Authors: Melinda Parker
A Classic Case of Murder
Copyright © 2016 Melinda Parker - All rights reserved
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Mark and Ben walked to the car quickly, both opening their doors at the same time.
“How long has it been since we’ve had a murder here in town, sir?”
Mark set one hand on the top of the car and looked at the Sargent. “How long have you been with us, Keyes?” He asked. “We have had one per year since you got here. Should I be suspicious?” He grinned at Ben and lowered himself into the driver’s seat. Ben grinned, too, and slid into the passenger seat.
“The report says the victim is a local hero of sorts.” The Inspector said, turning the wheel to pull out onto Main street. “Some kind of writer or something.”
“Yes, she was.” Ben nodded. “She had several books out in the sci-fi genre. You’re not an avid reader, are you, sir?”
Mark laughed softly. “That’s what I have you for, Keyes. You are the reader in this department.”
“I beg to differ, sir, there are several other…”
“Just tell me what you know about her, Keyes.” Mark prompted the Sargent.
“Well, she has three books out in the sci-fi industry but she was also known for a string of children’s books. The topic of the books was squirrels.”
“Squirrels.” Mark repeated. “Okay. What else.”
“Yes, the characters in the children’s books were squirrels. Anyway, there were, I think, seven in that series? She was published young, I believe she’s in her early thirties with her first book having come out when she was just nineteen years old.”
young.” Mark mumbled. “What else?”
Ben Keyes took out his notebook and began flipping through it. “Looks like she lived alone, never married, has a sister who
married and several small dogs. If she had a boyfriend, we will have to find out from her sister.”
“And they are the ones who found her?”
“All right, Keyes, let’s see what we can find out about this murder.”
They pulled off the side of the road when they were close to the scene of the discovery. There were flashing lights everywhere, as officers kept the flowing traffic from interfering with the scene. The ambulance was there, the back doors open, waiting to receive the body once it was extracted from the car.
Mark stepped out of the car, his hand reaching back to extract his ID. He didn’t need to, the police officers that were on the scene knew who he was. He scanned the group, naming them off in his head. They were a good group and would be of use to him. He looked over at the Sargent. “First we will look in the car and the victim, then you can question the sister and brother-in-law.”
Mark nodded. “Yes, I think that’s a good idea for this crime. You seem to know more about the victim than I do. Perhaps you’ll think of questions I don’t.”
“All right, sir.”
“That doesn’t mean I won’t be asking something if I think of it.”
“I understand, sir.”
They walked to the car, lifting the police tape and going under it. The officers that were there nodded at them and let them pass without question.
Mark approached the car and leaned down to look inside. Forensics was already on scene, dusting for prints and taking pictures. “Pardon me.” Mark said quietly, not wanting to scare the coroner, who was staring at the body of the dead woman in the driver’s seat. He turned and looked up at Mark.
“Hello, Mark.” He said, looking back at the body. He lifted one hand and pointed. “See these ligature marks? She’s been garroted.” He looked back at Mark. “Strangled. With a wire, I suspect, some kind of thin, metal wire.” He lifted his hands as he spoke and made motions as if he were strangling himself.
“What time did it happen, John?”
“I’d have to say she’s been here about…oh… fifteen to seventeen hours. I would place time of death to be around 2 to around 4 pm yesterday. Oh, and look at this.” John stood up and Mark backed away to give him room. John walked around the car and Mark followed him. “Look at this.” John repeated, pointing at the side of the car and the ground. “This is what I would call a very poor attempt to get rid of evidence.”
A rag had been placed in the gas tank and was hanging over the side of the car. Mark leaned over and smelled it, pulling back, nodding. “Yes, that’s gasoline. Why didn’t they light it, I wonder?”
“I think he did.” He looked up at Mark. “Or she. I think they lit it and ran, look.” He touched the end of the rag with one gloved hand and lifted it. It had traces of burn marks lacing the edges with black. “This is one inexperienced murderer right here.” He said.
Mark nodded and looked back at Ben. “Did you see anything of note, Keyes?”
“No, sir. But I have a feeling about this.”
Mark looked at him closely. Ben’s “feelings” were usually on target. “And what feeling would that be, Keyes?”
“I believe we’re looking for a man.”
“Do you?” Mark scanned the scene again and spotted the sister and brother in law. “Let’s go talk to the sister and her husband. Maybe they can shed some light on the situation. She may have a boyfriend we don’t know about.” He began walking to where the couple were standing with one of the patrol officers. Ben hurried to follow him, still writing in his notebook as he went.
“This looks a lot like a crime of rage, sir.”
“I would suspect a boyfriend first. And an old boyfriend or boy
Mark nodded. “Go on.”
“We’ll need to investigate the house to see if there are pictures or letters. It could be an obsessed fan.”
Mark smiled at Ben. “That’s what I was thinking! Good job, Ben!”
Ben smiled back.
They weren’t smiling when they approached Amber and Daniel Joiner. Amber was hunched over, crying, a small handcloth pressed against her eyes. Daniel was consoling her but had tears welled up in his own eyes and was blinking rapidly.
“It’s gonna be okay, Amber. She’s in a better place. It’s gonna be okay.”
Amber’s tears didn’t stop but lessened some as she sensed someone approaching. She looked up at the investigators through blood shot eyes. “Do…you… have any clues yet?”
They both held up their IDs.
“I’m Detective Sargent Keyes and this is Inspector Mark Bullard from the Clements Police Department, Investigation Unit. We do have a few questions for you, if that’s all right with you.”
“Yes, that’s fine. Do you know anything?”
Ben answered her. “Yes, ma’am, we are sorry to confirm that it looks as though your sister has been murdered.”
