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Authors: Barbara Levenson

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BOOK: Fatal February
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I was enjoying the gregariousness of this group, and found myself getting into the kidding and jokes. Then Marielena moved over next to me during dessert. Carlos had gotten up to procure another bottle of wine. Marielena slipped into his empty seat.

“Did you actually meet Carlos at a car wash or was that just Carlos kidding us?” she asked.

“No, no joke. We met at a car wash, after he rear-ended my car,” I said.

“So it was like he picked you up. Is that the expression?”

“It wasn’t at all like that. Actually, I ended up representing him in a legal matter.” I tried to hide my irritation the way you try to hide a spot on your shirt. I covered my face for a moment.

“Carlos told his mother he was going to marry you.”

“Maybe that was a little premature. We haven’t known each other very long.”

“You know, Mary, sometimes it’s hard for Anglo
girls to fit into Spanish families. I hope you won’t take offense. Carlos has already gone through one divorce. I just want to see him happily settled.”

Now I was angry and I didn’t care if it showed. Marielena was a busybody, and a prejudiced one. “If I remember correctly, Carlos’s original wife was Hispanic, so I guess marriages fail for reasons beyond ethnicity. That’s correct, isn’t it?” I said in my best cross-examination voice.

Carlos appeared, carrying a bottle of sparkling wine. His presence ended round one in the Anglo-Hispanic slap down. Marielena got up, gave Carlos a peck on the cheek, and returned to her seat next to Angelina. I watched as she whispered in Angelina’s ear. They acted like two little girls in study hall, talking trash about the teacher.

I reminded Carlos that I needed to get home to be fresh for work in the morning. We gave our regrets for the early departure. It looked like the party was just warming up. This would give everyone time to discuss the Gringo girl who was trying to steal Carlos.

CHAPTER EIGHTEEN
 

I woke up Sunday feeling slightly hungover. Between the rum and the wine, it was a miracle that I was able to get up. I wanted to get to the office, but my head was buzzing. I made a strong pot of coffee and drank it all. Sam gulped down his breakfast, and demanded a walk.

The walk did not clear my head. I decided to put off the office for a while. An hour at the gym might restore my equilibrium. I hoped Carlos wouldn’t call at the office. I had resisted his staying over, pleading I really needed sleep, and a full day of catch-up work.

The gym was one of a chain of health clubs. It was large, well lighted, and always crowded from six a.m. until midnight. The noise of the machines, the weights hitting the floor, and the pounding feet on the dozens of treadmills was not a good cure for the hangover. The good thing about the early-morning crowd was that it was made up of serious gym rats. They were there for exercise, not ogling or conversing.

I decided on the stationary bike, because it didn’t
make any noise. I grabbed the front of the
Miami Herald
and began to pedal away. Twenty minutes later, I was sweaty but sane again. I moved to the health juice bar, and sat down on the only empty stool. I looked to my right and saw a familiar looking young guy. For a minute, I couldn’t place him, and then it hit me.

“Brett Yarmouth. How are you?”

“Oh, hi, Mary. I was just leaving,” he said. He leapt from the stool as if I had bitten him.

“Wait,” I said and grabbed his arm. “I really need to talk to you. Why haven’t you come to the office to meet with me?”

“What’s the point? You’ve met with Sherry. I don’t know what I could add.”

“You never know. The event you think is unimportant could be the very thing that will help your mother. Look, we’re both here. We can go out on the patio and talk informally. You may have to be a witness for your mother, so sooner or later I have to talk with you. You know, to prepare you to testify. Come on, you want to help your mother, don’t you?”

“Of course, it’s just that—”

“I’m not taking no for answer.” I took Brett by the elbow, grabbed my health-bar smoothie, and steered him to the door. What could he be hiding that was feeding his reluctance to speak to me, or was he reluctant to help his mother?

The patio was deserted except for an attendant putting towels out for the water aerobics class at eleven.
With any luck, we would have a quiet hour out here.

“Have you decided when you’ll go back to school?” I asked

“If I miss another month, it’ll be too late for this term. I was going to have to go this summer anyway and so was Sherry, so we’ll plan on the summer quarter, if everything’s okay here, of course.”

