(This is the continuation of a serial novel. For previous chapters click here.)
When Rogers and Harrison entered the interview room, Candy Cole was finishing her statement. Her hair was not a brash color red. Instead it had been softened to an almost a strawberry blonde. She was petite, fine featured, with a naturally turned up nose. Candy Cole was out of her element and yet she appeared remarkably in control. She calmly put down her pen as the two detectives entered the room. Rogers sensed that underneath her self-assured veneer she was anything but calm. He noticed her French manicure and delicate hands.
Rogers began by reading Candy Cole’s elegantly scripted, three-page statement slowly passing each of the pages to Harrison as he was finished. Both detectives remained expressionless. Rogers could smell the faint aura of her perfume from across the table. When they had finished reading her statement, Rogers looked up into her hazel eyes and began the questioning.
“Miss Cole, for the record my name is Detective Irwin Rogers and this is Detective Daren Harrison whom I believe you have already met. We have been assigned to investigate the murder of Alexi Defarshi. First, I would like to ask you if there is anyone you wish me to contact to let them know where you are?”
“No thank you,” she replied calmly.
“Is there anything we can get you – something to drink perhaps?” Rogers asked.
“Again, thank you, but no.” she responded.
“How would you describe you relationship with Alexi Defarshi? ”
“We were lovers. ”
“How long have you known him?”
“Six months or so.”
“Miss Cole …” Rogers paused while searching for the right words, “ you say you were lovers, but what you did not say was whether you loved him or not. Did you?”
“No, I did not,” Candy Cole replied in a tone that sounded slightly amused. “I’m going through a messy divorce right now and to be quite honest, I’ve had enough of love for a while.”
“You said that you’re in the process of divorcing your husband. What sort of work does he do?” Harrison asked.
“He works in Langley, Virginia, with the C. I. A.,” she replied.
“ His name?” Harrison asked.
“ Philip Donovan,” blurted Candy Cole who clearly despised saying his name.
“ What exactly does he do for the C. I. A., Miss Cole?” Harrison asked.
“ You’ll have to ask HIM. He’s never told me, that’s for sure. They’re known for their little secrets over there in Langley you know. Let me answer your question as best as I can. Philip is the deputy director of the Operations Directorate, which of course, tells you nothing. According to my father, it’s an important position. He would know since he helped Philip get the appointment.”
Rogers had to ask the obvious.
“You say your divorce is messy. Did one of you file for divorce first or was it a mutual thing?”
“I filed first, although, I can say with certainty that it is mutual now.”
“Did your husband know about you relationship with Mr. Defarshi?”
“Detective Harrison, let’s cut to the chase and save each other a lot of time. Nothing on earth would give me greater pleasure than to point you two in the direction of my husband and suggest that he killed Alexi. The truth is my husband lacks the passion and the guts to shoot any man, especially over me. Philip loves Philip too much. The last thing he would ever do is jeopardize his precious career over something as insignificant as the lover of his estranged wife.”
“It happens every day,” Harrison countered.
“Not in my world,” she snapped diverting her glare to Harrison. “Go ahead and check him out if you like. I’m sure that if you embarrass him at the Agency he will in turn do wonders for your careers,” she said.
“What do you mean by that Miss Cole? That sounds like a threat,” blurted Rogers, who now seemed slightly annoyed himself.
Candy Cole looked back at Rogers and smiled as if that alone should answer his question.
Harrison looked over at his partner, trying to signal him to not fall for her line, but it was too late.
“Miss Cole, we’ll need your husband’s work and home phone numbers along with his address before you leave. Unless Detective Harrison has something further, you are free to go,” Rogers snapped.
“Just one more question if I may,” said Harrison, flavoring his North Carolina accent on the “I may.” “When you visited Alexi in the past, where did you usually park your car?”
“Usually on the street until a couple of weeks ago when someone stole two of my tires. Since then I started parking it in front of Alexi’s garage.”
“Did you file a police report when your tires were stolen Miss Cole?” Harrison asked.
“No, I did not. Why?” she asked.
“For your insurance claim,” countered Harrison.
“Detective Harrison,” she said, rising to her feet preparing to leave. “ I just picked up the phone and had two new tires delivered and installed. And in case you are wondering – I paid in cash to the Goodyear dealership in Northeast. Now if that will be all gentleman – I’m afraid I must be leaving now.”
“Please don’t forget to write down your husband’s information before you leave Miss Cole,” Rogers reminded her.
“Forget? Not a chance.” she said. “ I want you both to have it.”
Candy Cole sauntered out of the room, pausing just long enough to thank Inspector Alphonso Foggs for his “courtesy and concern which l will not forget.”
Returning to the Scene of the Crime
While Rogers was checking out Philip Donovan at the C.I.A., Harrison decided to retrace the final steps of Alexi Defarshi. He began by interviewing the employees who worked at the Labyrinth the night Alexi was killed. None of the employees seemed to be grieving and remarkably, none seemed very shocked that he had been murdered. Most of the employees had already read the details of the shooting in the Post earlier that morning. The fancy car and extravagant lifestyle of this Maitre D’ had already generated some editorial speculation by one of Metro’s ace reporters – Debbie Peerless. Peerless was a master muckraker for the Metro Section of The Post. Her story today was no exception. She already had more details of Defarshi’s life than Homicide did. It was obvious to Harrison that someone very familiar with the activities of Alexi Defarshi was leaking information to the press.
