Fool Me Twice Part II
By Kevin G. Chapman
Part 3 –
By 2010, Mike was the longest serving Detective in the City. He was still teaching his classes on investigation and interrogation, and he was a mentor to half the Detectives on the force, although he had a reputation as a hard-ass instructor – predictably referred to as the Stone Man. He liked that. The Hispanic officers called him “Ano de la Piedra.” He liked that, too. He was an expert witness when the department needed someone to explain crime scene issues to a jury in a high-profile trial. He was called in on the toughest cases to give his opinions and advice.
Sue Fenton was never a part of his life. He never called. She never did either. But he still followed her notices in the tabloids. She had been in the news frequently in the past three months. So, Mike was not entirely surprised when Ted MacMillan slipped into the back of the classroom when Mike was teaching crime scene protocol to a new group of Detectives. Ted had taken every class Mike taught, including interrogation technique and a seminar on corruption and bribery. Mike figured that Ted was there about the death of Theodore Wainwright – shipping tycoon, philanthropist, and husband of one Susan Fenton Wainwright. Mike had been following the story. He wondered whether Sue and Theo ever made love on the kitchen counter. When class broke up, Ted stayed behind and moved up to a desk in the front row.
“Good evening, Detective MacMillan.”
“Actually, it’s Assistant District Attorney MacMillan now.” Ted smiled proudly, hoping for a glimmer of congratulations from his old teacher and mentor.
“Well, that’s quite a jump, Ted.” Mike was genuinely happy for his student. “Law School at night?”
“Yep. Convenient, and cheap.”
Mike chuckled. “You liking it?”
“Sure – I’m liking it a lot, except that it sometimes put me at odds with some of my old colleagues on the force.”
“Aren’t we all on the same team?”
“Sure, Mike. Most of the time.” Ted looked down at the desk as he summoned the courage to continue the interview. “I find that I’m encountering a few loose ends in my investigation concerning the death in a case you might have heard about – Theodore Wainwright.”
Mike had no reaction. “Anything I can help with?”
“Well, that’s the thing. I think you can, but not by giving me advice -- by filling in a few blanks for me.”
“I’ll do what I can,” Mike replied smoothly.
“You probably heard that Wainwright died in a car crash out on Long Island. He was having some problems with his wife – a lady you may remember as Susan Fenton.” He paused, waiting for a reaction. He didn’t get any. “I ran Mrs. Fenton Wainwright through the computer and she came up as a witness in two prior deaths. I pulled the files for both cases. They were pretty clean. Thorough reports, for the most part.”
“Do you have any reason to suspect foul play in Mr. Wainwright’s death?”
“Well, the reason that I’m involved is that we have filed charges against Mrs. Wainwright. There is evidence that she and the deceased had a series of arguments in the weeks leading up to the car crash. She had run up substantial charges on her credit cards. She also may have been unfaithful to him. He threatened to divorce her, and since she had signed a pre-nup, that would leave her with nothing. So, as you can imagine, she was the primary suspect.”
“That makes sense. What evidence implicates her?”
“It is mostly circumstantial. He was an excellent driver and had traversed that road a hundred times. He was well known for not drinking – only wine and only in moderation with meals. The road was dry and clear of other cars. There were no skid marks or indication that he tried to stop before crashing through a guard rail and plunging down an embankment. This suggests that he probably lost consciousness before he went off the road.”
“Heart attack?” Mike suggested.
“Nope. He was in tip top shape. Coroner said no evidence of disease, stroke, or other organic explanation.”
“What did the toxicology show?” Mike inquired.
“Low levels of alcohol, consistent with a few glasses of wine, a blood pressure medication that he was known to be taking, and one other substance that was a little bit odd.”
“Monoclodimide?” Mike offered.
Mike sat down in a desk next to Ted. “And you found the file from the death of her father, and noted that the toxicology report on his body showed the same drug.”
“Yes. Quite a coincidence, since the drug is rarely prescribed.”
“The daughter, Sue, was taking it. Prescribed by her shrink for her depression following the death of her mother. Cancer.”
“Yes, I saw that. It makes some sense there – that the father might have taken one of the daughter’s pills.”
“We found the bottle with the prescription in the medicine cabinet in the father’s bathroom.” “You remember that?”
“Yeah, I remember.”
“Well,” Ted continued, “the thing is, we looked at the file for the death of the girl’s boyfriend, just to see whether there was anything in that toxicology report.”
“You mean, to see whether there was any Monoclodimide in his system at the time of his death?” Mike offered.
“Right,” Ted said. “I saw that there was no mention of that in the report on the boyfriend’s death. I figured that if there were, it would be a significant coincidence that you would have noted.”
Mike sat in silence for a full minute. Ted said nothing. “That’s good,” Mike said. “Never fill the silence. Let the witness break the gridlock and volunteer the next point. Good technique.”
“I learned from the best.” Ted smiled. “The problem is that the toxicology report is missing from the case file.”
“Well, it is an old file, Ted. Things get lost or misplaced over the years. That’s not a shocker.”
