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Monthly Archives: November 2014

Greetings from the Retirement Home Mysteries blog.  I trust you had a peaceful and restful Thanksgiving.

I want thank all of you who Read and/or Follow my blog and take this opportunity to briefly pause and recap things so far and provide an indication of things to come.

To date, there are three complete and “separate” mysteries set at the La Vida Aureo retirement community in Albuquerque, New Mexico, summarized as follows:

Case I (September 2014): The Virgin and the Maintenance Man:  La Vida Aureo’s macho maintenance man is discovered stabbed to death by a large screwdriver. The police and Matthew Dudley must not only identify the murderer but determine how the crime was actually committed.

Case II (October 2014): Passion, Physical Therapy and Profit:  There are strange happenings in the Physical Therapy Department and the motives of several people must be understood to get to the bottom of a drug operation potentially affecting the entire Albuquerque community.

Case III (November 2014): Damsels, Don Juan, Drama and Death:  Matthew Dudley must unravel a series of complex personal relationships to determine the events leading to the death of a resident.

Case IV, tentatively titled Undercover Operations, is completed and I am checking it carefully for typos, etc. before I post the first Chapter.  My goal is to post Chapter 1 in mid-December and complete the Case by December 31.  This time, Matthew Dudley finds himself in the middle of internal crime as well as a sinister plot of international terrorism.

If you enjoy these stories, I encourage you to share them with your friends, many of whom would appreciate more reasons to avoid retirement homes as they age!

A couple of suggestions for potential new readers:

  1. The dates of the Posts are arranged in “reverse order” so that the Chapters appear “in sequence” on the web page; you can just ignore the dates.
  2. Clicking on the Category button on the right (Case I, etc.) will take you to an entire Case in Chapter order.
  3. Each Case is organized as a separate Month, so clicking on a Month in the Archive section will also take you to an entire Case in Chapter order.
  4. If you click on the Follow button near the bottom of the page, it will ask you to enter your email address and, after you confirm, you will get each new Post (Chapter) delivered directly to your email as it is written without having to go back to the website.
  5. I suggest starting with Case I so you get introduced to the main characters.

Finally, I encourage and welcome your feedback, comments and suggestions concerning the characters, story lines, etc.  My goal is to provide an enjoyable reading experience.   Thanks again,

Eugene “Gene” Davis

Case III: Damsels, Don Juan, Drama and Death

Case III: Chapter 1: The Queer Quartet

After several months in his new role as La Vida Aureo’s resident Handyman, Dudley had settled into a reasonable daily routine. He had an early morning exercise session with Hans followed by a healthy breakfast in the main dining room. After breakfast, he enjoyed a third cup of coffee while he read the entire Wall Street Journal. Each day, a distinguished gentleman placed the paper in the same spot and nodded to Dudley as he left the room. It was Señora Angostura who told Dudley that this gentleman was a retired senior executive with New Mexico Power and Light Company, the primary utility service in the State. He had no family in the area and opted to live at La Vida Aureo, primarily for the socialization.

After reading the paper, Dudley reviewed his ToDo list of maintenance and repair requests and assigned a priority and level of difficulty to each. He also attempted to accommodate the schedules and personal preferences of the individual residents as well as “grouping” the tasks by type (electrical, plumbing, etc.). Over these past few months, he had become familiar with most of the residents and had learned which ones make legitimate repair requests and which ones simply want to “visit”. He had come to realize that many residents, both men and women, are lonely or adjusting to this new stage in their life. He dids not object to a bit of conversation as long as it doesn’t interfere with his repair work and that it remains “above board”. As Isabella described, there are lonely people, harmless flirts and a few “desperate housewives”. Dudley had become more adept at spotting the differences and the early warning signs.

One particular morning, Dudley had to alter his schedule to urgently repair a rather nasty leaking toilet. As a consequence, he found himself reading the paper and reviewing his ToDo list through lunch. He did not notice the group of four women who had congregated at a table at one end of the room until he overheard them talking. Dudley took his dishes into the kitchen and said gracias to Señora Angostura for accommodating the change in his schedule. “I noticed four women sitting at a table. Do they come in here often?”

“Oh, yes, they are here three or four times a week. They pretend to play cards or dominoes, but they really just sit and talk with each other for several hours. I do not know them personally, but they seem very different from each other. It is none of my business, but they do not seem to like each other very much.”

“What makes you say that?”

“One time, when I went to their table to see if I could get anything for them, I was able to hear a bit of their conversation. It sounded pleasant enough, but I sensed a lot of anger in their voices and on their faces. I do not know if they are angry at each other, or at themselves, but things are not as pleasant as they seem.”

“But, they still continue to meet?”

“Yes, so perhaps I was there at a bad time.”

“Oh well, Señora, I must be on about my chores for this afternoon; buenos dias.”

Dudley decided that Señora Angostura was correct; it was none of his business and he proceeded to one of the casitas to address an electrical problem. The resident called about an hour ago to say that her power had gone out in the kitchen. He hoped that it was only a faulty circuit breaker and nothing more serious.

Over the next few days, Dudley had occasion to stop in the dining room at various times during the afternoon and each time, this same group of four women were situated at the same table. While their voices were not raised, the conversation nevertheless seemed quite animated.

On Tuesday, Dudley stopped by the dining room for a quick lunch before resuming his repair work. He preferred to eat a modest lunch of fruit in the courtyard, but a brief rain shower had forced him inside. The same four women were ensconced at their table playing cards. He glanced up to notice a man walking into the dining room; actually, this man was strutting! Dudley tried not to be obvious and to keep a straight face as he continued to watch this scene unfold. The man was probably in his mid to late 50s with classic Hispanic features of dark hair and bronze complexion. But, it was his clothes, mannerisms and actions that intrigued Dudley. He wore black boots adorned with silver with a two-inch heel and a sleeveless tee shirt that was perhaps two sizes too small. His pants appeared to be painted on and were crowned with a large silver and turquoise belt and matching buckle. As he entered the room, he nodded to everyone, whether they acknowledged him or not. He stopped at several tables, always occupied by women, and leaned over and spoke to them. Dudley noticed that he put his hand on the shoulder of several of the younger women present and seemed to lean even closer to speak.

