A PERFECT MURDER
By Milton Cust
Detective Mike Corrigan couldn’t believe his luck. After three days of tramping through a deep, dense forest he finally found his quarry. He was plodding up another endless hill and getting tired of fighting his way through tangled bush while contending with hordes of mosquitos and bugs when he spotted something out of the ordinary.
A flash of color or a sudden movement? He wasn’t sure which, but something caught his eye. He focused his attention on it.
Yes, definitely something down there but wild animal or human? He wasn’t sure so he continued his study for a moment. He suddenly realized he was on a crest of a hill and therefore perfectly silhouetted, a perfect target for his quarry if indeed it was human.
Instinctively he dropped to the ground, crawled up behind some bushes which he hoped would give him some cover. Then he peered intently down the hill for a few minutes before making his decision. It was him all right. Ricky Carter, the object of the three day manhunt. It was reported that he kidnapped his wife and fled into the mountainous wilderness near Edson, Alberta. The search for him had come to involve dozens of policemen and civilian searchers.
“Now, Corrigan thought, I think we finally got him.”
Still staying crouched behind the bushes, Corrigan could heard the searchers coming up behind him. Earlier they had formed a line about 25 yards apart so Carter couldn’t slip through them. However, the rugged terrain, along with tangled bush and occasional ponds had soon thrown that plan to hell. Some, like himself, had managed to forge almost straight ahead while others had fight their way through various impediments until the straight, well managed line had totally disintegrated. Nevertheless, they were still coming and making a hell of a lot of noise in the process,
Corrigan realized if Carter hadn’t become aware of their presence yet, he would have to be blind, deaf and dumb.
Corrigan whispered softly into his mic to contact the search co-ordinator Jack Koslov.
“Found him,” he informed the police captain. “Tell the searchers to stand down or something will you,” he suggested. “I don’t think Carter is completely aware of us yet so there is still a chance we can take him by surprise and end this peacefully.”
“Like hell,” came the response from Koslov, making Corrigan wince. Same old captain A good man but as gung ho as all hell with the philosophy of aggression and brute force being the only way to subdue a suspect. Scare the hell out of them, show them who’s boss and that we’re not going to back down, especially when it comes to kidnappers. That was Koslov’s idea of diplomacy.
“Where he is?” Koslov demanded. “I need to have my men surrounding him RIGHT NOW to make sure the sucker doesn’t escape us.”
Corrigan sighed in frustration, arguing, he realized was useless. Koslov was in command and Carter probably posed at least some danger. There was no denying that, but still he had hoped for at least a chance to get Carter out of this mess alive.
“In a valley about 100 yards straight ahead. Good hiding place he’s found himself. He’s deep in some bushes with lots of open space between him and us so he’ll be able to spot us the moment we make a move on him.”
Corrigan cursed at the captain’s response. “No problem. We surround him and find a place for the snipers to get a good bead on him and then he either surrenders immediately or else.”
Corrigan’s reply was interrupted by someone crawling up behind him. He turned his head and saw that a police woman named Rhonda Jenkins was wriggling her way toward him.
“Any sign of the woman?” she asked when she reached him.
Corrigan blinked at the question and then cursed himself for being so stupid. The woman of course, Sharon Carter, the whole object of this search. Where the hell was she? He and the captain had been so occupied with the fate of Ricky Carter, they had completely forgotten about her.
“The woman,” Jenkins demanded. “You see her down there?” Then, with a knowing smirk, added “men, so full of testosterone they fight and argue among themselves and lose sight of the most important things.” She pulled a pair of binoculars from a bag around her waist and turned her attention to the spot where Carter had been seen.
“Auh, there he is. That’s Ricky alright,” she exclaimed but where is Sharon? Hope he didn’t ditch her or already kill her.” Corrigan watched as she refocused the binoculars and began a sweep of the area around Ricky. “Think I spotted her,” she said after a moment’s search.
“Where?” asked Corrigan.
“Something about 25 yards from Ricky, about 3 o’clock. Lying in some bushes, shape of a body so it’s probably her but she doesn’t appear to be moving much. Hope she’s still okay.”
Corrigan nodded and said “may I?” He grabbed the binoculars and focused them on the spot Jenkins had pointed out. “Sure enough, body down there and there is some movement so maybe she is still okay.”
He handed the glasses back to Jenkins and told her, “keep an eye on them, I gotta talk to the captain again.
