By Kathleen Chamberlin
In the moonlight, a large owl perched on the elm tree nearest the woods behind the Deerfield house. It scanned the surrounding area, blinking and turning its head, watching and waiting. Soon, some unsuspecting victim would scamper into sight, searching for food. The owl would leave its perch, talons extended, swooping down to grasp its evening meal. For now, it waited. Nearby, a slim figure furtively slipped behind the steering wheel, started the engine and eased out of the driveway, fighting the need to be gone before his sister returned home. David Campbell had acted impulsively and had left in its aftermath an unwelcome present. In front of the 56” flat-screen TV, where Rachel Maddow was frenetically detailing the latest scandal she had unearthed lay a crumpled Gregory Deerfield, blood seeping from the fatal head wound his brother-in-law had inflicted.
Across town, the newly widowed Mrs. Deerfield, courtesy of her younger brother, was chatting with her friends inside the theater waiting to watch the highly-rated and long anticipated film biography of Trevor Jones, an actor turned activist they had grown up with. Gregory had begged off, telling his wife to enjoy a night out, reminiscing with her friends. “You can dish the dirt and complain about your husbands,” he’d said smiling over the top of his book. “You can tell me all about it when you get back.”
What he hadn’t told her was that he intended to confront his brother-in-law and preferred to do it without his wife present. In the last week, Gregory had discovered a few troubling things that confirmed his suspicions and needed to be addressed, sooner rather than later. He planned to show David the door. Enough was enough. What he hadn’t expected was David’s anger, so he was unprepared when David had shoved him, hard, before grabbing him and banging his head into the wall. Gregory was no match for the younger man and struggled to extricate himself from David’s grip. A knee to the groin didn’t quite hit the mark, but it was sufficient for David’s grip to loosen and allowed Gregory to lunge to the right, knocking the table lamp over. David reached for the lamp with both hands, swinging it in a wild arc that yanked the cord out of the wall and smashed it into Gregory’s head. David dropped the lamp as Gregory crumpled to the floor. When he realized that Gregory wasn’t moving, David awkwardly backed out of the room, leaving his brother-in-law on the floor, face down, legs tangled about him in an awkward approximation of a ballet pose. David tried to quash the nervous giggle that escaped his throat, clapping his hand over his mouth. ‘Stay calm,’ he told himself. ‘Leave. NOW.’ He grabbed the doorknob, thankful he hadn’t had time to take off his gloves and coat before Gregory had accosted him.
“Keep that coat on,” Gregory had said, “You might not be welcome here if I’m not convinced you had nothing to do with the $200 missing from my desk drawer and if you don’t have a good explanation for the visit I got today from a guy who said you were holding a package for him and to call him once you got home. After he left, I looked in your room and found this,” he said holding the small bundle up. If it’s what I think it is, I want you gone.”
Rather than explaining, David had lunged for the package, catching Gregory off guard. The result lay on the floor. David reached down and picked the package up, shoving it inside his coat pocket. He wouldn’t risk going to his room for a change of clothes, and when he left, he didn’t lock the door behind him.
The owl had observed him from its perch but was more interested in the slight dark shape scurrying across the snow than in David’s car pulling slowly out of the driveway. Spreading its wings, it swooped down, deftly snaring the field mouse in its talons, carrying it away to satisfy its hunger.
Once on the road, David drove without a destination, just a desire to put as much distance as possible between himself and the house. He needed time to think. He had to deliver the package and then what? Just keep driving? No. That would draw suspicion. Maybe he should have left his sister a note, saying he was going away for a few days? No. If Greg was alive and well when David had left, he’d have passed the message along, so it wouldn’t make any sense for him to leave a written one. Still, the police would want to know where he was at the time of the…he couldn’t bring himself to use the word ‘murder’ even in his mind. “Because it wasn’t,” he argued to the road ahead. “It just happened.” He wanted to blame Gregory for instigating the altercation. If only…It didn’t matter. The only thing that mattered now was not getting caught. He drove a few more miles, thinking. He decided to text his sister later, saying he ran into a friend and they were heading to Atlantic City to try their luck and catch up. That was reasonable, he thought.