As if guided by some sort of macho radar, the man headed toward the table where the four women sat. They had obviously noticed his entrance, but continued their card game without looking beyond their respective hands. Despite their apparent lack of interest, they were unable to deter his inevitable approach. As he stood near their table, he seemed to stand a bit taller and puff out his chest to extend his area of influence. He spoke to each of the women in turn as he placed his hand on their shoulder. With one of the women, his hand seemed to linger a bit longer and he leaned closer and spoke to her ear. There was no reaction on her part. Apparently satisfied that he had paid homage to the assembled women, or at least the ones he had chosen to bestow his charms on, he turned and began to walk back across the dining room. Dudley ducked his head in order to avoid eye contact. He was afraid that he would not be able to keep a straight face as this man strolled past. But, to no avail; the man not only stopped, but sat down across the table from Dudley.

“You must be the new Maintenance Man. My name is Cesar Ramirez.”

Dudley stifled a smile and remembered his manners. “My name is Matthew Dudley and I am the resident Handyman. Most people call me Doc.”

When he got a closer look, it was apparent that Ramirez had put considerable effort into his grooming before making his entrance. Dudley was no expert, but the man’s hair looked too black to be natural and the silver streaks seemed a bit too perfect. But, it was hard to tell for certain because of the amount of what looked like 10W-30 motor oil he used to construct the slicked-back, pompadour style. Elvis had NOT left the building!

“I come in here nearly every day to visit the ladies, but haven’t seen you here before.”

“I usually eat my lunch in the courtyard, but the rain forced me inside today.”

“My day wouldn’t be complete without taking time to say something pleasant to all the ladies and this is the best place to catch them all.”

“I noticed. You seemed to pay particular attention to that group of four ladies over there.” Dudley decided he would satisfy his own curiosity a bit.

“Oh, those four are my favorites; I call them The Queer Quartet because they are so different. The “perky” one next to the window, that’s Dolores, but she’s certainly not dolorosa; she is always happy and sees the brighter side of every situation.   Sitting across from her is Mary, the one in the wheelchair. I knew her before her biking accident. She was a real beauty then, but the accident changed her completely. And, after her husband deserted her and ran off with a much younger woman, she basically gave up. The fact the he ran off with her nurse made it that much more painful. My favorite of the four is Carmine, my Italian spice. We both have that “hot Latin blood” and she’s really something, but she always plays hard-to-get with me. Finally, the one dressed up like a beauty queen across from Carmine is Estelle-Elena. She’s a real flirt and I know she’s crazy about me from all the suggestive remarks she makes. I just don’t want to be one of her conquests; I have my pride, you know.”

“The four of them meet here two or three times a week. They pretend to play mah-jongg or dominoes or cards, but it is really just a hen-fest. They could not be more different in every way and I wouldn’t call them friends, but they seem to really need each other. I guess that’s why they continue to meet.”

That was really more information than I want or needed, Dudley thought to himself. “Well, I thank you for your time and the description of those ladies. It always helps me be a better Handyman if I know a bit more about the residents and guests.”

“No problem. I’m just trying to do my part to help out. I must be going. I go to the physical therapy room every afternoon to work out. Got to stay in shape and look my best for all the ladies. They depend on me, you know. Well, adios, amigo; I hope to see you again.”

“I’m sure.” said Dudley as he got up to leave and attend to his ToDo list. He assumed that Cesar was relatively harmless and provided a bit of entertainment and levity for many of the residents.

Case III: Chapter 2: Cat Scratch Fever

Dudley was unaware of the verbal hissing, scratching and clawing that began as he left the dining room.

“I find that man disgusting,” said Mary Thomas. “I knew him when we both worked at Sandia Labs and he was just as offensive and vulgar toward women then. “

“He’s really harmless”, said Dolores Waverly. “You shouldn’t take him so seriously. I think he’s kinda cute in a funny sort of way.”

“He’s certainly not MY type,” said Carmine Felicio. “I like the “tall, dark and handsome” ones, but he’s way too old for me.”

“From the ones I see following you home, hissed Mary, Cesar is too old two or three times over.”

“I can’t help it if I meet attractive younger men when I go out to jog”, Carmine snipped back.

“Jogging or trolling?”

“I agree with Dolores”, interjected Estelle-Elena Varela Caballo, trying to prevent the situation between Mary and Carmine from escalating. “You have to admit, ladies, that “clothes make the man” and Cesar certainly knows how to dress. I particularly like the way his tight shirt shows off his muscles and his tight pants don’t hide his “main asset” either. I’d like to get my hands on that mucho gordo burrito he carries in his lunchbox, if you know what I mean.”

“That’s rude and crude, Estelle, even for you,” said Carmine.

“Well, I’ve had plenty of chances to compare ever since my first experience the night after my quinceanera. And prom night was pretty good, too. I know what I like.”

“OK, but that was how many years ago and it looks like you’re still wearing your prom dress. Now who’s “trolling”?”

“At least I don’t go out jogging and think that every young guy I pass wants to get into my running shorts!”

“Well, many of them do.”

“Ladies, ladies, ladies,” blushed Dolores.   “Can we get back to our card game? Who’s turn is it, anyway?”

“I think I’ve had enough card playing and “stimulating conversation” for one day”, complained Mary as she pushed herself away from the table and began to wheel toward to door.

