Roy Dorman, Unweaving a Tangled Web
From the Case Files of Private Investigator Carl Vincent
Unweaving a Tangled Web
Publisher: Hekate Publishing
Length: 215 pp.
ISBN: 978 191 201 7096
Private Investigator Carl Vincent, former NYPD Detective, likes working cases without the restrictions imposed by big-city bureaucracy. He plays by his own rules.
While routine cases pay the bills, it’s the unusual calls, the cries for help, that bring him to life, tapping sources in high and low places in order to help the people without power take back their lives from the bullies, the advantage-takers we know only too well.
Carl Vincent stared at his cell phone, willing it to ring.
He thought about the time he’d done this a few years back with his old landline connected, dial-up phone. The thing had actually rung. It scared the hell out of him.
The caller had been somebody looking for a low-cost detective to do some pre-divorce surveillance work. He’d taken the job and provided his client with all she needed to play the aggrieved party.
Business had been slow at the Vincent Detective Agency recently and Carl was trying the hocus-pocus thing again, this time with a smartphone. He stared harder.
“Come on, ring,” he said through gritted teeth.
“Maybe the security they build into these things doesn’t allow thoughts to penetrate their inner workings,” he mumbled to himself.
Carl continued to stare.
Suddenly his ringtone gave out with the opening lines of the Beatles’ “Help.”
“Can you help me get rid of a body?” said a quiet voice. “I can pay you whatever you think is fair and -”
“Wait a sec,” said Carl, grabbing a pen and his notebook. “If you’ve got a body, call 911 or an undertaker. They’ll take care of everything for you.”
“He’s not dead yet,” said the voice. “I’m doing some advance planning before I kill him.”
In the notebook, Carl wrote “BE CAREFUL.”
In his ten-plus years as a private dick, Carl had skirted the law on quite a few occasions. He knew how the cops worked because he’d been a cop. And the cops at the Second Precinct knew how he worked because he sometimes caused them grief when he was doing his best for a client. The caller could be some detective with too much time on his hands, working a sting to catch him up and make him look bad.
Or it could be a joke. It did sound like someone was putting him on.
So, he’d be careful. If he hadn’t needed the work so badly, he would’ve just ended the call.
“... and I know how this sounds, but I really need some help from somebody with your expertise.”
“Hold on,” said Carl. “I was taking some notes and missed the first part of what you just said.”
“I said that I thought you were probably really busy and how I may have worded my request a little strangely, but I really need -”
“Yeah, yeah, I got the last part,” said Carl. He then wrote “WEIRDO?” below “BE CAREFUL” in his notebook.
“Look, it’s almost noon. Could you meet me at The Golden Dragon near 34th Street and Lexington Avenue in about a half hour? It’s close to the Empire State Building. We could talk about this over lunch.”
“I suppose I could do that,” said the voice, now tentative again.
“And bring five hundred dollars in cash for an advance in case we decide to do business.”
“I’ve got that much and more right here in front of me.”
“Five hundred will be fine for now. Tell the maître d you’re meeting Carl Vincent. See you there.”
* * *
It’s good to see you again, Carl,” said Jimmy Wong, the owner of The Golden Dragon. “Business good for you?”
“A little slow, but I’m meeting a client for lunch, so that’s a good thing, right?”
A good thing for both of us,” said Jimmy with a smile. “You’d like a booth in the back?”
“Yes, please. And assuming my client shows, there’ll be two of us. How about a carafe of plum wine and two glasses to start?”
“Menus, ice waters, and plum wine it is” said Jimmy. “I’ll send Rosie over to take your orders after your guest arrives. She’s the best.”
“Yes, she is,” said Carl.
Rosie O’Dell and Carl had dated a few times, just dinner and a movie, when Rosie had first started waitressing at The Golden Dragon. But she was almost ten years younger than Carl. She let him know he was fun, but probably not “Mr. Right.”
Rosie wound up marrying David Wong, Jimmy’s brother and a silent partner in The Golden Dragon. They now had two pre-school sons.