At the Deerfield house, everything except the TV was quiet, the falling snow muffling all but the loudest traffic sounds. No one had placed a 911 call. Most of the neighbors were watching their own television sets, their children adhering to the 9 pm bedtime. Because he had died quickly and quietly, no one knew Gregory Deerfield was dead. He would remain in his awkward position, in front of his television, for another two hours, until his wife arrived home, saying, “Greg? Did you know the door was unlocked?”
When, she saw him, she cried out and rushed to his side, pulling her phone out and dialing 911. When the call was played back later, Gail Deerfield could be heard hysterically trying to remember her address, choking on sobs as she begged for someone to help her husband.
Detectives Roberts and Benoit arrived at the house as soon as they had been alerted that there was a body. The commotion had brought bathrobe-clad neighbors to their windows or front door steps. Yellow tape marked the Deerfield home as a restricted and active crime scene and wives wondered to husbands what could have happened. Inside the house, Gail Deerfield sat on the couch, still wearing her coat. Gregory’s body had been removed and she had the look of a woman who had been standing too close to an enormous blast site and had no idea where she was. Roberts recognized that look, having seen it on many family members during the years he had worked homicide. So had Benoit. But they needed to question her, nevertheless. There was no sign of forced entry and nothing appeared out of the ordinary except for the brass lamp nearby on the floor. The team was still taking measurements and photographs as Detectives Roberts and Benoit began their questions. What time had she gone out? Where had she gone? Who was she with? As the routine questions continued, there was a notification alert that came over phone. Gail looked confused when Roberts asked her if she wanted to see who the message was from. “Your phone,” he said, nodding toward the coffee table. “It just went off”. She followed his glance to where her phone sat, picked it up and tried, with shaking fingers, to enter her security code. She got it on her third try. “It’s a text from David, my brother. Should I read it?”
Benoit nodded. “Let us know if it has any bearing on the case”.
Gail winced at the word. Gregory was no longer ‘Gregory’ in the eyes of Detective Benoit. He was a ‘case,’ to be investigated and solved before they moved on to the next one. She opened the message and read “Hey, sis, I’m heading out of town for a day or two. Will be back Sunday the latest. And then there’s a smiley face”.
Roberts made a note in his pad. “He lives here with you?”
“Only temporarily. He’s looking for work further west. He hoped to be gone in the next week or two”.
“Does anyone else live here or have a key to the house?”
“No. It’s just Greg and me. My friend Karen has a key.”
“How did your husband and brother get along? Any friction there?”
Gail looked surprised at the question and paused, thinking, before she answered. “Greg was impatient with David. He thought he was…irresponsible, a bit of a slacker. Greg worked so hard to get us where we are and he thought David…didn’t. So yes, I guess there was some tension between them. They are different men, you know? Different lifestyles and different work ethics but no open hostility and nothing that could cause..” She swallowed hard and her voice cracked “something like this”. She wanted to make sure he understood the impossibility of her brother having any connection to her husband’s death. “They tried to get along because of me.”
Roberts nodded, wrote something in his notepad before closing it and meeting his partner’s eyes. There was no need for words. Their look acknowledged that they agreed: Brother David needed scrutiny. “I may have more questions later, but I think we’re done for now.”
Benoit looked at the forensic investigators, still at work, and observed to his partner, “This is going to take some time.” Turning to Gail, he asked, “Do you have someone you can call? Somewhere you can stay? One of your neighbors, maybe?”
Gail looked uncertain and then realized that not only couldn’t she stay here tonight, but she didn’t want to. She wasn’t sure she could ever again walk into her house without seeing Gregory lying on the floor.
“I can call Karen. She’s a friend. She’ll come. I can’t ask a neighbor.”
“Call her. We’ll be in touch in a day or two,” he said giving her his card, “when we know a little more.”
Gail dialed Karen’s number but when she tried to explain why she was calling, she dissolved into tears and Benoit took the phone from her and gave Karen his name and the reason for the call. After he hung up, he said “She’s coming. She said she’s sorry for your loss.”
When Karen arrived, she rushed over to Gail and gathered her in her arms, whispering “I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry! What happened?”
Each word tumbled into the next, as she tried to make sense of the incomprehensible. Detective Roberts took down her name, address and phone number, thanked her for coming and was about to rejoin his partner when Karen said, “She’s going to need clothes. How long before” She didn’t know how to finish her question, so she let it trail off. Benoit answered, cracking his knuckles as he talked. “It’s no longer an active crime scene? Depending on what we find, a day or two, at least. Then she can come back and stay here again.”
