Authors: Keith M Donaldson
enjoyed the balmy, sunny afternoon driving with the top down to Georgetown Law School to pick up Marsha. The young woman needed to get her house key that was on
. We retrieved it and headed across the Potomac River.
“Have you thought about what you're going to do with the townhouse?” I asked.
“I can't afford it,” Marsha said. “Janet paid seventy percent of the rent and we split the utilities. I'd have to get at least two people, but I don't want that hassle. Besides, some friends lost a roommate to bad grades. I can crash there for a lot less than I pay now. Getting out of the lease is my biggest headache.”
“Let us know. Jerry can help, a call from a lawyer.”
“Yeah. Hopefully that'll be me in a couple of years.”
We drove the rest of the way in silence, the wind whipping our hair. I found Janet's space and pulled in. There was a sedan in the adjoining slot.
“Do you get one or two parking spots with the townhouse?” I asked.
“Two, but our immediate neighbors sometimes use the other.”
I got out and checked the sedan's license. It was a government plate. I wrote down the number. Marsha had walked up to the front door and was about to open it.
“Marsha? Hold up.”
I rushed to the roommate, while punching in a number on my cell. “That car has federal government plates.”
Marsha frowned. “I don't understand.”
“You may have a visitor.”
My call was answered. “Yes, Ms. Wolfe?”
“Max, I'm with Marsha outside her townhouse in Arlington. There's a sedan with government plates in her parking space.”
“Not one of mine.”
“Here's the plate number.” I gave it to him.
“That's a government fleet car, from the general pool.”
“Could be. Unless the U.S. attorney gave them a warrant or there's an Arlington cop with them to serve one, they are trespassing. On second thought, I don't know what possible cause they could give to obtain a warrant.”
“I don't know for sure anyone's in there, but if they are, they are going to be real unhappy to see us, especially me. They may want Marsha.”
I saw that made the young woman cringe.
“Get back in the car. I'm calling Arlington PD right now. No matter who they are, you can't confront them.”
Since I had an open convertible, I indicated to Marsha that we walk down the sidewalk. I kept the phone to my ear. I could hear Max talking in the background. We walked about thirty yards to the corner where we stopped and watched the townhouse.
Max came back on. “A patrol car should be there in minutes. Stay on with me. They'll want Marsha's house key and her permission to enter. You in the car?”
“No, I had the top down. We walked down the street to the corner. Marsha, the people inside may not have a warrant, but they may want to take some things. Maybe all of Janet's stuff. Max and I don't think that is a good idea.”
“I won't give them permission.”
“I heard chatter on the Arlington frequency,” Max reported, “saying a car is about there. Wave it down, Laura.”
An Arlington patrol car was indeed pulling into the complex, and I waved at them. It stopped, and a male and female officer got out. They both slid billy clubs into their belts. The female headed for me. “Ms. Wolfe?”
“Laura Wolfe, that's me.”
“Who is with you?”
“Marsha Hines, the resident of that,” and I pointed, “townhouse.”
The patrolwoman noticed her cell phone. “Is your phone hot?”
“Yes. I'm talking with MPD Homicide Captain Max Walsh.” I lifted the phone. “You are still there, aren't you?”
I nodded to the officer. “He called you all.”
“Which is the car that concerned you?” the officer asked.
“Right next to my red convertible.”
The male officer went to the sedan to look it over.
The female officer gestured, indicating the phone, “May I?”
“Certainly,” I handed her the phone.
“Captain Walsh, this is Officer Pruitt, sir, Arlington County Police.”
“This is a very sensitive issue, sir.”
“I agree. Our concern is that the intruders not be allowed to remove anything from the premises without a warrant. Ms. Hines, the resident there with you, has said she will not give permission.”
“As a matter of fact, officer, I wouldn't be surprised if the intruders are fully aware of your presence and may be departing from the rear of the house about now.”
That surprised Pruitt. She called to the male officer. “Francona! Check behind the building, see if there's a back door, maybe some perps coming out.”
The male officer put his hand on his service piece. Marsha's unit was next to the end, and the officer went down a slight slope to the rear. Within seconds, the officer's voice came over Pruitt's radio. “I need assistance!”
The officer handed me back my phone, drew her weapon and ran to where Francona had gone. I heard her call for backup. “Send a sergeant!” At the end of the townhouses, she ran down the embankment and around back.
“Sounds like our friends were leaving by the back door,” I reported to Max.
“Happens to us all the time,” he chuckled.
Shortly, Pruitt appeared around the townhouses with two suited men. Francona brought up the rear. No guns were displayed, but the male officer was extra cautious, keeping a safe distance behind them.
