Case XII: Chapter 10: Good Police Work
The next morning, Lt. Frank Garcia returned to his office in search of some well-needed peace and quiet after the lengthy Morning Briefing with the Chief. Things had been relatively quiet for the past few days in Albuquerque, at least in terms of the kind of major crime cases that involved Garcia. Nonetheless, the Chief wanted to initiate a series of new programs aimed at crime prevention and the typically short briefing meeting seemed to drag on.
Just as Garcia was about the take the first sip of his fresh cup of coffee, his phone rang. An obviously irate woman on the line identified herself as Camille Linderman and immediately lit into Garcia. “Who do I need to talk to about getting some answers? I’ve been given the run-around for the past thirty minutes. I don’t buy the excuse that “everyone’s in a meeting”. I demand my Mother’s body be released immediately. I keep getting bounced around between the Police and the Coroner. Finally, somebody told me you were the person holding things up. I demand action.”
Garcia had been assured the results from the fingerprint lab would be on his desk today and he hoped they were buried someplace on his desk. As he desperately shuffled papers on his desk, he tried to calm Mrs. Linderman down while stalling for time. Just as he heard her take another deep breath in preparation for another verbal onslaught, Tom Bowers walked in waving a piece of paper and mouthed the words, “I think this is what you’re looking for, Frank.”
“Mrs. Linderman, I apologize for any inconvenience. I know it is of little consolation to you, but I really have been in a meeting with the Chief since I got here this morning. I understand you are calling about your Mother. Please accept my sincere condolences. And, I apologize for how long this process has taken; sometimes the communication between Departments gets really screwed up.”
“That’s of little concern to me. I just want to know when her body will be released.”
“I’ll make the necessary calls as soon as we’re finished and make sure her body gets released by the end of today. I presume you’ve provided instructions to the Coroner’s office.”
“Yes, I thought I took care of that some time ago. I signed some papers at the Retirement Home I understood took care of everything.”
“Mrs. Linderman, you’re not going to like this, but those papers pertained only to your Mother’s living arrangements. Let me do this. I’ll personally get all the necessary forms and have them here in my office in a few hours. If you could stop by early this afternoon, I am confident we can finalize everything at that time. Because you’ve been so inconvenienced, I will authorize the release of your Mother’s body immediately if I can have your word that you’ll come by to sign these final forms today.”
Camille Linderman had calmed down a slight bit. “I think I can make arrangements to come to your office right after lunch. I seldom get to Albuquerque, but happen to be meeting my husband for lunch today.”
“Whatever is most convenient for you, Mrs. Linderman. And, again, I’m sorry for your loss.”
“Thank you, Lieutenant.”
“Oh, Mrs. Linderman, why don’t you bring your husband along? I’m not completely familiar with all the Coroner’s forms and there might be one that requires his signature.”
“That could be a problem; he’s a very important person at Wells Fargo. But, neither of us wants this to be delayed any longer. I’ll make sure he comes with me.”
After Garcia hung up the phone and massaged his ear, he studied all of the lab reports in detail. Neither Isabella nor Dudley had been very subtle about their suspicions and the role the Lindermans had played in Mrs. Aldridge’s death. The fingerprint analysis confirmed the worst. The bottle of grain alcohol found in Mrs. Aldridge’s pantry contained her prints, confirming she had most likely used it to spike her cream sherry. It was the same bottle that was contaminated with poisonous wood alcohol. The grain alcohol bottle also had prints matching those appearing on the Casino chip, presumably belonging to Roger Linderman. Garcia realized that all of this analytical information was interesting, but not conclusive; it was circumstantial at best. He would need proof that one or both of the Lindermans had deliberately poisoned Mrs. Aldridge and that proof would have to come from the Lindermans directly. Hopefully, their upcoming visit would provide Garcia that opportunity.
Matthew Dudley resumed his daily routine and attended to the numerous maintenance requests that had been ignored while he played House Detective. After over a week with no communication from Lt. Garcia, Dudley could no longer stand the suspense and stopped Isabella Duncan in the hallway near her office. “Have you heard anything; from Garcia, Camille Linderman, anyone? I’m eager to know what happened and I assume you are also.”
