Duplicity in Dubuque
by Roy Dorman
Table of Contents|
parts: 1, 2, 3
That morning, Rose once again had cause for concern. When Brandon was in the shower, she had reached into her purse for her cell phone and found it wasn’t there. She meant to ask him about it, but before he came out of the bathroom, she had noticed it on top of the dresser by the television. She was sure she hadn’t used her phone after texting Brenda the night before and didn’t think she had even taken it out of her purse while in this room.
Something, something..., but what is it?
Later, while they were at breakfast, the conversation had turned once again to Brenda’s odd behavior.
“I guess I’m having trouble seeing any type of agenda she had. What did she hope to accomplish?” Brandon mused.
“Maybe she just wanted to see if, after twenty-five years, her classmates had moved on,” said Rose. “I mean, it sounds like maybe her father had had an affair with her best friend, and they both may have died in a car accident. Except for the immediate family, most people would probably not blame Brenda for that.”
“Yeah, well, be careful with her. She sounds like she may be a little off. Maybe not dangerous, but somebody to be careful around.”
Like maybe you, Brandon? Or how about you, Rose?
They walked back to the hotel and started to put their things together. Rose thought about saying something about her cell phone, but decided to let it go for now. Put it on the back burner.
“I’m going to take off for Chicago,” said Brandon. “I could drop you off at the airport after I check out here. You’d only have to hang out for a couple of hours.”
“Thanks, that would be great.”
And it’ll give you a little more time to decide what you’re going to do with him.
They put their bags in the trunk, and Brandon went to the front desk to check out. Rose got in the car and took out her phone. That it had been sitting out and not in her purse still bothered her. She looked at the call history and was stunned to see that there was a call to Brenda after she had sent her the text. The call was made at 4:18 in the morning and had only lasted for thirty-one seconds.
He was up to something, but what? She moved her pistol from her purse to her jacket pocket. She was going to get some answers, but not here in the hotel parking lot.
Brandon pulled out of the parking lot and onto the street that would eventually lead to the airport. Rose took the pistol out of her pocket and pointed it at him.
“We’re going to take a little drive out into the county before we go to the airport,” said Rose. “There are a few things we need to talk about. You should know that if you don’t do exactly as I say, I will shoot you. Also, do not try to do anything to attract attention to us. Got it?”
“What’s the matter, Rose? Why are you doing this?”
“Please, Brandon, save it for later. Drive out of town, and I’ll tell you when we get to a spot where we can talk.”
Brandon drove past the strip malls that lined both sides of the highway leaving Dubuque and was soon in hilly farming country. At Rose’s direction, he left the main drag and took a county road. From there he turned onto a weedy country lane. Rose had him pull off that and follow a dirt field road until it ended.
“Turn around here so that we’re facing out. I don’t think there will be any farmers out on Sunday morning, but we’ll leave if someone shows up.”
“I still don’t know—”
“Can it. If you tell me what you’re up to, I might not kill you. Why did you call Brenda early this morning?”
Brandon paled. “Okay, I’ll tell you everything. I was just trying to see if I could make a little easy money after what turned out to be a financially challenging weekend. You weren’t going to be involved at all.”
“I’m listening; start at the beginning. If at any time I think that you’re lying to me, I shoot you.”
“Who are you, Rose?” said Brandon. “I thought that you and I were at the beginning of something good. Now you’d just shoot me without a second thought?”
“I’m everything you thought I was and a little more. It’s the ‘little more’ you have to be worried about. You’re running some kind of scam on Brenda, and I want to know what it is so that I can decide if I want to be part of it. Tell me the whole thing or you’re a dead man.”
“Okay, okay. After getting Brenda’s number from your phone, I called her from my phone. I told her that I had taken you hostage. I would let you go unharmed if by Sunday noon she were to overnight a package with $25,000 in it to arrive Monday morning at a post office box I rent under another name in Chicago.
“She was not to try and call you or go to the police or anyone else. If she did, I would kill you. You had said you had texted her that you would talk to her when you got back. If she sent the money Sunday noon, it would be too late for her to do anything about it when you showed up at her place.”
“Why did you call her from my phone?’
