#BookTour #LongExcerpt “You Have the Right to Remain Silent (Zachary Blake Legal Thriller, #8)” by Mark M. Bello

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Zachary Blake Legal Thriller, #8

Legal Thriller

Date Published 04-25-2022

 

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Conservative talk-show host Mia Folger is in therapy with Dr. Harold Rothenberg. Mia and her husband, progressive Congressman Bradley Crawford, are not getting along these days, personally or politically.

When Crawford is found brutally dismembered and murdered, the evidence points to Mia as his killer. While the prosecutor pushes for a murder indictment, Dr. Rothenberg, convinced of his patient’s innocence, turns to an old friend—high profile attorney Zachary Blake, Detroit’s self-proclaimed ‘King of Justice.’

Blake will do anything for Rothenberg, the man who successfully treated his kids in their battle with a predator priest. Zack takes Mia’s case, but has his work cut out for him because Mia has been hospitalized, shocked into a catatonic state at the discovery of her husband’s mutilated body, unable to assist in her own defense.

Sensing he must prove Mia’s innocence to avoid an eventual life sentence, Zack enlists the aid of his crack investigator, Micah Love, and Micah’s cyber-specialist, Reed Spencer to dissect and poke holes in the case. But, for this case, Micah in convinced that Zack needs
more—he recommends beautiful, sharp, brash, foul-mouthed, cocky-confident New York based jury consultant extraordinaire Shari Belitz and her team of mock trial/focus group gurus.

Shari is the best of the best. Her assignment in the Folger case? Flyspeck the evidence and unleash her arsenal of psychological techniques and predictive skills—use focus groups or mock juries to determine what evidence or circumstances would cause the real jury to declare Mia Folger innocent of all charges. Zack wants no part of Shari; one cocky lawyer-Zachary Blake-should be sufficient to prove Mia’s case. Blake knows what he needs for an acquittal; a brash jury consultant from NYC will only get in his way. But Micah persists and persuades Zack him to give Shari and her team a try.

Zack, Micah, Reed, and the irrepressible Ms. Belitz join forces in an all-out attack on the evidence, while evil characters lurk in the background, engaged in a sinister plot to assure Mia’s demise.

Expect the unexpected in this whodunit legal crime thriller, the 8th installment of the Zachary Blake Legal Thriller Series, featuring all your favorite series characters and one brash, exciting newcomer who gives Blake all he can handle.

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EXCERPT

Prologue

Blood trickled from the man’s mouth. He was tied with his back against a black basement post, naked, blindfolded, bound, and gagged. Down below, blood spurted from the empty space in the middle of his body. A swift swipe of a large, sharp object had separated him from his private parts. He could not see the blow coming, nor could he witness the result, but the pain told him all he needed to know. It was excruciating. He felt blood oozing down both legs, trickling to his feet and onto the cement floor. He understood that if blood continued to gush at current levels, he would soon be dead. He was terrified, mumbling pleas for his life—silently begging for compassion, mercy, or, if neither was forthcoming, a quick death. Was she seeking only to torture him or was she a sadistic killer?

Yes, his captor was a woman. The captive tried, without success, to calm himself, to make sense of the past few hours or days; he wasn’t sure which. He tried to recognize his captor, the location of his captivity, anything he could recall, in case a miracle occurred, and he survived this torturous event. The room was secluded; the door was shut. The tightly bound gag over his mouth prevented him from calling for help. The frantic man couldn’t know this, but the door was secured with a huge padlock.

What is this place? A basement? Where? Have I been here before? Who is this woman?

She spoke to him in a whisper:

“Is this how you like it?”

And then, she raped him, demanding he tell her how much he loved her, pouring vodka down his throat, softening him up for the kill, and, finally, sadistically slicing off his manhood.

The scene was akin to the worst horror movie he could imagine, and he was the star of the show. In the movies or on television, he might have survived this horrible ordeal, lived to tell his story to the authorities. People loved horror stories, didn’t they? Perhaps he’d seek revenge in the sequel. Alas, this was not an imagined scene; it was real, and the tortured victim was about to take his last breath. His thoughts turned to the love of his life.

The worst part of this, my love, is being forced to leave you, to never fulfill the dreams we had or the plans we made. We will never have children, but you still can. Move on with your life, my darling. Mourn me—don’t forget me; but find someone who makes you as happy as I have been with you by my side. I will always love you and watch over you.

He was in and out of consciousness, becoming somewhat impervious to pain. Fear, anger, pain, and torment slowly gave way to a silent acknowledgment of his soon-to-come death. He had fought courageously, struggled mightily to survive—there was solace in the fact that he had done all he could.

Brad Crawford was a two-term congressman from Southfield, Michigan. His district was the 14th, encompassing much of the larger cities and suburbs northeast and northwest of Detroit. He wondered if his abduction and torture had political implications. Did his enemies hate him that much? What could he have done to engage this woman, or the people she worked for, to earn this horrific fate?

Try as he might, he could not think of any issue he supported or opposed that could be that consequential. In his second term, he was a Democratic rising star, a liberal supporter of the new president, sponsor of a highly popular twenty-first century infrastructure bill that would create high-paying jobs and improve the quality of life in his district. Could his support of President Belding’s progressive-leaning policies be a reason to torture and kill him? He was a popular, even beloved, congressman to most of his constituents. This tormented him in his last moments—he was dying to know why he was bound, gagged, and bleeding to death.

Feelings of confusion and sleepiness set in. A door opened; he sensed a light come on beneath his mask. Someone spoke to him—he thought he recognized her disguised voice but could not comprehend her words. He felt beads of sweat trickle from his temples and armpits, much like the blood that trickled from his empty groin.

Someone fumbled with his restraints. He felt his hands unbind but he was too weak to fight back or resist in any way. His gag was removed but he was too weak to protest his fate or plead for a last second reprieve. His blindfold was removed. His vision was blurry—he could not focus. He searched the room for his captor and made out the shape of a woman. But the image appeared and disappeared in a moment. She touched his crotch, admired her handiwork, but he no longer felt pain or humiliation. It was as if the trauma was now being perpetrated on someone else’s body.

He calmed, talking to his version of God, cursing Him for his fate, and then thanking Him for the good things in life, a terrific family, a wonderful woman, and a rewarding career devoted to public service. His tormentor continued to speak to him, but her voice sounded like multiple voices speaking simultaneously, unintelligible. Freed of his bonds and gag, he tried mightily to move and speak, but all he could muster was a soft moan.

He felt someone tugging at both his legs, his body straighten, and his head bang against the hard floor. He tried to cry out in pain but could only emit another soft moan. He felt a rush, a pulsating movement, vibration, or sense of exhilaration.  His vision suddenly focused and he saw a sharp-featured, muscular, pony-tailed woman pulling him forward. He again tried mount a defense, to call out or resist, but the sound was muffled, his vision began to blur.

He felt a sensation, but what was it? Just some last-gasp energy? Nothing made sense—he tried to suck in a deep breath, the kind that emits a gasp of relief, as if he just emerged from the depths of a swimming pool having stayed underwater for too long. But he could not breathe. He no longer had lung capacity—he was now a mere shadow of life. He felt himself break into a million pieces—ashes to ashes, dust to dust—his last conscious thought on this earth. The room became dark and quiet—and Brad Crawford, two-term congressman, beloved husband and son, could see or hear no more.

