Friday, September 23, 2005

In Association

Copyright 2005 - Bruce Gaughran

Tuesday morning, April 3 – Manchester County

It was a miserable morning as Detectives Jena Young and Andy Donavon stood on the road above the Rocky Ridge lake flood drain watching Frank and Tommy from the rescue team trying to extract the body from the iron grate. The two men were having a difficult time recovering the body because of the strong suction of the drain.

“Be careful, guys,” Jena yelled, “the medical examiner needs the body in one piece.”

Both men glanced up at the detective with a little distain in their eyes before returning to their work. A small crowd began to gather and Andy asked the two patrol officers present to keep everyone back.

Andy turned to Jena and wiped his face with his coat sleeve. “Will it ever stop raining? It has been what … four or five days straight of steady rain? If it doesn’t end soon, I might rust.”

Jena ignored Andy’s comments and focused on the two men trying to pull the body from the grates. Every time she thought they were winning, something would happen and the body would be sucked back onto the grating again. She could tell the two men were getting tired and frustrated. “Why don’t you take a break, guys, the body isn’t going anywhere.”

Frank, who had his arms wrapped around the corpse’s two legs, released his grip. As he slowly moved towards the shore, he grumbled, “This is really disgusting work, Jena. When I volunteered for this team, I always saw myself saving people not freezing my ass of while pulling a body from a drain.”

Andy went down to the edge of the lake and pulled Frank from the water. Frank was a big guy, but compared to Andy’s 6’4 height and body-builder frame, he looked rather small.

Tommy, who was still trying to move the body, thrashed his hands in the water. “This is bull shit, man! We just can’t get enough leverage to do any good. We need more help.” Tommy waded towards the shore and took Andy’s hand. When he was half out of the water, his left foot slipped and he went down face-first into the mud. Tommy crawled up onto the grass and wiped mud from his face, hands, and arms. “Perfect … just perfect! My legs and hands are so cold they are numb. Tell me Jena, when is the County going to shell out a few bucks so we can get wetsuits?”

Jena stepped forward and offered Tommy a towel. “I hear yah, Tommy, but you are preaching to the choir. You know as well as I that the chief has been petitioning the council for funds for things like wetsuits for at least a year. Some of our patrol cars are eight-to-ten years old and are in the shop more than on the road.”

Frank walked up carrying a ten-foot long 2x10 board. “Tommy, what are you bitching about this time? Leave Jena alone, will yah. You know she doesn’t have anything to do with rescue department appropriations.” Frank threw the board down by Tommy. “Do you think this will help? I figure we can slide the body over onto the board and then slide the board off the grate. What do yah think?”

Tommy stood up, wiped the mud off his hands on his pants, and then faced Jena. “I’m sorry, Jena. I’m just mad at the world right now. I know it isn’t your fault. Let’s shake on it.”

Jena took one look at the mud still covering his hand, shook her soaked red hair, and said, “No way, Tommy. You are not getting me to shake hands with you until you take a shower.”

Tommy burst out laughing. “Well then, I suppose a hug is out of the question. Come on, Frank, the quicker we get this body out of the water, the sooner we can go home.”

Andy tapped Jena on the shoulder and commented, “There is quite a crowd gathering. Perhaps we should talk to a few of them. I figure we should start with that loudmouth over there. He has been ranting and raving about something since he arrived.”

Jena and Andy walked over to the man who was standing near the corner of the roped off area. At that moment, he was facing away from the two detectives and talking to three other spectators. As they approached, they heard the man say, “I’m sorry, but Ted deserved this. It is about time someone paid him back for all the grief he caused us.” When the three others saw the detectives, they turned and walked away. “Hey, where are you all going? You know I am not one to speak ill of someone, but in this case you all know he deserved it!”

Jena tapped the man on the shoulder and when he turned, she flashed her badge and asked, “Sir, can I ask your name?”

The man took a couple of steps back and for a moment looked like he was going to make a run for it. “Ron, … Ron Walker, I live right down the street. Hey, look here, I didn’t do anything,” the man replied and then pointed towards the drain system. “Is that Ted Madison down there?”

“Mr. Walker, we don’t know who the man is yet. However, you seem to think it is Ted Madison. Why would you think it was Mr. Madison?”

Ron Walker looked at both detectives in disbelief, “Because it looks like him!”

“And, how do you know Mr. Madison?”

“Everyone in the neighborhood knows him. He is the enforcer around here.” Ron Walker paused for a second, then crossed himself, but then muttered, “Good riddance to bad rubbish.”

Jena’s arms prickled when she heard the term, “Enforcer … what do you mean by that, Mr. Walker?”
Ron Walker looked around, leaned forward, and then spoke in a much quieter tone. “That is the name we gave him. He enforces the rules, regulations, and covenants of the homeowner’s association. His job is to make sure we are all in compliance. The board of directors hired him to check up on everyone in the neighborhood. I think his official title was Manager of Compliance.”

Andy stepped a little closer and commented, “You don’t seem to like Mr. Madison very much, do you Mr. Walker? Can we ask why?”

Jena grinned, because Andy was trying to use his size to intimidate the man. Ron Walker was maybe two inches taller than Jena and since Andy was close to a foot taller then her, the two looked like Mutt and Jeff standing there. She never really thought of Andy as being that tall until she saw him standing next to someone else close to her height. 

“No, I didn’t like him. He was a pain in the old … well you know what I mean. Mr. High and Mighty would drive through the neighborhood with his ruler, camera, and tape recorder. If he saw something he didn’t like, he would have the homeowner fined. One time I saw him kneeling in my front yard with a ruler in his hand. I couldn’t believe this guy. He was measuring the height of my grass. He then pulled out a camera and took a picture of the ruler standing upright in the grass. When he stood up, he shook his head and spoke into his tape recorder. Then when he saw me watching him from the front porch, he commented that I was in violation and would be hearing from the board of directors.”

Ron turned his head to the side and spit. “I was fined $25.00 because my grass was one inch taller than the community regulations. Can you imagine, one inch! He didn’t care that I had been away on business the last five days and just came home that night.”

Andy stepped even closer to Ron and asked, “Can we safely say that you had a grudge against Mr. Madison?”

Ron’s face lit up like a Christmas tree when he realized what the detective was asking him. “No way, man! You don’t think I had anything to do with this, do you? Look, I might not have liked the guy, but that is no reason for me to kill him. Yes, we had our disagreements, but so did a lot of other homeowners. Ted knew how to push people’s buttons, but I don’t think anyone wanted him dead … or anything like that.”

Ron looked uncomfortable looking almost straight up into Andy’s face, so he slid to the side and started talking to Jena, “Look, as I said, Ted was the enforcer. He was just doing his job. The board of directors is the blame for this mess. This was a great little community until these last directors were elected. They act like gods around here … making up rules, fining people for the slightest infractions, and always acting like everything they do is in our best interests … right.” Ron puffed out his chest and pointed down at the body in the lake, “No, Ted wasn’t the cause of the problems around here. It is the board of directors’ fault. If someone hurt Ted,” Ron looked at both detectives and then crossed himself, “and I am not saying anyone did … but if they did … well, I think you know where I am going with this. Do you hear what I am saying?”

By the look in Ron’s eyes and the expression on his face, Andy and Jena believed him. Ron Walker was only a blowhard and not a killer. Just in case they were wrong, however, Andy asked Mr. Walker for his address, telephone number, and a contact at work.

