DEATH AND POLITICS
by Liz Milliron
She stormed through the trees, hot tears stinging her eyes. Her finger hurt from where she'd ripped off her ring. She would go home, pack some clothes and get out. Tomorrow she would call that divorce lawyer.
The moon was full, but the density of the trees made the light dim. Some people would have been scared, but she'd been hiking these woods all her life. The road might have been brighter, but this was faster – and right now, she was definitely more interested in fast.
A branch snapped behind her. She turned. "What do you want?"
The person didn't answer, but moved closer. The moonlight shone off a length of heavy fishing line held in gloved hands, and it snapped ominously.
Her heart started to race and her eyes widened. She turned and ran, pounding footsteps behind her. But the woods weren't conducive to running. She kicked off the modest heels she'd worn to dinner, but it didn't help. She tripped and fell, pain shooting through a twisted ankle. I'm going to die here, she thought. Bravely, she tried to stand and keep moving, but the ankle betrayed her. She started to crawl, the debris of the forest floor pressing into her hands.
She went as fast as she could, but it wasn't fast enough. She felt a body behind her, the fishing line going around her throat. She was getting out all right. Just not the way she had planned.
Rizzo bounded back with a fat stick in his mouth and dropped it at Jim Duncan's feet, tail wagging violently. Duncan obediently bent to pick it up. A glitter of silver on the dull gray of the gravel caught his eye. He threw the stick, bent again to retrieve it. It was a ring, sized for a woman, tiny in his big hands. It was engraved with words, "Love is patient, love is kind; love never fails. I Cor 13:4." Probably a wedding ring, Duncan reasoned. Somebody's love had been feeling neither patient nor kind. Kind of like Tish and I, Duncan thought. He thumbed the place where his own wedding ring had once been.
His attention was drawn to Rizzo's insistent barking. Up ahead were a couple of state police cars and an ambulance. Rizzo was too well trained to rush up to the site, but he was clearly excited. Duncan jogged up, clipped a leash on the dog, and walked up to check things out.
He stopped outside the yellow crime scene tape. A few people milled about under the trees, including a man in a white lab coat who was bent over a body on the ground. Judging from the stillness, Duncan guessed it was a dead body, which made the white-coated man someone from the coroner's office.
"Duncan, what are you doing here? Isn't it your day off?"
Duncan turned. Things must be serious for Gary Sheffield to be in the woods where his immaculately shined shoes would get dirty. "Gary," he said. "I was walking my dog and saw the commotion.
"Some hikers found a dead woman this morning," Sheffield said.
"Empty purse nearby, no ID inside. We're looking for it now."
He gestured at a couple other troopers wandering through the woods.
Duncan looked around. "Nobody recognizes her?"
"Obviously not, if we're looking for ID." Sheffield sighed and
rolled his eyes. "The hikers aren't locals. They came down from
Pittsburgh for the weekend to check out the leaves. Guess they
got more than they were looking for." Sheffield smirked, but that was Sheffield.
"Mind if I look around?"
"Suit yourself," Sheffield said. "Just don't muck up my crime
Duncan bit back a response and wrapped Rizzo's leash around a tree to keep him secure. He could see the hikers huddled off to the side, being questioned by a trooper. He wandered over to the body, being careful to stay on the outside of the marked scene. "What do you have?"
Working over the body was a young guy who looked barely old enough to shave, much less deal with dead bodies. "Why the hell
should I tell you?"
Duncan fished his badge out of his back pocket, where he always kept it just in case. "Trooper First Class Jim Duncan," he said.
"I'm off-duty, but I wanted to see if I could help."
The kid peered at Duncan's badge and nodded. "Thought you were a
gawker." Duncan waved a hand, dismissing the apology. "Middle-
aged woman, strangled. Looks like heavy fishing line."
"Where's Thompson?" Duncan looked around.
"On vacation," the kid said. "I'm Tom Burns, new deputy coroner."
"How do you know it was fishing line?"
"Maybe because it was left wrapped around her throat." Burns waved a length of line, similar to what Duncan himself used.
"Okay, stupid question." Burns gave Duncan a wry smile in
response. "Sheffield said you can't ID her," Duncan continued.
Burns turned back to the body, still blocking her face. "Nope.
I'm too new to the area to know many people who are still
breathing." He glanced at the body. "I find dead people more to
my taste anyway. Live patients are noisy."
The kid had a wit, if a bit macabre. "Anything else?"
"Looks like she might have been wearing a ring. See here, the
skin is scraped where she yanked it off. Something she wore a
lot. There's still a depression in the finger. That doesn't
happen without a lot of constant wear and close fit."
Duncan thought of the ring he'd found on the road and began to suspect how it got there. He pulled it out. "Like this one?"
Burns looked at the ring and lifted the dead woman's hand. "Yep, looks like the right size. See the beveled edge? It might have scraped skin if it was tight and pulled off in a hurry." He frowned. "You know better than to pick up something from a crime
"I didn't find it at the scene. I was out walking my dog and
found it in the gravel on the side of the road, maybe 100 feet
away from here. I just thought someone had lost it." Duncan stepped sideways to see the woman's face. Her chestnut hair was spread on the ground, features contorted from the strangulation. But not so contorted that Duncan didn't recognize her. "Oh,
Burns looked up.
"What's wrong, Duncan?" Sheffield said, walking up. "You
Of course Golden Gary Sheffield wouldn't know this woman's face. He would never be assigned to something as menial as providing security at a local politician's event. "It's Dorene Carmichael."
Burns' face stayed blank, but Sheffield furrowed his brow. "Dorene Carmichael? As in the wife of William Carmichael, the guy
who is running for governor?"
Duncan looked at Sheffield. "Yeah, pretty much."
The death of a woman was a big deal in Confluence. The death of a local politician's wife was even bigger, but the death of a gubernatorial candidate's wife meant the entire Uniontown station was put on notice. Golden Gary wasn't happy at sharing the spotlight, but the orders had been clear: Find Dorene Carmichael's murderer ASAP.
Duncan was assigned the task of interviewing William Carmichael and his aide. "When was the last time you saw your wife, sir?"
"Last night." William Carmichael looked much the same as he always did, a shock of tastefully silvered hair falling over a broad forehead and ice-blue eyes. Maybe he looked a little drawn. Duncan couldn't decide whether it was grief, fatigue, or something else. "We went to dinner at The River's Edge Cafe and
then came back home."
"And after that?"
Carmichael looked like he had to think hard about the question. "Uh, I went to bed."
"You sound unsure. Straight to bed?"
"Yes, straight to bed. Sorry, I feel fuzzy in the head. I had a
couple glasses of wine at dinner. It shouldn't affect me like
this, but I must be coming down with a cold or something."
Duncan looked up from his notes. "You said, 'I went to bed.' What
about Mrs. Carmichael?"
"We didn't come home together. I didn't see her when I got here."
Duncan frowned. "She wasn't in your bed?"
Carmichael rubbed his face. "No, damn it."
"Sorry, I have to ask, but can anybody confirm your story?"
Carmichael looked at his aide. "Well, anybody at the restaurant
can confirm we were there. After we got home, you only have my
word for it."