CHAPTER ONE

Mia Folger lay on the couch, smiling to herself. A ‘couch’ was featured in television and movie versions of a psychiatrist’s office. Did modern therapists use them for treatment? When she initially consulted Dr. Harold Rothenberg, her session was conducted in a different room. There was no couch. As doctor and patient began to feel more comfortable with each other, therapy moved to another room, this room, the one with the couch.

The couch, she knew, was a rather common prop for psychoanalysts, first introduced by none other than Sigmund Freud. Freud learned, and practitioners have uniformly agreed, that patient-doctor encounters benefit from being freed of the constraints of looking each other in the eye. A patient enjoys the freedom of being able to talk without critique. The office should be a no judgment zone, one in which a patient cannot see the reaction his or her statement elicited in the analyst. The couch is intended as a vehicle that frees the patient from constraints of self-awareness, enabling her to provide more honest, heartfelt responses.

Mia Folger began psychotherapy with Harold Rothenberg because she began to loathe herself and disparage her husband, who, she insisted, she deeply loved. She sought treatment to understand and rid herself of these feelings. Several sessions into her treatment, Rothenberg switched session location to the room with the couch, and Mia enjoyed her new-found freedom to speak her mind without witnessing Dr. Rothenberg’s judgment.

“I am very self-critical,” she opined in an early session. “I feel my mother’s negativity, her unrelenting judgment of everything and anything I try to accomplish in life.”

At first, Rothenberg thought she was typical of most patients who complain about their mothers. While most complain and imagine that their mothers were constant critics, their internal pictures of their mothers are commonly darker than the reality. These men and women could usually be persuaded, in therapy, that the mothers of their imagination were far more fearful than their actual mother.  But this was not the case for Mia Folger. Her mother was unrelenting, evil, judgmental, impossible to please, and a consistent negative force in Mia’s life.

She was married, wanted children someday, but would never be a stay-at-home wife and mother. She was a sought-after event planner, planning social events, parties, weddings, bar and bat-mitzvahs, non-profit mixers, and political events. Mia first met her husband at one such political event.

Rothenberg thought he would encounter trust issues with Mia, that it would take multiple sessions to enable her to feel comfortable confiding her deepest and darkest concerns. To his surprise, Mia took to therapy almost immediately. By her third session, she emerged more free, less self-critical, and responded willingly and forthrightly to his questions. Most importantly, she seemed to appreciate his insights. Today, however, she seemed distant, uncomfortable, aloof.

“Do a lot of your patients lie on this couch?”

Rothenberg was somewhat surprised by her sudden change in attitude. He pondered an answer to her ‘couch question.’ He told her that it was a psychotherapy tool, one that relieved a patient from the burden of face-to-face treatment.

“Many patients prefer the couch for that reason.”

He asked her whether she had any thoughts or memories that would be easier to talk about if she wasn’t forced to look him in the eye.

Mia was conflicted. Although she appreciated Rothenberg’s concerns, she was somewhat ambivalent about revealing her deep-rooted feelings about motherhood, fatherhood, and marital relations. Rothenberg was anything but judgmental, as she was about these three subjects, but there were areas of her life that she felt were private, feelings of which she was afraid and profoundly ashamed. Would the couch free her to discuss these things and finally deal with the sources of her shame and fear.

“Let me get this straight. You are suggesting that I can now reveal all matters that I wouldn’t feel comfortable revealing to your face?  I don’t like your shoes, or the way you always cross your legs when we talk, but I would never say those things to your face.”

“Not exactly what I had in mind, but you get the idea. What do you think? More comfortable, less comfortable, or no difference?”

“I’m not sure. I told you how I feel, though. Maybe there’s something to this couch thing, after all.”

“Whatever gets the job done and makes you feel more forthcoming. Therapy is about discussing what’s bothering you in an open and honest manner. My intent is to reduce your inhibitions toward self-acceptance expression. Anything, specifically, on you mind today?”

“I love my husband. I’d love to slice him open and then turn the knife on myself.”

Mia’s husband was Bradley Crawford, a two-term congressman, and son of Congressman Isaiah Crawford, the long-term congressman of the 13th congressional district, which included the city of Detroit. The younger Crawford was recently re-elected, in a landslide, to serve the 14th congressional district. He rode the coattails of a proverbial blue wave led by current president Louis Belding, but made possible by the toxic, divisive presidencies of Ronald John and Stephen Golding. Rothenberg lived in the district and voted twice for the younger Crawford. He was impressed with the young man’s rhetoric and politics and considered him future presidential material. He had solid credentials, came from good stock, and, by all accounts, was a wonderful human being.

Rothenberg was stunned by Mia’s sudden admission of suicidal and homicidal ideations, especially as it related to her husband. Is she telling the truth or just trying to get my attention? As a trained, experienced therapist, Rothenberg knew that most people with such thoughts never acted upon them. Rothenberg knew Mia was depressed and angry, but he had not considered her a danger to herself or others. Had he missed something? After all, clinically depressed people are sometimes pre-disposed to violence. Depression, when coupled with weak impulse control, frustration, irritability, and rage, can often lead to violent acts. While their sessions revealed many of these personality traits, Rothenberg did not consider Mia a person with weak impulse control. She was quite the contrary. He decided to explore this further.

“How long have you felt this way?”

“A long time.”

“How long?”

“Not sure. Couple of years, at least.”

“How long have you been married?”

“Four years.”

“Happily?”

“Yes, for the most part.”

“What causes you to qualify your ‘yes’ answer?”

“I want to have a baby and he is more focused on his career.”

“Is that a reason to kill him? You can’t have a baby with him if he’s dead.” Rothenberg rationalized.

“I agree. I didn’t say I had a rational explanation for my feelings, only that I felt them.”

“But would you act on them? And do you actually loathe yourself enough to consider suicide?”

“I didn’t say I could or would act upon them. I said I’d like to.”

“I agree that this is an important distinction.”

Rothenberg also knew that a person with a history of past physical abuse or illicit drug use was far more likely to resort to acts of violence.

“Is there anything about your past I should know? Have you ever been abused, physically or sexually? Have you ever taken or abused illegal or legal drugs? Anything you tell me, as you well know, will be kept in complete confidence.”

“No, nothing like that.”

Rothenberg was happy to hear Mia say those words, assuming she was being truthful. He decided to focus on impulsivity. Impulsivity correlates favorably with aggressive behavior. The more he probed, the less concerned he became. She did not take drugs of any kind. There were no recent events in her life that would trigger any type of violent outburst. She appeared to have good impulse control, almost no rage, and exhibited very little aggressive behavior. All drug and clinical tests were negative. There was no physical component or impairment. Testing for serotonergic deficiency was negative, as her 5-HIAA levels (the primary serotonin metabolite) were within normal limits. The doctor was also able to rule out any impairment of the prefrontal cortex, which is involved in executive function.