If she even wants to, Karen thought. But she would talk to Gail about that later. Now, she wanted to get Gail some clothes and get her out of here. Then she remembered. “Where’s David? Does he know?”
Gail shook her head. “Not yet. He’s away for a few days. I got a text. I haven’t told him.”
Karen turned to Benoit who had been focused on this exchange and asked, “Can she get some things from the bedroom and bathroom?”
“I’ll have to go with her, but yes.”
Karen waited for a shell-shocked Gail to return with her hastily packed bag, thinking whatever Gail might have forgotten, they could buy tomorrow. Then, she bundled her friend into her car and drove off. Roberts and Benoit had again given Gail their condolences, asked for David’s last name and asked her to think about anyone who could possibly have had a grudge against her husband.
After the two women were gone, Benoit and Roberts compared their impressions and they agreed to look into the two men who had maintained an uneasy truce in the space they shared. “Wife?” asked Benoit. Roberts shook his head. “Not a chance. Even Meryl Streep isn’t that good an actress. She looked at her phone as if she didn’t know what it was.”
“I agree,” said Benoit, knuckles cracking, one after the other. “She had that look. Besides, she has a solid alibi. My guess is the brother has something to do with it.”
Roberts nodded. “Definitely a suspect. Guy that’s a slacker living with a guy who’s been busting his ass? Gotta cause friction. Maybe bad blood.”
“Convenient timing on the text message, too. Setting up an alibi?”
“Worth looking into. Any other suspects?”
“Not at the moment. No one obvious but that may change once we start the interviews”
Safely ensconced in a motel room an hour away after delivering the package that had ignited the altercation, David stretched his legs out on the bed and pondered his next move. Should he send his sister another text? No. That would be out of character and create suspicion. She’d call him when she found Gregory, wouldn’t she? Nothing to do but wait for the call. She’d be emotional, most likely distraught, asking him to please, please, please come home because she needed him. What irony, he thought, that she would finally need him instead of the other way around. Doubly ironic when it was his own actions that caused the role reversal. She would want him to help with the funeral arrangements and he knew he’d have to talk with the police. The problem, he decided, was how to maintain his distance from the investigation while appearing to be supportive of his sister. This was going to be a delicate dance, indeed. He could stall his return by saying that his phone battery was dead and it was charging when she called. Come to think of it, why hadn’t she called him yet? She should be home by now. Once she did call, he would have to respond in a reasonable amount of time. He guessed the police would consider him a suspect. The local police force might not solve a crime as quickly as they did on prime time, but he had no doubt they would work to establish a likely suspect and he was a good bet.
His ringing phone interrupted his thoughts. He glanced at the caller ID. It was Gail. He let it go to voice-mail. He wasn’t ready. Not yet. He was edgy and he needed a drink. There was no mini bar in a hotel in this price range. If he wanted a drink, and he did, he’d have to find an open package store or a 24-hour grocery store. He didn’t care much for beer, but he’d settle for it if he couldn’t get a bottle of the hard stuff. He closed and locked the door behind him and set off in search of vodka. He’d also grab some cheese and crackers to keep him from waking up with a hangover. He needed to be on his game. He needed to stay calm and focused. So far, he told himself, he had made no mistakes and was covering his tracks nicely.
Once he was back in his room, sipping his drink and snacking, he was surprised at how easily he had adjusted to what he had done. He picked up his phone to listen to Gail’s voice mail. It was brief. “David,” his sister’s voice spoke urgently, “Call me as soon as you get this. Something terrible has happened. Please call. I need you.” Shit, David thought, glancing at the clock. He’d better call her now, before he drank anything more.
She picked up at the first ring. “Oh, thank God you called back!” was all she could manage before she began to sob.
“What’s wrong? What’s happened?”
She told him and broke down again, the reality having hit her on the drive to Karen’s house. “Can you please come back? I need you.. I don’t know what to do. I’m…”
“Where are you now?”
