The murdered housekeeper and the missing wife
“So I ran your victim’s identification and cards through the system, and I found some interesting things,” said Alec, who was the resident tech genius of the Spring View Police Force. He had seen some action in his short time on the force, but even he agreed that he was more of a hindrance than a help when out on the case. He much preferred to stay inside and toil away in the labs, playing the numbers game and running fingerprints through the computer system. Tech wizard and IT genius were just two of the terms people used when describing Alec Robinson.
“What did you find?” asked Fletcher who today, was wearing a white pinstripe shirt, that was open at the collar and tucked into his black business trousers. His shirt sleeves were rolled up to the elbow and Imogen could see the bottom half of a tattoo, yet she couldn’t make out what it was. One of the perks, she supposed of being an Inspector, was that Todd Fletcher didn’t have a required uniform he had to wear on a daily basis, yet he dressed as if he were in a 1940s cop film. All he needed was the two-tone shoes and the fedora, and his look would be complete.
His 1940s-esque, business casual style suits him, Imogen thought. He was wholesome looking, as her mother would say. He possessed old-fashioned good looks and charm. Classically handsome! That was it, Imogen thought, that was the phrase I was looking for. Mr. Fletcher is classically handsome. She decided it was probably best of she stopped daydreaming about her boss, and start paying attention to Alec.
“She was a Community College drop-out who moved around a lot. Between 2010 and 2013 she lived in four different locations and had eight different jobs, most of them waitressing gigs. She’s been here in Springview since late 2013. Her first job since coming here was working in a salon; that was for less than a year. Presumably, she left that job for her second, which was working in a Care Home for the elderly, but she was only working there for seven months. For the last year or so, there are no job records of her or address records,” said Alec, unloading everything he had found out, on the two police officers.
“So she was drifting around then?” asked Imogen.
“That is a possibility,” replied Alec, smiling at the pretty rookie. “Although going by her spending habits, she was getting money from somewhere, even if I couldn’t find known job locations or an address for her.” He handed over several sheets of paper, stapled in the corner, to Todd Fletcher, who flicked through them.
“Was she receiving wage supplements or job benefits?” Todd asked.
“There is no trace of income benefits or job centers giving her funds,” Alec replied. “While she was working at the Care Home, she maxed out her credit card. Two weeks later it was paid off, and then a few months later she seemingly goes into hiding, quits her job and doesn’t use any form of electronic payment for months.”
“But she started using her bank cards again two months ago,” Todd stated, examining the bank statement that Alec had given him, very closely.
“Do you think the events that happened while she was off the radar for those nine months, and her murder, are linked?” Imogen asked Todd.
“I have a funny feeling that’s the case, Deputy. Do you have the information for her last job and known address?” Todd asked Alec.
Clicking a few times on his computer, and pressing a few keys, a piece of paper was printed off with the addresses and contact information needed. “Come on Deputy,” said Todd, after Alec had handed him yet more paper. “Let’s go make some house calls.”
The Care Home was a very relaxing yet sterile environment. The walls were painted light colors to bring about feelings of calm and peace, though Imogen imagined it had been a while since this place had seen total peace and serenity. Pictures of beaches and scenes of nature with inspirational quotes were hanging on the walls, but this was most likely to make the families feel more at ease for abandoning their elderly burden, instead of the actual patients, most of whom probably had bad eyesight and couldn’t see so well.
The white linoleum floors had scuff marks all over them, and no matter how often they were polished some faded stains would not budge. The building held that overly clean and overly sterile smell of a hospital. It was comforting yet sinister. Comforting in the sense that you knew they were hygiene conscious, but sinister in the way it made you feel awkward and intrusive, and it made everything seem so clinical and bland, despite the efforts to beautify the place for visitors and residents. With everything feeling so clean, one immediately felt dirty and unsanitary.
“Can I help you?” asked the woman behind the desk, who’s bland expression matched her surroundings. She had been here for a while, Imogen guessed and had lost all passion for the job, after dealing with so much shit on a daily basis.
Todd took the lead and was the first to speak, flashing his police badge. “We’re looking for information about a young woman who we believe may have worked here for a time. Miss Rosa Linares.”
“I’m sorry Sir, but we’re not allowed to give out information about workers here. They’re on file, which is private,” replied the woman. Her red hair was scraped back in a severe bun at the nape of her neck. Her hair was pulled so tight that there were no flyaway hairs at all, everything was firmly in place.
