By Trish Hubschman
“Cause of death’s an overdose of a powerful blood pressure medication. Triggered cardiac arrest.” Fehr had gone to the autopsy, while her partner, Detective Kurt Weiss, talked to the victim’s family.
Across the desk, Weiss had a glint in his eyes. “So, the vic had high-blood pressure, mmm?” he murmured thoughtfully. “That would explain why we found the prescription med in her desk drawer, but it was in a Tylenol bottle, Carter” His voice rose in pitch. “Prescription drugs are usually in well-labeled pharmacy bottles.”
She shook her head. “Carson said she didn’t have high-blood pressure. My guess is that the vic thought there was Tylenol in the Tylenol bottle. She probably had a headache and took two and pow!” Fehr punched her fist into the palm of her other hand.
Weiss leaned back in his chair and crossed his arms over his chest. “Then we have a homicide on our hands?”
She smiled. “Looks like it, partner,” she agreed. “Did they get any prints from the bottle, besides the vic’s?” she asked.
Weiss grunted. “Not yet, looks like whoever handled the bottle, did it carefully. But the techs haven’t given up. They think they can pull something usable, a partial print maybe. That’ll help. But do you think anyone on our suspect list has a prior criminal record and we’ll have their prints on file?”
Fehr tapped the tip of her blue Bic pen on the open file folder in front of her. “We are dealing with an insurance company. I’m sure the main office does background checks on its employees before hiring them, so the answer to your question is probably no,” she replied. Weiss pursed his lips. His fist was under his chin. That was his guess too. Fehr wanted to ask him about something else. “What about the victim’s family? You spoke to them today.”
He nodded. “To be frank, I’d have to say the daughter and her husband weren’t overly distraught or surprised. Lillian Maoli wasn’t on anybody’s favorites list, but we already knew that.” He shrugged. “The co-workers didn’t exactly paint an award-winning picture of their beloved secretary,” he went on. “But it’s not our job to decide whether she had it coming to her, we have to find the person who did it.”
“I know,” she agreed. “I was just wondering if the daughter’s lack of shock, or whatever, makes her and her husband suspects.”
Weiss shrugged. “Possibly, right now, we have to investigate everyone and everything.”
“True,” she replied softly. “So, where do we go from here? What’s next?”
Weiss was pushing back his chair and getting to his feet. “I think it’s time we go back to Dollar Insurance and really give those folks a good quizzing.”
Fehr rose too. “Do you think it’ll be business as usual over there?”
He picked up his car keys from his desk top. “Sure thing. Money comes before all else and business is money.”
That’s what she figured. She followed him out of the station and slid into the passenger seat of his sedan.
. . .
Two hours later, after interviewing the seven employees of Dollar Insurance, the two detectives were in Weiss’s car headed back to the police station. They tossed ideas back and forth between them.
“Looks like everyone had the motive and opportunity to do the crime,” Fehr noted, flustered.
“Not everybody in either case had both,” Weiss corrected her. “But, at this point, that doesn’t mean anything.”
She raised an eyebrow. “What do you mean? Did I miss something?”
He chuckled. “Maoli was killed on Friday, during an office party, right?” he challenged. Fehr nodded. “Neither the manager and the attractive blonde supervisor were in on Friday.” Fehr had forgotten that. “As for motive, well, let’s pick at our suspects, first, take that woman Claims Rep, what was her name?”
Fehr volunteered the answer. “You mean, Donna Drake? You’re right, she didn’t seem to have any qualms with the secretary. In fact, she kept making up excuses for the vic’s off-key behavior, which annoyed everyone else.” She pressed her lips together. “If I remember right, the way she put it was that Maoli was not exactly typical for a person her age.”
He grunted. He lifted a hand off the steering wheel and waved it. “Maoli had issues obviously and it seems Jews were on top of her list of people she didn’t like.” His tone was disdainful.
Fehr held up her index finger. “Which brings us to, Ted Shapiro.”
“Mmm,” Weiss mumbled. “He seemed like a nice-enough guy, quiet, hard-working. Good traits that nobody ever appreciates.”
Fehr interrupted him. “I got that impression too, that he’s not very liked by his co’s.”
“Uh-huh! Weiss muttered through clenched teeth. “From what I gather, especially not by the vic.”