“She said she wanted to talk to you. I told her that wasn’t gonna happen. I told her that I was calling her on your phone to prove that I had you.”
“Step out of the car, slowly close the door, and put both hands on the roof.”
Rose took the keys from the ignition, got out of the car, and opened the trunk. “Take the luggage out of the trunk and then get in. I will shoot you where you stand if you don’t. I’m going to drive out of here with you in the trunk.
“I’ll leave the car in short-term parking at the airport far enough away from any other cars so that nobody hears you. After a day or so, somebody will come to issue a ticket and tow you. They’ll get you out then, but if you tell them how you got in there, you’ll be really sorry.”
“Wait, wait. Why can’t we be partners in this deal? You won’t even know where the money is.”
“We can’t be partners in anything because you are not enough of a detail person to work with me. You’re sloppy. There’s not going to be any money. It’s Sunday morning. The banks are closed. The post office is closed. When Brenda discovers this, if she hasn’t already, she’s either going to call you or get into bed and pull the quilt over her head. I’m betting she’ll go with the quilt. I’ll see her tonight and decide then if I let her live. You can see this whole thing has got me in a mood, can’t you? Now move!”
After putting the luggage in the grass behind the car, Brandon got into the trunk. He was scrunched into the fetal position and looked like he was trying to think of another argument to use.
“I was lying about letting you live,” said Rose. “That would be very sloppy of me. I’m not sloppy.” She shot Brandon twice in the head and slammed the trunk closed. She loaded up the luggage and headed for the airport.
Nicely done, Rose. Very nicely done. We’re back to kickin’ some butt and takin’ some names.
Finding a spot in long-term parking, Rose wiped the car clean of fingerprints. She kept her head down on the way to the terminal to avoid giving a clear shot to any security cameras the Dubuque airport might have.
* * *
The flight back was uneventful, and she decided to tell Brenda that she had lost her phone and somebody must have been trying to run some sort of scam. She would take all of the money that Brenda would give her, in cash, and then she would kill her. Brenda was a loose end.
Rose felt that if she worked things out carefully, Brenda could take the fall for killing Brandon. Rose was counting on the security cameras to show a woman, Brenda, with Brandon at both his hotel and then, later, leaving his car at the airport long-term parking lot.
Three days later, San Francisco police found Brenda Wilson dead in her apartment. It appeared to be a suicide. The HR department where she worked had called them after being unable to contact her. They said it wasn’t like Brenda not to call in if she was going to miss work. The police methodically started to work with the information that was available.
They soon traced Brenda to the reunion in Dubuque. Larry Jenkins became a person of interest due to the threats he had made at the reunion and his admission to slashing Brenda’s tires. But Larry swore the last time he had seen Brenda was when she was leaving her hotel room with Brandon.
Checking with Jill Matson, they got some information about Brandon Wells, but they couldn’t find him at his office or his home. The car rental agency told them that he had not yet returned the car, and the Dubuque police sent some officers to check out the parking lots at the airport. They found the car and then found Brandon.
The car appeared to have been wiped clean of prints, and the airport was told to process the video from the long-term lot cameras. The grainy security tapes showed a woman leaving the car and entering the terminal at 11:38 Sunday morning.
Records showed that Brenda’s plane left at 1:07 for San Francisco. With what they had discovered thus far, both the Dubuque and the San Francisco detectives assumed it was Brenda on the video footage.
There were no security cameras at Brenda’s hotel, and the footage at Brandon’s had been taken from a camera mounted at the entrance of the hotel parking lot. This footage showed a man and a woman, presumably Brandon and Brenda, going in and out of Brandon’s room Saturday night and Sunday morning. The couple was too far from the camera to show that Brenda was not Brenda.
With everything falling neatly into place every step of the way, that it was anybody but Brenda was never an issue. Close to a hundred people had seen her leave with Brandon the night of the reunion.
Ballistics tests showed that the bullet that had killed Brenda Wilson matched the two taken from the body of Brandon Wells. The hotel rooms that had been used by Brenda and Brandon had each had two or three sets of guests between Sunday and the time that Brandon’s body was discovered. No useful prints or any other untainted forensic evidence was going to turn up in those rooms.