“As it turns out, Doc, I got a somewhat cryptic text message from Garcia just a few minutes ago. He said he would be stopping by this afternoon to visit with Paloma and wondered if you and I would have a few minutes.”
“Did he say anything about his investigation?”
“No; his text was brief and I believe he was being deliberately evasive. I suspect it is his way of reminding us that he’s the one in charge!”
“OK; I guess we do deserve a bit of reprimanding for interfering, but we were only trying to help. I’ll be around all afternoon; please just call me the minute he arrives.”
Dudley was on the third floor when he noticed Garcia drive into the Visitors’ parking lot and walk casually into the main building. He rushed to the center stairwell only to watch Garcia head straight to the kitchen. It was almost twenty minutes later when Dudley’s phone buzzed with a brief text from Isabella, “He’s here”.
For the first ten minutes when they were all together in Isabella’s office, Garcia talked about the weather and his visit with Paloma and other nonessential topics. Finally, he decided he had tormented them long enough and a big grin broke out across his face. “I wonder if you would like to know how my investigation into Mrs. Aldridge’s death is going.”
“C’mon, Frank, you’ve toyed with us long enough. Please tell us what is happening.”
“OK, Doc. I guess it I can share a bit of confidential police information with the two of you. First of all, I want to express my sincere appreciation for your help in determining the actual cause of Mrs. Aldridge’s death. As you both suspected, her death was not an accident as it first appeared; she was definitely poisoned. We will probably never know the exact details, but I think it is reasonable to assume the poison in her sherry was at least partly responsible for her fall which was ultimately the cause of death. And, you were also correct to believe that her daughter and son-in-law played an active role in her poisoning. When I was here last, you presented me with those surprising little gifts which just happened to contain their fingerprints. I assume you realized I could not use those as conclusive evidence for several reasons, but it did point me in a direction to follow. Almost coincidentally, Mrs. Linderman called and demanded some action. So, I took that opportunity to invite both of them to come in and talk. Sergeant Bernadette Armijo and I were able to conduct interviews that same afternoon.”
“I assume you did the “Good Cop, Bad Cop” routine with them to get the truth.”
“No, Doc, that wasn’t really necessary. As Mr. and Mrs. Linderman entered Police Headquarters, Sgt. Armijo diverted Roger Linderman into a separate interview room while I guided Camille Linderman into another. Bernie began her discussion with Roger by expressing her concern for his wife and all the stress she must be experiencing related to her mother’s untimely death. That was basically all it took. Roger Linderman went on a tirade about what he referred to as his wife’s stupid witchcraft practice and her obsession with roots and herbs and their supposed powers. He laughed when he described how she had unsuccessfully used various potions to control her mother and then tried to poison her out of total frustration.”
“So, you think it was Camille Linderman who poisoned her own mother?”
“Probably not, despite trying, repeatedly. We’re convinced it was the wood alcohol that was the actual poisoning agent. And, that takes me to my interview with Camille. When I tried to express my sympathy about her mother’s death, she went off on her husband. She claimed her potions were having the desired effect, but that Roger would not give her sufficient time. She complained that he never respected her knowledge and expertise. She said that he became increasingly impatient because of mounting gambling debts and decided to act on his own to poison Mrs. Aldridge by altering her sherry. It didn’t take much encouragement to get signed statements from both Lindermans and they have been formally charged in the death of Mrs. Aldridge.”
Matthew Dudley remained in Isabella Duncan’s office for a while after Lt. Frank Garcia left. “Although it upsets me a great deal to reflect on Mrs. Aldridge’s death, I am glad we were able to help Lt. Garcia get to the bottom of things.”
“So, Mrs. Branch wasn’t too far off the mark. There was witchcraft involved. It just wasn’t Señora Angostura’s sister. I’m pleased to know there aren’t any brujas living or visiting here,” said Isabella.