Mia had no history of aggressive behavior or serious childhood trauma (despite her mother’s judgmental behavior), no impulsiveness, and no drug abuse. Rothenberg decided to note her comments and monitor her for signs of increased aggressive behavior or any serious escalation of threats to commit acts of aggression. At the end of the day, he remained relatively unconcerned about her admission.

“How are you feeling right now?”

“I’m fine, thank you. How about yourself?”

“Funny, Mia. Are you trying to get a rise out of me?”

“No, not at all.”

“Good. So, tell me, if you were going to commit suicide or kill your husband, what’s the plan? How would you do it?” Rothenberg challenged. He knew that the lack of a plan was a sign that his patient lacked the clinical intensity to commit the acts.

“I haven’t thought that far ahead. I just get angry every now and then.”

This was the response he wanted. Suicidal or homicidal thoughts, to be considered serious, needed imminent risk, a plan, some intrusiveness, or frequency. None of this was present in Mia’s responses.

“Well Mia, I’m glad you disclosed these feelings. This is a very important step in your treatment. Let’s keep talking about them. Perhaps we can develop a safety plan together. I’d like to increase the frequency of your visits. Is that okay?”

“Sure. I like talking to you.”

“If you ever feel out of control, call me immediately?”

“I will.”

“Great. Let’s get together in two days. Make an appointment as you check out today.”

“Check out?” Mia laughed.

Rothenberg signed, rolled his eyes, and laughed. “Right. Poor choice of words. How about see you in two days?”

“See you in two days.”

CHAPTER TWO

Mia Folger knew Brad Crawford was at home, probably awaiting her arrival. He’d be annoying, asking her about Rothenberg and therapy, wondering how she like it and him. She had zero desire for the congressional third degree. In fact, she wished he’d get off his social justice crusade platform, just one time, and be her loving and caring husband. She had all but given up on her chances of having a baby, unless, of course, she chose to divorce, rather than kill the man.

Instead of rushing home following her visit with Rothenberg, she stopped at Mr. Joe’s, a Southfield Sports Bar. She sat at the bar, alone, sipping on a Long Island Iced Tea, watching Bernie Smilovitz announce the latest coaching change for the woeful Detroit Lions. Mia was a football fan, but had long given up on the local team, choosing instead, the Kansas City Chiefs. Her rationale was that the Chiefs were in the AFC and did not directly compete with the pathetic Lions, who had recently traded their franchise quarterback and embarked on yet another “rebuilding plan.” If I had a company and ran it the way the Ford family runs the Lions, I’d have gone out of business long ago.

            A couple of men tried to approach her, and she shooed them away without a sound, just a simple flick of her wrist and hand. As they retreated, they chuckled, mumbling something that sounded like ‘frigid bitch.’ Mia didn’t care; she wasn’t interested in any man but Brad, the love of her life. Bars were for drinking, not carousing with strangers. And Mia Folger intended to drink. Word floated around the bar that she was not interested in a party, and the men left her alone. She finished her first Long Island Tea and ordered a second. The ‘tea’ consisted of shots of vodka, run, gin, and tequila, among other things. She began to feel the soothing effects of intoxication, perhaps assisted by medication she was taking, prescribed by Dr. Rothenberg.

She liked Rothenberg. He was direct, no nonsense, but had an easy way about him and a good sense of humor. His best quality was his patience; she had given him a lot of shit and he was virtually unflappable. He’s heard it all before, she surmised. In addition, she didn’t like feeling this way. She loved her husband, despite his ‘too busy’ work ethic, loathed herself for wanting to harm him, and wanted desperately for Rothenberg to ‘cure’ her of her wicked thoughts. She’d continue to see him for as long as it took.

Mia ordered a third Long Island, downed it quickly, paid her tab, stood, and began to stagger out of the bar. The bartender came around from behind the bar, took her arm at the elbow, and asked if she wanted him to call an Uber.

“I’ll do it, thanks,” she stuttered, pulling her arm away and stumbling forward. Patrons looked on, laughing, enjoying the unusual spectacle of a female drunk. Once outside the bar, Mia took a deep breath and looked up and down Twelve Mile Road for a cab. She turned east, and checked Northwestern Highway, where a yellow cab was cruising the right lane, heading north. Mia raised her hand, and the cab driver made a sharp right on Twelve and another into Mr. Joe’s parking lot. Mia pressed on her key fob. A horn sounded and lights blinked on and off in a parked Ford Explorer.

“I’ll come back for it tomorrow,” she slurred, as she got into the back seat. “I was just about to call an Uber,” she continued. “How nice of you to show up when you did.”

The dark-skinned cabbie wore a turban and a thin beard. He smiled and spoke in broken English. “I hate Uber—it’s killing my business. Where to, miss?”

“5000 Town Center,” she mumbled, barely coherent.

Mia Folger and Brad Crawford lived together, at least when Brad wasn’t in Washington (almost never these days), in an upscale high-rise condominium community. The tower stood in a group of six high-rise, high-rent buildings, which included a hotel and four office buildings off the Lodge Freeway, the main freeway linking Southfield with Detroit. On a clear day, upper unit residents enjoyed a panoramic view of the city, including the Detroit skyline and Windsor, Ontario, some twenty miles southeast.

The complex had tight security and full, hotel-like, service for the rich and famous. Congressmen Crawford and his wife were a high-profile couple who craved privacy but enjoyed amenities. This was the perfect set-up. And tonight, the residence was only two miles southeast of Mr. Joe’s.

There was no conversation between driver and passenger, and the driver soon eased into the complex. He pushed a button on the meter to lock in the fare, then turned to his passenger to collect her cash or credit card. Mia was fast asleep. A doorman approached the cab and opened the passenger side back door. Mia was leaning against the door and would have fallen out of the cab, had the doorman not caught her. She awoke with a start, wondering where she was and what time it was. The impatient cabbie wanted his money, Mia looked disoriented, and the doorman reached into his pocket and pulled out a ten-dollar bill.

“Keep the change,” he grumbled, handing the ten to the cabbie, while struggling to help Mia out of the back seat. He knew she was good for the money—it was a cash flow issue. Mia steadied herself and started to walk forward, stumbling a second time.

“Would you like me to get a wheelchair, Mrs. Crawford?” the doorman offered.

“No Charlie,” she mumbled. “What if a disabled person needs it and it isn’t here?”

“We have plenty of them, Mrs. Crawford. I don’t think it will be a problem.”

“How many times do I have to tell you to call me Mia, Charlie?”

“As many times as you’d like, Mrs. Crawford. I’m not permitted to call residents by their first names. You know that.” He tried to walk her forward, but she continued to stumble with each step.

“Even if I expressly give you permission? Mrs. Crawford is my mother-in-law. Yech!”

“Can’t do it.”

“How about Ms. Folger, then. Call me Ms. Folger,” she sputtered and emphasized the “F” in Folger, spraying saliva all over Charlie.

“Folger it is. How about that wheelchair?”

“Is the press anywhere around? Any busybodies with cell phones?”

“Never mind. I’ll walk you up.”

“Thank you, Charlie. You are the sweetest boy.” She reached in her purse, pulled out a Benjamin, and handed it to Charlie. His eyes lit up when he saw the denomination.