“Stay there. I can make it back tomorrow by early afternoon.” he told her, giving her no indication of where he was. After he hung up, he sketched out a story and went over it to see if it would fly. He had been out to dinner with an associate (that was true) and run into an old friend as he was leaving (that was not true). The friend was heading to Atlantic City and, on a whim, David decided to meet him there. David had gotten tired while driving (not true) and checked into a motel for the night (true). It sounded plausible. Would the police ask him for the names of the men he was with? Maybe. Giving them any associate’s name would be a minor annoyance to the man. Who that friend might be would require thought and more time. He’d say the friend wouldn’t want his wife to know where he was heading with his paycheck and could they keep him out of it? If they said no, he’d call the friend and explain the situation and ask the friend to get in touch with the police. That sounded good and he dialed Jimmy Hamilton to be his cover.
“What did you get yourself into?” Jimmy asked. “Anything I should be concerned about?”
“No. No big deal and nothing you need to lose sleep about. We ran into each other and made plans.”
“So why am I here and not in Atlantic City?”
“Your conscience got the better of you and you changed your mind.”
Jimmy laughed. “I get brownie points with the wife for taking the high road and not blowing my salary on a jaunt I never intended to take. I like it.”
“Just stick to the story and don’t embellish it. And thanks. I owe you one.
If they asked him why he hadn’t returned Gail’s call, he would say he was charging his phone and only saw the missed call when he turned the phone on again. Why hadn’t he returned as soon as he talked to his sister? After all, his brother-in-law was dead, the victim of a crime. What should he say? He didn’t want one of Gail’s friends to have to put him up? No. That was lame. Even if they wouldn’t, there were two or three hotels in town. Since he had already checked in to his room, it was reasonable that he would stay and drive back in the morning. Yeah, that was the way to go. And, he thought, I can say I had been drinking and didn’t want to drive in that condition. He topped off his drink and clicked on the TV.
Benoit and Roberts were reviewing the interviews that neighbors had given, looking for anything that might help the investigation. Benoit cracked his knuckles as he spoke. “It doesn’t look promising. Next door neighbors were out having dinner and got home as the crime tape was going up. The neighbor on the other side thought he heard a car around 9ish but he couldn’t tell where it was coming from because of the way sounds echo in the area. A little girl heard an owl hooting and watched it fly down and catch a field mouse and there may have been a car in the driveway. She couldn’t be sure because she only looked for a minute and climbed back into bed.” He tossed his notepad on his desk. “Other than that, no one saw or heard anything.”
Roberts leaned back in his chair, fingers laced behind his head. “Any word on the brother?”
“The wife’s friend said they heard from him and he’s driving back in the morning.”
“So, we start with him and get a line on his whereabouts. Then, get a list of friends and associates for him and the husband?”
“Can’t wait to hear what he’s got to say. That text was just a little too convenient for me. He just happens to be on his way out of town when his brother-in-law meets with an unhappy accident?” Benoit cracked his knuckles again and Roberts winced. The habit drove him crazy but Benoit was one of the best detectives in the squad and they worked well together, so Roberts was willing to tolerate the crack, crack, crack that was part of Benoit’s thinking process.
“Anything from the ME other than the obvious blow to the head?”
“Nothing yet. It looks like an unplanned assault and the lamp was the nearest weapon. No signs of breaking and entering. The only signs of a struggle are the guy on the floor and the bloody lamp.”
“I’m thinking maybe he and the brother-in-law got into it and the lamp settled it,” Roberts said, sitting forward and looking at the remnants in his coffee cup.
“Makes sense, especially since no one heard anything unusual, just the normal neighborhood sounds.” Benoit retrieved his notepad. “Let’s hear the brother’s story and see if it holds up. But,” he said shaking the pad in a flutter, “he seems the most likely, don’t you think?” Roberts definitely agreed. “That’s what my gut’s telling me, too.”
When David awoke the next morning, his mouth was dry. Once his head cleared, he noticed the empty pint bottle on the nightstand. Ah, yes. His sleep aid. He reached for his phone and checked for messages. There were none. Reluctantly, he threw off the covers and made his way to the bathroom, flipped up the seat and relieved himself. He turned on the shower and climbed in, letting the hot water sting him, turning his skin pink, his way of trying to wash away the memory of his brother-in-law’s face, anger and disgust written all over it, until the moment David had pushed him. Then, anger had turned to fear and the brief flicker of shock when the lamp made contact. Then, there was the empty expression that declared Gregory Deerfield no longer inhabited the 5’10” frame that had crumbled to the floor.
