The Dover Affair
the Files of Johnny
by Dave Zeltserman
......It was eight thirty in
the morning. I still had a half hour before my meeting with Tom
Morton, so I gave Eddie Braggs a call. Eddie's my editor at the
Denver Examiner. He didn't seem his usual self, though.
He acted kind of brusque and tried to rush me off the phone.
I interrupted him and told him that I was meeting Morton at nine.
......Morton was Richard Dover's
attorney. Richard's fiancée, Susan Laem, had been found
strangled in a motel room five days earlier, and Richard was
being accused by the State of Colorado of her murder.
......I could hear the excitement
crackling in Eddie's voice as he asked whether I was going to
be hired to investigate on Richard's behalf.
......"It looks that way,"
......"This is big, Johnny,"
Eddie said. There was a pause, then, "If you get this, I'll
run extra Fast Lane columns until the trial is over.
......"I'll have to make
sure I get it then. You hear anything?"
......"Something about it
being open and shut. My guess, there's got to be pretty damning
physical evidence, but the DA's office is keeping a tight lid
on it until the Grand Jury hearing."
......"Have you ever met
either of them, Richard or his mother?"
......Eddie chuckled. "Margaret
Dover? She's a little out of my circle. Maybe if I donated a
wing to a local hospital she'd invite me for afternoon tea. Johnny,
let me know how things go with Morton."
......We exchanged pleasantries,
with Eddie being a hell of a lot nicer than when I first called.
After I hung up, I headed out the door.
......I got to Tom Morton's office
at nine o'clock as we had agreed, but Morton wasn't in yet and
his secretary had me sit in the reception area. I wasn't happy
with waiting, especially since Morton had set the time, but I
was willing to put up with it. I would've been willing to stand
on my head in the corner to get this case.
......After about ten minutes
of waiting, Morton's secretary brought me some coffee and shot
the breeze with me. Around nine-forty Morton came huffing in.
He thrust his square jaw in the direction of his secretary and
told her to bring us both some coffee and bagels. He always seemed
to have a smug expression on his face. His old man had bought
him his law partnership when he was thirty-five and that only
made him all the more smug. Still huffing, he told me
to join him in his office.
......As Morton got behind his
desk, he put his briefcase away and then looked at me. "Damn
traffic," he said. "Denver's getting so congested these
days. So, what do you know about this?"
......"Only what's been
in the papers," I said. "I did hear something about
there being physical evidence against your client."
......Morton's secretary knocked
and came in with the coffee and bagels. After she left, Morton
asked, "Before we get into that, I'd like to know if you
plan on writing about this for your column?"
......"I'd like to."
....Morton seemed satisfied,
took a bite of his bagel, and stared at me as he chewed it slowly.
"Mrs. Dover is going to be here at ten. She has a few concerns,
but don't worry, I'm sure we can work past them." He glanced
at his watch. "We've only got ten minutes."
......"What concerns does
......Morton waved the question
away. "I said don't worry. About the evidence, there's
quite a bit, apparently. Forensics found skin and traces of blood
under the dead girl's fingernails. An initial test matched
Richard's DNA. Blood samples have been sent to Washington for
more precise DNA testing. I guess we can pray for a miracle."
Morton paused for a moment and showed an uncomfortable smile.
"Police also found fresh scratch marks on Richard's arm,"
......"Does he have an explanation?"
Just that he's being framed. But he is being adamant about it,
and you know, I almost believe him. I'm counting on 'Fast Lane'
to help sway public opinion. I think we're going to need it."
......There was a knock on the
door and then Margaret Dover walked in. She was a tall woman,
about six feet, but a better word to describe her would be long.
She had long legs, a long torso, and a long neck. Kind of a Greta
Garbo type. She was probably in her early fifties, but her hair
was already more gray than blond. Until recently she probably
would've been considered attractive. Now, though, she only looked
......"Your secretary told
me to come back here," she explained.
...... He shook her hand and
introduced us, saying, "I've worked with Johnny often over
......Margaret offered me her
hand and then sat down to my left. She seemed ill at ease. "Mr.
