Blood Necklace Book (Ozark Blood 1)

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Chapter 1

Annalisa was the love of Rick Ryder’s life, childhood friend, high school sweetheart, and now she was dead, murdered.  Found crumpled behind the wheel of his 458 Italia Spider, a three-foot long yellow Ethernet cable tied around her neck; the other end wrapped around the leather steering wheel of the sports car.  The bright red Ferrari was as much a victim as its driver.  A rock placed on the accelerator, the powerful engine screaming as it raced in between the picnic tables, and leaping headfirst into the cold waters of Roaring River, the motor gurgling, and finally dying as it drowned beneath the waters and the spirit of the car rose up as a cloud of steam. It was three minutes after midnight when a park ranger found her.  The beautiful blonde’s neck was broken, her head at an odd angle, dangling just inches above the water that filled the car’s interior.

 

Early Tuesday morning, it felt a little a bit strange to be turning left on Locust Street once again and be comforted by the security blanket of the shade of the Kansas City, Missouri Police Headquarters.

 It had been almost been three years since he had walked out those double glass doors. He had spent ten years of his life here, as a homicide detective including the biggest case of his career: the serial killer known as the Kansas City Butcher-who brutally massacred 13 people.  It was a different time back then, the citizens of the city locked away behind their doors, afraid to venture outside, as he worked with an F.B.I. agent trying to track down the killer. He was never comfortable about that arrest, but the killing did stop, so maybe it was the right guy. However it was the eyes of the last victim, looking up at him in that ghostly stare, that changed him forever. They were no longer a piece of the puzzle; they each had a name.  He tossed the badge down and walked out, and his life changed forever.

After walking out, he bought a Mega Powerball ticket and won the biggest lottery jackpot of all time: One billion dollars.   At that moment he went from serving Kansas City to being served by Kansas City, being the guest of all the powerbrokers of the city, including last night as a special guest of the Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium to toss out a football to the kicker.

His build was like a professional quarterback, tall and fit, with broad shoulders, because at one time that was what he was.  In high school he was all American leading the Cassville Wildcats to three years in a row state championship, and the Mizzou Tigers to a National Championship before being drafted by the Chiefs; he played a half a season before being injured in a play that went wrong.  He now walked with a slight limp, he could chase criminals but he couldn’t out run 350 pound linebackers anymore. 

After winning the lottery work shoe leather was replaced with Italian loafers. Hand stitched suits and custom-made shirts covered his broad shoulders. His saddle brown hair was now personally styled; costing what would be a day’s wages when he was a detective. Designer glasses replaced the discount tree sunglasses.

 Now he was back ‘in the box’: the interrogation room.  A small room with no windows, plain gray walls, with sound absorbing panels and only a simple table and three fold away chairs in the center of the room; two on one side and one on the other that faced a two way mirror.  How many times had he been here making them wait, and now, ironically, it was he who sat waiting for an officer to question him about Annalisa’s murder.  He sat in the hardback chair, his elbows resting on the table, staring at the two chairs on the other side of the table. He slowly twisted the gold ring with its round dark blue sapphire center stone, which matched his eyes, on the ring finger of his right hand; he glared up at the two way mirror and stared directly into it.   He motioned with his hand for them to come on in as he said.  “Let’s just get this over with.”  Ryder said his voice low and calm. 

The door opened and in walked Captain Craig Grosstree, a heavy set career man who had spent his entire life as a law enforcement officer in Kansas City, and sitting in a chair most of the day was beginning make his back spread to match his belly.  His once dark hair was beginning to show streaks of silver, which would have been wiry like his mustache, if he let it grow out instead of being buzz cut. He was also the first commander to choose and build his own team of detectives; one of his proudest choices was Ryder, and he wasn’t going to let some rural deputy railroad him. 

Directly behind him was a round faced deputy from Barry County, dressed in khaki pants and chocolate brown short sleeve shirt.  As the deputy walked over to the table, Ryder’s eyebrows drew down in bewilderment. The man looked familiar, but he just couldn’t come up with the name.

“Ryder, this is Brian Thompson.”  Captain Grosstree said, introducing the deputy.  “He wants to ask you a few questions about Annalisa.”  He sat down in one of the chairs and continued.  “I am here to make sure that everything goes well. “  He looked over at Ryder.  “He may not wear a shield anymore, but he is still one of my guys.”

Ryder grew up in the small Ozark town of Cassville, Missouri, a town of a little over three thousand and  just under 200 miles south of Kansas City, it was the county seat of Barry County. “Thompson?  Are you any kin to Teeny Tiny Thompson?”   Ryder asked remembering his old classmate and fellow football teammate.

