Case X: Romeo is Dead
Chapter 1: Coitus Interruptus
Magdalena Torres was satisfied. It was late in the afternoon and she sat in her easy chair in the sun looking out the large window of her casita. Perhaps it was the large Manhattan she was sipping. More likely, it was the post-coital glow from an afternoon of vigorous sex with Cesar Ramirez.
Things were much improved since his involvement in the death of Carmine Felicio (Case III, November, 2014) and the accusations of Dolores Waverly. Although Magdalena permitted Cesar to see other women, he was, for all intent and purpose, on-call to her whenever she desired his services. And, she had insisted that Cesar stop chasing that Anglo woman, JoAnne what’s-her-name. Yes, Magdalena Torres was certainly satisfied with her life at La Vida Aureo.
Her late afternoon reverie was interrupted by a knock on her door. She rose slowly from her chair and was pleased to see Matthew Dudley standing on her patio.
Remembering his previous encounter with Mrs. Torres (Case II, October, 2014), he spoke with some apprehension. “Mrs. Torres, I was on my way back to the main building, but wanted to confirm that I will be here at 9 o’clock tomorrow morning to repair that leaking faucet in your bathroom.”
“Well, Señor Handyman, I will be expecting you. And, please don’t forget to bring all of your tools with you,” she grinned and took another sip of her drink. “If you’re going to the main building, perhaps you would walk with me. It is almost time for dinner and I prefer to not walk alone. I do not care for the way that so many men here look at me with lecherous eyes.”
Dudley thought to himself that it was the men who should be afraid of Mrs. Torres’ lechery, but said, “I would be glad to accompany you to the Dining Room.”
They had only walked a short distance from Mrs. Torres’ casita when Dudley spotted something on the ground, partially hidden among some decorative bushes along the walkway. As he moved cautiously forward and knelt for a closer look, Torres pushed past him.
She immediately recognized the highly-polished black boots with extensive silver ornamentation and elevated heels; they had spent much of the afternoon under her bed. As she moved closer, she saw a man in tight trousers and a colorful silk shirt lying face-down in the grass with a large knife protruding from his back. “Mi Dios; it is Cesar”, she screamed and stumbled to one side.
Dudley quickly confirmed that the body lying in the grass was indeed Cesar Ramirez; the characteristic outfit was unmistakable. He quickly dialed 911 and moved to comfort Mrs. Torres.
Lt. Frank Garcia arrived in a few minutes with Tom Bowers, an Assistant Medical Technician. Dudley greeted Garcia as they approached the body. “I was walking toward the Main Building with Mrs. Torres when we discovered the body, Lieutenant. We haven’t touched anything and Mrs. Torres has returned to her casita which is just back this walkway a bit. Of course, I did not disturb the body, but I’m certain it is Cesar Ramirez.”
“Not the same Ramirez I questioned in regard to that previous case when the woman was found dead in the stairwell?”
“Yes, Lieutenant, it is the same man.”
“Well, I guess I’ll have plenty of potential suspects to interview then! Please just tell me, Doc, that this isn’t another one of those Kardashian-type Reality Dramas! Anyway, Tom and I need to get to work. I assume you need to tell Isabella about this latest incident? I’ll meet you in her office as soon as I get Tom started here.”
“Thanks, Lieutenant. I’ll be in Isabella’s office when you are free.”
Lt. Garcia and Tom Bowers began examining the body and surrounding area. Tom looked up and said, “It looks pretty straight-forward, Lieutenant. The only thing I see is this large knife in his back. There don’t seem to be any other injuries, but I’ll know more when we get a chance to perform a more complete examination.”
The two men looked around the scene and didn’t see any other evidence that could relate to the crime. “I’ll trust you to get the body back to the Morgue, Tom. I’m going to stop in the Director’s office and see what else I can learn about our victim. Let me know when your report is ready. Thanks.”
Garcia found Matthew Dudley sitting in Isabella Duncan’s office just off of the main Lobby. He knew Isabella was a highly professional woman and not easily upset, but she seemed visibly shaken by this most recent situation. “I know this is a difficult time, Isabella, so I’ll try to be brief. Based on my past experience with Mr. Ramirez, I’m afraid I’ll need to interview quite a few Residents. I will try to be as unobtrusive as possible and not disturb any more folks than absolutely necessary. What can either of you tell me about Mr. Ramirez’ most recent “activities”?”
Isabella Duncan gathered her thoughts and emotions before she spoke calmly. “Actually, Lieutenant, things had been relatively quiet since that unfortunate situation with Ms. Felicio. Mr. Ramirez has pretty much behaved himself and not bothered any other female Residents. At least, there haven’t been any complaints or rumors that have reached my desk. Nonetheless, I presume you will want to talk to the same women who were involved before. I suggest you also interview Mrs. Magdalena Torres. It is my understanding that Mr. Ramirez was spending most of his time with her and that she kept a pretty tight leash on his “extracurricular activities”. As it turns out, that situation benefited everyone; it kept two of our more aggressively romantic Residents occupied and basically out of circulation.”