* * *
The lunch and wine had been good. Rosie had smirked when Carl ordered General Tso’s Chicken; it was a private joke between them.
Sipping his coffee, Carl sat back and gave his client the opportunity to tell his story.
He’d introduced himself as Robert Casey, an attorney with a small firm that had an office in this part of the city.
He’d put his credit card on the tray when the bill came. He must have left a decent tip because Rosie gave him a genuine smile when she finished taking everything away.
Points for Robert Casey. Not cheap.
Carl cleared his throat and drank a little more coffee.
“He said you’d bring me here for lunch,” Casey said with a little wonder in his voice. “Are you a regular here or is there some other significance?”
“I know the people who own The Golden Dragon and I like the food,” said Carl. “But we’re here to talk about me possibly doing some work for you.”
Carl was curious as to who would have put Robert Casey on to him, but figured that could come later. If there was a later.
Casey took an envelope out of his coat and passed it to Carl.
“Five hundred dollars, just as you asked,” he said.
“Being an attorney, Mr. Casey, I’m sure you know how this works,” said Carl, setting the envelope on the table between them. “If I decide to help you, that would be considered a retainer, or an advance for expenses, should there be expenses. If I don’t take the job, I’ll thank you for lunch and be on my way.”
Casey stared at the envelope for a few seconds and then looked into Carl’s eyes.
“Is this place secure?” he asked. “I mean you’re sure there aren’t any listening devices or recording equipment trained on us, aren’t you? You wouldn’t record me, would you?”
Carl sighed. “I’m going to be honest with you, Mr. Casey. I don’t work for crackpots, and you’re coming off as kind of a crackpot. But how about you start at the beginning, take it slow, and don’t leave anything out, okay?”
This time it was Casey who sighed.
* * *
Robert Casey and MaryBeth D’Angelo had been married for three years when they went to the first holiday party at Robert’s office. He was thirty-one, she thirty.
MaryBeth was an attorney at a larger firm and she and Robert were both on the fast track to becoming partners in their respective firms.
At the party, Robert’s boss had made it clear that he was impressed with MaryBeth. But while his words said he wanted her to come and work at his firm, his eyes said he wanted more than that.
MaryBeth had been uncomfortable, but hadn’t wanted to cause problems for her husband. He’d only been with Oliver & Tate for three months and was still establishing himself as part of the team.
She’d been polite to Robert’s boss, but pretended she didn’t catch the not-so-hidden messages in his words. She waited until she and Robert were home before she mentioned how she felt to Robert.
Because Robert was a good person and maybe a little naïve, he hadn’t picked up on his boss’s behavior. He thought situations like this only occurred in books and movies.
“Maybe he has a problem with alcohol,” he’d said to MaryBeth. “Are you sure he was being more than just friendly?”
“Oh, yeah,” she’d responded. “Women recognize a come-on when they hear it. He was subtle, but he made sure I knew what he was doing.”
“Well, hopefully it was just too much holiday spirit,” said Robert. “He’ll probably be embarrassed about the way he acted and it won’t happen again.”
Three months later MaryBeth filed for divorce from Robert and moved in with Roger Tate.
A month after that she killed herself.
* * *
Robert Casey sat across from Carl, sobbing.
“She was a good person,” he said. “She had no experience dealing with somebody as evil as Tate.”
Carl nodded and considered patting Robert on the arm. He decided against it.
“Who told you that I could help you?” he asked.
“He said not to tell you,” Robert replied. “I had to promise before he would give me your name.”
“Well, Mr. Casey,” said Carl, standing up. “Thanks for lunch and I’m sorry for your loss.”
“No, wait, please. Please sit. He made me promise! I can’t break a promise.”
“Whoever it was, he gave you bad information,” said Carl, sitting again. “I probably shouldn’t be telling you this, I know I shouldn’t be telling you this, but what you’re looking for is a hitman.
“Somebody who for a fee will kill somebody and make it look like an accident. Or kill somebody and dispose of the body so it will never be found. Dump the body in the Hudson.
“But I don’t kill people, Mr. Casey. Even if they deserve to be killed, I don’t kill people. I’m a private detective. Now the information I just gave you is at no cost. We’re done here.”
