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Monthly Archives: June 2015

 

Case IX: Chapter 1: Crime Scene Investigation

Dr. George Hernandez, the Chief Medical Examiner for Bernalillo County was kneeling beside the body of an elderly man.  “I’ve got to hand it to you Frank, the folks here at La Vida Aureo certainly have a way of making my life more interesting.”

“Skip the commentary, George. Please just give me the basic facts.”

“You won’t believe it, but I think this old geezer was electrocuted, most likely sometime yesterday afternoon.  I’ll know more when I get him on the table.”

Although Paloma Angostura had told Matthew Dudley that the man’s name was Conrad Alexander, Dudley always thought of him as The Wall Street Journal Man.  It was ironic that this man, who was the retired CEO of New Mexico Power & Light would die by electrocution.

 

After the body was removed, Lt. Garcia and Tom Bowers, the Forensic Technician, conducted a thorough search of Conrad Alexander’s apartment.  There really wasn’t much out of the ordinary.  Bowers collected the electrical cord that was found in Alexander’s mouth, but found little else to cause suspicion.  Garcia looked around the modest apartment and discovered a calendar on a small desk, open to the current week.  There were no entries for today, but the name Don Pearson was written in the noon- time space for the previous day.  There were also a few miscellaneous pieces of mail, all addressed to Mr. Conrad Alexander at La Vida Aureo.

Bowers looked over Garcia’s shoulder. “This guy must have really been “old school”.  I haven’t seen one of these paper version Franklin Planners in about a hundred years.  I assume that means we probably won’t find an iPhone lying around in here either.”

“Did you find anything else worth noting in the apartment, Tom?”

“Nada, Lieutenant.  I guess the killer stuck that electrical cord in his mouth and turned on the juice.  He certainly didn’t leave anything else that I could find. I just can’t imagine how you could pull that off. I mean, why would someone sit still with that in his mouth, waiting to get zapped?”

“Thanks for your insight, Tom. I guess we’ll just have to wait for the autopsy to be completed to see if that provides any more information.  Why don’t you take the electrical cord and the Planner back to the lab and see if you can recover any prints from either of them.  I’m going to try to talk to a few witnesses and see if anyone can add to what little we seem to have found.”

Lt. Garcia was eager to talk to the cleaning person who had discovered the body.  Martina Trujillo was sitting on a folding chair in the hallway, just outside Alexander’s apartment. She was sobbing heavily and Matthew Dudley and another woman were with her trying to console her.  “Afternoon, Doc. I assume this is the woman who discovered the body?”

“Yes, Lieutenant.  Her name is Martina Trujillo and she is currently assigned to this area of the Independent Living Unit.  And, this is Frida Savino, Miss Trujillo’s Supervisor.”

“Señora Trujillo, I would like to ask you a few questions if you feel up to it.”

“I will try.”

“Thank you. Can you tell me exactly what you saw when you entered Mr. Alexander’s apartment today?”

Si. Señor Alexander is such a nice gentleman.  He always speaks kindly to me and always asks about my Papa. I came to his apartment this morning, as I do most every day and he was sitting in that big chair by the window.  I said Buenos Dias, Señor Alexander, as I always do when I enter.  He did not answer.  That was unusual, since he is always doing something around the apartment.  When I walked over to the chair, I saw that wire hanging from his mouth.  I screamed and ran out into the hallway.”

“Martina was crying and screaming when I noticed her in the hallway”, added Frida Savino. “She would not go back into the apartment so I did and also saw Mr. Alexander in the chair, just as Martina said.  Señor Dudley must have heard Martina’s scream, because he came into the apartment then.”

“That’s correct, Lieutenant.  I saw Mr. Alexander and immediately dialed 911 and then went to find Isabella.  I returned to this floor and Frida and Martina were sitting in the hallway.  I closed the apartment door and waited for you to arrive.”

“Thanks, Doc.  Can you think of anything else that might help?’

“Not really, Lieutenant.  As Martina said, Mr. Alexander was a gentleman and pretty much kept to himself.  I’m sorry I can’t be of more assistance.”

“Thank you, Señora Trujillo and Señora Savino.  That will be all for now, but I may want to return to talk to you in a few days, if that would be convenient. Thanks, as always, Doc.  I’m going to stop downstairs and talk with Isabella to see what information is in her files about Mr. Alexander.”

 

Lt. Garcia knocked on the door to Isabella Duncan’s office which was normally open.  He found her sitting at her desk crying softly.  “I’m sorry to intrude, Isabella, but I’d like to ask you a few questions about Mr. Alexander, if it’s convenient.”

“Oh, Frank.  This is terrible.  You cannot imagine how this makes me feel. The last thing we need here at La Vida Aureo is another murder.  We’ve been working so hard on our reputation and then this has to happen.  I’m sure this will all end up in the paper and on TV and La Doña Jaramillo will want to know what I’m doing to keep our Residents safe.  I’m sorry, Frank, for being so upset.  How can I help you? I suspect you’ll want to see Mr. Alexander’s file.”

“That would help, Isabella.  And, you have my assurance that we will move as quickly as possible to find out what happened and identify the responsible person.”

“Thank you, Frank.  I got Mr. Alexander’s file out, but I’m afraid there’s not much information in it.  He purchased a two-year lease on one of our apartments in the Independent Living Unit and paid for it up-front; that was about eighteen months ago. His Application simply states that he is Retired, but not much else.  He lists a Serafino Huerfano as his emergency contact; I believe he was Alexander’s lawyer.  The Application states that he was a widower and had no other family.  I know he has talked to Paloma Angostura and to Doc; one of them may be able to tell you more about him.”

“Thanks, Isabella.  I think I’ll go to the Dining Room and see if I can speak with Paloma and maybe catch Doc.  Thanks again and I am truly sorry this had to happen here.”

Garcia meets Dudley as he leaves Isabella’s office. “Doc, can you add anything to what was said upstairs?”

“Sorry, Lieutenant, I only spoke to Mr. Alexander briefly. He left his copy of the Wall Street Journal for me every morning after he had breakfast in the Dining Room.  That was basically my only contact with him.”

“Thanks, Doc, I’d certainly appreciate it if you’d keep your eyes and ears open and let me know if you learn anything that would help with my investigation.”

Paloma Angostura was sitting at one of the tables in the Dining Room, sipping on a cup of tea when Garcia entered.  “Oh, Francisco, I am so sad about what has happened to Señor Alexander.  He was such a kind gentleman.”

“Can you tell me anything else about him, Madre?”

“Only that he tried to hide his sadness.  I sensed that he was carrying a large burden of some kind, but would not discuss it with me, no matter how I tried.”

“I’m sorry to hear that.  I don’t know if it has any bearing on his murder, but I appreciate your telling me.  I suspect foul play of some sort, but it’s really too early to tell. I must go now; there is much work to be done.”

“I’ll say a prayer for you, Francisco.”

 

On his way back to Police Headquarters, Lt. Garcia called Sgt. Bernadette Armijo and asked her to come to his office. “Bernie, this man who was apparently murdered at La Vida Aureo, Conrad Alexander, does not appear to me to be just another retired old guy.  The people I spoke to there had only very positive things to say about him.  His name sounds familiar. I would appreciate it if you would see what you can find out from public records, newspapers, TV, that sort of thing.”

“No problemo, Boss.”

Garcia was eager to learn what Dr. Hernandez had discovered with his autopsy and what the forensic guys found on the electrical cord found in Alexander’s mouth. But, that would have to wait until at least tomorrow morning.

 

The next morning, Lt. Frank Garcia was still on his first cup of coffee when Dr. George Hernandez and Forensic Technician Tom Bowers came to his office. Hernandez, being the senior of the two men, spoke first.  “You know, Lieutenant, I am indebted to you for making my otherwise boring life interesting.  Your cases are far more interesting and rewarding than my usual fare.  Here in Albuquerque, I mostly get dead bodies that are the result of stupid, self-inflicted death like drunk drivers, bar fight murders, jealous husband murders, drug overdoses and the like. But, your stiffs tend to brighten my day.”

“C’mon, George, enough of that.  You know how important La Vida Aureo is to me and I really don’t appreciate your feeble attempts at being clever.  What did you learn from Mr. Alexander’s autopsy?”

“OK, OK; don’t be so touchy, Frank. Your Mr. Alexander was definitely electrocuted.  The bare wire in his mouth and the burn marks on his tongue and in his mouth are pretty conclusive.  I estimate the time of death as sometime early afternoon yesterday.  Another thing; there were relatively fresh marks on his wrists that are consistent with being tied with some sort of coarse rope.  When I examined the contents of his stomach, there was evidence of a large quantity of pain killers.  That should be confirmed when the blood work comes back, but I’m pretty certain.”

“What do you make of all that?”

“Well, Frank, not to be too much of a cynic and acknowledging that you’re the detective, I’d say someone drugged him, tied him up, stuck the bare wire in his mouth and turned on the juice.  I just don’t see how anyone could do that to themselves.  I’d say you’re looking at a homicide.”

“You’re probably correct, George. I agree with you that it would be pretty unlikely to be suicide. Damn!”

“What I don’t get, Hernandez continued, is why anyone would go to all the bother for such a complex way to murder someone.  When I opened him up, it was obvious that this guy was dying. His body was full of cancer.  There was no reason to kill him; he probably would have been dead in a few months anyway, at the most.”

“That makes no sense to me.  Maybe the killer didn’t know that Alexander was dying.  Or, maybe there’s something I’m overlooking.  Tom, were you able to find anything on the wire?”

“Not much, Lieutenant.  There were some prints on the wire, but I couldn’t find a match in any of our regular databases; I’m still looking, however.  I compared them to prints I lifted from the Franklin Planner and several items in the apartment and they are definitely not Alexanders.”

“Thanks, guys.  So far, everything points to murder and that someone went to a lot of trouble to pull this off.  I appreciate your promptness.  Let me know if you come across anything else.”

 

Based on his initial observations at the crime scene, the information from Hernandez and Bowers was not a surprise to Garcia.  He had hoped for a different outcome than to have to investigate another murder at La Vida Aureo.  Regardless, he would pursue the investigation rigorously and try to remain detached and objective.  He was determined to find the killer as quickly as possible. He would return and have a longer discussion with Martina Trujillo and maybe Doc had learned something that would help.  He also knew that he would have to locate and interview this Donald Pearsall whose name was in the appointment book at about the time Hernandez placed the time of death.  And, there was the lawyer, Serafino Huerfano, that Alexander had named as his emergency contact.  Garcia knew he had several leads to follow.