“This is for a police investigation.”
The woman behind the desk faltered slightly, clearly unsure of what to do. “I’ll go get my manager,” she finally said, quickly standing up from her seat and going down the wide corridor that led to the resident's rooms. Ten minutes later the woman reappeared with her manager, who was a much more pleasant looking woman. She smiled warmly at her guests, her teeth very white and shiny in comparison to her dark skin and features.
“I’m Sandra Watson,” she said extending a hand to first Todd and then Imogen. “I’m the manager here at Springview Retirement Home.I believe you have some inquiries about one of our past employees?”
“Yes we do,” replied Todd, flashing his badge once more, and indicating for Imogen to do the same.
“Follow me,” said Sandra. Todd and Imogen walked behind Sandra Watson, who took them down the large corridor, turned right and then took a left to her office. She motioned for Todd and Imogen to sit down, and shutting the door, she sat down behind her desk and smiled at the pair before beginning. “How may I help you?” she asked.
“I’m Inspector Todd Fletcher, and this is my Deputy, Imogen James. We have some questions we would like to ask,” stated Todd, who again, took the lead.
“I will try to help as much as I can,” replied Sandra, who smiled her trademark grin, and flashed her white teeth.
“We believe that Miss Rosa Linares was employed here for a time,” Todd said.
“Yes. She came to us in early 2015 and stayed until mid-July. It was a shame really that her tenure with us ended so quickly. She was very popular with the patients, especially the males. She was a pretty little thing,” Sandra said in a far-off tone that one used when they were reminiscing.
“You don’t mind if my Deputy takes notes?” asked Todd.
“Not at all,” said Sandra. Imogen got her small notepad and pen from her pocket and quickly scribbled down all that Mrs. Sandra Watson had told them. “Rosa spoke fluent Spanish, and this helped a lot you see, with the Latino community within our Care Home.”
“Do you know why she left after such a short period of time in employment here? When she handed in her resignation, did she mention what she was planning on doing?”
“Rosa told me that she wanted to go back to College. She made no secret of the fact that she had left College, and I believe that she regretted that decision. She said once if she could go back in time, she wouldn’t have fooled around so much in school,” Sandra disclosed.
“But you don’t know exactly what she did after leaving here?” Imogen pressed, writing her notes quickly, yet with somewhat sloppy handwriting. Good thing we type everything up, she thought.
“She gained employment as a nanny; I found out.”
“How did you find that out?” questioned Todd, who was thankful that this lead was turning into something when he had assumed that it would be a dead-end. But that just reiterated to him that he should never judge anything before finding out. Sometimes the simplest things were overlooked, when they could end up offering the most information.
“One of our male patients, recently deceased, was heard telling another patient about Miss Linares. This male patient was very fond of Miss Linares and made some rather unsavoury and inappropriate jokes about her. Some of them I am uncomfortable repeating, but one comment he made time and again, should tell you about the character of this man,” Sandra explained. She ran a hand through her thick, dark hair and felt that suddenly it was very hot in her little office.
Her little office had the same basic color scheme as the rest of the building. It was painted an off-white color and was very minimal in design, her desk taking up much of the space. There was a file cabinet to the right, behind the desk, some pictures of her family on the wall, and her certificates and diplomas in nursing and health care. There was a single shelf on the wall behind her, of books, some of them had fallen over.
In the summer it could become very suffocating in the office, as one of the safety catches on the windows was broken, and it would not open. The other window only opened a small way, so when she could, Sandra liked to spend as much time away from her office as possible. Of course, fans helped, but she found the sound of the electric fan, after a while, very grating, while she was trying to work.
“What was the comment?” Imogen asked.
“This gentleman kept saying ‘if only I could marry that girl’ or ‘if I had it in me, I’d give her a good seeing to’ or words to that effect. Like I said, I’m not comfortable repeating the words, but you get the gist,” Sandra said. She shifted uncomfortably in her chair and felt her hands become very sweaty. As much as she wanted to help the police officers, she hoped that this would be the last time they would be stopping by for a visit. There was something very intimidating about officers of the law.
“Did this male patient know the family that Miss Linares had gone to work for?” Todd inquired.
“Yes, he was related to them actually,” Sandra cleared her throat. “I believe she went to work for the Hamilton-Tracey family.”
