The starkly barren interrogation room had exactly four pieces of furniture in it and nothing else. Three battered, weary looking old walnut wooden chairs and a short conference table setting in the middle of the room. That was it.
In the ceiling above the table was a light fixture with two neon light bulbs rudely emitting harsh white light. In the corner was a small recording camera, now lit up with a tiny red light to indicate it was recording. One wall had the dark glass rift of a one way window staring at us with unblinking monotony.
The place had a smell to it. All interrogation rooms have a certain smell to them. Fear. Sweat. Lies. You name it. It was there. Kinda added to the ambiance of the room if you ask me. Which, I know . . . you didn’t.
“Meet Edward Geiger,” my partner, a red haired behemoth of a mountain gorilla wannabe growled, jerking a thumb in the direction of the man sitting across the table from him in the interrogation room. “Came in here about an hour ago and told Charlie down stairs at the booking desk he killed his wife with a butcher knife. Jesse and Coltrane checked it out. Sure enough. Looks like he’s telling the truth.”
Jesse and Coltrane are Jesse Franks and Bo Coltrane. Uniformed officers working the Morning Heights route within the confines of the South Side Precinct. Good cops. A couple of pranksters who like to laugh. Absolutely professional when it comes to patrolling the streets.
My partner’s name is Frank Morales. ‘Bout six foot four, holding his weight around three hundred pounds, of which very little is fat, with a rectangular shaped head apparently made of cement sans any nerve endings. He has a mop of short, stringy red hair that refuses to be combed into any semblance of order. Frankly, he looks like an accident in a genetics lab who somehow escaped into the wild. He’s got an IQ that would equal two Einstein’s attached to an eidetic memory. The freak is smart is what I’m saying. And a damn good homicide detective. He’s also my friend and partner.
I’m Turner Hahn. Same height as my partner. About fifty pounds lighter. Whenever I look into a mirror . . . and I rarely do . . . the reflection looking back at me tells me I’m almost the spitting image of a long dead matinee idol from out of the ’30’s. I’ve got the black hair, the same dimples, the thin black mustache, and this permanent smirk on my lips which won’t go away. You know the kind. That one that makes you either relax around me immediately. Or pisses you off to the point you want to throw a right jab straight into my kisser. Apparently it’s one or the other. There’s no happy medium here.
Together we work the second shift homicide desk whenever the work falls into our laps. Otherwise we’re helping the two other desks in the detective division. Narcotics or Robbery.
Rare is the time when someone just waltzes in and confesses to a murder. I can count on one hand, using about three fingers, the number of times its happened. So
Edward Geiger’s confession was a surprise. A double surprise actually.
I could see it in my partner’s face. Clear as an open book to read. Well . . . at least to me.
Frank wasn’t buying it. The confession. Didn’t believe a word of it.
You work with someone for years and you get to know them. Know their quirks; their idiosyncrasies. Little things that’ll tip you off. The drumming of fingers. The corner of the lips twitching oddly. The lifting of an eyebrow. Or, in this case, the big monster following me out into the hall, closing the door behind him in the process, and declaring,
“He’s lying, Turner. He hasn’t killed anyone.”
We were standing face to face. Eyeball to eyeball. There was that look in his eyes. Pugnacious determination. That hard headed look of a man who knew he was right. And woe be to the schmuck who tried to convince him otherwise.
“Okay,” I nodded, agreeing. “But just for shits and giggles, tell me why he came in on his own to confess to a crime he didn’t commit?”
“I dunno. But that’s what we’re going to find out.”
I grinned. I liked it when Frank got all hard ass on me. Usually, for someone as frackin’ intelligent as he is, he’s a bit of a slacker when it comes to taking the lead investigation on a homicide case. Not that he is a real slacker, mind you. The guy is as reliable as an atomic clock. As tough as about a foot and a half of hardened steel. He’ll be there when you need him, no matter what situation we find ourselves in. It’s just that, when it comes to the point of making decisions about where to go next in our investigation, he’d rather I make the call.
To be honest, I think the big guy is bored with most of our usual run of the mill cases. But . . .once in a while . . . along comes a case that grabs his interest. Edward Geiger’s confession was one of these cases.