“I can’t take that, Ms. Folger.”

“Folger, I like it, Charlie.” She reached in her purse and pulled out another hundred.

“Put your money away, Ms. Folger,” he urged, red-faced.

“Only if you take the first bill,” she muttered.

“Okay, okay. See? Look, I’m putting it in my pocket.” He folded the bill and put in into his right pocket. “Let’s get you upstairs.”

“Lead the way, my knight in shining armor,” she replied, stupefied.

Charlie smiled and ushered her forward, propping her up, trying his damnedest to not make a scene. The other doormen snickered at his predicament, but Charlie had the Benjamin. Who’s laughing at whom? They rode the elevator to the 30th floor and Charlie helped Mia out of the car. They staggered to apartment 3030 and Mia, half asleep, fumbled around in her purse, trying to locate her keys. She handed the purse to Charlie and gave him permission to look through it and find her keys. But there were none to be found.

“I must have left them at the bar or in the car,” she babbled. “Hey! Did you catch that little rhyme? I’m the next Dr. Suess. I do not like Green Eggs and Ham, Sam I am . . .” she rambled on.

“I have security keys. I’ll call over there in the morning,” Charlie offered. “Want me to send someone to pick up the car?”

“That would be great, but make sure they have the keys first. Otherwise, you’re wasting your time.”

“True that,” Charlie mused. How did she come up with that in her current state?  Charlie turned the key in the door and pushed it open. The place was in shambles, ransacked. Possessions were strewn around the living area, framed artwork smashed, chairs, tables, and loveseat overturned. An area rug was stained with a rusty liquid, which was also seen in drag marks leading down the hallway to the bedrooms in the back of the apartment. A corner desk lay on its side, with a printer and shattered monitor on the floor, still tethered to a CPU on the floor where the desk once stood upright.

“What the hell?” Charlie grumbled.

“Brad?” Mia shrieked, suddenly sober, ignoring the mess. Who did this? Where is my husband? She wondered.

            “Congressman Crawford?” Charlie shouted, echoing his tenant’s concerns. The building had tight security. How could this happen?

Together, they followed the rusty substance trail. The substance looked more and more like blood. They reached the master bedroom. Congress Bradley Crawford lay on peacefully on the blood-soaked bedspread. Crawford was naked, blood still oozing from an open wound at the center of his body. The room was, otherwise, untouched.

“No! God, please no!” Mia screamed. “Not my Brad! Oh, God!”

Charlie grabbed her and turned her head away from the grizzly scene, never taking his eyes off Congressman Crawford. Mia buried her head into Charlie’s chest, sobbing uncontrollably. Charlie held her with one arm and took out a walkie-talkie with the other, pressing a button and shouting “9-1-1—3030,” into the speaker.

“Let’s get out of here, Mrs. Crawford . . . uh . . . Ms. Folger,” he pleaded. He led her into the vestibule and out the front door. Mia needed to sit down somewhere, but television cop shows told Charlie not to touch anything inside the apartment until the crime scene was processed.

They staggered to the elevator area. A bench and two chairs sat opposite the elevators; a mirror hung from the wall. Mia was in shock, delirious, rigid, almost catatonic, mumbling incoherently. Charlie was unnerved, shaking with fear. He’d never seen a dead body before. In fact, despite his quasi-security status at 5000 Town Center, Charlie had never even witnessed a crime.

The elevator ding sounded, the door opened, and two doormen and a supervisor exited the elevator.

“Simpson? What’s going on? Why the frantic 9-1-1?” his supervisor demanded.

“It’s Congressman Crawford, sir. He-he’s d-dead.”

“Dead? How?” The super was shocked. 5000 Town Center was a safe, quiet, secure place.

“I don’t know, sir. The place is a mess, turned upside-down. He-he he’s in the back bedroom, blood everywhere. They cut it off, sir.”

“Who’s they, Simpson? Cut what off?”

Charlie began to sob. “Whoever killed the congressman, sir. Th-they c-cut off his penis. It-it looks like . . . oh, my God . . . like he bled to death!”

Mia abruptly stood, screamed, and collapsed to the floor.

***

            A half-hour later, the place was crawling with Southfield cops. CSI was inside the apartment, processing the crime scene. The lead detective, Ed Schreiber, was talking to Charlie, trying to get a statement while events were fresh in his mind. Mia, unconsciousness or catatonic, Charlie didn’t know which, had been carted off to Providence Hospital.

“I have no idea, Detective,” Charlie continued. “No one checked in. There were no visitors. No one called in to schedule a visit. We checked the security cameras, and nobody came in or out except our residents on different floors. We have them on camera coming in and going straight to their residences. I have no idea how this happened.”

“What about Mrs. Crawford?”

“She was here earlier this morning. She went back out, came home late, drunk, and I was helping her to her apartment.”

“What time was that?”

“About 45 minutes ago.”

“Where was she before that?”

“I don’t know, getting drunk somewhere. A cab driver dropped her off. He’d probably know where she was. We probably have his cab on camera.”

“That’s good work, young man. Good thinking. Get me the tape, would you, please?”

“Do you have any idea when Mr. and Mrs. Crawford left the apartment today? Did they leave together? Separately? Did they come back and go out again? I’d like to revisit all of the ins and outs of the day, okay?” Detective Schreiber directed the apartment supervisor.

“She left this morning, sir. She said she had a doctor’s appointment,” Charlie offered. “I’m not sure about him, when he left, if he left. All I can tell you is I found him, like that, in his bedroom.”

“Like what?”

“Like what, what?”

“You said you found him like that. Like what?”

“Like in his bed, lying on his back, naked, bleeding.

“No one saw him come or go?”

“Who?”

“Congressman Crawford.”

Charlie looked around to his colleagues, who shrugged. “No, no one saw him come or go. He may have left and come back when we weren’t looking. That’s possible. I can check the security footage, or you can have the drive.”

“I’ll take the drive, if you don’t mind.”

At that moment, a crime scene tech exited the apartment and approached Schreiber.

“Time of death, based on body temp and rigor was between 9:00 AM and11:00 AM this morning. The victim died from exsanguination.”

“English, please?” Schreiber bristled, shaking his head, nostrils flaring.

“He bled to death,” the tech retorted.

“He cut himself shaving or something else?”

“Unless he cut off his own penis, he was murdered.”

“He bled to death from a severed penis?”

“That’s about the size of it, sir.”

“Funny, smart ass. Next, you’re going to say something like ‘size counts,’ right?”

“You took the words right out of my mouth.”

“Anything else?”

“Yeah. I don’t think he was killed here. I think he was brought here.”

“But what about the mess in the apartment?”

“Staged to look like a robbery or something.”

“What about all the blood?”

“Don’t shoot the messenger, but I have a theory.”

“I’m all ears.”

“This guy Crawford pissed someone off. This is a crime of passion. He wasn’t killed here; he was killed elsewhere. The killer collected his blood and poured it on the floor before dragging the victim into the bedroom. He positioned him on the bed and poured the rest of the blood onto his crotch.”

“Why the hell would he do all that?”

