Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Shades of Murder by Lauren Carr


Deep Creek Lake, Maryland - September 6, 2004

“—and in other news…On Friday, prosecutors wrapped up their side in the murder trial for Oliver Cartwright in
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.—”
While the radio announcer read off the morning report, David O’Callaghan poured his first cup of coffee. He dumped one spoonful of sugar into his oversized United States Marine Corps mug, a graduation gift from an old girlfriend, bestowed to him upon completing officers training.
The mug lasted longer than the girlfriend. 

Shades of Murder by Lauren Carr
Taking his first sip of coffee, he gazed out the kitchen window of his parent’s cozy lakeshore house to admire the leaves flapping on the birch trees lining the shore. When he squinted his eyes, he could see a hint of gold on the tips of the leaves.

Tomorrow would be his day off to celebrate Labor Day. While everyone else was celebrating it today proper, he would be trying to keep them from killing themselves, or each other, around Deep Creek Lake. 

The radio continued with the news at the top of the seven o’clock hour.

“—Lawyers for Cartwright will begin presenting their defense on Tuesday. Oliver Cartwright has confessed to raping and killing six women in and around the Pittsburgh area during the summer of 2003.”

Six? David brought the mug to his lips for another sip. I could have sworn Cartwright killed seven women. Where did I hear it was seven?

The ring of the phone broke through the chirping of the birds in the birch trees. David didn’t realize he was still half asleep until the hot drink splashed onto the breast of his white shirt. Cursing, he slammed down the mug to send more coffee spilling across the kitchen counter.

“Damn it!” He grabbed the dishtowel to mop up the coffee from his shirt. The phone was still calling out to him while he wiped off his silver police shield.

“Coming!” He grabbed the phone and braced it against his ear with his shoulder while wetting the dishtowel to continue the cleanup.

“Did I wake you?” Hearing the lilt of Archie Monday’s voice coming through the phone line transformed his morning into a good day. Forgetting about the coffee, David stood up straight. “No. You’re up early.”

“I wanted to catch you before you went to work. Robin wants to know if you’re coming over for steaks on the grill after you get off.” That’s a no-brainer.David stepped into the half-bath off the kitchen to check his reflection in the mirror. He ran his hand over his blond hair. She’s on the phone, you dummy. He went back to dabbing at the coffee on his shirt.

“Are you still there?” she asked him.


This isn’t going to work. After tossing the dishtowel into the sink, he proceeded to unbutton his shirt.
“Let me think.” David slammed open the bedroom door in his search of a clean shirt. “Thick juicy steaks hot off the grill at Spencer Manor with two of the loveliest ladies on Deep Creek Lake, or hot dogs zapped in the microwave and a can of beer? What do you think?”

The sound of her laughter almost made him forget about his disgust over the dirty shirt. “What time should we expect you?”

“I get off at six.”

“Wonderful. Bring your swim trunks. We’ll go jet skiing,” she said.

Which means I’ll see you in your swimsuit.
David paused in his search for a clean shirt  to imagine Robin Spencer’s stunning assistant in a bathing suit. It was something he had been yearning for since meeting  Archie Monday. A stern tone in her voice brought him back down to earth. “I should warn you. Robin’s working on a plotline that involves Marine Special Forces. Be prepared for an interrogation.”

Pushing the vision of Archie in a bikini from his mind, David shifted the phone from one ear to the other while shrugging out of his shirt. “Ah, so she’s using me.”

“What can I say?” Her tone was cool. “She’s a woman. We all use men.”

“Won’t be the first time I’ve been used by a woman.” It sounded like she was about to hang up when David stopped her. “What can I bring tonight?”

“Just your handsome self.”

He stopped her again. “Dad tells me that you’re a wine expert.” 

He could hear the laughter in her voice when she replied, “I wouldn’t say I was an expert. Robin knows more about it than I do. But I’m learning. We’re working on expanding the Spencer Inn’s wine list. So we’ve been doing a lot of wine tasting lately. This week, we received a case from Burma. We’ll test it out tonight.”

“Now, I’m intimidated. I was going to offer to bring the wine tonight.”

“You can never miss with a good cabernet sauvignon.”

 Making a mental note to stop by the wine shop to pick up a good bottle of red wine—not the cheap stuff—You don’t serve the cheap stuff to one of the world’s most famous mystery writers and her beautiful assistant—David finished dressing for the second time that day. He strapped on his utility belt with his gun, radio, baton, and cell phone.

Before slipping on his mirrored sun glasses to block out the bright morning rays reflecting off the water, David O’Callaghan paused to admire the platinum blond streaks that the sun and lake water had added to his already light hair. With his face and body bronzed after a summer of working and playing on the water, he looked even blonder than usual.

After taking a quick glance around the house to make sure everything was secured and put away, he stepped outside onto the front porch and locked the door.

Leaving an empty house was not part of his usual routine. His mother was always home during the day, but today was different. His parents had left two days before for a vacation at the Grand Canyon.
That was something else that was out of the ordinary. In all of his twenty-four years, David didn’t recall his parents ever going away together, anywhere, for anything. Police Chief Patrick O’Callaghan would travel to conferences or training, or his mother would check in to the hospital when she’d get sick. Vacation? Together? What brought that on? Maybe Robin knows.

“Hey, kid!”