“He is my big brother.”

“Too Thin?” Ryder asked finally recognizing and shocked by his now hefty appearance.

Deputy Thompson sat down in the other chair.  Ryder could see the same round face, broad smile, and sandy crimson hair brushed straight back and parted on the side that was like his older brother, of course being that he was the center of the football team that was not the end of his brother the Ryder saw the most.

 “Once a Wildcat.”  The deputy raised his hand up and acting as if it were claws he swatted toward Ryder and mocked a growl.  A salute that was made up by Ryder’s class the year they were ranked the number one high school football team in the United States.

“Always a Wildcat.”  Ryder said mimicking the same actions; it was a sign of respect, which was shown to former members of the Cassville R-4 school district.  Ryder twisted his head slightly, looking the man over.  “You are no longer too thin, what happened to you?”

“I have put on a few pounds since then.”  Deputy Thompson laughed patting his belly as he added. “Too many Texan burgers at the Family Room; best in the county. You know, Thom is the county coroner now.”  

“Heard you got a new sheriff.”

“You believe it?”  Deputy Thompson said with disbelief.  “An outsider from San Diego! Worked with US Customs before coming here. Not a bit of law enforcement experience.”

“What happen to Sheriff Matthews?”

“Died behind his desk two days before the election.  Heart attack, so they say. The word is your pal the congressman bought the election.”

“He is no friend of mine.” Ryder said as he pushed himself up in the chair and faced the deputy eye to eye.  He knew how this game worked; he had played it so many times before he knew every move.  First you do chit-chat, maybe even make a joke, all to make the person feel at ease.  Then you start with a simple but direct question.  Ryder prepared himself for it.

“But his wife, Annalisa was. Wasn’t she?”

 Now he was going to watch Ryder’s body language, to see if he was tense, stubborn, frightened, it would decide how the next question would be asked. Tense, the tone would be comforting, stubborn, harsher, frightened, the tone would be friendly.  The most difficult suspect was the one that showed no emotion, there, only the skill of the investigator would count. Ryder drew his hand up to his chin and looked across the table at him. Ryder’s face was blank, his eyes fixed directly onto the deputy as he calmly said. “Yes.” 

 “And much more.”

“A long time ago.”

Deputy Thompson laid the case folder down on the table in front of him. Ryder offered an impish grin and twisted the ring on his finger.  “Deputy Thompson?”  Ryder asked, dropping his gaze down to the file, then back up to him.  “Do you have much experience in interrogation?” 

“Some.”

Ryder leaned forward, crossing his hands on the table. “My dear mother told me ‘you don’t go into a bear’s cave and poke him with a stick unless you have a big gun behind your back.’ “

“What does that mean?”

“This is my cave.”

It was clear from the confused look on the deputy’s face he didn’t understand so Ryder explained further. “You know how many times I have sat in that chair?  Looked across at the evil that crawled out of the oozing underworld of humankind? I see exactly what you are doing.  You are doing it step by step, just like out of the book.” Ryder leaned in closer to the deputy and noticed a bead of sweat dripping down from the man’s forehead. Ryder leaned back and twisted the gold ring on the finger of his right hand.  He stared down into the bright blue sapphire stone, before looking back up to the deputy and asking. “What about the most sinful of all crimes…”  He paused briefly before adding.  “…murder?” 

“I have had some robbery cases.” 

“Oh my gosh!” Ryder said, shocked.  “You are a virgin! This is your first homicide case.”  Ryder couldn’t believe it; they sent a ham-fisted deputy to investigate Annalisa’s murder. Ryder looked down at the file again.  “You know the only reason I am here. I want to look at that file.”

“I can’t do that.”   Deputy Thompson said, placing his hand on top of the file.

“Then I guess we are done here.”  Ryder said standing up.  “Arrest me, or…” He glared at the deputy before continuing.  “Or we can make a deal.  I answer your questions, than I get to look at the file.”  Ryder placed his hands on the back of the chair and prepared to shove it under the table. “What is it going to be? Or do you want to go back and tell your sheriff that you couldn’t do it?”  Ryder knew, it didn’t matter if it was a small county sheriff, Kansas City, or the hard streets of Manhattan itself, the one thing a cop didn’t want to do was tell their superior ‘I couldn’t get it.’    

 “I don’t know…” Deputy Thompson said hesitantly as he opened the file. Ryder glanced down at the file, it was a police report done by Barry County. Over the years he had gotten very good at reading upside down.  ‘Apparent cause of death- asphyxiation- due to strangulation, corner inquiry still open and under investigation.’