“I have no idea—you’re the detective. You figure it out. I’m just reporting the science.”

“Crime of passion, huh? Was this guy having an affair?”

“He’s a two-term congressman, sir,” Charlie interrupted. “It would be pretty stupid to have an affair. Besides, have you met his wife? She’s a stunner, sir.”

“Have not had the pleasure, yet. Doesn’t matter what she looks like. You know the old saying about absolute power corrupting absolutely. I’ll bet this guy could get any chick he wanted. Thanks for your help with all this. Sorry you had to witness such a grizzly scene. I understand why you’re upset. Unfortunately, shit happens. Where did they take the widow again? Beaumont?”

“No, Providence.”

“Providence. My next stop.”

CHAPTER THREE

Detective Eddie Schreiber was a grizzled veteran on the Southfield Police force. While Southfield had a small police force and did not see anything close to the level of crime in Detroit, the city was not crime free, and its police force was never bored. Still, a grisly murder at the prestigious Town Center complex?  This case needed to be solved, quickly and quietly. Hopefully, they were dealing with a crime of passion committed by someone the congressman knew. Schreiber’s money was on the wife, Mia Folger, lying in front of him, in her hospital bed.

Mia appeared to be sleeping peacefully. Schreiber sat next to her, waiting patiently, reading, and swiping emails on his iPhone. Stakeouts and events like this one where a witness was not yet ready to sing, were excellent opportunities to catch up on emails and social media activity. Suddenly, Mia stirred, mumbled something Schreiber couldn’t make out, and became quiet again.

“Mrs. Crawford?” Schreiber shook her gently, hoping she was awake. Nothing. A nurse entered the room.

“You’re wasting your time, Detective. She’s been severely traumatized, almost into a catatonic state. Furthermore, she is heavily medicated, so, even if she were able to converse, the medication would make her incoherent. The good news, for you, is that she isn’t going anywhere. I don’t think she’s going to wake up anytime soon. Her therapist, Dr. Harold Rothenberg, will be in to see her tomorrow. Hopefully, he can shed some light on the situation, perhaps, coax her out of this delirious state she finds herself in.

“She’s in therapy?” Schreiber inquired. This was a new revelation. Why did she need a therapist?  “What’s the doctor’s name, again?”

“Rothenberg, sir. Dr. Harold Rothenberg.”

“Why do I know that name?” Schreiber wondered out loud.

“The case against the Church, where Zack Blake represented his now wife and step-sons in a clergy abuse case.”

The lightbulb went on in Schreiber’s head. “Of course, Blake’s ticket to fame and fortune. Can’t say that creep and those enablers with the Church didn’t deserve what they got. Despicable pieces of shit, every damned one of them.” Schreiber was talking to himself, oblivious of the nurse who stood before him waiting, slightly embarrassed by his sudden tirade and use of foul language. Schreiber’s mind returned from its travels. The nurse and Schreiber looked at each other, both slightly embarrassed.

“Are you okay, Detective?” The nurse broke the silence.

“Yes, sorry for the salty language. But that case and those perverts never sat well with me. I’m glad Blake took them to school and cleaned their clocks. They had it coming. Still doing that shit, still covering it all up, blaming the victims.”

“No problem, Detective. I am right there with you. Anyway, Mia’s not waking up anytime soon. Dr. Rothenberg should be here around 7:30, 8:00 tomorrow morning during rounds. Perhaps he can shed some light on the situation. Come back then?”

“That is a great idea, Nurse . . .”

“Rosenfeld, Cheryl Rosenfeld.”

“Well, nice to meet you Nurse Rosenfeld.”

“Call me Cheryl. My friends do.”

Is she coming on to me? “We’re friends?” He asked.

“You seem like a good guy, for a cop.”

“If I had nickel for every half-assed compliment I’ve ever received.”

“I didn’t mean it that way.”

“Oh? What way did you mean it? Everyone hates a cop, until they need one.”

“I don’t hate cops. I appreciate your service. I wasn’t shaming you. But it’s like with lawyers, you know, how you always feel like you’re being cross-examined? With cops, you always feel like you’re a suspect, or being interrogated.”

“I guess I can understand that. Say, if I may be so bold, what time does your shift end? Would you like to get a drink or something? I’m buying.”

“Rain check. I’ve got the graveyard shift tonight. I just got on. In fact, if you get here first thing in the morning to see Rothenberg, I should still be here.”

“And we can grab a coffee?”

“You are a persistent bugger.”

“I promise not to interrogate you.”

“It’s a date.”

“Great, see you in the morning.”

“See you in the morning.”

Eddie Schreiber practically danced away. He loathed the dating scene. He hadn’t been out on a date for as long as he could remember. His ex-wife began dating and screwing around, even before the ink was dry on their divorce papers. She was the love of his life, the only woman he had ever been intimate with, and her willingness to move on so quickly and easily was quite hurtful. Eddie had a few awkward dates, but they were fix-ups by the wives of his fellow detectives. He didn’t have free will in those situations. They were forced upon him. This was different. He charmed his way into a date with Nurse Rosenfeld. What was her first name? Cheryl. She was sweet, sharp-witted, and had a beautiful smile. He was looking forward to the coffee.

 

The following morning, Eddie Schreiber drove an unmarked squad car a couple mile south of headquarters to Providence Hospital on Nine Mile Road and Greenfield. He flashed his badge at security and was quickly passed through. He asked the guard how to get to the Psychiatric Unit. The guard point the way and gave him a visitor sticker to place on his chest. Schreiber took the elevator to the Psych ward. Nurse Rosenfeld was seated at the nurse’s station.

“Well, well, Cheryl,” he chirped. “Ready for our date?”

“I get off in fifteen,” she replied. “I could really use some coffee.”

“Great. Is the doctor in with Mrs. Crawford?”

“Who?”

“Mrs. Crawford, you know, the woman we talked about yesterday.”

“She was admitted as ‘Folger,’ not ‘Crawford.” Nurse Rosenfeld advised.

“Right.” Schreiber made a note of that interesting point. He looked at his note pad for a name and spoke before he found it.

“Is Dr. . . . uh . . . Rothenberg with the patient?”

“I believe he is.”

“Did you let him know I was coming?”

“I did.”

“Can we go see him now?”

“See, interrogation!” She exclaimed.

“It was not. I was just asking where the guy was,” he pleaded.

“Gotcha!” She laughed.

“Okay, smart-ass. Keep it up and you’ll be buying coffee.”

“Not if you want my company.”

“Geez. You are one tough broad.”

“And that is two strikes. I loathe that sexist, 1950’s term.”

Schreiber raised both hands and arms in surrender. “Sorry. I’ll shut up. Can we please see the doc?”

“Right this way.” She led him down the hall to a dark room. A man in a lab coat sat at the bedside of Mia Folger.

“Dr. Rothenberg? This is Detective Schreiber, the cop I was telling you about? Dr. Harold Rothenberg? Detective Edward Schreiber.”

“Pleased to meet you, Detective.” Rothenberg stood, respectfully, and extended his hand. The two men shook hands.

“Likewise. So, how’s the patient?”