Duncan made a note to follow up at The River's Edge. "And this
morning? You didn't think anything of it when Mrs. Carmichael was
Again, Carmichael looked at the aide. "No, she takes early walks
sometimes. Did you see her, Jonathan?"
"No, sir," the aide said smoothly. "I came to wake up Mr.
Carmichael. He goes back to Harrisburg today. Mrs. Carmichael was
"I'm sorry, who are you again?" The young man hovered, like a mosquito.
"Jonathan Monroe." He did not put out his hand. "I'm Mr.
Carmichael's political aide. You know, coordinating events,
reading the mail, that kind of thing. All the things an up-and
coming politician doesn't have time to deal with."
Duncan ground his teeth. "I see. How long have you been Mr.
"About three years," said Monroe.
"And before that?"
"I worked in the District Attorney's office in Pittsburgh."
"Hell of a change," Duncan said.
"It suited my purposes," Monroe said. "I wanted to be more in the
Duncan turned back to Carmichael. "Do you live mostly in
Harrisburg or Confluence?"
"I live in Harrisburg," Carmichael said. "Dorene stays here most
of the year. Well, she stayed here. Harrisburg doesn't, didn't,
agree with her."
"I see." What about Harrisburg didn't agree with her? Duncan thought. Couldn't be the climate. He showed Carmichael the evidence bag with the ring. "Do you recognize this?"
Carmichael examined the ring. "Yes, it's Dorene's wedding band.
Where was it?"
"It was found on the side of the road. Any idea how it got
"No." Carmichael shifted in his seat. "It was always slipping off
her finger, though. Maybe it fell off on the walk home?"
Duncan was a good enough investigator to know a lie when he heard one, but he let it pass. "Were you on good terms with your wife,
Mr. Carmichael? No problems recently?"
"Well, we had a bit of a spat at dinner," said Carmichael, lowering his gaze. "What marriage doesn't those?"
Duncan understood. He remembered having plenty of spats himself. "So you argued? About what?"
"Disagreed," Monroe said, cutting in smoothly. "Personal matters,
you understand I'm sure."
"When I want your answers, Mr. Monroe, I'll ask you a question,"
Duncan said. "There are no personal matters in a murder
investigation. Mr. Carmichael, what did you and your wife argue
"About the gubernatorial campaign," Carmichael said. "She
doesn't, didn't, like the idea of having to leave this area. If I
won, she'd have to move."
"You don't seem too upset by her death," Duncan said. It was an impertinent statement, but he was interested in seeing how Carmichael responded.
"Shock, I guess. Is that all?" Carmichael rose.
Duncan put away his notebook. "For now," he said. "I may have to
come back to talk to you again later today or tomorrow. You can
expect a team later today to go over the house and your wife's
"Is that necessary?" Carmichael looked at Monroe again.
"It's standard procedure in a murder investigation," Duncan said.
"I'm afraid that won't be possible," Monroe said, once again
jumping into the conversation. "We need to be in Harrisburg this
afternoon. There is an important vote coming to the floor
tomorrow. And of course, every day is crucial campaign time
"This is a murder investigation," Duncan said, leveling his best
official stare. "I know all about crucial time." He turned back
to Carmichael. "I can't make you stay here, Mr. Carmichael. But
leaving before your wife's funeral will not look good for your
campaign. Think about that. If you do leave, please make sure we
know how to contact you. Good day."
Outside, Duncan slipped on his sunglasses. It was mid-afternoon, a perfect time to check Carmichael's story, since the dinner crew might be arriving. But first, he called the station. Just his luck; his call was routed to Sheffield, who was coordinating the entire investigation.
"Dorene Carmichael didn't live with her husband in Harrisburg,"
Duncan said. "He said it, quote, didn't agree with her. Whoever
is checking the Harrisburg end of things might want to ask
"Maybe she just didn't like Harrisburg," said Sheffield. "Are you
"I'm about to head over to The River's Edge Cafe to corroborate
Carmichael's alibi. And someone should really check out--" He didn't get a chance to finish his sentence before Sheffield cut him off.
"Well, hurry up. Stop wasting time with things that aren't your
responsibility." Sheffield hung up.
"Jackass," Duncan said under his breath. Trust Golden Gary to get put in charge of a case that could really polish his reputation. No wonder he wanted it solved quickly. If Duncan had been like Sheffield, he'd have just done his assigned job and gone home to his dog. He called the station again, this time specifically asking for Trooper Craig Ferguson. "Are we covering Harrisburg,
or did we kick it up there?"
"I think questioning on the Harrisburg end is being handled up
there," Ferguson said. "Why?"
"Carmichael says Harrisburg 'didn't agree' with his wife," Duncan
said. "I, at least, am interested in why."
"I'll send it on."
Duncan thanked him and walked up to the restaurant. "I'd like to
speak to your manager please," he said to the young girl at the hostess stand. A few minutes later, another woman appeared.
"Afternoon, Officer," she said. "Melanie Houser. What can I do
"Trooper First Class Jim Duncan." He showed his badge. "I'm told
Mr. and Mrs. William Carmichael dined here last night. I'd like
to talk to their server, if he or she is here."
Melanie flipped to the previous night's reservation list. "Yes,
here's the reservation, highlighted, so they did come in. The
server would have been Bethann Cousins. She's here. Just a
Bethann Cousins turned out to be a pleasant, heavyset woman in her mid-fifties. "Can I help you?"
"You waited on Mr. and Mrs. Carmichael last night." Bethann
nodded and he continued, "Mr. Carmichael told me that he and his
wife had a disagreement over dinner. I was wondering if you
witnessed it, and if you overheard anything."
"Disagreement?" Bethann gave a short laugh. "Is that what they're
calling it these days? Sweetheart, if that was a disagreement, I
sure don't want to see them fight."
Duncan pulled out his notebook. "Not just a disagreement, then.
Yelling, shouting, anything like that?"
Bethann crossed her arms over her ample chest. "No, no yelling,"
she said. "But she sure was pissed. He told her something, and
she threw her napkin at him. They was both talking low, so I
didn't catch anything, but eventually she stood up and said, 'you
always say that,' and stormed out. He followed her. Almost didn't
pay his bill."
Duncan noted the waitress's words. "Did you happen to see what
direction they went? Did they walk or drive?"
"Don't know," Bethann said. "But the outdoor server, Teddy, might
Duncan thanked her and sought out Teddy, who confirmed that the couple had left in a hurry, Mrs. Carmichael clearly angry. They had driven to the restaurant, but after dinner Mrs. Carmichael had set off on foot and her husband followed her. "Did you hear
them say anything before they left?" Duncan asked.
"Well, he was telling her to wait. Caught up to her over there. I
didn't hear anything, but they were still arguing. He grabbed her
arm and shook her a bit. He kept his voice down, but he looked
pretty mad. Then she slapped him. He let go, and she took off."
"What did he do then?" Duncan said.
"He came back for the car."
"Did you talk to him?"
Teddy shook his head. "No, I had tables to serve. His cheek was
red, so she must have hit him pretty hard."
Dorene had taken River Road away from the restaurant. The Carmichaels lived up Mae West Road on the other side of the Yough, the same road where he had found Dorene Carmichael's ring and that passed by the wooded area where the body had been found. Dorene's heels had not been the best for walking, but if she'd been mad enough to walk home she might not have cared.