Oh goody, Todd thought sarcastically. The Hamilton-Tracey clan. He then thought with more clarity. Of course. Of course, they are involved somehow in this.
Imogen and Todd thanked Sandra Watson for her time, and on the way back out to the car and for the duration of the drive back to the station; Todd filled in Imogen on the Hamilton-Tracey family. “Do you know of the Hamilton-Tracey family?” he asked her
“I have heard of the name, but I do not know the details.”
“Well strap yourself in,” he commented dryly. “The Hamilton family came over from Northern Ireland in the late 1920s. Making pragmatic decisions and using good sense and foreshadowing, they managed to amass a small fortune, which the sons built up over the years, especially in the forties, fifties, and sixties. They moved from Texas to New England in 1971 and have been here ever since. They are old money by anyone's standards and expect due respect wherever they go. The gentleman that Mrs. Watson alluded to was Mr. Nicholas Hamilton, who was the patriarch of the Hamilton family for more than fifty years. He gave control of the ‘empire’ to his son about a decade ago and then disappeared. I’m surprised he turned up in such a nondescript retirement home, but perhaps it was what he wanted.”
“Are they nice people to deal with?” asked Imogen.
“Nicholas’ children are dodgy, especially his eldest son, Bryce, who has control now. We’ve never been able to pin anything on him, though, as we never have enough evidence. He hangs around gangs and organized crime, but he’s never close enough to be directly involved. It’s a proximity thing, and he knows this. He keeps tenuous links with organised crime, gets involved and then backs away so we can never get him, the slimy bastard,” said Todd, the contempt very clear in his voice.
“Where does the Tracey family fit in?”
“Bryce married Ellen Tracey, a match most likely set up by his father so they could gain even more money as Ellen is the wealthy railroad Tracey’s, who made their money in locomotives and railways. We’ll head over there later on,” Todd stated.
The drive over to the wealthy Hamilton-Tracey’s two hours later was slightly awkward for Imogen. Increasingly aware of how good looking her immediate superior was, she felt like a giddy little schoolgirl who has a crush on the older male teacher. Nervous already on her first case, and wanting to make a good impression on everyone, not only Todd, she didn’t need the extra pressure of her mind, wondering if he was thinking the same about her, or if he was staring at her and thinking similar things to what she was. But he is just so good looking; her mind reasoned when she allowed it to. Usually, thoughts like that were quickly cast aside, and she scolded herself, but sometimes, rarely, she allowed herself the treat of thinking about Todd Fletcher.
He was tall, being easily over six foot, and he was well built from hours spent at the gym, as he had told Imogen on occasion. Sometimes Todd Fletcher allowed his wall that he built up, to crack, and he revealed personal tidbits and pieces of information about himself to Imogen. He often spoke of his gym schedule, which was rigorous and unrelenting, but he used it as a way to calm down and get his bearings back. It helped him focus. After a long or particularly hard day at work, there was nothing better for him, than doing a few sets at the gym, or giving the punching bag a good thrashing.
He had a head of coppery brown hair that he kept cut in a ‘high and tight,' which added to his overall 40s-esque good cop look. His steely gray gaze he used to his advantage, as he had figured out early on, that just staring at someone could be enough for them to crack and tell-all, with little prompting. Similar in un-nerving style to the Kubrick stare, Todd used his ‘Fletcher stare’ to his advantage, as had his father and uncle, both of them cops, having passed down the gray eyes like a family heirloom, to the thirty-four-year-old Todd Fletcher.
Pulling up outside the Hamilton-Tracey residence, after a silent car ride, Imogen looked on in awe of the house in front of her. Typical of New England architecture, the house was a Cape Cod-style mansion. It had the standard issue Cape Cod features; steeply slanted roof with side gables, symmetrical outside design, and centred front door, with vertical panel windows on either side. Mixed in with these typical Cape Cod features, were key features of other architectural designs and ‘times’ which Imogen hoped to find out about, even if it wasn’t exactly pertinent to the case at hand. Architecture fascinated her; it was a sort of hobby for her.
The long curved, sweeping driveway, was marshalled by a large, heaving security goon, who wished to know Todd and Imogen’s business straight away. “Standard issue Terry-tough-guy,” Todd mumbled sardonically under his breath as they were let in, after assuring the man they were actually police officers, which even then he probably wasn’t overly happy about, people like Bryce Hamilton didn’t like the police hanging around. Todd drove up to the house and parked out front and off to the side slightly, so they weren’t blocking any cars who wanted to get in or out.