Garcia had begun to make a list of people to interview when Sgt. Armijo knocked on his open door.  “Sorry to barge in, Lieutenant, but I was able to find out quite a bit about our Mr. Alexander.  Apparently, he was the former CEO of New Mexico Power & Light and retired a little over two years ago.  The Journal article says he retired for “personal reasons” and I’m sure that’s corporate-speak for something.  Since he was an important figure in the business world, I’m sure there’s a lot more information available.  It also appears that he was very active in the community and involved in quite a bit of charitable work and other notable things. I’ll keep digging. I just wanted to let you know that he wasn’t just some run-of-the-mill old guy at La Vida Aureo.”

“Thanks, Bernie. I appreciate your usual efficiency and energy.”

Frank Garcia sat back in his chair and asked himself, “If Conrad Alexander was such a good guy, why would someone want to kill him?”

 

Chapter 2: Information Gathering

Matthew Dudley was walking through the Independent Living Unit a few days later, with no particular direction in mind.  In principle, he was attending to a series of minor repair and maintenance projects, but his mind was elsewhere.  He remained deeply troubled by the apparent murder of Conrad Alexander.  He felt a sense of guilt for not reaching out to Alexander as they passed almost daily in the Dining Room, particularly after Paloma had expressed concern over his sadness.

He was also frustrated that he had not been able to be of any assistance to Lt. Garcia in solving this crime.  Whoever had done this terrible thing had not left any clues in the apartment and Dudley had been back several times to look around.

As he continued down the hallway, he noticed Martina Trujillo sitting on the floor. She had her knees pulled up tightly to her chest and was sobbing softly.  Dudley approached quietly and sat down on the floor next to her.  “I am also very sad, Martina, about Mr. Alexander’s death.”

“Oh, Señor Doc, he was such a kind man.  He reminded me of my own Papa before he got sick.”

Dudley asked, “So, Martina, how is your Papa?  I hope he is well.  And, how is your Mama?”

Dudley’s overture was met with more intense sobbing.  “My Papa is not well at all.  He keeps doing very strange things and he wanders away from home almost every night now.  My Mama is very tired and is unable to handle him any longer.  My brother and I try to help, but we have families of our own to care for.  Some of the neighbors are helping to find him when he goes out at night.  We just don’t know what to do.”

“Have you taken your Father to the doctor?  Maybe he could give you some suggestions.”

“No, my Papa refuses to go to the doctor. One of the older ladies in their neighborhood says that he is simply losing his mind. She told my Mama that this is common with old people, particularly men.”

“Martina, has anyone suggested that your Father may have a disease called Alzheimer’s or did he mention dementia?”

“No, but one of the other girls here at la Vida Aureo mentioned that about her Father when we were all talking after work one day.  Carolina said that the doctor did some tests like you do in school with her Father and then told them that this proved he had Alzheimer’s disease.”

“I am sorry to hear that your Father’s behavior is getting worse.  I know how hard you’ve worked to help him as he’s gotten older and what a burden it is on your whole family.  Would it be OK with you if I asked one of the women in our Community Assist Program to talk to you?  She may be able to give some information that might help.”

“I would like that, Señor Doc. Mila Espalin has talked with a group of us several times after work. She is a very nice lady.”

“I will ask her to make a point of talking to you about dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.  I’m sure she can give you some information to help you understand your Father and know what to expect.  Now, let’s dry those tears.  There are other Residents here who depend on you.  You have my promise that I am doing everything I can to help the police find out who did this terrible thing to Mr. Alexander.”

Despite his “pep talk” for Martina, Dudley was still struggling with his own emotions. He decided that he would go downstairs where he knew the Community Assist Team was currently meeting.  Hopefully, they were continuing to make progress on their key initiatives which always buoyed his spirits.

The meeting of the Team was in progress when Dudley slipped quietly into the conference room.  The Team had made considerable progress with their initiative for improved home safety.  They had prepared a series of Information Cards with simple things that people could do for themselves to reduce the risk of falls and other in-home injuries.  They had also begun talking with local contractors about doing more complicated modifications.

Minot Atkinson was leading an effort to develop a simple web-site where all of the information could be posted to make it readily available to a wider audience.  Her goal was to reach individuals who could use the information for their families, particularly those with aging parents or relatives.

As the individual Team members went about their Tasks, they continued to uncover additional situations of fraud and abuse within the healthcare system.  Team Leader, Beth Ford, had suggested that the Team hold their findings until near the end of the meeting.  She wanted to focus on all the positive gains and accomplishments.  And, she hoped that Matthew Dudley would attend so that they could discuss the best strategy for handling this information.  When she saw Dudley enter the room, she knew the time was appropriate to address this disturbing issue.  “OK, Team, we are making great progress.  In the few minutes left in today’s meeting, let’s turn our attention to the new things we’ve learned about personal information theft.  Why don’t you start, Mikaylah?”

“Thanks, Beth.  I guess because I’m the Newby, I find this activity particularly disturbing.  We’ve all noticed how there seems to be loads of home health-care agencies popping up all over the City. As I’ve driven around town, I made it a point to stop in several agencies and strike up a casual conversation.  In too many instances, the discussion turns quickly to the Agency’s need for personal information.  When I question that need, the response is typically that’s “the Law or the Regulations require it”.  They all just hide behind that flimsy excuse and will not discuss it further. Personally, I am suspicious.”

Arnetta Valencia spoke next.  “I have several long-time friends who are Nurse Practitioners.  They really enjoy interacting with patients and some have taken jobs doing home visits to perform an annual wellness check-up.  Some of the Insurance Companies have initiated this approach and I think it makes a lot of sense.  It is certainly consistent with our goal of keeping people in their homes longer.  The major part of this wellness survey is collecting information which is entered into a form on the insurance company’s web-site. Anyway, one of my friends told me of a situation where she noticed the same nondescript van at several of the homes she visited recently.  Since she connects to the web-site over a wireless network, she worried that her entries were being intercepted by someone in this van.  After her most recent visit where the same van was present, she approached the van to talk to the driver.  When he saw her coming, he sped away.  She did manage to get the license plate number which she reported to her Supervisor.  It’s an issue we’ve discussed before within the Team.  As more personal information is collected over computer networks, I believe the opportunities for theft will increase dramatically.  This just seems like one more instance where technology can be used for good and evil, almost simultaneously.”

“Thank you, Arnetta, anyone else?”

“I don’t know if this is a problem, or if someone was just to sound more important,” said Mila Espalin.  “One of the women at my church has a job with a small firm that processes health claims.  She told me that her firm is some sort of “middle-man” in the network between the patients, doctors, hospitals, clinics, insurance companies, etc. It is her job to review the claims that are submitted and insure that the proper codes are entered for each procedure.  As I understand it, that code determines who gets reimbursed and for how much.  As I said, I don’t know if she was just trying to impress me or she really acts this way.  She said that, with the Affordable Care Act, there are literally thousands of new code categories and she has to be knowledgeable about all of them.  Then she said that she could mark down any code she wanted and no one would ever know the difference.  She said that, if she’s having a bad day, or if she just feels like it, she can direct money or payment to almost anyone she wants, or make sure that no one gets anything at all.  It just seems to me that this is one more area that could easily be abused if someone had a mind to.”

“Thanks, Mila. Mr. Dudley, you’ve been sitting quietly in the back listening to these reports.  It is certainly not our job to try to correct these potentially harmful situations, but I feel this information needs to get to the proper authorities.  Would that Lieutenant Garcia who spoke to us a while ago be the proper person?”

“I suppose so, Beth.  But, it might make more sense to try to address these issues on a larger scale than through the local police.  It’s probably some combination of local and state, maybe even federal, authority. I don’t know.  I believe I will have an opportunity to talk to Lt. Garcia in the very near and I will mention it to him and ask his opinion.”

“Thank you, Mr. Dudley.  Well, if there is nothing else, I want to thank the Team for another positive meeting and continued progress.  Meeting adjourned!”

Dudley stopped Mila Espalin as they were leaving the conference room.  “Mila, could I ask a favor?”

“Certainly.”

“I believe you know Martina Trujillo who is part of the La Vida Aureo staff.  I understand that her Father’s mental condition continues to deteriorate. I don’t know if he has Alzheimer’s or some other form of dementia, but Martina and her Mother are struggling with ways to cope with his erratic and potentially dangerous behavior. Could you please talk with her and give her some suggestions?”

“I would be glad to.  In these situations, information is the key.  If Martina and her Mother knew what to expect and what behaviors are typical, perhaps they would be better able to cope with him.  I have some pamphlets from the local Alzheimer’s Association and I’m certain there are more available.  I will also give her the name of a support group that meets in her neighborhood, probably at the local library.  That should be another source of strength and encouragement.”

“Thank you, Mila.  I know Martina will be most appreciative.”

Lieutenant Garcia had continued his investigation and decided his first interview would be with Conrad Alexander’s lawyer, Serafino Huerfano.  Señor Huerfano was a partner in the prestigious Albuquerque law firm of Rothschild, Epstein, Schwartz and Huerfano with offices on the top three floors of the Wells Fargo Bank building downtown.   Garcia expected to be treated with minimal respect when he entered through the firm’s large oak doors. But, the receptionist greeted him warmly and said that he was to be taken to Mr. Huerfano immediately.

As Garcia entered the office, Huerfano rose from his large desk and walked to greet Garcia with an outstretched hand.  He directed Garcia to two large arm chairs in a corner of the spacious office. “Let’s sit over here where we can be more comfortable. Can I get you a coffee or water?  I presume you are here about my good friend Conrad Alexander.”

“Yes. I believe you are aware that you are listed as Mr. Alexander’s Emergency Contact at La Vida Aureo.  I understand that he has no other family and I was hoping that you could provide me with some general background information.”

“Certainly.  Conrad and I were friends for many years.  We first met when he was a young engineer trainee with the Power Company, working in southern New Mexico, near my home.  Over the years, as we each pursued our lives and careers, we remained in contact and established what you might call a tradition of meeting for a simple dinner on each other’s birthday.  Conrad was a many of exceptional integrity and vision and a true friend.”

