by K. Ray
Detective John Walker investigates alleged murder of a rabbi's son.
The scene had mostly been cleared away, but several officers remained at the house, Caleb included. I walked in the door and found Caleb handling the caller ID to Michael’s phone.
Caleb looked up from the machine for a few seconds and said, “What happened with Raisa. We just got a warrant.” He went back to flipping through the last two hundred recorded calls.
“I noticed a VCR missing from the living room here, and a VCR just happens to be sitting on top of Raisa Marlowe’s fridge. I don’t think she killed him though.”
“Are you sure she is just an opportunistic thief?”
“She is a strong suspect, but I can’t find a motive for her to have killed him. Then again, there is no motive for any suspect right now. I just have a feeling that she isn’t capable of something like that.”
“She gave no indication of motive?”
“She mentioned that she hated him,” I said. “That should be motive enough I guess, but do we know why? She fed me a line about him not being nice to his neighbors, which sounds like a load of crap to me, but even if it was true Raisa was holding something back. I don’t know what yet, but I will.”
“I can fill you in somewhat on that,” Caleb said. “Daniel Carlson, the neighbor directly across the street from Michael’s, told police that Raisa had been over to Michael’s recently. He said that he was pruning his roses and he heard shouting from inside the house. Soon after, he saw her leave. Talk to the other neighbors to see if they heard anything. I need you to go with Carlos to the search party at the thief’s house. I talked with Frank and he assigned you the case officially.”
“We already had the case,” Julie said. She stepped from her car and walked toward us, grinning as if she were a jack-o-lantern that had just been carved into a permanent state of bliss.
“Why are you grinning?” Caleb said, “You look like you’ve got rubber bands pulling your face in two directions.”
“I just watched Sam the innocent Rabbi turn into Sam the B and E expert.”
“I thought he said he knew the pass codes. Didn’t he?” I said.
“He knew how to disable the system.” She took off her shoe and waved it in my face.
“Did Sam really go where he said he was going to?” I said.
“Sam is safe,” Julie said.
“Okay. Thanks for volunteering nothing at all,” I said.
“You are welcome,” she said. “Aleb-kay…ohnt-day…eed-nay…u-tay…oh-nay.”
“If I don’t need to know,” Caleb said. He winked at Julie. “Then I won’t ask.”
“So, do you think Sam killed Michael?” I said to Julie.
“Not a chance. I can read faces pretty well and he was genuinely distraught when he talked to us about it at your office. He isn’t all innocent though, obviously.”
“Listen up, guys,” Caleb said. “There’s lots of crap to wade through on that Caller ID. The guy loves to talk. We ran across two incoming calls that I think you should take a look at. The first is 555-324-9601; it came in at 5:43. That number came from our PD. I gave a callback to it and it went to Rebecca.” I call that Becca forwarded could have originated from any detective’s office. I shuddered. Almost three hours before Sam called me, a detective called his house. Michael was still alive then.Becca was the main detective division secretary. She handled all incoming calls and forwarded all outgoing calls from the detective division of the force. The call could have been made from any detective’s office.
“Where is the second call from?”
“This will only be interesting to you two. The call came from 555-324-8270. The caller ID tagged it as being from GOD.” I recognized the as Reginald Larsen’s personal cell phone, although on his fiancés machine the tag was REGGIE. I ran through a checklist of the inventory I had logged from the Larsen case stored in the ER of my office--the Evidence room.
I said, “We never came across the phone during the investigation of the case. It was presumed forever lost.”
"That is puzzling. I was thinking it might have been stolen from the Evidence Room," Julie said. “What time was that call made?”
“Seven,” Caleb said.
“Julie, after we search the Marlowe residence, I am headed to the library. Are you up for an all-nighter? We’ll stop by my office and get every damn file from the Larsen case. We missed some connection here. Why would whoever has Reggie‘s cell call Michael, and why was he calling as God.”
It had been a long night, but I was wide-awake. Julie, on the other hand, looked already as if she was dead to the world. Every couple of minutes her eyelids would sink down across her brown eyes, but each time she forced them back up again. She was energized and propelled by the prospect of finding new information in the Reginald Larsen case, her obsession since the day the man walked into our office, and so despite her sleepy state she insisted that my idea was a great one. We went to Raisa’s after picking up the files we needed. This time Carlos knocked on the door. It took her a while to answer and I was afraid she wasn’t there, but she finally came out, still in her pink pajamas and still like a coffee treat.