“Deputy, look at it this way, it is not like you are letting the general public see this.” Captain Grosstree said and pointed at Ryder.  “I trained this man. He was the best detective I ever had. Ninety-eight percent closure rate.  That is because he is one stubborn bull-headed…” The captain’s voice was rising in tone, and then he calmed back down. “Look at it this way. You might need help with this.”  The captain’s lips twisted around to the side. “Besides, you know this man. Do you really think he could have killed Annalisa?”

“No.”  He said with a shake of his head.  “No, I know what she meant to him. But the prosecutor… he is demanding answers, and since it was your car...”

“What does that matter?”  Ryder asked and Deputy Thompson dropped his gaze away from Ryder and to the table. Ryder knew there was something that he wasn’t telling him.  “Who is the D.A. there?”

“Jonathan Price.” The deputy answered as he looked back up.  It was a name from Ryder’s past, the quarterback from a rival school, the Monett Cubs. It was his senior year and the Wildcats met the Monett Cubs for the district championship and whoever won that game would go to the state championship. Monett was ahead but Ryder brought the Cats back to win the game, something Price always held over him, for ruining his life.

“Oh, him.”  Ryder said spitefully. “All right, get on with it.”  

  “Where were you between the hours of six p.m. and midnight yesterday?” 

“You are kidding, right?” Ryder asked, amazed that he had not seen him throw out a ceremonial pass to the kicker at Arrowhead.  That was not a usual thing, but when you give two million to the team’s charity, they make exceptions. “You weren’t watching the game?”

“I am more of a Rams fan.”

“Oh! You are the one.”  Ryder joked.  “You do realize you are behind enemy lines here?”

“How long were you there?”

“Till around eleven thirty.”

“And after that?” The deputy pushed for more answers. Ryder was only willing to give only so much.

“I went home and found that my Ferrari was missing.”  Ryder leaned back in his chair.

“Is this your car?”  Deputy Thompson asked picking up a photo from the file and sliding it across the table to him.  It was the wrecked Ferrari, the front twisted to the passenger side, the interior soaked and stained with water.

“Yes.”

“Is there some reason she could have been found dead in it?”

“She took it.”

“What didn’t you report it stolen?”

“This wasn’t the first time she took my car.  She took my car in high school and disappeared for two days.  I didn’t want to get her in trouble.  Besides, if she wanted it, she could have it.”   Ryder looked over at the file; he could see a photo of Annalisa’s body in the car.  A yellow cable tied around her neck, her head tilted over strangely, clearly her neck was broken.  A red high-heeled shoe placed on her left foot, with the other shoe missing.  Her golden hair was soaking wet, plastered to her beauty queen sculptured face that was stained with blood, baby blue eyes frozen in death, covered in a haze, staring up at him.  He closed his eyes and swallowed his breath. The human in him didn’t want to see any more, but the detective in him demanded more.

“Did you see Annalisa yesterday?” 

Ryder stood up and walked around to the other side of the table and sat down on the edge, crossing him arms over his chest.  “Yes, around ten in the morning.”

 “What did she want?”

“I don’t know…”  Ryder paused and rubbed his hand over his rough day’s growth of whiskers. “She didn’t say.” He stood and walked over towards the door with his back to them.  He brought his clutched hands up to his lips.  “You have to understand who Annalisa is—“he quickly corrected himself.  “—who she was.”    He turned back to them and dropped his hands down to his sides. “It could have been that she found out she was dying, or that they no longer sell your favorite color of nail polish.”  He was doing his best to show no emotion, and he turned away from them again and gathered his composure.  “She kept saying that she wanted to give me something ‘that would change our lives forever.’ “Ryder went around to the other side of the table and glanced down at the file.  “I need to see that.” 

“Just a few more questions.”

“No more!” Ryder barked firmly there was only one reason he was here. “I want to see that file now.”

“Just a couple more questions.”

“No more questions!” 

Captain Grosstree, placing his hand down on the file said. “I am going to ask the questions now.  What motive would my man have to murder this woman?”

“Price is saying it is jealousy, because she turned you down when you asked her to marry you.”

“When was this?”  The captain asked, turning and looking at Ryder.

“When we were eighteen.” 

 “Eighteen!”  Captain Grosstree said, amazed as he turned back to the deputy. “Really? That is your motive?”  That was twenty-two years ago. Wasn’t she married to the Speaker of the House Congressman Warner? Why would he be doing this now?”