As Mary continued her difficult journey to the elevator and back to her room, she was engulfed by a series of emotions, most of them negative. She resented much of the conversation with her “friends”, but they were her only means of socialization and she refused to become totally isolated. The wave of emotions which continued to dominate her mind became increasingly troubling as she entered her room. She decided that a small glass of wine would help her relax and clear her mind. It had the opposite effect, however. The wine made her relax but opened up to her mind to a flood of emotions.

Before her accident, she had actually been everything that these women claimed to be. She was attractive and athletic and had a position of increasing professional responsibility at Sandia Labs. Unlike Carmine’s fantasy, many men in her cycling club had frequently remarked about how well her Spandex fit and complemented her athletic figure. Mary took this all in stride and its primary effect was to strengthen her self-confidence. Despite all of this genuine male attention, Mary remained faithful to her husband. And unlike Estelle’s fantasies, their sex life had been varied and exciting. But everything changed with the accident.

Her injury was truly an accident. No one was at fault. No one did anything stupid or dangerous. Her bike skidded on some loose gravel and she fell. She had fallen many times before and had a few “trophy scars” on her knees and elbows to prove it. This time she landed in an awkward position and had severed her spinal cord. From that moment on she was paralyzed from the waist down. She remained optimistic throughout the early stages of recovery, but soon realized that this was an irreversible condition. Her husband’s support began to fade and she often heard him whispering with her nurse just outside her room. She initially assumed that they were discussing her condition and simply didn’t want her to hear, but soon realized they were making plans to meet secretly. Her husband became more distant and visited less frequently and eventually stopped coming altogether. Ultimately, a lawyer arrived and presented her with a divorce petition. She did not contest the situation and moved into one of the better suites at La Vida Aureo with the proceeds from the divorce. She continued to try to develop a positive outlook but was frequently overcome with anger and frustration.

Despite her need to maintain contact with a few women, she found so much of their conversation to be irritating and full of hypocrisy. She knew for example that Estelle’s overt flirting and promiscuous talk was simply a cover up. Estelle may have had sexual experiences with the boys after her Mexican “coming of age” party and her high school prom, but Mary knew that Estelle’s interests were now focused exclusively on women. She didn’t know if these early experiences had been unpleasant or whether Estelle refused to accept a subservient role after having been treated as a princess for much of her youth. Mary learned the truth about Estelle when she overheard two young cleaning maids discuss the situation. Estelle preferred her sexual adventures with women and she liked to seduce the young women working at La Vida Aureo. The two maids openly discussed Estelle’s behavior and giggled about how much fun it was to play “dress up” and enact various fantasy scenarios, always based on Estelle’s quinceanera ceremony or prom. Estelle always played the part of the handsome boy in these fantasies.

Mary noticed that her glass of wine was finished and that her emotions were moving into high gear. She decided it was time to get serious and let her emotions completely loose. She opened the bottle of expensive rye whiskey she kept in her bookcases and poured herself a full glass. It burned as she felt its warmth throughout her body reminding her of more pleasant times before she lost much of the feeling below her waist.

As the whiskey took effect, Mary’s thoughts turned to Dolores. She simply could not figure Dolores out or why she seems to be so happy about everything all the time. Maybe it was just an act on her part. Maybe Dolores spent a lot of time alone with her “electric toothbrush” and that kept her in high spirits. Or, it was possible that Dolores was one of those born-again types who believed she was blessed and that Jesus was taking care of everything for her. She never talked about much of anything or gave any clues and she always had that Cheshire cat grin on her face. It just didn’t make sense; nobody was that happy all the time.

Mary noticed that she had finished her drink and poured herself another. Her emotions were now in full flight and she turned her increasingly intense thoughts to Carmine. That situation was particularly frustrating for Mary because Carmine was living the life Mary enjoyed before her accident. Like Carmine, she had had her pick of men but chose simply to accept their attention and remain faithful to her husband. In her prime, Mary appreciated these compliments rather than being resentful and angry as Carmine was. Despite the fact that she routinely invited young men to spend the night with her (she really was “trolling” when she jogged), Carmine was never satisfied. She remained unfulfilled, always searching for something. Mary was becoming increasingly jealous. Carmine seemed to have everything Mary had lost but did not appreciate just how fortunate she was.

Mary descended into a state of self-pity, drained the last of the whiskey, slumped forward in her wheelchair and fell into a troubling and fitful sleep.

Case III: Chapter 3: Paloma’s Story

Dudley had a very successful day, completing a series of minor repairs, including refinishing an antique table for Mrs. Vigil. He was pleased with how well he was adapting to his new “career” and his life at La Vida Aureo. He had also rediscovered his joy of reading and there were plenty of classic novels available in the library.

On this morning, his ToDo list was relatively short and he decided to try to talk in more depth with Paloma Angostura. “Buenos dias, Señora Angostura. Como esta? I trust you are well on this beautiful morning. “

Hola, Señor Dudley. Muy bien. I am quite well, gracias.”

“I have been busy adapting to my new life here at and to my new responsibilities, but enjoying every minute. It has been an honor to know your children, and, if I am not being too forward, I would like to learn more about how you came to be at La Vida Aureo.”

“Certainly, my son and daughter always ask after you now that they know you are here under my watchful eye. They send their regards. My life has been a journey and I would be happy to share my story with you. Another coffee?”