“I am sorry for your loss, Señor Huerfano.  As his friend and lawyer, what do you know of his health issues?”

“Sadly, yes.  Conrad and his late wife were always conscientious about their affairs. He came to me after his wife’s death to update his personal will and estate planning.  It was at that time that he revealed to me just how serious his own health was and that the doctors had not given him very long to live.  It speaks to the character of the man that he put aside his own health concerns to care for his wife during her last and most difficult months.  In hindsight, I believe that may have exacerbated his own condition, but he would not have had it any other way.   I am named Executor of his estate and will perform my duties in a few weeks.

“Can you tell me anything about his career at New Mexico Power & Light or his civic activities?”

“I doubt that I can tell you much more than you could learn from various public sources.  There weren’t any secrets in Conrad’s life and, as an executive at the Power Company, most everything is a matter of public record.  The same probably holds for his civic and charitable work. You could talk to Graham Wright who was the former CEO and Board Chairman at the Company and Conrad’s mentor for much of his career.  He has an office on the tenth floor of this bldg.”

“Thanks, I’ll follow up with Mr. Wright.  I think you’ve already implied this, but can you think of anyone who would want to kill Mr. Alexander?”

“Absolutely not!  In all the years I knew Conrad, I never heard him speak against anyone.  I’m sure there were people he didn’t particularly care for, but he kept those feelings to himself.”

“Thank you once again for your time, Señor Huerfano.  Just one more question.  Does the name Donald Pearsall mean anything to you?”

“Not anything in particular, but I believe he is with the Power Company.  Graham could probably tell you if that is correct.”

Garcia decided, since he was in the building, he would see if he could talk with Graham Wright.  The sign on the door said simply Graham Wright and Garcia entered and was greeted by a receptionist/secretary.  Garcia presented his APD card and asked if Mr. Wright was available.  “No,” said the Secretary.  “You just missed him. He is at a luncheon meeting with the Mayor and Chamber of Commerce and should return later this afternoon.  I assume you’re here in connection with Mr. Alexander’s death.  It is such a tragedy.  He visited Mr. Wright on occasion and was always the perfect gentleman.  Shall I call you when Mr. Wright is available?”

“Thank you. I would appreciate that very much.  I will make myself available whenever is convenient with Mr. Wright.”

Garcia knew that an investigation of this sort would evolve slowly, but was frustrated that he hadn’t learned any new information so far.  New Mexico Power & Light’s corporate offices were only a few blocks away and Garcia decided to attempt to interview Donald Pearsall.  It was Pearsall’s name in Alexander’s calendar-planner that told Garcia that this interview would be different from the pleasantness with Señor Huerfano and probably Graham Wright.  Garcia realized that Pearsall might be the last person to see Alexander alive and, for that reason alone, was a potential suspect, or at least a “person of interest”.  For that reason, Garcia knew that he had to approach this interview cautiously and be alert to Pearsall’s voice and body language.

Pearsall’s suite of offices were on the top floor of the NMP&L building and Garcia was somewhat taken aback by its appearance.  Whereas Huerfano’s and Wright’s offices were understated elegance, Pearsall’s could only be described as ostentatious. “Early King Tut-style, thought Garcia. No wonder my electric bill keeps going up!” After presenting his card and stating his purpose, he was instructed to take a seat and the Receptionist said she would see if Mr. Pearsall was available.

About cooling his heels for about thirty minutes, Garcia was escorted down a long hallway to a large Conference Room where Donald Pearsall was in the final stages of loudly reprimanding someone over a speaker phone. The Secretary was apparently used to this behavior and simply waited until Pearsall abruptly ended the call.  “Mr. Pearsall, this is Lieutenant Garcia from the Albuquerque Police.”  She turned and quickly left the room, quietly closing the door behind her.

“I presume you’re here about Alexander’s death.  I am afraid I can’t help you.  It’s been a while since I saw Conrad, particularly after he moved to that Old Folk’s Home.   The paper said he was electrocuted.  How the Hell did that happen?”

Garcia decided to proceed slowly with Pearsall, realizing that there was nothing to be gained by provoking him, at least at this point.  In his mind, this was only Round One. “Thank you for taking time to see me, Mr. Pearsall.  I know you’re very busy.  I just have a few questions.  That is correct. It appears that Mr. Alexander was electrocuted and we’re treating it as a homicide.”

“What?  That makes no sense.  Are you sure Old Conrad didn’t just decide to do himself in?  I imaging he was pretty depressed.  I mean, his wife had died recently and he was living like a hermit in that place.”

“We’re looking at several possibilities at this time.  Can you tell me what your relationship was with Mr. Alexander?”

“Well, we obviously worked together here at NMP&L for most our careers, which I’m sure is general public knowledge, but we were usually in different Departments or locations.  I took over as CEO when he retired about the time his wife died.”

“Did you and Mr. Alexander see each other socially, or in any civic or charitable activities?”

“No.  Conrad was big into that kind of stuff, but my focus is on running this company and I have very little time for frivolous things.”

“I see.  Can you think of anyone who might want to harm Mr. Alexander?”

“Not really.  As I said, our paths didn’t cross that often.  But, you don’t get to the top of this Food Chain without pissing a few people off. I can tell you that from personal experience.”

“I know you’re busy, but I have one more question, if you don’t mind, Mr. Pearsall.  Can you tell me the last time you saw Mr. Alexander and where that would have been?’

“I told you, Lieutenant, we didn’t socialize and I didn’t see Conrad much after he left here.  I don’t remember exactly, but it must be a couple of months ago, maybe even more. I suspect it was at some sort of on-site company function.”

“Thank you again for your time, Mr. Pearsall.  If I have any further questions, I presume I can call you?”

“Just call my Secretary to make an appointment, but, as I said, I don’t think I can be of much help.  And Lieutenant, I would look more closely at the suicide angle if I were you.”

Garcia smiled to himself as he headed back toward the Receptionist’s area.  “You can count on seeing me again, you arrogant snob.  For at least Round Two and maybe Three and Four!”

As he walked back to APD Headquarters, a plan began to form in Garcia’s mind.  He was certain that most of what Pearsall had told him was false.  He was obviously hiding something.  The interview with Graham Wright was even more important and he hoped he could learn more about the relationship between Alexander and Pearsall as well as more about Pearsall himself.  He would also challenge Sgt. Armijo to really dig and see what else was available about these two men.  And, he needed to go back to La Vida Aureo and have another discussion with the woman who found Alexander’s body; maybe Doc could help there.

 

Chapter 3: Conrad Alexander

Conrad Alexander was born to a middle-call working family in Albuquerque. He attended New Mexico Tech in Socorro by working a series of part-time jobs and graduated with a degree in Electrical Engineering.  He joined New Mexico Electric Company upon graduation and entered their training program. It was company policy at that time for all new engineering employees to serve their first two years working in a series of field assignments.  The company believed that its engineers should learn the business “from the bottom up” by working in the day-to-day operations throughout the State. Alexander’s initial assignments took him to northern New Mexico where he first met Serafino Huerfano whose family had lived for generations in the scenic area around Villanueva.  It was during a major storm and subsequent power outage that the two young men became friends.  They worked long hours for several days to restore power to the areas affected by the storm.  Huerfano served as “guide and interpreter” as the crews worked with individual homes to insure safe operations as the power returned.

The following six months were spent in small towns in the southern part of the State and Alexander quickly discovered how different this predominantly agricultural environment was from the north.  He began to appreciate how the various parts of the State had their own perspectives about virtually everything.  These lessons would be invaluable as Alexander’s career with the power company advanced.

When the field portion of his training was completed, Alexander next began a series of assignments in the Company’s various power generating stations.  At the time, New Mexico Electric operated four major power generating stations, all of which used coal as the primary fuel.  Much of this coal used at the stations came from within the State from a series of relatively small mines located near the stations.

Upon completion of this initial two-year training program, Alexander was assigned to the Engineering Department in Albuquerque.  Now that his life was less nomadic, he decided he could settle down and proposed marriage to his high school sweetheart who had been waiting patiently for this time.

Donald Pearsall’s early life was much different.  He was born into a wealthy family in Albuquerque and attended the best schools possible.  He received his Electrical Engineering degree from Purdue University and joined New Mexico Electric at the insistence of his parents who saw this as a potential route to a political career. Unlike Alexander, Pearsall viewed the two-year training program as a complete waste of time. He knew that his rise within the corporation would be enhanced if he were able to demonstrate his engineering knowledge to Senior Management at corporate headquarters.

The career paths of Conrad Alexander and Donald Pearsall first crossed during their respective training programs when they were both stationed at the Company’s large coal-fired generating station near Farmington.  As young engineers, they were often assigned the over-night shift in the main control room which typically involved hours of tedium monitoring the myriad of dials and lights.  To pass the time, Alexander and Pearsall frequently engaged in lively discussions about the Company, its role in the State, its future and the future of the electric generating industry in general.

One obvious topic of discussion at Farmington was the role of coal in electric power generation.  Pearsall took the position that, because the United States had such large coal reserves, it provided an unprecedented level of security.  His argument was strengthened by the recent Arab Oil Embargo, which clearly exposed America’s vulnerabilities.  Alexander could not dispute these facts, but argued that the continued use of coal as the primary fuel for power generation had a variety of long-term negative consequences.  Air pollution from burning coal was the most obvious concern, but there were numerous problems with mining as well, such as safety and water run-off, etc.  Alexander reasoned that, if the Company continued to rely on coal as a fuel, it should vigorously look for ways to mitigate its negative impacts.  To Alexander, that only seemed reasonable.  But, Pearsall countered that such measures would be costly and that the consumer would never stand for increases in the electric bill. “They may say they want a clean environment, but they are unwilling to bear even a portion of those costs.”

This same general theme was often repeated as their time in Farmington dragged on.  Alexander realized that he probably would never change Pearsall’s perspective and the discussions became pointless. In Alexander’s mind, however, there should be innovative engineering approaches that could address both criteria of reduced environmental impact as well as maintaining an affordable cost for power.

When the two young engineers returned to Albuquerque and the corporate offices of New Mexico Electric, their respective career paths began to diverge.  Conrad Alexander was noticed by Graham Wright, who was Vice President of Engineering.  Wright became Alexander’s mentor and took a personal interest in his development.  It was at this time that New Mexico Electric changed its name to New Mexico Power & Light to better reflect the Company role for the entire State to not only provide reliable power, but be an economic force for good. Under Wright’s supervision, Alexander became involved with planning activities and the evaluation of new technologies.