“Do you know why she turned me down?” Ryder asked, grabbing the chair, twisting it around and straddling it. He looked over at the deputy who shook his head. “It was religion.  You do know she was Jewish.  I am not.”  Ryder’s tone was soft and he paused for a moment, his mind racing back to that night when she told him she could not marry him but she wanted to keep his ring so that she would never forget him.  He twisted the ring on his finger again and remembered that she gave it to him, he wore it for the same reason: that he would never forget her. “If she married me she could no longer be Jewish.  That was more important to her.”  His tone once again became forceful.   “I want that file.”       

Deputy Thompson closed the file, placed his hand down on it then leaned back and said.  “I can’t do that.  If I were to let you see this they would fire me.”

“You know deputy, when Ryder won the lottery he bought us a fancy coffee maker, and a whole kitchen.  If you would like we can go and try it.  And since you wouldn’t want to get anything spilled on it you could just leave that file lying right here.”  Captain Grosstree smiled as he got up from his chair and placed his hand on the deputy’s back.  The deputy stood up and the captain continued.  “Come on. You can get anything from a plain cup of Joe to a latte to an espresso.   He turned to Ryder and smiled. “You won’t read that file, will you Ryder?”

“I can promise you I will not read that file in this room.  Ryder said, holding his hand up.

They walked out and closed the door behind them.  Ryder reached over and pulled the file over to him, then reached in his jacket pocket for his cell phone, and clicked on the phone.  He opened up the file and began to photographing the pages.  He heard the sounds of footsteps on the tile floor approaching the door, it was not the gate of a man, it was a woman, and she was quickly approaching the interrogation room.  He quickly photographed the last page and closed the folder, then slid it back over to the other side of the table.  He shoved the phone back into the inside pocket of his dark navy jacket, and leaned back in the chair just as the door opened.  He dropped his gaze down to the table.

It hit him like a slap across the face, the strong aroma of Red Door perfume, not put on in a small dab, but at least three solid sprays, one behind each ear and then another on one of her wrists  rubbed together, first counterclockwise, then clockwise.  The door closed with a soft click of its latch and the smell of the perfume grew stronger.

Ryder let his gaze drift over across the gray floor tile floor and on to a pair of doeskin loafers with a small one inch heel, for just a moment he imagined Annalisa as it was the type of shoe she would wear. His gaze drifted upward to pair of shapely legs protruding out from under a business gray wrap around skirt that ended just above the knees and a matching gray jacket and white silk blouse that had the top two buttons unbuttoned, revealing a long well tanned neck.  Her milk chocolate hair was streaked with golden highlights, framing a beautiful face, which seemed to have belonged on the catwalks of Paris instead of holding a badge.  It was Special Agent Isabelle Alexander, but she went by Alex.  He watched her as she walked around the table and sat down across from him. 

His mind flashed back to when they were together, working on the Kansas City Butcher case, all those long nights huddled together in an unmarked cruiser. Maybe it was the cold wind blowing off the river, or it was the heat that was between them, but things changed that night, and there was no way either of them could put in the report why they didn’t see the killing that happened only a hundred feet away from them.

“Well! Hello there, detective.”  She said, turning sideways in the chair and crossing her legs; her voice was smooth and he remembered her skin being that way too. He also remembered that she would say or do anything to get what she wanted.

“Good Morning, Alex.” Ryder said as he let his gaze drop back down to her feet, and one of her shoes was dangling from her foot.  “Never seen you in anything but high heels.”

“This is all I had.”  She said, looking down at her shoes and wiggling her foot, barely keeping the shoe on and revealing her bare heel. “Had a beautiful pair but, they got ruined last night.”  She looked back up at him and added with a crooked smile.  “You know the awful stuff that the F.B.I. runs into.”

“Yeah, getting blood out is really hard.”  Ryder smirked and brought his hand up and rested his chin on his hand.  “What are you doing here?”

Alex uncrossed her legs and turned and faced him as she placed her hand on the file and her tone became harsher, that same tone he had heard from her when she was questioning a suspect. “The wife of the Speaker of the House was murdered; what do you think I am doing here?”   She slid the file off the table as she stood up.  “You really think Attorney General Baker is going to allow the good ole boys of Barry County to try to solve this? He has given this to professionals.”  She stepped away from the table and towards the door.