Duncan got into his cruiser and tapped the steering wheel. What had Dorene and William have argued about? Duncan rubbed his own cheek. It took a pretty serious fight for a woman to hit a man. He could have gone back to question Carmichael and Monroe again, but he returned to the station. "Got a message from Harrisburg,"
Ferguson said. "Official word is that Dorene Carmichael didn't
like living there and being in the spotlight. But William
Carmichael has a reputation as a ladies' man, if you know what I
mean. One of those very public secrets."
"Not shocking that his wife didn't want to be in Harrisburg with
him," said Duncan. "But why didn't she just divorce him? Why put
up with it?"
Ferguson shrugged. "Old fashioned? Didn't want the scandal of
divorce attached to her?" Duncan opened his mouth to object, and
Ferguson held up his hands. "I know. It don't make sense to me
either. But my grandma was the same way. Maybe Dorene Carmichael
was cut from the same cloth."
"Maybe." Duncan looked at his notes. "Any information about this
Jonathan Monroe, Carmichael's aide? He said he left the
Pittsburgh DA's office for a political career."
"Because there's no politics in the DA's office, right?" Ferguson
said. "No, no background on him yet aside from the fact he was
Carmichael's aide and a real up-and-comer. You think you can find
Duncan tapped his notebook against his hand and smiled. "Maybe."
"Sally Castle speaking."
"Ms. Castle, this is Trooper First Class Jim Duncan from the
Pennsylvania State Police. I hope you remember me."
Asking Sally if she remembered Jim Duncan was like asking a Steelers fan if he remembered Franco Harris. Sally smoothed her hair. "Yes, I remember. What can I do for you?"
"Have you ever met a guy named Jonathan Monroe? Maybe through a
state case or something? He used to work in the Allegheny County
District Attorney's office. "
"That bastard." Her response came without thought, and she silently cursed.
"So you know him."
Sally composed herself before answering. "Yes. We only met once
or twice, but I heard stories when I was with the Allegheny
"You worked for a DA? Really?"
"Long story, one I really don't want to discuss," Sally said. She took a deep, calming breath.
"Sorry, it just surprised me." Duncan sounded sincerely apologetic, and Sally squirmed a little. "What do you know about
Sally leaned back and thought. "Like I said, we only met a couple
of times. He was regarded as a rising star, maybe even a future
DA. He was kind of arrogant and smug about it. And then one day,
poof, he was gone."
"That's odd. What happened?"
"I don't really know. The official word was that he had left to
pursue other opportunities, but there were rumors that he had
really screwed up and needed to go before he embarrassed the DA-
"Ms. Castle, I hate to ask you this, but can you find out who I
can talk to who would know the real reason he left? It could be
pertinent to an ongoing investigation."
"The murder of Dorene Carmichael." What else could Duncan be investigating?
"Yes. I know you must be busy, and I hate to intrude on your
time, but you probably know who to talk to better than I do. If
you worked there, you know the insiders."
Sally considered her current caseload. There was nothing pressing and she didn't have any upcoming court appearances. "Let me make
some phone calls. I still have friends there. If I can find out
something, I'll let you know so you can follow up formally if
necessary." She took down his direct line. She didn't mind working with Duncan. And she'd never liked Monroe anyway.
"Thanks for meeting me, Tonita. I appreciate it." Sally had driven up to Pittsburgh to see her old colleague, Tonita Jackson, and take her to lunch at Morton's Steak House. Tonita was still at the DA's office and had been there at the same time as Monroe. Sally hoped Tonita either knew what had happened or could point her in the right direction.
Tonita looked at the menu. "No problem," she said. "Steak
sandwich with mashed potatoes, please." She handed her menu to the waiter. "Now, why the hell do you want to know about Jonathan
"I want to know more about him." Sally sipped her Diet Coke.
"Specifically why he left the DA's office. You've been there a
while, so I figured you'd know."
Tonita spread her napkin across her lap. "He left to pursue other
opportunities," she said.
One of the things that made Tonita a good prosecutor was her ability to keep a poker face. Sally envied that more than Tonita's ageless complexion or shapely figure. "Come on. That's
the official line, sure. But even I heard stuff."
Tonita thought for a moment. "Well, I don't suppose there's any
harm in telling you now. Fact is, Johnny got himself caught with
his hands in the cookie jar."
"Really? How so?"
"Monroe had ambitions, the kind of ambitions you need a string of
highly successful cases to pursue," said Tonita, playing with her
fork. "He was doing the legal equivalent of cooking the books so
Sally almost dropped her glass. "You mean he was encouraging
perjury or something like that?"
Tonita shook her head. "Nothing that serious," she said. "Just
little things, details to make the DA's cases look better. Always
when he was second chair."
Sally gaped. "How do you know this?"
"Because one of them was a case I was on." Tonita shrugged
elegantly. "After the whole thing came out, I got grilled pretty
hard about my participation. I came out clean. Johnny boy, well,
not so much. They offered him the option of going quietly or
getting fired. I think he only got an option because the cases
would have been convictions anyway. He just polished them up a
"So to say Monroe had political ambitions is an understatement," Sally said.
Tonita laughed. "Oh, hell yes," she said. "Boy thought he was
going to be the next David L. Lawrence."
Sally played with her glass. "I guess he didn't take it well."
"At first, no," Tonita said. "He was really angry. But then he
got all, 'it's cool,' and started talking about how Harrisburg
sounded better than Pittsburgh anyway."
Sally could hardly keep up with the mental notes she was taking. "He was going to run for office?"
"Not himself." Lunch arrived and Tonita picked up her sandwich.
"He wanted to be the guy on the side, you know? Advisor to the
king. So he started talking about how he was going to find
himself some politician, turn him into a political all-star, and
make it into the big leagues that way. Come to think of it, he
latched on to that dude in Fayette County, the one whose wife was
murdered. That wouldn't have anything to do with your questions,
"Now why would you think that?" Sally said, feeling her eye twitch. Tonita just looked at her. Sally suppressed an urge to sigh and pressed her fingertips to her eye, willing the twitch to go away. Good thing I'm not facing Tonita as a witness, she thought sourly.
Confident Sally would find anything about Monroe worth following up, Duncan turned to other matters. The couple had been at The River's Edge and Dorene had not left in a car. He found her ring by the side of the road, but her body had been yards away. Had she lost the ring while walking, or had someone taken it off? Bethann's and Teddy's statements described something far more intense than a mild disagreement. He picked up the phone and called the coroner's office.
"Thompson. What do you want?"
"Dan, is that new kid around, Burns? Or do you know anything
about the Dorene Carmichael autopsy?"
"Easier to talk to Burns. Hold on a sec."
After a few minutes, a younger voice came on the line. "This is
"It's Duncan. I have a few questions about Dorene Carmichael.
First, do you think she was killed in that clearing or was the
body dumped? Second, was there anything about the autopsy that
"She had marks on her knees and legs consistent with struggling
on the ground," said Burns sounding clinical. "So it's likely she
was killed onsite. There was nothing unusual about the autopsy.
