski launched a protest. “You know, Gina, you keep fretting about your weight, but you just keep right on scarfing down cheeseburgers like they’re going out of style.”

            “That’s got nothing to do with it. It’s all a matter of metabolism. Look at you. Thin as a rail, and you eat anything you want.”

            Waliewiski shook her head as she held up her Diet Mountain Dew. “That’s anything I want?” she asked, and at that moment her beeper went off.

            Nolan grinned. “Your turn to go out in the rain to check the radio. See, I warned you. Fill up while you have the chance. I’ll finish my burger while you take the message.”

            Within moments Waliewiski was back. “Homicide. Rocky Glen. Dispatcher will get us directions.”

            Grabbing a handful of paper napkins along with the remnants of her burger in one hand and her fries and Classic Coke in the other, Nolan made it out of the café, ducked her head in the face of the windswept rain and managed to open the door of the cruiser with minimal spillage and slipped into the passenger seat. “Miserable weather. Miserable place to go to in it. Whereabouts in Rocky Glen?”

            “First turn-off on Cove Rd. Collins Lane. It’s a dead-end that goes up to about four or five homes near the hilltop.” Waliewiski roared out of the parking lot as she passed along the information.

            “Yup. I know it. Couple of palaces up there built by Microsoft executives back when the money was flowing. Got a number?”

            “Huh-uh. But it shouldn’t be hard to find. First driveway on the right. Go through an iron gate and it’s about three or four hundred yards up from there. There’s a caretaker’s cottage just inside the entrance. He’s the one who called it in. A woman’s been shot. They’re trying to get details, but there isn’t much. He heard a shot, went up to the main house and found her sitting in a living room chair. Shot came through the window, according to him.”

            “The homeowner?”

            “Nope. An au pair. No one else home. Patrol car is on the way, but we should get there about the same time.”

            A porch light acted as a guide, and waiting in the shelter of the porch roof was an older man dressed in coveralls. He was talking to a police officer the detectives recognized—Lars Johnson.

            “Fast work,” Johnson commented to the new arrivals. “We just made it here ourselves, Sergeant, so it’s all yours.” He grimaced. “I’m glad I won’t have to do the cleanup. High powered bullet. Caught her in the side of the head. But you can see for yourselves. Coster is in there holding the fort.”

            The description of the scene awaiting them was apt. The woman’s rag doll body was sitting askew in a chair by a broken window and before a television set blaring the nightly news. Her face and blonde hair were drenched in blood, and a torn curtain flapped in the wind as the rain poured through the broken pane. After a quick inspection, Nolan turned to Johnson. “Grab a blanket and cover the window. Crew will be out soon. We don’t want the body drenched before they get here.”

            To Waliewiski she added, “Let’s get started. Bring the caretaker into the other room,” she indicated a small office next to the living room, “and we’ll see what he has to offer.”

            Gerard McKay was in his seventies and was showing signs of enjoying the break in routine. His answers to the sergeant’s questions pleased her in that he seldom rambled, and when he did, the rambling was still relevant.  “Good witness,” she thought.

            “It was just after eight-thirty. I know, because I’d just turned on the weather news to find out if that hurricane was really going to miss us. We get bad mudslides on this road, and if it keeps raining this way, the whole mountain could start moving. Anyhow, I heard a shot just as the weatherman was saying the worst was over. I figured it might be nothing more than a poacher out flashlight-hunting for turkeys, but I put on a raincoat and came out looking. It was raining even harder than it is now, so I could barely see, and, as far as I could tell, there wasn’t anyone around, so I went up to the house to find out if it might have been Mrs. Codrington picking off a varmint.”

            “Mrs. Codrington is the owner?”

            McKay nodded. “She’d went out—musta been about six—along with her boy, but I heard a car come in around eight and figured it was her. Wasn’t though, pretty obviously. It was the au pair—Louise Duclos.” He pronounced it “the clothes,” and tilted his head in the direction of the living room.

            “So you didn’t expect the au pair to be here, right?”