“She enjoys doctor-patient confidentiality, but you can certainly see for yourself that she is not doing too well.”

“Is this some sort of psychotic break?”

“Not the term I would use, but for our purposes, I would say yes.”

“I understand, in talking to Nurse Rosenfeld, that you have been seeing her for a while.”

Rothenberg shot Cheryl a hostile glare.

“Hey, I never told him anything of the sort.” Cheryl snapped.

“You advised she was in therapy. True, doc?”

Cheryl diverted her eyes, upset at her own breach of patient confidentiality. She hadn’t recalled saying this, but Schreiber was reading from his notes.

“No big deal. Yes, she was in therapy. No breach in telling you that. Many people are in therapy, one way or another. What I can’t share with you is why she’s in therapy or anything we’ve discussed.”

“Her husband is dead, and she seems to be the last person to see him alive. Does that count for anything?”

“Afraid not, Detective.”

“Can you tell me what kinds of things, generally, would cause a patient to clam up and suddenly become an emotional vegetable?”

“Emotional vegetable? Interesting choice of words. I’ll have to remember that one.”

“What would you call it?”

“A catatonic state, brought on, perhaps, by severe emotional trauma. I have not been able to communicate with her since the death of her husband, so I have no clue what happened. I can only surmise, since its onset was yesterday, that it was triggered, in some way, by her husband’s death.”

“Do you have any thoughts about what kind of trauma might trigger such a condition?”

“Finding her husband brutally murdered would certainly do the trick.”

Touché. One question too many. “Could murdering someone cause someone to withdraw like this?”

“Hard to say. Witnessing the murder is more likely. There is a much bigger element of shock. If you’re the murderer, seeing the body a second time is not too traumatic. This is all hypothetical, of course.”

“Oh, of course,” Schreiber confirmed.

“I really can’t tell you much, Detective. She is my patient. I have rounds, other patients to see. Will there be anything else?”

“Will you make your records available?”

“Not voluntarily. And, even if a judge ordered their release, I would have to appeal such a ruling. We take patient confidentiality very seriously.”

“I guess we’ll cross that bridge when or if we come to it.”

“I guess so. Zachary Blake is a friend of mine.”

Is that supposed to intimidate me? “I know, Nurse Rosenfeld reminded me.”

“I really have to go. It’s getting late. If you have any additional questions, not saying I can answer them, but call my office and make an appointment.”

“Will do. Thanks for your time.”

“You’re welcome.” Rothenberg saluted and walked away, leaving Schreiber with Nurse Rosenfeld.

“Sorry I tattled on you,” Schreiber conceded. “It wasn’t deliberate.”

“No problem. In retrospect, it was my fault, not yours. You were just doing your job.”

“How about that coffee?”

“Can I get a rain check? I’m exhausted. This has turned into a fourteen-hour shift.”

“You’re not mad at me, are you?”

“Not at all,” she fudged. She did not appreciate being manipulated, then outed by the wily detective.

“I’ll let you off the hook if we can make another date, right here and now.”

“I don’t need your permission to walk away, Detective.”

“Call me ‘Eddie,’ please? Another day for coffee or drinks? Tomorrow? Tonight, when you wake up?”

“I’m off tomorrow. Tomorrow night, okay?”

“It’s a date. Give me your number. I’ll text you.”

They exchanged numbers and both went their separate ways.

CHAPTER FOUR

Doctor Harold Rothenberg was concerned about his patient, Mia Folger. Given what she told him about her husband, Rothenberg was concerned that she might be a suspect in a murder case. Worse, she might be guilty. He picked up his phone and punched in a number.

“Zachary Blake and Associates, Kristen speaking. How may I help you?”

“Dr. Harold Rothenberg, here, Kristen. How are you doing?”

“Fine, sir, you?”

“Is Zack in?”

“I believe he is. I’ll buzz his office.”

“Thanks, Kristen.”

“Not at all. Please hold.”

Rothenberg was treated to music on hold for a minute or two. The line clicked.

“Zachary Blake. Harold?”

“Zack, how are you?”

“I’m fine, Harold. Is this about the boys?” Dr. Rothenberg was Zack’s sons’ long-time therapist, following their traumatic experience with an abusive priest. He was a family friend.

“No, Zack, it isn’t. They’re doing quite well. They’re both adults. Can’t tell you much. Ask them.”

“I wasn’t prying Harold. I was concerned the boys were the reason for your call. What’s up?”

“I’ve got a patient who is about to be charged with murder.”

“Murder? Who is it?”

“Does attorney-client privilege apply to this conversation?”

“No, Harold. The patient is not my client.”

“Is there anything you wouldn’t do for me if I asked a favor, Zack?”

“Nothing I can think of, my dear friend, unless it was illegal or immoral.”

“I’d like to refer a client, and I’d like you to commit to representing this client, no matter which way the publicity winds blow. Would you do that for me, Zack?”

“Boy, Harold, you sure know how to push my buttons. Mental manipulation must be a specialty of yours. Of course, I’ll represent your client. You’ve done plenty for me and my family over the years. What’s this all about?”

“One more minor issue, Zack. I’m not sure the client can pay you.”

“Are you trying to get me to back off, Harold? I’ve got plenty of money, as you know, and I love pro-bono cases. Now, give. What’s this about?”

“Are you familiar with the name Mia Folger?”

“The right-wing talk show host?”

“That’s the one.”

“Her real name is Mia Crawford. She’s the congressman’s wife.”

“Congressman Crawford? The guy who was just murdered?”

“Yes.”

“Is Mia a suspect?”

“I believe she’s about to be.”

“What makes you say that?”

“As I was visiting her in the hospital this morning . . .”

“What’s she doing in the hospital?”

“Have you taken the case?”

“Yes.”

“But you have no retainer agreement or consideration.”

“You owe me a buck.”

“Huh?”

“Will you confirm, please, that you owe me a buck and will pay me the next time I see you?”

“Whatever.”

“Not ‘whatever.’ I’m serious. Confirm you owe me a buck.”

“I owe you a buck.” Rothenberg shrugged.

“Great! I now have a legal and binding representation agreement to represent Mia Crawford.”

“She goes by Folger.”

“Why Folger? Why not Crawford?”

“Show biz reasons. Besides, you may assume they did not have the most stable of marriages.”

“Oh shit! Here we go! Harold, did you sandbag me?”

“Not exactly, Zack. May I tell you the story?”

“Please.”

Harold Rothenberg spilled his guts about his sessions with Mia.

“Shit Doc, your reading of the situation is correct. She will be charged, especially when the cops find out about their marital issues. Who else knows about her threats of violence?”

“Not sure, but patients don’t tell me everything. If she was candid with me, she may have been candid with other close friends or relatives.”

“Do we know those people might be?”

“No, not really.”

“Okay, well, she enjoys a presumption of innocence She also has a right to remain silent. I’ll go talk to her at the hospital and see what’s what.”

“You can’t do that,” Rothenberg floated.

“Oh, why not? The right to remain silent doesn’t apply to discussions between Mia and her lawyer. She can talk to me in complete confidence.”

“That’s not the issue, Zack. She’s catatonic, in shock; she’s not talking to anyone unless we have a breakthrough.”