“I am the daughter of immigrant farm workers from southern New Mexico and I am named after two cities near where they lived and worked. My father was an early participant in the Bracero Program, instituted during World War II between the American and Mexican governments to provide temporary contract agricultural laborers. For the United States, the program was a convenient way to provide much-needed labor to the agriculture industry during the war. The United States promised good wages and working conditions as well as modest benefits for these contract laborers. It also promised Mexico tighter border security to prevent persons who were not part of the Bracero Program from entering the country illegally. Mexico was concerned that this exodus would harm it own economy. Mexico also benefitted because the laborers returned with enhanced skills. Officially, the program limited the number of workers, but the promise of better wages encouraged many to enter the country illegally. Some American businesses took advantage of these individuals and their treatment and working conditions often was not much better than slavery. But, these workers were reluctant to complain because most had entered the country illegally.”

“My father was initially hired for seasonal work in southern New Mexico and, after several years, was promoted to the position of Foreman because of his skills and dependability. He was treated well by his American employer. He was able to save a portion of his wages to provide for his family who remained in Mexico. As the Bracero program was winding down, his employer offered him the opportunity to stay in New Mexico permanently as a full-time employee. With that support, he received his Green Card and eventually became an American citizen. With this stability, he was able to bring his pregnant wife to America.”

“My parents strongly encouraged me to get in education. Although I finished high school, I foolishly fell for a dashing young man and got pregnant before I could further my education. He left shortly after my second child was born and I dedicated myself to ensuring that my children had access to all the opportunities available to them that I had missed.”

“This experience and my youthful defiance broke my father’s heart and after several years in New Mexico, he died. My mother had been a capable worker and accomplished cook. She was completely adept using the food that was available and enhancing its flavor with natural herbs and spices that were available. My mother’s sister, Tia Luisa, was an accomplished Curandera and passed much of her knowledge about the use and preparation of naturally available plants and herbs. She also nurtured my understanding and appreciation of Mayan culture and tradition.”

“My mother was eventually hired as a cook for the Jaramillo family in Albuquerque. I assisted my mother in the kitchen while caring for my young children and learned much about cooking and the ability to enhance the flavor of almost any dish. Over time, my mother developed a comprehensive knowledge, not only of traditional Mexican foods but also those Castilian Spanish dishes the family preferred as well as many American and French dishes introduced by guests of the family. The Jaramillo family assisted my children to get a complete education, much more than I could afford on my own.”

When she finished, Paloma sat back in her chair and looked at Dudley. “Tell me about your story; I suspect that you are not native to New Mexico, but have an interesting story to tell.”

“I will and remind me to tell you about my own group of friends here in Albuquerque; they are not unlike the four women we were talking about recently, another Queer Quartet! Perhaps another time; I promised Mr. Sandoval that I would look at his computer; I hope it is just a loose connection. I know so very little about these new and complicated machines. I guess I’m just an old fashioned analog guy in an increasingly digital world. Isabella wants me to get a “smart phone” so she can send me messages any time she wants, but I’m resisting.”

Case III: Chapter 4: Revenge on Romeo

Dudley walked out into the courtyard and paused a moment to enjoy the warmth of the late morning sun. His ears picked up a discordant sound and he looked toward a passage way between two buildings. He saw Carmine Felicio and Cesar Romero standing toe-to-toe and apparently arguing about something. Cesar put his hand on Carmine’s shoulder and she forcefully brushed it away. He opened his arms, attempting to embrace her and she slapped him across his face. He didn’t seem fazed and broke into a wide smile. “Just stay away from me”, she shouted and turned to walk away. He reached for her arm and was rewarded with another forceful slap. She stormed away.

Cesar noticed Dudley and casually walked toward him. “My little bit of Italian Spice is having a bad day, amigo. Think nothing of it. Deep in her heart, she desires me. She knows she cannot resist my charms forever; maybe another day.”

“I am certainly not an expert on women, Mr. Ramirez, but when a woman says “No”, she usually means “No!”. It might be better if you left Ms. Felicio alone.”

“Ah, amigo, women with Latin blood are always temperamental. It is that “fire” that attracts me.”

“Nevertheless, I would advise you to stay away.” Dudley did not really want to interfere, but he found this type of macho behavior particularly offensive and it usually ended badly.

“OK, OK, I will. I’m sure there are others here who appreciate what I have to offer.”

“Please be a gentleman. I have found that it is always best to treat all women with respect.”

Still troubled by what he saw, Dudley walked back toward the main building to keep his appointment with Mr. Sandoval and his computer. Ramirez sauntered off toward the main lobby. Although it was none of his business, he shared Isabella’s commitment to the health and well-being of ALL residents. Ramirez’s behavior and attitude was not consistent with that principle and would, Dudley thought, eventually lead to trouble.

The following Monday, the Queer Quartet was once again seated at their regular table and things seemed to be proceeding peacefully, at least until Cesar Ramirez made his “rounds”. He again stopped at their table and spoke to each of them, but paid particular attention to Carmine Felicio. She didn’t respond to his attention and after a short while, he moved on to another table of women.   The four of them appeared to return to their previous activity and not exchange any additional conversation. About mid-afternoon, they all got up to leave, but Dolores sat back down. “You all can go on, I just want to sit here a while and finish my iced tea. I’m fine, really.”

Paloma noticed Dolores sitting alone and wanted to offer some solace, but reminded herself that it is “none of her business”.

Dolores continued to sit alone for quite some time and continued to look in Paloma’s direction as if she wanted to say something.

Finally, Paloma’s curiosity got the better of her and she walked over and sat down across the table from Dolores. “Miss Dolores, please excuse me for disturbing you, but you have a very troubled look on your face. Is there something you wish to talk about?”

“Oh, Señora Paloma, I am worried for my friends. I do not trust that man, Cesar Ramirez. I am afraid he is trying to push himself on poor Carmine. I have heard from other women here at La Vida Aureo that he can be quite insistent and refuses to take “No” for an answer. The way he has been talking to Carmine lately makes me afraid for her safety. He said some very sexually suggestive things to her again today. I don’t mean to bother you with my troubles, Señora, but can you suggest anything I might do to keep Cesar from hurting women and harassing them sexually?”