            McKay nodded again. “That’s right. Her and Mrs. Codrington had a knock-down, drag-out three or four days ago, and Louise left—bag and baggage.”

            “Do you know what the argument was about?”

            “Not much question. Mr. Codrington was hot after Louise, and Mrs. Codrington found out. He was at work, and so far as I know didn’t come back, even for his clothes. She must have read the riot act to him.” He grinned. “She ain’t the kind of woman a man wants to tangle with.”

            Waliewiski was writing furiously in her notebook as Nolan made the most of her informant. At that moment, a commotion in the front room interrupted the questioning. It soon became obvious that Mrs. Codrington had arrived home, aghast at the events which had occurred in her absence. Nolan excused McKay, but said she would have more questions later.

            “Sure thing. Anything I can do to help. Drop by the cottage on your way out. The Missus will be overflowing with curiosity at all the fuss up here. She’ll have the coffee on, for sure. Meantime, I’ll see if I can rustle up a piece of ply to nail over that window.”

            Mrs. Janice Codrington seemed more upset about the mess in her living room and the trampling around by the scene-of-crime personnel than she was at the presence of a body. It soon became quite clear, in fact, that she didn’t regret the passing of Louise Duclos in the least.

            “What in hell was she doing here?” was her initial comment and question. Without waiting for an answer, she said, “I kicked that bitch’s ass out a week ago and told that no-good husband of mine I’d blast his off with a shotgun if he set foot on this place again.” Her anger at her husband seemed to take precedence over all other subjects.

            She barely took a breath before adding, “My first husband about cleaned me out. I didn’t take any chances with this one. I’ve got an iron-clad prenuptial agreement, and my lawyer’s going to see to it he doesn’t touch a penny of my money—and he won’t be worth shit once I pull our insurance business out from under his used car lot. That dumb s.o.b.!”

            Nolan finally managed to break in. “Where were you tonight?”

            “My partner and I—that’s Robert Payne—own an insurance company. We underwrite car loans. We had a bunch of unfinished business to take care of. Big backlog of paperwork. He asked me to get it out of the way tonight. So I left here—let’s see—half past five, quarter to six, something like that. Dropped my boy off at my sister’s place. He’s staying the night there. I’m just as glad he is. I sure wouldn’t want him to see the mess in the other room.”

            “What time did you leave the office?”

            “Eight or so.”

            “What did you do then?”

            “Shopped. Window-shopped, mostly. Stores are open late tonight. I figured that as long as I was in town, I’d look around.”

            “Did you buy anything?”

            “As a matter of fact, no.”

            “We’d like to have a statement from you. If you can give us a list of the stores you went to and the approximate times, that would be helpful.”

            The times and places became increasingly vague after the eight o’clock departure from the office. She could remember some of the stores, but wasn’t sure what time she’d gone in, if at all. Waliewiski gamely took down what she could and made arrangements for a morning signing at the station.

            Once that matter was out of the way, Waliewiski joined Nolan who was watching the packaging of the body.

            Without turning to look at the Detective, Nolan said, “I wonder if someone outside could have seen enough to pick her off.”

            Waliewiski seemed puzzled. “You mean someone could just have randomly shot through the window, or been hunting—and the whole thing is an accident?’

            “Farfetched, I admit. But there have been deer around lately. It’s just possible someone was poaching. One way to find out is to see if anyone sitting in that chair could be seen through the curtains from the outside.”

            Surveying the blood-spattered chair. Waliewiski grimaced and said. “I can see what’s coming. You want me to pose while you go out and check.”

            “Right idea. Wrong person. I’ll take off the blanket, get the curtains back as best I can, and you can go out in the bushes to take a look. There’s high shrubbery less than twenty feet away from the house where the shot probably came from. Try not to mess things up anymore than necessary since I’m going to have the crew check out that whole area—not that they’ll find much after all this downpour. Everything’s about to float outside.”

