Jeff Kozzi

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Chapter Two:  Asam-12

Jeff Kozzi

Detective Major Williamson hated interviewing possible suspects that he didn’t personally suspect of the crime, and he hated interviewing such non-suspects of violent crimes most of all. Maria Santos had found the body of Mrs. Reginald Worthington, and placed the hysterical emergency call to 9-1-1, screaming for both police and medical assistance. A trail of bloody footprints from the right sole only had been left at the scene, a large-footed man’s winter boot that left a distinct pattern on the linoleum, plush carpets, glossy hardwood floors and tile from the kitchen to the bathroom, where the suspect had obviously cleaned up. That trail superficially eliminated women’s size five-and-a-half Maria Santos.

The presence of Mrs. Worthington’s bloody corpse has acted as motivator to Santos’ hysteria, but the bronze-skinned woman had bravely composed herself in the hour since Mrs. Worthington’s removal. Williamson opened his interrogation with a basic, innocent question, one which eased the shaken woman into the situation without dwelling on the state of the victim. His dark eyes fell to her left hand. She wore a turquoise ring on her middle finger, but the telling ring finger was empty. Automatically his eyes rolled further down for waist measurements before he reminded himself of where he was and why he was there. "Miss Santos, did you happen to notice anything missing from the apartment?"

"Nothing. I no understand this." Her arms began waving again, the first sign of her upset’s renewal.

Williamson spread his wide hands, splaying his palms in innocent openness. "That’s all right. Relax. How long have you worked here? This place must be like a second home. Relax. Can I get you a glass of water?"

She pouted, then nodded. The thought of going back into the blood-stained kitchen surged her fear. She gripped the padded chair set in front of the window sill more tightly. Her eyes closed slowly, and when she reopened them, she had gained ground against her emotional turmoil. "I serve Mrs. Worthington for fifteen years. Since before Mr. Worthington die. I no believe this!"

"Who do you think would want to harm her?"

"No. No."

Williamson’s jaw locked, tightening his face until he forced a more relaxed expression. Witnesses fed off their interrogator’s mood and demeanor. Williamson wanted to conduct himself with upmost professionalism in this investigation of Lincoln’s first murder in over two years.

"Mrs. Worthington had a guest room?"

"Si."

"Did anyone stay in there regularly?"

"No, that room no used since Mrs. Worthington asked me to move out."

Williamson maintained his smooth, calm expression. Alarms exploded in his brain like the bells and whistles of a daytime game show as Maria Santos crossed the threshold of primary witness to preliminary suspect. "She asked you to move out?"

"Si. When she and Mr. Hanover became serious." A distant smile briefly crossed Santos’ face, bringing the natural Native American attractiveness to prominence in the late morning sunlight. The flash of beauty might have overwhelmed Williamson, but the name Hanover registered in his mind as the exact type of man that millionairess widow Dorothy Worthington should be dating after such a respectable time of mourning for her husband.

The oppressive new knowledge of what had become of her employer banished Santos’ smile too swiftly. "I thought she fire me. I used to be live-in maid, cook for her, clean, keep company. She only wanted more private time with Mr. Hanover. She no even cut my pay, and she find me apartment and pay my rent."

Williamson’s head rolled towards the door through which Dorothy Worthington had exited for the last time. "She sounds like she was a wonderful woman."

"Si, Mr. Policia, si. The best."

Williamson’s immaculate teeth sparkled the flash of his smile. "Major. That’s my name, not my rank."

"Si, Major. Mrs. Worthington was a wonderful, wonderful woman." Her eyes strayed across the living room, past the inspectors that surrounded them. Above the mantel of the gas-flame fireplace hung an oil painting of a dark-haired angel rising above an immaculate sunrise or sunset full of pastel clouds. The painting caught Santos’ eyes, and she whispered, "She was an angel."

Williamson allowed Santos’ fond recollection in silence. His relaxed demeanor had already willingly brought valuable information, and he hoped for too much more to rush her. "Mr. Hanover painted that," she finally said. She pointed to a similar painting above the television, a twilight retreat of the same angel, more striking in its contrast of colors and the glow of the angel’s halo, not a bright ring, but a surrounding glow like paintings from the middle-ages Williamson remembered from school field trips to museums and backgrounds on A&E’s Biography specials. "That one also."