“No other advice?” Casey pleaded.
“Therapy,” said Carl. “Get some therapy and try to move on with your life.”
Rosie had been coming over with the water pitcher, but had stopped when she heard Carl raise his voice. She listened to most of the exchange.
Now she grabbed Carl by the arm at the door and said, “That man is crying. Isn’t there anything you can do for him?”
“You heard what I told him,” said Carl. “I told him what he could do, but I don’t think he’ll do it.”
“Hire the hitman, or go to therapy?” asked Rosie.
“Both,” said Carl. “First the hitman and then the therapy.”
Rosie walked over and took Carl’s seat across from Casey.
* * *
Two days later, once again Carl sat staring at his phone. This time he was willing it not to ring.
He had been letting the calls from Robert Casey go to voice mail.
The messages pretty much went with a single theme: “I can kill him myself.” “I don’t want to try and find a hitman.” “I just need help cleaning up.” “I don’t want to get caught.” “Killing him is all the therapy I need.” “Please reconsider.”
It was driving Carl crazy. Didn’t he know if Roger Tate turned up missing or dead an investigation would eventually lead right to Casey’s door? After first maybe stopping at Carl’s door?
Carl thought about taking his phone to the police and letting them handle it. The calls from Casey had to stop. He needed his phone in his work and couldn’t afford to just shut it off.
“Time to knock off for the day,” he said, looking at the old clock on the wall. He’d worked on a couple of his current cases today and had made progress on both of them in spite of Casey’s constant calls.
“Hi, Jimmy. Carl here. I’d like to reserve a booth in the back for dinner.”
“Just you, Carl?”
“Yeah, just me. But if Rosie’s on tonight, maybe you could let her know I’d like to talk to her.”
“She comes in at five tonight. She’s always glad to see you.”
“I’ll be in about seven, okay?”
“You got it. See you then.”
* * *
“I assume the General Tso’s Chicken was excellent as usual?” Rosie teased.
“My compliments to the chef,” said Carl.
“I can sit down for a few minutes and talk. It’s about Robert Casey, right?”
“The guy’s making my life hell,” said Carl. “You talked to him the other day after I left. What did you think of him?”
“He’s hurting, Carl. It’s not so much that he’s angry because he feels he was wronged. He’s angry that his former boss drove his former wife to kill herself.”
“Former boss? So, he doesn’t work for that firm anymore?” said Carl.
“No. Is that important? Robert said he moved on to a new firm after his wife divorced him. He said he found employment with a firm where one of the partners hated Roger Tate and was glad to ‘steal’ Robert from him.”
“’Robert?’ First name basis? Be careful with this guy, Rosie. He’s under a lotta strain and we don’t know what he’s capable of doing.
“And, yes, it is important that he no longer works for Tate. If he still had to see him every day, eventually he might just bring a gun in to work and shoot him.”
“He does still see him every day,” said Rosie. “Before work, during his lunch hour, after work -”
Just then Jimmy rushed up to their booth. “It’s on the news. The TV in the bar had the story. That guy you met for lunch the other day was found shot to death.”
* * *
“Kinda closing the barn door after the horses have skedaddled, aren’t ya?” said Detective Hector Gonzalez. “Ya should have told us about this guy after ya met with him for lunch. And these voicemails; you used to be a cop. What were you thinking?”
Carl had immediately gone from The Golden Dragon to the Second Precinct and had asked to talk to someone about the Robert Casey murder.
He was ushered into an interrogation room and Detective Gonzalez hadn’t been happy with what Carl had to say.
“I met with him one time and told him I wasn’t the guy he wanted to hire.”
“Is that what he meant when he said in one of the messages, ‘I don’t want to try and find a hitman?’ Did ya tell him he needed to find a hitman to kill his ex-boss?”
“No, I did not,” said Carl. “Well, not exactly, anyway.”
“Go on. I’m listening.”
Carl thought he better tell the truth. Gonzalez might interview Rosie at some point and he knew she would tell the truth. That’s just how she was.