“Miss Marlowe?” I said.
“Yes. Can I be of more help to you?
Oddly nice for a second interview, I thought. I said, “My friend Carlos just has a few more questions.”
Our team of investigators stepped inside the house. Carlos wasted no time in pulling out the handcuffs. Rookie mistake, I thought. Pump her for information first. “Ma’am,” Carlos said, “You are under arrest for the murder of Michael R. Koontz. You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to have an attorney present now and during any future questioning. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed to you, free of charge, if you wish. Do you understand your rights?” She made no move to call a lawyer. Surprising, since she was so quick to throw me out of the house after being advised of her rights the first time. Carlos started to pat her down, but I stopped him.
“I don’t think that’s necessary,” I said. Carlos glanced sideways at me, but obeyed. I could hear the TV in the other room tuned into the news. A suicide bomber killed eighteen people in Israel today. Three more are seriously injured.
“I don’t understand,” she said. “I didn’t kill that bastard.” Mohammed Atta walked into this restaurant and detonated the device as a waitress approached him, killing himself outright.
I said, “We are investigating a murder. Were you completely honest with us in every way at the prior interview?” A witness to the bombing was Dittmar Machule, Atta’s professor at Hamburg-harbor Technical University.
Julie said, “We found prints at the scene that match yours, but that just isn’t possible now, is it? There must be some mistake. You told us you never entered the house, so they couldn’t be your prints, could they?” Julie smiled. She spoke as if she could trap Jesus Christ into a contradictory statement. He described Atta as a diligent, clever, modest, disciplined and unbiased student.
I said, “Michael Koontz died at about the same time you walked by his house. I honestly feel in my gut that you are no murderer, but I believe you know more than you are telling us.” Machule is being treated for respiratory problems caused by shock. The waitress who was serving Atta, surprisingly, is in fair condition tonight.
“Carlos here can give you a ride to the station,” Julie said, “Or, if you feel it would save you the embarrassment, we could take a bench here. Would you like to call a lawyer?” We will have your latest sports scores when we return.
Raisa shifted from foot to food, and shook her head. “Look, I didn’t do anything. I was walking past Michael’s house and I heard gunshots. So when I went inside and found Michael dead, I guess I panicked. I hated the self-righteous prick, but I didn’t kill him.”
“Are you sure that’s your story? I want to protect you so just think for a few moments,” Carlos said. “There are some large inconsistencies in your story. We have evidence linking you to the crime. I believe you were in the house for a very long time.”
Julie said, “You killed him.”
“No. No! Someone was in the shower when I came. I was afraid it was the killer so I ran out. I didn’t see anyone else. You gotta believe me.”
“I sure would like to know exactly why you didn’t reveal this to investigators earlier,” Carlos said. “You were inside of the crime scene after a murder took place. Didn’t you think that was important?”
“Make sure you show all the cards,” I said.
“That’s all that happened,” Raisa said.
“Good. So there wouldn’t be any evidence or valuables from the crime scene in this apartment if I used a warrant to search the place?”
Raisa looked at me wide-eyed. “Um.”
She stammered just a tiny bit, and then she bolted out the doorway and down the hall, heading for the back door. Julie sprinted after her. Carlos followed. I ran out the front door and around to the back, hoping to capture Raisa between us.
Just as I rounded the last corner, I saw Raisa pull a gun from a hidden holster at her waist. “Damn!” I cursed myself for assuming that her beauty was analogous to her not being a serious threat.
Julie yelled, “Stop or I’ll fire.”
Raisa, standing next to the back door, had her gun raised toward Julie. A cheap 9mm made by Action Arms. It wasn’t cocked, but I had to assume it was loaded. Julie had her own gun pointed at Raisa and I prayed that she wouldn’t shoot her to shit.
“Raisa put your gun down!” I said. In response, she cocked the gun.
Julie fired two 9mm bullets right next to her, just missing, but one of the bullets entered the hard wood of the door, sending wood chips into Raisa’s left calf. I ran toward the scene. Carlos caught up to Julie and said to Raisa, “Stop right there.”
Raisa cried out sharply when the wood pierced her leg and she whimpered. She dropped the gun. I grabbed her arm and yanked it behind her, then the same with the other. I motioned to Carlos for the handcuffs and reminded her of her rights. I led her back into the house and into the living room. She leaned against the wall that separated the room from the kitchen.