The deceased had recently eaten, blood alcohol level was
consistent with a glass of wine or two at dinner, nothing more."
Duncan checked the scene photos. There were signs of struggle in grass. "What about the ring finger? Do you think the ring would
have fallen off?"
"Doubtful," Burns said. "The mark on the finger was pretty
distinct. I compared the ring you found to the finger, and it was
a pretty tight fit. And there is the scraped skin. Either she
wrenched it off or someone did it for her is my opinion."
That contradicted Carmichael's statement that the ring always slipped off. "Thanks, Burns. Anything else?"
"Nope. As I said, pretty standard stuff. If I think of anything
else, I'll let you know."
Duncan looked at his notes. Time to talk to Carmichael again. He turned to get up, but Sheffield was standing over him. "Just what
do you think you're doing?"
"I'm investigating Dorene Carmichael's murder, like I was told to
"You were told to interview Carmichael. Have you finished the
paperwork on that interview? No? Then I suggest you get to it." Sheffield stalked off.
Duncan should have known. Golden Gary would not want anybody else getting credit for solving a high-profile case like this one. He sighed and started typing up his interview notes, but then stopped. Damn Gary. A woman had been murdered. Duncan had a responsibility to do what he could to find her killer.
On her drive back to Uniontown, Sally called Duncan and filled him in on what she had learned at lunch.
"Very interesting," he said. "Your friend knows this for fact?"
"Definitely," Sally said. "Tonita said they questioned her pretty
closely about the case Monroe meddled with that she was on.
Assuming she's right, he had as much to lose as Carmichael if
Dorene wrecked the gubernatorial bid."
Duncan considered Monroe's bland denial of that fact. "So it
would seem," he said. "He's put a lot of effort into getting
Carmichael into the governor's mansion. If the divorce details
blew up that deal, he'd have to start all over again. If he even
"Yep," Sally said. "Feel free to call and let me know if I can do
anything else for you."
"I'll do that. Thank you very much, Ms. Castle, you've been very
She tapped her fingers on the steering wheel. She could still see Jim Duncan in her mind's eye. It wouldn't hurt her feelings to spend more time with him. She wondered if he'd think she was a brazen hussy if she asked him out for a drink. He probably would, damn it.
Duncan decided to just show up at the Carmichael residence. There were two cars in the drive, Carmichael's state-issued car and a Ford Mustang. Monroe must be inside. Duncan didn't know if that was good or bad. He knocked on the door.
Sure enough, Monroe answered. "Good afternoon, Trooper. Can I
"I need to speak to Mr. Carmichael again."
"Mr. Carmichael is resting. I'm sure you understand he's quite
distraught after last night." Monroe's tone was cool and it made Duncan bristle. No wonder Sally didn't like this guy.
"I need to talk to him. Don't make me fill out paperwork."
Reluctantly, Monroe opened the door. Duncan found the dead woman's husband sitting in the living room, having an animated conversation on his cell phone about what sounded like campaign business. So much for being distraught. "Mr. Carmichael, I need
to ask you a few more questions about last night."
Carmichael put his hand over the phone. "This isn't a good time."
"It never is." Duncan's clipped reply didn't betray his irritation.
Carmichael sighed. "Don, I'll have to call you back. There's a
state trooper here who won't go away until I talk to him.
Thanks." He jabbed his thumb on the phone and ended the call.
So it was going to be that way. "You went to dinner last night.
Staff at the restaurant described your fight with your wife as
more intense than you did."
"It was a mild disagreement," Monroe said. "You know how staff at
places like that exaggerate."
"Mr. Monroe, I told you before. When I want you to answer a
question, I'll ask you one." He turned to Carmichael expectantly.
"Dorene was quite upset," Carmichael said. It sounded like someone was pulling the words out of him. "I told her something
that she didn't want to hear. She threw her napkin at me and
stormed out. I followed."
"What did you tell her?" Duncan said, taking notes.
Carmichael shifted in his seat. "I, ah, had an encounter with a
young woman on my campaign staff in Harrisburg."
"You had sex with her."
Carmichael shifted again. "Yes, not to put too fine a point on
"That was why Harrisburg didn't agree with your wife," Duncan
said. "You have quite a reputation in the capitol."
"I suppose," Carmichael said. "Do we really have to talk about
"Where did you go after you left the restaurant?"
Carmichael sighed. "Dorene stalked off. I followed her. She said
she was going to file for divorce. I pleaded with her, promised
that this would be the last time. But she didn't believe me and
started for home."
Most likely Dorene had taken the ring off as she walked. "Why
would she go through the trees?" Duncan said.
"It was a shortcut. She does a lot of hiking," Carmichael said.
"She knew if she cut through the trees, she'd get home faster."
"A witness says you grabbed her arm and she slapped you," Duncan said. Carmichael didn't answer, but looked down. Monroe opened his mouth again but shut it after a warning look from Duncan. "That make you mad?"
"I was not pleased she'd chosen such a public place for the
argument," Carmichael said reluctantly. "Yes, I was angry that
she hit me."
Duncan made a note of all of this. "Was she here when you got
For once, Carmichael looked genuinely confused. "Yes, no, I don't
know." He looked at Monroe. "Jonathan was here. He poured me a
whiskey and told me Dorene had gone to bed in the spare room. I
must have been tired because the whiskey really wiped me out. I
slept hard until I woke up this morning. All Dorene's things were
here. The spare bed had been slept in. I thought she'd gone out
to clear her head or something. Could she have been killed this
"No." Duncan turned to Monroe. "Did Mrs. Carmichael in fact come
home last night?"
"Yes," Monroe said his face smooth. "I was waiting here because I
had some campaign details to go over with Mr. Carmichael. She was
quite upset when she came in and went to the back bedroom without
speaking to me."
"What time was this?" Duncan said. "She didn't go out again?"
"I didn't look at the time," Monroe said. "She didn't go out
through the front, but there is a back door. I left shortly after
Mr. Carmichael got home and I gave him a drink. It didn't seem
like a good time to discuss the campaign. You're absolutely sure
Mrs. Carmichael was killed last night?"
"Yes." Duncan didn't want to reveal too many details to Monroe. But it didn't make sense that she could leave the house unnoticed. "Mind if I look around?"
Carmichael waved his hand. "Be my guest."
Dorene's closet was in order, all her clothes hung neatly and shoes lined up. Her suitcase was tucked under the bed. It didn't look like the scene of a woman who had come home intending to pack up and leave. Had she changed her mind? Based on eyewitness testimony, Duncan doubted it.
The bathroom was equally tidy. But Duncan's eye was drawn to a small prescription bottle. It said "zolpidem (for Ambien)" and there were a few pink caplets inside. The name on the bottle was Dorene Carmichael.
The bed in the spare room had been made, but Duncan sniffed the pillowcase. No scent. It smelled freshly washed. That seemed odd. No hairs on the pillow either. There was a door by the back bedroom, locked from the inside. Duncan opened and closed it trying to be as quiet as possible, but it was still audible. He could see Carmichael looking at him. He checked the outside. There were no signs of footprints in the soft dirt around the small concrete pad by the door.