“True,” Ted agreed, and then paused. He got up and walked up to the black board at the front of the room, with his back to Stoneman. Another of Stoneman’s rules of interrogation was to always look the witness in the eye when you ask a question. You can learn a lot from someone’s eyes. This time, Ted was violating the rule on purpose. “I was wondering if you might have any memory of what was, in fact, in that toxicology?”
Stoneman began speaking almost immediately, not needing to think very hard about the answer. “Blood alcohol level was .024, over double the legal driving limit. He also had traces of opiates, cocaine, methaqualone, oxycodone, and Monoclodimide.”
Ted closed his eyes, then turned around. Now he wanted to see Mike’s face. “You know, I would not have doubted you if you had said that you couldn’t remember the details of a toxicology report you read one time more than ten years ago.”
Mike took in a deep breath, and then blew it out slowly, his shoulders slumping with the exhale, as if he were blowing the weight of the world away. “Well, I thought, under the circumstances, that it might be important.”
“It would be, if we had that tox report.”
“Have you considered the possibility that the tox report might have been misfiled. Perhaps mixed in with another case file that was being worked on at the same time. That kind of thing happens, you know, all the time.” Mike looked straight at Ted with eyes that now showed steely resolve. “I recall another homicide investigation around that same time where the victim was a drug overdose. No indication of homicide. No prosecution. The case was closed up pretty fast and I’m sure nobody has looked at it since. The victim’s name was Thelma Peterson. You should check that file, Ted. Just in case.”
Ted wrote down the name, then asked his last question, hoping that he didn’t already know the answer. “What did Sue Fenton have to say when you asked her about the Monoclodimide in the boyfriend’s system?”
“She didn’t say anything; because I never asked her.” Mike stood up and started to pace the front of the room, as if he were teaching the class again. “The dead boyfriend was a thug. He had a long criminal record and was known to be abusive toward her. He had stalked her and come to her house late at night. She admitted to hitting him in the head with a baseball bat, but it was judged to be in self-defense. The guy was a scumbag. Why should we have dragged her into an investigation based on the guy having one more type of drug in his system? He had cocaine, heroin, and several other drugs in his system. What did it matter?”
“It matters because if she slipped him some Monoclodimide, maybe in a glass of whiskey, she would have expected an adverse reaction, allowing her to bang him in the head and push him into the pool.”
“And if she did, would anyone have cared?”
“If she did, then she premeditated the killing, slipped him a drug, and bashed in his head with a baseball bat.”
Mike continued pacing. “And, having gotten away with murder once before – or maybe twice -- when it was time to get rid of her rich husband, she could have slipped him the same drug along with his dinner wine, hoping that it would create a reaction, render him unconscious while driving, and perhaps create an accident that might result in his death? That’s a pretty big stretch.”
“True,” Ted agreed, “it’s a big stretch. Except that she was supposed to be in that car with him, but they had an argument just as she was getting into the car and she sent him on his way alone at the last minute. And it turns out that she had not had a prescription for the stuff – Meflotin -- in ten years, but two weeks before her husband’s death, she started seeing a new shrink and specifically requested that he give her a prescription for the Meflotin, so she had a conveniently available supply at the time of the death.”
Mike slumped back down into one of the empty desks. “I had no experience to help me deal with Sue Fenton. She was sixteen the first time. Sure, she was a mature sixteen, but she was still just a scared kid, crying and traumatized. She had lost her mother to cancer and her father was a hard-driving business guy who was never there for her. I made an assumption, based on my experience, that this little girl could not have drugged and murdered her father. And when I saw her the night the boyfriend took his dive into that pool, all I could see was that scared sixteen-year-old whose life had been so messed up since her father’s death. And as much as I knew that she might have done more than she was saying that night, I was convinced that the victim was a creep and deserved what he got. I gave her a pass and called it justifiable homicide. I was her jury and I let it pass.”
Ted turned away and walked back toward the classroom door, then stopped. “I can tell you this, Mike. Theo Wainwright was not a scumbag. He was by all accounts a good citizen, a guy who gave a lot to charity, and a straight shooter. He had four kids with his first wife, who died of a heart attack five years ago. He had six grandkids. He coached a basketball team at the local YMCA. He didn’t deserve to die.”
“Ted,” Mike spoke up before MacMillan could exit the room. “You do whatever it takes. If you need me to, I’ll testify.”
“I’ll try to avoid that, Mike. You don’t deserve to have to go through that.”
“That’s where you’re wrong, Ted. It’s exactly what I deserve.”
NJCCA member Kevin G. Chapman is the winner of the NJCCA’s Legal Fiction Writing Competition (for this short story). He is Assistant General Counsel at Dow Jones & Company, where he specializes in labor and employment law, collective bargaining, labor relations, EEO and NLRB litigation. He is a former co-chair of the Labor and Employment Law Committee of the NJCCA and a former Secretary of the Labor and Employment Law Committee of the Association of the Bar of the City of New York. Mr. Chapman was formerly a management-side labor and employment attorney at Kauff, McClain & McGuire and at Proskauer Rose Goetz & Mendelsohn, both in New York City. He has served as an adjunct Associate Professor of Legal Writing at New York Law School. Mr. Chapman is a graduate of Columbia College (‘83) and Boston University School of Law (magna cum laude ‘86).