Lane," she said, "I have to tell you, I am not comfortable
with the idea of hiring you and having my family's private matters
I said, trying to hide my disappointment, " I respect my
clients' privacy and only write about cases if I'm given permission
up front. If you would like me keep the matter private, I will
certainly honor that. But Tom seems to feel that my column could
help your son."
......Morton added, "Margaret,
the newspapers are going to be digging up every piece of dirt
they can. It could help us tremendously to have a forum where
we can get our version of the story out. Especially with all
the physical evidence going against Richard. And trust me, Johnny's
column carries a lot of weight in this town."
......She still seemed undecided.
"Mrs. Dover," I said, showing my most sincere smile.
"What I am going to try to do is find evidence to exonerate
your son. You believe he's innocent, don't you?"
......She nodded. "I know
he's innocent. He was home with me at the time Susan was murdered.
I don't understand why the police won't accept that."
......Morton tried a compassionate
look, but he still came off smug. "They probably would,
except you're his mother."
......"I'm not lying,"
......"I know you're not,"
......She turned to me. "You've
had your clients' permission for all of the cases you've written
I lied. I didn't mention a few times where my clients had ended
up dead, but hell, they weren't around to complain. And there
were a few times where they had lied to me, trying to manipulate
me, and in those cases all bets were off.
......"And you think you
can help free my son?"
......"I'll do my best."
......She wavered for a moment,
but agreed to hire me and also agreed to let me write about the
case. My daily rate was four hundred dollars and she wrote me
a check for eight thousand dollars. It was a lot more that I
was going to ask for. She got up to leave, shook hands with both
of us, and then hesitated at the door.
......"Mr. Lane," she
said, "If what you find does clear my son's name, I'll pay
you a bonus of ten thousand dollars."
......Morton got up and escorted
Mrs. Dover out of the office. When he came back he informed me
that he had arranged a twelve o'clock conference with Richard
at the County Jail. I asked him if he had any photos of Susan
......He took a folder from his
desk and handed it to me. Inside were several photos of the victim
while she was still among the living. One was a studio shot and
a couple had her posing on a tennis court. She was so young in
these pictures --barely looked twenty-- and she was a knockout.
Long red hair, green eyes, peaches and cream skin, and a toned
near perfect body. I studied her pictures and felt something
funny in my throat. There was so much life in her eyes. They
seemed almost to sparkle on the photographic paper. And this
little smile she had like she was the only one on our little
planet who knew the joke, and maybe, just maybe, she'd let the
rest of us in on it someday. I put her pictures back in the folder.
......"The picture they've
been running in the papers doesn't do her justice," I said.
......"Yeah, hell of a waste,"
......I got up to leave. We agreed
to meet at the Denver County Jail by a quarter to twelve. On
the way I stopped at my bank to deposit the check. I also called
Eddie at the Examiner to tell him things were all set.
......Morton was waiting for
me at the County Jail. We were both given perfunctory searches
and then taken to a small interview room. It had already been
a long morning and I guess neither of us felt much like talking.
Morton sat quietly and worked on his nails with a small manicure
file. I just sat with my eyes half closed, squinting against
the sunlight. I glanced at my watch. It was a few minutes before
......The door opened and two
guards brought Richard Dover into the room. He was a slight
but good-looking man. He had some of his mother's features, her
nose and high cheekbones, but not her height. He was on the short
side, no more than five foot six. He waited until the
guards removed his ankle and wrist chains and nodded to Morton.
The guards left, closing the door, and he sat across from us.
Four days in county jail and his skin was already turning an
......Morton introduced me. Richard's
eyes brightened. "You're the detective in the newspapers,"
he said, smiling slightly. "I read your column sometimes.
It's good stuff."
......"Thanks," I said.
......"I didn't kill her,"
he said plainly, smile turning a bit sour. "The blood
evidence is a frame."
...... "You think the police
planted your blood?" I asked.