“I told him I was a private detective and I didn’t kill people even if they deserved it. I told him hitmen killed people for a fee and that he should get some therapy.”
That was presenting the end of the lunch conversation in a little better light than it had actually occurred, but would Rosie remember the exact exchange? Probably not.
While Gonzalez waited for more, Carl once again wondered who’d sent Casey to him. Maybe it was moot point now, but then again, maybe it wasn’t.
“Casey was leaning on Tate pretty hard,” said Carl. “Stalking him before and after work and at lunch. Maybe Tate snapped and killed him. Or hired somebody to kill him.”
“Like a ‘hitman,’ ya mean?”
“Come on! I was just trying to let him know I wasn’t the right guy for the job.”
Gonzalez just stared. Carl had been on the receiving end of that kind of stare many times during his checkered career. He thought that maybe telling Gonzalez that an unknown someone had steered Casey toward the Vincent Detective Agency would give him a little breathing room.
“At lunch he told me someone had referred him to me. He wouldn’t say who it was, said he’d been told not to, and I let it go. Now I’m thinking it may be a part of our investigation.”
“Throwing me a bone, eh, Vincent?” said Gonzalez. “When we check his phone records, we’ll keep an eye open for that.”
“Can I go now? I got places to go and things to do.”
“You can go,” said Gonzalez. “But, Vincent?”
“Just so we’re clear. Yer not on the force anymore. It’s not ‘our’ investigation like yers and mine. It’s ‘our’ investigation, like the Second Precinct’s.”
“Got it,” said Carl.
Carl figured it was time to talk to Rosie again. Their conversation had been interrupted by Jimmy letting them know about Casey’s death. He felt she knew more than they’d had time for.
* * *
“Shrimp and Broccoli? No General Tso’s Chicken today?” asked Rosie. “This Robert Casey business must have done something to your appetite.”
“Yeah, maybe,” said Carl. “But not wanting too much of a good thing is also a possibility.”
“You want to talk more about Robert, don’t you?”
“When you get some time, could you chat with me for a bit?” asked Carl.
“Sure. Give me ten minutes. I’ll get Ebony to watch my tables for me.”
Carl finished his lunch and sipped his wine while he waited for Rosie. After a half-hour passed, he motioned to Ebony as she was hurrying from the kitchen with a tray of food and drink.
“Give me a minute, Mr. Vincent, and I’ll be right with you,” she said.
Five minutes later, Ebony stood at his table, looking everywhere except at him.
“Something more I can get for you, or are you ready for your check?”
“I was wondering what happened to Rosie. She was going to talk to me about something when she got a break.”
Ebony looked at him as if she was having trouble deciding on what to say.
“I don’t know what happened to her,” she finally said. “She came into the kitchen, asked me to tell Jimmy she had to leave, and went out the back door.”
“Is Jimmy here?” asked Carl.
“Yeah, he’s in his office doing office stuff.”
“Could you please ask him to stop over when he’s free?”
“Did I do something wrong,” asked Ebony. “I’m new and really need this job. If I did anything -”
“No, no. It’s nothing you did. I just need to talk to Jimmy.”
Ebony had hardly been gone when Jimmy showed up with a smile on his face. But it was a nervous smile. A fake smile. Carl didn’t like it.
“Carl! Good to see you!” Jimmy gushed.
“Is it good to see me, Jimmy?” said Carl. “I’ll get right to it. Something’s going on and it has to do with Rosie, you, and Robert Casey. Now, are you going to sit down and tell me all about it, or do I have to use my expert detective skills to get to the truth myself?”
“I don’t know what you mean,” said Jimmy.
“I went to the cops and told them everything I knew,” said Carl. “If you don’t talk to me, I’m going to see Detective Gonzalez again and put it in his ear that I think you were involved in Robert Casey’s murder.”
“I need to make a call,” said Jimmy. “I’ll be right back.”
“If you leave now, I’m also going to make a call. To Detective Gonzalez.”
Jimmy sat down in the booth opposite Carl. He and Carl went back a long way. Back to when Carl was still a detective at the Second Precinct and had helped Jimmy out of a personal scrape with a couple of syndicate wiseguys.