“Like comatose?”

“Something like that.”

“So, she cannot participate in her own defense? She can’t tell me what she was doing that morning? Where she was, who she was with, or who has a particular axe to grind with her husband?”

“Nope.”

“Great. Any more good news?”

“There is a detective snooping around. His name is Schreiber—he’s with the Southfield Police. He tried to get me to talk about her but backed off when I cited doctor-patient confidentiality. I’m almost positive he’s going to try and obtain her hospital and medical records.”

“I’m familiar with the guy. He’s a friend to Jack Dylan.” Dylan was a police captain in Dearborn. He and Zack clashed over a murder case back in the day. Arya Khan’s case was one of the cases that propelled Zack’s career and notoriety as Detroit ‘King of Justice.’ Dylan found himself facing a murder charge up north, and Zack came to his rescue. They were now good friends. Perhaps the friendship would come in handy in dealing with Schreiber.

“We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it, Harold. Anything else?”

“Nothing I can think. Hey, Zack?”

“Yeah, Doc?”

“Thanks for doing this. I really appreciate it.”

“It’s what I do, man.”

“I know, but you don’t usually do it pro bono.”

“It’s not pro bono,” Zack grumbled. “You owe me a buck! You better pay up when I see you!”

“I’m good for it, Zack,” Rothenberg chuckled. “Thanks again.”

“I need to see those records, Harold.”

“I know you do, Zack, but I have to get consent. Let me talk to some ethics people and find out what is typically done in these situations.”

“Okay, talk soon.”

***

The following morning, Harold Rothenberg returned to Mia Folger’s hospital room. The hospital was trying to decide what to do with her. If she remained unresponsive, they would send her to a psychiatric hospital, probably Walter Reuther, in Westland, unless Rothenberg or Zack Blake could leverage her status and get her into a private mental health facility. Rothenberg hoped for a breakthrough. Mia would regain consciousness and provide a perfectly logical defense to the coming allegations that she brutally mutilated and murdered her husband.

He looked right at her. Her eyes were half open, bluish green, staring into space. He waved his hand in front of her eyes. No reaction. Her shoulder-length brown hair was matted and tangled from lying in bed too long. She looked somewhat emaciated and unclean, but he could plainly see the remnants of a once beautiful woman. Consciousness, a little food, a shower, some make-up and fashion, and Mia Folger would be a head-turner. A cocktail of drugs helped to keep her calm, sedated. Saliva trickled down the side of her mouth, the effects of an unconscious, medicated state. Mia Folger was mentally, a missing person. Rothenberg decided to cease her medication protocol and let nature take its course. He penned instructions in her chart and walked out of the room, stopping at the nurses’ station to deliver the chart and verbally repeat the instructions.

CHAPTER FIVE

Detective Eddie Schreiber walked into the Southfield office of the late Congressman Brad Crawford. The lobby was small and elegantly furnished. A receptionist was whispering into a telephone receiver on the other side of a partition that separated the lobby from the inner office. Schreiber waited patiently at the window. The receptionist finished her call, slid the glass window open, and looked up at her visitor.

“May I help you?” She smiled.

Schreiber flashed his badge. “Detective Schreiber to see Elyssa Naylor. I have an appointment.”

Naylor was Congressman Crawford’s chief assistant and sometimes bodyguard. She had called police headquarters the previous day and asked to speak to the person in charge of the Crawford murder investigation. She refused to provide details over the phone, so the sergeant made an appointment for Eddie to pay her a visit.

Eddie sat down in a lobby chair, rather comfortable for an office lobby. People could fall asleep waiting . . . As his eyes closed and his thoughts drifted, a door opened, and a young woman muttered “Detective?”

“That’s me,” Schreiber stood. “Detective Eddie Schreiber here to see Ms. Naylor.”

“I’m Elyssa. come on in. Sad to meet you under these difficult circumstances.”

“Indeed. Hopefully, I won’t take up too much of your time.”

“Coffee, pop, water?” In Michigan, soda is “pop,” thanks primarily to the Faygo beverage company.

“No thanks.”

He followed her down a short hallway to the last office, a beautifully appointed office with Mahogany walls and bookcases. Photos of the congressman with the president, senators, celebrities, and wealthy donors adorned the walls.

“This was his office,” Naylor indicated, pointing to a chair on the opposite side of an elaborate, hand-carved, ornate, pillared desk. She sat down in a matching, oversized executive chair.

Our tax dollars at work, Eddie mused. “You called me down here, Ms. Naylor. What can I do for you?”

“Have you arrested Mrs. Crawford, yet?”

“Pardon me?”

“Mia Folger Crawford. Have you arrested her?”

“And why would I arrest Mrs. Crawford?”

“Because she murdered her husband.”

“That’s quite a charge, Ms. Naylor. Did you witness this murder?”

“No, of course not, but she’s the only person who hated Brad enough to kill him.”

“Hate is a strong word. They were married. Most people I’ve talked to suggest that they had a pretty good marriage.”

“Smokescreen Detective. Mia wanted a divorce, but Brad thought it would hurt his career. He wanted to tough it out, lead separate lives, but stay married if they couldn’t reconcile.”

“And you know this, how?”

“I am . . . er . . . I was . . . Brad’s right-hand person. I know . . . er . . . knew everything that went on his life, including everything that went on in his marriage.”

“Not getting along in a marriage is a far cry from murder.”

“She hated the idea of pretending they were happy. She didn’t want an open marriage. She despised him and the fact that he put his career ahead of her and her plans to have a family.”

“Still a far cry from murder.”

“I have texts.”

“Texts?”

“Texts.”

“What do they say?”

“See for yourself. I collected a bunch of them on this flash drive.” She handed over a small, rubberized case containing a green USB circuit board with a congressional logo printed on its base. “I’m constantly amazed what people will put in a text or email.”

“How did you get these?” He pondered.

“Snooping,” she admitted.

Snooping? She may have violated the law. “I’ll check out the texts. Do you have the congressman’s phone?

“We haven’t been able to find his phone. We’ve looked everywhere.”

“Does it have GPS tracking or Find My Phone?”

“Probably, but we can’t find the phone. Tracking must be turned off. Damn thing contains a lot of private, maybe even quasi-classified information and important contacts.”

“We’ll do our best to find it. Have you ever witnessed the Crawford couple arguing? Her being violent?”

“I’ve seen them argue. We’ve all seen them. I wouldn’t call any of the arguments violent, but these texts . . .” She trailed off, choked up.

“Anyone else I should talk with who can verify your account?”

“Anyone who was close with this couple, and that might be hundreds of people, can verify that their marriage was on the rocks and that Mia was very unhappy. Besides, check out the texts. You’ll get a rather vivid picture of the relationship.”

“Please get me a list of these ‘hundreds of people.’”

“Will do. Anything else? I have a funeral to arrange.”

“Sorry for your loss. We will do everything we can to bring the killer to justice.”

“Thank you, Detective. I’ll be fine when I see that bitch behind bars.”

Strong feelings for a legislative assistant. Something going on between her and the congressmen? Schreiber penned a note in his pocket-sized notebook.

