Detective Edwardo Hector returned to his desk and began jotting down a few notes, while his interrogation of Archer Miller was fresh in his mind. Pausing to think, he looked up into the anxious gaze of Madeline Miller. She was standing in front of his desk, so quietly that Detective Hector hadn’t heard her approach. Startled, he wondered how long she had been there.
“May I help you,” he asked.
“I…well, I came to see about bailing out my son and they told me to come and see you.”
“Who is your son?”
“I just interviewed him. He committed a pretty serious offense. So, bail won’t even be set until he goes before a judge.”
“How long will that take?”
“I really can’t say ma’am, you’ll have to contact the arraignment clerk.”
She looked lost and confused, gazing at him wide-eyed and wringing her hands. Detective Hector relented.
“Here, let me see if central booking has entered an arrest number in the database yet. The arraignment clerk will need that, to pull up his court date.”
“Thank you so much,” she gushed. Detective Hector looked up from his computer monitor and was momentarily taken aback by the watchful look on her face. The sharp-eyed look vanished. Gazing into her teary eyes, Detective Hector wondered if he had imagined it. He jotted down the arrest record and phone number for the arraignment clerk on a Post-It note and handed it to her. She smiled gratefully.
“Thank you so much Detective Hector.”
“No problem listen, I actually do need to interview you.”
“Me? Why do you want to interview me? Officer Palin already took down my statement.”
“Well, that was just a brief interview, conducted mostly just to identify witnesses.”
“But, I don’t know anything. All I did was find my employer dead. I already told Officer Palin that I didn’t see who did it. You don’t think I did it do you? You do don’t you? That’s why you want to interrogate me. You probably arrested my son just to lure me here! Or is he the target? Are you trying to get me to incriminate my son, so you can pin the murder on him? He’s innocent and you won’t get me to lie”, she blurted.
Detective Hector held up a restraining hand to halt her ranting and forestall any further hysterics. He smiled reassuringly and tried again.
“Please calm down Ms. Miller. Your son was arrested because he assaulted someone. I’m going to be interviewing Liam Anderson’s husband and neighbors, so I’m not targeting you. It’s just normal investigative procedure. As the one who discovered the body, you may be able to recall details which turn out to be valuable clues. You can understand that can’t you? Please have a seat here beside my desk.”
“I don’t know what you want me to say. I walked into Mr. Anderson’s office and he was dead on the carpet.”
“Hold on., why don’t we start by getting a little additional background information first. I see here in the database that Officer Palin already got your name and contact information. How long had you worked for Mr. Anderson?”
“I don’t see what that has to do with his murder,” she said petulently.
“Trust me, it’s relevant. Just answer the question please.”
“About five years.”
“How many days a week did you work for him.”
“Six days a week. I had Sunday’s off.”
“So, you were familiar with his moods and routines. Was anything troubling him on or around the time of his death?”
“Like I told Officer Palin, Mr. Anderson was a little on edge but that wasn’t unusual. He was always a little on edge.”
“What do you mean by that?”
“He had a lot of what I guess you could say was nervous energy. It made him kind of short-tempered and impatient. I don’t want to speak ill of the dead, but Mr. Anderson was always preoccupied with his business dealings, so he really wasn’t the best listener. When things weren’t going well, he could be a little… abrupt and jump to the wrong conclusions.”
“Like the time he accused your son of stealing from him and called the police?” She nodded wordlessly, tears welling up in her eyes. Detective Hector quickly changed the subject, before she cold go off on a tangent about it.
“How would you characterize Mr. Anderson’s interactions with his husband?”
“They were happy…for the most part. But, recently things had become a little…tense.”
“What do you mean tense?”
“I’m not a busybody. But, working in that house every day you couldn’t help but hear it when they argued.”
“What did they argue about?”
“Well, Mr. Stanfield didn’t like some of Mr. Anderson’s clientele. I got the feeling that there were some…shady things going on.”
“Shady? You mean illegal? Like what?”
“I can’t really give you any specifics. Like I said, I didn’t snoop around and Mr. Anderson never confided in me. I’m just the housekeeper. But…Mr. Stanfield had issues with the way that Mr. Anderson…procured some of the artifacts he sold.”
“Interesting. From what I understood, he ran his business from home.”
“Yes, that’s right. He mostly sold things through local auction houses which stored the antiquities for him. He only kept his most prized finds at the house.”
“Do you remember any recent calls or unscheduled visits from disgruntled customers?”
“Stuff like that happened all of the time. Mr. Anderson dealt in rare, valuable antiquities. So, he got more than his share of hate from people whose bids were passed over in his favor.”