He looked in the kitchen. A rinsed cut glass tumbler was in the sink, probably the whiskey glass from last night. The rest of the kitchen was tidy, if not spotless. There was some powder on the cutting board. It appeared to be pinkish. He dabbed his finger on it, but there was no taste or smell. He took an evidence bag and swept the powder into it.
Returning to the living room, Duncan said, "Mr. Carmichael, did
your wife have sleeping problems?"
"Sometimes she had difficulty falling asleep, yes, especially
when she was stressed."
Duncan made a note of that. "Had your wife filed for divorce,
what effect would that have on your campaign?"
"Nothing good," said Carmichael. "Not the divorce itself. There
are plenty of divorced politicians. But voters don't like
repeated marital infidelity." He clenched his hands. "If she'd
filed for divorce I would have had to say good-bye to the
governor's mansion and I might lose my seat in the legislature
Duncan looked at Monroe. "And what would the scandal have done to
The young man tried to keep his face expressionless, but his mouth was tight. "I would have gone on working for Mr. Carmichael
as long as he was in office," he said. "I would neither gain nor
Except losing the political prestige of being an aide to the governor, Duncan thought. "Thank you for your time. If there is
anything else, we'll call you."
When Sally got back to her office, she checked her messages. There was nothing important, so she thought over her conversation with Tonita. Now that she knew why Monroe had left Pittsburgh she liked him even less, but she was still curious.
Stop it, Sally, she chided herself. This case had absolutely nothing to do with her or her job as a public defender. She'd done a favor for a guy, that's all. A guy with killer hazel eyes and nice shoulders. Sally always had been a sucker for a good set of shoulders. And technically Duncan had asked her to find out more about Monroe, not just to talk to one person.
A law school classmate of hers worked in Harrisburg. Parker Lewis, that was his name. She grabbed the alumni directory from the shelf and looked up Parker's entry. Yep, he was a state employee with the Legislature. Perhaps he knew Jonathan Monroe. He certainly would be familiar with William Carmichael. She dialed the business phone number in the directory.
After a few rings, a brisk voice answered. "Parker Lewis, how can
I help you?"
"Parker, it's Sally Castle. Remember me? Duquesne Law?"
"Sally," Parker said, his smile coming through in his voice. "How
could I forget? Especially after you beat the crap out of me
during all those mock trials. How's life in the DA's office?"
"Oh, I left there a few years ago," Sally said, clenching her fist. Deep breaths, girl. "I'm with the Fayette County Public
Defenders office now."
"Really? Well, I'd bet you're still kicking everybody's ass at
trials," Parker said. "I'm thrilled to hear from you, but I'm a
little puzzled as to why. Unless one of your clients is using the
Legislature as a defense."
Sally smiled. Parker had always been a friendly guy. She'd beaten him only because he wasn't aggressive enough for trial work. "Actually, it has nothing to do with a case," she said. "Well,
not one of my cases. It's the Dorene Carmichael murder."
"Terrible," Parker said, a lot of the lightness going out of his
voice. "The police have been here conducting interviews of anyone
who knew the Carmichaels."
"Did you know them?"
"Only slightly," Parker said. "I knew William, of course, from
work. Dorene didn't spend enough time here, but she seemed like a
lovely woman. I met her once at a party for something. I never
understood William's behavior."
Sally sat up and grabbed a notepad. "What about William's
"William was, how shall I put this? Indiscreet, is the best way
to describe his behavior." Parker's voice left no doubt in Sally's mind as to how he felt personally. Parker always had been a gentleman.
"He was sleeping around," she said. "Who was she?"
"That's just it, there wasn't just one," Parker said, lowering
his voice. "Carmichael would be seen out and about with a
different woman every week. It was disgusting. Blondes,
brunettes, redheads, he liked them all. No wonder his wife didn't
want to live here. I wouldn't want to be around him either."
"Did Dorene ever talk to any of these women? Tell them to get
lost or anything?" Sally's brain was going a mile a minute. If Dorene had argued with a mistress, there might be someone else out there with a motive.
"Not to my knowledge," Parker said. Sally sighed in
disappointment. "No wait," he said. "Dorene was up here on
Memorial Day for some event. She did run into Carmichael's
mistress of the moment and they had words."
"Do you know the mistress's name?"
"No, sorry. But this one was a repeat affair. Actually, I think
Carmichael has been with her for a while now, if rumor is to be
believed," Parker said.
Interesting. Maybe she could put a name with this mystery woman. "If you happen to learn her name, let me know," she said. She
flipped a page. "What about Jonathan Monroe?"
"Carmichael's aide?" Parker said. "I've seen him around. But
people like Monroe don't bother to talk to us common folk."
Sally grinned. "Would you say that Monroe had ambitions?"
"Would I say that the sun comes up in the east?" Parker said, sarcasm dripping from his words.
"Let's say that Dorene Carmichael was going to divorce her
husband and expose his philandering," Sally said. "It would
probably wreck his gubernatorial bid, right?"
"I would imagine that would also wreck Monroe's plans. What do
you think Monroe would do about that?"
"Sally, look. I don't know Jonathan Monroe all that well," Parker said. He was hedging, but Sally had a feeling that Parker wasn't finished. She was right. "But from what I do know, he would do
anything, and I do mean anything, to put his boss in the
The phone's ring got on Duncan's nerves. Every interruption made the hunt-and-peck of typing his report worse. "Trooper First
Class Jim Duncan, how can I help you?"
"Trooper Duncan, it's Sally Castle again."
Duncan turned away from his work with pleasure. "Ms. Castle, I
assume you have new information for me?"
"I do," Sally said and hesitated. "Would you be terribly offended
if I called you Jim? Saying 'Trooper Duncan' all the time seems
so stiff and it's not like this is a public event. And I'd really
prefer it if you'd just call me Sally. I mean, you did save my
life. Why stand on formality?" She felt a little bold. It wasn't as though they had a personal relationship. Maybe Duncan would be offended.
"Not at all," he said. "Although I think you're overstating my
role in the matter." He realized that he was smiling. "So Sally,
what have you learned?"
"Okay, well, I remembered that a law school classmate of mine
works in Harrisburg," Sally said. She proceeded to fill Duncan in
on her conversation with Parker. "So yeah, Monroe definitely has
a stake in Dorene Carmichael's death, but this woman interests me
"You're not the only one," Duncan said, report totally forgotten.
"Your friend didn't know her name?"
"Sorry, no," Sally said. "But he seemed to believe she was a bit
of a steadier relationship than Carmichael's other affairs. Maybe
she fancied herself as the mistress to the governor? Perhaps she
even saw herself as the governor's wife if Dorene was out of the
picture. If she and Dorene had one argument, maybe there was
more. Letters or emails, something."
"It's a lead," Duncan said. "I'll see if they turned up anything
from the post-mortem search of Dorene's house. Thanks for the
"Maybe you can thank me by buying me lunch sometime when you're
in Uniontown," Sally said lightly.
Duncan ran a finger around his collar and cleared his throat. "Well, I don't know when that would be, but maybe. Thanks again." He hung up the phone. He didn't quite understand Sally's motivation, but he appreciated the information.
He'd have to step carefully. If Sheffield thought someone was trying to take the case away from him, he'd make himself as obnoxious as possible, without countermanding orders from the lieutenant of course.