Harrison interviewed all of the employees who had worked that night, except one. One of the waitresses, Jennifer Vallos had called in sick. Harrison left his card with the manager and asked him to have Jennifer call him when she returned. Then he tactfully asked the manager if there was a table where he could sit until closing time. The manager graciously provided a table and picking up on Harrison’s hint, provided a complimentary prime rib dinner. Harrison began with a Caesar salad and, in an effort to appear even less conspicuous, he also ordered a bottle of vintage Cabernet Sauvignon. Even Homicide has its perks.
While Harrison was enjoying his prime rib, the missing waitress, Jennifer Vallos, was melting into the deep sleep and eventual coma that results when wine and barbiturates mix. The drug’s synergetic effect was triggering a multiplicity of illusions in her brain. Slowly she was slipping into a translucent world where her sensuality blended with grief. The sorrow of her loss had overwhelmed her. The man she had loved and desired more than any man in her life was now gone. The last tears of her agony fell from her swollen eyes and snaked down pale and bluing cheeks. Beside her bed was a picture of Alexi Defarshi posing proudly in his Armani tux. At the base of the picture’s frame was the suicide note of Jennifer Zallos, who now was choking on her own vomit.
At closing time Harrison left the Labyrinth and headed toward Alexi’s town house. The drive took him six minutes driving at police speed. Police speed is fast. Still, Harrison speculated Alexi may have gotten home a little quicker at that hour of the morning, otherwise why spend all that money on such an expensive sports car. Six minutes give or take a minute or two. It was 3:40 a.m. The parking space Alexi had used was taken. There was no parking available on the street. Harrison double parked his unmarked Ford and shut off the engine. He got out of the car and began to walk around. He noticed that next to a large tree, the street light across the street was out. Cover and concealment he thought. Harrison walked across the street and shined his flashlight up at the light. He realized he was standing on fragments of broken glass. The street light bulb had been broken. Harrison went back to his car and returned with a pair of binoculars. He looked up at the streetlight with his binoculars and he focused on a small hole on the shade just to the left of the broken lense. Harrison then picked up his radio and called for Evidence. The ejected brass cartridge shell was laying thirty inches from his foot.
The Company Man
Earlier that same evening, Rogers had elected to walk around the trap Candy Cole had laid for him. Or so he thought then. Rogers called Philip Donovan at home and left a message on his answering machine to page him when he got in. At 7:30 p.m., Philip Donovan paged Rogers from his home in McClean, Virginia. Without going into details over the phone, Rogers arranged to meet Donovan at his home at 8 p.m. Rogers drove up the winding driveway and parked in the U shaped turnaround at the front of the house. It was an old and stately mansion, made entirely of whitewashed brick with green ivy growing up the western side of the home. Four white pillars supported the roof which overhung the front entrance. This imposing facade overlooked the Potomac River to the north and in the distance Georgetown University could be seen from the opposing shoreline. A sophisticated alarm and video system monitored the progress of arriving guests from the moment they crossed the property line. Not surprisingly, Philip Donovan greeted Rogers at the door.
Rogers displayed his badge and identity card while introducing himself at the doorway. The two men shook hands briefly. Donovan’s shake was extremely firm. He was a lean, athletic man, well dressed and button downed with the old school tie. Donovan typified the traditional reverse snobbery of most Yalies – that affectation common to them all – always referring to one’s school days as having been spent in “New Haven.” Philip Donovan was not the stooped shoulder, pencil pushing bureaucrat Rogers had expected. He was in his mid-30s with thinning, closely cropped hair and a tight-skinned face that featured his dark, probing eyes. His traditional blue suit had been perfectly tailored to his build, a frame which had been toned by years of disciplined excersize.
“Come in please Detective Rogers.” The two men entered the foyer, walked down a thick oriental runner past a black walnut Grandfather clock that was quietly ticking. They turned left and entered the library. A 22-inch computer monitor which had been left on was displaying a screen saver which featured a video of an erupting volcano. The golden, flame red colors of the flowing lava reflected their dancing images of light across the room like a warm fire. The hard drive of this computer looked like nothing Rogers had ever seen before.
“ So tell me Detective Rogers how is Candy handling all this?” Donovan began. “I imagine she must be pretty shaken up. This fellow that was murdered was her lover was he not?”
“How did you know that Mr. Donovan?” Rogers asked.
“She called me at the office earlier today. She wanted me to hear it from her instead of you. She told me you would probably call the house to avoid embarrassing me at work. And may I say that it was very thoughtful of you to do so. How may I be of assistance in your investigation?”
So she knew I’d call him at home did she? Rogers thought to himself while lost in the almost hypnotic volcano scene erupting before his eyes.
“Is there something specific I can do for you Detective Rogers?”
