A simple flash tale, with thanks going to Editor Dave T for making the fable readable. A shout out to my retired detective neighbor who helped fill in some blanks. All and any errors are mine and mine alone.
The room at the Metro PD station was an institutional gray color with obvious Government Issue table and chairs that had seen better days. The place did not look like any of the interrogation rooms you saw on police TV shows, mainly because the room was so small. The cramped location was not much bigger than an average sized home bathroom.
An older burly man with 'law enforcement' written all over his face maneuvered his bulk around the beaten metal table and plopped into a chair. He dropped a set of file folders on the table top and motioned in two more men standing in the doorway.
"Sit there please" the big man said pointing out two chairs opposite him.
First to enter was a middle aged adult in an expensive suit. He shepherded in another male of the same age dressed in a presentable suitcoat that he clearly was not comfortable wearing. One look at his hands displayed someone who did not spend his days pounding away on a keyboard. In contrast the 'suit' had trimmed manicured nails and looked as if he was born in a shirt and tie.
The burly man opposite from the pair, pointed at a cassette tape recorder on the table. "Counselor, thank you for coming in with your client today. I hope you do not mind if we record this conversation."
The suit let out a laugh. "Really Detective? You think this is my first rodeo?" He pointed at the tape deck. "We both know you have not recorded anything on that museum piece since Pink Floyd was singing 'Another Brick in the Wall' and you were wearing parachute pants with a pony tail."
The attorney leaned back and motioned to what resembled an oversized smoke detector on the ceiling. "I'll gamble your paycheck that any conversation in a police station interrogation room has no expectation of privacy, and EVERYTHING is being recorded by your 'little eye in the sky' there."
They went through the motion of reciting their names, the time, date, etc. for the 'record' when the attorney held up his hand to ward off any more questions.
"As long as we are stating conditions for 'the record' Detective, I wish you to acknowledge my client is not under arrest and is free to go at any time."
Settling back in his chair the Detective replied casually. "We are all just having a conversation and speaking freely here."
"Very good Officer, so now that you have made it clear we will having a speaking conversation and will not be using sign language, or texting, or sending smoke signals, can you say 'My client is not under arrest and is free to go at any time'."
"Fine Counselor, your client is not under arrest at the present time."
The attorney stood up and motioned his client to do the same. "Apparently we have a failure to communicate. Detective, if I do not hear the words 'My client is not under arrest and free to go at any time' we are leaving immediately and you can go get a judge to issue a subpoena to speak with my client."
The Detective just smiled to himself. He was not fazed by the barrister's little speech. He knew the peacock was just showing off for his meal ticket. The Detective had been in this job way too long to take these verbal jousts personally. He looked at it more as a duel between a baseball pitcher and batter. There were a lot of other players on the team, but this was between the two of them. No matter the outcome, both would move onto the next encounter with a different, but familiar opponent.
Putting his hands on the table, the Detective language was monotone, as if talking to a child. "Your client is not under arrest and is free to go at any time."
The attorney looked at his client who shrugged and sat down.
Opening a folder from the top of the pile the Detective pulled out a series of color photos, tossing them to the center of the table. The pictures displayed a fire ravaged residence.
Putting on reading glasses from a shirt pocket, the burly lawman referenced a printed report deeper in the folder.
"This is from the Metro Fire Arson Squad." He said, shaking the multipage report in his grasp. "It states the cause of the fire that destroyed your home and wife's BMW in the garage was deliberately set, and the accelerant used was an acetone based fluid. The blaze started in the hallway outside the master bedroom shared by you and your wife."
The Detective peered over his glasses at the man next to the attorney. "In any case of arson by the policyholder, Insurance will not pay claims for damage or reimbursement of any expenses."
When no response came from the attorney or his client, the Detective put down the Arson report. "In my experience an innocent man would wish to speak up. Not appear guilty by hiding behind a lawyer."
The man started to speak but was silenced by the Attorney's grip on his sleeve, who then turned to the Detective before replying. "Well Detective it is a good thing we don't rely on your experience, but Constitutional law and the Bill of Rights, where every man is presumed innocent until proven guilty."