“Corrigan, what the hell’s happening?” the captain hissed.
“The woman, I, erh, we, erh, Jenkins found her. Spotted her with binoculars,” he explained as Jenkins glanced sideways at him with a frown on her face.
“Good,” Koslov replied. “Now that we know where she is. We take Ricky quick like, one way or the other, before he can do anything else to her. Let’s wrap this up and go home.”
In the valley below, Sharon Carter lay prone among some dense bushes. She had heard the approach of the searchers and knew her ordeal would soon be over. However, it wasn’t the couple of days march through the bush that she was referring to. It was all the shit and abuse she had been forced to put up with since her marriage to Ricky. At first she had been captivated by his bad boy image and it seemed exciting to be around him but that wore of about as fast as the honeymoon fantasy did. Ricky, she quickly discovered was a narcissistic son of a bitch who cared only about himself and in addition had no qualms about heaping all kinds of physical and emotional abuse on her.
Over several years her friends first noticed the change in her demeanor due to the emotional abuse. Then they saw the more telltale signs of outright physical abuse, Sharon had made several complaints to the police but the results were less than satisfactory. All Ricky got was a warning to behave himself. Finally she had not only divorced Ricky but got a restraining order against him. However, the order meant nothing to him and he broke it on a regular basis without much repercussion from the law. It was only after enduring this for a couple more years that Sharon and a couple of girlfriends devised a plan to put an end to the Ricky problem, permanently.
They had set the first part of the plan in motion Friday afternoon by renting a lake shore cabin for the long weekend. Normally Sharon went to great lengths to hide her whereabouts from Ricky in order to avoid another confrontation with him. However, this time she made no attempt to hide from him so she knew Ricky was bound to show up and he didn’t disappoint her.
The rest was easy but the most risky part of the plan, especially for Sharon. The women plied the unsuspecting Ricky with booze laced with drugs than alternately cajoled, threatened, acted friendly and angry to him until he became a befuddled creature that finally snapped.
While the girlfriends fled in panic to alert the authorities about a kidnapping, Sharon remained behind so she could feed Ricky more of the doctored booze which made him extremely pliable and easy to manipulate. She talked him into a walk in woods to calm down and the rest as they say was history. For the next couple of days she continued to ply Ricky with the booze and drugs and lead him around in circles through the dense bush until the police found them.
As for Ricky, drunk and stoned as he was, he could hear the approach of the posse and he vaguely sensed that something wasn’t quite right. He could feel the danger but thoughts of Sharon kept running through his addled mind. The last few days she had actually seem to love him again and even though she was not anywhere near him right now, he could still feel the warmth of her body and hear her words ringing in his ears.
“Don’t let them take me Ricky, please, don’t let them take me.” Sharon had repeated the words so often, his booze and drug filled brain now actually believed that she was in danger and he was gonna do his best to protect her. He stumbled around in a doped up trance aiming a shotgun at the intruders. He couldn’t see them but he could hear them coming and they seemed to be all around him. They had come to take Sharon from him and nothing was going to stand between them again.
“You see that Corrigan?” came a whispered question from his mic. It was Koslov again.
“The son of a bitch has got a gun and he’s waving it around like he intends to use it. My men are almost in position and we’re gonna take him down in a moment.”
Corrigan looked over at Jenkins who was still peering through the binoculars.
“Yeah, he’s got a gun all right, victim is still lying in the bushes about 20 yards away, she hasn’t moved at all so Koslov’s crew can probably take the suspect without a problem.”
She heard Corrigan swear. “Where the hell did he get that from?”
She replied. “I don’t know but a gun makes a huge difference. If we don’t take him now, there’s no telling what he’ll do with it.”
KABOOM, KABOOM, Jenkins explanation was suddenly interrupted by the sound of the shotgun firing. Both she and Corrigan pushed themselves face first into the dirt as the first shot threw up clumps of grass and bushes several yards in front of them. The next one was higher, but fortunately too high. The shotgun pellets went into the trunk of a tree they were hiding under, making leaves, bark and branches rain down on them.
Before they could even gather their wits together, there came the sounds of return gunfire from Koslov’s men. Corrigan raised his head just in time to see Ricky go down. For a moment Ricky looked as if he was performing some kind of hip hop dance as the bullets tore into him, the force of them coming from all directions practically turning him around in a circle before he fell motionless to the ground.