"He seems talented. Had Mrs. Worthington known him long?"

"Not really. He was a nice man." Her voice diminished into the conspicuous silence of remembrance.

Pencil poised in his hand, Williamson allowed another moment’s silence, then said, "But?"

Santos’ pert little nose wrinkled. The motion captivated Williamson, who recognized his distraction as sure sign that the divorce was long enough over for him to begin dating. He didn’t want to become the typical desperate single cop, hanging in strip clubs off and sometimes on duty. He absorbed himself in the known details of the Worthington murder and focused on Maria Santos’ words. "He was a nice man. But I thought it inappropriate."

"Do you think that’s a natural reaction? You said you did work for Mr. Worthington before his death. Was he as wonderful as his wife, or is there something about Hanover?"

"Something about Mr. Hanover. Mr. Worthington was no nearly so nice as Mrs. Worthington. I saw them together. I know why Mrs. Worthington loved Mr. Hanover. He treated her like the gold she was. No thing like Mr. Worthington."

"So what was the problem? You said ‘inappropriate’."

Scandal covered the maid’s face. "He is younger than me!"

Looking at her over his notebook, Williamson reassessed his stats on Maria Santos. While hysterical, she had seemed younger, barely passed her teens. She had matured quickly as rationale reclaimed her. Calculated with her length of service in the Worthington household, Santos could not have been less than thirty. She looked no older than thirty-five. "How old was Mrs. Worthington?"

"I dunno exactly. Late seventies."

An empty burst of nausea rolled in Williamson’s stomach. Whether borne from disapproval of such extreme ages in such a relationship or his recognition of his new prime suspect he couldn’t guess. Probably both. "They dated for how long, Maria?"

"A while. A year, maybe?"

"Do you think Mr. Hanover could have done this to Mrs. Worthington?"

Maria Santos paused in her thinking. Williamson could almost see the images rolling behind her eyes as she tried to visualize Michael Hanover, propped over Dorothy Worthington’s body, kitchen knife in hand. Santos shuddered. Her knees wobbled beneath her slender hips. She steadied herself against the padded chair as she visualized, for the first time, the knife’s slide into Dorothy Worthington’s chest. She slowly lowered herself into the chair, balling both hands into one fist between her knees. Leather creaked beneath her. A quiet gasp escaped her throat, then she nodded in emphatic vigor. "No, sir, no. He was always tender and loving with Mrs. Worthington. He could no do this. Everyone, they love Mrs. Worthington. This no be anyone who knew her."

"Maria, there was no sign of forced entry. Mrs. Worthington knew her murderer."

"No. Impossible."

"You yourself said nothing seemed to be missing from the apartment."

Fear formed a wider border to Santos’ dark eyes as she contemplated suspicions she refused to regard as truth. "No thing I notice."

"Can you think of anyone who might want to do this to Mrs. Worthington?"

She shook her head again, an energetic motion that flicked the work-practical pony tail of her shiny hair. "I say no! You no understand me! Everybody love Mrs. Worthington. Most people her age, they no live in five room condos like this. They live in big mansions, Staten Island, or big apartments in New York, Park Avenue. Mrs. Worthington, she generous, and—what’s the word?—humble."

Williamson had not yet considered Mrs. Worthington’s finances. While the apartment stood infinitely beyond anything Williamson could have afforded on a detective’s salary, even before the incurrence of alimony and child support, he instantly recognized the inherent truth in Santos’ assessment of Worthington’s lifestyle: humble, for a multi-millionairess. Williamson could barely remember seeing such an exquisitely furnished home, yet the furniture was all of older styles, antiques that looked like they had been bought when they were new. He didn’t know the consumerism of rugs and draperies. If he did, he would have wanted to walk barefoot over the carpets to let the plush fibers massage his toes. The drapes could have been used as bed linen. Nothing in the home looked new, yet every piece looked as well cared for as the passage of time allowed. Here or there about the condominium, there was a permanent stain on the rug or scratch on a table leg or chip in paint, unnoticeable unless specifically looked for.