David turned off the water, wrapped a towel around his torso and looked in the mirror. He wasn’t sure what he expected to see, but as far as he could tell, there was nothing that screamed ‘murderer.’ He dressed quickly, picked up his bag, walked to the front desk, returned the room key and asked for his receipt. As he got behind the wheel, he realized how hungry he was. He debated whether to drive straight to his sister’s house or drive to the nearest diner and order breakfast. He needed coffee and if he was going to present himself as a supportive brother, he couldn’t do it with a growling stomach. Besides, he thought, Gregory would still be dead, whether or not David ate breakfast. Gail was with a friend who could provide comfort, so breakfast it was. He found a diner a few blocks away and pulled into the lot. He saw a sufficient number of cars to signal that the food was good but not so many as to delay him excessively. He ordered a substantial breakfast and flirted with his waitress, a pert brunette with large dark eyes and a nice smile. He resisted asking her for her phone number, thinking he’d find a way to return in a day or two, once things had settled down. As he dove into his eggs, he marveled at how normal he felt. When David asked for his check, his waitress placed it on the table with a smile, a thank you, and another paper folded over. It said, “I’m Rita. Call me. 555-555-5505.” David left her a good tip and, as he was leaving, held up the note and smiled as charming a smile as he could muster and winked. Then, it was back in the car, suppressing the fantasies of Rita, naked, straddling him. As he drove, he shifted his thoughts to how to face his sister: Keep it simple. Keep to the script. Don’t volunteer anything. If he could remember that, he’d emerge unscathed. He’d be fine, he told himself before switching on the radio and singing along with the Classic Rock station.
Gail, on the other hand, woke from sleep only to feel the crushing reality of the night before bring a new round of tears. She must have dozed off at some time, although she had no memory of climbing into bed. Her last clear memory was of being huddled in a chair, arms wrapped around her knees, crying. But she had somehow made it to the bedroom because here she was, in Karen’s guest room. She walked slowly to the bathroom down the hall and splashed cold water on her face. She was surprised that her body still functioned. She had to urinate. Her lungs still took air in and pushed it out. Her eyes, although red and swollen, still showed her where the walls and light switch were as well as the doorway. And despite her grief, her stomach was insisting she pay attention to it, as if it were an entity unto itself, oblivious to her emotional distress. Her actions and David’s formed an odd symmetry, although neither was aware of the other’s. She forced herself to dress, brushed her teeth and her hair and then collapsed onto the bed again, sobs wracking her body. Where was David? Why wasn’t he here? Why? Why hadn’t he called her? What was she going to do now that Gregory was gone?
Last night had severed her life with an absolute finality into two distinct halves: Before and After. Before was the life she and Gregory had built together. The After was her life without him. After meant widow, not wife. The prospect of After was a tunnel, dark and unknown, one she couldn’t bear to enter. But there was no other path for her to take. She couldn’t go backwards. Before was irretrievably lost, so she lingered wretchedly in Now, paralyzed, unwilling and unable to move.
She was wrenched from her lethargy by Karen’s knocking on the door. “Gail? Are you awake? One of the detectives from last night is here. He’d like to talk to you.”
“I’m up. I’ll be there in a minute.” Gail found her shoes, slipped into them, squared her shoulders, strode to the door and turned the knob. Karen squeezed her hand. “He’s in the kitchen. I’ve got a pot of coffee on. Do you think you can eat? I can make some eggs and toast.”
“Maybe after he leaves. But definitely coffee, thanks.”
Detective Roberts was standing in Karen’s kitchen, a mug of coffee in his hand. He nodded to Gail and asked her whether she was able to answer some questions. “I know it’s hard,” he said apologetically, “but it’s best for the investigation to learn as much as we can as quickly as we can.”
Gail nodded her understanding. She bit her bottom lip to keep her tears at bay, said she had slept some and was waiting for David to call as soon as he arrived in town. “I have to make arrangements for the funeral but I can’t because you still have him.” That’s when her resolve broke. Roberts allowed her time to recover and said, “It shouldn’t be much longer before we can release him to the funeral director.”
Karen put a mug of coffee in front of Gail and said “I’ll be in the living room. Talk here. There’s plenty of coffee if you need more.” Roberts thanked her and sat at the kitchen table.
“Please stay,” Gail implored her friend.
Karen stopped and looked at Roberts.