“And that gives Shapiro a pretty big motive for doing the crime,” she shot back. “And he takes the same blood pressure med that killed Maoli.”
“So does that guy, Minelli.” Fehr mumbled her agreement. “What we’ve got to find out is what the lethal dosage was and whose stash is missing.”
She nodded. “Why would anyone keep a prescription blood pressure med in their desk drawer at their office anyway?” she asked, and then shrugged. She answered her own question. “I guess if they’re overly stressed out at work and it’s just a safety precaution.”
“True,” he said. “Let’s not forget that the desk drawers don’t lock, so anyone and everyone had access to it,” Weiss pointed out. She agreed. “And then we’ve got the last Claims Rep, the Indian guy, George Abdul?”
“He didn’t say much of anything,” she noted. “Frankly, I don’t think he cares one way or the other that Maoli’s gone.”
“Probably,” Weiss interjected. “The manager didn’t seem to be aware of the discord between the co-workers in his office, though that’s not that unusual. The boss keeps his door shut and stays in his private domain,” he said distastefully.
“Maybe he doesn’t want to know what’s going on.” she offered.
“Possibly, he replied, but he was already on another thought. “They all volunteered their fingerprints pretty easily. Let’s get back to the station and run them. My guess is we’ll find everyone’s prints everywhere in that office, which isn’t going to shed any more light on this one.”
Fehr leaned back heavily in her seat and sighed. “They knew that too, which is why they were all so helpful?”
He glanced at her. “Nobody’s that smart, Carter. Hopefully, in the end, we’ll have the upper hand.”
. . .
Weiss replaced the telephone to its cradle on his desk. “Print guys,” he announced, nodding his head to the phone. “They can’t be one hundred percent sure who the partial print on the Tylenol bottle belongs to, but to take an educated guess, the tech would say its Rick Futti’s.”
Fehr’s eyes widened. “The company manager? But he doesn’t have opportunity or motive to have killed Maoli. I’m prone to think it’s Shapiro.”
Weiss shook his head. He was certain about Shapiro’s innocence, though he couldn’t say exactly why. Futti, in fact, seemed a more likely possibility, and he couldn’t say why that was either. “The bottle could have been put in her drawer at any time, by anybody,” Weiss explained. Fehr opened her mouth, about to say something, but closed it suddenly. “And if somebody else had a headache before she did, then we’d be looking at Maoli as our suspect.”
Fehr grimaced. “What about motive?” She sighed. “I don’t see any probable ones here.”
He nodded. “That’s because we haven’t dug too deeply yet. I think it’s time we look at Maoli’s phone records and email correspondence, see if she had any outside the office communications with Futti.” Fehr opened her mouth again. Weiss held his hand up to halt the interruption. “Or Shapiro,” he added for his partner. Fehr nodded.
Within the hour, Weiss walked into Fehr’s cubicle at the station and sat down on the other side of her desk. She was nursing a cup of coffee and typing a report on a different case into the computer. She glanced up at him. Weiss threw some papers on her desk. “The phone records and email,” he announced.
She nodded. “That was fast. What did you find out?”
Weiss was prepared with his answer. He didn’t need to look at his notes. “The vic has absolutely no outside communication with Shapiro, though it’s clear that she was harassing him in the office. He was forthright in telling us that.” Weiss’s hands were in the air to emphasize his point. Fehr got it. “Granted, that would give him probable motive for the crime, but what I have here with Futti, is even bigger.” He patted the top of the papers he tossed on her desk.
Leaning back in her chair, Fehr crossed her arms over her chest. “I’m all ears. Prove to me that the manager did the crime.”
He smiled. “That far I can’t go, but I can give you some reasons why he’d want to get rid of Maoli.”
Sitting forward abruptly, Fehr placed both hands on the desk. “That’s a start. If it’s strong enough, we’ll just dig some more till we get to the truth.”
“My idea exactly,” he replied.
“What do we have here on Futti?” she asked, curious.
Weiss was eager to move on with it too. “Looks like the vic was blackmailing the big boss.”
Fehr’s eyes widened. “Blackmailing him for what?”
Weiss shrugged. “There’s no specifics here, just the implication. In her eyes, at least, he was being a bad boy, not running things as they should be, and the home office wouldn’t have liked that.” Weiss frowned.