......Morton cut in to score
some brownie points by showing he was paying attention. "It's
not like it never happens," he offered, jutting out his
......Richard's smile had turned
more sour. "It's a frame. There's a lot of money behind
......"And what about the
......"Just lousy luck.
I got them in a bar fight. Susan had nothing to do with them."
......"What was she doing
in that motel room?'
......"I don't know."
......I sat back and considered
him at length. His story seemed far-fetched--the scratches, his
blood found under her fingernails--but he was far from
stupid and he was showing a damn good poker face.
......"You think you know
who's framing you?" I asked finally.
......He shrugged. His smile
was gone. He looked away for a moment before meeting my
eyes. "This is a bit awkward. I'm going to have to admit
to some bad behavior. I don't see any way around it. This
thing with Susan could end up screwing me."
......"You're taking your
fiancée's murder awful hard."
......"She wasn't my fiancée."
......For the first time Morton
looked like he was paying attention. Richard leaned forward,
"Susan was, uh, more of a business associate," he said
quietly. "She was, well, how should I say, helping me raise
money from some of my mother's friends."
......"And how was that?"
......Richard tried to show me
a smile but it didn't stick. "Susan was a prostitute when
I met her. She was very good at what she did. I'd introduce her
around at parties. Later, as far as they were concerned, they
were screwing my fiancée behind my back. Susan would make
them pay to keep things quiet."
......"You were extorting
money from your mother's friends?" Morton moaned.
......"How much would you
take them for?" I asked.
......"Susan was expensive.
Usually between ten to twenty thousand."
......"And would this be
a one-time deal or an ongoing event?"
......"As far as I knew
it was a one-time payment. Maybe Susan was going behind my back
and double- or triple- charging them. I don't know. Maybe that's
why she was killed."
......"So you think one
of them killed her and set you up for it?" I asked.
said. His lips had compressed into a harsh smile. "I'm pretty
sure of it. It's the only thing I can come up with that explains
why my blood was supposedly found on Susan. These guys have the
money and the political weight to fix something like this."
said. "This is going to be a mess. Even if I get you off
for murder, extortion could still cost you some serious jail
...... "Maybe. Susan always
played it as if I didn't know what was going on."
......"You're sure of that?"
I asked. "You're sure she never told any of your victims
that you were involved?"
......"She wasn't supposed
to, but who knows?"
......I had a pad of paper in
front of me. I gave it to Richard and asked him to write the
names and addresses of the family friends they had blackmailed.
He worked on it for a little bit and then handed me back the
pad. There were six names on it, three that I recognized. I couldn't
keep from whistling.
list," Richard said.
......"Sure is," I
admitted. "You like any of these more than the others?"
......Richard thought about it
and shook his head.
......"I've got to
ask you, " I said, "Your mom is wealthy, you've got
a nice trust fund and all the opportunities in the world. Why
have you been doing this?"
......Richard stared at me before
showing a slight smile. "Why not?"
......Our interview was over.
There was a knock on the door and then two guards entered. One
of them nodded to me and told me how much he liked my monthly
column. I thanked him and shook his hand. They then put the shackles
back on Richard's wrists and ankles and led him out of the room.
......Morton seemed preoccupied
as he gathered up his papers. As we walked out of the interview
room, he swore a few times under his breath.
......"You see the names
on that list?"
......"You think he's telling
the truth?" I asked.
......Morton was scowling. "I
don't know," he said. "But I sure as hell need
you to find out. I'm not going to depose any of them unless I
know for sure they've been blackmailed. This is going to be a
......We separated in the parking
lot. Morton looked upset. I didn't blame him much. These were
rich and powerful men. It wasn't going to be much fun embarrassing
them. I sure wasn't looking forward to it either.
......If Richard were lying about
the blackmail, it was a clever lie. His trial would turn into
the biggest media circus Denver had ever seen. Six rich and powerful
men -- including one CEO and two state politicians -- would have
to take the stand and answer questions about whether they had
illicit sex with Susan Laem and whether they paid her to keep
quiet about it. At least one juror would be swayed by the whole
thing. Yeah, it would be one hell of a clever lie, except I didn't
think it was a lie. There was a look on Richard's face
when I asked about the blackmail. The look told me not
only did he do it, but that he'd do it again in a heartbeat.