As Andy finished writing down the information, Jena asked, “Mr. Walker, who else in the community might have had a grudge against Mr. Madison.”

“Like I said, there were plenty of people that didn’t like his Nazi-like style of enforcement. Just ask around and you’ll see, but remember what I said about the board of directors. That’s where the liability lies for this murder,” Ron crossed himself once again and whispered, “even though I am not saying it was a murder.”

Jena could tell Mr. Walker was becoming more defensive. “I want names, Mr. Walker. Come on, you seem to know everyone. Who else had a motive to kill Mr. Madison?”

Ron’s face reflected some concern as he continued, “Look, I don’t want to get anyone into any trouble.” He leaned forward and whispered, “But, you might want to talk to Bo. Last week he was fined $250.00 for dumping some chemicals in the lake. I have never seen anyone so mad in my life.” Ron paused for a second to search the eyes of the two detectives before continuing, “Of course, you won’t mention that I told you about it, right?”

Andy pulled out his notebook and pen. “Bo who? What is his last name and were does he live?”

As Andy copied the information down, Jena excused herself and walked back to the edge of the dam. The rescue team had the body on the 2x10 board and was sliding it up onto the grass. “Great work, guys. I owe you both a cup of coffee and a donut sometime.” They both looked up from the water and just rolled their eyes.

Jena crouched over the body and did a preliminary inspection of the body looking for a cause of death. She had Frank help her roll the body over. They immediately saw the entire left side of the decedent’s head was crushed in. “My God, either this guy had a long fall or someone took a baseball bat to his head,” Frank commented.

Jena searched the man’s pockets and found a wallet. She flipped open the soaked leather tri-fold and pulled out a driver’s license. “Theodore F. Madison. It says here that he is 42 years old. Frank, does he look about 5’8” and 200 pounds?”

“200 might be a little on the light side, but everything else squares up.”

“Okay, bag and tag him. Show his name as Ted Madison, but add a question mark until we can get a positive I.D. When you are finished, drop the body off at Dawn Kessler’s office. Ask her also to take his prints and forward them to the State Bureau of Investigation. Tell her that I will give her a call in a couple of hours, but that I need a probable cause of death ASAP.”

Police Headquarters, North Bergen

Jena knocked on the police captain’s door. Captain Davis finished jotting something on a piece of paper, looked up, and signaled for the two to come in. It was only 10:00, but Jena and Andy felt like they had already pulled a double shift. They were both soaking wet, and besides a couple of cups of coffee, neither had eaten anything this morning.

Davis, a 24-year veteran, pulled off his reading glasses, sat back in his chair, and aggressively scratched his short white hair. “Well, what do you have for me?”

Jena took the lead and reviewed her notes with the captain.

“Do we have a cause of death yet,” asked Captain Davis.

“We should have something within the hour. I asked Dawn to call me as soon as she has something. However, from the looks of his skull, I believe someone crushed his head in with a baseball bat. We also asked Dawn to pull his prints and send them off to the Bureau.”

The captain rubbed his forehead and eyes for several moments without saying anything. “Are there any witnesses,” the captain finally asked a little tersely. “Do you have any suspects?” Jena and Andy had only seen this reaction once before in the captain. It was when a serial killer was loose in the county and they had no suspects and leads. The city council had threatened to replace Davis if he couldn’t find the killer within a couple of weeks time.

Andy jumped in, “Captain, we have three potential suspects. We interviewed a Ron Walker while we were at the lake. He doesn’t seem to have remorse over Mr. Madison’s death, but neither of us believe that he did it. The second name that came up is a guy named Bo Hopkins. He is a good-old-boy that has lived in the area for some time. Ron Walker said that Mr. Madison had fined Bo Hopkins $250.00 a week or so ago.

Something to do with a chemical dumping violation; whatever that is. We went by Hopkin’s house this morning but there was no answer. We left our card on the door and plan on running out there again later today. The last name is Robert Black. We don’t know too much about him yet except that he also had a beef with Mr. Madison about some fine.

“Other than these three, several people we interviewed mentioned that Mr. Madison was not well loved by anyone in the neighborhood. They call Mr. Madison the enforcer. While we are out there, we will canvas the entire neighborhood. Someone must have seen or heard something. There are a dozen homes on the lake and another 30 or 40 more within a hundred yards of it. We should know a lot more by the end of the day.”

Captain Davis rocked back and forth in his chair several times with his eyes staring at the ceiling. The two detectives knew from previous meetings that this was his thinking posture and not a time to interrupt. “What is happening to this town? For twenty-four years, we never had one murder in the entire county. Then last year ‘the Collector’ shows up. Now, less than a year later, we possibly have another murder on our hands.” Davis took a deep breath and once again rocked back and forth. All I need is six more years and I can retire. Angela and I can then move up to the lake and forget about all of this. “Tell me what resources you need and I’ll make certain you have them. We don’t want this one getting away from us.”

Late Tuesday afternoon – Rocky Ridge Sub-division

Jena and Andy had spent the last three hours talking with homeowners in the neighborhood. No one had seen and heard anything out of the ordinary. One thing did come up in several conversations, however, and that was the name of Bo Hopkins. Two of his neighbors had heard Bo threaten Ted the day the fine was imposed.

His neighbor to the left said Bo usually comes home from work around 4:30, so the two decided to wait. Jena sipped on a Coke while eating a Twinkie. Andy, the fitness addict, was crunching on a ‘power bar’ with a bottle of water in his other hand. “How can you eat that,” Andy asked. “That is pure refined sugar and can be found no where on the recommended foods list. You’re going to die young, Jena, if you don’t start eating better.”

Jena just ignored him while she finished stuffing the rest of the Twinkie in her mouth, and washed it down with the last of the Coke. “Ah, the breakfast of champions.”

“You disgust me. What you just ate was probably 2000 calories and none of it worth a damn for you.” Andy started to take a drink and then pulled the bottle from his mouth as he saw a truck come down the street. “Jena, look what’s coming. This might be our man.” They watched the red Ford F-250 with monster tires and chrome stacks pass by and pull into Bo’s driveway. Andy studied the truck and then commented, “Check it out; he has two rifles on the rack in the back window.”

As the two exited the car, Andy groaned as the guy stepped down from the truck. “He must be 6’6 and 250 pounds. I sure hope this is a peaceful discussion we plan to have with him this afternoon.”
“Don’t worry, Andy, I’ve got your back on this one,” Jena replied as she chuckled.

Andy did not take much comfort in Jena’s comment and checked his service weapon to make certain it was accessible. “Mr. Hopkins,” Andy called out, “can we have a word with you?”

Bo Hopkins stopped, turned, and eyed the two coming his way. “What d’ya want?”

Jena pulled out her badge, “We’re with the police, Mr. Hopkins. We would like to talk with you if we could.”
Bo’s face reflected his disdain for the police. “I ain’t done nut’in wrong. You got no reason to harass me.”
Andy pulled his coat behind his belt holster to show Bo that they were serious. “We promise not to take up any more of your time then necessary, but we need to talk with you … either here or downtown. The choice is yours.”

“I told you,” Bo spit out, “I ain’t done nut’in wrong. Why can’t you guys just leave me alone?”
Jena put away her badge, pulled out her notebook, and smiled. “It might be better if we could discuss this inside and out of earshot of your neighbors.”