            Waliewiski slipped on her yellow raingear and went out to the brushy area while Nolan arranged the curtains and sat in the chair. In a few moments, a sopping wet Waliewiski returned to announce. “Yup. The light in the room makes for a clear-cut silhouette. I could have picked you off easy with my handgun. With a rifle it would have been like shooting fish in a barrel.”

            “That doesn’t make an accident impossible, but it sure makes deliberate murder a distinct probability.”

            It was a relief to leave the mess to the scene-of-crime personnel and retire to the comfortable Payne cottage. Coffee was on, and Wilma McKay was relishing her role as hostess, with the obvious expectation that she would be brought up to date on all the gory happenings. The fact she was moving around with the help of a walker did nothing to diminish her enthusiasm, or prevent her from seeing to it McKay poured coffee and served butter-oatmeal cookies with accompanying paper napkins.

            With her guests comfortably settled around the cheerful fire in the large fireplace, Wilma, without being asked, informed them that the walker would soon be discarded since her hip replacement was coming along fine and went on to confirm her husband’s account leading up to the discovery of the body.

            “Did you know Louise?” Nolan asked, after consuming a couple of the rich cookies.

            “She came by a couple of times. Nice looking enough. Definitely what they call sexy, these days. Even Gerry, here, acted like a billy goat around her.” Gerald grinned at the description as his wife went on. “I might have worried if I didn’t know he’d hung up his spurs years ago. We’ve been married fifty-four years, by the way. Never had to worry about him all those years. Sure wouldn’t have been much concerned these days. Different with Mrs. Codrington, though. Her old man was panting after Louise from the word go. And so was that partner of hers—something Payne.”

            Nolan wasn’t about to interrupt. Besides, the cookies were too tempting to pass up. Waliewiski, on the other hand, was madly scribbling in her notebook, taking time out only to scratch a recurring itch on her ankle.

            “Louise said Codrington was going to divorce his wife and marry her, but I’ll give her credit. She wasn’t about to believe that old story. As for Payne, I think she really was interested in him. At least he isn’t married.”

            The obvious question popped out of Waliewiski’s mouth, since Nolan’s was otherwise occupied. “Did Codrington and Payne know about each other’s relationship with Louise?”

            Wilma paused before answering. “Do you mean was she playing one off against the other? Not according to her, anyway. Telling Payne while she was living in the Codrington house wouldn’t have been the best idea in the world. And telling Codrington might just have gotten her fired. What she didn’t count on was that Mrs. Codrington would find out about what was going on under her nose.”

            “Do you have any idea how far these relationships went?” This from Nolan, who had paused in her eating but was still eyeing the remaining cookie.

            “Young folks are pretty open these days. She definitely had sex with Payne, but not with Codrington.”

            Gerard, who had been silently listening to his wife, broke in at that moment. Surprisingly, his question had nothing to do with what was being said. Addressing Waliewiski, he asked, “I noticed you scratching your ankle. You ain’t been out in the shrubbery around the house by any chance, have you? Last few days, the ticks have suddenly showed up around there. Must be the deer brings ‘em around. First time we’ve had any of ‘em in any numbers, and suddenly it’s like a plague.”

            Waliewiski checked her ankle and found an insect, no larger than a pinhead, buried in the soft flesh behind her ankle.

            “Young lady,” Wilma said, seeing the results of Waliewiski’s search, “you get yourself into the bathroom and strip. Look through every stitch of your clothing. Those bugs are nothing to fool with. My cousin Shirley came down with Lyme’s, and she lives only a few miles away. Been sick as a dog now for almost a year.”

            It took no urging for Waliewiski to comply, and Gerard filled in during her absence with his explanation for the infestation. “Previous owner had lots of garden help. We used to be able to keep things pretty shipshape. But now, with only me, the bushes have gone wild. I’m not complaining, though. But it’s sure a shame to see everything so badly overgrown. And that’s why the deer and mice have moved in. I hear they’re the ones that bring in the ticks.”

