[If you have not already done so, you must
read the Introduction
Revenge Should Have No Bounds 085
Chapter 17 (1 of 11): Interviews
It is Thursday morning, three days since the body of the Vietnamese woman, Trinh Cao, was discovered in a snowy ditch. Phoebe is driving. Samuel’s car has had to stay the weekend in the shop, so he is getting a ride with his wife from Woulfton. The Interstate has already been cleared, although the countryside flashing by on either side is powdered a brilliant white from the weekend’s precipitation. The traffic is heavy, and slick patches promote a more leisurely pace than is normal for the suburban hordes headed to offices in the city.
Samuel is engrossed in the Wall Street Journal. An occasional ‘hmm’ or ‘outrageous’ punctuate his methodical perusal of the day’s reportorial program. As he turns a page, he glances over at his wife. She seems deep in thought.
“This Vietnamese woman?”
“Yes,” she says, and sighs.
Samuel puts a hand on his wife’s arm. Almost thirty-five years they have been married, a period of such lengthy duration that off-hand he can’t think of a single friend, acquaintance, or colleague who is still hitched to the original spouse. Indeed, by this age a number of them are on replacement number three or have given up entirely. It must say something about Phoebe and himself, he thinks, but is not sure exactly what.
“It’s Melinda, isn’t it?” he asks quietly, squeezing her forearm.
Phoebe nods her head, bites her lip, and says nothing.
Samuel senses that this case is almost too personal for her.
“Do you want to talk about it?”
She appreciates that he is prompting her with his usual gentleness.
“I don’t know,” she says. “Sometimes it just seems so … so unfair. I know, that’s childish. But I think of the poor parents of that woman. One day the daughter is there, alive, vital, vibrant, and then, suddenly, just gone. In such a horrible way.” She looks at her husband and clasps his hand on her arm.
“You never forget,” he concurs softly, and sighs.
“Ulla picked up the parents Tuesday morning and took them to the morgue for a formal identification. You never know how the next of kin are going to react. Ulla said the viewing was by television. She wanted to spare them the sight of their daughter’s head. The back was crushed, and it was hard to hide in a frontal viewing. Using the right angle, they can have the camera just focus on the face itself. The mother collapsed on the floor. The father just stood there. Ulla said he was crying. Soundlessly. Then he picked up his wife and they walked out to the waiting room and just buckled on a sofa. I think it upset Ulla a lot, and she’s not the type.”
“I see,” Samuel said, feeling rather helpless. He had never forgotten his last look at his own daughter, before they used television cameras, lying so small and pallid in the morgue drawer. No parent should ever have to endure such an ordeal, he thought.
Phoebe continued. “Melinda would have been just a year older than Ulla is now. Trinh, the Vietnamese girl, was twenty-four.”
Husband and wife share a flash of old sorrow.
“Are you going to be all right?” he asks.
Phoebe moves her head up and down. “I’ll be all right, honey,” she says.
She concentrates on the road and the traffic, and Samuel gazes idly out the window, the day’s edition of the Wall Street Journal lying scrunched in his lap.
“Do you suspect the parents?”
“No. I really don’t. Anything is possible, but I just don’t see it. Still, I’ve learned never to jump to conclusions. Murder is often a mystery to me. I mean, why people do it.”
“Any leads? Or am I being too inquisitive?”
“No problem. Yes, some. We’re interviewing the primary this afternoon. A boyfriend. It turns out he’s a cop. Ulla brought the parents in again yesterday, and they picked him out of shots in the personnel files. He looks good, but I don’t know. My gut tells me no. But, again …” she trails off uncertainly.
“Well, always listen to yourself, dear. You always do talk a good game.”
And drops her husband half a block from his office, kissing him on the mouth. Then she heads for police headquarters and hangs a right off Crest into the parking garage. It’s a few minutes before nine.
The office was in full swing, and the members of her crew were all present. Phoebe caught Tanya’s eye.
“This is your lucky day, Phoebe,” she said.
“Dr. Wendell got to the autopsy of the Cao woman sooner than he thought he would. Yesterday. The report’s on you desk.”
“Yesss!” Phoebe said. “Listen,Tanya, I want you to set up a meeting for eleven this morning. We need to go over a few things and get caught up on that autopsy before we interview Officer Darling.”
“Right,” Tanya said. “Here are your messages.” She handed Phoebe half a dozen pink sheetlets.
“You’re a popular lady!”
Phoebe quickly riffled through the notes and hung them from a large metal binder clip looped over a nail sticking out from the bookshelf on her desk.
TO BE CONTINUED