Then there was complete pandemonium as the posse suddenly rose from their positions and began to race down the hill and across the open space. Some were headed straight to where Sharon had been spotted while others raced toward the freshly fallen Ricky.
Corrigan and Jenkins were a little slow off the mark so they were the last to arrive. Corrigan went immediately to where Koslov and his men stood in a circle starring down at the lifeless body of Ricky while Jenkins headed towards the victim.
After Corrigan studied the bullet ridden body of Ricky he looked up at Koslov who was standing at his head with a big grin on his face. Dressed from head to toe in camouflaged clothing, he looked like a big game hunter who had just bagged the ultimate trophy. Corrigan wasn’t so sure. Maybe it was because he didn’t like to see anybody getting senselessly killed? Maybe it was because he still thought that if he’d had a chance to talk to Ricky then maybe things might have been different?
“Looks like were done here, the son of the bitch led us on quite a chase but we got him,” Koslov was announcing to the press which had closed in and began snapping pictures. Corrigan shook his head and moved out of the circus.
He made his way over to where Jenkins and several other policemen were helping the victim towards a four by four jeep. They wanted to get her to the hospital as quick as possible but the terrain proved too difficult for an ordinary vehicle so the four by four would take her to the ambulance which was waiting on the road at the edge of the forest.
“She hurt bad, Ricky do anything to her?” Corrigan asked Jenkins after she had finished helping Sharon onto the open tail gate of the jeep where a couple of medical attendants began fussing over her.
“No, her injuries look superficial, mainly from being dragged through the bush for three days. You know. The usual scratches, bumps, bruises and owies. That, plus dehydration and lack of food. He didn’t beat her up or sexually assault her, but she’s very emotionally distraught. She claims Ricky kept wanting to reconcile their marriage and when she disagreed he threatened to kill her and then kill himself. Sounds like the usual bull shit. If I can’t have you then nobody can.”
Since there wasn’t anybody around to dispute Jenkins’ observation, it became the official version of the event.
Corrigan nodded and looked over at the jeep where Sharon sat on the tail gate surrounded by the medics. He thought Jenkins was probably right. The woman looked none the worse for wear for her ordeal. One medic was busy combing grass and leaves out of her hair and tending to a couple of scratches on her sun burnt face while the other was dabbing ointment and applying bandages to cuts and bruises on her arms and legs.
Back in town, most of the search crew crowded into a bar to tell and retell their stories about the search for Ricky over a bunch of beer. However, both Jenkins and Corrigan begged off. Jenkins said she was anxious to get home to her kids after not seeing them for three days while Corrigan said he wanted to get started on the report while it was still fresh in his mind.
After dropping Jenkins off at her car, Corrigan drove to his place, stripped off his clothes, took a long, hot shower, then shaved off his three day growth of beard and changed into a clean pair of khaki trousers and polo shirt. On one hand he was happy that the whole thing had ended with Sharon being found relatively unscathed. On the other hand he had his doubts, something kept bothering him. The whole thing seemed too pat with the fate of Ricky already decided in advance, as if his death was pre-ordained and nobody gave a care. After all, he was a no good son of a bitch and everybody was happy to see him get what he deserved.
That was the problem, Sharon, the much abused ex-wife made the perfect victim and the abusive son of a bitch Ricky made the perfect villain. His going down in a hail of bullets was also the perfect ending because it satisfied everybody and left only the victim’s statement for the police to go on with nothing to corroborate it.
Maybe he was just being a cynic but detectives got paid for being cynics and after some of the things he had seen during his years as a policeman he believed humans were capable of doing almost anything. First thing in the morning he would do a little more investigation before he wrote his report. In the meantime he was hungry.
Corrigan looked in his fridge and didn’t like what he saw. Most of the stuff seemed to be several weeks old and didn’t look in the least appetizing so he got in his car and headed to his favorite place. Finnigan’s. It was owned by a red headed Irishman and it boasted an original Irish stew on its menu. The owner claimed it was from a family recipe handed down for generations. Corrigan didn’t know whether or not it was true. He only knew he liked it so much that the stew, along with several thick crusts of bread washed down with Irish beer were almost a daily fare for him.