            Deciding to wait on the last cookie until Waliewiski emerged from her strip search, Nolan asked, “Is there any way for anyone to come onto the property other than through the main gate?”

            “Yup. There’s a path up from the main road. It comes through a small gate that hasn’t been closed for years. I suppose someone could crawl over the line fence anyplace, but it’s not easy what with barbed wire and briars and all.”

            Back in the car Nolan peered up the drive at the light in the main house. “I’ve got a couple more questions for Mrs. Codrington. This is about as good a time as any to ask them.”

            The two of them entered the house just as the last of the crew were leaving with a blood-soaked living room rug to include in the evidence van along with the chair the victim had been found in. Janice Codrington was standing in the room—coffee in one hand, cigarette in the other—contemplating the vacant spaces and the general confusion about her. She showed no reluctance to answer Nolan’s questions and had calmed down considerably from her original diatribe against her husband.

            “Guns?” she asked, in answer to the question whether there were any in the house. “Of course. Practically everyone around here has one, at least a varmint gun. There are a couple of hunting rifles and a shotgun in the basement. That worthless husband of mine was big on hunting. Used to go up in North Country to chase the elk. I never could see that kind of sport myself. Traipsing through woods by the hour and then considering yourself lucky if you get to drag a bloody carcass a mile to the nearest road. I do some target shooting myself. Damn good shot, too.

            “Hey, whoa. Wait a minute! I know you have to go through this routine, but are you really suspecting me of killing that bitch?”

            “You know the standard answer to that. We suspect everyone. And we will have to take in the rifles to check them out.”

            Janice Codrington broke into a laugh. “I’d have kicked that bitch in the ass if I’d caught her here. And it’s stupid to suspect Cal. He didn’t want to kill her, he wanted to screw her. Probably was. You really are barking up the wrong tree. Some dumb poacher was out flashlight hunting for deer and pointed his rifle in the wrong direction. It’s as simple as that.”

            “Even so, we would like to have your husband’s phone number.”

            Another laugh greeted the request. “I’ll bet he’s sleeping in the office out at the used car lot. He’s too broke to rent a room.”

            “And we would also like to have Robert Payne’s number.”

            “Jeezus. You really do suspect everyone. Payne didn’t even know Louise. Why should he kill her?” Nolan’s face must have betrayed her reaction to the question, since Janice abruptly exclaimed, “He was tom-catting after that bitch, too? I should have suspected. When I told him why I kicked Cal out of the house, he acted really strange. Well, I’ll be damned.”

            Before starting down the driveway, Waliewiski tried Payne’s phone number. “Voice mail,” she said, looking over at Nolan.

            “Forget it, then. We’ll set up an appointment in the morning. Try Codrington.”

            That call went through, with Codrington curious about the reason, but agreeable to this late night visit from the police. Waliewiski didn’t enlighten him, ending with, “We should be there in about twenty minutes.”

            “How’d he sound?” Nolan asked.

            “Nervous as hell. But a late night call from the police would make anyone nervous.”

            Most of the trip to the used car lot was filled with comments from Waliewiski about the six ticks she’d found, her gratitude to the police department for insisting on everyone being vaccinated against Lyme’s and how she now itched all over even though she was almost sure she’d been bitten only once. Nolan was silent, mainly because she was making inroads on the content of a plastic bag of oatmeal cookies Wilma had given her “for the road,” but also because she was considering plans for the following morning.

            By the time they’d arrived at Codrington Motors, the bag was empty and the plans had been pretty well formulated. Nolan informed Waliewiski that the number-one priority would be a return with a crew to the scene in daylight when the steady downpour was destined to end, that the site would undergo a full-scale search, and that everyone would be warned to wear tight clothes and close up their cuffs.”

            “Top priority has to be insect repellent.”

            “For sure. And when we get back from there, we’ll set up that interview with Payne.”

            The rain had become little more than a drizzle when they pulled up to the office set far back on the lot.