“Yeah.”  Ryder quipped as he turned to her. “We wouldn’t want anyone asking Speaker Warner. Why did you kill you wife?” Ryder’s tone increased.  She grabbed the door handle, but stopped and turned back around as she clutched the file to her chest.  He could see the command that she had already been given- ‘blame it on somebody, but make sure it is not the speaker.’   Ryder rubbed his hand over his whiskers in frustration.  “Come on, Alex! You know when a wife is murdered the first suspect is always the husband. Or have you gotten so ‘D.C’. that you don’t care about the truth anymore?”

“And what would his motive be?  That she was still in love with you?”  She said softly as she turned back to him, as a strand of hair fell down in front of her eyes that were a mix of gray and green. She pushed her hair back and knocked on the door for someone to let her out. Just as she stepped out of the room she added. “Just stay out of it, Ricky. Please! Just stay out of it.” 

The door was left open and Ryder stood up from the table. He tugged at the tail of his jacket, pulling it back down into place, walking out of the room. He looked around the squad room, at the desks all line up in neat little rows, each with a busy detective behind it. He looked over where his desk had been, a young man sat behind it now. The phone rang and he answered it, jotting down the information, grabbing his jacket off the back of the chair and dashing for the elevators.  It was at that moment there was a little of him that missed all of this.

“You going to stay out of this like she said?” He heard Captain Grosstree say as he walked up beside him, holding a mug of coffee in his hands.

“What do you think, Captain?”  Ryder asked, turning to him and looking slightly down because the Captain was four inches shorter than Ryder’s six foot four frame.  “

Captain Grosstree raised the mug to his lips and took a sip of the hot black liquid and stared out across the squad room. “I think that you will piss somebody off and even though I am not your boss I will hear about it.”

Blood Necklace

 

Thomas S. Mulvaugh

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

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Warning:  The unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this work is illegal. Criminal copyright infringement is investigated by the FBI and is punishable by up to 5 year in federal prison and a fine of $250,000.

 

This is a work of fiction .All characters, places, businesses and incidents are from the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to actual places, people or events is purely coincidental. Any trademarks mentioned here are not authorized by the trademark owners and do not in any way mean the work is sponsored by or associated with the trademark owners. Any trademarks used are specifically in descriptive capacity.

ISBN 978-0-9794767-9-2

First Edition

© 2015 Thomas S. Mulvaugh

Golden Roads Publishing, a division of PAH Publishing

 

 

 

Acknowledgements/Dedication

To my darling wife Karla, without her help this book could have not been written; for being there when I would want to just give up but she would not let me, she always encouraged me, and also for reading this story over and over through its changes and offering suggestions; you are the love of my life. 

 

This book is dedicated in the memory of my big brother George, who I can always remember for that beaming smile and hearty laugh, who like any older brother would pester and tease, but when I needed him he was always there to give me the greatest big brother advice, and since I still use that every day, he is always there with me.  

 

 

“It is said that God forgives all sins, but some sins are so secret that some people are willing to die for them, others willing to kill for them. What are your secrets and what would you do so no one would ever know?” 

Chapter 1

Annalisa was the love of Rick Ryder’s life, childhood friend, high school sweetheart, and now she was dead, murdered.  Found crumpled behind the wheel of his 458 Italia Spider, a three-foot long yellow Ethernet cable tied around her neck; the other end wrapped around the leather steering wheel of the sports car.  The bright red Ferrari was as much a victim as its driver.  A rock placed on the accelerator, the powerful engine screaming as it raced in between the picnic tables, and leaping headfirst into the cold waters of Roaring River, the motor gurgling, and finally dying as it drowned beneath the waters and the spirit of the car rose up as a cloud of steam. It was three minutes after midnight when a park ranger found her.  The beautiful blonde’s neck was broken, her head at an odd angle, dangling just inches above the water that filled the car’s interior.

 

Early Tuesday morning, it felt a little a bit strange to be turning left on Locust Street once again and be comforted by the security blanket of the shade of the Kansas City, Missouri Police Headquarters.

 It had been almost been three years since he had walked out those double glass doors. He had spent ten years of his life here, as a homicide detective including the biggest case of his career: the serial killer known as the Kansas City Butcher-who brutally massacred 13 people.  It was a different time back then, the citizens of the city locked away behind their doors, afraid to venture outside, as he worked with an F.B.I. agent trying to track down the killer. He was never comfortable about that arrest, but the killing did stop, so maybe it was the right guy. However it was the eyes of the last victim, looking up at him in that ghostly stare, that changed him forever. They were no longer a piece of the puzzle; they each had a name.  He tossed the badge down and walked out, and his life changed forever.