“It was Rosie who told Robert Casey to contact you,” said Jimmy. “My brother had hired Casey’s firm, back when Casey had just started with Tate, and the firm had given him his first solo case. It was a simple IRS tax return snafu and Casey handled it very professionally.
“But I remember Casey saying ‘he said not to tell you’ who’d told him about me,” said Carl.
“Maybe he thought saying ‘he’ instead of ‘she’ would protect Rosie,” said Jimmy.
Carl was about to say that Rosie didn’t need any protection from him when he remembered that she’d just left the restaurant like a fugitive on the run. Running from him.
“Go on,” Carl said.
“Casey and my brother had hit it off while working on the case and they decided to take their wives out to eat to celebrate the successful victory over the IRS.
“David said they’d a great time. Rosie and MaryBeth acted like they’d been friends for years. They all went to a play one time and had dinner at Robert and MaryBeth’s home twice.
“And then after that holiday party, things cooled and David and Rosie never heard from them again. Until a week ago.”
Carl sat back to let that all sink in. He thought that Jimmy was telling the truth, but was he telling the whole truth?
“If what you’re telling me is true,” he said. “What happened between a week ago and last night? Who killed Robert Casey, and why?”
“I don’t know,” said Jimmy. “But I think Rosie and David do.”
“And I suppose you don’t want me telling them that you told me all of this, right? Including this last part where you think they know who killed Casey.”
“I think maybe we’re past that point, don’t you?” said Jimmy. “But even though I think it’s possible Rosie and David might be in danger, I’d appreciate it if you held off talking to Gonzalez until we know a little more.”
“I’ll think about that,” said Carl. “You’ve got my number. I want to hear from you if you learn anything more about this.”
* * *
Carl had no intention of withholding any more information from Detective Gonzalez.
“So, I’m telling you everything I know at this time,” said Carl. “I never really accepted this case, but I’ve decided I am going to work on it because I think the Wongs are good people.”
“And I think the Wongs are good people too,” said Detective Gonzalez. “We’ve done some checkin’ on them and they seem like solid citizens.”
“It sounds like there’s a ‘but’ in the way you said that.”
Gonzalez leaned back in his chair. Carl could tell he was weighing the pros and cons of telling him more.
Gonzalez knew that sometimes private detectives working without the restraints the police labored under could help with a case. And he was wondering whether Carl would be a pro or a con. He’d been new to the Second Precinct when Carl had just been leaving. Gonzalez had been told that while the brass hated Carl, Carl’s partner and most of the other officers and detectives thought he was okay. Better than okay was what he’d been told.
“There is a ‘but,’” said Gonzalez. “You shared what you knew and I’m going to share a little of what we now know. I hope I’m not making a mistake here.”
“Mistakes come with doing things,” said Carl. “If you never do anything, you never make mistakes.”
“And that’s why you’re no longer one of New York City’s finest, right? You do things and make mistakes.”
“As long as we learn something from our mistakes, I figure it’s a net gain,” said Carl.
“Okay, enough philosophy,” said Gonzalez. “We all agree the Wongs are good people. But with very little diggin’ we found that Robert Casey was not good people.”
“What? He seemed like a mild-mannered attorney who maybe wasn’t ready for the seedier parts of The Big Apple. He jaywalked? Had unpaid parking tickets?”
“He was an attorney, but he was also an actor,” said Gonzalez. “And his wife was also an attorney and an actor. That’s how they met.”
Something about what he’d just heard made Carl sit up a little straighter.
“Rosie also does a little off-Broadway work,” mused Carl. “She does make-up and costumes mostly, but sometimes she gets a small role in something.”
Detective Gonzalez was already happy with his decision to let Carl in on the case. Carl had some important information and had readily shared it.
“We talked to Roger Tate and he denied ever meeting MaryBeth D’Angelo. There’d been a holiday party, but Robert Casey had attended it without a guest. So, of course, since Tate never met her, she couldn’t have moved in with him. Also, we haven’t been able to find that Robert Casey and MaryBeth D’Angelo ever got divorced.”