***

            Eddie returned to headquarters, gathered his investigative team in his office, and popped the flash drive into his computer. The screen blinked off and on; the CPU made a whirring noise, and the screen came to life with a series of files to choose from. Eddie clicked on the first file and a series of texts appeared on his screen.

Crawford: “Sorry babe. Working late again. Don’t wait up.”

                Folger: “Sure, sure. Think I was born yesterday? Which bimbo this time?”

                Crawford: “Cut the shit Mia. No bimbo. I love you.”

                Folger: “FY-A”

                Crawford: “Real mature. Signing off. Sleep tight.”

                Folger: “GFY”

“Kind of childish, but no overt threats of violence. What does ‘FY-A’ mean?” Jerry Kramer, Schreiber’s chief assistant wondered.

“’Fuck you, asshole.’ ‘GFY’ is, of course, ‘go fuck yourself.’” Schreiber advised.

“I knew that one,” Kramer shrugged. “One thing is clear. She’s not very happy with him.”

“That’s obvious. Open another one. See if things escalate.” Schreiber commanded.

Kramer clicked on the next series.

                Folger: “Where the fuck are you?”

                No answer from Crawford.

                Folger: “Answer me, philandering whore! Want me to go to the press?”

                Crawford: “C’mon Mia. Stop this. For hundredth time, not cheating on you.”

                Folger: “Lying sack o shit!” (The text was accompanied by cartoon pile of feces)

                Crawford: “Hilarious Mia. Home soon. Finishing up.”

Folger: “Who is it this time? That iron-pumping Naylor? Bet she kicks your ass in bed. Like it rough? I can get rough-violent too. Handcuffs whips chains knives. How about we cut the little fucker right off-no more wandering dick. Wandering dickless.”

                Crawford: “Jesus Mia. Home soon. Calm down. We’ll talk.”

                Folger: “What’s to talk about? Field day for press. Career down the toilet.”

                Crawford: “Please stop Mia. Drinking?”

                Folger: “Drunk.” WTF you care?”

                Crawford: “Care a lot.”

                “Sure you do. Get your ass home. We’ll talk.”

 

“Whoa!” Kramer exclaimed. “Did I read that right? Did she threaten to cut off his dick?”

“I believe she did,” Schreiber sighed.

“Game, set, and match,” Kramer declared. “Quite the coincidence. She threatens to do the very deed that killed him.”

“Could be just that, a coincidence.”

“You don’t really believe that do you?”

“From all accounts, so far, Mia Folger is a smart woman. Does it make sense she would kill him in the exact way she threatened?”

“Maybe she meant to cut his dick off, no threat. Maybe his death was accidental. She didn’t know he would bleed out and die. Probably panicked.”

“Possible. It’s also possible that the real killer saw these texts. Naylor, for instance.”

“What’s Naylor’s motive?”

“Same as Folger’s. Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.”

“What scorn? Mia claims they were screwing around. Naylor would be the ‘scorner,’ not the ‘scornee’ in that scenario.”

“Who was Crawford married to? To whom did he go home every night? It wasn’t Naylor.”

“Got it boss. So, we’ve got two suspects?”

“At least two. Let’s open more texts.”

The more texts they opened, the more they began to suspect Mia Folger of murder. Text after text contained vile thoughts, vulgar language, threats of suicide if Crawford did not stop “screwing around,” and indirect and direct threats to Crawford’s life. It was a tedious process, but they went through every text, cataloguing them by severity of the threat and language. By the end of the process, a clear pattern had emerged. Mia Folger threatened to kill her husband; her rage increased as the texts continued, and she had a motive and the capacity to mutilate and murder her husband.

In Eddie Schreiber’s mind, however, it wasn’t enough. They needed forensics to back up Mia’s electronic motive, opportunity, will, and personal call to action. He called the crime lab and asked to speak to his favorite crime scene investigator.

“Jim Sawyer, how may I help you?”

“Jim? Eddie Schreiber. What can you tell me about the Crawford murder? Blood? Fingerprints? DNA? What’s the story?”

“I’m fine, thank you, Eddie. And you?” Jim laughed.

“Sorry, man. This case has me spooked. Mia Folger is in la-la land in a psych ward. I don’t have a clue when she will be able to tell us anything. Her psychiatrist claims doctor-patient, won’t give me shit. I got ahold of some texts—how they were obtained might violate federal privacy laws, a story for another day. The texts clearly indicate that Mia had the motive and means to kill her husband. And get this: She threatened to do the very deed that killed him. Please tell me we have forensics to back up these texts. With supporting DNA, perhaps I can convince a judge we have probable cause for a warrant for phone records and texts so I can legally obtain them without violating federal law.”

“I’ve got good news and not-so-good news. Which do you want first?”

“The good.”

“There is plenty of DNA where we found the body. Multiple samples, multiple people, including Mia Folger and Brad Crawford.”

“That’s good. What’s the bad?”

“Come on, Eddie. The congressman was found in his own bedroom. Their own bedroom Of course Mia’s prints and DNA are all over the place. There were multiple samples and fingerprints up the wazoo. I’m trying to identify the other people. That’s the bad news. Want the worse news?”

“There’s worse?”

“Congressman Crawford wasn’t killed in their apartment. He was killed elsewhere and dumped in the bedroom, long after the murder. Rigor, lack of blood splatter, blood volume, and body temp all prove that the murder happened elsewhere. ALS and luminol indicate drag marks from the freight elevator to the front door, into the apartment, down the hall leading to the bedroom, and onto the bed. The damage to the apartment was a smokescreen to make it look like a break-in and vandalism.”

Shit, Jim! Where did the murder take place?”

“I have no clue. I just completed these tests. We’ve got to process the elevator, and every floor from the basement to the roof until we identify the murder scene. I was just about to assemble a couple of teams when you called.”

“Assemble your teams, pronto. Contact the building manager and tell him that the whole area around the freight elevator is a crime scene. Seal the damn thing. No one up; no one down. And no one near those lobby areas leading to the freight elevator. We may have to go door-to-door and search every apartment.”

“Start at the top or the bottom?”

“Put one team on the roof and the other in the basement. They can work their way towards each other. Hopefully, they won’t have to get very far.”

“Will do, Eddie. Anything else?”

“Warp speed, Jim. But very carefully.”

“In other words, the usual.”

Schreiber chuckled. “Yeah, Jim, the usual. Thanks.”

“You’re welcome. I’m on it.”

~~~

~~~

About the Author

Mark M. Bello is an attorney and award-winning author of realistic fiction and political-legal thrillers.

Retired from handling high profile legal cases, Mark now gives the public a front-row seat watching victims fight for justice in our civil and criminal justice systems. Mark’s award-winning Zachary Blake Legal Thrillers mirror our times and the events that shape our country.

In addition to being an author and veteran attorney, Mark is a member of numerous trial lawyer associations and a feature writer for the Legal Examiner and other popular blog sites. He has written articles for numerous publications and made guest appearances on radio and talk shows and multiple podcasts.

In his spare time, Mark enjoys traveling and spending time with his family.

He and his wife Tobye, have four children and eight grandchildren.

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