Usually Corrigan had his stew and a couple of beer then left but tonight was different, mainly because he got tied up at the pool table with some young hot shot who challenged him to a game which he almost won. The youngster kept buying him beer while urging him to play game after game and then taking his money because he never seemed to be able to beat the kid. No matter how close the game looked, the kid always seemed to pull of some unbelievable shot.
As a result Corrigan awoke the next morning at home with almost no idea how he got there. His head pounded and his stomach kept threatening to divulge itself of the Irish stew but somehow he managed to get himself mobile. Still, it took several minutes under the shower before he was able to rouse himself enough to get this clothes on and head out the door. Then he realized his car wasn’t parked in its usual spot. He found it after taking a cab back to Finnigan’s and then he headed downtown with several things on his mind.
The number one thing was a little more investigation into the untimely death of Ricky, the other was ability of one person being able to con another so good that even when the person being conned saw it coming. He never really saw it coming. Too many con men and too many hustlers in this world, Corrigan mused. He mentally tallied up the amount of money he had lost last night. Shit, the kid took me for a couple of hundred and I fell right into it and kept coming back for more.
As Corrigan pulled into a parking lot at the police station, he kept wondering if Sharon Carter was also pulling a con.
“Christ, you look like shit this morning, too much partying last night,” Sherry Anderson, the secretary teased him as he passed her desk.
Sherry was a 30ish, tall, slender brunette with a very pretty face. She was always friendly to him and Corrigan thought she might have a crush on him. He kept promising himself that one day he was gonna see if his premonition was right but he had never gotten around it.
“Feel like it too,” he replied. “Only I don’t know which is worse, the hangover or the fact that some hotshot pool player sucked me out of a couple hundred bucks last night. The kid was so good that I never saw it coming even though I told myself to be careful, this guy might be a hustler.”
Sherry laughed and replied “oh yeah, a sucker born every minute, isn’t that how it goes.” She pulled out a desk drawer and grabbed a bottle of aspirin. “Here, have a couple of these,” she said as she shook a few tablets into his offered hand. “Maybe the next time you decide to have a night on the town, you should do it with somebody who plays a whole lot nicer,” she added as she gave him a wink and a big smile.
Ordinarily Corrigan might have flirted right back at her, but this morning he just wasn’t in the mood for it. Later, he promised himself as he made his way to his cubicle and grabbed yesterday’s reports. He scanned through them quickly and it was just as he suspected. The police involved in the pursuit and death of Ricky Carter all came to the same conclusion. They had successfully tracked down and killed the man who had kidnapped and threatened to kill his ex-wife.
Corrigan realized his report wouldn’t be much different unless he could find some discrepancy somewhere. He threw the aspirins into his mouth and washed them down with a cup of hot, black coffee. Maybe the aspirins did help or it could be the hot coffee, Corrigan wasn’t sure which but he definitely felt a bit better. He left the police station and headed over to the coroner’s office.
Corrigan sipped on another hot coffee and munched on a doughnut while reading the coroner’s report. Same as everybody else’s, he saw. Ricky died from numerous gunshot wounds to the torso and head and it was too difficult to say which one actually did him in.
“In total there were six shots that hit him,” coroner Dr. Yvonne Peltier explained, “and anyone could have been fatal.”
“What about drugs and booze? From what I saw, Ricky sure acted like he was so stoned and drunk that he probably didn’t even realize what he was doing.”
“Yeah, lots of booze in his system, both whiskey and vodka and enough drugs to kill a horse. He was so full of uppers, downers and inbetweeners it’s a wonder he was still on his feet, let alone be able to fire a shotgun at you. I hear he came close to hitting you and Jenkins,” the coroner replied.
“Lucky shot to be even close,” Corrigan shrugged it off. “Ricky was so stoned and drunk he couldn’t have hit the side of a barn door.”
Now for the million dollar question, Corrigan thought as he posed his question to the coroner.
“That much drugs and booze. Is it normal for somebody intent on kidnapping a woman to take so much of that stuff it makes him practically unable to function? Kind of defeats the purpose of the whole thing, doesn’t it?” I mean wouldn’t a normal person wanna be able to keep his wits about him so he’d be able to evade the police and avoid being killed?”
The coroner was silent for a moment as she pondered Corrigan’s question, then she replied.
“Yeah, I see your point but you’re talking normal person when a kidnapper is anything but normal. Who knows what’s going through a person’s mind when he kidnaps somebody, especially somebody who he believes still loves him. The poor guy was probably total delusional to begin with and the drugs and booze just make it worse. In the end he probably felt that since he’s going to end it all anyway, what better way to go than a shootout with the cops.”