That he got off on it.
......Morton was right -- the
whole thing was going to get messy. And I could end up making
enemies that I just couldn't afford to make. The smart thing
would be to drop the case. That would be the smart thing. But
as my poppa always said, there were fools and there were damn
fools. And I guess I fell into the latter category.
......Then there was the money.
I hated turning down the type of cash Margaret Dover was offering.
Aside from that, though, I needed a good case. The last couple
of months, Braggs had had to reprint past columns and he wasn't
too happy about it. I had a feeling that if I asked for too many
more reprints, he'd drop me. Then I'd be "the P.I. who used
to be in the papers."
......I got in my car and headed
towards East Colfax.
......East Colfax is a street
that the Denver Chamber of Commerce doesn't like to advertise.
You can find streets like it in most urban cities. A street
littered with pawnshops, strip clubs, massage parlors, and adult
bookstores. Any time of day you can find your share of hookers,
drug addicts and runaways loitering there.
......Rude was standing at the
corner of Nineteenth Street smoking a cigarette, his black eyes
staring distantly at some point no one else could see. Rude works
as a bouncer for a strip club a few doors down from where he
was standing. He did two tours of duty with an elite force in
Vietnam, spending most of his time hunting Vietcong in the jungle.
The way he explains it now is he can't stay cooped up inside
for too long, he needs to get out every half hour or so for some
fresh air even if all that's available is the brownish
smog we get here in Denver.
......I pulled up alongside him.
He slowly moved his gaze towards me.
......"If it isn't Denver's
poet laureate, Johnny Lane." he said.
......"It sure is nice to
be recognized," I said. "As my poppa always said --"
......"Cut it out, Lane,"
he interrupted. "What do you want?"
......"I need to find out
about this girl." I handed him one of Susan Laem's pictures.
......Rude's eyes narrowed to
thin slits as he studied the picture. "She's the girl who
was strangled by her rich boyfriend," Rude said slowly.
......"Maybe, maybe not,"
I said. "She might at one point have been working
as a pro. If she did, I need to find out if she had a pimp, or
who she hung out with. Anything you can find."
......Rude didn't say anything.
I handed him two hundred dollars. Rude seemed satisfied with
it. He told me he'd call if he found out something. He then shifted
his gaze from me and stared back into his own private godforsaken
......I turned down Nineteenth
Street and headed towards downtown Denver. It was already past
one and my stomach was feeling empty. I parked behind my office
building and walked the two blocks to the Corner Diner. Carol
was working the booths and I was glad to see her. She was a cute
little thing, blond, blue eyes, her body fitting nicely in a
size four waitress uniform. I kidded with her a bit and in no
time at all had her blushing a nice red. When she brought me
my food, though, I realized I didn't have much of an appetite.
I guess the idea of tackling this blackmail business -- and
stepping on toes that I just didn't want to step on --
was bothering me. But there was the money and several bylines
I'd get out of it. I forced down a few bites and then headed
back to my office.
......Once I got behind my desk,
I took out Richard's blackmail list and looked it over. As I
had mentioned before three of the names were familiar. I recognized
all the addresses, though. They were all in wealthy, exclusive
neighborhoods. I got on the phone and after a little while filled
out the rest of the list. One of the names was that of a judge,
another was big in real estate, and the third was just plain
......Even though I operate a
one-man agency I subcontract out quite a bit of work, and usually
have a small mountain of paperwork that needs to be chipped away
at. The last few months had been slower than usual, but I still
had a good deal of it to go through. I put Richard's list down
and picked up one of the case reports from my desk. I tried to
concentrate on the report, but had a tough time with it. My mind
just kept wandering. At times I thought about Richard, about
his blood being found on the dead girl, and other times I thought
about the six men he claimed he had blackmailed. Then I started
thinking of the dead girl, Susan Laem, wondering what the joke
was that she had had on all the rest of us.
