Authors: Aaron Stander
Tags: #Fiction, #Mystery & Detective, #Police Procedural
Ray stood at the side of the hospital bed. “How are you feeling today?” he asked.
“Better, lots better. Today I feel like life might be worth living. For the last four or five days, I wasn’t sure. I’ve really learned about pain. I now have an understanding of what soldiers go through.”
“I’ve been by to see you a couple of times over the last week,” said Elkins, “but you were sleeping. They’ve really kept you heavily sedated.”
“Yes,” said Margrave softly.
“I’d like to talk about what happened, if you feel strong enough. There’s no rush. We can wait a few more days, if that would be better.”
Margrave looked up at him. “I can tell you what I know, but I don’t feel totally lucid.”
Elkins placed a small recorder on the bedside table near Margrave. “You know that Father Bob killed himself?”
Margrave nodded, “Wife told me. Where?”
“We’ve been able to piece together what happened, but we still don’t know why. That’s what you could help us with.”
“Long answer or short answer?”
“Whatever you can do.”
“Short answer. He knew, as a therapist, I was going to have to go to the police. I’m sorry I waited. This might have all been prevented.” He paused, “Well, some of this might have been.”
“What did you know about him?”
“Well, I didn’t really know anything at first, but I finally put two and two together. I just didn’t think it was possible. During our last session, I finally realized that his problems where a lot more extensive than I had thought. Would you hand me the water,” Margrave gestured toward the tray at the side of the bed.
Ray picked up the container—stainless steel, a straw sticking through a hole in the cover—and passed it to him.
Margrave held the container carefully and drank from the straw, small sips, stopping to breathe between sips. Eventually, he handed it back.
“I’ve known Father Bob for a number of years. He’s part of a university-wide group that meets for lunch once a month. The group includes people involved in counseling and therapy. I was impressed with him, smart, knowledgeable, verbal. A few months ago he contacted me, said he had some problems he needed help working out. He started seeing me twice a week. It took him a few sessions to tell me what was bothering him. Turns out he was sleeping with a number of the women he was working with.”
“Working, as in counseling. Told me he’d never been very good at celibacy, but this wasn’t just a sex thing. He was feeling a need to control them. Sex was the most powerful weapon. He told me there was a regular pattern. He would try to get a woman to fall for him, and as soon as he was sure he had her, he would drop her. I prodded him on the number of women. He told me he used to be involved with one woman at time, but in recent months he had two or three relationships going.” Margrave paused to regain his breath. “You can see the obvious ethical dilemma for me. I pushed hard on why he was engaging in this behavior, a behavior that was unprofessional and a betrayal of trust. I hate to invoke one of the clichés of the trade, but we quickly got back to mother.”
“His mother. He was an only child and his mother left his father, left him as well, for another woman. This happened when he was eleven or twelve. He had little contact with his mother after that point. He was raised by a stern, protective father, who engendered in his son the anger and hatred he felt for his ex-wife. Bob was sent to a Catholic prep school and a Catholic university, and sometime late in his undergraduate career, he decided to enter the priesthood. He later got a Ph.D. in clinical psychology. And until all this started, by all appearances, he was quite effective.”
“What triggered the change?”
“Dalton, Constance Dalton. She came to him for help. She had gotten involved in a liaison with one of her colleagues....”
“But I thought Dalton was in therapy with you.”
“She was. She had been referred to me by Father Bob. He said her problems were beyond the scope of his counseling. Dalton was the catalyst that awakened all those feelings and all that anger he carried for his mother. You remember that it was an analogous situation. When Dalton started with him, she was considering leaving her husband and son for a woman. She was upset and confused. I guess after that he started to lose control. It took a number of months, but he became obsessed with getting the woman who, he felt, took Dalton away from her husband and son. It’s a powerful bit of transference. All he knew about the other woman was that she was one of Dalton’s colleagues, perhaps someone in the same specialty.” He stopped and gestured toward the container of water.
Ray picked up the container. “This is almost empty, I’ll have to get you some more.” He carried it to the nursing station and returned with one filled with water and ice. Margrave passed it back to Ray after drinking.
“When did you learn about this?”
“He had an appointment on Monday. At the end of the session I think that he went further than he had intended to. When he came in on Wednesday I confronted him, asked him directly about his involvement in Benson’s death. He told me everything. I think he had planned to kill me.”
“So tell me about Bensen.”
“He said that he had assumed that Bensen was her lover. He knew that Dalton spent time with her, and everything he knew about Bensen suggested that she was a lesbian.”
“Did he tell you how he did it, how he got her to the carillon?”
“I asked. He said he set up a meeting with her in his office. Using the tunnels, he had purloined a small cylinder of nitrous oxide and a mask from the dental school. I don’t know how he put her under, if he overpowered her or what. All he told me was that he put her out using nitrous and used the steam tunnels to get her to the carillon. He said he waited until some of her colleagues started coming out of the department meeting, then gave her a quick push through the window. Said her academic robes were the window-dressing. He gloated when he told me about it, said it was the perfect crime.”