After walking out, he bought a Mega Powerball ticket and won the biggest lottery jackpot of all time: One billion dollars.   At that moment he went from serving Kansas City to being served by Kansas City, being the guest of all the powerbrokers of the city, including last night as a special guest of the Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium to toss out a football to the kicker.

His build was like a professional quarterback, tall and fit, with broad shoulders, because at one time that was what he was.  In high school he was all American leading the Cassville Wildcats to three years in a row state championship, and the Mizzou Tigers to a National Championship before being drafted by the Chiefs; he played a half a season before being injured in a play that went wrong.  He now walked with a slight limp, he could chase criminals but he couldn’t out run 350 pound linebackers anymore. 

After winning the lottery work shoe leather was replaced with Italian loafers. Hand stitched suits and custom-made shirts covered his broad shoulders. His saddle brown hair was now personally styled; costing what would be a day’s wages when he was a detective. Designer glasses replaced the discount tree sunglasses.

 Now he was back ‘in the box’: the interrogation room.  A small room with no windows, plain gray walls, with sound absorbing panels and only a simple table and three fold away chairs in the center of the room; two on one side and one on the other that faced a two way mirror.  How many times had he been here making them wait, and now, ironically, it was he who sat waiting for an officer to question him about Annalisa’s murder.  He sat in the hardback chair, his elbows resting on the table, staring at the two chairs on the other side of the table. He slowly twisted the gold ring with its round dark blue sapphire center stone, which matched his eyes, on the ring finger of his right hand; he glared up at the two way mirror and stared directly into it.   He motioned with his hand for them to come on in as he said.  “Let’s just get this over with.”  Ryder said his voice low and calm. 

The door opened and in walked Captain Craig Grosstree, a heavy set career man who had spent his entire life as a law enforcement officer in Kansas City, and sitting in a chair most of the day was beginning make his back spread to match his belly.  His once dark hair was beginning to show streaks of silver, which would have been wiry like his mustache, if he let it grow out instead of being buzz cut. He was also the first commander to choose and build his own team of detectives; one of his proudest choices was Ryder, and he wasn’t going to let some rural deputy railroad him. 

Directly behind him was a round faced deputy from Barry County, dressed in khaki pants and chocolate brown short sleeve shirt.  As the deputy walked over to the table, Ryder’s eyebrows drew down in bewilderment. The man looked familiar, but he just couldn’t come up with the name.

“Ryder, this is Brian Thompson.”  Captain Grosstree said, introducing the deputy.  “He wants to ask you a few questions about Annalisa.”  He sat down in one of the chairs and continued.  “I am here to make sure that everything goes well. “  He looked over at Ryder.  “He may not wear a shield anymore, but he is still one of my guys.”

Ryder grew up in the small Ozark town of Cassville, Missouri, a town of a little over three thousand and  just under 200 miles south of Kansas City, it was the county seat of Barry County. “Thompson?  Are you any kin to Teeny Tiny Thompson?”   Ryder asked remembering his old classmate and fellow football teammate.

“He is my big brother.”

“Too Thin?” Ryder asked finally recognizing and shocked by his now hefty appearance.

Deputy Thompson sat down in the other chair.  Ryder could see the same round face, broad smile, and sandy crimson hair brushed straight back and parted on the side that was like his older brother, of course being that he was the center of the football team that was not the end of his brother the Ryder saw the most.

 “Once a Wildcat.”  The deputy raised his hand up and acting as if it were claws he swatted toward Ryder and mocked a growl.  A salute that was made up by Ryder’s class the year they were ranked the number one high school football team in the United States.

“Always a Wildcat.”  Ryder said mimicking the same actions; it was a sign of respect, which was shown to former members of the Cassville R-4 school district.  Ryder twisted his head slightly, looking the man over.  “You are no longer too thin, what happened to you?”

“I have put on a few pounds since then.”  Deputy Thompson laughed patting his belly as he added. “Too many Texan burgers at the Family Room; best in the county. You know, Thom is the county coroner now.”  

“Heard you got a new sheriff.”

“You believe it?”  Deputy Thompson said with disbelief.  “An outsider from San Diego! Worked with US Customs before coming here. Not a bit of law enforcement experience.”

“What happen to Sheriff Matthews?”

“Died behind his desk two days before the election.  Heart attack, so they say. The word is your pal the congressman bought the election.”

“He is no friend of mine.” Ryder said as he pushed himself up in the chair and faced the deputy eye to eye.  He knew how this game worked; he had played it so many times before he knew every move.  First you do chit-chat, maybe even make a joke, all to make the person feel at ease.  Then you start with a simple but direct question.  Ryder prepared himself for it.