            The figure that greeted them at the entrance was a short, balding man showing signs of middle-age spread. Nolan’s quick evaluation was that he was indeed nervous. “What’s this all about, anyway?” were his first not unexpected words, as the officers followed him back to his office, and the detectives settled into chairs. Codrington seemed unable to do so. Instead of sitting, he kept pacing back and forth.

            “There’s been a homicide at your home up at Rock Glen. We’d like to ask you a few questions.”

            “Homicide?” The news stopped his pacing for a moment.

            “Yes. Someone shot and killed the au pair.”

            Codrington seemed stunned. For the first time he sat back in his office chair. “Louise? That can’t be. It just can’t be.”

            “Unfortunately, it’s true. We’ve already spoken to your wife, and she says the two of you argued over your relationship with Ms. Duclos and that…”

            Codrington interrupted. “What happened? How did it happen?”

            “I’m sorry, but we aren’t at liberty to discuss what occurred. Would you please answer my question?”

            Seeming to be completely baffled, Codrington scratched the back of his neck, looked unseeingly at the two detectives, stood up and started to pace again.

            “Well?”

            “I… was in love with Louise. She agreed to marry me. When I brought up the subject of divorce with Janet, she told me to get out. That’s why I’ve been staying here.” He waved a hand in the direction of a back room as he spoke.

            “Were you here all evening?”

            He shook his head. “I finally got cabin fever after going nowhere but over to the cafeteria across the street since I left the house. I decided to go to the show at the Turquoise Plaza. Starts at seven-thirty. That new film—“The End of the World.”

            Following the interview, the two detectives agreed Codrington seemed to be genuinely surprised and floored by the news of the homicide, but that his alibi was virtually worthless—even if he could describe the film in detail—since it had been showing for the past week.

            The next morning dawned, overcast and damp, but the predicted break in the weather had occurred. The search through mud puddles, dripping underbrush and the immediate area outside the house produced nothing of significance. Nolan was especially intrigued with the back entrance to the property, and both officers walked the hundred or so yards of the trail’s length down to the main road. They found at least a couple of places where a car could be parked out of sight of the road, and they agreed that the entrance to the trail was sufficiently obscure that it was unlikely someone would simply stumble across it.

            “So we’re getting down to one of the Codringtons, Payne or maybe one of the McKays,” Waliewiski said as they climbed back up the path.

            “More and more it looks that way. We can’t completely ignore other possibilities. And we will have to check out anyone else she may have known. But our plate’s going to be full for the day as it is. We’ll definitely have to check the homes further up the road. We need to run down Payne, and we have to check Duclos’ apartment. And, let’s drop by the McKays.”

            Waliewiski grinned. “Yeah. Maybe Wilma’s got a plate full of oatmeal cookies waiting for us.”

            “Just a couple of questions—like who Wilma’s doctor is.”

            A hoot greeted the explanation. “Aw, c’mon, Gina. You don’t really think she’s faking that mending hip, do you?”

            “You never know. An experienced detective takes nothing for granted. Next stop after that is Payne.”

            The stop at the McKays was brief. Waliewiski’s repeated looks at her watch having urged Nolan on, in spite of the appearance of more of the cookies.

            Robert Payne turned out to be younger than expected, perhaps in his mid thirties and, compared to Codrington, seemed a rather more likely object of a young au pair’s affection.

            Unlike Codrington, he had heard about the homicide, but he was just as distraught, if not more.

            “I can’t believe it. I just can’t believe it. Louise dead. I caught the morning news, and I’m still in shock.”

            Nolan quickly moved on to questions. “Could you tell us your whereabouts last evening?”

            A long pause followed the question. “I guess I might as well level with you. Louise asked me to keep Janice busy until eight thirty last night. So I used the excuse that we had to catch up on some backlog. Louise told me she had left some things at the Codrington house and wanted to go back to get them but didn’t want to encounter Janice. You know, of course, that Janice threw her out?”

            Nolan nodded. “Do you know why?”

            Payne stirred uneasily. “Louise said that Codrington was coming on to her. She didn’t want anything to do with him, but Janice blamed both of them for an affair that never happened.”