“What could she have been trying to gain?”
He sighed. “Who knows? Bottom line is,” Weiss began. “Somebody did her in and Futti’s high on our suspect list now. I think it’s time we brought him down here for questioning.”
. . .
“Am I being arrested?” Rick Futti asked when he opened his front door and found the two police detectives on his steps. He didn’t sound nervous, just annoyed.
“No, sir,” Weiss replied easily. “We just want to ask you some questions and thought we’d all be more comfortable down at the station.”
Futti raised an eyebrow, and then glanced over his shoulder, into the house. “What about my wife?”
Fehr stepped forward. “She can come along too, Mr. Futti. This won’t take up much of your time.” That was, unless Futti was guilty of the crime and confessed to it.
Futti shook his head. “It would be better if she doesn’t. I was just wondering if I should tell her where I’m going.” Both detectives shrugged. Futti went to close the door and leave the detectives outside, but Weiss stuck out his hand to stop him.
“I don’t think that’s a good idea. Why don’t you just call into the house.”
Futti nodded once. “Margaret, I’m going out for a little while. I have to do something. I’ll be back later,’ he called out. There was no response from inside the house.
As they walked down the front path to Weiss’s car, Weiss recited Futti’s rights. “Just for precautionary purposes, you understand?” Weiss said, opening the back door of the vehicle and helping Futti in.
“You can call your lawyer when we get to the station, Mr. Futti,” Fehr added, getting into the front passenger seat. The ten minute ride to the police station was uneventful. “Would you like a cup of coffee, sir?” Fehr asked Futti when the three were in the interrogation room. Futti accepted.
“I’d watch that stuff if I were you,” Weiss advised with a teasing voice. He waved to the door his partner had just gone through. “Her coffee here can be pretty potent.”
“Can we please got on with this, detective?” Futti said. “My wife is expecting me to come home as soon as possible.”
Weiss gave a decisive nod. “I apologize for the inconvenience, sir. We’ll try to take up as little of your time as we can.”
Fehr came back in to the room with a Styrofoam cup of coffee and placed it on the table in front of Futti. Futti wrapped his hands around the cup. He was still looking at Weiss, his eyebrow arched higher. “Inconvenience? Is that what you’re calling this whole mess, Detective Weiss?” Futti glanced at Fehr, his expression warming. “I’ve got a business to run, that I am responsible for, employees to oversee, customers to appease. Believe me, that’s very stressful.” Fehr nodded her head. “To make it worse, I’m without a secretary now, to take care of the smaller odds and ends that I don’t have time to do. But the home office won’t let me hire another assistant, nor will the police allow me to clean out Mrs. Maoli’s desk, until this unfortunate matter is resolved.”
The detectives exchanged a silent glance. Fehr spoke first. “That’s probably for the best, Mr. Futti. We don’t want to tamper with evidence and unfortunately, Dollar Insurance is a crime scene right now.”
“Evidence, my foot,” Futti spat. “Mrs. Maoli did not die as a result of anything my office or employees did.” He sounded totally certain of that. “She probably brought that bottle of tampered aspirin in herself from home.”
Weiss was curious. “Are you saying she overdosed herself, for what reason, and at the office, intentionally?”
Futti was losing his patience. He shook his head vigorously. “I don’t think she was smart enough to do anything like that, Detective.” Weiss took careful mental note of the last statement. “Probably one of her children had something to do with it.”
“Why do you say that, sir?” Weiss asked.
Futti shrugged. “Well, for one thing, Mrs. Maoli didn’t have any disputes with anyone in my office, except for Ted Shapiro, that is.” He pressed his lips tightly together and held them that way for a moment, contemplating something. The detectives waited. “But if you ask me, I personally can’t see Shapiro murdering somebody that way.” Futti said, grimacing. Weiss was prone to agree. He cast a wary glance at Fehr.
She threw it off. “Please, go on, Mr. Futti, you were saying about her children?” she prompted.
Futti lifted the coffee cup to his lips and took a sip. ”I just got the impression her children weren’t fond of her.” He waved his hand. “I have nothing conclusive to back it up. It’s just a feeling.” He shrugged.
“What was the dispute between Mrs. Maoli and Mr. Shapiro about?” Fehr asked.