“I must warn you,” Todd said to Imogen, as he unbuckled his seat belt.”That Bryce Hamilton will try and use every trick in the book. He could deny everything we say or he could lie straight to our faces. Or perhaps he’ll choose to mess with us and have a laugh at our expense. He will try and use whatever tools he has, to trick us and run rings around us. He may ignore you and focus all his attentions on me, or he may ignore me and focus all his attentions on you, which seems more likely to me. He is insanely lecherous, so please be careful and be very aware of everything you say. Someone as pretty and attractive as you are, well……………….just be careful,” Todd quickly added, before abruptly opening the door and getting out of the car.
He thinks I’m pretty, Imogen thought. But she didn’t have time to ponder on this further as Todd had strode up to the house, and had pressed the doorbell, rather aggressively, noted Imogen. A young blonde girl answered the door, her hair in two little braids on either side of her head. She was wearing little denim overalls, a white t-shirt underneath.
“Is your father around?” Todd asked, in his nicest voice possible, which came out sounding very condescending.
The little girl examined both Todd and Imogen, and then in a loud voice, hollered “DADDY!”
Her father came to the door almost immediately, holding a glass of whiskey, the ice cubes clinking against the sides of the glass. “Kitty,” said the man. “I thought I told you to not answer the door. You have to wait for an adult.” He sent his daughter away and then looked at Todd and Imogen standing on the doorstep. “We meet again, Mr. Fletcher,” he chuckled mockingly. “And who is this? I didn’t think you were allowed to bring your out of work entertainment on cases.”
“I’m Officer James,” said Imogen in her most composed voice, as she flashed her badge.
“What do you want?” sighed the man.
“We have a few questions we’d like to ask you, Mr. Hamilton,” said Todd.
“About what?” he said, standing his ground. Despite the warm weather, Bryce Hamilton was dressed almost exclusively in black. Black leather shoes, black slacks, black leather belt, and black blazer. The only thing that wasn’t black was the dark red shirt he had on underneath his jacket.
“A woman we believe is of your acquaintance,” Todd responded.
Bryce smirked but didn’t say anything, and neither did Todd. The two men just stood there staring at each other, eyeing the other one up, trying to figure him out. “Very well,” Bryce said, backing down first. He moved aside and let Todd and Imogen into the house.
If the outside of the house was simple looking, then the inside certainly made up for that fact. It was simple yet opulent. Shiny white marble flooring, high vaulted ceilings, abstract paintings and artworks dotted around the walls in the entrance way and up the long, sweeping staircase. It was all very open plan, and clearly French inspired, from the duck egg blue walls to the gold embellishments here and there. Whoever designed this place has good taste, Imogen thought, and she had only seen one room.
“I would be more than happy, Miss James, to give you a tour of the house,” Bryce Hamilton said in a suggestive tone. Imogen just ignored this and followed the men through the house, looking around in awe. This place is incredible.
“You’ll have to forgive my wife,” said Bryce. “She’s been suffering from terrible migraine headaches lately. She shuts herself in a darkened room most afternoons with a bucket of ice chips and a damp cloth on her face. She won’t be around to meet you, Officer James.”
Imogen tried to suppress all feelings of revulsion and keep her mind on the case, telling herself to ignore his comments. He was doing it to test the water and see where he stood with her, but she made a mental note about the wife and her headaches. Was it just a cover? Or did she really get them every afternoon?
Bryce took the police through the house and to his office, which was a large and sunny room, the same color scheme as the rest of the house. Instead of offering them seats at his desk, Todd and Imogen sat on the red leather lounger, while Bryce sat opposite them in a matching armchair, putting his glass of whiskey down on the curved white coffee table, a potted plant in the centre, some books randomly left there. “You wanted to talk with me,” said Bryce to Todd. “So talk.”
“Rosa Linares,” said Todd.
“Who?” Bryce asked quickly, perhaps a little too quickly.
“Don’t play the fool, Bryce, it doesn’t become you,” Todd said, smirking slightly. “We know that she was working here for a time.”
Bryce shrugged, deciding that playing dumb would not aid his case. “I took her on as a housekeeper.”