Paloma did not respond immediately. She certainly did not want to get involved in the affairs of any of the residents. Her role as cook was much too important to her. But, she has seen many men like Ramirez in her lifetime and knows how dangerous they can be and the pain and suffering they can inflict on women. Finally, she looked Dolores in the eye and says, “Tia Luisa taught me about many herbs and their uses. I believe I could offer you something that would “soften him” a bit, if you understand. If you were to put it in some food or drink, it might just make him a bit more humble toward women. ”

“Is it dangerous?”

“Oh, he might be angry and we would have to watch him carefully, but the women would be safe and only have to put up with his charms.”

Dolores accepted the small envelope with a powdery substance in it and thanked Paloma profusely. “I will make sure this gets in some of Cesar’s food or drink as soon as possible.”

“Please be careful, Miss Dolores. Just use a small amount to see how it affects him. We don’t want to simply trade one type of bad behavior for another.”

Dolores struggled to contain her joy as she left the dining room. She had successfully preyed on Paloma’s concern and generosity to get the herb. There were rumors at La Vida Aureo that Paloma was a curandera or maybe even some sort of Mexican witch. But Dolores now had the means to teach Cesar a lesson. Her motivation was NOT to protect Carmine, but to keep Cesar away from Carmine as well as other women. Dolores enjoyed her role as one of Cesar’s “regulars” and wanted to have him exclusively for herself. She always suspected that Cesar had a number of sexual partners at La Vida Aureo and her plan was to confront him with this fact and warn him to stay away from Carmine. Dolores knew that if Cesar took up with Carmine, she would lose him.

Dudley completed looking at Mr. Sandoval’s computer and decided it is just a faulty cable or two. He would order replacements from Amazon, even though he would prefer to give the business to the local Radio Shack. A long-time friend was the owner/franchisee of this store before he retired and Dudley always enjoyed stopping in to visit. But, since he is essentially “stranded” at La Vida Aureo, he knows that Amazon will deliver and he can complete the repairs for Mr. Sandoval.   Dudley went back to the kitchen and asked for a cup of coffee from Paloma. “I am troubled by Mr. Ramirez’s behavior.”

Si, I have noticed as well. What will you do?”

“It is not my place to interfere, but, I’m afraid if I wait, someone will be hurt. And, I don’t want to mention anything to Isabella; she already has her hands full.”

“Señor Doc, I should tell you that Miss Dolores talked to me earlier this afternoon with exactly those same concerns. She was particularly worried that Señor Ramirez would cause trouble for her friend Miss Carmine.”

“Her concern may be warranted. I saw Ramirez and Carmine arguing in the courtyard and it ended with Carmine slapping him quite hard.”

“Then, I probably did the right thing. I gave Dolores some herbs that should slow Ramirez’s desires and inappropriate behavior toward women.”

“Given his actions lately, that should help. I will make a point of keeping an eye on him over the next few days to see if there is any change in his behavior.”

“That would be helpful. I really cannot get away from the kitchen and you are able to move about. I will keep my ears open for any conversation I hear in the dining room.”

“Together, we may be able to prevent an unfortunate situation.”

“And, help Isabella at the same time.”

Dolores was Miss Tuesday (“Señorita de Martes”) with Cesar. She had always suspected that there were other women, but it was a conversation she overheard at the La Vida Aureo beauty parlor that shocked her into reality. Two women were comparing Cesar’s sexual techniques and judging his most recent performance. They freely admitted that they were sharing him on consecutive evenings, but felt a sense of justice because they kept that knowledge from Cesar. They played along with his romantic notions that each of them was “his only true love”. Cesar had given them each a “romantic pet name” which was actually a play on words for their respective day of the week! It hadn’t taken too much effort to deduce the real meaning which made their part of the charade more enjoyable. Both women also acknowledged that there were certainly other women in Cesar’s “regular schedule”, but they were appreciative for his attention regardless how preposterous it was!

Cesar arrived at Dolores’ apartment the following Tuesday evening, per usual. After rather enjoyable sex, she poured him a celebratory glass of sangria and dumped the drugs in. “The trap is set for that arrogant bastard,” she mused confidently to herself.

The remainder of the week presented Cesar with considerable challenge. He failed to perform with Ms. Wednesday, Ms. Thursday and Ms. Friday. Ms. Thursday tried to reassure him by telling him that “things happen” and “not to worry”. She told him that her late husband had similar problems, particularly as he got older. Her intended comforting words only served to infuriate Cesar. As each day passed, he became more irritated and frustrated and his foul mood was evident as he attempted his typical “parade” through the dining room. By Saturday, he was beside himself and he confided in his friend, Jorge Sandoval, who suggested that he needs some spicy porn to revive his interest and maybe learn some new techniques. “Come by my apartment on Sunday afternoon and I’ll show you some stuff on the Internet that will get your motor running again, my friend. Oh, and bring your laptop computer; my computer is down for repairs. That way, I can also place a “bookmark” for the best sites on your computer for your use at any time.”

Case III: Chapter 5: Death in the Stairwell

Monday morning, on his way to the second floor, Dudley discovered Carmine lying in the stairwell, at the bottom of a flight of a dozen stairs between the second and first floors.   She appeared hurt. Dudley called her name with no response. He decided to check for a pulse and discovered that Carmine was actually dead. Millicent Branch, who was coming down the stairs, noticed Dudley knelt over Carmine’s body, screamed and fainted.

Dudley quickly called Lieutenant Garcia to report the accident. Garcia asked Dudley to remain with the body and make sure that nothing was disturbed at the scene. “I will remain here but I need to notify Isabella as soon as possible. And, Mrs. Branch has fainted here as well. ”

After what seemed like a very long time, Frank Garcia arrived and was followed shortly by George Hernandez, the Medical Examiner.