......At four o'clock Rude called.
He had a girl down at the club that he wanted me to talk to.
I asked if he could put her on the phone, but he insisted that
I meet them there. It was four-thirty by the time I parked across
the street from Rude's strip club.
......Business was light in there.
There were a few guys sitting around the stage and a few more
at a couple of the tables. A thin dark haired girl wearing a
cowboy hat was moving slowly around the stage to Bob Seger's
'Against The Wind'. She already had her top off and was teasing
some with her G-String. Rude was sitting at a table in the back,
about as animated as a block of granite. I joined him
at his table. He shifted his eyes sideways for a moment and then
moved his gaze back to the dancer on stage.
......"That's the girl you
want to talk to," he said. "Gina. Her set's almost
......We sat and waited until
she was done. A few dollar bills were slipped into her G-String,
a few more were thrown on stage. She picked up the bills and
slipped on a tight fitting sleeveless shirt. Rude waved her over
......Gina gave me a big 'Hello
Honey', and sat down next to me. Rude stopped her. "This
is the private dick I was telling you about," he said to
her. Then he shifted his gaze to me. "I think you're going
to want to hear what Gina has to say, Lane," he said, "It's
going to cost you a hundred bucks."
......"I already paid you
two hundred," I said.
......"You paid me, you
didn't pay her," he said. He started to look annoyed --
one of the few times in all the years I'd known him that he showed
any emotion on his stone hard face. "You know, Lane,"
he added, "it pisses me off that guys like me run around
and do all your work, and you just write it up in your shitty
little newspaper column and take all the credit for it."
......"Well, now. If you
feel that strongly about it, Rude, I'll make sure to include
you in my next column."
......"You will?" he
asked, sort of surprised.
I said. Of course I didn't mention how I'd include how he pimps
for half the girls working at his club. I turned to Gina
and paid her a hundred dollars. I knew Rude would take his cut
......"You want to know
about Susie?" she asked.
......"That's right, darling.
Do you know if she ever worked as a prostitute?"
......Gina nodded. She took a
deep breath. "It was kind of a shock to hear about what
happened to her, but it also wasn't. Susie was so damn beautiful.
She could've been an actress or a model or really anything she
wanted, but everything was a joke to her. As far as she was concerned
life was nothing but one big joke. Yeah, Susie used to dance
and she also used to turn tricks."
......"Did she have a pimp?"
......"No. Susie arranged
her own business."
......"Did you know Richard
......"No. I stopped seeing
her about the time she met him. That was about a year ago."
......I gave her a long look.
She had a brittle smile and was nervously pulling on her fingers,
but she was being sincere. I asked her whether she thought Susan
Laem would be up to squeezing a little extra money out of her
sex partners. Gina gave it some thought and told me she thought
she would. "It would probably be just a big joke to Susie,"
......It was what I had expected.
I started to thank Gina when Rude interrupted me.
......"You haven't heard
the best part, Lane," he said.
......"Gina, tell Lane about
......Gina took another deep
breath and let it out slowly. "Me and my boyfriend were
in a store and we came across some videotapes Susie had made."
......"Lane, ask her what
type of tapes they were," Rude offered, a thin smile etched
on his face.
......Gina didn't wait for me
to ask. "She was making amateur voyeur tapes," she
......"What are those?"
...... "You got videos where
one of the partners doesn't know they're being taped. There's
a sort of underground market for them now. Susie had several
tapes. I think the series was 'Bedroom Eyes'."
......I could feel my heart skip
a beat. I was pretty sure who her partners were going to be.
Those tapes would create havoc in the courtroom, and just about
guarantee Richard's acquittal. I wondered why he didn't tell
me about them. I wondered if he even knew about them.
......"I told you it would
be worth your while," Rude said.
......I agreed with him. I thanked
Gina, and she gave me the name of an adult bookstore on East
Colfax where she had found the tapes.