When the front desk staff at the hotels had been shown a picture of Brenda Wilson, they had replied with “I suppose that’s her” and “I guess so.” Due to the San Francisco detectives handling this part of the investigation and the Dubuque detectives another, that picture of Brenda had not been used in the interviews with the classmates.
What kept both departments actively pursuing the case was the question as to why mild-mannered Brenda Wilson had killed Brandon Wells in Dubuque, and had then flown back to San Francisco and killed herself.
* * *
Edith Jefferson, Brenda’s classmate who had met her at the sign-in table at the reunion, was being interviewed a second time by Dubuque Detective James Morris. All of the people who had attended the reunion had been questioned either in person or by phone in the days following the discovery of Brandon’s body. Edith had called Detective Morris a few days later to ask if she could talk to him again.
“Ya know, this is gonna sound funny, but that night I didn’t think that the woman who signed in as Brenda Wilson was Brenda.”
“What makes you say that, Ms. Jefferson? You hadn’t seen her in twenty-five years, had you?”
“No, I hadn’t, but she just didn’t seem like the Brenda I remembered.”
“Well, people do change as they move through life. Do you have anything specific you can point to that makes you feel this way?”
“No, I just don’t think that woman was Brenda Wilson. I don’t know who else she could have been, but I don’t believe she was Brenda.”
Detective Morris thought for a moment. “Hey, Ed, come over here, would ya?”
“Yeah, whatta ya got?” said Detective Ed Fielder.
“Ed, this is Edith Jefferson, one of Brenda Wilson’s classmates. She was at the sign-in table at the reunion. Tell him what you told me, Ms. Jefferson.”
“I told detective Morris that I don’t think the woman who signed in at my table at the reunion was Brenda Wilson. I didn’t think so then and I don’t think so now.”
Detectives Morris and Fielder moved out of earshot of Edith Jefferson.
“So, whatta ya think, Ed?”
“A hundred other people who had been at the reunion said it was Brenda Wilson who left with Brandon Wells. Unless somebody else comes forward I think we have to thank Ms. Jefferson for coming in and put her comments in the file.”
“Anything come of that business card found in Brandon Wells’ suit jacket pocket?” asked Detective Morris.
“No, the card belonged to a Rose Tyler from San Francisco. She runs her own escort service. Brandon Wells ran his own escort service. Both Brenda and Rose live in San Francisco. Seems like a lot of little connections, right? But the guys in San Francisco talked to Ms. Tyler and she said she and Mr. Wells were just business acquaintances, and she hadn’t seen him in years. She didn’t appear especially broken up about hearing he had been murdered, but she also didn’t seem nervous or act suspiciously. The San Francisco detective said she was ‘businesslike’.”
“I suppose the cleaners could have just missed the card.”
“Yeah, I come up with stuff in my ‘weddings and funerals’ suit all the time,” said Detective Fielder. “Ya stick a card or program in the pocket and forget about it.”
“Hey, how about this? Maybe he was planning to go to Frisco after Dubuque and had stuffed her card in his pocket.”
“We may never know, Jimmy Boy. We may never know.”
“Well, we’ve still got the cell phone records coming. They tell a lot more now than they used to.”
* * *
Lisa Davenport is halfway across the Atlantic on her way to Heathrow Airport in London. From there she will fly to Zurich, Switzerland, where she has a numbered bank account. Rose Tyler’s escort service is no more, and Lisa plans to make a number of cities in Europe her home until the Brandon Wells/Brenda Wilson murder-suicide has become a cold case.
Lisa Davenport murdered three men and one woman over a period of five years. That business card slip-up shook her a little. She thought about the implications of the cell phone record trail minutes after the San Francisco detectives had left her apartment. Lisa felt it was time to regroup; she hated to admit it, but she may have become a little sloppy.
Business card. Cell phone calls. Sloppy? Yeah, I guess sloppy sums it up nicely.
“Shut up. Just shut up,” Lisa mumbled sleepily, causing the passenger sitting next to her to raise his eyebrows.
Copyright © 2018 by Roy Dorman