“Any of them call or show up on the day of his death?”
“He did have a meeting, but I didn’t get to see who with because I was out running errands for him.”
“I thought you were more of a housekeeper than an assistant.”
“I am, but sometimes Mr. Anderson would send me out on errands when…when he wanted privacy.”
“Why do you think he did that?”
“Mr. Anderson sometimes dealt with buyers who demanded a certain level of secrecy.”
“Why not just ship the item to them? Then, they wouldn’t have to meet with him.”
“For high ticket antiquities, buyers usually wanted to come and see the items before making a sizable bank account transfer as payment. Sometimes, they brought an appraiser with them to verify the item’s authenticity.”
“So, what time did you leave the house?”
“I think I left at around 11:30 A.M.”
“What time did you return?”
“There was an accident on the highway, so I was late getting back. I think it was around 4:00 P.M. The house was so still. I went to Mr. Anderson’s office, intending to stick my head in and apologize for getting back so late. He didn’t respond to me knocking at his closed door. I pressed my ear to it, thinking maybe he was in the middle of a phone call, and couldn’t hear anything. So, I opened the door and there he was…lying in a crumpled heap on the floor with blood just streaming out of his slit throat. I was so scared, I ran straight out of that house and used my cell phone to call the police.”
She began sobbing uncontrollably, her words becoming unintelligible. Detective Hector tried and failed to calm her down. He felt his frustration rising, as the volume of her wailing increased and drew attention from the other detectives in the bull pen. Finally, he sighed annoyedly and ended the interview. She immediately calmed down and took her leave of him. He was relieved to see her go. Detective Joseph Graves looked up from his desk next to Detective Hector.
“What was all that about dude? You really put the screws to her. That poor woman was in tears.”
“Nothing, I was just asking her a few simple questions. I guess the memory of discovering her boss murdered really got to her.”
Detective Hector was mystified, when Graves and the other detectives started laughing. He watched them giving one another knowing looks. When they began mocking Madeline’s hysterics, he spoke up.
“Don’t you think you’re all being a little cold blooded? I don’t see anything funny about a woman in distress.”
“That’s ’cause you got taken in by a pro. Moaning Madeline and her son are frequent “guests” at this establishment. No matter how many times one of them gets arrested, she acts like she doesn’t know how things work and starts crying about how they’ve been wrongfully accused. Get a clue dude, nobody told her to come see you about posting bail,” Graves said smirking.
“Why would she tell such a pointless lie?”
“Because she wanted an excuse to come get a read on you and find out about your investigation.”
“That doesn’t sound…wait a minute, did you say she has been arrested before?”
“Moaning Madeline has a rap sheet longer than my arm.”
“I didn’t see any charges in the database.”
“That’s because as a practitioner of magic, her crimes tend to involve the illegal use of the dark arts. Those crimes are arraigned in a different court. Anyone arrested for those kinds of acts aren’t even housed in this building.”
Detective Hector started to smile, believing he was about to be the butt of another joke. Detective Graves wasn’t laughing. Detective Hector gave him a bewildered look.
“Wait, you’re serious aren’t you?”
“Dead serious dude. You better watch your ass around Moaning Madeline. She didn’t offer you a stick of gum or a mint or something did she?”
“I…no, she didn’t offer me anything.”
“Good. Don’t put a damn thing in your mouth that she offers you and don’t ever come back and eat or drink anything, after leaving it in her presence and walking away.”
“You think she would try to poison me?”
“Naw dude, use your head. Even she wouldn’t be able to talk her way out of a murder conviction, after something that obvious. Moaning Madeline isn’t stupid. However, she’s not above casting minor enchantments.”
“Minor enchantments,” Detective Hector said dubiously.
“Yeah, mostly spiteful little shit like giving you a raging case of hemorrhoids or diarrhea. If the charges against her are serious enough, she might do something to cloud your judgement right before you interrogate her. None of it is permanent, but the effects last long enough to throw a wrench into the works.”
“I can’t find a rap sheet on her in the computer. How do I pull up prior charges against her in the database?”
“You can’t access it in the general database. They won’t even appear on any official report. Can’t have the public requesting a copy of a police report and inadvertently finding some reference to an occult investigation. Civilians either don’t believe in the dark arts or they’re so superstitious that any mention of it gets them all worked up. If word got out about any paranormal investigations, the police department would either become a laughing stock or get accused of going on witch hunts. We all know how the last official witch hunts ended. You can’t even access the occult crimes database without a special password. As a member of the occult crimes taskforce, they should have told you about the database or give you a password. Maybe ’cause you’re still a newbie. Ask your supervisor. He’s the only one who can grant access.”