“Sure,” he said. “It’s not uncommon for people to have trouble with details. The shock and all. It might help her to have a friend to fill in the gaps, add any details she forgets.”
Karen sat next to Gail and squeezed her hand. Roberts took a notepad out of his jacket pocket and opened it, briefly reviewing his notes. Then he began as he always did, asking questions to establish where everyone in the family had been when, why they had been where they were, how those decisions had been made to put them where they were. He walked her through the day up until she arrived at her home to find her husband’s body. Then he took her through the day before the murder. What had she and her husband done? What had they talked about? Had he seemed upset or preoccupied? Was David Campbell at home at all that day? Had he and her husband had any interaction? Was there any sign of anger or hostility? Gail answered each question to the best of her ability while Roberts wrote in his notepad. During the questioning, Gail’s phone rang. She looked at the number. “It’s David” and answered it.
“David, where are you?”
“Sitting in my car outside your house. There’s still a lot of activity going on and the tape’s still up. What do you want me to do?”
Gail looked at Roberts and repeated the question.
“Let me talk to him,” he said, taking the phone from her. “Mr. Campbell, this is Detective Roberts, one of the investigators of your brother-in-law’s death. I’m just finishing up with Mrs. Deerfield and I’ll be heading back to the station. I’d like to talk with you after you get settled, say before 2 this afternoon? Can you meet me there?”
“Yes, but I have to get us a place to stay. Let me get Gail settled and then I can be there. Can you put her back on?”
Roberts returned the phone to Gail. “David?”
“Look, sis, I’m going to book us a room and then I’ll pick you up and then I’m going to meet with the detective. I’ll call when I finish with him and then we can talk about arrangements.”
“I’m going to stay here with Karen.”
“Sure, if that’s what you want. I’ll just get a room for myself and I’ll call you later.” Then, he hung up. He was confident he would have no trouble navigating the police interview and equally confident that he could play the supportive younger brother flawlessly. He checked the side mirror and pulled away from the house.
Gail put the phone down and turned to Karen, a puzzled look on her face.
“What is it?” asked Karen.
“It’s odd. David and I have talked twice since,” she said putting her right hand out, gesturing toward the floor. Roberts imagined her recalling the image of her husband’s body lying there. “and he hasn’t said he was sorry.”
Karen met Roberts’ eyes as she squeezed Gail’s hand and said “Maybe he’s just in shock” but she didn’t look as if she believed what she was saying.
As soon as Roberts got to his desk at the police station, he looked around for his partner. Benoit wasn’t on the floor and Roberts wondered where he was when he spotted Benoit coming out of the Lieutenant’s office and hurried over to Roberts for an update. Roberts filled him in on his interview with Gail Deerfield, ending with Gail’s observation that “baby brother has yet to express his condolences.”
“Because he isn’t the least bit sorry,” said Benoit. “He’s our guy,” he added, “anyone else would be a stretch with what we know.”
“He’s coming in after he finds a place to stay. Do we know anything about his whereabouts yet? Where he was when he sent that text?”
“They’re still working on it but he won’t know that. I say we bluff him, tell him we know he was at the house, watch his reaction. We put him in the interview room and give him a jolt of uncertainty.”
Roberts agreed. “Let’s tell him we have an eye witness willing to pick him out of a lineup, who saw him at the house around 9 pm. See where that goes.”
When David arrived at the police station, he had memorized his script and was ready. The two detectives had also perfected their script. The scene would play out in Interview Room 2, with the question open as to who had the more convincing dialog and who could best stay in character. Only then would the investigation move forward. Roberts introduced himself and Benoit, saying he and David had spoken earlier on the phone and would David mind if they videotaped his Interview?
“I know. It’s a pain in the ass, but by law, we’re now required to document all interactions we have here at the station,” Roberts said apologetically.
“That’s not a problem. Anything I can do to help. I’ve got nothing to hide.”
Benoit smiled and David thought it was in appreciation of his cooperation, but Roberts knew better. That smile was an indication that Benoit was ready to take the guy apart. All that was missing was the sound of knuckles cracking. That would come later, as the questions intensified.
David Campbell started out confidently, answering the questions put to him. After an hour, he began to tangle himself up in a series of inconsistencies and contradictions. Benoit had leaned hard on him and it began to dawn on David that he was losing control over the interview.