“But his wife, Annalisa was. Wasn’t she?”

 Now he was going to watch Ryder’s body language, to see if he was tense, stubborn, frightened, it would decide how the next question would be asked. Tense, the tone would be comforting, stubborn, harsher, frightened, the tone would be friendly.  The most difficult suspect was the one that showed no emotion, there, only the skill of the investigator would count. Ryder drew his hand up to his chin and looked across the table at him. Ryder’s face was blank, his eyes fixed directly onto the deputy as he calmly said. “Yes.” 

 “And much more.”

“A long time ago.”

Deputy Thompson laid the case folder down on the table in front of him. Ryder offered an impish grin and twisted the ring on his finger.  “Deputy Thompson?”  Ryder asked, dropping his gaze down to the file, then back up to him.  “Do you have much experience in interrogation?” 

 

“Some.”

Ryder leaned forward, crossing his hands on the table. “My dear mother told me ‘you don’t go into a bear’s cave and poke him with a stick unless you have a big gun behind your back.’ “

“What does that mean?”

 

“This is my cave.”

 

It was clear from the confused look on the deputy’s face he didn’t understand so Ryder explained further. “You know how many times I have sat in that chair?  Looked across at the evil that crawled out of the oozing underworld of humankind? I see exactly what you are doing.  You are doing it step by step, just like out of the book.” Ryder leaned in closer to the deputy and noticed a bead of sweat dripping down from the man’s forehead. Ryder leaned back and twisted the gold ring on the finger of his right hand.  He stared down into the bright blue sapphire stone, before looking back up to the deputy and asking. “What about the most sinful of all crimes…”  He paused briefly before adding.  “…murder?” 

“I have had some robbery cases.” 

“Oh my gosh!” Ryder said, shocked.  “You are a virgin! This is your first homicide case.”  Ryder couldn’t believe it; they sent a ham-fisted deputy to investigate Annalisa’s murder. Ryder looked down at the file again.  “You know the only reason I am here. I want to look at that file.”

“I can’t do that.”   Deputy Thompson said, placing his hand on top of the file.

“Then I guess we are done here.”  Ryder said standing up.  “Arrest me, or…” He glared at the deputy before continuing.  “Or we can make a deal.  I answer your questions, than I get to look at the file.”  Ryder placed his hands on the back of the chair and prepared to shove it under the table. “What is it going to be? Or do you want to go back and tell your sheriff that you couldn’t do it?”  Ryder knew, it didn’t matter if it was a small county sheriff, Kansas City, or the hard streets of Manhattan itself, the one thing a cop didn’t want to do was tell their superior ‘I couldn’t get it.’    

 “I don’t know…” Deputy Thompson said hesitantly as he opened the file. Ryder glanced down at the file, it was a police report done by Barry County. Over the years he had gotten very good at reading upside down.  ‘Apparent cause of death- asphyxiation- due to strangulation, corner inquiry still open and under investigation.’

“Deputy, look at it this way, it is not like you are letting the general public see this.” Captain Grosstree said and pointed at Ryder.  “I trained this man. He was the best detective I ever had. Ninety-eight percent closure rate.  That is because he is one stubborn bull-headed…” The captain’s voice was rising in tone, and then he calmed back down. “Look at it this way. You might need help with this.”  The captain’s lips twisted around to the side. “Besides, you know this man. Do you really think he could have killed Annalisa?”

“No.”  He said with a shake of his head.  “No, I know what she meant to him. But the prosecutor… he is demanding answers, and since it was your car...”

“What does that matter?”  Ryder asked and Deputy Thompson dropped his gaze away from Ryder and to the table. Ryder knew there was something that he wasn’t telling him.  “Who is the D.A. there?”

“Jonathan Price.” The deputy answered as he looked back up.  It was a name from Ryder’s past, the quarterback from a rival school, the Monett Cubs. It was his senior year and the Wildcats met the Monett Cubs for the district championship and whoever won that game would go to the state championship. Monett was ahead but Ryder brought the Cats back to win the game, something Price always held over him, for ruining his life.

“Oh, him.”  Ryder said spitefully. “All right, get on with it.”  

  “Where were you between the hours of six p.m. and midnight yesterday?” 

“You are kidding, right?” Ryder asked, amazed that he had not seen him throw out a ceremonial pass to the kicker at Arrowhead.  That was not a usual thing, but when you give two million to the team’s charity, they make exceptions. “You weren’t watching the game?”