“I beg your pardon sir, I must have been day dreaming. That’s quite a monitor you have over there. What kind of computer is that?
“It’s a prototype of one we are testing at the Company,” Donovan said.
“The Company? If you’ll forgive me sir but, by the Company, are you referring to the C.I.A.?”
“Yes, I am,” Donovan replied flatly.
“So that’s a prototype.” said Rogers who now wanted to stumble a little more into Donovan’s world. “You know I was a complete computer illiterate until a couple of years ago. I used hate all that Alt – Ctrl – Escape stuff. To be honest it intimidated me. Then along came Windows. I can’t live without a computer now. You really have to hand it to that Bill Gates. He understood that people like me would only want a computer when it as easy to use. Tell me Mr. Donovan, if it isn’t a violation of National Security, what makes that computer different than others?” Rogers asked.
“Put simply, this computer is more secure than your basic, over-the-counter variety. Computers run off of electricity and when they do they leave a pulse or signature not unlike a fingerprint. Put simply, this computer has no pulse and it leaves no signature. In effect, it leaves no prints,” said Donovan, using an analogy he thought Rogers could grasp.
“No prints. That’s amazing,” Rogers replied while staring at the monitor. “I imagine leaving no prints is pretty important in your line of work isn’t it, Mr. Donovan?”
“There is a viable need for secure communication – if that’s what you mean detective,” Donovan said.
“Sir,” Rogers began. “As a matter of routine, I must ask you where you were between the hours of midnight and 5 o’clock this morning.”
“Here, alone in bed and asleep, detective,” Donovan said evenly.
“Can anyone else corroborate that fact sir?”
“Fortunately someone can, Detective Rogers. I received an emergency call from one of our station chiefs at Langley around 3 o’clock in the morning. It concerned a matter of National Security which I am not at liberty to discuss with you. That call can be verified by the phone company and I will give you the name of the station chief so that you may corroborate the fact that it was me who answered the phone.”
“This station chief you’re referring to sir …”
“ Mickey Fitch is his name,” Donovan interrupted, “he’s our Middle Eastern Station Chief of Counter Terrorist Operations.”
“Yes sir, this – Mickey Fitch.” Rogers said. “Are you saying that he actually discussed a matter of National Security with you over the phone?”
“Very … good … point, Detective. Excellent point indeed,” conceded Donovan who now was genuinely smiling for the first time. “No, we discussed nothing on the phone. Mr. Fitch called to first awaken me so that he could send me an encrypted message over that computer you’ve been admiring so much.”
“I see, I think I get the picture now,” said Donovan rising from his seat preparing to leave. “ You got a message on a computer that leaves no fingerprints. Right?” Rogers said smiling while looking directly into Donovan’s eyes. “ It must have been something very important.”
“It was,” said Donovan sternly while looking back directly into Roger’s eyes. “Detective Rogers, I’ll call you first thing in the morning and arrange for you to meet with Mr. Fitch at a time when it is convenient for you both. In the meanwhile, I hope you can understand how important it is for me to avoid bringing details of my personal life to work. I understand that you have a job to do and that I am a natural suspect in this murder. That is why you will have my complete cooperation. I want to clear this matter up as soon as possible and I hope you understand that the fewer details my colleagues know about my personal life, the better. I’m sure that you’ve been around long enough to know what I mean by that,” Donovan said with his parting shot.
“I most certainly do,” admitted Irwin Rogers.
During his trip back to Washington, Rogers reflected on Philip Donovan’s parting remarks. Traffic was flowing smoothly along the George Washington Parkway and to Rogers’ left, the Potomac River was glistening from the night lights of Georgetown. The rush hour was long over and the night life was beginning. Rogers made some mental notes. “You’ve been around long enough to know what I mean.”
There was a time in Rogers’ life when that remark would have made him more than a little paranoid. After all – here is this big shot in the C.I.A. who probably had the power to download a dossier on Rogers’ entire life’s secrets while sitting at home in his library. Ten years ago that possibility would have concerned Rogers. That was back when Rogers actually cared. But that was a long time ago.
Rogers crossed the Key Bridge into Georgetown and noticed the discarded wine bottles and beer cans littering the infamous steps used in the final scene in the film The Exorcist. At the top of those stairs is the house that was used in the filming of the movie. Rogers had read somewhere that the author of the book now lives in that very house. One block down from the house is the 1700 Club where Rogers was heading for a rendezvous with Sabrina Delfuco. He wanted to see an old whore who had quite possibly learned some new tricks.
George Munkelwitz has been a law enforcement officer for 32 years. He spent 22 years patrolling the streets as a Prince George’s County Police officer. He served in Vietnam as a military intelligence specialist where he worked with the controversial Phoenix Program. Prior to the anthrax attack, he was writing the book “The Mother of Satan.” After the anthrax attack, an article appeared in the Washington Times magazine Insight, quoting his expertise in military intelligence, and mentioning his book. ABC news interviewed him but he felt the network treated him like a suspect and not an expert in the field. He never published the book after that interview. Nearly two decades later, his serial novel is finally published by Baltimore Post-Examiner.