“Basically, no reason for anyone to want to kill him.”
Ben nodded. “Funny how many times we hear that about people who have, indeed, been killed.”
A person who didn’t think in terms of resolving issues with murder was always puzzled by someone who did. Sam had learned to understand the thought processes, the motivations, but it still amazed him that people chose murder.
“There was no sign of forced entry,” Ben went on, and Sam swore he could almost see him ticking items off a mental list. “You need a code to get into the house and another for the backyard. I’ll have to get a list from the wife of everyone who knows the codes, but obviously the yard service and probably the pool service have the gate code. Pool service isn’t due until Friday, and I’ve confirmed the yard people’s whereabouts for the morning. They were out at that private school on Highway 117 for three hours, then ate lunch at Scott’s, where they’re regulars. Cameras show them arriving at 11:05 and leaving at eleven thirty. Guard has them logged in at Hawk’s Aerie at 11:42. The 911 call came in six minutes later.”
There was nothing like a routine that allowed a person to document practically every minute of their day, Sam thought, then wondered…how was Milagro?
She’d been on his mind ever since he’d driven away from her house yesterday. Had she called her grandmother? Had she managed a peaceful night? Was she back at work this morning? It wouldn’t be a bad thing if she was. In his experience, the best way to deal with trauma was by keeping busy.
And maybe she was one of the lucky ones whose spirits were strong enough to cope, to adjust, to say a prayer, take a deep breath and go on doing what they had to do. Though she’d seemed fragile enough to shatter in a breeze yesterday, he suspected she was much stronger than that.
But he would check in on her later today just to be sure. It wasn’t an unusual action for him to take. In fact, witnesses to violent crimes pretty much always got a well-being check a day or two later. Usually it was the detective handling their case or Lois, but Sam made some of them. He would make this one.
“We got a lot of fingerprints,” Ben said, drawing Sam’s attention back to the case. “Most of them belong to the same four people, presumably the family. There was no sign of a struggle, no skin under his fingernails, no obvious attempt to get his cell phone out of his pocket. My guess is he let someone in, and after he sat down, the person came up behind him. Surprised him. A sharp blade, no hesitation marks. By the time he realized what was happening, it was too late.”
As Sam stood and retrieved his hat, he asked, “Why was he home yesterday?”
“He told his assistant Tuesday night that he was working from home Wednesday. He’s done it before, but it’s an occasional thing.”
Maybe he’d planned on having a late night Tuesday. Maybe he was having company who was staying over for breakfast. Maybe he was taking advantage of his wife and kids being out of the country.
Or maybe he’d just wanted to sit by the beautiful pool and enjoy the beautiful view he worked long hours to pay for.
“You’re thorough, Detective.”
“You might be as thorough if you made a list from time to time,” Ben replied, giving a rare smile. As if an afterthought, he added, “Sir.”
“I may stumble a bit without your endless lists, but I always wind up in the same place.”
“Yeah, well, stumbling isn’t my thing.”
From her desk outside his office, his secretary called, “Telephone, Chief.”
“Got it.” Sam returned Ben’s smirk. “Keep me updated. If you need anything—”
In unison, they said, “Lois will be the first to know.”
With a nod, Sam headed to his office and picked up the phone. “Chief Douglas. What can I do for you?”
“Morning, Chief, good morning. This is Ed. I just wanted to check in and make sure my employees cooperated fully with you yesterday. I give ’em a job and I treat ’em like family, but that gives me certain expectations of them, you know.”
No, Sam didn’t know. He wasn’t even sure whom he was talking to. His work involved a lot of phone conversations, double that yesterday, and he couldn’t place the unctuous, smarmy…