“Do I need a lawyer? Do you guys think I had something to do with this?”
“Should we think you were involved, David?” Roberts asked.
Benoit, using his physical bulk to invade David’s space, slammed his fist down on the table and shouted “We have an eye witness who saw your car in the driveway around the time the ME says your brother-in-law died.
Roberts chimed in “So, what happened? You passed him off when you got home? Was he tired of you mooching off your sister? Did you fight about it?”
Benoit whistled and cracked his knuckles. “I can see how a guy like you could piss off any hard-working guy. You piss me off and I’m not picking up your tab. Leech like you? I bet he told you the time had come for you to go.”
“Sounds right to me,” agreed Roberts.
David looked from one detective to the other trying not to squirm as they circled him like two hungry sharks, narrowing the distance and time between strikes, until he would be unable to avoid the jaws that would rip him to shreds. Then Roberts decided to take a risk.
“Your sister knows, David. She knows it was you. That’s what she told me after you talked to her.”
David blanched. “You’re lying!! She doesn’t know! I talked to her and she was fine!”
“She wasn’t fine. Her husband is dead.” Benoit said pointedly.
David was panicking. Roberts took over. “She doesn’t know what, David?”
“You said, ‘she doesn’t know’. What did you mean? What doesn’t she know? That you killed her husband?”
“No! No! Of course not! I only meant she didn’t know that I was coming here.”
Roberts shook his head. “Think David. I talked to you on her phone. She knew you were coming here to talk to us.”
Just then, there was a rap on the door and Benoit turned in frustration to open it, angry that someone had broken their rhythm. An officer stood there, a report in hand, and Gail Deerfield beside him. “Detective, this woman wants to talk with you. She said it couldn’t wait.”
Without hesitation, Benoit opened the door to allow Gail to pass into the room. David looked at her, his expression torn between relief and trepidation. Benoit circled back behind David and waited. Gail stopped just inside the door and her expression left little doubt as to which emotion her brother should feel.
“You did this, didn’t you, David. You killed Greg.
David Campbell shook his head emphatically. “No. I didn’t. How could you think that I”. The rest was cut off as Gail Deerfield sprang like a cobra and slapped her brother viciously across the face, her rage shocking to him.
“Shut up! Just shut up! You know how I know? It took a while but then it was obvious. You have never, ever, in your entire worthless life left me a message about where you would be,” she said moving even closer to him while the two detectives watched. “You never cared whether I was worried about where you were or if you were safe or lying dead in a ditch. You’d just saunter back in with that ‘what’s the big deal attitude’. Until yesterday. Yesterday. And suddenly you wanted me to know where you were? Suddenly you didn’t want me to worry?!” She dropped her head, shaking it slowly back and forth before meeting her brother’s eyes, her tears spilling over. “I kept wondering why. Why would you text me? And then it became clear. You wanted an alibi! And I was going to be it, you bastard!” She launched herself at her brother, trying to claw his face.
Roberts grabbed her and pulled her back. David had flinched, almost knocking his chair over as he tried to avoid his sister’s nails, but found himself halted by Detective Benoit’s substantial bulk. He was not so gently returned to his chair.
“And what sealed it for me?” she said, twisting out of Roberts’ grip, “You offered me no comfort, no consolation. You never said you were sorry for Greg’s death, for what his loss meant to me. Not. One. Word. You’ve only ever cared about yourself. Greg knew that but I wouldn’t listen. No, I defended you. But I can see it now. You can go rot in hell!”
Gail Deerfield surrendered to the grief that overtake her anger, sobbing loudly. Roberts gently led her to the door. “He did it,” she whispered, her voice breaking. “He killed Greg”.
“If he did, we’ll get him. I’ll have someone take you home. Please. We’ve got this.”
When he closed the door behind her and turned back to his partner, Benoit slowly cracked his knuckles. There was no longer any pretense. David Campbell looked stricken.
“It wasn’t my fault! It was an accident. I never meant to…I just reacted.”
Roberts sat down again opposite David Campbell and said “Why don’t you start from the beginning. Tell us what happened?”
Bio: Kathleen Chamberlin is a retired educator living in Albany, New York. She began writing creatively during the quarantine period of Covid-19. Her writing has appeared in both print and online journals and anthologies. In addition to writing creatively, she enjoys gardening, genealogy, and grandchildren.
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