Donald Pearsall’s career also advanced as the Company grew.  It seemed to Pearsall, however, that Alexander consistently received preferential treatment and that he was not receiving the recognition he deserved.  Pearsall was often vocal with his frustration about the situation which eventually got the attention of Manuel Uribe Vigil, a member of the Company’s Board of Directors.

Vigil had been a lobbyist for the coal industry for many years and eventually garnered a seat on the Board.  He took an interest in Pearsall and saw him as an ally in his efforts to keep coal as the Company’s primary source of fuel.  Vigil recognized Pearsall’s ambition and began to actively court him with large financial and personal gifts.

 

Sgt. Bernadette Armijo had continued to look into the backgrounds of Conrad Alexander as well as Donald Pearsall as Lt. Garcia had asked.  As she suspected, there was considerable information available concerning both men, particularly as they became senior executives at New Mexico Power & Light.  She compiled her information and took it to Lt. Garcia one morning soon after he arrived at his office.  “Well, Lieutenant, you were correct.  I was able to develop a pretty complete description of the two guys from Company records and newspaper and journal articles.  Alexander has been much more active in the community and has been involved with several major non-profit organizations for many years.  I suspect those activities helped him gain numerous promotions and eventually being named corporate President and CEO.  Boards tend to prefer Model Citizens, I guess. Pearsall has been more of an “inside guy” for the majority of his career and also mover rather quickly up the corporate ladder. It looks like he was always one step behind Alexander, which I’m sure was difficult for him to accept. One notable thing was Pearsall’s outspoken support for coal throughout his career.  At one point, he was in charge of evaluating nuclear power for the State and even had an assignment at WIPP in Carlsbad.  His conclusion, which was discussed briefly in an Annual Report, was that the Company should reject nuclear power for environmental reasons and stick with coal. I guess coal is the lesser of two evils, in my opinion.”

“I certainly would agree with that, Bernie.”

“Anyway, Lieutenant, that’s what I learned.  Both guys have been with the Company their entire careers and have both been very successful.  Alexander retired recently as President and CEO and Pearsall was named to take his place on an interim basis, pending Board approval.”

“Thanks, Sergeant.  Good job, as always.  I think I’ll try to get in to interview Graham Wright as soon as possible. Hopefully, he can provide some additional insight that wouldn’t be reported for public consumption.  I need to have a better understanding of the relationship between these two men.  I’m convinced that Pearsall was lying to me about his relationship with Alexander.”

To Garcia’s delight, his phone rang while Sgt. Armijo was still in his office.  “Good news, Bernie.  That was Wright’s secretary and he is available to talk with me in about an hour. I can use the information you developed as a starting point and hope Wright will provide the “color commentary.”

 

Graham Wright greeted Garcia warmly.  “It is unfortunate, Lieutenant, that we have to meet on such difficult circumstance.  Conrad Alexander was one of the finest people I knew and I am deeply saddened by his death.  I am particularly upset by the reports that he died under what you police refer to as suspicious circumstances.  I hope I can provide some information that will help with your investigation.”

“Thank you for taking time to see me, Mr. Wright.  I just have a few questions.  I am particularly interested in getting a better understanding of the relationship between Mr. Alexander and Mr. Donald Pearsall.”

“Why are you interested in Pearsall, if I might ask, Lieutenant?”

“At this point, Sir, I can only say is that Mr. Pearsall is a “person of interest” in my investigation of the circumstances surrounding Mr. Alexander’s death.”

“All right, Lieutenant, I’ll accept your conditions.  Alexander and Donald joined the Company at approximately the same time and are two of the most competent engineers I’ve ever worked with.  I’m sure you’ve done your homework and know that both men held positions of increasing responsibility and the Donald is currently acting CEO, the position Conrad held before he retired.”

“It is important for me to understand the circumstances surrounding Mr. Alexander’s retirement.  The newspaper just said he retired for “health reasons”, but I realize that there may be other reasons that are not made public.”

“In this case, Lieutenant, it is the absolute truth. Conrad’s wife developed an aggressive form of breast cancer and he was taking considerable time off to care for her.  What is not so widely known is that he also was suffering from an incurable form of cancer. He realized that he could no longer be as effective as he wanted to be, so he resigned.  If the Board had had its way, he would have stayed on, but accepted his decision.”

“Thank you for clarifying that, Mr. Wright.  Now, back to the relationship between Mr. Alexander and Mr. Pearsall.  How would you describe their relationship?”

“As I mentioned, Lieutenant, both were good employees and competent engineers, although they had very different perspectives about the Company and its future.  I would say that Conrad was more forward-looking and that is the principal reason I chose him to lead the Company’s efforts to move away from coal and oil as primary fuels and develop alternative, cleaner sources.  Donald, on the other hand, remains committed to coal, despite its numerous environmental problems.  He is steadfast in that position and his argument is based almost entirely on the presumed security of the resource.  In my opinion, that difference in perspective started early in their careers and remained until Conrad’s retirement.  It seems likely now that the Pearsall will eventually be named CEO and that the Company will continue its reliance on coal into the future.  It certainly didn’t help that many of the pilot projects for clean energy that Conrad had championed were beset by a series of major operating problems and outright failures. To this day, I never really understood exactly why those projects didn’t fare better, particularly with Conrad’s effort and support.”

“Sir, can you tell me if there were any ill feelings between the two men?”

“None that I was aware of.  You have to realize, Lieutenant, that Conrad Alexander was an exceptional person. In all the years I knew him, I never heard him speak an unkind word about another person.  I suspect that Donald, on the other hand, was jealous of Conrad, almost from the beginning.  He felt that he was the better engineer and that he should have been ahead of Conrad, career-wise.  Pearsall probably is a better engineer, but in my opinion, Conrad was a better all-round person and that counts for a lot in my book.”

“Thank you very much for your time and candid comments, Mr. Wright.  You have my assurance that we will get to the bottom of this situation as quickly as possible.”

 

Garcia was satisfied with what he had learned from Wright, but was still no closer to a solution to Alexander’s death.  He agreed with Hernandez that the method of death would almost certainly indicate foul play, that is was very unlikely to have been self-inflicted. The presence of Pearsall’s name in Alexander’s planner at approximately the time of death was significant.  And Pearsall’s behavior and Wright’s characterization of his relationship with Alexander gave Garcia cause to suspect him even more.  Jealousy was a common motive for murder, but Alexander had retired and Pearsall would soon be CEO.  Why would an intelligent person like Pearsall take such a risk to murder Alexander? There was no need. It just didn’t all add up.

Garcia was still deep in thought when he entered police headquarters and didn’t see Tom Bowers walking quickly toward him.  “Lieutenant”, Bowers blurted. “I have some good news.  Bernie mentioned to me that she learned that Pearsall once worked at WIPP. That got me to thinking and I called a buddy of mine to see if I could get access to their personnel files.  I reasoned that they would do a background check and have fingerprints for anyone and everyone who ever worked there.  And, guess what?  I found a match to the prints on the electrical cord we found in Alexander’s mouth.”

“That’s good police work, Tom.  Do you think you could slow down a bit and tell me who those prints belong to?”

“Sorry, Lieutenant.  The prints belong to Donald Pearsall!”

 

Chapter 4: Alternative Career Paths

The professional careers of Conrad Alexander and Donald Pearsall continued to advance at New Mexico Power & Light although along somewhat different paths.  Both men were recognized for their abilities and potential and were given positions of increasing responsibility.  Both men had also acquired a “sponsor” to advocate for them and guide their respective careers.

Graham Wright had recognized Conrad Alexander’s potential at an early stage and routinely selected Alexander for important assignments as Wright’s own career advanced.  Utility companies are generally not the most forward-thinking type organizations and because they operate in a highly regulated environment, change comes slowly.  Wright believed that the Company had a responsibility to adapt to changing conditions and he committed himself to that goal.  From his perspective, the most critical area where change was necessary was in the choice of fuel used to generate power.  From its earliest stages, the Company had relied on the State’s coal resources as its primary fuel. This was a logical choice for a variety of reasons.  Coal was plentiful and inexpensive and it provided economic support for the State.  But, as the Company grew and additional power plants were built to meet the increasing demand, the problems associated with coal became more evident.  When oil was first discovered in southern New Mexico, the Company designed its newer generating stations to operate on heavy oil instead of coal.  A similar situation occurred as natural gas production increased in the Four Corners area.  The Company attempted to use the choice of fuels as a means to provide economic development throughout the State while continuing to meet the increasing needs for electricity.

For many years, the choice of fuel was based primarily on economic considerations, including the impact on local communities.  As the public awareness of environmental issues grew, the Company realized that it would need to adapt and become a more responsible citizen.  Graham Wright saw this as an opportunity for the Company to take a leadership position in this effort and the central issue would again become the choice of fuels.  He recognized, however, that this would not be an easy battle within the Company because of its long-held policy of relying on coal as the primary fuel.  There were also members of the Board of Directors who viewed the public concern for the environment and so-called climate change issues as so-much foolishness.

Graham Wright found an ally in Conrad Alexander and the two men began to develop a long-range plan to transition the Company’s choice of fuels.  It was actually Alexander who first proposed the approach of establishing dual criteria of economic benefit and environmental responsibility.  He believed that the Company could continue to operate profitably while reducing its dependence on coal.  He reasoned that the Company could work with the affected communities to replace the support provided by coal mining with jobs associated with cleaner fuels and energy sources.

Donald Pearsall remained firmly in the group within the Company that saw no reason to look at any fuel other than coal.  The Company had already made concessions to oil and gas, but these remained relatively minor portions of the overall fuel mix.  This group also did not feel that it was the Company’s responsibility to “save the planet”.  The Company’s primary responsibility, as they saw it, was to provide a cheap and consistent supply on electricity.  They argued that there was already too much interference from regulatory agencies and saw no advantage in the Company opening itself to additional scrutiny.