Amber pressed her face into her husband’s shirt. He wrapped his arms around her and pressed his cheek against her blond hair. “I’m sorry, honey. I’m sorry.”
“Oh, who would do this, Danny? Who would do this to Carrie? She was so wonderful. She was so sweet.”
“I know she was.” Danny whispered, kissing the top of his wife’s hair. “I know she was.” He looked up at the detectives. “She really was a great woman.” He continued, speaking to them. “She was well-liked by all who knew her, at least that I know of. And I’ve been with Amber for seven years now and we were friends for several years before that. Carrie was an amazing person, very friendly, giving, generous. She was always doing nice things for people. People loved her!”
He shook his head and squeezed his wife.
Ben nodded, looking over at Mark. “I read a short biography about her some years ago that described her charity work and generous behavior.” Mark nodded and looked back at the couple.
“Do you know of anyone that you would suspect then? Anyone at all? A boyfriend perhaps?”
Danny shook his head. “She was jilted pretty good by the last guy she was with. She vowed to be alone for a while. It’s been years since she’s been with a steady boyfriend.”
“She didn’t date very much either.” Amber said. “There’s no way we could remember any of the men she went to dinner with. There weren’t many.” She looked up at Danny. “What would you say, three or four in the last…year?” Her husband nodded. “And none were notable. I was thinking she was just going to dinner with them to be nice to them. They were usually fans of her work. Especially her sci-fi.”
“Was she always nice to her fans?”
Danny and Amber both nodded. “She was very appreciative of them.” Danny said. “She signed her autograph whenever she met up with someone who liked her work.”
Again, Ben nodded and looked over to Mark. “I went to one of her book signings last year with Jenny. She was very gracious. I never saw her without a smile.”
Ben looked back at the couple.
“I’m so sorry for your loss and I’m sorry that I have to ask these questions at such a difficult time.”
Amber shook her head, wiping her eyes and visibly pulling herself together. “No. If you say that she has been murdered, I want to help you find the killer. Please ask away.”
“So she has…had no boyfriend that you know of?”
“Do you think there’s a possibility that she had one that you don’t know about?”
“I…I don’t think so.”
“So it’s a possibility?”
“I suppose anything is a possibility. But we were very close, we spoke every day. I think I would know. I think that’s something she would have told us both.” Amber looked up and Danny nodded in agreement.
“If she did, you would find some kind of correspondence though. And if you do, please let us know. I would…really like to know.” Amber pulled in a deep breath and fought tears.
“You discovered the…you found Carrie, is that right?” Ben asked, altering his question in mid-stream.
They both nodded.
“Tell me how that happened.”
“Well, she was supposed to ring me up last night to tell me if we were going out today.” Amber answered. “She doesn’t like to text me in the morning because I don’t wake up. She said it’s like my…alarm.” She sniffed before continuing in a stronger voice. “When she calls. So she didn’t call me last night and I got worried. I started texting and calling her but she never answered. So we went out late to see if we could find her. Spot her car. Hoping she’d just broken down.”
“So when was the last time you talked to her?”
“It was about lunchtime yesterday. She said, ‘I’ll call you around 6 tonight. I’ll know by then whether I will be free on Friday’.”
“And she didn’t call. Do you know where she was going after you hung up with her?”
“She said she had a meeting with her publisher, Frank Hayes. His office is just up the road from here. He likes to have his office well away from the city because he likes the trees and fields out here.”
Ben nodded, writing in his notebook. “So would you say lunchtime was exactly noon or somewhere around there, before…after…” He teeter-tottered his flat hand in the air to signify the differing time.
“I’d say about…closer to one, I’d say. Yes, it was about 12:45 or 1 when I talked to her.”
Ben nodded again, writing this information down. He glanced at Mark, who gave him a “Please continue” look.
“Can you tell me who she generally spent her free time with?” He smiled gently. “Besides you of course?”
“She had some close friends, yes.” Amber nodded. “You can find them on her social media accounts pretty easily. They are ones who are always commenting and talking to her. They like all her stuff. You can find out her best friends from the ones who live here. But she was friendly with everyone so you’ll have to narrow it down that way.”
“Thank you for that, Amber.” Ben nodded. “Do you know any names off the top of your head that we should talk to first?”
“Well,” Amber appeared to be thinking. “Her best friend is Cynthia Lockhart, Cindy. She’s the one that holds the best friend forever status. She and Carrie have been friends since their late teens. They’ve been through a lot together. Oh, Cindy is going to be devastated.” Amber almost choked up but regained her self-control. “And there’s Melissa Gilmore…and there’s Jackie. She lives out of town but just in a neighboring county, you know. I’m not sure about her last name. She has a lot of tattoos and bright pink hair. I have no idea where Carrie picked her up.”
Ben continued writing the information down, nodding at Amber frequently. “This is very helpful, Amber. Anyone else you can think of?”
“There’s Tucker, too.” She said. “But he didn’t do this. He’s not that kind of guy.”
Danny looked down at her. “Being a lily-livered weakling doesn’t make him not capable of murder, hon.”
He looked up at Ben and shook his head. “He may have been weak but if he got upset, I know he could destroy somebody. He’s not as gentle as everyone thinks.” He leaned forward and murmured. “Don’t let him fool you. If you have any evidence pointing at him, you should look at it.”
“Danny thinks that Tucker stole from us. That’s why he’s upset with him.”
Ben nodded, having written it all down in broken English. “If you think of anyone else, please call us right away.”
“You can find them all in her notebooks and on her social media pages. I know you will be able to get into a lot of her files. She was never a very cautious person, couldn’t remember passwords very well, so she didn’t use them any more than she had to.”