Futti shrugged. “People in offices sometimes have squabbles, detective. It’s the close proximity of an every day nine-to- five job.”
“And you didn’t try to find out what was going on and put an end to it?” Weiss accused.
Futti eyed him, startled. “Of course not. They’re grown adults. I figured they’d find a way to settle it themselves.”
I see,” Weiss murmured. The idea was to keep the suspect talking. Sometimes they said something they shouldn’t.
Futti drained his cup. “Can we please hurry this along. My wife must be worried by now,” Futti said.
“Of course,” Weiss replied, but the interrogation continued for another hour. Getting nowhere with the suspect and silently admitting temporary defeat, Weiss called in a uniformed officer to drive Futti home. “But don’t’ leave town, Mr. Futti. Until this investigation is over, we must keep track of everybody’s whereabouts.”
Quickly agreeing, Futti dashed from the room.
“He’s one tough cookie,” Fehr noted, glancing at the closed door of the interview room.
“Sure is,” Weiss replied lightly. “But my guess is that tough guy will try to skip town soon.” Fehr narrowed her eyes. Weiss held up his hand. “Don’t worry, Futti’s got a babysitter keeping an eye on him.”
Fehr smiled. “You really do know your stuff, Weiss.”
Two days later, Weiss got a call that Futti and his wife were loading their SUV with luggage. They were intervened by police and gave the excuse that they were going on vacation, which had been scheduled a few months earlier. Futti was brought back in and forced to endure another two hours of grueling interrogation. He remained pretty cool until more recently discovered evidence was introduced. Futti’s fingerprints were found on the bottle of blood pressure medication in Ted Shapiro’s desk drawer. When asked about it, Futti couldn’t come up with a reason and asked if he could call his lawyer. Despite the attorney’s presence, Futti broke down and confessed to the murder of his secretary, Lillian Maoli. Margaret Futti was shocked and very upset, Ted Shapiro was relieved. Now he could go to work and not have to be harassed. The only problem was that Dollar Insurance didn’t have a secretary or a boss.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR AND HER WORK…
By Trish Hubschman
About The Series
In 1997, Trish saw the rock band, Styx, for the first time at Radio City Music Hall in New York. She fell in love. The following year, she created the fictional character, musician, Danny Tide from the rock band Tidalwave. She wrote two romance novels with him as the main character. After that, he was put in the drawer for a decade. She continued seeing her favorite band in concert, Styx. Around 2010, her Long Island private investigator, Tracy Gayle, emerged for her own set of mystery stories. Never did it dawn on her that at some point she would bring Tracy and Danny together. In 2014, a few days after she saw Styx, their tour bus burst into flames. She tried to find out the cause, but was unsuccessful. She decided to weave her own tale about it. Tracy Gayle solves Tidalwave’s tour bus fire. That was Book One. The chemistry between the lady PI and the rock musician is incredible from the start.
About Stiff Competition
America’s favorite rock band, Tidalwave, is playing the Miss America pageant. Band leader, Danny Tide, is emceeing the event. All is going according to schedule. The judges have picked the 10 semi-finalists. Suddenly, everything comes to a halt. Miss New Jersey is missing. Nobody knows what happened to her or where she is. Danny calls his longtime PI friend, Tracy Gayle, and asks her to come down to Atlantic City to help figure things out. In need of her best friend for personal support and eager to get to another case, Tracy agrees. There’s an all-out search of the hotels on the boardwalk. They find Miss New Jersey, but it’s not good. Her kidnapping leads to another assault and murder. The big star and the lady PI work together on this one, so that the Miss America pageant can continue as usual.
To my wonderful husband, Kevin. He proofreads all my stories and tells me I’m a good writer.
To my mom, who also reads all my stories and enjoys them. She’s been behind me every step of the way in my life.
Trish has published three books under America Star Books, a short story Collection of time travel/romances called Through Time and the first two books in the Tracy Gayle/Danny Tide series, The Fire and Unlucky Break.
She’s also written a short story, The Officer and His Sweet Heart, which was published in the winter 2018 Slate and Style Magazine which can be enquired of by visiting: http://writers.nfb.org/index.html
She attended college at Long Island University’s-Southampton Campus with a Bachelor’s degree in English-Writing. She lives on Long Island with her husband and two dogs and can be contacted at palhub&optonline.net
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