Pearsall’s position regarding coal was heavily influenced by Manny Vigil who had taken an increasing interest and role in Pearsall’s career. Vigil positioned Pearsall as the Champion of Coal to those within the Company’s Board who shared his perspective.  Vigil had increased his influence on Pearsall with additional financial incentives which had become quite significant over time.  Vigil himself continued to receive considerable financial support from the coal industry and passed much of this on to Pearsall.

Wright and Alexander recognized that any transition within the Company would be a slow and often painful process, but they also realized that it was necessary. They decided to build a case based on data and experience rather than simply trying to make an abstract argument about the future direction of the Company.  Wright convinced the Board to establish a New Ventures Department which would be charged with evaluating new technologies from both a technical feasibility and economic viability perspective.  The Board agreed to use the information developed in this Department to guide its decisions about the future of the Company.  Wright also convinced the Board that Conrad Alexander should direct this effort and he was named Vice President of Special Projects.  As somewhat of a concession to the Board’s “Old Guard”, Donald Pearsall was named Vice President of Operations, responsible for the day-to-day operations of all existing power generating stations.

These arrangements provided for a relatively stable and peaceful environment within the Company, but an undercurrent of competition and hostility was developing. Battle lines were drawn among the various vested interests on the Board and a series of power plays began to take shape.  Wright had recognized that much of this was inevitable and worked vigorously to maintain peace among these factions.  He could do nothing, however, to stem the growing jealousy that Pearsall felt for Conrad Alexander.

 

Conrad Alexander assumed his new responsibilities with a sense of eagerness and urgency.  He realized that he would have to temper his own enthusiasm with reality and proceed with caution and patience.  He was realistic and understood that there would be setbacks and failures as he evaluated new technologies.  He decided to explore new ways to generate power such as wind and solar technologies as well as technologies to mitigate the harmful environmental effects of burning coal and oil.  He understood that he was facing a skeptical audience that would not accept a “one size fits all” answer; there was no “silver bullet”. His approach, therefore, was to develop a portfolio of solutions so that he could apply the most appropriate solution on a case-by-case basis.  He reasoned that this approach had the greatest chance for success technically, economically and politically.

Alexander initiated a series of small experimental projects and began to develop the information necessary to determine the technical and economic viability of various alternatives.  In addition to these new technologies for power generation, Alexander began to examine means to increase the efficiency of power usage for the Company’s residential, commercial and industrial customers.  This approach involved some new technologies to monitor usage as well as a large-scale educational program for customers.  It was these educational programs that gave Conrad Alexander greater exposure to the community in general.  In many ways, he became the public face of New Mexico Power & Light.

This ambitious program continued over the next ten years.  Energy consumption continued to grow despite improving efficiencies in usage among industrial customers.  Several of the approaches that were being evaluated for power generation exhibited significant promise while others proved too costly or technically inefficient.  The overall program had reached a critical stage and Wright and Alexander decided that it was time to make a major presentation to the Board and ask for permission to proceed to a larger-scale demonstration.

The focus of Conrad Alexander’s presentation was that these innovations would result in a gradual transition of New Mexico Power & Light from a coal-based electric utility to a national leader in clean energy.  He stressed that this transition would benefit every region of the State in terms of stable energy prices as well as economic development.  Alexander presented a plan for major capital expenditures to implement large-scale demonstration projects for the most promising technologies.  He also requested additional funds to expand the Company’s educational programs regarding energy efficiency.

The Board received Alexander’s presentation with moderate enthusiasm.  As expected, some were very supportive and others expressed that these changes, although gradual, would be disruptive.  A lively discussion ensued and eventually the Board approved Alexander’s plan.  Graham Wright then asked Alexander and Pearsall to leave the room.  In a closed-door session, Wright announced that he wanted to take a less active role in the daily operations of the Company while continuing to serve as Board Chairman.  He urged the Board to name Conrad Alexander President and Chief Executive Officer to serve in his place. Wright cited Alexander’s demonstrated leadership skills and his vision for the future.  With only limited dissent, the Board approved Wright’s recommendation, effective immediately.

Late that afternoon, Donald Pearsall received a phone call from Manny Vigil.  Vigil said that they must meet immediately to discuss the “disastrous decisions” made by the Board that morning.  Vigil said that he would meet Pearsall that evening at Duke City Wreckage, an auto body shop located a considerable distance south of the City.

Duke City Wreckage was a run-down set of buildings on a large lot filled with the rusted-out remains of all sorts of vehicles, cars, buses, motorcycles and some farm equipment.  Pearsall entered what he believed was the main building and found Manny Vigil standing in the center of a large empty warehouse or garage.  “Donald, I’m sure you are aware of the decisions made by the Board today.  As you know, I am totally opposed to these actions and we must act to prevent these idiots from destroying everything we’ve worked so hard for in the past.  We simply cannot allow the Company to abandon its obligations to the coal interests with these foolish programs.  You must do everything in your power to insure that none of these projects succeed.”

“I understand, Manny, but that fool Wright and his puppet Alexander stand in the way. You know my feelings about Alexander and his high-minded and misguided belief about the future direction of the Company.  And, I obviously should have been named President instead of him”.

“You leave Wright and Alexander to me.  I want you to concentrate on the actual projects.  It is vitally important that you and I maintain a safe distance in these matters. In that regard, I’ve enlisted some help for you.”

A large muscular man appeared out of the shadows and walked toward Vigil and Pearsall. Vigil introduced the man simply as “John Smith”.  “Mr. Smith is President of LRC Industries and I want you to hire his construction firm and assign them to each of these major demonstration projects.”

“And, what will they do?  What type of contract should I prepare?”

“Use your imagination, Donald, and prepare some sort of general work contract.  Mr. Smith and his associates will take care of everything.  You know that I have always had your best interests in mind and this is certainly no exception.  When these foolish projects fail, it will discredit both Wright and Alexander and they will be finished.  Then, you and I can get this Company back on the proper course.  In the meantime, you will be well taken care of, even more generously than in the past. Do you understand, Donald?”

“Certainly, Mr. Vigil.  I will prepare a blanket-type work contract in the morning. Should I send it to Mr. Smith here at Duke City Wreckage?”

“That will not be necessary. Just call my office when it’s ready and I will send someone to your office to pick it up.  That will avoid any further delays. We must move quickly.”

Donald Alexander felt a sense of relief as he drove north toward Albuquerque.  As usual, Vigil had taken care of things.  All he had to do was to prepare a contract and go about his regular routine.  His hands would remain clean and his bank account would be further enhanced.

 

Despite his new position as CEO, Conrad Alexander remained a humble person.  He continued his practice of going to the Employee Cafeteria each morning where he would have a cup of coffee and read the Wall Street Journal. This routine and Alexander’s behavior were widely recognized and became part of the corporate culture.   People would say “Good Morning” as they passed through the Cafeteria or stopped to have breakfast.  Gradually, people would stop and exchange a few words, or make brief comments about various activities within the company.  Eventually, some individuals would actually sit down with Alexander and engage in conversation. These exchanges ranged from positive comments to expressions of concern.  Alexander treated each of these individuals and their comments with respect, which further encouraged people to talk openly with him.

One morning, a middle-aged woman who worked as a clerk in the Accounting Department approached Alexander and asked if she could have a few minutes of his time.  She had a stack of papers in her hand which she laid in front of her as she took a seat.   She started to speak in a halting voice. “My name is Doris Connell. I hate to bother you with this.  I’m sure it’s nothing.  But, I’ve been noticing some unusual activity with one of the sub-contractors working on the major new technology projects.  It’s a local outfit called LRC Industries and the paperwork says they were hired by Mr. Pearsall, but I can’t find any of the typical associated documentation.  What strikes me as odd is the payment record.  It seems that we are paying them exactly the same amount every month and have been for quite a while.  For most of the subs, the amount varies from month to month depending on what work they actually accomplish.”

“Thank you for bringing this to my attention, Mrs. Connell.  I appreciate your being so conscientious.  I will discuss this particular Contractor with Mr. Pearsall during our scheduled Morning Meeting today.  In the meantime, please feel free to let me know if you notice any other peculiarities with any of the accounts.”

“Thank you, Mr. Alexander.  Again, I’m sorry to trouble your morning.  I’m sure Mr. Pearsall can explain everything.”

At the completion of the Morning Executive Operating Meeting, Alexander asked Pearsall to remain.  “Don, I’m not familiar with one of our new local sub-contractors that seems to be doing quite a bit of work for us. What can you tell me about LRC Industries?  What kind of work are they doing?”

Pearsall looked directly at Alexander and said, “Just general kinds of things. They came highly recommended.  I’ve been using them to help out where needed.  It’s no big deal.”

“Thanks, Don. I was just curious.”

 

Over the next month, three of the priority development projects experienced a series of setbacks.  At one site, there were several equipment failures, resulting in significant delays in the overall schedule for completion.  At another site, there was a major accident which caused lost-time injuries to an entire work crew.  At the third site, several major pieces of critical instrumentation suddenly disappeared. Alexander received reports of each incident from the respective Project Manager.  This disturbed Alexander since he expected Pearsall to have brought these events to his immediate attention because of their importance.  When he questioned him about the delay, Pearsall simply dismissed his concern. “I’ve got everything under control, Conrad.  You should just focus on being President and making nice with the public.”

Although Alexander didn’t appreciate Pearsall’s attitude, he felt confident that the Project Managers would do their best to get the projects back on schedule and avoid any future setbacks.  To Alexander’s great dismay, however, all of the projects continued to experience problems.  None were quite as significant as the initial issues, but caused additional delays nonetheless.  Pearsall continued to provide excuses and began to blame the Project Mangers for the deteriorating situation.

Doris Connell approached Alexander in the cafeteria one morning later that week, carrying a single sheet of paper. As she sat down, Alexander thought that Mrs. Connell had aged quite a bit since their last discussion only a few months before. “Good morning, Mrs. Connell.  I hope you are doing well. “

“Just fine, Mr. Alexander.  I haven’t been able to sleep very well lately.”

“I don’t mean to stick my nose in your personal life, but is everything OK at home?”

“Sorry if I seem upset. Everything is fine at home. Thank you for asking.  Mr. Alexander, I believe I’ve stumbled on to some very disturbing information and I don’t know what to do about it.”

“Perhaps if you were to just tell me what’s troubling you; I don’t have anything scheduled until later in the day. I assume it has to do with the paper you’re carrying.”