“Ok,” Caleb said. “I see we can’t be civil. We do have that warrant my friend talked about though. You call your lawyer while we look around a bit.” He pulled the warrant from inside his jacket and motioned for Julie to come over and guard the front door.
“Raisa Marlowe,” he said. “We have a warrant to search the premises for possible items obtained illegally from a crime scene. Hindering this search in any way is a crime in itself punishable by law.”
I took my ID out of my pocked and pinned it to the front of my jacket just in case Raisa wanted to see it again anytime during the investigation. Carlos had already fastened his to his belt.
“Oh, Christ, I can’t believe this.” Raisa held out her hand. “Can I see the warrant?” I took the warrant from Caleb and showed her what it said.
Raisa walked to the couch and plopped down. I threw the warrant on her lap. She said, “I’m keeping this, and I’m calling a lawyer.” She pulled a cell from her pocket.
“I understand,” I said. “Could you unlock this door?”
“I always lock my bedroom door when I leave it. Just a minute,” Raisa said through clenched teeth. She stood up from the couch, walked over to a brass jar, and tipped it over with her head. “The key is in there. Sorry but I can’t pick it up for you.”
I found the key and unlocked the door to her room.
“Could you hand me the phone?” The battery on her cell must have died. I reached in to grab the portable phone and handed it to Raisa, who stayed in the hall. She motioned them in with her head. She didn’t look at any of us as she dialed a phone number.
Julie looked at her. “Miss Marlowe.” She walked into the doorway. “Don’t stay in the hall. Come inside please.”
Raisa glanced up at the wrong moment, locking onto Julie’s glaring blue eyes. She then nodded compliantly as she brought the phone to her ear. “Fine. I wasn’t planning on staying in the hall anyway. Knock yourselves the hell out, but please leave my panties in the drawer, huh?”
“Take a seat.” Carlos pointed to the bed.
Raisa shook her head and squeezed inside; with the four of us in her room, it was crowded. She ignored us and sat on her bed, talking into the phone quietly. I heard her say, “Uncle!” before she started talking quickly in Portuguese. I had studied it for a couple of semesters, but I couldn’t make out what she was saying.
We made a cursory exam of the room, poking and prodding at things. The VCR I had seen on the fridge before was no longer there. I found it under the bed, along with several other items that were probably not hers. Raisa was all to happy to kick me in the head as I crawled under the bed. Carlos grabbed the VCR from me and started a pile of evidence next to the door. I made sure Raisa saw me open her top dresser drawer and run my fingers through her underwear to see if there was anything in the bottom of the drawer. Julie took two small glass jars of liquid from one of the shelves.
Raisa got of the phone long enough to protest. “Hey! Not those! Those are for a college art project, damn it!”
“What project?” Julie studied the vials. “These look like samples of some of the crap that was at the scene, John.”
“Jesus, keep them if you want, but you’d better fucking write me a note so that I don’t get flunked out of the course because you got my goddamn paint samples,” Raisa said and returned to the phone.
Raisa continued to ignore us as she spoke on the phone until she finally hung up and then she just watched us poke through her things. She flipped me off when I took a painting from the wall to check for a safe behind it.
“So you are an art student?”
“Yeah. It’s just a hobby,” Raisa said.
“Oh, so where are your paints?” Carlos said.
Raisa pointed at Julie. “In the vials she just took.”
Julie opened them up and used a pen to stir them. “And the brushes?”
“Bottom left-hand drawer of the desk near the window. Right next to some papers.” Raisa crossed her arms and looked at her expectantly.
Julie opened the drawer. She found that there weren’t any painting supplies in the drawer, but there were papers and pens. Even when she riffled around she didn’t find anything that could be used for painting. “Hmm. Not in here.”
Raisa frowned. “They’re not?” She got up and looked for herself, not approaching either investigator too closely. She feigned being dumbfounded pretty well and shrugged. “I must have forgotten them at my parents’ when I went to their place.”
“What about an easel?” I said.
Raisa scoffed. “I don’t use easels. Look, what the hell does that have to do with anything?”
“It doesn’t matter,” Carlos said. “Where is your backpack? Or a carrying case? Surely you don’t carry all your supplies in your hand as you go from class to class.”
“Shove it!” Raisa said.
“Julie, get her loaded into the police car.”
I found the pack Carlos had mentioned hanging from a hook in her closet behind her shirts.