“Okay, I’ll give ya five minutes and then I call my lawyer.” Bo turned and went up the steps, unlocked the door, and walked inside.

Andy and Jena both looked at one another as if wondering what they should do next and then followed cautiously.

As they walked in, Bo walked directly to the kitchen, pulled a beer out of the refrigerator, popped the cap, and said, “Okay, yah got five minutes.”

Jena took the lead, “Thank you, Mr. Hopkins. We would like to talk with you about a Mr. Ted Madison. Do you know him?”

“Do I know him?” Bo took a sip of his beer before continuing, “Yah, I know him. That sonna-bitch ain't nut'in but trouble. What did he say that I did this time?”

“Mr. Madison is dead. He was found in the lake this morning.”

Bo chuckled for a moment. “So somebody finally capped that bastard! When you find out who done it, let me know so I can buy him a beer.” Bo took a long pull on his beer and then nodded his head. “Yup, maybe even two.”

“I gather you didn’t like Mr. Madison very much. Why do you think someone killed him?”

Bo plopped down on his couch and threw his feet up on the coffee table. Jena noticed the railroad boots he wore were old, well worn, and in need of a good polish. Bo took another swig of his beer and thought for a moment before answering. “No, it was no secret, I hated him. In fact, there was many a time that I wished him dead … along with the entire board of directors. Those guys ain’t no friends of mine.” Bo took another swig, “but, why do I think someone killed him? I don’t really know for sure, but I just think that someone got to him before I did. He was no good … not to me or the neighborhood.” Bo took another sip of his beer, settled back deep into the couch, and placed the beer on his large belly.

Andy decided it was his turn to be the ‘bad’ cop. “Mr. Hopkins, several people we have questioned overheard you threaten Mr. Madison about two weeks ago. They say it had something to do with dumping chemicals into the lake. We heard it cost you $250.00. That alone makes you one of the primary suspects in my book.”

Bo took another sip. “Is there a question somewhere in there, detective, or are you just trying to intimidate me?” When neither detective answered, Bo finished off the beer, set the bottle down on the coffee table, and replied, “Did I threaten Ted? Yup. I told him that I was going to kick his ugly fat butt from here to the lake if I ever saw him on my property again. Would I have done it? You bet.”

Bo stood up and asked if either would like a beer, when both detectives declined, he walked to the refrigerator and grabbed another. As he turned around, Jena noticed his facial expression soften for just a second, “Look, somebody told Ted that I had dumped chemicals into the lake. I didn’t do it and I told Ted so, but he wouldn’t listen. When I received the letter from the board of directors informing me that I had to pay a fine for something I didn’t do, I lost it. I confronted the SOB and told him it weren’t me. We might have tussled for a moment, but Ted backed down pretty quickly.”

After he popped the top and threw it in the sink, he continued, “Ted was a pain in the ass from day one. This used to be a nice little neighborhood before the homeowners’ association was formed. Everyone was friends and we watched each other’s backs; kind of like you cops do for one another.” Andy looked over at Jena with that comment and rolled his eyes. “Then, for who knows what reason, the board of directors hired this guy to do their dirty work.”

Andy leaned forward and asked, “Did you kill him, Bo? If you did, maybe there were extenuating circumstances. You say there was a mistake about the chemicals and maybe there was. Maybe he attacked you and you were just defending yourself. Is that what happened?” Andy paused for a moment and when Bo did not respond, he continued, “Bo, you just need to come clean. If you did it and you tell us right now, I think we can help you.” Andy glanced over at Jena and nodded as if he was getting her approval to make a deal.

Bo put the beer down on the coffee table. “I am through talking. If you want to talk to me again, I want my lawyer present. You understand, Mr. Bad Cop?” Bo then turned and walked down the hallway. About halfway down the hall, he mumbled, “You know where the door is.”

Jena and Andy sat there a couple of seconds and then stood up. “Thank you for your time, Mr. Hopkins,” Jena called out. “If you can think of anything else, please give us a call. I am leaving my card on the table.”
On the way out to the car, Jena elbowed Andy in the ribs and said, “That went well! Did you kill him, Bo? I think you have been watching too much of NYPD Blue.”

Andy was still rubbing his ribs when they reached the car. “Jena, that Irish temper of yours is going to get you into trouble someday.” Once he had sat down and buckled up, he asked, “Well, who’s next on our list?”

Jena flipped open her notebook and glanced through several pages before replying. “The only other name that came up a couple of times in this morning’s interviews is a Robert Black. Two people commented that Ted and he had it out over a fence violation last week. Let’s see if Robert is home.”

They drove two blocks over and stopped in front of a large ranch home with a three-car garage. There was a man mowing the front lawn wearing a white golf shirt and blue shorts. As they approached, the man saw them and shut off the mower. “Can I help you?”

Jena flashed her badge and after introducing the two of them asked. “Are you Robert Black?”

“Yes. Is this about Ted Madison?”

“Why would think this was about Mr. Madison,” Andy asked.

“Well, for one thing, the news is all over the neighborhood. Ted was found dead in the lake this morning, right?”

Jena didn’t want any more ‘bad’ cop today, so she interrupted Andy as he started to speak. “Mr. Black, can we have a few moments of your time? We would like to discuss your relationship with Mr. Madison.”

“Sure, but there is not much to tell. Ted and I got along pretty well. He was just trying to do his job the best way he knew how.” Robert leaned forward and in a quieter voice said, “If you want to talk to someone that could have done it, I would recommend that you talk to Bo Hopkins. He and Ted almost went to blows a couple of times.”

“Thank you for that bit of information, however, we would really like to talk with you right now,” replied Jena. “Is there some place we could talk?”

Robert thought about it for a moment and commented, “How about the garage? The kids are doing their homework in the kitchen right now and I would hate to disturb them.”

“The garage would be fine. Why don’t you lead the way,” replied Jena.

Upon entering the garage, Andy took one look around and was immediately impressed. “Wow, you sure keep a tidy place. There isn’t a spot of oil on the floor and every tool is hung up. Are you some kind of a neat-nick, Mr. Black?”

Jena again interrupted, “Never mind, Andy, he has had a long day. Now, Mr. Black, a couple of your neighbors commented that you and Ted had an argument about a week ago. Would you mind telling us about that?”

Robert turned beat red and the expression on his face was enough for Andy to put his hand on his weapon. “WHO TOLD YOU THAT? I want to know who said that! That is a lie.” The two watched as Robert paced back and forth, mumbling, and throwing his arms into the air at times. “We have lived in this neighborhood for ten years and never once … I repeat, not once … have I ever said anything bad about another neighbor. Why would anyone say such a thing? This is ridiculous … just ridiculous.”

Andy stepped in front of Robert and said, “Now calm down, Mr. Black, we aren’t accusing you of anything. We just want to know what happened.”

“I’m sorry, detectives, it just bothers me when someone says something bad about me … about us, I mean.  

Let me explain what happened. Ted and I had a minor disagreement. That’s all. Nothing else. Do you understand? It was just a minor disagreement.” Robert took a deep breath and relaxed a little. “I’m sorry. I just can't believe someone would say something bad about us. We have always tried to be perfect neighbors.”
Jena interrupted his ranting, “Mr. Black, can you answer the question? Did you and Mr. Madison have ‘words’ about a week ago down by the lake?”

