Case III: Chapter 8: A Kardashian Finale
Dudley went to the dining room where Garcia had just completed his second interview with Ramirez. He had decided to take Ramirez to police HQ and formally charge him with interfering with the investigation, hoping that would make him more cooperative.
Dudley motioned to Garcia and asked if he could speak to him for a few moments. “How did your interview with Ramirez go? Did you learn anything new?”
“No, I went over all the information we learned about his time at Sandia Labs and that stirred him up a bit. He claimed that whole incident was just a jealous woman trying to get revenge. He insisted he was totally innocent. I did get him to acknowledge that he had received a large settlement which has him “set for life” in his words. But I wasn’t able to get him to talk about Ms. Felicio at all. He maintained that he barely knew her.”
“Well, we know that’s not true. And, there just may be another jealous woman here who is also after Ramirez. Let me tell you briefly what I’ve learned this morning in discussions with Mary Thomas, Jorge Sandoval and Dolores Waverly.”
“Jesus, Doc! This sounds like some soap opera. Please don’t tell me that one of the Kardashians is hiding around here someplace to turn this into a frickin’ reality TV show!”
“I know, Lieutenant. It sounds bizarre. Maybe if we talk to Ramirez together and share some of this information, his memory might improve dramatically.”
“Sounds like a plan. You’re sure there’s no hidden camera anyplace?”
It didn’t take much encouragement for Cesar to realize that he has been found out and that his best course of action was total honesty. Getting fired is one thing, being accused of murder is an entirely different matter.
“Tell us first about the women, your “regulars”.
Ramirez puffed out his chest and began to brag about his romantic exploits. “With the money I got from Sandia, I had my choice of places to live. I decided on a retirement village because the majority of residents are lonely women, starved for attention. As you know, La Vida Aureo is the best place in town. It also has the distinct advantage that many of the residents are relatively young. I quickly discovered that many of these women are very grateful and it was relatively easy to build a set of regular appointments.“
“That’s just great, Mr. Ramirez. I’m sure you’re quite proud of your accomplishments. We’ll need to know the names of these women so we can determine your exact whereabouts about the time Ms. Felicio died.”
“I’m sure you understand, Lieutenant, a gentleman never “kisses and tells”. These women are very dear to me and I respect their privacy.”
“Let me remind you, Mr. Ramirez, that this may be a murder investigation. Please don’t play coy with me.”
Dudley interjected. “Perhaps you can tell us about your recent activities with your amigo, Mr. Sandoval?”
With that revelation, Ramirez spilled the entire story, naming his regulars and the “problems” he’s been having lately.
“That’s much better, Mr. Ramirez. Suppose I told you that one of your “regulars” gave you drugs that were the cause of your “problems”?”
“I do not believe any of them would do such a thing.”
“What about Dolores Waverly?”
“Why would she do that? She was the first of my regulars”.
“Perhaps she was jealous. Perhaps she thought you would replace her with Ms. Felicio.”
“That is not true. There is always room in my heart for another beautiful lady.”
“A true prince among men. Perhaps you could tell us the truth about your relationship with Ms. Felicio. No games, please. Remember that Doc saw you arguing with her and actually spoke to you directly at the time.”
“Ah, my sweet Carmine. She’s the one who got away. I used my best charms to win her over, but to no avail. I guess, with all of her young lovers, I was just too old for her tastes. I failed, but I would never hurt her, or any other woman for that matter; they are all too precious to me.”
“OK, so you’re a great guy. We have an eye witness who says you were with Carmine and that the two of you struggled before she fell to her death. Please help us understand that sequence of events.”
Cesar broke down and began to sob. “I encountered Carmine on the stairs on Sunday evening. She was coming down the hall and she was having a very difficult time walking. When she got to where I was standing, I reached out my hand to assist her. She sort of fell into me and I tried to hold her up. She shook her head and I guess it was then she realized it was me holding her. She must have thought I was getting fresh because she pushed me away. That caused her to fall backward, head first down the stairs landing on her head. I rushed down the stairs and noticed that she was not breathing and she didn’t have a pulse. I assumed she was dead. I looked up and saw Dolores standing at the top of the stairs, with her hands on her hips. She smiled at me and said something like, “Gotcha! You’re screwed now, you two-timing bastard!””
“I panicked. I didn’t know what to do and I was fearful of what Dolores might do. She could tell people that I pushed Carmine and killed her. So, I just left, leaving Carmine’s body at the foot of the stairs. I walked quickly to the east end of the building, climbed the stairs to the third floor and rushed back to Jorge’s apartment. I said nothing to him about what had happened.”
When he finished, Ramirez looked totally drained. All of his typical swagger and bravado was gone. He just sat there looking completely lost.
Garcia and Dudley weren’t doing much better. Finally, Garcia said, “Thank you, Mr. Ramirez. I don’t think we need anything else from you, at least for a while. You can go, but please keep yourself available in case we need to talk to you again.”
“I certainly will, Lieutenant. Thank you for letting me get all of this off my chest. It has been a great burden.”
After Ramirez had gone, Garcia looked at Dudley and said, “Well. Doc, what do you think?”
“I don’t know what to think, replied Dudley. We have two versions of the events that occurred at the stairs leading to Ms. Felicio’s fall and death. Any facts are compromised by the jealous motives of several people. Neither Mr. Ramirez nor Ms. Waverly were aware of Mrs. Thomas’ role leading to Ms. Felicio’s highly compromised physical state. I don’t think anyone was trying to kill Ms. Felicio, although Mrs. Thomas had certainly entertained that thought. But, even her primary objective was severe injury, not murder. The entire situation is a terrible tragedy.”
“I agree and don’t know how it will eventually end up. My first responsibility is to get formal statements from each of the relevant participants in this drama. Then I will prepare my report in as much detail as possible. I would appreciate it if you would look over it before I submit it. Once I’ve given my report to the District Attorney, the next move is hers. I suspect she will call for a Grand Jury hearing and that will determine if anyone faces criminal charges. “
As Garcia got up to leave, he turned to Matthew Dudley and said, “Thanks once again, Doc, for your help in exposing some critical pieces of this situation. I realize that, officially, you are the resident Handyman, but I appreciate the fact that you care so much about this place and its residents. I hope I will never have to call on your “detective skills” in the future.”
But, as Garcia headed toward La Vida Aureo’s lobby, he had the nagging feeling that he would be seeing Matthew Dudley again and it again would be associated with another criminal mystery. As he reached the front door, he called back to Dudley. “I’ll trust you to talk to Isabella and fill her in on all the sorted details of this episode. You can leave out the part about the Kardashians being behind all the drama.”
A few days later, Dudley was sitting in a corner of the dining room relating these events to Paloma. They agreed that Paloma’s giving Dolores some herbs to “tame” Cesar will remain their secret. As it turned out, that aspect of the situation did not have any direct bearing on Carmine’s accidental death, nor on the behavior of Mary or Dolores. The fact that Dolores had deceived Paloma in the first place made their decision much easier to justify for themselves.
Paloma declared that in the future, she will confine her expertise with herbs to improving the taste and appeal of food at La Vida Aureo. She acknowledged that people lose their senses of taste and smell as they age and she has considerable knowledge and expertise of how to make “plain tasting” dishes more appealing.