Garcia shook his head and turned to Dudley, who was standing a few feet away so as to not interfere. “I can’t figure it, Doc. I certainly hope this turns out to be another accident. It is difficult to think about multiple deaths and that business with the drugs here at La Vida Aureo. I had always planned to try to get my aunt in here when we were no longer able to care for her at home. This is troubling.”

“I agree, Lieutenant.

“You seem to have your finger on the pulse around here. Is there anything you can tell me? Are there people you think I should talk to? This may turn out to be just an unfortunate accident, but I want to gather as much background information as quickly as possible while things are still fresh in people’s minds.”

“You should certainly talk to her friends. She plays cards with three other women residents almost daily and I think they are all friends. And, I hesitate to say this, but you should probably talk with Cesar Ramirez, another resident. I’m not sure of his relationship with Ms. Felcio, but I saw the two of them arguing just last week. In fact, the argument ended when Ms. Felicio slapped Mr. Ramirez. If you don’t need me here, I’m going to talk to Isabella and let her know what’s going on. I would appreciate it if you would also talk with her before you leave today and let he know what you plan to do.”

“Thanks, Doc, as always. I’ll make a point to talk to those people this afternoon or tomorrow at the latest. I’ll stop to see Isabella on my way out. If you think of anything else, please give me a call.”

Hernandez looked up from the body and said to Garcia, “There don’t appear to be any extraneous marks on her that would indicate foul play. It looks like she fell and landed wrong, broke her neck and likely died instantly, probably sometime yesterday evening. I’ll do an autopsy to see if that tells me anything more and I’ll do a full toxicology screen just to be complete.

“You know, Frank, I’m beginning to have my doubts about this place. I always knew that hospitals are very dangerous places, but I always thought that these fancy retirement facilities were pretty tame. I may have to reconsider my retirement plans; Scottsdale is looking better all the time!”

The next day, Lt. Garcia arrived at La Vida Aureo about mid-morning and stopped at Isabella’s office to reiterate his plans for the day regarding interviews. “I plan to talk to Ms. Felicio’s three female friends and to Cesar Ramirez. I thought I’d question the three women at one time and see how that goes. If necessary, I can question them individually in more detail at a later date. Can you tell me anything about this Mr. Ramirez? I understand from Doc that he had a recent argument with Ms. Felicio.”

“That approach sounds reasonable. Mr. Ramirez is our resident Romeo. I’ve heard some rumors about his romantic escapades, but only rumors. I’ve heard nothing about him related to Ms. Felicio. I’m sure you can understand that I am very upset by this development and hope it turns out just to be an accident. I have already called a friend of mine who specializes in preventing falls with older people. If there is something we can do regarding the stairs or railings, etc. to minimize the potential for falls, we’ll do that immediately. Is there anything I can do to help? Are there any results back from the Medical Examiner?”

“I agree, Isabella; I hope this is just an unfortunate accident. No word back yet from the ME, but I’ll let you know if I learn anything significant.”

Garcia entered the dining room and paused briefly to say buenos dias to Señora Angostura. He found Carmine’s three friends, Mary, Dolores and Estelle sitting together at a table in near the window. As expected, they are a sad looking lot.

“Good morning, ladies.” As Garcia tried to open the conversation, he was met with an expected silence, but pressed delicately forward. “I understand you were all close to Ms. Felicio and I am sorry for your loss. I will try to be brief, but would appreciate anything you could tell me about your friend that might shed some light on my investigation.”

“Why is there an investigation?” offers Estelle. “I thought Carmine fell down the stairs and broke her neck.”

“This is only routine procedure. At this point, there is nothing to suggest any other explanation. I’m just trying to be thorough.”

Mary was quiet, but told Garcia that Carmine was a jogger. Dolores added that Carmine took muscle relaxants for the pain so she can run every day and that she got “grumpy” if she missed a day. Estelle sniped something about “a day without a new boy is a day without sunshine” for Carmine. “That’s the real reason she runs, to troll for young boys to bring here to screw.”

“Show a little respect, Estelle”, said Mary, angrily.

“Well, it’s true. And, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if one of those stallions pushed her down the stairs after discovering that she couldn’t satisfy him; young boys are like that!”

Garcia noted this exchange and could not decide whether there is any truth in it, or just women being “catty”. But, he knew he must follow up on these comments. “Can you tell me where Ms. Felicio typically ran?”

“Up near Albuquerque Academy; I think there is some sort of track or path around the perimeter of the property.”

“Thank you. On another matter, do any of you know of any connection between Ms. Felicio and a man named Cesar Ramirez?”

“That man is always pestering the ladies and is often quite rude,” offered Dolores. He has shown particular interest in Carmine judging by the way he tries to put his hands on her, even while we’re all sitting here together.”

“Oh, Dolores, you’re just jealous because he pays more attention to her than you”, added Estelle.

“I worked with him at Sandia Labs,” says Mary. He was in a different Department, but there were rumors about him throughout the Labs. I know several women personally who complained about his unwanted advances. He left Sandia rather suddenly and I was quite surprised to see him show up here. I didn’t think he could afford a nice place like La Vida Aureo.”

“Ladies, ladies, ladies, can any of you suggest any kind of physical altercation between Ms. Felicio and Mr. Ramirez?”

“I doubt it. He was too interested in Carmine and was pursuing her quite a bit”, said Dolores with bitterness in her voice.

“Thank you, ladies, for the information. That will be all for now, but I trust I can call on you again if necessary.”

“You’re most welcome, Mr. Policeman, flirted Estelle. Come back any time.”

“Oh, Estelle, stop it,” said Mary.