“What’s your major?”

“That’s a good question. Damned if I know. Dad wanted me to go into the business. Dartmouth has a good MBA program, and I thought I’d get a master’s and then work at Elite. At least, that’s what I thought when I finished high school, but things change.”

“I’m sure it’s hard to think about your family’s business now with your dad gone, but your mother still owns part of Elite.”

“I made my decision not to be in business with my dad and Uncle Jack way before this mess. Too many family squabbles, and other stuff.”

“What other stuff?”

“Just family stuff.”

“Listen, Brett, I don’t know what you’re hiding. I’m not your enemy. If you know something that’s going to come out at trial, please don’t leave me in the dark. You can help me do my job.”

Brett looked out at the pool. He shifted in his seat and finally turned and looked at me. For a minute, I thought he was going to cry. He swallowed hard. His hands were balled into fists in his lap. He looked like
a kid who needed a parent. I’m not the maternal type, but I needed to seize the moment, so I moved over next to Brett and put an arm around him.

“The longer you carry around a secret, the worse it may seem in your mind. Maybe you’ll feel better if you share whatever is bothering you. We’ll sort it out together,” I said.

“I’m scared that what I tell you may hurt my mother’s case. Like maybe you’ll think she did it.”

“I can assure you that even if I had doubts about her innocence, it wouldn’t affect my duty to represent her to the fullest. I’m a good judge of character, and I have no doubts about her. I think the police made a huge mistake and jumped to the conclusion that she committed this murder. They never really investigated. Just said case closed, and gave themselves a gold star.”

Brett took a deep breath and spoke almost in a whisper. “Last summer I came home between quarters for a couple of weeks. You know Dartmouth is pretty much of a year-round school. I planned to spend the time interning at the office, learning the products. In the fall, I was going to spend a few weeks in France interning at one of the wineries.” Brett cleared his throat and paused.

“Take your time, I said. “I’ve got all day free.”

“I went to Dad’s office to see if he wanted to go to lunch. I didn’t knock. I never do. I mean he was my dad. I opened the door and caught him with some slut. I mean she had her blouse off and he was sucking her
tits. I couldn’t believe it. I mean right in his office, like he didn’t care who saw him. I was furious. I walked out and slammed the door.”

“He chased after me. He could see I was shocked or pissed or whatever. He insisted that we leave and go talk over lunch. I said what if Mom had walked in there, or Uncle Jack or Beverly. He said he was sorry, and begged me not to tell Mom or Sherry. He said the woman didn’t mean anything to him and that he had been weak. That she had been coming on to him.”

“Did you find out who she was?”

“Not then. I made him promise that he wouldn’t see her anymore or I would tell Mom. He promised, and I believed him.”

“So was that the end of it?” I asked. I knew it wasn’t. Marian had seen Gary and Maddie in New York in the fall.

“I really wanted to believe him for Mom’s sake. In the fall, Dad was going to New York on business. I called him at his hotel. I had this great idea that I’d come down to New York, and we’d go to a Mets game. They were playing our team, the Marlins. Dad always loved taking me to ball games, and I wanted to see him before I left for France. He sounded real strange. Said he had too many plans with clients and he’d have to take a rain check. I had a bad feeling that he was lying.”

“No one likes to find out that their parents aren’t perfect. You just found it out later than a lot of kids,” I said.

“I still never said anything to anybody. Then we came home for Christmas. Mom seemed fine, but Dad was moody and quiet. He kept getting phone calls and going into his office to talk. I knew he was still seeing that slut, so I walked in while he was on one of the calls. He hung up, and I told him straight out that I had to tell Mom. He was being unfair, and he broke his promise to me.

I never saw my dad fall apart before. He was always the happy guy who we all leaned on. He sat down and just lost it. He told me he’d made an awful mistake, playing around with a client from one of the hotel chains. I guess he thought he’d have a little fun and that would be it. Maybe he’d done this before.”

“Was her name Maddie Rodriguez?” I asked.

“So you already knew about this?” Brett jumped up. His face turned red.

My big mouth ruined the rapport I had just established.