“Well, I might put it another way. We had a minor disagreement. I dumped some chemicals in the water to help kill the lake grass because it was plugging the flood drain. As you might imagine, when the drain is plugged, the dam overflows. Well, anyway, Ted informed me that one of the association’s regulations prohibits individuals from dumping chemicals into the lake. When he explained that to me, I apologized and everything was fine. We shook hands and that was the end of it.”

Andy cleared his throat and Jena groaned because she knew the ‘bad’ cop was rearing its ugly head again. He ignored the groan and asked, “So Mr. Black, the two of you didn’t argue?” Not letting Robert answer, he continued, “That isn’t what we heard. We heard your argument had something to do with a fence violation. We were told you really lost your temper that day. Someone even said you threatened Mr. Madison.”
“THAT IS A LIE,” Robert screamed. “We discussed the situation and then we shook hands. I don’t know who is filling your head with these accusations, but they are lies. DO YOU HEAR ME? THEY ARE LIES!”  

Robert was again pacing back and forth. He started mumbling again and Andy thought he was talking to himself. After several trips around the interior of the garage, Robert stopped, took another deep breath, and asked, “Furthermore, do you see a fence in our yard? No! This disagreement was about dumping chemicals in the lake. It was just a misunderstanding … nothing more.”

Andy decided to see how far he could push Robert in hopes he would slip up and admit to something. “Mr. Black, it appears to me you have an anger management problem. Are you certain you didn’t lose it down by the lake and maybe did something you shouldn’t have?”

Robert turned towards Andy and stamped his foot. “I … DO … NOT … HAVE … AN … ANGER … MANAGEMENT … PROBLEM! This conversation is over!”  Robert turned and walked out of the garage.

A couple of moments later, Jena and Andy heard the lawn mower start up. Jena looked at Andy, shook her head, and said, “Way to go, Detective Sipowicz. Way to go.” Jena turned and walked towards the car, but Andy heard her departing comment. “You watch far too much television.”

Andy stood there for a moment and then ran after her. “Jena, wait a minute. Would you mind telling me what I did wrong?”

As soon as Jena sat down in the car, her cell phone rang. After a brief conversation with the caller, she told Andy to get in. “The captain wants us back at the station now. “

Police Headquarters, North Bergen

Jena knocked on the captain’s door, opened it, and then immediately saw the two visitors. “Oh, I’m sorry; I didn’t know there was someone else here? Should we come back later?”

Captain Davis stood up and said, “No, Jena, you aren’t interrupting anything. Come on in, we were waiting for you.” After Jena and Andy walked in, Davis continued. “Jena Young and Andy Donovan, I would like you to meet Agents Rita Sanchez and Mark Griffin. They are with the FBI.” After everyone shook hands, Davis said, “Please, sit down. Mr. Griffin was just telling me something you might find interesting. Please, Mark, continue.”

The agent stood up and walked to the corner of the office before beginning. Jena was immediately impressed with his good looks, confident style, and well-tailored appearance. “Thanks, Captain. I think I will back up a little to help bring your two detectives up to speed. Ted Madison is part of our Witness Protection Program. We relocated him to North Bergen about five years ago and gave him a new identity. He has been a model citizen and never been in any trouble. We occasionally check in on our relocations just to make certain everything is going well with them. You can imagine our surprise this afternoon when we learned from one of Ted’s neighbors that he was dead. We were even more shocked when we learned that Ted was killed by a .22 caliber hollow-point bullet.”

Andy interrupted immediately when he heard the last bit of news. “Wow, wait a minute now. Are we talking about the same guy we fished out of the lake this morning? If so, the whole left side of his head was caved in. We think someone used a baseball bat on him.” He looked at the two agents, then Jena, and then finally the captain waiting for someone to confirm his statement.

“That’s right detective, his head was crushed in. However, that was post mortem. A bullet fired into the left temple was what killed him. And, whoever killed him, wanted it to look like an accident or something other than a hit. Your coroner confirmed the cause of death thirty minutes ago.”

Andy again interrupted. “A hit … like some kind of mob thing? Are you sure? We just spent the last four hours interviewing neighbors out at Rocky Ridge and we have two suspects that could have done the dirty deed on this guy.” He looked over at Jena before continuing, “But, neither of these guys look like they would use a .22 to cap someone.”

Agent Sanchez stood up and turned towards the door. “Come on, Mark, we need to take a look at the body. We are just wasting our time here.”

“Rita, please sit down,” Mark said a little testily. “We need the detectives’ cooperation in this investigation.”  

Mark turned back towards the detectives and commented, “I would like to hear what they found out so far.”
Rita didn’t sit down. She did lean back against the door, however, and roll her eyes. Andy noticed that between her jet-black hair, milky-white complexion, and stark bone structure, she looked unhealthy. He thought she might look barely acceptable if she took some vitamins E and C and spent a few hours in the sun.
Captain Davis didn’t want any problems with the FBI. Six more years … After a rough moment of silence between everyone, he commented, “We would be pleased to support the FBI’s investigation in any way we can. I am certain Jena and Andy will share everything they have collected on the case so far. Right, detectives?”

Jena didn’t like it and she knew Andy would hate it, but she also knew the captain. “Right, Captain. We'll turn over everything to them. Can I just ask one question? How is it that you two just happen to be checking on Ted Madison the same day he was discovered in the lake?”

Rita jumped in on this one. “That is privileged information, detective. It is only given out on a need to know basis. You two, unfortunately, do not have a need to know.”

It was Mark’s turn to stand up. “I think what Agent Sanchez is saying is that because of the sensitive nature of our Witness Protection Program, certain information cannot be made available so as to protect other relocations on on-going investigations. I am certain you can understand, Captain.” Mark then looked back at Rita and nodded, “But, I am certain that in this case we could bend the rules a little, right, Rita?”

Andy had heard enough. “So let me get this straight. We turn over everything we know to you and you don’t tell us anything that you learn. Is that correct?”

“That will be enough, Detective Donovan,” Captain Davis replied and then scowled at Andy. “I am certain the FBI will share whatever information they can.”

Mark nodded, “I can understand your frustrations, detective, but let me assure you that we will share as much information as we can. Now, to clarify things, the reason we are here today is that we received an anonymous tip yesterday. It appears that one of Ted’s old friends in New York City, who will remain unnamed, is looking for him. We know that this old friend does not have Ted’s best interests at heart. This old friend is the reason that Ted Madison is, excuse me … was, currently under our protection. Needless to say, the loss of Ted Madison doesn’t help our current investigation.”

Andy just shook his head, “And it doesn’t do much good for Ted either.”

After the two agents excused themselves to go over to the coroner’s office and as soon as the two cleared the area, Andy let loose. “Dammit, boss, this is just a crock of shit. We will bust our asses to find the murderer and those two will get all the credit. I say we should continue to conduct our own investigation and share what information we feel they have the proper clearance for.” Andy sat back in his chair and looked deflated.

Jena noticed that Captain Davis was rubbing his forehead and eyes again. To help relieve the tension in the room, she smiled and said, “Andy and I will do whatever you want, Captain. We won’t do anything to harm our relationship with the Feds.”

No one said anything for several more moments. Finally, Davis sighed, smiled at the two detectives, and said, “Andy, for once I agree with you. Screw the Feds. Continue with your investigation. Let’s find whoever killed Mr. Madison and then we can decide what to do.”

