I approached the counter and asked the clerk if there were any messages for me and he checked the box for room 305, took out a slip of paper and handed it to me. As I was reading it two men who had been sitting in the lobby when I walked in got up and headed for me.
I read the note. It simply asked me to call Detective Howard Miller and gave me a phone number. The two men walked up, one to either side of me, and the one on my right asked me if I was Frank Thomas.
He flashed a badge and said, "I'm Detective Larsen and the gentleman to your left is Detective Phillips."
"Yes? And what can I do for you?
"Is that note in your hand from Detective Miller of the Bransom Police Department?"
"It is from a Detective Miller, but I have no idea where he is from."
"Apparently he called and left that message at a little after nine this morning and when you never returned his call he called us and asked us if we would find you. May we ask you where you have been all day?"
"Why? What's this about?"
"Can you just humor us for a second and answer the question?
"From eight until around nine I had breakfast here in the hotel restaurant with a couple of acquaintances. From nine until noon I attended a seminar here in one of the hotels meeting rooms. Noon to one was lunch with some of the folks I met during the seminar and from one to four-thirty I attended the afternoon session. Four-thirty to six was the cocktail hour following the seminar. Six to seven-fifteen or thereabouts it was dinner in the hotel restaurant and from seven-fifteen until five minutes ago it was drinks in the Boom Boom Room. Now it is my turn. What is this all about?"
"I think it would be best if you talked to Detective Miller about that."
"One last question. Where were you last night between the hours of midnight until four?"
"In bed sleeping."
"Any one who can confirm that?"
"Why would I need someone to confirm that I was sleeping?"
"Again, you need to get that from Detective Miller."
I looked from Larsen to Phillips and then walked over to the house phone. I told the operator to bill the call to my room and then I placed a call to the number on the note to Detective Miller. Apparently it was a cell phone because in spite of the late hour it was answered on the third ring.
"My name is Frank Thomas and I have a message to call you."
"Oh yes, Mr. Thomas. You are a hard man to get in touch with."
"I have been in meetings most of the day. I didn't get your message until just now. I have two policemen from the local force with me right now and they are asking me questions, but they won't tell me what it is all about."
"I'm sorry to have to be the one to tell you Mr. Thomas, but your wife is dead."
"How? What? She was alright when I talked to her last night."
"What time was that?"
"Where did you call her from?"
"My hotel room."
"Sometime between midnight and four this morning she was murdered."
"Yes sir. It appears that someone broke into your home and killed her."
"Oh my God. Oh shit! Any idea who did it? Was it a robbery gone bad? Anything stolen like the TVs, DVRs or things like that?"
"I can't talk about it on the phone Mr. Thomas. We will go over the details when you get home."
"I'll try and be on the first flight in the morning."
"Could I please speak to the officers with you?"
I handed the phone to Larsen. "I'll be up in my room packing. I need to call the airlines and leave some messages for the people giving the seminar."
On the flight home I thought about Melisa. We'd met at a cocktail party and I had fallen head over heels in love with her. A fiery redhead with a face that lit up a room when she smiled and a body that was built for sin. She was with someone and since the party was attended by quite a few people that I wanted to do business with I had to play it cool. I waited until I caught her alone and when I didn't think anyone was looking I handed her a piece of paper with my name and phone number on it and a short message — "Call me."
She called me the next day and asked why I had presumed that she would call.
"Nothing ventured, nothing gained" I said, "and a Brit military unit has a motto that fits this situation. "Who dares wins."
"How can I pass up a chance at meeting someone so confident."
"You really shouldn't."
She gave me her address and I picked her up at six that evening for dinner. She had the whole package. Looks, wit, charm and intelligence. On our third date she told me that we would be eating in and I just needed to bring the wine. When dinner was over and the bottle of wine was empty she took my hand, said:
"I hope you hadn't planned on leaving early. We need to see if we have a future together."
She led me into her bedroom and proceeded to fuck my brains out. The woman was insatiable, but I must have done all right because in the morning after another strenuous romp she said:
Nine months later we were married.
My thoughts were interrupted by the "Please put your seat backs and tray tables in their upright position" announcement as we prepared for landing.