The attorney fixed his tie before continuing. "As far as 'hiding' behind a legal representative, my client is a simple father, homeowner, and tax paying citizen. YOU on the other hand have a several thousand strong quasi-military force at your disposal, complete with full crime lab facilities and million dollar war chest backed by a massive metro city legal department. Yet you wish to have my client just face this onslaught without even the simplest of legal protection? Who is real Bully in this room?"
The attorney leaned back in the chair. He also knew how to play the game. "Detective. Can we get to the real reason we are here. I do not recall arson investigation being under the Metro Police jurisdiction. Or is crime so low in our fair city you need to find something to do, like harass homeowners who have been burned out of their house?"
The Detective did not reply at first, but took two remaining photos out of the folder. "Counselor, you are correct. The Metro PD leaves arson to our firefighting brethren. However murder, assault and attempted murder cases do land on my desk."
He tried to pass the photos to the man sitting next to the Attorney. But the Attorney's well manicured fingers intercepted the pictures. The Detective did not object but did not pose his question at the attorney.
"Sir, do you care to comment on these pictures?"
The two photos showed the outside wall of a dwelling mostly blackened by fire. The standing wall still had glowing embers at the base and smoke was visible. Most prominent in the picture were large letters spray painted on the wall.
CHEATING BITCH LIVES HERE!!!!
The Attorney studied the two pictures with great interest, even turning them on their sides. Then with a furrow of his brow he placed the two pictures on the table.
"You know Detective I worked my way through college and law school as a photographer. In my opinion I think whoever shot these pictures did a nice job on the framing. But me personally? I would have used a different filter and maybe increased the f-stop a bit. This would have increased the depth of field more and made the subject matter really stand out from the background. Naturally this is more of a subjective nature and completely dependent on what your shooter was going for."
"Don't be a wise ass Counselor. I really would like to know what your client there thinks of this little artistic statement."
"Detective, I have known my client for almost three decades, and can testify in a court of law he has no interest in photography and would be unable even as an amateur to give any constructive criticism on these pictures. Therefore I am advising my client not to comment on your collection."
The lawman let out a breath while opening another folder. "Fine, if you want to sit mute and let your mouthpiece lead you to a jail cell, be my guest."
He then threw some printed papers onto the table. "That is a statement from your wife. It details her seven month affair with one of her co-workers." Seeing no response he continued. "I must tell you she was not very forthcoming until she found the bank accounts empty. Then BANG! That was one pissed off female. She could not wait to throw you under the bus."
For the first time the silent man spoke. "Stupid bitch" the man muttered.
The Detective raised his eyebrows. "Interesting choice of words." He pointed at the photo of the graffiti like scrawl on the blacken wall. "Not 'stupid' but 'bitch'. I think it was Einstein who said only two things are infinite, stupidly and the universe, and he was not too sure about the universe."
The man facing the detective, just shrugged.
Shuffling the wife's statement back into the folder, the Detective continued. "Your wife was extremely fortunate she was not in the house the night of the fire, although her car was parked in the garage. The car in the garage would indicate she was home which could have made this arson fire a homicide, not just attempted homicide."
Seeing no response from the two men, the Metro Detective tossed another sheet of papers on the table with a photo attached. "Now, what was the source of your wife's good fortune as not to be home when a blaze consumed your domicile?"
He placed his finger on the picture of man in his early thirties. "This is your wife's 'paramour'. He may be hard to recognize as a few weeks before the fire someone tried to rearrange his features with a baseball bat."
Thick fingers turned over a page. "Your wife's 'friend' claims the two of them were at a local watering hole until late that night. The bar staff confirms the happy couple were at the establishment, and your wife and a bunch of friends did not leave until almost closing."
The man started to speak, but his attorney put a hand on his arm.
One more paper appeared out of the Detectives file folders. "Now this little piece is what I find most interesting. Notes from a conversation with your employer the night of the fire. You remember that night? The night you were working late. Odd that your employer said you did not work that night, or in fact you have not worked for him in some weeks. He also told us you cashed out your 401K. That must have been a hefty penalty."
Leaning back the Detective eyed the two men across the table from him. "You wanna hear what I think?"
The Lawyer adjusted his cufflinks. "I assume Detective if we say 'No', you will tell us anyway. So as we have no choice, please continue and just babble away."