Andy leaped up from his chair, “All right! We’ll show those two pecker-heads what real detective work is all about. Thanks, boss.”

Captain Davis motioned for Andy to sit back down. “Andy, don’t get too excited. We’ll also cooperate with the Feds. We’ll turn over all relevant information to them … after it has been reviewed and cleared by me. We'll hold nothing back. Do you understand?”

Andy flopped back into his chair again and his chin seemed to bounce off his chest. “Sure, boss, I understand. Find the murderer and turn him over to the Feds.”

“But, at least, we’ll find him, Andy, long before the Feds even have a clue. Come on, I just gave you a green light. You should be happy as hell.

“Now, the first thing we need to do is find out how the mob or whoever killed Mr. Madison, knew where to find him. Any ideas?”

Wednesday morning, Police Headquarters, North Bergen

The next morning, Jena and Andy were sitting at their adjoining desks. The two detectives had been brainstorming over the last hour how one of Mr. Madison’s old friends had found him. Unfortunately, almost every one of the assumptions would need validation by the FBI agents. For the last ten minutes or so, Jena noticed that Andy had dialed out from the discussion and was clicking away on his computer.

“Are you going to help me with this or not?”

Andy glanced up from the screen with an elated look on his face, “Sorry, but I was just wondering if the homeowners’ association had a web site.” He turned the monitor towards Jena and continued, “So, I Googled them and they do. And, guess what,” he continued without waiting for an answer, “they have a page with pictures of all their officers, the board of directors, and,” Andy paused while he pointed at the lower left corner of the screen, “pictures and biographies of all paid employees.” He leaned towards the screen and said, “Jena, I would like you to meet Mr. Theodore H. Madison, Compliance and Complaints Manager.”  

Andy shook his head and continued, “Can you believe that someone operating under the Witness Protection Program has his picture on the Internet? No wonder they found him.”

“Good work, Andy. Now, who do you think ‘they’ are?” When Andy didn’t reply, she said, “I think we should tell the boss what you found out.”

“No, not yet, Jena,” Andy quickly responded, “this doesn’t prove anything except that anyone looking for Mr. Madison could have found him over the Internet. All they needed was a name or a location.” Andy sat back in his chair and rocked several times. “You know, Jena, we still don’t know if this was a mob hit or just a neighborhood disagreement.”

“I know, Andy, that is why I asked who you thought ‘they’ are. You have to admit that a bullet in the side of the head looks awfully suspicious. I still can’t imagine our two primary suspects having the brains to first shoot Madison and then crush in the side of his head. It just doesn’t make any sense.” Jena stood up, grabbed her weapon and her keys. “Come on, Andy, let’s take a ride.”

Thirty minutes later, the two detectives were ducking under the yellow crime scene tape at Ted Madison’s house. Jena said she would search the bedroom and office while Andy took the living room and kitchen.
As Andy wandered slowly through the living room picking up papers and looking through drawers, he asked, “Jena, I still can’t believe that Ted Madison, or the FBI for that matter, would allow his picture to be on a web site. It is like putting a target on your body.”

When Jena didn’t respond, Andy walked into the bedroom to see what she was doing. Jena was sitting on Ted’s bed reading a leather-bound book. “Did you find something interesting?” After another minute or two without a response, he walked over to the bed and sat down next to her. “Earth to Jena … Earth to Jena, are you there Jena?”

“What? Sorry, Andy, did you say something?”

“Yes, I have been talking for several minutes as a matter of fact.” He pointed at the book she was holding, “Anything interesting?”

“Yes, this is Ted Madison’s personal diary.” Jena closed the book and tapped the cover. “It appears he started this journal when he went into the Witness Protection Program. He kept a pretty thorough record of his new life.”

“Maybe he planned on selling the rights to his story someday. Hollywood will pay millions for something like this.”

Jena ignored Andy’s comment and opened the book to where there was a paper marker. “Listen to this, Andy. This was what he wrote yesterday. ‘Life is not a rehearsal; it is the only one we get. Once you lose everything that is important to you, what do you have left?’

This sounds to me like Mr. Madison was depressed. And, when you go back a couple of days, I think I know why.” Jena turned a couple of pages and scanned the writing for a moment before continuing.
‘It is becoming increasingly difficult to live with the knowledge that I will never be able to see my children again. Jimmy and Sarah were my life. Without them, I feel a tremendous void. Why? Why did this have to happen?’

It doesn’t end there.” Jena paged back a couple of more pages. “Andy, listen to this. He wrote this one week ago.

‘Agent Sanchez stopped by for a visit this morning. She said my wife, Francis, remarried. This wasn’t a big surprise, but when she handed me a manila envelope my heart skipped a beat. Inside were adoption papers and a note from Francis. She wrote that Todd, her new husband, wants to adopt Sarah and Jimmy. She also wrote that Todd was a good father and the kids really liked him. Francis didn’t mention how the kids were or if they missed their dad. She didn’t even enclose any pictures. God, I hate this life!’

Andy, don’t you find it interesting that Agent Sanchez never mentioned this visit to us?”

Andy shook his head, “With her attitude, I would be amazed if she shared anything with us.” He stood up and pointed with his thumb to the other room. “I saw a laptop out there. I am going to check it out to see if there are any emails or letters that might shed some light on this visit or the murder.”

Jena continued to read the journal. She couldn’t believe how depressed Mr. Madison sounded. Since she never knew anyone under the Witness Protection Program, she had never really thought how difficult it might be for someone to disappear and start a new life without family and friends. Madison’s journal shed a new light on the sacrifices these people make when they are assigned protection.

She looked up when she heard Andy yell, “Jena, you might want to come out here.”

Jena walked into the living room and saw Andy huddled over a laptop on the desk in the corner of the room.

“What did you find?”

“Isn’t Dr. Horowitz a psychiatrist?”

“Yes, why do you ask?”

“Well, I pulled up Madison’s Outlook Calendar. Teddy-boy has been seeing the shrink every other week for at least the last six months. He had an appointment two weeks ago, but didn’t have one scheduled for this week. It appears that this was the first time in at least six months that he didn’t have an appointment. Now I find that strange!”

Jena agreed, “Perhaps we should have a talk with the good doctor?”

As Andy was locking the front door and replacing the crime scene tape, Jena’s phone rang. He could only hear Jena’s side of the conversation, but it sounded interesting. “Okay, we are about five minutes away. Thanks for the call.” Jena grabbed Andy’s arm, “That was Agent Griffin. Agent Sanchez thinks she has found the gun.”

They parked on the north end of the lake and walked towards the island. As they neared the bridge, they saw the two agents standing just below the bridge on the island side. Agent Griffin waved them over. The two detectives crossed the bridge and started down. The bank was still a little slippery from the rain and Andy’s feet shot out from underneath him. He slid down the bank on his butt and immediately jumped up yelling, “That’s just great! I just bought these slacks two weeks ago and they cost me fifty bucks.” He leaned to the side trying to see the damage done by the fall. “Great! Just great! The stains probably won’t come out either.”
Jena slid down on her feet and slapped Andy on the back. “You’ll live, Detective Sipowicz. Come on, let’s see what they found.”