“Oh, these are just a few notes. I mentioned to you that I found the payments to this LRC Industries unusual. Well, I’ve made it a point to follow them more closely and dig into their invoices in some detail.  It appears that the total amount of their invoices has increased significantly and that they seem to be working at every single project site, which is very unusual for a sub-contractor.  I’ve also noticed that each invoice now contains a separate line item called “Administrative Fee” and I’ve never seen that before on any contract.”

“That does seem a bit out of the ordinary.”

Doris Connell lowered her head and spoke in a barely audible whisper.  “There is something else.  It looks as though a separate account has been set up recently and this Administrative Fee is automatically transferred to that account as soon as we pay the LRC invoice.”

“That is most unusual and somewhat suspicious.”

“That new account is part of the Expense Account Reimbursement account for Mr. Pearsall’s personal expenses,” she said with her eyes now totally downcast and fixed on her hands which were in her lap.

It took Conrad Alexander a few minute to recover from the shock of what he heard and fully comprehend its significance.  “This is very serious indeed, Mrs. Connell.  I assume you have checked all of this to insure it’s correct?”

Doris Connell was trembling. “Mr. Alexander, at first I could not believe what I found, but I’ve been over things repeatedly.  I know how serious this is.  I mean, Mr. Pearsall is a very important person and I didn’t want to say anything at first.  But, this has been going on for some time and each month this Fee gets a bit larger and there is no question now about where that money is going.”

“No need to worry, Mrs. Connell. You’ve done the right thing and I appreciate the courage it took for you to come forward.  I assume you have complete documentation for all of this?”

“Certainly.  I’ve put all of the information in a separate computer file and transferred it to a thumb drive that I keep in my purse.  It’s been very stressful for me and several of my co-workers in Accounting have begun to worry about my behavior and appearance.”

“Mrs. Connell, if you’ll give me your thumb drive, I’ll take care of this. Once again, I want you to know how much I appreciate your hard work and diligence.”

“I forgot my usual purse today and left the thumb drive in it at home.  Maybe I’m getting a bit paranoid about all of this.  Can I bring it to you tomorrow?”

“That would be fine. You know where to find me almost every morning.  I’ll make a point of being here in the cafeteria first thing tomorrow.”

It was almost ten o’clock in the morning when Conrad Alexander and Doris Connell left the cafeteria. Their extended discussion and late departure did not go unnoticed by the rough-looking man sitting in the corner of the cafeteria dressed in workman’s clothes.

 

Conrad Alexander cancelled all of his meetings for that day and spent his time going over what Doris Connell had told him in his mind.  He was a trusting person and was struggling to understand Don Pearsall’s actions.  He wanted to believe that there was some rational explanation and that Mrs. Connell has misinterpreted the information.  Pearsall had invested too much of his life and career in New Mexico Power & Light to succumb to what appeared to be some sort of payments.  It remained a rather unproductive day for Alexander and he decided to go home.   He absent-mindedly turned on the car radio as he drove.  The relaxing classical music was interrupted by a traffic bulletin.  The reporter said that there had been a major traffic accident on I-40 west of Albuquerque, near the Unser Boulevard interchange.  Fortunately, Alexander was heading north on I-25.

Conrad Alexander arrived at the cafeteria early the following morning, anxious to talk further with Doris Connell. When she did not show up and he had finished reading the Wall Street Journal, he picked up a discarded copy of the Albuquerque Journal. There were pictures of the I-40 and Unser traffic fatality on the front page.  The initial police reports were that a woman driving alone had been killed in the fiery crash and the police were investigating witness reports that the accident had been caused by a group of motorcyclists. Although the woman’s body was badly burned, the police had identified the victim as a Doris Connell of Albuquerque.

 

 

Chapter 5: Things Fall Apart

Conrad Alexander was visibly upset when he read about Doris Connell’s death.  He was aware that traffic fatalities were not uncommon in Albuquerque and the I-40 east of downtown was notoriously dangerous.  But the newspaper indicated that the police were investigating the theory that her crash was not necessarily an accident; that it had actually been caused by a several motorcyclists. Alexander was not given to conspiracy theories, but he found it unsettling that her death occurred on the same day she had made serious allegations about Donald Pearsall and LRC Industries.  Alexander needed more information.

Through his involvement in the community, Alexander had occasion to meet and work closely with the Police Commissioner, Gordon Manzanares.  Alexander returned to his office and placed the call.  “Gordo, it’s Conrad Alexander.  I hope I’m not interrupting any important police business. “

“Connie, it’s good to hear from you.  You know I’m just a City Bureaucrat and not much of a policeman anymore.  How have you been?”

“I’m fine.  Thanks for asking. I need to ask a favor.  I’m calling about the woman who was killed in that traffic accident on I-40 last evening, Doris Connell.  She works here at New Mexico Power & Light as has been a valuable employee for a long time.  I wondered if you could tell me anything more about her accident than was reported in the papers.”

“It was horrible business, Conrad.  Apparently, she was run off the road and her car flipped over in the arroyo and then burst into flames.  By the time the Fire Department arrived, the car was totally engulfed and there wasn’t much they could do.”

“The paper said that witnesses said that some motorcyclists were involved somehow.”

“That’s the really disturbing part.  I typically don’t get involved in day-to-day operations, but this one is of particular interest.  My Detectives are still trying to piece the witnesses’ statements together, but I believe they will conclude what I already suspect.  This incident has all the markings of the La Raza Cosmica motorcycle gang.”

“I picked up some Spanish while I worked in the field years ago, but did I hear you correctly? This gang calls themselves The Cosmic Race?”

“Yeah, and they are a particularly nasty and violent bunch.  Unlike most gangs that are comprised of similar types, like The Black Panthers or Aryan Brotherhood, La Raza Cosmica believes that a greater ethnic diversity makes them more powerful.  As best we can tell, the gang is made up of trouble-makers and misfits of all sizes, shapes, colors, etc. from around the entire State. The leader calls himself John Smith.  They are believed to have been involved in a series of crimes and we’ve tried, unsuccessfully, for years to arrest and convict them.  A few years ago, we thought we could tie them to a string of burglaries involving copper wire and electronics from construction sites, but there was never sufficient evidence.  It seemed like all the potential eye-witnesses suddenly couldn’t remember anything.  We assumed they were being intimidated, but got nowhere.  What’s confusing about this latest incident is that there seems to be no connection to the woman who was killed.  You say she worked for you guys?”

“That’s right and I am also at a loss to explain any connection.  Not meaning to sound unkind, but Mrs. Connell was just an ordinary woman who worked in our Accounting Department.  It just doesn’t make any sense to me that she would have any involvement with a gang of any sort, particularly one this criminal. Anyway, thanks for the information.  If your Detectives need anything from our Personnel Department, please ask them to contact me directly.”

“Thanks, Connie.  Take care.”

 

In an uncharacteristic move, Alexander walked down the hall and confronted Donald Pearsall in his office.  “Don, I need to ask you again about this LRC Industries outfit. Our Accounting folks have noticed some irregularities in their invoices.  Since you are the one signing them, perhaps you could tell me what the Administrative Fee line item is.”

“What’s going on, Conrad?  You just can’t come barging into my office and start making accusations.”

“Sorry, I guess I’m upset over the death of Doris Connell.”

“Well, maybe it was just another case of someone drinking too much at some local bar’s Happy Hour and losing control of their car.  It happens almost every day.”

“Don, that was a very unkind thing to say.  The paper says that some guys on motorcycles caused her to lose control.”

“Well, you know you can’t really trust the newspaper to get things right.”

“I still want to ask you about LRC Industries and what’s really going on with them.”

“I told you before, Conrad, I use them to help out in a lot of places.  It’s really no concern of yours.”

“There also seems to be an issue with the money and where it ends up.  Can you explain how it seems to be connected with your personal expenses?”

“That’s nonsense.  If someone told you that, they are totally mistaken.  My guess is that one of those cretins in Accounting got things screwed up, which would not be the first time.  Look, Conrad, there is really nothing for you to get upset about.  I assure you, everything is on the up-and-up.  Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got a meeting to go to.”

 

With that, Pearsall left his office leaving Alexander standing there, totally frustrated.  Pearsall had been able to deflect his questions and shift the focus and blame to others, a tactic he used frequently.  Alexander decided that the least he could do was to mention his concerns to Graham Wright and headed for his office.

By the time he reached Wright’s office, he had calmed down a bit and decided to be a bit more tactful in his comments.  Instead of directly accusing Pearsall, Alexander simply summarized the apparent irregularities surrounding LRC Industries and their apparent involvement in the failures at the demonstration projects.  He tried to imply that there was sabotage without specifically using that word. He also questioned a potential connection to Pearsall.  Wright said he understood Alexander’s concerns and would appreciate any additional information as it became available.

Conrad Alexander remained at a loss.  The death of Doris Connell was upsetting enough, but he was still struggling to comprehend the things she had told him about Don Pearsall.  And Pearsall’s behavior had done nothing to ease Alexander’s mind. It felt like random pieces of both events were circulating in his mind, but he was unable to make any sense of things.  He had another relatively unproductive day and decided to go home a bit early.  As he drove, he tried to forget all about New Mexico Power & Light and the recent events that troubled him. He wanted to focus on his wife, Mary, who had been to the doctor that afternoon and he was eager to hear what she had learned.  But, he was unable to push the thoughts of Doris Connell, LRC Industries and Donald Pearsall from his mind.  Suddenly, he realized he was drifting into the next lane and a large Dodge pick-up had to swerve to avoid hitting him.  The driver laid on his horn and cursed loudly.  Alexander was startled and snapped back to awareness. At that moment, all the pieces came together.  What if LRC Industries was really the gang La Raza Cosmica?   And, what if Pearsall was using them to disrupt the new technology demonstration projects?  That would certainly fit with Pearsall’s long-time opposition to this initiative.  Suppose Mrs. Connell had discovered that a portion of the LRC invoice was actually a pay-off to Pearsall?  In Alexander’s mind, all these pieces fit together and seemed to explain a great deal, perhaps even Mrs. Connell’s death.  Despite the apparent logic of this, Alexander resisted the inevitable conclusion; it sounded too much like some far-fetched conspiracy theory. But, there seemed to be no other explanation.