“What’s in the backpack?” he said.
“Cocaine,” I said. “Lots of it in little baggies. She left a few razor blades in the bag so we can charge her with paraphernalia too.”
After finishing up at Raisa’s, Julie and I went to the library. I immediately went to the religious section and pulled a book titled Judaism and the New King James Version Bible off the shelf. Julie, following her own rabbit trail, went to another section to find the autobiography of Reginald Larsen, titled The Abundant Lifestyle. Until now, I had given up on that case. Julie spent every spare second trying to find any clue as to who might have murdered Reginald, especially in the last two weeks. It seemed that the more time passed, the more urgent she became.
We sat down at a long table in the library’s main room, close to where I had chosen my books.
“What are you looking for?” Julie said.
“I need to find motive for Sam to have killed Reginald,” I said.
“You can’t draw that conclusion based on the facts. Get serious.”
“I am. The only reason he called me is because his son probably said I was a shitty detective and he needed a shitty detective to take the case so he could get off easy. There is a connection here somewhere and I know it.”
“Calm down, John.”
“His son hated me. I can’t buy even for one second that his son took any interest in me. I hate the SOB and I know the feeling was mutual. Besides that, no one whose son has just been murdered takes a shower before coming to the office of the detective handling the case. Common sense tells a person to preserve the evidence and instead he washed it all down the drain.”
“If I’d just gotten my dead son’s blood all over me, I’d shower too. Now, what motive do you think you are going to find in a Jewish history book?”
“I am going to find somewhere in the Jewish faith that would make Sam feel justified for murder.”
We sat in silence for nearly an hour. After reading through almost three chapters of Judaism, I decided that the strict religious requirements of the Jewish law books were not for me anyway, so reading it was beginning to be a chore. Follow this and don’t eat that. My brother had tried to convince me once that his religion was the only way to heaven, but I had heard that from every other religious person too.
I closed the book and surveyed the small crowd that filled the void in the library. A middle-aged man sitting across from me in a brown leather chair caught my eye. He was a tall, black man, quite skinny, and bald. He wore a yarmulke. It was difficult to miss him. He was an extraordinary man, and he knew it. He moved with the air of someone who didn’t actually own the world but knew the real owner wouldn’t be back for some time.
Less formally dressed than Sam, he was wearing a white sweater with LA stitched in blue lettering and dark blue Levi pants. I tapped Julie on the shoulder to get her attention and then I walked, not discreetly, to a chair next to this Jewish man’s. He made no sign that he was interested in my presence. He reached into a bag of chips hidden at his side, licked off the entire cheese coating, and popped it in his mouth. Eating wasn’t allowed in the library and now I clearly saw why. Orange chip crumbs were laced between the pages of the book he was reading, On the Sixth Day. I couldn’t be sure, but I didn’t think he was following me. I looked at Julie for confirmation. The man stood and walked toward the door. Julie shook her head and went back to what she was reading.
On the brown leather seat beside me, a blank white envelope lay where the man had been. I picked it up. I thought I could make out a light orange fingerprint on the corner. It was sealed with a royal blue wax stamp. I had only seen them in the movies about the dark ages. It was stamped with the cursive letters L and A tied together by what appeared to be a vine.
I used a utility knife to cut around it, leaving it intact. I pulled out a single sheet of white paper from the envelope. In ornate blue script at the top of the page were the words Limited Abundance. The first letters of each word were bold and much larger than the rest. The word abundance was strikingly familiar. I was beginning to see what the connection was between Sam’s case and Reginald Larsen’s. It was somewhere in the back of my mind, and it had to do with religion.
“Look at this,” I said, handing Julie the letter and the envelope it was in.
“I have never seen this seal before,” Julie said. “It is made from a hand-crafted stamp so we can’t trace where it came from. There are tiny imperfections in the mold that have shown up on the wax. A computer would have smoothed it out better.”
“Can we determine the uniqueness of the wax composition?” I said.
“Not unless you can convince Caleb to let us use the lab. I don’t know about you, but I feel a lot less comfortable around the guys on the force. We are walking on eggshells around them. I know that the badge didn’t come from there, but I still find myself looking for an officer missing one anyway. John, I need some shuteye. I am falling asleep here, rambling on.”
“It’s almost midnight. The library is about to close anyway.”
I returned the book on Judaism to the shelf. Julie checked out what she was reading and was still turning pages as we walked out the door.