“Well, I’m game. What’s our plan, Batman?”
Edward Geiger hadn’t moved a muscle. He still sat in the chair we had left him in. Still had that blank look of the totally confused on his face. Still continued to stare at some speck on the table top in front of him. Reaching for the chair direction in front of the man I slid into it, leaned back, crossed one leg over the other, and eyed the suspect for a moment or two. Frank drifted off behind me and, folding hands across his chest, leaned against the wall and remained silent as a stone monument.
“Mr. Geiger, you say you have no idea why you killed your wife. Is that correct?”
The man didn’t blink. Didn’t move a muscle in his face. Only nodded his head. Barely.
“In your initial state you said you remember waking up and finding yourself staring up at the kitchen ceiling. When you turned your head you saw your wife lying on the floor beside you. Lying in a pool of blood with a butcher’s knife protruding from her chest. Is that correct?”
No reaction. Just a nodding of the head.
I flicked an imaginary fleck of dust off my trousers with a hand and then folded both hands together on my lap. Mr. Geiger was becoming more interesting with each passing second.
“What do you do for a living, Edward? May I call you Edward?”
A flicker of life. A hand twitched in a reflexive fashion on the table. Tears began filling his eyes and threatening to roll down his cheeks in a flash flood of shame.
“I was . . . uh . . . uh . . . a psychologist. Both of us. Mary and I. Psychologists.”
I nodded sympathetically. The man in front of me looked like a psychologist. High sloping forehead. Blonde hair growing thinner on the top of his head. Worry lines around the corners of his eyes. His clothes were expensive. A high dollar shirt. Tailored slacks. A gold bracelet around his left wrist expensive enough to buy someone a brand new car. Italian leather shoes.
Apparently Edward and Mary Geiger, practicing psychologists, were quite successful in their respective careers.
“You don’t remember anything at all about killing your wife,” I asked again.
He shook his head no. But his eyes began moving. Moving slowly from side to side. As if suddenly discovering he was in a world he was not familiar with.
“What do you remember, Edward? Start from there and let’s see if we can piece this together. Okay?”
Eyes filled with tears and threatening to come cascading down his cheeks like a flash flood looked up from the table for the first time. Looked up and straight into mine. If there ever was a look of pain . . . of complete loss . . . this guy had it painted on his mug. Devastated would come close to describing how the man looked. Come close. But still not carrying the true meaning at what I was looking at.
“I remember we had dinner earlier in the evening. Myself, Mary, and our son Cale. I remember we were arguing. All of us. Arguing. Keeping it civil. Keeping it low keyed as we sat at the table waiting to be served. But . . . but I remember we were all angry. Very angry. “Do you remember the name of the restaurant, Edward?” I asked.
I reached inside my coat pocket and pulled out a pen and a small spiral notepad. I wrote Delacorte’s on a blank page quickly and then looked at Edward again. Behind me Frank cleared his voice and pulled himself off the wall to ask a question.
“Your son, Cale. How old is he?”
“He’s twenty three. Twenty three and a spitting image of his mother.”
There was a flash of life . . . of some color . . . in the man’s face when he mentioned his son’s name. And then it was gone. Just evaporated.
“What was the discussion the three of you were angry over, Edward.”
“Cale was demanding money from us. He wanted to go to grad school. A private grad school some place in New York state. A very costly private school. We told him we couldn’t afford it. Not now. Not with us in the middle of financing our new clinic. That was the main source of our discussion. Of course, Mary had her concerns as well. She was angry with me. Angry about the new clinic. About how much it was costing us. All my fault. All of it . . . my fault.”
Underneath Delacorte I wrote, new clinic-finances. Underneath that I wrote a question: Where’s Cale? I knew behind me Frank had eyed me writing all three lines down.
“What happened after the dinner,” I asked. “The three of you returned home?”
“I . . . I’m sure Mary and I did. Drove back to our house. But . . . but Cale stormed out of the restaurant before we were served. Angry. Actually quite furious at us. That’s the other thing about Cale. He has his mother’s temper. Quick to flair up. Burns intensely for a few moments. And then flames out and is totally forgotten in less than an hour.”
Anger issues—motive? History? I scribbled on the page.