 

These thoughts were still racing around in his mind as he reached home.  When he entered the house, he called out but there was no response. He found Mary sitting in a large over-stuffed chair in the Study with a cup of tea resting in her lap.  From the look on her face, he knew that her Doctor had not given her encouraging news.  He sat in a chair near her, took her hands in his and asked, “What did Doctor Collins have to say, Mary?”

She tried, but was unable to hold back her tears.  “The cancer has returned and she says it has spread.  And, everything was looking so positive.  She said that surgery was no longer an option and she couldn’t recommend further radiation or chemo treatments.”

“I’m so sorry to hear that.  Did she give you any sense of a prognosis?”

“That’s the worst part.  She said that the cancer seems to have become more aggressive and the outlook was pretty dim.”

“And?”

“Oh, Connie, I had to really push her, but eventually she told me that I only had a few weeks to live, maybe two months at best.”  With this, Mary Alexander threw her arms around her husband and sobbed uncontrollably.

 

After a very restless night, Conrad Alexander decided that he would go to Mary’s doctor and hear the prognosis for himself.  Although he did not have an appointment, the Receptionist ignored the full waiting room and quickly made time for him. Doctor Anne Collins appeared from one of the examination rooms and ushered Alexander into her office.

“Doctor Collins, I appreciate your taking time to see me.  Mary told me about her visit with you yesterday and I just wanted to hear her prognosis for myself.”

Dr. Anne Collins looked directly at Conrad Alexander and the expression on her face told him that he was going to hear more bad news.  “Mr. Alexander, I’m glad you came in.  The prognosis for Mary is not good.  We thought that surgery had removed all of the tumors and that the subsequent radiation treatment had eradicated any questionable areas.  To be quite honest, I was shocked to see that her cancer had returned and had become even more aggressive and spread.  I was trying to be optimistic when I told her that she had perhaps a couple of months, but I doubt she will last that long.  I’m very sorry.”

“Well, Dr. Collins, I appreciate your honesty.  At least we know what we’re dealing with and can plan accordingly.  Do you think she would be better off in a hospital?”

“No. In my opinion, that would only be a waste of money.  I can give you the names of several very good organizations to provide hospice care in your home.  I believe that would be the best for her.”

“Thank you, Doctor. I agree.  I’m sure Mary would prefer to remain at home.”

As Alexander rose to leave, Dr. Collins reached for a file on her desk and motioned for him to sit down.  “I have to apologize for this and I know this is most inappropriate, but there is more bad news and it concerns you, not Mary.”

“Remember, a few weeks ago, we ran a series of tests on you, including a comprehensive series of MRIs on your intestines and digestive system?  It seems as though the results got “lost” somewhere in the new computerized record-keeping system we were installing.  That’s no excuse for what happened and any apologies would be totally meaningless.  I won’t insult you with a bunch of medical double-speak.  The short version is that the scans revealed extensive cancer throughout your colon and lower intestines.  I’m sorry. The delay in discovering this situation and initiating treatment makes your prognosis less optimistic.”

Conrad Alexander sat quietly in the chair for a few moments gathering his thoughts.  “Dr. Collins,” he said finally, “I would appreciate it if you kept this new information to yourself, at least for a while.  It is very important to me that I focus on Mary and do everything in my power to make her remaining time as pleasant as possible. I do not want her to be distracted with any concerns other than her own well-being.  Can I count on you to do that?”

“But, Mr. Alexander, the sooner we begin treating you, the better chance we have of beating this.”

“I understand completely, Doctor, but this is really my decision, isn’t it?”

“It is against my best medical judgement, Mr. Alexander, but you are correct.  It is your decision.”

“OK, as long as we have an understanding. I will take your recommendations and arrange for hospice for Mary.  Personally, I will go on with my life as if we never had this conversation.  There are more important things to focus on than my own issues.”

 

Over the next few days, Conrad Alexander made arrangements for the necessary level of hospice for Mary.  He also had a brief conversation with Graham Wright during which he asked for Wright’s indulgence while he spent as much time as possible with Mary. As expected, Wright was sympathetic and understanding.

Mary Alexander’s condition deteriorated quickly and she died within the month. A short time after the funeral, Alexander returned to Dr. Collins to discuss his own future.  “We ran an additional battery of tests and your condition has worsened to a greater extent than I would have expected.  We could begin an extensive regimen of radiation and chemo-therapy and hope for the best outcome. But I would be less than honest with you if I told you that there were any significant prospects for improvement. And it would put you through a considerable amount of pain and discomfort.  As an engineer, I’m sure you understand the concept of Risk versus Reward.  In your particular case, I cannot say that there is much of a potential reward, regardless of how aggressively we try to treat you.”

“I guess I had a slim hope that the prognosis would be better, but I appreciate your honesty.  I ask you once again to keep this conversation confidential. There are some issues I need to address and a discussion of my illness would be a distraction.”

It wasn’t until that evening, when Alexander was alone at home, that the reality of everything hit him.  He had lost his wife, the love of his life.  The Doctor had just given him his own death sentence.  And his entire life’s work at New Mexico Power & Light was being destroyed from within.   For the first time in his life, he felt as though his entire life was falling apart.

 

 

Chapter 6: Progress

With the identification of the fingerprints on the electric cord, Lt. Garcia knew he was making progress in the murder of Conrad Alexander and Donald Pearsall had become the prime suspect.  Unless Pearsall could provide a credible alibi, the notation in Alexander’s planner placed Pearsall in the apartment at the approximate time of death.  There were a few more details he wanted to be certain of before he attempted to arrest Pearsall, starting with a return to La Vida Aureo to talk with the woman who had discovered the body.  Perhaps she had recovered sufficiently from her initial shock to provide Garcia with some additional details about Alexander’s final movements.  It seemed that the woman trusted Matthew Dudley and Garcia called him to arrange a meeting late that afternoon.

Martina Trujillo was still somewhat upset by the recent event, but Dudley had a calming effect on her.  Garcia decided to proceed slowly.  “Mrs. Trujillo, can you think of anything else about the last time you saw or spoke to Mr. Alexander that might be important regarding his death?”

“No, not really.  Señor Alexander was always very pleasant to me. I did hear a very loud argument coming from his apartment a few days earlier.  It was about the time on my daily schedule that I am supposed to clean and change the linens.   I waited outside for a while.  I did not want to interfere.”

“This is very important, Mrs. Trujillo.  Please think carefully. Can you tell me who was arguing with Mr. Alexander or what they were arguing about?”

“I walked a way down the hall to the next apartment on my schedule.  I knew I could come back later.  I did not see the man who was there with Señor Alexander. I did not hear very much, but I did hear the words “coal” and “future”.  Both men used those words.”

“You are certain that the person with Mr. Alexander was another man?”

“Yes.  I know Señor Alexander’s voice and the other person was also a man with a much deeper voice.  And he was the one whose voice sounded loudest and most angry.”

“Thank you very much, Mrs. Trujillo. You have been very helpful.  I know this has been an awful experience for you.  Can you think of anything else?”

“No. I’m sorry.  Just please catch the man who did this terrible thing as quickly as possible.”

Garcia spent a few minutes talking with Dudley to see if he had learned anything else that would help.  Since Dudley could not add anything, Garcia left and headed downtown to talk further with Graham Wright. Garcia was certain that Wright had not told him everything he knew about the relationship between Alexander and Pearsall and Garcia knew this was a critical aspect of the situation.  He would press Wright a bit more this time.

 

As before, Wright welcomed Garcia to his office.  “Mr. Wright, I appreciate your taking time to see me.  I’m trying to conclude this investigation and I need to ask you a few more questions.  In particular, I’m interested in anything more you can tell me about the relationship between Conrad Alexander and Donald Pearsall.”

“As I believe I mentioned that last time we spoke Lieutenant, Conrad and Don were both senior executives at New Mexico Power & Light and had been with the company for their entire careers.  As is the case in any large and complex organization, there were some professional disagreements. Both were deeply committed to the Company, but had different visions of its future.  I’m curious Lieutenant.  You continue to probe about the relationship between these two.  Is there something you’re not telling me?  I understand this is a police investigation, but if you were a bit more forthcoming, I could be more helpful.”

This was the break Garcia had hoped for.  “Thank you, Mr. Wright.  There are certain facts and statements that I’m trying to verify and your input would be most appreciated.  We have hard evidence placing Mr. Pearsall in Mr. Alexander’s apartment at La Vida Aureo about the time of death.  When I spoke to Mr. Pearsall recently, he claimed that he didn’t know Mr. Alexander very well and had not been to his apartment. But, I find it difficult to accept that statement based on your comments.  Also, we have a witness that says she overheard Mr. Alexander and another man arguing and the words “coal” and “future” were part of that argument.  From that, I would infer that their professional disagreements, you called them, got personal on occasion.  I am obviously not asking you to divulge any corporate secrets; I’m just trying to solve a murder.”

Graham Wright leaned back in his chair and was quiet.  After what seemed like a long time, he got up and walked to the window and looked out at the Albuquerque skyline. Then he turned to face Lt. Garcia and spoke.  “Lieutenant, the situation surrounding Conrad’s death is very disturbing to me.  It is even more disturbing to think that Don Pearsall was somehow involved.  Both men joined the Company at about the same time and worked closely together for many years early in their careers.  I don’t know why Don would claim otherwise.  Although they were both committed to the Company, they had vastly different perspectives for the future, specifically as it related to the choice of fuel.  Don firmly believed that coal should be the Company’s primary, if not only, source of fuel.  By contrast, Conrad wanted the Company to reduce its dependence on what he saw as a “dirty fuel” and move aggressively toward cleaner sources of energy for the State.  That single issue divided them for most of their careers.”

“In your opinion, Mr. Wright, would that long-standing disagreement be sufficient reason for Mr. Pearsall to take any sort of violent action against Mr. Alexander?”

Wright remained deep in thought as he reflected on his conversation with Alexander concerning the apparent sabotage of the demonstration projects and the questionable monies being paid to Pearsall by LRC Industries.  These remained allegations and Garcia had said he wasn’t interested in Company secrets, so Wright decided to avoid a direct answer to the question.  “I certainly would hope that their differences, regardless how substantial, would never result in anything so serious.  Now, if you’ll excuse me, Lieutenant, I really must leave; I have another appointment to attend.”

“You’ve been most helpful Mr. Wright and I appreciate your candid comments.  I hope to wrap up my investigation very soon.”