As Garcia looked for Cesar Ramirez, he realized that Ms. Felicio’s friends had given him several things to follow up on. He definitely wanted to look into Ms. Felicio’s daily running routine and thought he had the ideal way to pursue that topic. The women had also given him some additional insight into this Ramirez character which supported Dudley’s comments. He would have to approach that interview with caution and also see what he could learn about the situation at Sandia Labs.

Garcia caught up with Cesar Ramirez in the main lobby. “Mr. Ramirez, my name is Lieutenant Frank Garcia and I’m with the Albuquerque Major Crimes Unit. I’m looking into the recent death of Carmine Felicio and would like to ask you a few questions. Perhaps we could we sit at that small table over by the window?”

“Certainly, Lieutenant. I would be happy to help. I was upset to hear about her accident.”

“Thank you, Mr. Ramirez. Let’s start with how you came to know Ms. Felicio.”

“I first met her here at La Vida Aureo, probably in the dining room with her friends. They gather almost every day and that’s probably where I first met her, with them.”

“I just had the opportunity to meet those ladies myself. They seem like a congenial bunch, wouldn’t you agree?”

“I really don’t know that much about any of them, except to say “Hello” in the dining room.”

“I see. Can you tell me a bit about your relationship with Ms. Felicio; were you friends or just acquaintances?”

“As I said, Lieutenant, I really don’t know any of them very well, including Ms. Felicio. We may have exchanged words about the weather, or some such, but really nothing more.”

“OK, just one more question. Can you tell me where you were on Sunday evening, say, after dinner time until about midnight?”

“I had dinner in the dining room and then went straight to my room and watched TV alone until I went to bed about 10 o’clock.”

“Can anyone confirm that you spent the evening alone in your room?”

“No. Are you implying that Ms. Felicio’s death was NOT an accident or that I had anything to do with it?

“Certainly not, Mr. Ramirez. I’m just trying to do my job and be thorough about gathering information. One final question, if you don’t mind. I’ve started looking into retirement places for my aunt and am considering La Vida Aureo. Can you tell me how you came to choose this place over all the other ones available in Albuquerque?”

“OK. I’ll consider your question just part of being a good cop. For your other question, I chose La Vida Aureo because it absolutely has the best facilities around. ”

“I’ve heard it has an excellent reputation, but that it’s also very expensive.”

“It is expensive, but as a former senior manager at Sandia Labs, I have a good pension. And, they offered me a nice package to take retirement early, which allowed me to move here.”

“Thank you, Mr. Ramirez for your time and the information. I assume that if I have any additional questions, I can easily find you here?”

“I’m always here, but I doubt if I can add anything else.”

Garcia stopped at Isabella’s office on his way out. Dudley was there. “Doc, I’m glad you suggested I talk to Mr. Ramirez. He was very evasive in his comments and cannot account for his time for much of yesterday evening; he says he was alone watching TV. He also said he barely knew Ms. Felicio, which is different from what you told me, Doc. He told me he moved to La Vida Aureo after his early retirement from Sandia Labs where he was some sort of mid-level manager and I’ll need to check that out.”

“I can help there, offered Isabella. I know the Human Resources Director at Sandia and I’ll call here to see what I can learn about our Resident Romeo’s time there, particularly whether there were any complaints about his behavior. If she’ll tell me, I’ll also see what I can learn about the situation surrounding his “early retirement.”

 

Case III: Chapter 6: Los Stupid Boys

Based on his initial interview with Ms. Felicio’s women friends, Garcia realized that he must look into her daily jogging routine. If the comment about bringing young men back to her room was correct, it was possible that one of them might be able to shed light on her recent movements around the time of her death. Garcia knew that there was a more effective way to gather information from a group of guys hanging around a popular jogging place and sent Sergeant Bernadette Armijo to the Albuquerque Academy grounds.

After Bernadette had only run a lap and one half, a group of young men wearing running gear were standing along the fence and spoke to her as she jogged past. “Hola, mamacita, como esta? Would you like some company as you run along? We could protect you?”

Bernie pretended to ignore them, but gave them a look that encouraged them to follow along. She stopped a few yards away and turned to face these young men. “My friend Carmine told me this was a good place to jog because of the scenery and the local “talent”. You guys wouldn’t know anything about that, would you?”

They all smiled and one particularly handsome and muscular guy said, “Ah, we know Carmine. She’s a great lady.” He did not try to hide the “nudge-nudge, wink-wink” gesture he shared with his buddies.

While they were talking, Bernadette had maneuvered the group into an area along the fence where they were essentially cornered. As soon as she had them all “boxed in”, she made her move. It looked as though she was reaching to adjust the headphones on the iPhone she wore on her belt when she produced her APD badge. The guys’ eyes grew suddenly much wider as they tried to process her unexpected move. “Look, honchos, I just want to ask some questions. But, I will interpret a run as an indication of something approaching guilt. So, let’s just have a friendly little chat. What do you say?”

The guy who appeared to be the leader spoke first. “Look, we haven’t done anything. Carmine comes here almost every day and does her jog around the perimeter of the grounds. Nothing interferes with that. On her “cool down” lap, she typically walks up to one of us and starts a conversation. It usually ends up with her inviting that guy to come to her place for the evening. I was the first guy she approached and I went there a couple of times. Then she asked me if any of my amigos would be similarly interested. So, like the good friend I am, I began to turn my “homies” on to this action. That’s it; no harm, no foul is the way I see it.”

“Where does she take you Romeos?”

“She lives in an apartment that’s part of that retirement village a few blocks from here, La Vida Something.”

“And then what happens?

“Well, you know. She didn’t invite me there to discuss world politics.”

“You’re telling me this woman just invites a stranger back to her place for what? Sex?”

