Detective Edwardo Hernandez sat at his desk, staring at the phone. He needed to interview Carter Stanfield about his husband Liam Anderson. It would be helpful to see what aspects of the picture their maid Madeline Miller painted of Liam via her interview would be confirmed or denied by Carter. Hernandez suspected that she might have exaggerated or even fabricated certain things. He was hesitant to make the call, because interviewing the surviving spouse of a murder victim was always tricky. It was a distinct possibility that guilt or misguided loyalty might cause them to bend the truth or withhold critical information. Liam sounded composed and dry eyed, when he answered the phone. That was a good sign. There was less of a chance of interference from overblown emotions. Hernandez got right to the point.
“Let me begin by offering my deepest condolences. I’m sorry to disturb you. I know this is a very difficult time. However, in order to catch your husband’s killer, I have to get after him…or her before the trail goes cold. Any information you can provide would be greatly aid the investigation.”
“Of course, Detective Hernandez, I’m willing to provide any assistance I can. I want the killer brought to justice.”
“Glad to hear it. We both have the same goal. To that end, I interviewed your maid Madeline Miller and she raised a few points of concern…”
“Oh, I’ll bet she did. Always acting as though she’s only trying to help, a little too eagerly if you ask me.”
“I don’t follow.”
“Let me guess. Did she express concerns about the state of my marriage?”
“Not exactly, she did say something about hearing raised voices on occasion.”
“There is nothing unusual about that. All couples argue from time to time. It wouldn’t be a healthy partnership, if differing opinions weren’t discussed. Knowing Madeline, she said it in a way that implied that it happened a lot more than it did. Our marriage wasn’t perfect, but I loved my husband very much. Before you ask, I will tell you that I did not kill my husband. Nor did I pay anyone to do it. While she was busy casting suspicion on me, did she happen to mention the time her son got caught stealing from us?”
“I was already aware of that incident and actually discussed it with her son.”
“I’m sure he denied everything. Even though my husband didn’t press charges, I’ll bet Archer to has been nursing a grudge this whole time. Maybe Liam caught him stealing something else and the bastard killed him! Did you ever think of that?”
Belatedly, Hernandez realized that the mention of Madeline and her concerns had been a big mistake. If he didn’t change the subject, the interview would turn into a rant. Carter would just disavow everything she said out of spite and continue trying to cast aspersions onto Madeline and her son. Hernandez hated it when civilians played amateur detective and started pointing out possible suspects. The last thing he needed, was Carter trying to insert himself into the investigation. Hernandez took a deep breath and tried again.
“We are exploring all possibilities Mr. Stanfield and rest assured, no one has alleged or even implied that you had any involvement in your husband’s death. Ms. Miller merely mentioned that you didn’t approve of some of your husband’s business dealings.”
There was an awkward pause and then Carter replied haltingly, “I knew little to nothing about his business dealings.”
“I wasn’t speaking in terms of specific transactions. I was simply wondering if anything you observed, perhaps about his clientele or any incidents or events which seemed odd or out of the ordinary.”
“Well, I really wasn’t home during the day. That was when he met with most of his clients. However, there were times when someone would call or show up, while we were relaxing at the end of the workday or eating dinner.”
“Were you aware of any disgruntled customers or threats from competitors?”
“Oh, I see where you’re going. Unfortunately, I wouldn’t be much help. Liam knew that I worried about him, so he never discussed those kinds of problems with me.”
“Why were you worried about him?”
“Perhaps worried is the wrong word. I was just generally concerned, because he dealt with a lot of very valuable artifacts.”
“So, you were concerned that he might be robbed?”
“Not just that…there are people out there, nonprofit organizations even, who are quite militant in their views about the antiquities trade. They see it as cultural appropriation. I daresay there are even certain religious organizations who aren’t above resorting to…aggressive measures to show their displeasure over the acquisition and sale of religious artifacts. I’m sure if you check his cell phone, you will find at least one or two threatening voicemails from someone. He was always getting calls like that, even though he would never own up to how often he got them, because he knew I would urge him to stop trading in antiquities.”
“I’m told he usually sold the items he acquired through a local auction house.”
“Yes, there were a few that he used. Officer Palin informed me that his laptop is missing, but I could check his files. I haven’t been in his office since…since he died, because I didn’t want to disturb any evidence.”
“Oh, the crime scene investigators have finished their work. You can enter the office freely.”
“In that case, I’ll look around as soon as I get off of the phone.”
“No need to do it now, Mr. Stanfield. I don’t want you to go in there, before you are ready.”
“It’s fine. I’d rather do it now, before I get busy with work and forget to do it.”
“Oh, so you’ve returned to work?”
“Well yes, I’ve been working from home. It helps to have a distraction.”
A few hours later, Hernandez was typing up a report when his phone rang. Distractedly, he answered. The voice sounded vaguely familiar. It wasn’t until woman on the other end of the line started to cry that it dawned on him that he was speaking to Madeline Miller. Detective Hernandez suppressed an irritated sigh.
“Ms. Miller, please calm down. I can’t understand a word you’re saying, when you get hysterical. Start over again. What’s the problem?”
“Carter Stanfield fired me this morning. Can you believe that? His husband hasn’t even been buried yet and he let me go! I always knew that man hated me.”
“I’m sorry to hear that, but there’s nothing I can do about it…”
“I know that Detective Hernandez. That’s not why I’m calling. You see, I went to the house to pick up my last check and he was in Liam’s office tossing files into trash bags. I left but didn’t drive off right away, because…because I was crying my eyes out. I was still in shock. It’s still unbelievable to me that he just fired me like that…I’m the one who found Liam’s mutilated body. That was very traumatizing. Now, I’m going to have to try and find a job while I’m still grieving…”
“Ms. Miller…” interrupted Detective Hernandez.
“How heartless do you have to be to just give someone the boot, after they’ve seen something that horrific? What if the murderer had still been in the house, when I walked in? I could be dead…” she continued.
“Ms. Miller, I do sympathize with you. However, as I said there is really nothing I could do about it.”
“Huh? Oh no I know that, I…I’m sorry, I was going to say that while I was sitting there crying my eyes out, I happened to look in my rearview mirror and I saw Mr. Stanfield throwing those trash bags full of Liam’s files into the garbage cans at the curb. I don’t know what’s in them, but there might be evidence in them or something that might help you find the killer. The garbage truck hasn’t come yet, so I thought….”
“Thank you very much for letting me know. I’ll see if Officer Palin is patrolling in the area.”
“No problem, as soon as I saw that heartless bastard throwing away Liam’s things, I figured you would want to know about it. I guess I could get the bags out of the trash, but I don’t want any trouble.Y”
“You did the right thing Ms. Miller. I’ll send Officer Palin over.”
“Ok Detective Hernandez thank you. It’s just that Liam was more than just an employer to me. He was almost like a son to me. I couldn’t just sit by and let the monster who…who murdered him be free to go after anyone else. I was at a loss for what to do. Then I remembered how kind you were to me the other day. I wanted to repay the favor; you know one hand washing the other.”
“I appreciate the heads-up Ms. Miller. Well, I’d better let you go so that I can call Officer Palin.”
Hernandez hurriedly hung up, before she could start talking again. Detective Krebs looked up from his desk and chuckled.
“Moaning Madeline strikes again huh? What did she want this time, a get out of jail free card or was she just calling to shoot the breeze?”
“She might actually have just done me a favor. I need to get Palin over to Liam Anderson’s house. If she’s being straight with me, then his husband is over there tampering with evidence.”