“What about her suicide?” asked Carl. “Was that part of the story true?”
“We’re looking into that,” said Gonzalez. “So far we haven’t been able to find any record of her death. But my hunch right now is that we’re going to find out that she was murdered. Probably by Robert Casey. If it was murder, I’m hoping the Wongs had nothing to with it.”
“Me too,” said Carl. “Me too.”
* * *
Carl sat at a table with a beer in the Tavern on the Green. He had a lot to think about and Sheep Meadow was a quiet place to do it.
Both Jimmy and Rosie told him things that now seemed to be unravelling. Were they just parroting what Robert Casey told them, or had they made up parts of the story themselves to cover up their parts in a murder? Or murders?
Rosie had given Casey a warm smile when he’d paid the lunch bill. When Carl had been leaving The Golden Dragon after telling Casey he wouldn’t help him, Rosie had taken his place in the booth presumably to comfort Casey.
Jimmy said Rosie, David, Casey, and MaryBeth had gone out together socially. Why hadn’t Rosie mentioned that she’d known Casey? Why hadn’t Casey in some way acknowledged that he’d known Rosie?
Carl decided it was time to talk to David Wong. He was Jimmy’s brother and Rosie’s husband. He had to know what they knew, didn’t he?
But before he went to see David, he would see Gonzalez again. Looking back, it seemed to Carl that everybody he’d talked to in the last few days had been reading from a script. Like everybody except he and Gonzalez were in this really hinky play and only the players knew who was who. He remembered how convincing Casey had been at lunch, sobbing after telling that story about MaryBeth’s suicide. Gonzalez would know what to do.
* * *
David Wong’s import business had done quite well for him and his family. With connections in China, he was able to close deals before his competition even knew there were deals to close.
With a little digging, Carl was able to find out just how important it was that David was the money man behind The Golden Dragon. Jimmy was a people person, and was good with both staff and customers. He was responsible for the business running smoothly. Repeat customers were important to stay afloat in the neighborhood the restaurant was in. But it was David’s ready cash that was the cushion The Golden Dragon could draw from that insured its continued success.
“Do you have an appointment?” asked the receptionist.
“No, but I think Mr. Wong will see me,” said Carl. “Just tell him Carl Vincent needs a few minutes.”
Carl decided he’d try to see David Wong without an appointment. He didn’t want David to call Rosie, Jimmy, or who knew who else in order to get his ducks in a row. He figured David would know why he was here.
Carl was surprised when David came right out of his office. Apparently, he didn’t feel the need to touch base with anyone.
“Come in, Carl,” he said, ushering Carl into his office. David didn’t smile or offer his hand to Carl. “No calls, please, Cynthia.”
After they were seated, Carl got right to it.
“I’m working on the case involving the death of Robert Casey.”
“If you didn’t take Robert’s case when he asked for your help and now he’s dead, who are you working for?”
“I’m working for you, Rosie, and Jimmy,” Carl said. Two things stood out from David’s statement: He called Casey “Robert” just as Rosie had, and he didn’t care if Carl knew he knew about the lunch conversation.
“None of us are paying you,” said David. “Why do you feel the need to be involved in this?”
“As I told Detective Gonzalez, I think you’re good people. Just so you know, he thinks you’re good people too. But both of us think the three of you are involved in something good people don’t get involved in.”
David looked at his hands as if hoping that one of them held the response he was looking for. “Are you gathering information that will help us, or information to turn over to Detective Gonzalez.”
“Both,” said Carl.
“Robert and MaryBeth are complicated people,” said David. “In addition to being competent lawyers, they’re both actors. Actors are artists and artists are sometimes ..., sometimes a little quirky. These two are - or were, very quirky.”
“Did Rosie work with them in some of the same plays?”
“Yes, but Rosie only knows what Robert and I told her,” said David. “Jimmy also only knows what Rosie and I let him in on. He never talked to Robert. We can leave Rosie and Jimmy out of this. Robert, MaryBeth, and I are the major players in this messed up drama.”
“And Robert and MaryBeth are both dead,” said Carl.