Before Andy could respond, Jena walked over to Mark Griffin and shook his hand. Jena mumbled something to Mark that Andy could not hear. Mark was laughing as Andy approached. “Nice landing, Andy. I hope you didn’t hurt anything.”

Jena could tell that Andy was about to lay into her or the agent, so she stepped in front of him and pointed towards the revolver in Agent’s Sanchez’s hand. “Is that the pistol you found?”

Agent Sanchez pulled out a plastic bag from her coat pocket and slipped the gun inside. After sealing it in the bag, she handed it to Jena. “Yes, I found it laying right here. I was almost certain that Madison wasn’t killed at the dam, so I decided to take a little walk around the lake. It appears now that Madison was on the bridge right before the shooting. The current must have swept him down to the dam before he became hung up in the drain system.”

“There is one empty cartridge in the chamber,” Mark added. “We’ll take the pistol to ballistics and see if it is the same weapon. If it is a sanctioned hit, however, I don’t think we’ll find any prints on it. Have you two come up with anything?”

Jena began to explain that they were conducting a search of Madison’s house when Andy jumped in. “We didn’t finish, however, and need to head on back. As soon as we have a chance, we’ll give you a call.”
Jena glanced up at Andy and then over at Agent Griffin. “Yes, we are still checking into a few things. We’ll be in a better position to talk tonight.”

Mark looked from one detective to the other and knew something was up. For some reason, however, he did not feel he should press the matter. “Okay, perhaps we can meet back at the station around 8:00 this evening. Is that okay?”

Almost simultaneously, Andy and Jena said, “Fine.”

Just then, Jena’s phone rang and she excused herself to take the call. Agent Griffin also excused himself to check in with headquarters and advise that they had found a weapon.

As Andy started to leave, Agent Sanchez asked, “What aren’t you telling us, detective?”

Andy just smiled for a moment and then replied, “Oh, nothing much, Special Agent Sanchez.”

Sanchez took a step closer to Andy and stuck her finger in his chest, “Bullshit, you found something didn’t you?”

Andy glanced down at the finger and then looked back up. “You’ll find out soon enough.”

Sanchez stepped even closer and leaned into Andy, “You heard your captain. All information about this investigation has to be turned over to us. I believe I could arrest you for withholding information.”

Andy’s smirk disappeared and he leaned forward into Sanchez so that their eyeballs weren’t more than three inches apart. “Okay, let me leave you with one little bit of information. I believe you were involved in Mr. Madison’s death. In fact, when everything comes out, I believe you will be charged with accessory to murder.

Andy smiled and added, “How do you like those apples, Special Agent Sanchez.”

Sanchez shoved Andy backwards and snarled, “You son of a bitch, what are you trying to say? You believe that I killed Madison? You are out of your mind.

As the two detectives walked back to the car, Jena asked, “What was that about, Andy? Why didn’t you tell them about the journal and Dr. Horowitz?”

Jena, we know that those two are not sharing everything with us. I’m just returning the favor. Did you notice the concerned look on Sanchez’s face when you mentioned that we were searching Madison’s house? Something isn’t right with Agent Sanchez, but I'm not certain what it is yet. Remember Madison’s journal comments about Agent Sanchez delivering the adoption papers this week? If anyone knew he was depressed, Horowitz and Sanchez would have known. I think we’ll know a lot more after we talk to the shrink.”


Dr. Horowitz’s Office, North Bergen

Dr. Horowitz sat in his over-stuffed leather executive-style chair behind a huge mahogany desk. Andy thought he looked almost childlike sitting there. He also noticed the doctor kept on adjusting himself in the chair, pushing himself up with his arms … perhaps trying to look taller. Andy guessed Horowitz was in his early 60’s. He was completely bald and the sunlight coming through the window to the side of him reflected off his ‘cue ball’ head.

Jena took the lead and explained why they were there, about Ted Madison’s death, and the subsequent reading of the Madison’s journal. “Doctor, why do you suppose Mr. Madison cancelled his appointment this week?”

Clearing his throat, Dr. Horowitz replied, “I don’t know. Before this week, Mr. Madison has not missed an appointment in six months. I did not personally talk to Mr. Madison when he called to cancel; he actually talked to my secretary.”

“Based upon your professional association with the decedent, do you believe Mr. Madison was depressed?”
The doctor cleared his throat once again before replying. “Depression is a relative and misunderstood term that is often misused. If you are asking if Mr. Madison was clinically depressed, I would say no. If you mean, was he experiencing some anxiety and moments of depression because of his relocation, I would say yes … yes he was.”

Jena could see that getting a straight answer from the doctor would be difficult. “Okay, so there were times that Mr. Madison experienced some emotional problems caused by his relocation and perhaps because he missed his children. Right?”

“Well, … um-m-m-m,” the doctor cleared his throat again, “I wouldn’t go as far as to say an emotional problem, but let’s just agree that there might be some emotional issues that would require counseling.”

“And, what if Ted Madison learned that his wife had remarried and she wanted her new husband to adopt his children?”

“Oh my, now that would cause some problems. Is that what happened?”

Jena pulled out the journal from her handbag and threw it on the desk, “Yes, doctor, that is exactly what happened this week. FBI agent Sanchez brought adoption papers to Mr. Madison and asked for his signature.”

“Um-m-m-m, well that is a different story. I can now understand where you two are coming from. However, this just does not make any sense. I had a conversation with Agent Sanchez only a couple of weeks ago. At that time, she expressed some concerns with the mental state of Mr. Madison. I assured her that he was adjusting, but would continue to need counseling.

“Um-m-m, Agent Sanchez then asked what I thought was a strange question at the time. She posed a ‘hypothetical question’ for me to consider. She asked what I believe would happen if Mr. Madison received news that his ex-wife’s new husband wanted to adopt his two children. I commented that this situation might force Mr. Madison into making some difficult decisions. Decisions that he was not currently capable of making. Agent Sanchez then asked if something like this situation occurred; would there be a possibility that Mr. Madison’s could become suicidal?”

Andy moved forward to the edge of his seat, “

And, what did you tell her?”

“Um-m-m, well … I explained that without proper counseling, something as drastic as the loss of his children, his one anchor to his old life, could drive Mr. Madison to do something rash, perhaps even something dangerous to his personal health.”

“And?” Andy’s hands were rotating towards him as if trying to pry the answers out of the doctor.

“Well, um-m-m, I seem to remember that Agent Sanchez didn’t immediately respond, but then she asked again if this type of news could motivate Mr. Madison to perhaps take his life. I thought this was a strange question, but when she pushed me for an answer, I eventually said, potentially yes, if he did not receive immediate counseling.

“I then probed a little further by asking Agent Sanchez if she knew that an adoption was going to take place and she said no. I, um-m-m, then commented that if she ever found out that this was the case, we needed to carefully prepare Mr. Madison and make certain the information was not sprung on him without professional help immediately available. Agent Sanchez assured me that this was just a hypothetical question and reassured me that she did not know of any pending adoption.

“Um-m-m, in light of what you just told me, however, I find it strange that she would ask the question and then deliver the news without discussing the situation with me first.” The doctor sat back in his chair, puffed out his chest, and began shaking his head from side to side. “I would call that highly irregular … very irregular indeed … and nothing I would condone I might add.”

Jena looked over at Andy and made eye contact for a moment, “Highly irregular, indeed.”