I had called ahead to let Miller know what flight I'd be on and when it was due in. He and his partner, a Detective Paulsen, were waiting for me when I came off the plane. After the introductions he asked me to accompany them to the station and I told him I'd get my car out of the parking garage and either follow them or meet them at the station and he said that they would really rather that I go with them.
"And I would really rather not. I'm here, my car is here and there is no sense my going all the way downtown with you and then have to turn around and come all the way back out here to get my car so unless you are arresting me I'm going to get my car."
"One might wonder why you aren't being very cooperative Mr. Thomas."
"No one in my situation would wonder. How about we shorten the dance a bit. My wife has been murdered and we both know that I am a suspect even though I was almost four hundred miles away and can prove it. We both know that you have the officers you talked with last night checking out everything that I told them before I called you. We both know that you wouldn't tell me anything about hat happened to my wife when we talked last night. All you said was that we would talk about it when I got back here. Now you want me to just walk off and leave my car here? That tells me that you don't think I'm going to need it any more which tells me that you have pretty much decided that I'm your guy and you expect to see me behind bars before the day is over so my car can just sit. And you expect me to cooperate? Cooperation is a two way street detective."
He looked at me and then nodded his head. "I guess we are getting off on the wrong foot here."
He looked around and then pointed at one of the many food places scattered throughout the terminal and said:
"Lets get a table and some coffee and I'll bring you up to speed."
Once we were sitting with coffee Miller said, "At approximately nine-ten yesterday morning a friend of your wife's, a Mary Osbourne, arrived to pick your wife up for a prearranged shopping date. When no one answered the bell she tried the door and found it open. She called for your wife and got no answer. She checked and saw that your wife's car was still in the garage so thinking that your wife might have overslept she went upstairs and found your wife dead on the bedroom floor. She called 911 but according to the coroner your wife had been dead at least four hours when her friend found her."
"You said that she had been murdered."
"She had been shot twice."
"Why do I have the feeling that you aren't telling me everything?"
"Because I'm not. There is a procedure that has to be followed in cases like this. There needs to be a formal interrogation at the station which will be recorded. I've already told you more that I'm supposed to have. Go get your car and meet us at the station."
"Should I have an attorney with me?"
"That is up to you. You certainly have the right. As a policeman I have to admit that I don't want you to exercise that right. Attorneys have a habit of constantly interrupting and it impedes the flow of the interrogation and a smooth flowing interrogation in itself can tell the interrogator something."
"So I am gong to be interrogated?"
"Of course you are. You said it yourself. Until you are cleared you are a person of interest as far as the investigation into your wife's death is concerned."
We finished our coffee and I took the shuttle to pick up my car. At the station I was ushered into a room and Miller and Paulson joined me. They warned me that the session was being recorded and asked me if I wanted an attorney present. I told them no. I was asked my whereabouts on the night in question and I told them the same things I'd told the detectives at the hotel. Then Paulson asked me:
"Do you own a handgun?"
"OH? Any .22 calibers?"
"No. Mostly Colt .45s and Glock .40s."
"I may have a couple of .357 Magnums, but I'm not sure."
"How can you own them and not be sure?"
"I don't actually own them; my company does."
"Paladin Security Services."
"You own Paladin?"
"Yes I do."
He pondered that for a couple of seconds and then asked, "Do you know a Robert Turner?"
"I've never net him, but I know who he is."
"What do you know about him?"
"Well, I'm not really up to date on this, but as of last week he was my wife's current lover."
"You know that?"
"Yes. I think it was around the beginning of April that she took up with him."
"Maybe you should get an attorney in here Mr. Thomas."
"Because you have just admitted knowing that Robert Turner is your wife's lover and Robert Turner was found dead in the bedroom with your wife."
"And you have just assumed that I, being the outraged husband, killed them both in a fit of jealous rage? That's absurd. If I was going to kill anyone in a fit of rage it would have been Ronald Porter. He was the first one she cheated on me with. Since Porter there have been at least four others and I've never harmed a hair on any of their heads."
"You know all of this for a fact?"
"I have the private detectives reports on them."
"And you did nothing?"