Duncan walked down to the evidence room. "I'd like to see the
evidence from the search of the Carmichael house."
The trooper on duty fetched a couple of boxes. "This is most of
it," he said. "I think there was a laptop that the techies still
have. Don't know if they've found anything."
Duncan thanked the guy and opened the boxes. He looked through the evidence, looking for any type of correspondence. He was rewarded by a letter printed on plain paper. "If you know what's
good for you, bitch, you'll leave William alone and keep your
mouth shut," Duncan read. He looked at the envelope in the bag with the letter. There was no return address, but the postmark was Harrisburg. He rummaged through the box, but there was nothing else. He thanked the trooper and returned the boxes.
His next stop was the tech folks. "Hey, you guys still have
Dorene Carmichael's laptop down here?"
A young trooper, who looked like he was fresh out of training, nodded. "Yeah, we're still sifting through it," he said. "Most of
it is personal email, some financial stuff. We've turned it over
to the lead investigator, but we're still going."
"What have you found? At a high level, of course," Duncan said. Hopefully the kid wouldn't send him to see Sheffield.
The young guy lifted an eyebrow, but he answered. "We didn't find
anything funky with the finances," he said. "No weird payments in
or out. There were a few exchanges with her husband that weren't
too nice. Looks like he was having an affair, she wanted him to
keep his head down and not embarrass her, that sort of thing."
"Thanks," Duncan said. "I guess infidelity came easy to William
Carmichael." Duncan's insides twisted with sympathy for Dorene.
"Find anything threatening?"
"Well, we did just find this," he swiveled over his monitor.
"Email from 'lady1978,' a Gmail address. 'Take your things and
stay away from Harrisburg, bitch. William is better off without
you.' Sounds like an email from a mistress with a mission."
"It does indeed," Duncan said. "When you find out who that email
address belongs to, would you give me a call? In addition to
Trooper Sheffield, of course."
The kid shrugged. "Will do."
Duncan headed back to his desk, pleased with his research thus far. Now if he could just stay out of Sheffield's path, he might be able to get somewhere. And the best way to do that was to look as if he was still working on the Carmichael interview reports. He sat down and went back to his hunting and pecking.
Despite her best efforts the next day, Sally couldn't concentrate on her work. The conversation with Parker kept replaying in her head. She always came back to the unknown mistress. As well-known as his infidelity seemed to be, she never saw a picture or film of William Carmichael with a woman other than his wife. Most of the time, he was alone.
Wait, Carmichael had been in Uniontown for a fund raiser recently. Sally swore she remembered a woman with him, a woman who was most definitely not his wife. Sally had been at the event. It had been a leggy brunette, some years Carmichael's junior. A woman Carmichael had tried to keep away from photographs. But maybe he'd missed one or two.
She picked up the phone and dialed the Uniontown Herald Standard office. "I'm looking for photographs taken of William Carmichael when he was in town for the fundraising event a couple months ago," she said. "I don't care if they were published or not. Do you still have them?"
"Oh yeah, that's the beauty of digital," the man said. "Nothing
gets thrown away since it costs almost nothing to store them."
Sally's stomach leapt. "Can I see them? It's not part of a case
I'm on right now, just personal interest."
"Sure, it wasn't a private event or anything."
Sally grabbed her purse and headed over to the newspaper office. After identifying herself as the woman who'd called about the Carmichael pictures, she was escorted to a computer station. "All
the photos are in that folder," the man said. "Let me know if you
Sally started scrolling through the pictures, biting her lip. There were lots of pictures of Carmichael, but none with a woman. Suddenly she sat up straight and peered at the screen. Yes, that was definitely her, a tall, handsome brunette in a stunning blue dress. She was in a couple of shots. Carmichael had tried to obstruct the photographer's view by standing in front of her, but he hadn't always succeeded. "Excuse me," she said, waving the
helpful newspaper staffer over. "Did you ever identify that
woman? The one with Representative Carmichael in these shots."
The man rubbed his nose. "Just a second." He went away and came
back a few minutes later. "That is Miss Helen Jeanette of
Harrisburg," he said. "We wanted to run that picture there of the
two of them, but Mr. Carmichael's aide said absolutely not."
I'm sure Monroe wouldn't have wanted that picture published, Sally thought. "Thank you very much," she said.
"Sure thing," the man said. "If you want a print, let me know.
It'll probably cost you, but not that much."
"No, I've got what I need, thanks," said Sally.
Back in her office, she searched for Helen Jeanette in the online white pages for Harrisburg. There were three H. Jeanette's. She wrote down all of the addresses and phone numbers. Then she called Duncan. "Jim, it's me again, Sally," she said. Duncan started to say hello, but she spoke over him. "Listen, I found a
picture of Carmichael with a woman at a recent fundraiser. I've
never seen him in public with a mistress, so I'm thinking this is
the one Parker was talking about, you know the repeat affair."
"Go on," Duncan said. "Got a name?"
"Helen Jeanette," Sally said, her nerves tingling. "I searched
the Harrisburg white pages and found three possible hits." She gave him the addresses and phone numbers.
"Fantastic work, Sally," Duncan said. Sally's stomach soared. "I
owe you one."
Sally hung up. She would definitely figure out a way to collect on that debt.
After receiving the information from Sally, Duncan didn't have much difficulty locating Helen Jeanette. She lived in Harrisburg, too far for Duncan to drive. But not too far to make a phone call. It eventually went to voicemail, so he left a message and waited.
Two hours later, there had been no return call so Duncan called again. This time, the call went straight to voicemail. Either Helen had turned off her phone or she was ignoring him. On a hunch, he dialed the number from his personal cell. "This is
Helen," said a slightly sultry voice. Duncan hoped she wasn't running a phone sex business from this line.
"This is Trooper First Class Jim Duncan of the Pennsylvania State
Police," he said. "I left a message for you earlier, but you
haven't returned it."
"Damn," Helen said. "Why won't you people just leave me alone?"
"I'm sorry, Miss Jeanette, it's just a few questions," Duncan
said. "If this isn't a convenient time to talk, I can call back
later. Or I can arrange for the police in Harrisburg to interview
"No, no freaking interviews," Helen said. She paused and Duncan thought he heard her take a draw off of a smoke. He assumed it was a cigarette. "Ask your damn questions."
"Thank you," Duncan said. He pulled out a notepad. "You are
involved with Representative William Carmichael, is that
"If you mean am I sleeping with him, yeah, I am," Helen said. Duncan could almost picture her chin jutting out in defiance.
"How long have you been involved with Mr. Carmichael?"
"We've been on and off for about three years," Helen said. "It's
been on for the last six months."
"Do you know Mr. Carmichael's wife?" Three years was about as long as it had been since Dorene had returned to live in Confluence.
"Yeah, I know her," Helen said, ice on her words. "She never gave
William an inch. She should have divorced him clean, years ago.
They haven't had sex in at least five years. But no, she held on
tight. She liked the perks of being a politician's wife. Arrogant
Had it been pride or revenge that kept Dorene from seeking a divorce? "Are you aware that Mrs. Carmichael was murdered a few
"Yeah, I read it in the paper," Helen said, taking another draw
from her smoke. "Good riddance to bad rubbish, I say. Bitch had
it coming. Now William is free to be with someone who loves him."