Garcia now knew for certain that Pearsall had been lying to him about several matters, which further implicated him in the murder. Garcia realized that it was probably too late in the day to approach Pearsall and he wanted to think everything through one more time.   He decided he would go to Pearsall’s office first thing in the morning and it was likely that he would arrest him at that time and charge him with Alexander’s murder.

 

The next morning, Lt. Garcia was met with even more defiance on the part of Donald Pearsall.  Pearsall denied being in Alexander’s apartment, but would only say that he was “in the field” at the time. As expected, he could not give Garcia the name of anyone who saw him to corroborate his version of events.  In reality, Pearsall was at Duke City Wreckage arguing with James Smith.  Pearsall wanted to terminate the arrangement with LRC Industries, but Smith refused.  In fact, he was demanding more money as payment for La Raza Cosmica’s role in the death of Doris Connell and their continued silence regarding Pearsall.  This refusal to cooperate was all Garcia needed to place Pearsall under arrest and charge him with murder.

Manny Vigil arranged for Pearsall’s bail relatively quickly.  Vigil was angry and wanted urgently to talk to Pearsall in person.  “You Idiot,” Vigil began. Everything was going as planned and you had to go screw things up by killing Alexander.  There was no need.  He was out of the way and the Board was about to name you CEO.”

Despite Pearsall’s repeated protest of his innocence, Vigil continued to rant at him for the next thirty minutes.  Finally, he said, “I will recommend that the Board terminate you with prejudice immediately and not provide any sort of legal assistance.  You really screwed up and you deserve to be on your own.  You are so absolutely stupid!”   With that, Vigil stormed off.

 

When the Board of Directors for New Mexico Power & Light held their emergency meeting, it was Manuel Vigil who proposed terminating Donald Pearsall and severing all relations with him.  The general consensus was that, regardless of the eventual outcome, it was not prudent for the Board to have any further association with Donald Pearsall. Once the Board agreed, Vigil next tendered his own resignation and quietly left the room.  The remaining Board members petitioned Graham Wright to assume all of the open executive positions until suitable replacements could be named.

 

Conrad Alexander had moved to the La Vida Aureo retirement community to await his inevitable death.  He realized that, in many ways, this was a selfish act but he could not think of another option at the time.  He was completely distraught and everything he valued in life was gone.  But over time, he began to emerge from the profound state of depression he had entered soon after his wife’s death. Much to his surprise, he found the environment at La Vida Aureo particularly peaceful and highly restorative.  There was something about the facility’s cook, a woman named Paloma Angostura, that lifted his spirits.  It was nothing she said; it was simply her presence.  He felt a sense of kindness and serenity surrounding her which had such a positive effect on him.

Although he was aware that his illness continued its progression in his body, his mind began to clear and he realized that there were certain obligations he had to fulfill before he died.  He had stayed abreast of developments within New Mexico Power & Light and knew that the innovative alternative energy projects that he had championed were now totally shut down.  The Business Section of the paper reported that Donald Pearsall had been named Interim CEO and proclaimed the Company’s long-term commitment to coal as its primary fuel.  Alexander decided to act.

He correctly assumed that the evidence Doris Connell had developed died with her in the traffic “accident”.  He knew that it would be virtually impossible to reconstruct it, particularly without access to the Company’s detailed accounting records.  Realistically, he assumed that Pearsall had been able to erase all traces of his relationship with LRC Industries, particularly the payments he received.  Most critically, Alexander knew that he would not live long enough to initiate a process to prove any allegations against Pearsall much less see it through to conclusion.  There had to be another way to discredit Pearsall in a relatively short period of time.  The hope of being able to accomplish this gave Conrad Alexander renewed strength and the focus his life had been missing.

Alexander was unable to travel, so it was essential that Pearsall come to La Vida Aureo and Alexander’s apartment.  To accomplish this, Alexander invited Pearsall to visit him under the pretense of “burying the hatchet” and talking about the “good old days” when they were together as young engineers on the Company training program.  Despite his reluctance, Pearsall accepted Alexander’s invitation.  At least, it would give him an opportunity to gloat about the Company’s return to coal and the failure of Alexander’s “pet demonstration projects”.

When he arrived, he found Alexander rearranging furniture, particularly the lamps.  “Hand me that extension cord, will you Don?  Now, would you plug it into that wall socket near the couch?  That’s the one. Thanks.  It helps me read if I can get more light directly overhead.”

Pearsall did as Alexander requested but remained skeptical about why he was here.  Alexander began talking about all the good times and experiences they enjoyed travelling around the State and all the interesting people they had encountered.  Alexander continued this trivial banter for a few minutes without Pearsall ever joining in the conversation.  Suddenly, Alexander’s tone changed.  “You know, Don, I am aware that you are in the pocket of the Coal Companies and have been for years.  I suspect that someone, probably Manny Vigil, arranged that connection for you to secure you as his ally.  I cannot understand why you allowed them to have so much influence over you.  You were certainly paid well enough.  You were perhaps the smartest engineer I knew and could have been a real positive force for the entire organization.  I just don’t understand.”

Pearsall was stunned by Alexander’s abrupt change in behavior.  He had never seen him behave in this manner.  He decided in an instant that the best response to these allegations was to attack.  “Conrad, you’re talking crazy.  Do they have you on a bunch of medications here that have totally screwed up your brain?”

It was critical that Alexander provoke Pearsall. “What about your connection with that LRC Industries outfit?  Were you aware that they are actually a front for the La Raza Cosmica gang, or were you just naïve?  A lot of good people were injured by their actions at Company project sites.”

Pearsall took the bait and began to shout.  “Coal is the future of the Company and none of your half-baked ideas will ever pan out.  People are too stupid to understand how pointless these so-called green technologies are.  People just want cheap electricity and coal is the only way to do that.  As for all this other stuff, you are totally out of your mind!”  With that outburst, Pearsall turned and stormed out of Alexander’s apartment.  He rushed past Martina Trujillo who was standing in the hallway and quickly exited the building.

Martina knocked on the door to Alexander’s apartment and called out. “Señor Alexander. Is everything OK? It is Martina.  May I come in?”  She entered the apartment to find Conrad Alexander sitting quietly in his easy chair.

“Good morning, Martina.  I am quite all right. How are you today?”

“I am fine, Señor Alexander.  I heard shouting and was worried.”

“I appreciate your concern, but everything is fine.”

With that, Martina left the apartment and resumed her normal duties.

 

Alexander smiled to himself and went to his writing desk where he kept a daily planner.  He wrote Donald Pearsall’s name in the planner as an appointment for that morning.  He then turned a few pages and entered Pearsall’s name for a date several days later at about the same time of day. Donning a pair of rubber gloves, he carefully cut the extension cord Pearsall had handled and then stripped approximately two inches of insulation from the end.

Alexander waited patiently for the day that Pearsall’s name would again appear in his planner.  On that morning, he took a small length of rope and rubbed it back and forth on his wrists to create abrasive marks. He placed the rope in the waste basket along with a large amount of used tissue. He rolled his shirt sleeves back down covering the marks. Next, he took a larger-than-normal dose of the pain medication Dr. Collins had prescribed.

He greeted Martina Trujillo warmly when she arrived to clean his apartment later that morning.  They exchanged their normal pleasantries as she went about her chores including carefully emptying all of the waste baskets.  Conrad Alexander spoke to her as she was about to leave.  “Martina, thank you for your thoughtfulness and kindness.  I hope your Father’s condition improves. Oh, and would you please turn the lights off as you leave?  I’m expecting a visitor in a while and I’d like to relax a bit before he arrives.”

Using the cuff of his shirt sleeve to cover his fingertips, he carefully placed the exposed wires deep inside his mouth.  He sighed. As requested, Martina moved the light switch to the OFF position as she exited the apartment.

 

 

Epilogue

Things did not go well for Donald Pearsall.  Even though the case against him was based largely on circumstantial evidence, he remained unable to provide an alibi for his whereabouts at the time of Alexander’s death.  He refused to disclose his association with La Raza Cosmica for fear that it would also implicate him in the death of Doris Connell. Pearsall had retained a capable defense team, but they were quickly running out of legal maneuvers to delay a trial.

The Albuquerque Police Department remained unsuccessful in their attempts to bring any members of La Raza Cosmica to justice.  Lt. Frank Garcia was among those who believed that, if they could bring serious charges against one member of the gang, they could convince him to provide evidence about many unsolved crimes in the State.  But that goal continued to be elusive.

There was a major restructuring in the Board of Directors at New Mexico Power & Light.  With Manny Vigil’s resignation, Graham Wright recruited several new Board members who could lead the Company in a more progressive direction.  The majority of the new technology demonstration projects were restarted under the direction of one of the original Project Managers and early results were very promising for several of the projects.  The Board also authorized a significant increase in spending for Energy Conservation training and education programs.

Isabella Duncan received an unexpected phone call from Serafino Huerfano who asked if could come to her office to discuss several provisions of Conrad Alexander’s Estate that related to La Vida Aureo.  Huerfano began by telling Isabella that the majority of Alexander’s Estate went to establish a Trust at New Mexico Tech to support engineering studies in the areas of energy efficiency and clean technologies for power generation.  “You folks here had a profoundly positive effect on Conrad at a time when he most needed it and he made several stipulations in his Will to say “Thank You”.  First, there is a large amount to be used to upgrade its kitchen and dining facilities.  Conrad wanted to express his appreciation to Paloma Angostura for her kindness.  While we’re talking about the Dining Room, a life-time subscription to the Wall Street Journal has been made in the name of someone called “Doc”. Finally, Conrad made funds available for Martina Trujillo so that she could provide for her parents for the remainder of their lives.  And, I want to add my appreciation to Conrad’s.”

Isabella was stunned.  “I do not have the words to express how much we appreciate Mr. Alexander’s generosity. Everyone here who met him realized what a true gentleman he was.  We will miss him.”

Later that day, Isabella asked Matthew Dudley to conduct a comprehensive maintenance review of Alexander’s former apartment in the Independent Living Section in order to make it available for a future Resident.  Dudley knew enough about Alexander’s behavior and did not expect that much would be required.  After a thorough inspection, the only item requiring attention was the main light switch by entrance door. For some unexplained reason, the ON/OFF switch positions had been reversed.  Dudley quickly made the minor repair and reported to Isabella that the apartment was ready for a new Resident.