I could see the look on Paulson's face. It read "You sorry assed wimpy bastard. What kind of a man are you?" I thought "fuck you" to myself and answered Miller.
"You ever been through a divorce or know someone who has?"
"I've not, but I know several who have been."
"How did the man come out on the deal?"
"Not well I'm afraid."
"That was my problem. I've done well for myself. My home is worth a little over three million and the business I've worked my ass off to build is worth around ten to twelve million. This is a no fault state so even catching Melissa cheating she would get half of everything. I would have to sell the house and business, give half to Melissa and then end up paying court costs and attorney's fees and probably end up paying the bitch alimony for a year."
"Still, it is motive."
"Maybe, but it wouldn't make sense for me to kill her and chance going to jail when I would be rid of her for free in another nine months."
"How is that?"
"She would have come into a trust fund when she reached thirty which is only nine months away. It is somewhere in the neighborhood of seven million. We would have had equal assets then and I could divorce the whore and keep all I've got. In fact, her getting herself killed now robs me of a windfall. If she had waited until she was thirty to get wasted I would have inherited. As it is now all that money will go to a bunch of charities. It would have been worth my while to have lived with her for nine more months. You never did tell me. How did she die?"
"Two shots to the forehead. Turner got it the same way; two in the forehead."
"A double tap to the head? Ring any bells?"
"Have you checked out Turner's wife?"
"She has a rock solid alibi."
"No surprise there; she would have. Have you checked out her family?"
"Her father is Vito Genovese and if even half of what you hear about him is true he would have no problem in finding someone to help him out with a problem brought to him by his darling daughter. Family honor and all that bullshit. Isn't a double tap to the head the sign of a mob style hit?"
Miller and Paulson looked at each other and I could see the wheels turning. Miller looked at me and asked:
"Can you back up what you are saying?"
"I've got the PI reports on her lovers and I can give you the name of her attorney and I would imagine you can get the trust fund information from him. The part about Genovese is in the PI report I got on Turner."
"Did your wife know that you were aware of her activities?"
"I don't think so. I acted like a clueless husband around her. She was damned good in bed and she never said no to me and I wasn't about to go without sex until she turned thirty and I wasn't going to play outside the marriage and give her a chance at catching me and divorcing me."
"I don't think we have any more to ask at this time, but please keep us informed as to your whereabouts in case we need to talk with you again.
As they lowered Melissa's casket into the hole I looked around at the assembled mourners and wondered if any one of them even had the slightest clue as to what happened.
When I finished college at twenty I wasn't ready to settle down. I wanted to do something exciting, take some chances and enjoy life before settling into a nine to five life spent with a June Cleaver type wife, house with the picket fence and the two point three kids.
Clinton was sending troops to Bosnia and there ought to be some excitement there so I joined the Army. I didn't even make it through basic training. My third week in basic several of the clowns in my platoon decided that they needed to teach 'the college boy' some manners and they threw me a blanket party. I was in the shower when it happened. With the blanket over me and several guys holding me I should have been helpless as they started to beat on me with socks filled with soap bars.
I'd never had any martial arts training and I don't even know why I did what I did. It was probably something I saw in a movie and subconsciously remembered. I swept my leg — not kicked, but swept — hard from right to left and knocked the legs out from under one of the guys. He fell and his head hit the shower floor and one of the others said, "Christ! He's bleeding." And one of the guys let loose of me to bend over and check on the guy on the floor. That loosened the grip on me and another leg sweep took out another guy who fell to the floor. Suddenly there weren't enough guys holding me and I jerked away from the ones who were and got out from under the blanket.
Two men were down on the floor and a third was bent down over them and the two who were standing were looking at me with looks that said "Whoa! This ain't the way it is supposed to happen."
I grabbed one by the arm and swung him face first into the shower wall and he went down. The other guy started to back away while the guy kneeling started to get up. Figuring that I'd rather have him down than up I kneed him in the face and saw blood spurt from his broken nose and as he started to fall I kicked him hard in the ribs with the heel of my foot. I started for the guy still standing and he turned and ran. The first guy I'd swept the legs out from under wasn't moving, but the second one was and so I dropped on his back, grabbed his head and smashed it into the floor.