"And that someone would be you, if I understand your tone," Duncan said. He wasn't sure yet whether to treat Helen as a hostile interviewee or not. There was certainly no love lost between her and the victim.
Helen snorted. "Well who else do you think I'm talking about?" she said.
"I was under the impression that you weren't Mr. Carmichael's
only mistress." God help any others though. Helen was feisty and possessive.
Helen laughed, a throaty sound. "Look, I know William has slept
with a lot of women," she said. "But he always comes back to me.
He knows where the bread is buttered. I can satisfy him in a way
no other woman can."
Duncan wasn't sure if she just meant sex or something else. He made a note to have the Harrisburg folks check it out. "Miss
Jeanette, where were you two nights ago between 7pm and 2 am?"
"You think I killed her," Helen said. "Well, not that I wouldn't,
given the right opportunity, but you've got the wrong woman. I
was at dinner with friends of mine. We went out dancing after
that and I didn't get home until three in the morning."
"Would you mind giving me the names and contact information for
your friends for verification?"
"Look, you can kiss my ass," Helen said. "If I'd wanted her dead,
I'd have shot the bitch, not strangled her with fishing line."
Duncan tensed. That detail had not been released, so how did Helen know about it?
"Miss Jeanette, these are routine questions," Duncan said. "I'm
not accusing you of anything, but I do have to ask if anyone can
corroborate your story."
"Fine, go talk to them." Helen rattled off some names and phone
numbers so quickly that Duncan could barely keep up. "Now fuck
off." She slammed down the phone.
Duncan put his cell back in his pocket. Lovely woman, Helen Jeanette. She must be good in bed if Carmichael put up with that temper.
Duncan called the police up in Harrisburg and asked them to check on Helen's alibi. Should be easy enough to find out if her alibi was good or not.
Duncan checked his watch. It was almost lunchtime. He didn't know if Carmichael had left for Harrisburg the previous day as he had intended to do. It would be easy enough to drive to the Carmichael house in Confluence and check.
"Duncan, you have any news?" Lieutenant Dan Nicols, the Troop B commander strode over to his desk.
"Maybe," Duncan said. He ran down what he'd learned of Helen
Jeanette. "I've got the folks in Harrisburg checking her alibi."
"You think she's a suspect?"
"Well, she's got the motive," Duncan said, flipping through his
notes. "She admitted she would have done it and she knows about
the fishing line. Dorene got threatening emails from a 'lady1978'
Gmail address. Might be Helen."
"It is," Nicols said. Duncan lifted his eyebrows. "The tech boys
called Sheffield this morning with that news. I think he's
running down information on Helen as well."
"Then I'll leave him to it," Duncan said.
"So if Sheffield takes that angle, what are you going to do?"
"I'm planning to talk to Carmichael again. I haven't dismissed
him or Jonathan Monroe as suspects," Duncan said. "That's
assuming that you still want me to continue."
Nicols nodded. "I do. Sheffield may have been the one on the
scene, but he can't run down everything himself. This is high
profile, so I need all hands on deck. What's the motive for
Carmichael and Monroe?"
"Ambition. Carmichael wants the governor's mansion," Duncan said.
"If Dorene had just divorced him, he'd still have a shot. But she
wasn't going to go quietly. Exposing the years of repeated
infidelity with multiple women would have wrecked his career."
"Basically the same thing," Duncan said, consulting his notes
from Sally. "He got booted from the Allegheny County DA's office
for some shady dealings when he was trying to set himself up
there. Now he's invested heavily in Carmichael. Carmichael wins
the governorship, Monroe is aide to the king. But if Carmichael's
career implodes, he's tied to a disgraced politician. Not good
for his career ambitions."
Nicols nodded. "Follow it," he said. "As fast as you can. We need
a clean arrest on this one."
When Duncan pulled up to the Carmichael residence, only the state car was parked in the drive. Perhaps this meant Duncan would finally get to talk to Carmichael without his sidekick.
When Carmichael answered his own door, Duncan knew he had been correct. "Trooper Duncan," Carmichael said, not opening the
screen door. "To what do I owe the pleasure of your company?"
"I just have a few more questions for you," Duncan said. "Is now
a good time?"
"You're not going to leave me alone until you're satisfied, so
you might as well come in." Carmichael walked away without opening the door.
The living room was a mess of paper - newspaper, notebooks, and computer printouts. Carmichael went to the sideboard and poured himself a whiskey. "I'm down ten percent in the polls," he said, gesturing at the newspaper. "I might have gotten a sympathy bump after Dorene's death, but not now that I'm a suspect. And now that my affairs are so public. Damned sharks." He whipped the paper at the wall. "I hope you aren't expecting me to offer you a
drink." He glared at Duncan.
"No sir, I'm on duty," Duncan said, voice steady. Carmichael was not taking the implosion of his election bid calmly. "Are you
familiar with a Helen Jeanette?"
"Let's cut the shit." Carmichael tossed back a drink. "Helen is
my mistress, one of many. One who has been with me longer than
the others. Satisfied?"
"Are you currently seeing Miss Jeanette?" Carmichael just stared.
"I'll take that as a yes," Duncan said, making a note. "When was
the last time you saw or spoke to her?"
"God, you people are unreal," Carmichael said, downing the last
of his whiskey. He immediately poured another. "Helen doesn't
have anything to do with this, so you leave her the fuck alone."
"Sir, if you would please just answer the question." Duncan's eyes darted around the room. He wondered how much time he had until Monroe returned. He doubted Carmichael would be so open with his handler in the room.
"I saw Helen the night before I left Harrisburg," Carmichael
said, stuffing his hand in his pocket. "And I talked to her
yesterday morning. I told her I'd be back in Harrisburg soon."
"Did you tell her anything about Dorene's murder?" He'd be back soon because he was innocent or because he figured to get away with it?
Carmichael frowned. "Of course I did," he said. "Helen
understands me. I didn't much care if Dorene wanted to hide
herself away down here. All she had to do was show up at official
functions and smile. Was that so much to fucking ask? But no,
Dorene had to make a spectacle of it all."
"So you told Miss Jeanette about the fishing line?"
"Yeah, I probably did. I know I told her that Dorene had been
strangled, so I must have mentioned the fishing line too."
"Mr. Carmichael, are you aware that Miss Jeanette sent
threatening emails to your wife, warning her to stay away from
Harrisburg?" Duncan watched as Carmichael's face got beet red.
"Look, so what if she did?" Carmichael took a step forward and clenched his fist in his pocket. Duncan stood his ground, but tensed for an attack. "Did Helen hate Dorene? Yes, because Dorene
was a manipulative bitch. Always getting her way by threatening
to divorce me and air my dirty laundry for all to see. So I guess
she got the final laugh. Her death has ruined me."
"And obviously you're pretty upset," Duncan noted. Carmichael
opened his mouth, but Duncan cut him off. "And how is Mr. Monroe
taking all of this?"
"He's mad as hell." Carmichael snarled like an angry dog. "He's
put a lot of time and effort into this campaign. If I'm ruined,
he's ruined. He'll never get a chance with another politician,
not with his history."