“I am more of a Rams fan.”

“Oh! You are the one.”  Ryder joked.  “You do realize you are behind enemy lines here?”

“How long were you there?”

“Till around eleven thirty.”

“And after that?” The deputy pushed for more answers. Ryder was only willing to give only so much.

“I went home and found that my Ferrari was missing.”  Ryder leaned back in his chair.

“Is this your car?”  Deputy Thompson asked picking up a photo from the file and sliding it across the table to him.  It was the wrecked Ferrari, the front twisted to the passenger side, the interior soaked and stained with water.

“Yes.”

“Is there some reason she could have been found dead in it?”

“She took it.”

“What didn’t you report it stolen?”

“This wasn’t the first time she took my car.  She took my car in high school and disappeared for two days.  I didn’t want to get her in trouble.  Besides, if she wanted it, she could have it.”   Ryder looked over at the file; he could see a photo of Annalisa’s body in the car.  A yellow cable tied around her neck, her head tilted over strangely, clearly her neck was broken.  A red high-heeled shoe placed on her left foot, with the other shoe missing.  Her golden hair was soaking wet, plastered to her beauty queen sculptured face that was stained with blood, baby blue eyes frozen in death, covered in a haze, staring up at him.  He closed his eyes and swallowed his breath. The human in him didn’t want to see any more, but the detective in him demanded more.

“Did you see Annalisa yesterday?” 

Ryder stood up and walked around to the other side of the table and sat down on the edge, crossing him arms over his chest.  “Yes, around ten in the morning.”

 “What did she want?”

“I don’t know…”  Ryder paused and rubbed his hand over his rough day’s growth of whiskers. “She didn’t say.” He stood and walked over towards the door with his back to them.  He brought his clutched hands up to his lips.  “You have to understand who Annalisa is—“he quickly corrected himself.  “—who she was.”    He turned back to them and dropped his hands down to his sides. “It could have been that she found out she was dying, or that they no longer sell your favorite color of nail polish.”  He was doing his best to show no emotion, and he turned away from them again and gathered his composure.  “She kept saying that she wanted to give me something ‘that would change our lives forever.’ “Ryder went around to the other side of the table and glanced down at the file.  “I need to see that.” 

“Just a few more questions.”

“No more!” Ryder barked firmly there was only one reason he was here. “I want to see that file now.”

“Just a couple more questions.”

“No more questions!” 

Captain Grosstree, placing his hand down on the file said. “I am going to ask the questions now.  What motive would my man have to murder this woman?”

“Price is saying it is jealousy, because she turned you down when you asked her to marry you.”

“When was this?”  The captain asked, turning and looking at Ryder.

“When we were eighteen.” 

 “Eighteen!”  Captain Grosstree said, amazed as he turned back to the deputy. “Really? That is your motive?”  That was twenty-two years ago. Wasn’t she married to the Speaker of the House Congressman Warner? Why would he be doing this now?”

“Do you know why she turned me down?” Ryder asked, grabbing the chair, twisting it around and straddling it. He looked over at the deputy who shook his head. “It was religion.  You do know she was Jewish.  I am not.”  Ryder’s tone was soft and he paused for a moment, his mind racing back to that night when she told him she could not marry him but she wanted to keep his ring so that she would never forget him.  He twisted the ring on his finger again and remembered that she gave it to him, he wore it for the same reason: that he would never forget her. “If she married me she could no longer be Jewish.  That was more important to her.”  His tone once again became forceful.   “I want that file.”       

Deputy Thompson closed the file, placed his hand down on it then leaned back and said.  “I can’t do that.  If I were to let you see this they would fire me.”

“You know deputy, when Ryder won the lottery he bought us a fancy coffee maker, and a whole kitchen.  If you would like we can go and try it.  And since you wouldn’t want to get anything spilled on it you could just leave that file lying right here.”  Captain Grosstree smiled as he got up from his chair and placed his hand on the deputy’s back.  The deputy stood up and the captain continued.  “Come on. You can get anything from a plain cup of Joe to a latte to an espresso.   He turned to Ryder and smiled. “You won’t read that file, will you Ryder?”

“I can promise you I will not read that file in this room.  Ryder said, holding his hand up.

They walked out and closed the door behind them.  Ryder reached over and pulled the file over to him, then reached in his jacket pocket for his cell phone, and clicked on the phone.  He opened up the file and began to photographing the pages.  He heard the sounds of footsteps on the tile floor approaching the door, it was not the gate of a man, it was a woman, and she was quickly approaching the interrogation room...... For more order now.

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