Afterwards, Jena and Andy stood in the hallway outside of Dr. Horowitz’s office and compared notes. “I cannot believe that after Sanchez talked with the doctor that she would just dump the adoption business on Ted Madison. It almost seems like she was bating Madison; maybe even forcing him to consider suicide.”
Andy began to pace back and forth in the hallway ranting about the news and Jena immediately thought he looked a little like Robert Blake. “Jena, I knew it! I could almost smell it on her today. It was fear. Fear that we might find out something out. Rita-baby, drove Teddy-boy to commit suicide.”

“But, why would she do that, Andy?

“I don’t know, but now I think it is time for us to brief the captain.”

Wednesday evening, Police Headquarters, North Bergen

Jena and Andy were sitting in the captain’s office when the two agents arrived. “Come on in and have a seat,” directed the captain. “What did you find out about the gun? Were there any prints on it?”

Agent Griffin leaned forward in his chair and unconsciously pulled out a notepad and pen from his coat pocket before responding. “The State’s Bureau ran the ballistics test and pulled one set of prints off the pistol. I sent the prints to our crime-lab in D.C. and we have a positive identification. They were Ted Madison’s.” Mark sat back in his chair and sighed, “With this information, Agent Sanchez and I agree that it was suicide and not murder.

“But, how do you explain the blunt force trauma to Mr. Madison’s head,” asked Jena.

Mark smiled and then replied, “A good question, detective. After you left the island this afternoon, Rita and I continued to look around the area for additional clues. Rita spotted something that looked like blood on one of the crossbeams of the bridge. I don’t know if you remember, but whoever built the bridge left the crossbeams sticking out about eighteen inches on each side. Finding the blood on the crossbeam was the first clue that the trauma to the head might not have been caused by a person, but rather by the beam when Ted Madison fell.” 

Mark took a deep breath and closed the notebook he was holding in his hand and said, “As far as we are concerned, this investigation is closed. Do you have anything further to add, Rita?”

Rita Sanchez thought for a moment before responding, “No, Mark, we agree on the suicide. It is a shame, because Ted Madison was a good guy and appeared to have settled into his new life and identity very well. Who would have ever thought he would resort to suicide?”

With those words, Andy almost leaped out of his chair. Jena grabbed his arm before he was half way up and Andy fell back into the seat. Andy was about to protest, but Jena cut him off. “It is interesting that you feel that way, Agent Sanchez. I would have felt that you, of all people, would have a better insight into the emotional problems of Mr. Madison.”

Rita had venom in her eyes as she stared at Jena. “I do not know what you are talking about, Detective. How would anyone know that Ted Madison was a suicide risk?”

“Well, I am glad you asked.” Jena pulled out Ted’s journal and a notepad from her carrying case on the floor. She purposely took her time paging through the journal. After she found the right page, she put the journal down and started paging through the notepad. “Oh yes, here it is.” She paused again as if reading her notes.

“Let’s see. When we searched Mr. Madison’s house yesterday, we found his personal journal … a diary of sorts. In the journal were several comments about his mental state. It didn’t take long to discovery that he was very depressed and missed his two children terribly. In fact,” Jena put down her notepad and reached for the journal before continuing, “if you read any of his daily passages for the last three or so months, anyone could tell that he was chronically depressed and potentially suicidal.”

“I-I-I didn’t realize Ted kept a journal,” Rita responded, but her eyes betrayed something different. “If Mark and I would have known, we would have made certain he had professional counseling.”

Mark looked a little stunned with Rita’s last comment and turned in his chair toward her. “Rita, I thought Ted was seeing Dr. Horowitz?”

“Yes … yes, that’s right, Mark. I just forgot. Ted was receiving some help and I believe the doctor’s name was Horowitz. It would seem to me that if anyone could have diagnosed Ted Madison as suicidal, it would have been Dr. Horowitz. You would have thought he would have briefed us on Ted’s condition.”

“I am certain you are right,” Jena immediately responded as she lifted the journal into the air. “Anyone having this information would have known that Mr. Madison was one unhappy camper.” Jena sat back in her chair as if she was through, but she continued to look at Rita. “Oh yes, I almost forgot. We also found a calendar on Mr. Madison’s computer. And, you are right, Mark, he was seeing Dr. Horowitz religiously. That is every other week until this week. Mr. Madison, for some reason, cancelled his appointment and didn’t give the doctor a reason.” Jena paused for a moment as if trying to gather her thoughts. “Agent Sanchez, you wouldn’t happen to know why Mr. Madison cancelled his appointment?”

Agent Sanchez launched herself forward in her chair. “Are you accusing me of something, detective? Why would I know anything about a cancelled appointment?” Rita sat back in her chair and crossed her arms.

“No, not at all,” responded Jena, “I was just wondering why your fingerprints were on the journal. The journal you didn’t know that Mr. Madison kept.”

Rita’s face turned crimson as she stood up and started walking toward the door. “Come on, Mark, these country-bumpkins are trying to insinuate that our poor handling of the situation was the cause of Ted’s death. As you said, as far as the F.B.I. is concerned, this investigation is closed.”

Rita had her hand on the doorknob when Jena dropped another bombshell. “We also spoke with Dr. Horowitz today.”

Rita faltered for just a moment with the door handle, but was then able to open it. Mark, who had begun to stand up, stopped, and sat back down. “What did the doctor have to tell you, detective?”

Rita silently closed the door and leaned up against the wall. Her facial expression was one of disbelief. Jena knew that it was time to put another nail in the coffin. “Well, Mark, Dr. Horowitz was rather enlightening. He felt that Mr. Madison was doing fine in his therapy sessions, but his psyche was still pretty fragile. In fact, when Agent Sanchez called him a couple of weeks ago, he commented to her that any negative news about his family could be detrimental to Mr. Madison’s mental health.”

Mark turned in his chair towards Rita, “I didn’t know you had a conversation with Dr. Horowitz recently. Why did you call him?”

Rita’s entire body became limp. She reached out for the chair and plopped down in it.

“Well, Mark,” Jena continued, “it appears that Agent Sanchez was concerned with the mental health of Mr. Madison. She asked the doctor what would happen if Mr. Madison received news of the pending adoption of his two children.”

“Adoption of his children,” Mark asked in disbelief. “Rita, why would you ask that? His kids weren’t being adopted.”

Rita’s chin hung on her chest and she did not bother to look up. “Mark, let the detective finish her story. I am certain she is going to tell you everything.”

“Thank you, Agent Sanchez,” responded Jena. “Well, Mark, it also appears that,” Jena paged down two more pages in the journal before continuing, “Agent Sanchez visited Mr. Madison two days ago. She brought along some legal papers for him to sign.”

“Now wait one minute,” interrupted Mark. “Rita, you didn’t tell me you saw Ted this week. Two days ago … wasn’t that when you took the day off because you had a doctor’s appointment?”
Rita did not look up, but commented, “Let the detective finish, Mark.”

“Mark, according to Mr. Madison’s journal, the journal that Agent Sanchez didn’t know anything about, she brought adoption papers for him to sign. It appears that Agent Sanchez explained to Mr. Madison that his ex-wife wanted her new husband to adopt the children and his children were fine with it.”

“Rita, I find your actions highly irregular. I am the agent in charge and you should have run this by me. Why didn’t I know of this adoption? Why would you present this information to Ted without my knowing about it first? This is highly irregular.”