"So you're away of the conditions under which he left the
Allegheny County DA's office," Duncan said and Carmichael waved a
hand. "Was Miss Jeanette in Confluence at all during your stay?"
"No." Carmichael poured another drink, looking sulky. "She didn't
think it was a good idea for the two of us to be seen down here."
Duncan watched Carmichael drink. It was the third he'd had just in the time they'd been talking and he was still standing. "Mr.
Carmichael, on the night you and your wife argued, you said you
came back here. Monroe was waiting. He gave you a whiskey and you
went to bed. Is that correct?" Carmichael nodded. "Were you
expecting Mr. Monroe to be here when you got home?"
For the first time, Carmichael blinked. "As a matter of fact, no,
I didn't," he said, brow puckering. "I'd told him we weren't
going to do anything with the campaign until we got back to
Harrisburg, and that he should call it a night."
"But he was waiting for you when you got home," Duncan said. "You
didn't find that odd?"
"Not at the time." The politician's mask fell away, and
Carmichael looked genuinely confused. "He was standing in the
kitchen, at the sink. I came in and he immediately offered me a
drink. Said I looked like I could use one. I only drank maybe
half of it before I could barely keep my eyes open."
The kitchen was where Duncan had found the cutting board with the pink powder. What was that? Duncan heard the crunch of tires on the drive. He glanced out the window and saw Monroe getting out of his car. "Well, I think that's all, Mr. Carmichael," he said,
putting away his notebook. "Thank you for your time." He headed for the door, getting there just as Monroe came inside.
"You again?" Monroe said, lip curling. "So, have you come to
update us on your progress, or lack thereof?"
"The trooper was asking a few questions, Jonathan," Carmichael
said. "He was just leaving."
"Are you ever going to leave Mr. Carmichael alone?" Monroe stared Duncan in the eye, blocking the door.
Duncan didn't flinch. "Just as soon as we solve his wife's
murder, Mr. Monroe. Have a nice day." He stepped around the ashen-faced Monroe and left.
Duncan returned to the station and started typing up another report. Jonathan Monroe had been told to take the night off, so what had he been doing in the Carmichael kitchen? Had he followed the Carmichaels to dinner and overheard Dorene's threat? No one had reported a Mustang in the area, but he could have walked and stayed out of sight.
He stretched and cracked his knuckles. He was just about to get up when his phone rang. It was the lab. "Got the results on that
powder," said the tech. "Crushed zolpidem."
Crushed Ambien? "What would happen if you mixed crushed zolpidem
in alcohol, say whiskey?" he said.
The tech laughed. "Well, I hope you didn't plan on getting up any
time soon," he said. "Probably wouldn't kill you, but it'd knock
you for a loop."
Duncan thanked the tech and hung up. He paused, and then reached for his notes. The tech's words had struck a chord. What had Carmichael said? The glass of whiskey "wiped him out." Duncan had seen him drink three glasses without any visible effects. If he'd crashed so hard after one glass, something must have been in there. And that would explain Monroe's presence in the kitchen. He'd beaten his boss home to drug him, and make sure he wouldn't wake that night. He'd have to take Monroe's word that Dorene had come and gone.
"Jonathan Monroe called me." The voice made Duncan's head come up. It was Sheffield. "What the hell are you doing harassing
"Investigating his wife's murder. Aren't we all?"
"And where are your reports? As the lead investigator, I would
have expected those on my desk by now. Even your typing isn't
that slow. I suggest you get cracking before I report your sloppy
work." Sheffield sneered as he walked away.
Duncan took a deep breath. Golden Gary Sheffield had come by his nickname honestly. Everyone knew he was bucking for promotion and did everything possible to further his own ambitions. If he could make himself look good at Duncan's expense he wouldn't hesitate.
Duncan went back to the clearing where Dorene's body had been found. It still bore the tracks of feet from everybody who had been through. Not surprising since it had rained hard recently and the grass was pretty mashed. In fact, the ground was still soft. This meant if Dorene had been killed in this clearing, her killer's shoes would have dirt on them.
Just then, his phone rang. It was Harrisburg. "We checked out
Helen Jeanette's alibi. Her dinner companions confirm it. She was
with them until early in the morning when she was dropped off at
her apartment." Duncan thanked the man and hung up. If Helen Jeanette had been in Harrisburg until 3am, she couldn't have killed Dorene Carmichael on the same night.
Duncan slipped his phone in his pocket. It was time to get a search warrant.
Monroe was staying at the Winding River Bed & Breakfast. Duncan rapped on his door. He could hear a voice inside. He knocked again, harder. "Just a moment." Monroe sounded annoyed.
"This is the State Police. I have a search warrant for these
premises. Open the door."
The door opened. "Trooper First Class Duncan, what a surprise." Monroe didn't bother to disguise the sarcasm in his voice.
Duncan slapped the search warrant against Monroe's chest. "As I
said, I have a warrant to search this room." He brushed past Monroe.
The room was not opulent, but it was plenty big enough for one man. Duncan methodically examined the small sitting area, bathroom, and bedroom. "Do you like walking in the woods?" he said loudly enough for Monroe to hear him.
"Yes, I find it relaxing," Monroe said.
Duncan emerged from the bedroom carrying a pair of shoes. "And
you do it in your Italian leather loafers?" He held them out. The shoes had been cleaned, but Duncan could see traces of mud in the decorative perforations and the stitching of the soles.
Monroe licked his lips. "I forgot my hiking shoes."
Duncan didn't say anything. He looked around and noticed that the garbage can was empty. "Has housekeeping been here today?"
"No." Monroe's eyes darted to the door.
Duncan opened the door and stuck his head out. Halfway down the hall, a woman was pushing a housekeeping cart. "Excuse me," he
said and jogged up to the woman. He showed her his badge. "Do you
have the trash from that room?" He pointed at Monroe's open door.
The woman peered at the badge. "You got a warrant or something?"
Duncan didn't need a warrant to search the trash, but to avoid argument he went back to the room and retrieved the warrant from the bed where Monroe had tossed it aside. He took it back to the cleaning woman. "Here it is."
She glanced over the paper. "Looks okay. Yeah, trash is in there.
Be my guest."
Duncan detached the bag and rummaged through its contents. Seizing one object, he replaced the bag, thanked, the woman, and went back to Monroe's room.
"Do much fishing on the campaign trail? I didn't see any fishing
gear in your closet. You do that in designer clothes too?" Duncan held out a roll of heavy fishing line.
Monroe bolted for the door. He was fast, but so was Duncan and he grabbed Monroe around the waist. "Jonathan Monroe, you're under
arrest for the murder of Dorene Carmichael."
"I want my lawyer," Monroe said, looking sullen.
Duncan did not reply. He just escorted him to the waiting patrol car.
Duncan clapped politely as Corporal Gary Sheffield was introduced to the barracks. "I don't get it," said Ferguson, clapping half
heartedly. "You crack the case and Golden Gary gets the
"Whatever," Duncan said. You didn't have to go to Harrisburg to find politics. Duncan didn't care about the credit. But he was pretty certain the daily service call assignments were going to get interesting.