“Yeah. What’s wrong with that? I mean, look at us. We’re pretty awesome guys; we’re certainly better equipped to satisfy her than the old farts at her retirement home!”

“OK, sure. I can see that you’re a real prize. It that all that’s involved; just sex?   Nothing else, you know, like money, drugs, that kind of stuff?”

“No, just straight sex. The only drugs I’m aware of are some kind of muscle relaxant she says she takes after she runs. She says it keeps her flexible and I can certainly attest to that! She’s a great ride for an older lady, wild, desperate, you know.”

“I’m glad to see that there are still gentlemen in this world, said Bernadette sarcastically. Each of you write down your contact information and then show me some ID to verify the information. I am sure all of you upstanding citizens would tell me the truth, but I just want to be sure.”

“What’s this all about anyway?”

“Carmine was found dead a few days ago and we’re gathering information from everyone she came in contact with during the past few weeks.”

“Holy shit! None of us had anything to do with anything like that. It was always just go to her place, screw and leave.”

Bernadette gathered all the contact information and jogged back to her patrol car which she had parked inconspicuously a few blocks away. She would relate her discussions and comments to Garcia later. These jokers appeared to be so self-absorbed, she doubted anyone of them would contemplate murder. “Sometimes I worry that being a policeman keeps me single, she thought to herself, but not on days like today!”

The next morning, Sgt. Armijo sat in Lt. Garcia’s office to relate her experience with “los stupid boys”. Garcia’s phone rang and it was George Hernandez with the preliminary results from the autopsy and toxicology analyses for Carmine Felicio. “Frank, it is clear that a broken neck was the cause of death and I’m pretty sure that she fell down the stairs backwards because several of her vertebrae are also cracked and there is some bruising on her back consistent with bouncing down the stairs.”

“I assume, George, that “bouncing down the stairs” is a medical term?”

“Well, she didn’t slide! Would you prefer the medical explanation that “she took a header” off the landing?”

“Thanks, George. How about the tox screen?”

“Oh, you’re gonna love this. She had so much muscle relaxant in her that I don’t see how she was able to walk, much less navigate stairs. And, as a kicker, there was also the presence of alcohol, maybe a glass or two of wine. ”

“I know, from talking to her friends and from the interviews Bernie did, that she routinely took muscle relaxants so she could jog regularly”

“Maybe so, but based on the levels I found in her blood, she would have been totally non-ambulatory at the time she fell. That’s a medical term meaning she was “completely wacked out”.”

Garcia was digesting this information and sharing it with Bernadette when his phone rang again. “Lt. Garcia, it’s Isabella Duncan at La Vida Aureo. I have some interesting information about Cesar Ramirez and his time at Sandia.”

“Thanks for following up, Isabella, I’m eager to hear what you’ve learned.”

“Well, our Resident Romeo had a similar reputation at Sandia, but it appears that most of his so-called reputation was just self-promotion. It looks like he was the primary source of the rumors about his numerous conquests. My friend told me that there was one rather nasty incident, however, that resulted in his departure. Apparently, he was actually having an affair with a co-worker, a married woman, but it was likely consensual. A Department Manger discovered this situation and decided that Cesar needed to be punished. She believed the persistent rumors about his numerous affairs and said she didn’t want to see anyone hurt. So, this Manager reported his “inappropriate behaviors” toward her to Human Resources and demanded that he be fired “for cause”. But Cesar had learned through “pillow talk” that this Manager had a long history of affairs with men under her supervision. All of this information was presented to Human Resources, including the true nature of Cesar’s “reputation”, which significantly undermined the Manager’s claims. In the end, the Manager was simply placed on a brief internal probation and Cesar was issued an apology by the Company. Although Cesar’s affair was consensual, it still violated company policy and was cause for termination. Cesar’s pride was wounded and he threatened to sue to expose the hypocrisy related to the Manager’s behavior. To avoid a public relations nightmare, Sandia offered Ramirez a sizeable sum of money in return for his silence. He also agreed that the “official version” of the settlement would be that he received a generous early retirement package for his years of outstanding service to the company.”

“Wow, whistled Garcia. That certainly sheds some light on his behavior. I see now why he was less than cooperative in his initial conversation with me. To be falsely accused like that would certainly make one gun-shy. The monetary settlement probably also explains how he could afford to live at La Vida Aureo,”

“I didn’t think it was appropriate to ask about the amount of the settlement. My friend was already telling me far too much. She did say, however, that it made him much better off than his normal retirement as a technician would have been.”

“A technician? He told me he was a senior manager.”

“Well, Frank, I seriously doubt that settlement required him to give up promoting himself, particularly his overwhelming appeal to the ladies”, chided Isabella.

“You’re probably right. Given that and the fact that he was not honest with me before, I I really need to have a more serious interview with him as soon as possible. I have a feeling that he knows more about the events surrounding Ms. Felicio’s death than he admitted; he claimed that he barely knew her or her friends. But, he gave Doc a very detailed description of all four women and Doc also observed Ramirez arguing with Ms. Felicio. Thank you very much, Isabella. You have my commitment that I will get to the bottom of this as quickly as possible.”

“You’re welcome, Lieutenant, please keep me informed and let me know if I can help in any way.”

Lt. Frank Garcia called Cesar Ramirez immediately and asked him be available at 3:00 o’clock that afternoon. “I have some additional questions for you, Mr. Ramirez.”

“I said I told you everything I know. I see no point in any more questions.”

“Mr. Ramirez, it’s your call. We can either talk at La Vida Aureo, or I can have an officer bring you downtown to police headquarters and we can talk here.”

Ramirez was waiting at a small table near the back when Garcia entered the dining room. His arms were folded across his chest and he did not look particularly pleased to see Garcia.