“She’s been murdered,” said Todd, coming straight out with it, to see what Bryce’s reaction would be. It was best to get straight to it. It was the best way to gauge someone’s true reaction. A look of brief sadness washed over Bryce’s face, but then his expression was neutral once more.
“And you think I murdered her?” he asked, leaning back in his seat.
“We’re just trying to piece together as much information as possible,” Todd replied.
“You know I wouldn’t have wasted my time on a girl. You know I have bigger fish to fry. More important business to attend to, and frankly. I’m insulted that you would think she was of concern to me, Fletcher,” said Bryce.
“How did you meet Rosa?” Imogen asked Bryce, trying to ease the growing tension in the room.
“She was a care assistant at the home we put my father in.”
“Yes, but how did that lead to her being your housekeeper?” Todd pressed, becoming irritated with Bryce.
“I went in to visit my old man, saw Rosa and offered her a job working for me, as a housekeeper. She said no, so I upped her paycheck. She refused once again, so I upped her paycheck once again. That time she said yes. She handed in her notice at the retirement home and came to work here. We offered her room and meals, as well as some cash at the end of the each week, if she would be a housekeeper and also nanny the kids from time to time,” explained Bryce.
“Was she good at her job?” asked Imogen. Bryce turned from facing Todd, to face Imogen, a hungry look in his blue eyes.
“She was very good at her job; the kids loved having her around.”
“I bet you did as well,” Todd said.
Bryce’s gaze never leaving Imogen’s, he answered Todd’s question. “She did improve the view.”
“Why did she leave?” asked Imogen, her voice breaking slightly. She couldn’t let Bryce know that he had this effect on her. She willed herself to remain calm and not to let him see that she was uncomfortable or awkward with his behavior and comments.
“My wife didn’t like her. She felt threatened with having a young, hot thing around like Rosa. I couldn’t take her bitching and moaning anymore, so I had to let Rosa go.”
“I didn’t know that you took orders from your wife,” stated Todd.
“I don’t take orders from anyone, and you fucken know that, Fletcher.”
“Of course I do. A big boss man like you,” he said sarcastically, which further irritated Bryce Hamilton.
“You have five minutes to remove yourself from my property, or I’ll get my security guards on you,” Bryce said, turning to face Todd, seething with anger. “Talk to me like that, you greasy bastard.”
“Are you threatening police officers, Mr. Hamilton?” Todd asked.
“You’re fucken right I am. I don’t care what you do about it.” Bryce had stood up by this stage, his face was red with frustration, and he reminded Imogen of an angry bull about to charge.
Todd and Imogen made good their escape from the Hamilton-Tracey mansion. For most of the car ride back to the station it was an awkward atmosphere. Todd was seething with anger after the disastrous meeting with Bryce Hamilton, and Imogen didn’t quite know what to do or say.
“You need to get better at using poker face,” Todd said, finally breaking the silence and speaking to the rookie.
“Excuse me?” she asked, being snapped from her thoughts and focusing in on her boss once more.
“Poker face. You need to be better at hiding your true reactions and feelings. What Mr. Hamilton said made you uncomfortable, I could tell and so could he, that’s why he continued with it. He unnerved you, and he used it to an advantage of sorts, and he will continue to do so. That’s not even the worst of it; some men are a lot worse at making suggestive remarks. You need to get your reactions in check. Keep a straight face, a mask of sorts. People like Bryce Hamilton are always after the reaction when you don’t give them the satisfaction of that, they will back off.”
“Thanks for the advice,” replied Imogen. This had certainly given her something to contemplate and focus on, as she knew that she would be seeing a lot more of Bryce Hamilton in the future. He had more of a part in this than he was admitting, she could tell, and she was very determined to find out more and solve this case. But there was one thing that was bothering her. “You were very unprofessional,” she said. She waited for his anger to boil over again, and for him to lose it with her, but she was surprised, and relieved, to see that he was keeping his cool.
“You’re right, I was. I said those things on purpose, to get a reaction from him. But I get the feeling he’s hiding something from us; he didn’t disclose everything, which is a typical Bryce Hamilton trait,” replied Todd.
“Do you think it’s something to do with her leaving the Care Home to work for him?”
“I do. There’s got to be more to it. I’ll take you for coffee, and we discuss it some more,” said Todd, quickly changing lanes and taking a left to go to his favorite coffee shop.