......Things went easy at the
adult bookstore. The clerk recognized my name from my column
and seemed to be a fan. I showed him Susan's picture, and told
him that I thought she was in some videotapes in the 'Bedroom
Eyes' series. He helped me find them. There were three of them.
He told me that he had sold a few of them lately.
......When I got home I went
through the tapes. There was something disquieting about watching
Susan Laem, knowing that she now lay dead in the morgue. She
was certainly beautiful, though. You could see why these men
couldn't turn her down. There was so much passion in her, so
much life in her eyes. At times, though, I could see a little
smile playing on her lips.
......The action seemed to take
place in a motel room. My guess it was the same one that she
was murdered in. The video camera must've been hidden directly
across from the bed. Richard made a guest appearance on one of
the tapes. From his body language it was obvious that he was
aware of the camera. That answered my question of whether he
knew about the tapes. Her other partners were men in their fifties
and sixties. It didn't seem that any of them knew they were being
......As I went through the tapes,
I wrote down the track numbers where each new partner appeared.
There were actually eight different men, not six. Richard was
one. I wondered who the other man was.
......I phoned Margaret Dover
at her home and told her that I had found some new evidence
and that I needed her help. I didn't tell her about the tapes,
or that I needed her to identify the men on them. I figured that
could wait. I asked if we could meet. She sounded tired, but
agreed to see me. I made sure she had a VCR and we arranged to
meet at her home in an hour. There was an errand that I wanted
to do before that.
......The motel Susan Laem died
in was off the interstate. It took about twenty minutes to drive
there. The building was an eyesore; a one level concrete structure
built sometime in the sixties. A sign out front advertised that
adult films were available.
......The desk clerk was a thin
pockmarked kid with greasy stringy hair. I asked him if I could
see the room Susan Laem was murdered in. He told me that I couldn't,
that the police had the room sealed off.
......I put the videotapes on
the counter. "Listen, son," I said, "do
the police know you got hidden video cameras in the rooms?"
......His eyes dulled a bit,
but other than that no reaction. "We don't secretly tape
anyone here. If there are video cameras in the room they're there
for our guests' private use."
......"Well now," I
said. "That's awfully damn accommodating of you. I need
to see her room. If I need to get the police involved, that's
......He thought about it for
a moment and then got me the key. "If there are any tapes
made, they're made by our guests," he offered sullenly.
......I took the 'Bedroom Eyes'
videotapes from the counter, and then walked across the parking
lot to Susan Laem's room. The video camera was hidden in some
paneling opposite from the front of the bed. I checked to make
sure that the camera was empty.
......I guess it was wishful
thinking on my part that a tape had been left behind waiting
to play back Susan's murder to me. In a way I was glad there
wasn't; it would've been a tough thing to sit through. It was
tough enough sitting through the tapes I had. I returned the
key to the desk clerk and headed off to meet with Margaret Dover.
......The Dover home was in a
historic section of Denver, just a mile or so from downtown,
a big stone structure, big enough to be a small hotel. Margaret
met me at the door, looking a little more tired, and maybe a
little more haggard around the eyes, than when I had seen her
......"Please come in, Mr.
......She led me through a hallway
and into the living room. There was a full-sized bar off to the
side. I guess she saw me looking at it.
......"Would you like a
drink?" she asked.
up would do me a world of good."
......She went to the bar and
made me a drink and poured herself some scotch. After she handed
me a glass, I gave her a quick rundown on what I'd found so far
and what I needed from her. She took it all in without saying
a word, almost as if she were in shock. While I played her the
tapes I would just show her enough of a participant so she could
identify him, then I'd turn off the picture and fast forward
the tape to the position where the next participant would appear.
I tried to show her as little of the tapes as I could. I skipped
her son's performance altogether. Through it all she looked ashen.
The seventh man on the tape was identified as Chase Powell. He
was married, wealthy, and owned a large accounting firm in Denver.
He was a longtime family friend. Now all the men were accounted
for on her son's list.