            “Let’s get back to last night. How long was Mrs. Codrington here?”

            “She left about eight. My backlog excuse was pretty thin, and we finished up fast. But she said she was going out shopping, so I knew that Louise would have plenty of time to leave before Janice got home. It takes a good twenty minutes to get there, you know.”

            “And what did you do then?”

            “I hung around a little longer, then went home to my apartment. It must have been about eight-fifteen when I left here. I watched part of that stupid “Claustrophobia” show, then turned in early.”

            “Claustrophobia?” Nolan turned a puzzled look at Waliewiski who looked up from her note-taking, grinned and nodded her head.

            Payne rushed in with an explanation. “You know. It’s that top-rated show where a bunch of people who have been under treatment for claustrophobia are sent down in a coal mine to see who can stay the longest. The winner gets ten million dollars. I had a hell of a time convincing Janice to come out here last night because that’s her favorite show. She hasn’t missed any of the first six episodes. She finally agreed to tape last night’s performance, especially since the five characters still in the mine have stopped cringing and screaming. What a dumb show.”

            “Did anyone else know that Louise was going to be at the Codrington’s last night?”

            “I doubt it. I certainly didn’t tell anyone. And Louise definitely didn’t want anyone to know she was going there. That was the whole point to it.”

            “Did Louise tell you what it was she wanted to get that she’d forgotten?”

            Payne shook his head

            It wasn’t until the two officers had completed an unrevealing search of Louise’s apartment, returned to the station and examined the contents of the au pair’s purse, that the reason for her visit to the Codrington home became clear. Nolan waved a floppy in the air, and a quick check with the office computer revealed a badly-kept diary.

            “I’ll bet when we check out her laptop we’ll find this is a backup. She must have hidden it in her room somewhere and forgotten it when she left in a hurry. She most certainly wouldn’t have wanted either Codrington or his wife to find it, what with all the details about how he’d promised to get a divorce and how she really had her eyes on Payne.”

            “So that’s it,” Waliewiski said after they had made several phone calls and gone over her extensive notes. “My money is on Mrs. Codrington.”

            “Let’s take the possibilities one at a time. Accidental shooting.”

            “Nah. Doc says the bullet was fired at close range. No more than fifty yards or so. Probably a lot closer. Anyone at that distance would have seen the lit window.”

            “A deliberate killing by a stranger?”

            “Serial killer type? No way. We haven’t heard of anything like that around here, and it doesn’t seem likely he’d be carrying a big-game rifle around with him. They like to interact with their victims. And remember how hard it was to find that path in the dark? But using the driveway would have been downright foolish since he would have had to walk right by the caretaker’s cottage.”

            “Someone from the homes higher up on the hill? Some of them might have been aware of the path.”

            “You know the answer to that. All of the homes are closed for the winter. Not even gardeners there this time of the year.”

            “Gerard McKay?”

            “Conceivable, I suppose. But both he and Wanda claim they heard the shot. I suppose they could be in it together, but then any possible motive goes out the window.”

            “So that leaves out Wanda.”

            Waliewiski laughed at the thought. “Her doctor didn’t want to discuss her medical condition, but he about blew his cork when he heard she was walking around, even with a walker. Said she should be in bed for at least a week more. So I think we can safely cross her off.’

            “Mrs. Codrington?”

            “Jealous as all hell. She doesn’t do any shopping. Instead, she high-tails it up to that parking place at the foot of the path, goes up to the house with a rifle in tow. Figures on shooting her rival when she gets there. Sees her sitting in that chair, and decides that’s the best way to do it. Remember how she claims it must have been an accidental shot by a poacher? That’s what her attorney’s going to argue.”

            “Sure, but how did she know Louise would be there?”

            “Let me think about that.”

            “Mr. Codrington?”

            Waliewiski shook her head emphatically. “Unless he’s a superlative actor, he was surprised and shocked as hell by the killing. And what you said about Mrs. Codrington applies to him as well. How would he have known Louise was going to be there? Besides, unless he knew about the Payne-Duclos hanky panky, which it seems he really knew nothing about, he had no motive.”