I heard Frank grunt behind me. And then his deep voice rumbled.
“Cale . . . was he home when the two of you arrived?”
Pain looked up from the table and at Frank. For a second Edward Geiger looked at the red headed gorilla of mine for a partner before, eventually, silently shaking his head no.
Frowning, I cleared my throat and asked, reluctantly, the question which had to be asked.
“Tell us all you remember about what happened at home, Edward. The before you blacked out part and the one after you woke up.”
The floodgates opened.
Tears, real tears, cascaded down his cheeks in torrents. Waterfalls to match Niagara easily. Silently the pent up anguish he had kept a tight lid on for the last few hours escaped its containment field and ravaged his emotions. His body collapsed back into the chair and it shook violently as all the checks and balances his trained mind held over his emotions simply vanished.
We watched for a few seconds, each in our own way physically and emotionally feeling his pain, before giving him the dignity to silently suffer alone in his ocean of agony.
Frank eyed me as we stepped into the hall and frowned.
“Tell me the truth. You think he killed his wife?”
I said nothing. But, shrugging, shook my head no. Both of us have seen great acting in interrogation rooms like the one on the other side of the door. Killers who could call up buckets of tears at the snap of their fingers. Convincing tears that would soften the hearts of even the dead. But never the whole package of emotional collapse. The tears, the clear emotional strain threatening to short circuit their entire being; the simple confession that he must have killed his wife for reasons unknown. Said in a voice, and a look, of stark disbelief.
No. Edward Geiger didn’t kill his wife. Regardless of what the evidence clearly indicated. But someone did. Someone smart, cool headed, with the moxy to stab a woman and then stand over the body and deliberately arrange the evidence so as to make it look like Edward was the killer. Someone who had a motive strong enough to turn them into a cold, calculating, blood thirsty monster.
“We need to find Cale,” Frank nodded, reading my thoughts. “And fast. He may be the killer. Or worse . . . ”
“. . . if not the killer, the next victim on the list.”
We sent Edward down to lockup and told the staff down there to put the psychologist on the suicide watch list. Geiger would be put into a cell which was almost as Spartan in its contents as the interrogation room he sat in. He would be in a cell that had a closed circuit TV camera in it. He would be monitored 24 hours a day. Someone would have eyes on him all the time. He would be safe.
We went to work.
It takes time. Police investigations aren’t as intense as peeling back the veils of quantum mechanics. There are not a multitude of white boards full of mathematical equations filling up ever available empty space in the squad room. But it is time consuming. It can be the irritating and deliberate effort of looking over volumes of fine details and trivial data points of fine minutiae. Or it can be sweeping man hunts and classic car chases. But something, eventually, pops up and grabs your attention.
It was in the review of the mind numbing, dry details of minutiae we discovered four interesting factoids. One, our primary person of interest, the son, was apparently a world-class competitive sailor. Two, the Geiger family owned a rather expensive yacht and kept it permanently berthed at a local marina just off the city’s main expressway down on the Brown River. Three, Mrs. Geiger recently purchased a life insurance policy worth half a million dollars. Four, the primary beneficiary was not her husband, Edward. But to her son. The secondary beneficiary, in case Cale found his inheritance ripped from him, went to a charity fund called The Second Chance.
“Odd, don’t you think?” I said, glancing at my partner as we sat in the seats of a Shelby GT 350 Mustang driving down the expressway heading for the marina. “Mrs. Geiger giving all that money to her son. And the son needed a lot of cash to go to that private school.”
“It’s a new policy. There’s no cash value built up in it yet,” Frank grunted, turning his head to look through the traffic and at the ribbon of blue water of the Brown River between the tall downtown office buildings we were momentarily paralleling in traffic. “What’s more interesting is the secondary beneficiary. What is The Second Chance? Why are they listed on the policy as potential beneficiaries?”
“Let’s talk to Cal first.”
The Wild Marry was a single-mast thirty foot racing sloop riding calm waters beside a long wharf filled with similar vessels. The forests of masts and maze of rigging, along with the giant masses of luxury motor yachts scattered everywhere across the small artificial harbor, told me money didn’t seem to be a problem for a lot of people these days.