"Miss Santos, how much do you know of Mrs. Worthington’s finances?" He wanted to call her Maria, to ask her if she was busy Thursday night, but he withheld his attractions in the face of suspicions he wanted desperately, and unfairly in her favor, to allay.

Her demeanor remained innocently cavalier with a helpless shrug. "No. Little to no thing. She pay me. She pay my rent since I move out to give her and Mr. Hanover mucho privacy. You need to speak to Mr. Vickers."

Williamson hastily penciled the name, willingly expanding his list of possible suspects. "Who’s that?"

She scratched her head. "How you say? He handles her money."

"Accountant?"

"No. No. Lawyer. But he handles her money, so maybe accounter too. He work for Mr. and Mrs. Worthington longer than me. Mrs. Worthington, she a good person, good to work for. Good person. No one want to do this to her."

"Somebody did, Maria."

She closed her eyes. Her body grew rigid with her inhalation, and softened only when she released the air through her teeth. In witnessing her act of self-control, Williamson for the first time suspected that she might have children.

"I know," she whispered. "I want you to get who did this, Major."

He handed her his card, one of the ones with his home number. "We will, Maria. You think of anything that might help, you call me. My precinct, beeper, cell, and home numbers are all there."

She studied the card for a moment then slipped it into the pocket of her flowered apron. "I will."

Williamson hoped he successfully restrained his optimism. "Can we offer you a ride home or anything?"

"No, I drive. Mrs. Worthington, she bought me a Honda." She sniffled, looked one more time to the kitchen, then stepped out the condo’s main door.

Intent, Major Williamson watched the petite woman leave. As the door slipped behind her, he used her last remark to eliminate her as a probable suspect. Who would kill the person who paid her rent, bought her a car and paid her salary?

His second thought to those probabilities haunted him with a whisper in the corners of his mind: Someone who could gain even more from her death.

Williamson ignored the mental echo and turned to his partner as he closed the door behind Maria Santos. "Hey, Dave. Let’s get the address on this Michael Hanover."

By the time they had called in for and received the necessary information, someone else arrived at the scene, calling frantically for Dorothy in herald of his arrival. Major swung the door open before the arrival could disturb the black layers of fingerprint dust on the handles.

The lone man could have been forty-five or older, so Williamson doubted this was the young lover of the elderly Mrs. Dorothy Worthington. Faded white from natural henna red, the visitor’s hair looked disheveled, as if his hands had run through it several times. He looked either agitated or chemically wired. If not for the rumpled designer business suit and expensive but worn captoe shoes, Williamson might have granted more credence to Maria’s theory that someone had murdered Dorothy Worthington in the midst of a robbery, with this man as his primary suspect. Although Lincoln had few hard-core junkies, Williamson would put it past few of them not to return for the actual robbery hours later. "Who are you?"

Vickers brushed past Williamson and his partner as if he owned the condominium. "Andrew Vickers, Mrs. Worthington’s attorney. I heard the noon news—Dorothy."

"She’s already been taken away, Mr. Vickers."

"What happened?"

"I can’t release many details now, but this was a definite homicide and we are still investigating."

Four words shot from Vicker’s mouth. "Hanover. Had to be."

"Why’s that, Mr. Vickers?"

"Not even two weeks ago, Dorothy put him in her will. That’s plenty of motive. Millions of motives."

Williamson, his partner, and the forensic detectives outlined a circle of certainty with their eyes. Williamson shook the bulge of keys in his jacket pocket. "Let’s go, Dave!"

Vickers followed the two lead detectives from Dorothy Worthington’s apartment. He offered them his card and Michael Hanover’s address during the one-floor elevator descent. He solemnly strode behind them as they rushed to their unmarked car. He paused at the door of the complex and watched the police car silently cruise from the parking lot.

Only when the car turned the corner out of sight did he smile.

1.  Homicide

2.  Adam-12

3.  The Practice

4.  Cheers

5.  Family Ties