“They're coming back and have two men in suits who do not appear to be very happy,” I said to Max.
The female officer spoke. “All right, gentlemen, please wait in front of your car.” She then beckoned to us. “Ms. Hines?”
“Yes?” Marsha said as we walked toward the officer.
“Do you know either of these gentlemen?” she asked formally.
“Are you the resident of that townhouse?”
“The only resident?”
“Now, yes. My roommate was killed,” her voice cracked.
“These gentlemen are from the Secret Service. Do you know why they would want to be in your townhouse?”
Marsha answered with a questioning inflection. “My roommate worked for the Vice President of the United States?”
I decided to let this play out. Francona had moved the patrol car behind both the sedan and my car, just as another patrol car pulled in and turned diagonally, its turret lights on, blocking access and egress. That did not go unnoticed by the agents. I caught a glimpse of a couple of neighbors in front of their units, observing the scene.
The two suits were anxious and upset. A sergeant got out of the passenger's side of the newly arrived squad car. The driver remained behind the wheel. The overweight officer walked right up to the suits. Marsha and I stood off to the side.
“Gentlemen, may I see your identification?” the sergeant asked. “Please take it out slowly and hand it to me.”
They looked like they were going to argue.
“I am Sergeant Shansky, Arlington PD. If you are who you say you are, you will not be detained. We run into all sorts of forgeries, as I'm sure you do.” He extended his hand.
My position allowed me to easily see all the players. The two Arlington officers each had a hand on their weapon. I reported the proceedings quietly to Max, while the agents pulled out their IDs and handed them to the sergeant.
Shansky studied both. He then put them on the hood of the unmarked sedan and took out a pad and wrote down names and numbers. “Officer Pruitt?” He handed her the pad. “Check these out, please.”
“Yes sir.” She went to her car.
“The Arlington PD sergeant is having the Secret Service agents' IDs verified.”
Max grunted. “I bet they love that.”
Shansky said. “Gentlemen, we seem to have a procedural violation. You were in a residence uninvited and without a warrant. We understand from MPD you may have an interest in a murder case involving the resident of the building you were in.
“In the interest of cooperation, we will call it a day, as soon as I receive verification you are who you say you are. You may then get into your car and drive back across the river. We would be more than happy to work with you in the future, but let it be done legally.”
The body language of the two suits was enough to kill. Shansky was a pro.
One of the suits spoke. “Sergeant, you can bet we will be back, but in the meantime, we ask that you not let anyone,” and he looked directly at Marsha and me, “remove anything from the building.”
“Oh, is this a crime scene?” Shansky asked pointedly.
“Is there someone in this building who is a suspect?”
“We're not sure.”
I barely heard his reply.
“Well, when you figure that out, I am sure the Arlington U.S. Attorney's office will be more than happy to take a look at what you've got.”
Officer Pruitt returned. She nodded to the sergeant.
“Thank you,” he said to her. “Would you pull your car up so that these gentlemen may leave?” he said, handing the agents back their property.
“That worked out well,” I reported to Max.
“I couldn't hear everything,” Max replied.
“A Sergeant Shansky withâ”
“Shansky? Let me talk to him after the suits leave.”
I watched the two suits get into their sedan and head out, as the squad car at the entrance pulled aside and into the space vacated by the sedan. Shansky gathered Pruitt and Francona to him. Then the two officers headed to their car.
“Thank you,” I called out to the departing officers.
“Yes, thank you,” Marsha said.
“Yes ma'am” and “no problem” came the responses.
Shansky walked toward us. “I'd like to go in with you. I don't expect any problems, but I'd like to make sure myself. Officially, nothing happened.”
Marsha and I looked at each other and nodded. I answered for us. “We understand.” Then I remembered Max. “Oh, Sergeant,
would like to speak to you.”
“You had him on the line all that time?”
“He would.” Shansky laughed as he took the phone. “You old war horse, didn't know you for one to play babysitter for a couple of lasses in distress.” He laughed.
“Those are two very special ladies. I appreciate your decisive action, but then I wouldn't expect anything else.”
“Now I know how you made captain so fast,” Shansky roared. “If there's anything else, just give us a call.”
“Yeah well, this is a weird one. The two pregnancy killings.”
“Ugly stuff. I'm going inside with your friends for a look around, and then we'll be on our way. Good talking to you, Captain Walsh.” He laughed again.
“I'll come over and buy you a few.”
“Just give a call.”
The sergeant handed me back my phone and I signed off with Max.
He gestured toward the townhouse. “Shall we, ladies?”