Coming to a halt close to the stern of the Wild Marry we both noticed the cheap looking lawn chair sitting on the deck beside the long handle of the sloop’s rudder. Beside it was a big picnic cooler. A cooler with the lid open revealing plainly what was stacked within. Beer. Lots and lots of beer submerged in clear water. Water which, probably sometime yesterday, had been a cooler full of ice.
Both of us frowned. The sloop was very quiet. Frank, his voice like a natural bull horn, barked out Cal’s name several times. An open cooler of beer suggested someone was on board. If you were aboard and decided to go somewhere else, and knowing the cooler was full of ice and beer, the first thing you’d do before leaving would be to make sure the cooler’s lid was shut tightly. But the cooler’s lid was open. The ice had melted. And the boat was as quiet as an empty garage.
We stepped off the dock and onto the stern of the Wild Marry. Frank shouted out Cal’s name again. But there was no response. We found the hatch leading down into the ship’s hull wide open and inviting. It was dark down below decks. Dark. And smelly. A distinct aroma was drifting up from down below. An aroma we are all too familiar with.
We found Cal Geiger. Dead of course. A quick scan of the body suggested some kind of poison was used. Cal was lying in a bunk with one arm dangling off the bunk, the hand lying on the deck limply. Beside the hand was a note. A note with neat block lettering and Cal’s signature. Cal had written a suicide note. He confessed he killed his mother after killing his father with a baseball bat. He said he was so furious after the angry confrontation during the dinner he came home and tried to cool off. But his anger grew. The moment his parents returned home he knew he was going to kill them. Both of them. He thought he had hit his father hard enough with the bat. But his mother he used the knife. Stabbing her repeatedly until she stopped screaming.
Later on, while sitting in the dark on the Wild Merry and drinking beer, he calmed down and realized the horror he had just committed. He said he couldn’t live with that knowledge. The knowledge of killing his parents. So he was going to end his life. He hoped his father would forgive him.
I used my cell phone and called it in. We waited for the Medical Examiner and a few uniformed officers to arrive, in the waiting time both of us looking over the boat for any additional evidence. Primarily we were looking for whatever poison it was Cal used to end his life. Interestingly, we found nothing. No evidence of poison. No evidence of any kind of conveyance someone would use to ingest poison. The below deck, like the sloop’s upper deck, was spotlessly clean. Not a cup, a glass, or an empty beer can to be seen.
After the M.E. and a few squad cars arrived we hung about a little longer and then left. The drive back to the precinct was a drive in stark silence. If fell on Frank’s shoulders, since he had assumed the responsibility of being this case’s head investigator, in informing Edward Geiger that his son confessed to the murders just before committing suicide. The elder Geiger took the news in silence. Not uttering a word nor exhibiting any form of emotional reaction whatsoever. Just sat in the chair in the same Spartan interrogation room we first met him in like a lump of fresh cut liver.
What was there to say? What words were there available to lessen the pain?
Sorry for your loss, boyo. Your wife was cut down viciously with a butcher’s knife. Murdered by your own son. And then your kid, in a drunken state of remorse, apparently decides to end his own life with a bottle of pills. Yeah buddy, wonderful family you got there. But that’s okay. Apparently you are the innocent victim in this sorry mess. So let’s drop all the charges and send you packing.
Go home, fella, and have a good life.
Back at the precinct it was very quiet as we worked on the case’s paperwork. I could see it in Frank’s face. It wasn’t the outcome he was expecting. He looked grumpy. In a foul mood. And, to be honest, I almost grinned. I’ve seen grumpy Frank when he was truly grumpy. Ever seen a grumpy mountain gorilla at a zoo? The one where he didn’t want humans gawking at him from beyond the fence? Not nice. Not nice at all.
But I kept my mouth shut, refrained from breaking out into a sheepish grin, and quietly waited for the explosion to happen. I knew it was coming. It was only a question of when, and how potent would its volatility be when it happened.
It came when we were driving him over to his home out in the suburbs. Since I collect old American muscle cars as a hobby, we always used one of my cars when we worked. I would come and get him and take him home when our shift finally ended. Tonight we were in the ’67 Shelby GT Mustang. The engine up front kept burbling as I worked our way through the gears as we bypassed all the main thoroughfares which were the usual routes home. I was using the back streets, taking the long way home, waiting for the big guy to finally dump his frustrations off his chest.
