Christmas at Star Lake
By Carol Ann Kauffman
“Yes, Brittany,” Madison answered the office intercom phone. “Is Kyle here?”
“Ah, no, Ms. Rand, Detective Carlucci’s here to see you,” Brittany announced.
“Oh, no, Brit,” whispered Madison. “Carlucci never brings good news. There goes my good mood, my holiday spirit, and in all probability, my lunch date with Kyle,” she sighed, looking at her watch. “Let him in,” she groaned.
“Ms. Rand will see you now,” Brittany said to the policeman.
Silver Maples’ finest detective in more ways than one, Anthony Carlucci, sauntered into Madison’s office and stared at her.
“Merry Christmas, Detective Carlucci. What a pleasant surprise. And how did my little systems analysis business offend Silver Maple’s Finest this cold December morning right before Christmas?”
“Ahh, Madison, don’t be like that. Although Rand in Cleveland, Chicago, and Philadelphia is what you say it is, we all know damn well this little systems analysis business is a front for the biggest and the best hometown protect-the-innocent-and-help-the-helpless operation in the country. You thumb your nose at the establishment and make the police department look inefficient on a daily basis and the citizens of Silver Maple love you for it, at least the law-biding ones. Remember, me and Rand, we go way back. And it’s always a pleasure to come and visit and just look around.”
“Thank you, I think. Coffee?”
“Sure.” He sat down, stretched out his long legs, and got comfortable.
“Brittany, Detective Heart-throb Carlucci’s in the mood for some coffee to go with his late morning chat,” she called out. “Now, what’s on your mind, Detective? Christmas is almost here and I’m a busy woman.”
“Madison, new evidence has come to light from the state coroner’s office. You’re in over your head, kid. Do you still own this building? Without Hawk, Pops, and Thor, you’ve got nobody to protect you. You’re pissing people off left and right. I think you should sell. Get out of New York. Go somewhere nice and warm. Open up a little dress shop in Florida.”
Brittany came in with his coffee, sat it down, winked at him, and strutted out.
Carlucci watched her until she was out of sight.
“Tony? Yo, Tony!” she called, shaking him back to the conversation. “What are you talking about? What new evidence?”
“Your big blonde guy, Thor? Real name Bob Turner.”
“Yes, what about Bob?”
“It wasn’t a heart attack. We have new evidence… he was killed.”
Madison stood up and backed away from Carlucci, leaning against the wall for support. “Bob… was killed? Murdered? Why? How? He didn’t have an enemy in the world. Who would want to kill Bob?”
“The lab report showed a highly toxic poison in his system. At the autopsy, the coroner did note a tiny pinprick on Bob’s shoulder. Someone delivered the poison by a pat on the shoulder. Fast-acting stuff. So, we gather, it happened while he was out jogging in the park that morning.”
“No,” whispered Madison in disbelief, then taking a moment to let it sunk in. “So Bob was murdered.” She walked to the window and looked out silently for a moment. “You know, I always doubted that heart attack theory,” she said. “He was as healthy as they come. Exercise freak. Vegan. Vitamin-popper. Knew all his numbers: cholesterol, blood pressure, blood sugar, hemoglobin, homocysteine, and sodium levels. Damn walking encyclopedia of health information one really didn’t care to know. Sometimes he was pure hell to have dinner with. But murdered? Who would want to kill Bob? And why?”
“Any one of the number of disgruntled thugs, bullies, and criminals that you’ve angered over the years. But, Madison, there’s more. Are you listening to me? Madison? Pops, too.”
“My dad? No, Tony, Dad had a stroke. In bed. In the middle of the night. At home.”
“No, kid. He was murdered.”
“Somebody murdered my father in our house? While I slept upstairs?” Madison sank into her chair.
“But there was no sign of a break in.”
“I know. They were good.”
“How did they get passed our security system?”
“I don’t know. They were good.”
“So somebody killed Bob and my dad last December and you just now figured it out? The same way? Two tiny pinpricks didn’t send up a red flag? What’s the matter with you guys? Are you all blooming idiots?”
“There was no autopsy done on Pops, remember, so we don’t know if he had a pinprick. We’re only going on the tox reports. These things take time. The tox report on Bob Turner came in and got filed with the closed cases. The computer didn’t cough up the match with your father’s until yesterday when... Listen, you‘re all in danger, but especially your boyfriend, the toothpick from Cleveland. If someone’s targeting your muscle, then the toothpick is next to go down. Everybody knows who he is and where he works, and everybody knows he’s nuts about you. He’s a celebrity in town and he’s only been here, what, a year? The TV reporters follow him around just to see what he’ll do next.”
“Dad and Bob died last December. So… why are we in danger now?”
“A big order of this highly unusual substance has just hit the city.”
“You have a paper trail?”
“Well, no, we had a digital trail that… vanished.”
“So some crazy person out there only wants to kill my people at Christmas time? What’s the name of this substance? How much exactly is a big order? Where did it originate? Is there an antidote?”