“Robert is,” said David.
Carl sat back in his chair and waited for David to say more. When he didn’t, he asked the obvious question. “MaryBeth’s not dead?”
“She’s working the front desk today,” said David. “You talked to her on the way in.”
“Cynthia is MaryBeth?” Carl’s head was spinning. The more he dug and the more he found out, the less sense this whole thing made.
“I’ll tell you the story from the beginning,” said David. He brought out a small tape recorder and set on the middle of the desk. “I’ll tape it so you won’t have to take notes for Gonzalez.”
Carl thought he had already heard the story “from the beginning” once, if not twice, but he settled in to hear David’s version.
* * *
David began the story at about the same point in time as Robert Casey had begun his story. But David gave a little background as to the relationship of the two couples, and more detail as to MaryBeth’s and Robert’s unusual disappearance.
Robert Casey had quickly and successfully settled an IRS problem for David, and from there the couples saw each other socially for a few months.
About the time of the holiday party, Rosie told David that there’d been a big fight between MaryBeth and Robert at a play rehearsal. Robert accused MaryBeth of upstaging him or something like that, and she’d said some things in front of the other cast members that should’ve been said in the privacy of their home or not at all.
Neither MaryBeth nor Robert would return their calls when David and Rosie tried to reach out to them. Calls to their respective employers only supplied them with the information that the two both left on extended personal leaves.
David and Rosie even went to MaryBeth’s and Robert’s brownstone apartment. The superintendent said that the couple was gone but were still on the lease. That’s all he would say though Rosie and David told him they were concerned about their safety.
Neither of the two came back to play rehearsals and their parts were eventually given to others.
Then, out of the blue, Robert called Rosie and asked her to meet with him. Rosie agreed to the meeting, but only if David also could be there. By that time, Rosie and David felt a little wary about any more involvement with the couple. Robert agreed and the three met at The Golden Dragon.
Robert told them the same holiday party story he’d told Carl, complete with sobbing and grief for MaryBeth’s death. He said nothing about their having left their jobs or their apartment. David said he and Rosie had decided they would not ask questions at this meeting, but rather let Robert tell them what he thought they should know.
* * *
“But we should have asked more questions,” said David. “If we had, Robert might not have killed himself.”
“The police say that Robert was murdered,” said Carl. He watched as David put a fresh tape in the machine.
“He was murdered, but he also killed himself,” said David. “He hired a hitman to kill him. Remember he asked you to help him ‘get rid of the body’? He felt he should be killed for killing his and MaryBeth’s relationship. But he didn’t want anybody to find him dead.”
“But there are hitmen who get rid of the body as part of the contract,” Carl said. Even as he said it, he wondered why he felt it necessary to try to make sense out something that made no sense. Why did he feel guilty?
Carl felt sick to his stomach. This was all too much.
“He was an actor, Carl,” said David. “Actors often live in their own worlds. I’m married to one; sometimes Rosie can be a drama queen.”
“What does MaryBeth say about all of this?” asked Carl. “Is she upset? Sad? Remorseful?”
“Now? All of those, I suppose. Initially, she said she’d no idea Robert planned to kill himself. That wasn’t true.
“They were both living in apartments with 30-day leases trying to decide what to do with the rest of their lives now that they were without the other. She told me she hadn’t talked to him at all before his death.”
“So you know who he hired to kill him?” asked Carl.
David opened a desk drawer and took out a silencer-equipped Glock. He clicked the safety off and pointed it at Carl.
“I do now. I found out a few minutes before you arrived. Robert tried to hire Rosie, but she refused. Rosie is now upset that she didn’t go to the police then, as you are probably upset you didn’t go to the police after that lunch meeting.
“But Rosie is really beating herself up for then telling MaryBeth about Robert’s offer. MaryBeth had phoned her at the restaurant and Rosie had told her about Robert’s request. She thought MaryBeth would get help for Robert. Instead MaryBeth contacted Robert and accepted.