Author Lauren Carr
Startled, David dropped his keys in the driveway. Out on the road, Police Officer Art Bogart laughed from the front seat of his cruiser. On his way to the station, where he was acting as Spencer’s chief, he had pulled off the road to give David a good-natured hassling.

Bogie was the oldest, and most respected, member of Spencer’s small police force. With the size and condition of a body builder, he had been challenged more than once by a cocky rookie, only to put the youngster in his place by pinning him to a mat in less than thirty seconds. In contrast to his size and strength, a heart of gold beat behind his silver shield.

“You going to work or not? Your daddy’s away, so you decided to play around and be late?”
David knelt down to pick up the keys. “I’m coming. I had to make sure everything was locked up.”
“Well, get your butt in gear, son!” Bogie called out to him from across the driver’s compartment of his cruiser. “There was an accident last night. We have a car that hit a deer on Spencer Lane, rolled, and landed in the lake.”

“Any fatalities?” 

“So far we have a six-point buck. Miracle if the driver made it. No witnesses. A couple of runners found the car this morning.” He waved his arm at him. “Get a move on! Two-point-three miles down Spencer Lane toward Pelican Court. The divers should be there already.”

Bogie hit the gas pedal so hard that the tires spit gravel when he pulled out to speed down the road like he was trying to merge into rush hour traffic. On the shores of Deep Creek Lake, among the Shenandoah Mountains, he was only dealing with the rush minute.

David climbed into his police cruiser to head in the opposite direction, along the tree-lined shore road, to take him to the scene of the accident. 

On Labor Day, the seasonal residents along the lake were waking up to enjoy the last breath of summer before closing up their vacation homes for winter. Meanwhile, up at the top of the mountain overlooking the lake, behind the scenes, the Spencer Inn was gearing up for snow season to start in eight weeks.

Thoughts of Spencer Inn made David’s mind wonder to that of its owner, Robin Spencer, a good family friend, which brought his mind back to that of Archie Monday.

The green-eyed blond had come to work for Robin Spencer while he was serving in Afghanistan. They had only met briefly after he had returned from overseas, before going off to the police academy. Now that he was back home, he considered the possibilities. 

I wonder if Archie Monday likes men in uniform. Robin’ll certainly put in a good word for me. David made a mental note to call the restaurant manager at the Spencer Inn. He’ll know what wine would impress Archie.

Bogie’s voice burst from his radio to jar David back to reality. “Change of plans, kid! Go to the Hathaway Estate on Pelican Court instead. I’ll send Fletcher to take care of the car accident.”
David snatched the mike from the radio.
“What’s at Hathaway’s estate?”

“They got a DB, kid. Dead body.”

David flipped the switch for the lights and sirens and pressed his foot on the gas pedal.

* * * * *

Neal Hathaway’s summer home was the only residence on Pelican Court, a secluded lane that crossed a mountain stream to cut through some thick woods. A rarely used entrance to the state park marked the other end of Pelican Court. Anyone not curious enough to travel the lane would never notice the mansion hidden behind the thick grove of trees.  

The owner and CEO of Hathaway Industries lived behind a brick wall and iron gates with a brass “H” marking them. The estate’s driveway snaked down a landscaped hill to the stone house that had one of the best views on the lake.

David O’Callaghan had encountered more than his share of exposure to murder investigations. With his father being chief of police, and working with the military police in the Marines, he had been called to more than one crime scene that involved a homicide. 

Such scenes had an atmosphere of somberness. Everyone, including the investigating officers, would speak in soft tones with an air of respect for those who had passed on. This, however, was the first time that David had been called to the scene of a dead body at a multi-millionaire’s estate. 

During the short time it took him to drive around the lake to the Hathaway Estate, David tried to recall what he knew about Neal Hathaway. Self-made millionaire. Always wanted to be an astronaut. Was also a science geek. When he failed to become an astronaut, he used his talent for science and rocketry to build what was now a Forbe’s Top 100 company. Hathaway Industries was one of the government’s biggest contractors for launching and maintaining defense satellites. They were also in the race to become the first  to offer private flights into outer space.

Neal Hathaway was indeed a real live rocket scientist. Other than that, David was unsure about anything else. Guess I’m going to find out now.

David drove through the gates and pulled his cruiser around to a multi-car garage with a black SUV parked in front of it. The lights and the sirens failed to break up the fight taking place next to the vehicle. 

Two women were rolling on the ground with their hands in each other’s hair. Judging from the disheveled condition of their clothes and the exhausted grunts they uttered between their high-pitched curses, David surmised the fight had been going on for a while.

With a head full of curly platinum blond hair that looked like a mop, one of the women appeared to be on the losing end of the fight. The shoulder strap of the blonde’s white dress had been ripped off to expose her voluptuous breast. The rest of her garment wasn’t in a much better condition. The side seam had been ripped wide open to show a white girdle.

Even though she was winning, the blond’s opponent wasn’t in much better shape. During the course of the battle, her bright purple mini skirt had been pulled all the way up her hips to reveal that her underwear consisted of a black thong. 

Several feet away, a woman dressed in a housekeeper’s uniform, was pleading for them to stop. When David brought his car to a stop, she yelled over the siren in a thick European accent. “Help, please! They’re going to kill each other.”

Turning off the lights and siren, David threw open the car door. “Okay, that’s enough. Break it up.”
Not seeming to notice him, they continued wrestling with their fingers entwined in each other’s hair.



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