“I did a little digging and that name came up. I didn’t know how she was connected to your dad,” I lied. “Please, I didn’t mean to interrupt you. I hope you’ll tell me what else you know about this, so that I can understand what was occurring in your family,”

Brett sat down. “Dad said she wouldn’t leave him alone. She wanted him to buy her a condo. She was threatening him. He said he never meant for something like this to go this far, and he would find a way to end it for good. He said Mom didn’t know and he
begged me not to tell her. So I went back to school after New Year’s. I was upset about this whole thing, which was why I decided to get home for Presidents’ Day weekend to see how everything was. Sherry decided to come with me.”

“Did you tell her about this?”

“I haven’t told anyone except my roommate, and now, you.”

“I’m not sure that I understand why you were so reluctant to tell me.” I could have been unprepared for the State in court.”

“You mean they know?”

“If they don’t know now, they will before this case is over. It’s their job to establish a motive, a reason why someone would commit a murder.”

“See, that’s what I thought. If people knew how my dad had cheated on my mom, they’d believe that she did kill him. I felt like killing him myself. And sometimes I wonder if she found out and, well, maybe she did do it. Maybe she caught him like I did.”

“Has your mother ever done anything violent that you can remember?”

“Never. She never even spanked us. She hates violence. Won’t even watch a movie with killing.”

“Okay, Brett, you did the right thing telling me all of this. I need to find out more about this woman. One more question. How did your Uncle Jack and your father get along?”

“They argued a lot about the business. They
weren’t close, but Jack’s an okay guy. He knew how much Mom cared for Dad, so he tried to keep his feelings to himself.”

“Are you all right, Brett? Should I drive you home?”

“No, I’ve got a car here. I think I’ll go for a swim before I go back home.”

“Don’t be afraid to come and talk to me anytime,” I said. I gave him a kiss on the cheek. He waved as I walked back through the gym.

I went right to the office, sweaty workout clothes or not. This was the time to lay out everything I knew about Lillian’s case. I put down everything I had learned from Brett, and began comparing it to my other notes.

Some mail had arrived on Saturday, which I picked up in the front hall mail slot. Now I glanced at the top envelope. It contained the first discovery documents from the state attorney’s office. There were three attached sheets containing the police arrest report. It was in the usual police condition, written by the first officers on the scene in a scrawling handwriting, hard to decipher. I was sure by now the homicide officers had written a full typewritten offense incident report. The State was doling out the discovery in slow motion. The last time I was involved in a case with the Miami P.D., they claimed that all reports had to be approved by a captain before being disbursed to the defense. The captain must have needed remedial reading
because I had waited over a month for that report. I was not going to let them stall this time. I read the messy handwriting with difficulty.

Arrived at the Bayshore Road residence of Yarmouth family at 3:17 p.m. Dispatched re: 911 of a 28 at residence. Reporter Lillian Yarmouth. Fire Rescue on scene at 3:21. Victim, Gary Yarmouth, age 49, located in upstairs bedroom, stab wound to heart. DOA. Weapon still in body, silver paper knife with monogram LLB. Fire rescue removed weapon, given to Ofcr. Moreno who placed in evidence. No one on scene other than spouse, Lillian Yarmouth. No statement made. Only repeated, “I loved him.” House search, no one else in house. No evidence of forced entry. House neat and orderly except for bedroom where signs of a struggle. Desk chair overturned.

Homicide arrived at 4:14, lead detective Harry Fonseca. This officer sent to canvas neighborhood. Interviewed neighbor Cassie Kahn, next door. Witness states she was in her yard
and observed Lillian Yarmouth drive into garage around 3 p.m. Also saw unknown blonde or red-haired woman run down Bayshore and enter a vehicle, red BMW, no license tag given, in vicinity of home of Hernandez residence two doors from victim’s residence No answer at Hernandez residence.

 

Elderly neighbor at 2028 Bayshore, west of victim saw or heard nothing.

 

No other neighbors at home.

 

Medical Examiner’s office on scene at 4:40. Body removed for autopsy. Crime scene secured and turned over to homicide who arrested Lillian Yarmouth at 4:48 p.m. This officer cleared scene at 4:56 after search of curtilage and grassy swale areas. Officer Raul Gordon, Badge &286.

BOOK: Fatal February
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