When it came it turned out not to be an explosion. But a simple, single, question.
“How did he know?”
Frank has no neck. Or, to most people, it looks that way. But his head somehow swiveled on his shoulders, his carrot color red hair flopping around on his head in the process, and looked at me.
“The kid’s suicide note. Cale says he killed his father with a baseball bat before killing his mother with the knife. But at the end of the note he specifically asks his father to forgive him. He doesn’t ask for his mother’s forgiveness. But he does with his father. How did he know his father was still alive?”
I downshifted the car into second gear and came to a stop in front of a traffic light staring at us with one unblinking red eye above the empty intersection. The powerful little engine of the Shelby had enough torque in it to make the car shake a little bit. A pleasant sensation as I turned and stared at my partner.
“All kinds of possibilities there, Frank. Any one which would be infinitely believable in a court of law. Besides, didn’t you tell me you were positive the old man didn’t kill his wife? What’s changed?”
“I still believe the husband is innocent. But someone who knew them all, and knew them very well, could have killed the mother and the son.”
“Okay,” I said cautiously, accelerating out of the intersection after the light turned green and working my way up through the gears. “Let’s go with that for a moment or two. Someone kills the mother and the son. But he doesn’t with the father. Why?”
“I have a hunch. I’m betting it has something to do with the insurance policy. A half million could be enough of a motive to kill two people.”
“So what’s our next move?”
“Turn around. We need to find Edward Geiger and talk to him. And we need to find him fast!”
I nodded and dropped the gearshift back down into second and let out the clutch. The Shelby’s engine roared in protest as its front wheels dove hard into the street’s pavement as the car decelerated rapidly. I hauled the steering wheel hard around to my left and hit the gas pedal the moment we started to come out of the tight U-turn on the semi-empty city street. The Ford shot forward like a white banshee as we accelerated hard down the street. It didn’t take long to drive across town and back to the Geiger residence. Not long at all.
We found a large van out front. The van said the name of a professional cleaning company here in town we were familiar with. Behind the truck, the rear doors open, two employees were working on a large industrial sized carpet cleaner. I slid up behind the truck and we got out. Frank approached the two men and asked a few questions. Walking back we turned and headed for the house.
“Geiger hired the company to go over the house from top to bottom. A thorough cleaning of everything. The guy told me there’s actually two crews working on the job. Their job is to deep clean the carpets, drapes, and curtains after the first crew finishes up their work. They’re working on the back half of the house right now.”
I said nothing and followed the red headed giant into the house. The other two in the cleaning crew looked up from their cleaning machines and nodded. They didn’t seem to be too surprised seeing us here. That’s because they knew us. The precinct often hired these guys to come in and clean up a crime scene after an investigation was completed.
Frank nodded to the two and kept walking through the house. Apparently he knew where he was going. We went through living room, down a long hall, passed two bedroom doors and entered the master suite. He didn’t hesitate. We strolled across the thick carpet of the bedroom, passed the king sized bed filled with the late Mrs. Geiger’s stuffed animals, and entered the cavern that was the master suite’s bathroom.
I stood in the doorway, hands stuffed into my slack’s pockets, and watched the big guy work. Frank immediately stood in front of the wall sized mirror above the bathroom sinks and flipped on and dialed up the power for the row of lights above the mirror to burn as bright as they could. The light flared on like a super nova. I actually had to squint through narrow eyelids to see what he did next.
He did a Sherlock Holmes routine on me.
He bent over and hovered just above one of the two sinks which littered the long countertop. His right hand slipped into the sink and touched here and there on the sink’s sloping bowl. I thought I saw small black and tan colored specks here and there lining the walls on the sink’s porcelain. He partially stood up, reached inside a slacks pocket with one hand, and came out with a pair of tweezers and a small plastic evidence bag. He then found a box of tissues and pulled one out of the box. Using it as a blotter he wiped the sink once or twice before depositing the tissue into the evidence bag. Using the tweezers he pulled two single gray hairs off the edge of the sink’s drain and deposited them into a second small evidence bag. Standing up he slid both evidence bags into his inside coat pocket of his sport coat and turned toward me at the same time.