......When we were done, Margaret
sat quietly for a long moment. Then she asked whether I was sure
that her son was involved. She wanted to know whether it was
possible that that girl had arranged things without her son's
......I shook my head. "Your
son told me about the blackmail," I said, "And I'm
certain he knew about the tapes. He seemed to enjoy the whole
idea of it. He did, though, try to make it look as if he wasn't
involved with any of it."
......"And that girl wasn't
my son's fiancée?"
......She didn't say anything
else for a good minute. As I looked at her it seemed as if she
were aging before my eyes. Finally she asked if there were any
other tapes. I told her there weren't.
......"These are good friends
of mine," she said after a while, her voice sounding odd
and distant. "It's bad enough Richard had to bring that
girl into our lives, but to blackmail my friends and to make
those tapes? My son went too far this time, Mr. Lane, he just
went too far. I don't want you showing those tapes to anyone
......I was taken aback by that.
"Your son believes one of those men murdered Susan and fixed
it so his blood would be found at the crime scene. Whether or
not that happened, those tapes would create plenty of reasonable
......She was shaking her head.
"None of those men murdered that girl and the police did
not plant Richard's blood on her body. I was lying before. Richard
was not here the night that girl was murdered."
......"Any idea where he
......"Richard was probably
in that motel room murdering her. Who knows, maybe she had tried
blackmailing Richard herself, maybe she threatened to tell my
friends about Richard's involvement. What I do know is I'm not
going to make excuses for my son's behavior anymore."
......She stood up and walked
over to where her pocketbook was lying. She picked it up and
took out a checkbook and a pen from it and then sat back down.
......"My husband committed
suicide when Richard was only four," she said. "Maybe
it was my fault, but my son never adjusted to it. He was always
acting out. He never showed any concern with who he hurt. I'm
through protecting him, Mr. Lane. I'm not going to continue ignoring
the awful things he does."
......She tore out a check and
started to fill it in. "You were promised a bonus if you
exonerated Richard," she said. "As far as I'm concerned,
you've done everything that I could've asked of you. I'm paying
you in full, including the bonus. I also expect this matter to
be kept private."
......She handed me a check for
twenty thousand dollars. I thanked her and left her the tapes.
......When I got home there was
a message from my fan at the adult bookstore. I called him back
and he told me he had found another tape with Susan. "It's
from a different series," he told me, "something called
'Naughty Girls', but it's really wild."
......I was already paid in full
and off the job. As much as I didn't feel like it, I headed off
to East Colfax. I was too curious not to check it out. The clerk
at the store had the tape waiting for me. "This one is really
something," he promised.
......When I got back home, I
turned on my TV. I was about to plug the tape into my VCR when
I heard: "The body of Denver businessman, Chase Powell,
has been found in the mountains. Police believe he was killed
elsewhere and his body taken..."
......It finally clicked why
Richard had left Chase Powell's name off the list and why he
didn't tell me about the 'Bedroom Eyes' tapes. I called a few
police detectives that I was friendly with and was filled in
with what they knew so far. Powell had had his head smashed in
with something heavy and was last seen Friday, the same day Susan
was murdered. The medical examiner now had Powell's body. After
five days of being exposed to the elements the body was kind
of ragged and it was doubtful how much they'd find. The last
cop I talked to was out of homicide. He asked if I had anything.
I told him I wasn't sure, but I'd let him know in a few days.
......I tried to think it through.
It seemed that Richard was involved with Chase Powell's death,
but it didn't answer how Susan ended up strangled with Richard's
blood on her fingers. I tried to work out different scenarios
where he ended up killing both Susan and Powell, but nothing
quite made sense. Most likely Powell found out about the videotapes
and confronted Richard, but I couldn't connect that with Richard
then killing Susan.
......The thing of it was, I
still felt Richard had told me the truth that he really
believed he was being framed for Susan's murder. After a while
the whole thing started to give me a headache. I gave up on it
and played my new videotape.