“It was actually Mrs. Torres who initially recognized Mr. Ramirez’ body,” added Dudley. “She and I were walking down the path together when she first spotted his boots sticking out of the shrubbery. I thought it would be OK if she went back to her casita rather than hang around the crime scene. I’m sure she will be willing to talk to you.”
“Thanks, Doc. Yeah, it was probably best to let her return to her place. It would have only added to the confusion and distracted us from looking around. But, she is probably the first person I need to interview. I assume that the other women who were involved with him before are still here at La Vida Aureo. In addition to them, can you think of anyone else I should talk to?”
“Not off-hand, Lieutenant,” suggested Isabella. “As I said, Mr. Ramirez had pretty much left other women alone and really never had too much to do with any of the male Residents. If I think of anyone, I’ll be sure to let you know.”
“Thanks Isabella; and you too, Doc. I’m going to swing by the Kitchen to pay my respects to Señora Angostura and then get back to the Station. I’ll begin my interviews tomorrow morning, if that’s convenient. I’ll certainly keep you posted as to anything we learn from the autopsy as well as the results of my interviews.”
“I know you will try to get this resolved as quickly as possible, Lieutenant. Thank you.”
“You have my word, Isabella.”
Lt. Frank Garcia made his way to the Main Dining Room in search of Paloma Angostura. Señora Angostura was the cook for La Vida Aureo and the woman who had essentially raised Garcia and successfully guided him through a difficult youth. Garcia always made a point of stopping by to pay his respects. He also knew that Señora Angostura was a valuable source of information about all the happenings at La Vida Aureo through what she referred to as her Sopapilla Network. Many of the women who were part of La Vida Aureo’s staff would meet in the small room adjacent to the Main Dining Room each afternoon to wait for their ride home. Angostura would provide a fresh batch of sopapillas and coffee and lemonade for the group. She could then sit quietly and listen as the women discussed the events of the day, which typically revealed the inner goings-on at the facility. Garcia knew that there wasn’t much that happened that Señora Angostura wasn’t aware of or could readily find out. This information was often invaluable to him as he sought to understand the motives and behaviors of some of the Residents.
Paloma greeted Garcia as he walked into the kitchen from the Dining Room. “Francisco, mi hijo. Como esta? Your eyes tell me that you are here with sad news. I just heard about Señor Ramirez and it is most unfortunate.”
“Madre, I know Señor Ramirez was not among your favorite people, but it is indeed a tragedy that he was murdered. Mrs. Duncan told me that he had been on his “good behavior” recently, but I wanted to also ask you about him.”
“That is true. I have not seen him strutting about the Dining Room bothering the women for several months. I believe he spends much of his time with Señora Torres.”
“That is reassuring. What about that group of women that met in here each day; the group that included Ms. Felicio?”
“Oh, they still come here almost every day, the three. I’ve noticed that they get along much better since Señora Felicio’s death. They now actually play cards or dominoes and often invite a fourth person to join in. And the conversation is more respectful than before, but I don’t think they are very open with each other.”
“Have you noticed Mr. Ramirez around any of them? Do you think that any of them would want to harm him in any way?”
“No. He does not stop to talk with them whenever he is in here. Señora Waverly was very angry with him some time ago, as you know, but even she seems to ignore him. I believe she spends time with a man who is not a Resident. “
“Thank you very much, Madre. I think it would still be wise to talk to the three of them just in case they have any information that would help me find out who murdered Mr. Ramirez.”
“I think that is wise, Francisco. Please be careful as you go about your duties. Know that you are always in my prayers. Adios”
Dudley had remained in Isabella Duncan’s office after Lt. Garcia left. “This is a most unfortunate situation, Isabella. Even though Ramirez had been pretty much on his good behavior of late, I can’t help but think that there were still some Residents who resented him. Even with that, I find it hard to believe that anyone here was angry enough to want to kill him. Lt. Garcia didn’t mention it while he was here, but it looked like a rather violent attack to me. Whoever did this exhibited a significant amount of anger or frustration. If it’s OK with you, I think I’ll do a bit of investigating on my own. Maybe someone on the Staff is aware of something that could have precipitated this crime.”
“You’re assuming that it was another Resident who murdered Ramirez?”
“I guess there’s always the possibility that someone from the Outside came in and killed him. It could be a jealous husband or boyfriend from some affair in Ramirez’ past. Hopefully a Resident or Staff member would have noticed any outsiders walking around looking for Ramirez. I would assume that any such person would have to come here several times to be able to plan such an ambush. There are just too many possibilities in this particular situation, but I feel obligated to help Lt. Garcia as much as possible.”
“That’s fine, Doc, but remember you have a responsibility to ALL of the Residents. And, it would be a shame to neglect the Community Assist Team as they rely on you a great deal. Ramirez is dead and there is nothing you can do about that fact. It is really Garcia’s job to find his killer, not yours.”
“I understand completely, Isabella.”