Now the Detective leaned, forward closing the distance between them. "The investigation shows at some point in the recent past you found out about your spouse's extracurricular activities. You emptied the bank accounts, and then jumped her boyfriend and did some batting practice on him with a Louisville slugger. Now, on an evening when your son just happens to be absent, your brides car in the garage gave you the chance to play a little firestarter."
The big lawman started counting off on his fingertips. "The affair is what we call motive. Your wife's seeming alone that night gives you opportunity, and of course the arson gives us means. That is the trifecta, motive, means and opportunity."
At this point the detective leaned back. "You know I do not really blame you. In law enforcement, divorce and cheating bitches are as common as bad coffee and parking tickets. My ex-wife screwed me over after almost a dozen years of marriage. I almost wish I had the balls to do what you did. I can tell you I will do my best to get you an ASA who feels the same way I do. But you gotta come clean. You could be looking at insurance fraud, arson, bank fraud, assault, attempted homicide, and that is just to start. I mean I am not any genius, so if I can figure this out, what do you think a jury is gonna do?"
The Attorney and his client looked at each other, then the man nodded almost imperceptibly to his lawyer.
Turning toward the Detective, the suit began speaking. "Detective, did you know I am told that Einstein also said the difference between genius and stupidly is that genius has limits?"
The attorney put his hands on the table. "You have a lot of facts, but extremely faulty conclusions. I saw a squirrel run up a tree outside your Metro Precinct today. Does that mean all trees have squirrels?" He placed a briefcase on the table and began pulling out papers.
"My client was aware of his wife's affair after the first week. Here is paperwork prepared for divorce shortly thereafter his discovery. He was just awaiting his son to finish high school and leave for college. He saw no reason the mother's adulteress behavior should ruin his sons senior year."
A folder thick with slips was next out of the briefcase. "Sadly the dissolution of his marriage caused depression so severe my client was unable work effectively. He left his position shortly after uncovering the affair. The adrenaline of gambling, is not a typical treatment for depression, but this was how he tried to cope. These ATM withdrawals slips from the various casinos show a considerable draining of savings. The ATM paper trail shows there was no money to hide.
Another bulging file joined the tabletop as the attorney continued. "Naturally with all these funds going out but nothing coming in, something had to give. You see the homeowners insurance was canceled two months ago. The house was paid off so no insurance was required. Now as the fire has shown, going bare is never a good idea, but certainly not insurance fraud."
This time it was the Detective who remained silent as the Attorney continued.
"Fortunately, my client came to his senses before he hit rock bottom. It was about two weeks ago when he had just withdrawn his 401K to wager on Sundays sporting events in a vain attempt to 'get back'. After an epiphany, he decided the 401k, despite early withdrawal penalties, would be best invested in his son's college fund." Another set of folders joined the growing stack on the table. "You will see what was left of the 401K went to the prepaid fund for the boys college education."
The Lawyer glanced over at his client, who nodded again. "That same day he went to a gamblers anonymous meeting to get his 'problem' under control."
The Attorney fingered the photo displaying a beaten man. "I think you will find on the date and time of Loverboy's unfortunate altercation, my client was at a Gamblers Anonymous meeting. If needed, I have my clients Sponsor who will confirm this fact."
Now the Attorney pawed the picture of the charred wall displaying graffiti. "As far as the arson you mentioned, you are looking at the wrong male who was sharing the soon to be ex wife's vagina."
He placed the photo on top of the arson picture. "I believe this home wrecker had a better motive."
Now the Detective did speak. "OK Counselor, just how did this man manage to be at both the nightclub with your clients wife and set the fire? For that matter why would he?"
Another ream of papers appeared out of the briefcase before the Attorney spoke. "You should really have whoever did the nightclub check do a more thorough job. This is a report from a very reputable PI, actually your former partner, now retired, who interviewed all the bar staff. Seems Loverboy was at the bar that night, but not that long. Apparently, old wifey had cast him aside, cutting him loose after his 'accident'. I guess the groin injury meant he was no longer good for what she wanted."
"Several employees of the bar witnessed quite a blow-up between the two. Seems Loverboy was not happy about the breakup, nor his bed partner dancing with other men. The doorman had to escort Loverboy to the exit, and none too gently. I think we can agree that the jealously of a jilted lover is one of the most classic of motives, besides greed."