Elkins asked, “Did he tell you how he got the academic regalia?”
“Didn’t elaborate, but I realize now how sociopathic and very manipulative he was. I’m sure he was able to get people to do almost anything he wanted them to.”
“How about Hendrickson?”
“He said that after he killed Bensen, he became suspicious that perhaps Hendrickson was the object of Dalton’s affections. He had seen them having coffee in the Union, and he sensed that they were intimate. Father Bob said that once he killed Bensen, the second one was easy. He said he hadn’t really planned it, but when he saw her car at the Chesterton’s it was all too easy. He had raced sports cars in college and knew all he had to do was cut some brake lines. Said he didn’t know what effect it would have, and it turned out better than he hoped for.”
“But why Arden?”
“He had committed two seemingly perfect crimes. He thought he could get away with another one. He knew Arden and Dalton were friends, perhaps more than just friends. Arden had told him some ex-con had threatened her, so he decided to take advantage of the opportunity. Said he couldn’t believe that it didn’t work. I asked how he felt about almost killing someone not involved. He said it happens in war, collateral damage.”
“Dalton, we skipped her. Another nitrous oxide victim before the carbon monoxide?”
“He said Dalton did herself in. He was sorry, but it was probably for the best. Said it’s hell growing up wondering about your mother, who she’s with, if she ever loved you. Bob said Dalton’s death would allow her son to get on with his life. He wished his mother had killed herself. At that point he pulled out a pistol and said something like, “ Of course you appreciate why I have to do this.’ That’s about all I remember.”
“It fills in all the pieces,” said Ray. We will have to verify some of the physical evidence, but this ties it all together.”
“You know,” said Margrave, “I’ve done work in post-trauma therapy—policemen, firemen, rescue people. After you were shot at, I was going to offer to give you whatever assistance I could. If fact, you were on my call list the day....”
“I could still use it,” said Elkins. “As soon as you’ve recovered.”
“We’ll probably have to bring in someone else. They can work with both of us,” said Margrave with a weak smile. “We’ll get a group discount.”
ay was standing in the kitchen when Jane pushed the screen door open and came in carrying a brown grocery bag. She set the bag on the counter and slid under Ray’s arm and gave him a playful kiss on the cheek. “Stephanie sent you a gift. She said it was special.”
“What is it?”
“You’re going to have to look. It’s not a surprise if I tell you.”
Ray reached in the bag and pulled out a bottle of Krug. He looked at the bottle and said, “Wonderful.”
“There’s something more.”
Ray looked in the bag again and pulled out a small can, frost forming on its exterior. “Stephanie is amazing; I don’t know how she remembered this.”
“What is it? Stephanie wouldn’t tell me, and I couldn’t read the label.”
“It’s concentrate, white peach concentrate. You mix it with champagne. It’s very special. Get me a glass pitcher, will you. They’re under that counter.”
Arden opened the can and the champagne bottle, mixed the chilled champagne and peach juice, and filled two hollow-stemmed glasses. She handed one to Ray, lifted hers, and in a raspy voice said, “Here’s looking at you, kid.”
Ray responded, “Of all the gin joints.”
She sipped, “This is superb. I imagine after you’ve given a woman a couple of glasses of this, you....”
“Feed her supper. Would you carry the shrimp out to the grill?”
They went out on the deck, and Ray opened the grill, adjusted the temperature, and carefully laid out the shrimp on the hot grate. He brushed them with marinade and turned them over. As he repeated the process several more times, Jane carried out the rice and salad, and set the table. Ray carried the plate of shrimp to the table.
“I’m impressed by your culinary skills,” she said.
“It’s something I enjoy.”
As they started eating, Jane said, “I’ve been hearing bits and pieces, can you put the whole story together?”
“I can tell you what I know, and what I assume. Hopefully, we’re close to the truth.”
Arden gave him her wry smile, a smile he was starting to appreciate. “You’re still struggling with some epistemological issues.”
“Exactly,” he said returning her smile and sharing her joke. He proceeded to tell her about Margrave’s statement. Then he told her about finding the cylinder of nitrous oxide hidden in a closet in Father Bob’s office. He also told her about the ballistics tests done at the state police labs that verified that the rifle found in Father Bob’s trunk was the same one used in the shooting at her townhouse.
“There’s one thing you will find especially interesting,” he said as he wound down his story.
“That rifle, the one he fired at you,” he paused, “and me. We’re both lucky. The fellow at the lab said the scope was way off. The weapon fired to the left. Either the scope wasn’t sighted in properly, or it got banged on something. Anyway, we’re lucky, both of us.”
Jane filled their glasses again, and they sipped quietly, each lost in their own thoughts. Ray was looking at Jane. For the first time in months he was feeling relaxed, for the first time in several years he was feeling truly happy. The dark shroud that had been hanging over him was finally lifted. He was starting to think about the future.