“Okay Sport,” I grinned. “I’m duly impressed. The role of a Godzilla lookalike playing a Sherlock Holmes goes to you. Not tell me what the hell you’ve found here.”
“Remember the hunch I told you I had? It just got a lot stronger.”
“I can see that,” I nodded. “But what I want to know is what the hell is your hunch?”
“What ties together Edgar Geiger, his wife and son, a half million dollar insurance policy, The Second Chance organization, and our killer all together into one neat little package.”
Eyes still narrowed, I nodded and shrugged.
“Edgar Geiger. He has to be our killer.”
“But Edgar is not the killer. He’s innocent.”
“All I will tell you this. My hunch has become more than a hunch . . . and we’ve been down this road before.”
He slipped past me exiting the bathroom and I followed. As we walked through the house I kept rolling his words over and over in my head. My hunch has become more than a hunch . . . and we’ve been down this road before/ My hunch as become more than a hunch . . . and we’ve been down this road before/ My hunch has . . .
Half way through the living room I smacked myself hard on the forehead with the palm of my head. So hard in fact the cleaning crew heard it over the noise of their carpet cleaners and stared at us as we walked out of the house.
Idiot! I thought to myself. Idiot! It was there all the time and I should have seen it!
It took us thirty five minutes to drive over to the offices of The Second Chance organization. Of course, at this time of the night, it was closed. So it took us another twenty minutes to track down someone who had a key to let us in. When the plump little officer manager showed up, huffing and puffing as she climbed out of her boxy little Hyundai, and looking as if she hurried threw on a forty year old dress, she didn’t look very happy at us. She gave of us a stare that said, as the old saying goes, If looks could kill we’d be two fried and diced mutherfuckers right now. But she unlocked the building’s front door, flipped off the alarm system, and stepped back to let us enter the premises.
It took us all of five minutes to find what Frank wanted to find in the office. It was there, hanging on a wall in a hall that led to the office of the man who established The Second Chance. A big, professionally made, portrait of C. Allan Andrews. A man with a balding head of grayish red hair. With thick black rimmed glasses and a jowly set of cheeks. A man who looked like an entire universe away from Edward Geiger.
Except . . . it was Edward Geiger.
Or more accurately, Edward Geiger’s alternate ego. C. Allan Andrews.
“Split personalities,” Frank grunted, looking at the photo hanging on the wall. “Hidden deep in the mind of a trained psychologist. Geiger has no idea he has an entirely different personality in there with him. But this guy knows. This guy, our C. Allan Andrews, planned it all. Loaned the money to Geiger and his wife so they could build their new building. Charged’em exorbitant interest in an effort to bankrupt the two of them. But agreed to loan the money if they would sign over Mrs. Geiger’s life insurance payment to him in case they might go belly up. And then he killed the wife and the son, planted evidence on the yacht to make it look like the son committed suicide, taking the blame for his mother’s murder with him.
“Proof?” I asked, liking the theory but seeing a possible legal defense in the coming trail.
“You can physically change your outward appearance. But you can’t change your DNA. I’m betting the stands of hair I found in the sink back at the Geiger’s house is Geiger . . . or Allan . . . or whoever you want to call him. The hair is dyed the same color as this guy’s hair. I’m also betting we’ll find documents inside the office that will have his signature on it. Papers that link him directly to the Geiger’s financial misfortunes. We have enough for a conviction. I’m sure of it.”
“So where is C. Allan Andrews now?” I asked.
“He’s going on vacation. Called me yesterday and told me he was flying to South American for a month. His plane is supposed to leave in about an hour. United; flight 1042 to Rio.”
We made it. Barely. We caught him just as he was about to walk down the gangway to board the plane. C. Allan Andrews/Edward Geiger offered no resistance. Just smiled as he stepped out of the boarding line and sat his suitcase down on the floor beside him and tossed his arms behind his back so we could handcuff him.
- Allan Andrews now resides in a mental hospital for the criminally insane. He’ll never see the light of day again as a free man. Unfortunately Edward Geiger is with him. Completely befuddled as to why he’s in a place filled with the insane.