“Look, this is done. I can’t let anything happen to Rosie. She was an innocent in this, but the law might think otherwise. No one will ever hear what’s on this tape. The taping was a mistake. I thought I could use it to protect Rosie, but now I see it would only hurt her. I’m going to destroy it.”
“Are you planning to use that gun?” When David didn’t answer, he asked, “What about Jimmy? How was he involved?”
Keep him talking. Keep him talking.
David lowered the pistol a little, but it was still pointed in Carl’s direction. When he saw Carl look at it, he raised it again to point it at the middle of his chest.
“MaryBeth gave me the gun and I don’t know what I’m going to do with it,” said David. “And I told you earlier that Jimmy was not involved.”
“Yeah, I remember,” said Carl. “You said we could leave Rosie and Jimmy out of this. But it seems Rosie does have some involvement. Does Jimmy?”
“Jimmy only knows what Rosie and I told him, and most of that is from before MaryBeth and Robert showed up again last week.”
“Speaking of MaryBeth, if she killed Robert, why is she just sitting outside your office? A receptionist in plain sight. Shouldn’t she be on her way to Mexico, or Greece, or somewhere?”
“I’m giving her time to think about doing the right thing. She’s an actress playing the part of a clerical. She’s dyed her hair and now wears glasses. The police could come here, talk to her, and not even really see her. I’m hoping she’ll turn herself in after she’s thought about what she’s done.”
“I think that’s called aiding and abetting,” said Carl.
David raised the gun a little higher. Would he shoot?
Suddenly, muffled voices could be heard outside the office door.
As the door was pushed open, Cynthia/Marybeth was saying, “... and you can’t go in there without a warrant!”
Detective Gonzalez came in first and dropped to one knee in a shooter’s position, his service pistol aimed at David’s head. “Drop the gun right now or I’ll shoot you,” he said.
David dropped the Glock like it had burned his hand. He looked at Carl with a hurt expression.
Carl took out his cell phone. It had sent every word to Detective Gonzalez.
MaryBeth was being taken into custody, telling a detective that she didn’t need the Miranda Rights read to her. She was Cynthia Albright from Sioux City, Iowa, and hadn’t done anything to be arrested for.
“We almost didn’t move in in time,” said Gonzalez. “It sure as hell took you long enough to say ‘gun.’ He could have shot you.”
Carl looked at David who was being cuffed and read his rights.
“David wouldn’t have shot me,” said Carl. “I don’t think he really knew what his plan was, but killing me wasn’t it.”
David mouthed the words “Thank you.”
“But if MaryBeth would have come in here before we did, anything could have happened,” said Gonzalez.
“Well, Detective, you’ve got a lot to sort out,” said Carl. “Glad I don’t have your job.”
“Hell, Vincent, you’d love to have my job and you know it.”
Carl gave Gonzalez a jaunty salute and left David’s office smiling to himself. The paperwork involved with this one before it went to the DA would be horrendous.
Would he want that job? Maybe.
* * *
“It’s good to see you’re back with your friend General Tso,” said Rosie. “The cooks were concerned when you ordered the Shrimp and Broccoli last time.”
“Tell ‘em I sometimes like to take a walk on the wild side,” said Carl. “Speaking of which, how are things going with your own walk on the wild side?”
“David, Jimmy, and I have learned our lesson. From here on out we’ll be much more careful about helping people who aren’t family. Of course, we consider you family, Carl. David could have faced more than just probation if it wasn’t for you.”
“I heard from Jimmy you got a part in an off-Broadway play,” said Carl.
“It’s a small part, but it’s still a part,” said Rosie. “And from now on all of my acting will be on stage.”
Carl paid his bill and left The Golden Dragon. It was a nice evening and he thought he’d take a stroll in Central Park before catching a cab home.
He had a couple of cases that needed some work, but they could wait until morning.
There was a dark sedan parked on the street ahead of him. It turned out to be Detective Gonzalez.
“How ya doin’, Vincent,” he called. “What’s up?”
“Not much with me. You?”
“Nada. And that’s how I like it.”
“Nada is good,” Carl called over his shoulder to Gonzalez as he walked on.
Copyright © 2020 by Roy Dorman