            “Payne.”

            “Ah. The one person who knew that Louise would be there. But he has even less motive than Codrington. Also, though we didn’t catch him off guard with the news of the murder the way we did with Codrington, he seemed every bit as shocked by Louise’s death. So what’s your guess?”

            “Something way in the back of my mind tells me it’s Codrington, but I have no shred of proof, not even a shred from the back of my mind. But… let’s go back and talk to him some more.”

            The lot was empty of customers and, though Codrington wasn’t happy to see the two detectives again, he agreed to answer more questions, hardly being able to cite the press of business as a reason for not doing so.

            As fidgety and nervous as the previous evening, he virtually exploded at the first question.

            “I didn’t know Louise was going to be there. I swear to God I didn’t.”

            The next series of questions about scenes in “The End of the World” seemed to calm him down as he answered without hesitation.

            The last question amused him. “Sure, I’ve heard of ‘Claustrophobia.’ When my wife called me the night she found out about Louise and me, she would have chewed me out even more if ‘Claustrophobia’ hadn’t been coming on. She wouldn’t miss that program for the world.

            As the detectives returned to their car, Nolan announced, “One more stop. I want one last word with Janice Codrington.”

            “Ah hah. Coming around to my way of thinking.”

            Janice Codrington didn’t seem especially surprised at their arrival, though she did seem perplexed by Nolan’s questions.

            “I don’t know what our pre-nuptial agreement has to do with that bitch’s death, but the document is iron clad and crystal clear. My worthless husband gets absolutely nothing but that failing car-lot with all of its debts. My lawyer made damn sure of that. And, yes, I not only agreed to the divorce but told him he’d better get hopping with it, because if he didn’t I was going to file. I’m through with him. Through! And since Bobby is from my first marriage, he has absolutely no say about him—not that he’d really want any.”

            “Didn’t you have insurance on his life?”

            “Yes. And he had a policy on me. We got it cheap through the company. A whopping big one, by the way. I finally got around to canceling it this morning.”

            Waliewiski looked a question at her boss as they got back into the car. “I was wrong,” Nolan said, “we have to make one more stop at the McKay’s”

            “OK, Gina. Quit looking so smug. Who’s the killer?”

            “Codrington.”

            “Codrington?”

            “Right. I began to suspect him without even realizing it when I saw him scratching himself at our first interview.”

            Waliewiski’s eyes opened wide. “Ticks!”

            “Exactly. Not for sure. Might have been a mosquito bite, but he was still itching this morning. And, remember, he claimed he hadn’t been away from the lot for at least a couple of days. Then, I got to thinking about the fact that he was really upset at Louise’s death.”

            “But that’s the point. Why in the world would he be upset by her death if he killed her?”

            “Because he didn’t know he killed her. He thought he’d killed his wife. You see, that was the other thing that struck me. He didn’t know that his wife wasn’t there. So, when he was lurking in that tick-infested shrubbery, he saw a profile of someone at eight-thirty watching what he thought was the ‘Claustrophobia’ show. That shot through the window was meant to get rid of his wife, open the way to marriage to Louise and give him a sizeable insurance payment that would rescue his failing business."

            “Phew! But, surely Louise wasn’t just sitting around watching that show.”

            “Nope. She was watching the weather report. The TV was still on that station when we got there. She was probably wondering whether she’d be able to get down off this hill before the hurricane struck. We’ve got plenty of evidence against him. A little persuasion should sew the case up. So call the station and have someone pick up Codrington for questioning. Tell them we’ll Mirandize him when we get there, and we’ll do the questioning. In the meantime, we have to make that stop at McKay’s.

            “Why?”

            “Just to fill them in on the fact the case is solved.”

            Waliewiski grinned, “And maybe check out whether Wanda has made some more of those oatmeal cookies.”

            “Damn right.”


END OF SAMPLE



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