......The clerk was right. It
was wild. The tape had Susan in the same motel room with yet
another middle-aged man, the guy being somewhere in his fifties
or early sixties. He was thin and tall with gray hair and a thick
gray mustache. And he was wearing an old-fashioned suit and the
type of derbies they made thirty years ago. Susan got out of
her clothes and then started to undress this guy except
it wasn't a guy. By the time Susan got the suit jacket and shirt
off it was obvious her companion was a middle-aged woman with
a fake mustache. By the time the pants were taken off I realized
who she was and I just started laughing. It wasn't really funny,
but I just couldn't help it. I just kept laughing until my sides
ached. Because the thing of it was I now knew the big joke Susan
Laem had over all the rest of us. And I knew why the preliminary
DNA test matched Richard Dover's blood.
......The other woman in the
video was Margaret Dover. I watched for a while the pure amusement
that sparkled in Susan's eyes as she positioned her partner into
different sex acts. Margaret moved awkwardly, her own eyes reflecting
at times lust and at other times unadulterated shame. After about
ten minutes of it, I started to fast-forward through the rest
of the tape. There were a total of five segments with Susan and
Margaret, all with the older woman initially in disguise. Each
segment was wilder than the last. And with each one, I could
tell it was getting harder for Susan to keep her joke to herself.
......I stopped the tape. The
segments must've been recorded over several weeks. I wondered
what went on in the motel room that last time. My guess was Susan
tried blackmailing Margaret. Or maybe she just couldn't keep
her joke to herself anymore. Anyway, it ended with Susan having
her life choked out of her.
......I doubted Richard had any
idea of what Susan and his mother were doing. If he did, he could
have simply been patient and waited for the more accurate DNA
test results to come back from Washington. No, he believed he
was being framed which is why he was so anxious to have me hired.
Of course Margaret had to go along with it -- it would look damn
funny if she didn't. And who knows, maybe she thought I could
corroborate an alibi for him. But the blackmail and the videotapes
spooked her. She couldn't get me off the case fast enough after
......I thought about the whole
thing and then wrote a letter detailing what I knew and what
I suspected. I put the letter and the videotape into an envelope.
After the twenty thousand dollar check cleared, I would deliver
the envelope to the police. It only seemed right that I earned
the money Margaret paid me. I was going to exonerate her son
of Susan Laem's murder. Of course, it's a hell of a thing to
have one murder be your alibi for another.
......The police still had plenty
of work to do to tie things up, but I was sure if they stuck
at it they'd get it done. Richard was arrested the same night
he had murdered Powell. He probably didn't have time to clean
the trunk of his car. I was sure there was forensic evidence
to find there. And I was sure there was other stuff to find.
Richard would end up convicted for Powell's murder. And there
was no doubt that the blood found on Susan would match Margaret's
......I took out a bottle of
bourbon and had a few drinks. I then started writing about mother
and son Dover. When I was done I read over my column and
decided there wasn't a chance in hell I could use it. It wouldn't
do my business a bit of good - the whole thing was just too damn
unseemly. As much as I hated the idea of disappointing Braggs,
the only thing I could do with the column would be to line the
bottom of my desk drawer with it.
......It was almost midnight.
I poured another shot of bourbon and thought about the day I
had just finished.
Copyright (c) 2002 by David Zeltserman.
lives in the Boston area with his wife Judy and is a diehard
Patriots fan. He has had crime stories published in New Mystery
Magazine, Hardboiled Magazine, plotswithguns, Mysterical-E, OrchardPress
Mysteries and Judas eZine. Dave's first novel, In His Shadow,
published in January 2002, and features Denver P.I./newpaper
columnist Johnny Lane.
Like what you've read? Head here
for more Thrilling Detective Fiction!
Please direct further comments and
inquiries about submissions to the fiction
editor, or check out this page.
"And I'll tell you right out that I'm a
man who likes talking to a man who likes to talk."
| Table of Contents | Detectives
| Film | Radio | Television | Comics | FAQs |
| Trivia | Authors | Hall
of Fame | Mystery Links | Bibliography | Glossary | Search |
New: On The Site | On
the Street | Fiction | Staff | The
P.I. Poll |