Andy could not restrain himself any longer, “Highly irregular, yup, that is what Dr. Horowitz said when we told him about Rita-baby’s visit.”

Rita sat up straight in her chair and turned to Mark, “Oh, come on, Mark, you know that Madison was a pain in the ass! All we did was baby-sit him. He was never happy with anything we did to make his life easier.” She turned to Jena and continued, “He complained about everything. I can’t tell you the number of times he whined to me about missing his kids. I would tell him to get over it, because he wasn’t going to see them again.”

Rita turned back to Mark. "Do you think he would listen? Hell no! I just thought that if he knew his kids were adopted, he would forget about them and get on with his new life. Maybe then, he wouldn’t be so damn miserable. I didn’t know the news was going to drive him over the edge. Furthermore, Horowitz did not say for certain that losing his kids would force him to take his life. He said that he should receive some additional counseling to help him through it. Well, we were already paying for his doctor visits; I just thought they would work it out in a couple of more sessions.” Rita looked around at the captain, the two detectives, and finally at Mark. “You’ve got to believe me, Mark. I never thought he would take his life.”

Andy now had a big smile on his face as he pulled out his own notebook. “Yes, we could believe you, Rita, but I am just not buying it. After we got your prints back from the lab and talked to Dr. Horowitz, we talked to our boss who in turn called your boss, a Mr. Hopkins I believe, in D.C. After the captain explained our concerns, your boss did a little checking around and guess what he found out?”

Mark turned to Captain Davis and asked, “What right do you have calling our boss? I am the agent in charge. You should have brought this information to me first.”

The captain rocked back and forth in his chair for several moments before responding. “Agent Griffin, I believe that is a fair question. Well, you have to understand that from where we are sitting in this little town of ours, you could have just as well been involved in this cover-up. Now, if you will just listen to what my detective found out before accusing anyone of any wrongdoing, I believe we can wrap this case up. Andy, please continue.” 

“Thanks, boss,” Andy referred back to his notes and then continued, “Let’s see … where was I? Oh, yah, according to Mr. Hopkins, it appears that Rita-baby had a windfall of some kind yesterday.” Andy looked over at Rita and commented, “Perhaps you won the New Jersey lottery or something.” He then looked back at Mark and added, “Remarkably, as of yesterday afternoon, she has a Nassau bank account worth $250,000. You would think that she would mention something like that to her partner, don’t you?”

Andy sat back in his chair and smiled as Mark took it all in. “Even more interesting is that when they traced the source of the money, it came from a Swiss bank account that was just set up a week ago. And, I’ll give you five guesses as to who in New Jersey deposited the funds into that account?”

Rita stood up before Andy could continue. “That’s enough!” She took a deep breath and said, “Mark, I believe this is where you read me my rights. I have nothing to say until I have talked to an attorney.”

“O-O-O-W-W-W-W,” Andy howled with pleasure.

“That will be enough, Detective,” the captain reprimanded, but his face did not express anything other than pleasure.

“Ah, sorry, boss. I just get a little excited when a couple of country-bumpkins occasionally do some acceptable detective work.”


  1. *SMiles* Great write and read!! I do thank you for the afternoon read... is there more to come?


  2. Excellent writing. You executed the story really well. I followed with interest from the beginning to the end and wondered how you were going to wrap this one up. Excellent logic and problem solving. Are you by any chance in criminal law?

    I love how you wove the whole tale. You used descriptions really well and let us get to know everyone and everything that was happening so we could follow the case well. I love how you delivered the last bit of news that wrapped the case up. Just wonderful work.

    Congrats on a great piece of writing. *Wink*


  3. Man what a great read!!!

    This story had me glued to my seat from the moment I started! You are an excellent writer, both technically and imaginatively. This story is well worthy of publishing and I hope you do get to publish it somewhere if not already.

    I will be checking your portfolio to see if you have any books written. I found this piece flawless. The angels came together nicely, the characterization was solid, the plot tight, the twist great.

    You've really given me inspiration to shoot for in my own writing.

    Great work! I originally checked this out just for the gift point reward, but after reading, I would have easily paid 'real' money to read stuff of this caliber.

    Congrats I hope you sell it!
    Kirk Outerbridge

  4. Great story idea.

    It needs a little work on the typos and overuse of some words, though. For example, near the beginning you had two sentences and used the word 'body' three times. Also, I found the use of bold font a little distracting - it broke the flow of the story.

    I will enjoy reading more of your work - thanks very much.


  5. I really liked this story. It held my interest the whole way through. It had a good variety of characters. I thought the investigation flowed very well, consistently revealing intriguing information. The shift from "who killed the enforcer jerk" to the mob connections and FBI corruption added a lot of depth to the story, like how Law and Order always starts out leading you one way then everything ends up totally different.

    Some of the TV references seemed to cheapen their dialogue, which otherwise, was very good. If she was paid by the mob to kill him, why did she bring him fake adoption papers; yes, it would make it look like suicide, but no one knew about the adoption because she couldn't mention it, because it wasn't real.

    Most importantly, Rita Sanchez is a tough reluctant character; she is a heartless killer with no respect for anyone. But she just gives up when she is confronted. She asks to be read her rights, almost admitting her guilt. I would have expected her to go down shooting, or at least put up a real fight. I think if she was confronted outside the office, there is an opportunity to add a final action resolution. She needs to be given a last chance to get away with it and the detectives need to stop her.

    Keep writing, you show some real talent.


  6. Great story, I liked the fact that the tables were turned on the FBI. I thought that maybe the wife was married to one of the FBI Agent's brothers or something like that, and that the adoption of the kids was of a personal nature. I was wrong. Rita being bribed was also a good reason for Ted's suicide.

    I did notice one small mistake. In the sentence below the Dr. is talking about the past and so the verb should signify that, (has should be had) unless you leave off the first three words of the sentence.

    Before this week, Mr. Madison (has) not missed an appointment in six months.


  7. The story caught my attention at the very beginning. The opening scene describing the retrieval of the body, the conversation back and forth between the characters, and the comments about lack of funding to the police dept. was a good plot set up, and sounded very realistic. I liked the scene with them canvassing the neighborhood questioning people, and then talking to the "boss". It all went along fine till about 2/3 of the way and then seemed almost hurried to get to the end. Too easily solved maybe.

    I think this has the potential to be a very good crime drama with some expansion of the characters, both personally and professionally, and a bit more twists and turns in the case.

    Your grammar and spelling seem fine (but I'm a very poor critic there considering my lack of talent in that area :) )

    If you ever write an extended version of this story let me know. I would be honored to read it.

  8. Nice story; it's good and crisp.

    1. I noticed a couple of things you might want to look into:

    How did the police know it was Ted Madison before they pulled out his wallet? If they didn't, why weren't they surprised that Ron knew who it was?

    2. When describing Bo Hopkins, the cop tells exactly the amount of the fine and the reason, and in the same breath he says it again, this time as if he doesn't know the details.

    Good work.

  9. I like this mucho!!! heehee brilliant... is there any more to come?


  10. What a very erie piece you have written. I really enjoyed reading it. You did a good job.... not sure I could have came up with anything like this. It is very well written and well thought out.

    You paint a very clear picture with your words. The flow of this piece makes it easy for the reader to get into the story.

    thank you for sharing your work with us here.
    keep up the good work.



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