“What, suicide by police?” Corrigan asked and the coroner nodded in agreement. “You gotta understand Corrigan that these guys are probably nut cases from the get go, and then they just snap. From then on everything makes perfect sense to them.”
By the time Corrigan left the coroner’s office, he was convinced that the death of Ricky was going to be ruled what everybody wanted it to be. Death by police after he refused to surrender his kidnapped victim and surrender to the police. The blast from the shotgun made it even more believable that the police had no choice but to shoot him.
Corrigan knew he had one chance left to get to the bottom of everything and that was to confront the victim herself and see what she had to say about the ordeal. It was a long shot but Corrigan felt he had to take it. He phoned Sharon Carter’s at her house and she gave him her address.
Corrigan had no trouble finding the place. It was a trendy apartment style condo and of course there was no place to park near it so he stuck his official police business sticker on the dash board and parked in a no parking zone. Sharon buzzed him in immediately and he took the elevator up to her third floor apartment. Corrigan paused at her door before knocking because he could hear voices which meant she had company. It was a disappointment because he was hoping to find her alone but he decided to confront her whether or not she had visitors.
“Come on in, the door’s open,” a female voice hollered in response to his knock and Corrigan entered the apartment. It had an open concept design with a kitchen nook immediately to the left and a living room straight ahead where Sharon sat on a sofa in the company of two female friends.
“Why detective, so nice for you to join us. You care for something?” Sharon asked as from her position on the sofa.
“Sorry I can’t get up but my leg is bothering me.” She was stretched out with her feet on a hassock, one of which bore a couple of bandages. There were also some small scratches on her sun burnt face. Corrigan’s immediate thought was that she was recovering pretty dammed quick from her three day forced march through the forest.
“Meet my friends Susan and Sylvia. They have been so wonderful in helping me get over my ordeal. This morning they decided to come over and keep me company since I’m a shut in. The doctor says to stay off my foot for a couple of days.”
After last night, Corrigan’s stomach felt a bit queasy at just the smell of the liquor, Sharon waved under his nose but then it really didn’t matter. He was here on business, not pleasure and there was no way he was gonna drink with her, especially with the suspicions he had about her and her friends. He merely nodded at the women before turning his attention back to Sharon.
“Why Ms Carter I sure am glad to see you recovered so quickly from your ordeal,” Corrigan replied with a hint of sarcasm in his voice. He didn’t show any sympathy for her and he wanted it that way to try and make her feel intimidated enough to foolishly say something she hadn’t intended to.
“Oh, I thought you realized, I wasn’t that seriously injured, at least physically but emotionally that’s a whole different story. The doctors say I was so emotionally abused that it may take some time before I’m okay and right now I feel as if I can never trust another man again. After all, the son of a bitch did threaten to kill me, you know.”
Corrigan saw her girlfriends nodding in sympathy and decided to pull no punches because he felt he had nothing to lose and it was one last chance with everything into the pot.
“Oh yeah, I understand. Ricky did abuse you, he threatened to kill you alright and he was probably a real son of a bitch. We can all agree on that, but the question I have is did you have to set him up to be killed? Wasn’t there some other way to end this?”
Corrigan knew he had lost when Sharon was able to look right back at him without even so much as blinking. The woman had balls that’s for such, he concluded.
Sharon just took another sip of her drink and replied. “What I don’t understand detective is why you are still investigating this case at all. Did you know that Captain Koslov told me it’s closed as far as he’s concerned. Isn’t it just great that I don’t have to worry about Ricky anymore.
“That’s because it’s not really closed as far as I’m concerned. You see, I think the case isn’t completely air tight because there’s still a few things missing and that leaves it with a few gaps.” You understand what that means? It means that I’ll watching you and your friends for a while yet so you’d better not slip up on anything or I’ll be there to pounce on you.”
Sharon sipped her drink again and smiled at Corrigan. “Thanks for the warning detective but haven’t you heard the saying about the wisdom of having gaps in air tight things?”
Corrigan was ready to leave but he delayed his departure a moment, waiting for the answer. “The gaps are good because they let a little sunshine in.”
Corrigan turned to leave, ignoring the gales of laughter from the women. He now was only sure of one thing. God help the next man who pissed one of those women off.