a mystery novel
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Chapter 41 – Illusions
Sunday nothing much happened but Monday I was going over Gorman's reverse itinerary when the phone rang. Meg got it, then after a minute or so brought it over and put it on speaker, asking the caller to repeat. I recognized the excited voice of one of the Ladies, at present out investigating another of Gorman's many stops several days before she exploded in the courtroom. But this wasn't a food or beverage market, this was at a hardware store where she made a number of cash purchases the Lady though might interest us: including a portable, automatic, gasoline-powered generator; a small refrigerator; an electrical extension cord; and a gasoline can.
We thanked the Lady and Meg asked, “You know what those things are for?”
“Oh, hell, yes! I should have realized she'd keep something to protect herself! Something that indisputably proves Lester was Jeanie's lover.”
“Wha… oh, you mean the fetus.”
“Yes, or part of it anyway.”
“Ew! So she got the mini fridge to preserve it – but why now, why not right after the murder?”
“She probably had it in her own freezer until things started to go well for me at the trial, then decided to move it in case her place were ever searched.” I paused a moment, noticing that Meg’s expression hadn’t changed at the idea of a frozen piece of fetus nestled between the ice cream and the brussel sprouts: she’d lost something that she’d never get back. Damn. “OK, we need to get everybody checking her tracking data from when she got the fridge on, looking for a stop near a self-storage facility! Start with right after she bought that stuff: she probably went straight to wherever she intended to set up the fridge and generator.”
A few minutes check convinced me I was wrong: after the hardware store, Gorman drove home and didn't move the car again until the next morning when she drove to the police department.
Meanwhile, Meg was searching for storage places near Gorman's other stops. “Damn, Kurt, those things are like cockroaches: they're everywhere! Any place she stopped would probably have two or three within walking distance.”
“Carrying a fridge? Oh, and the generator: those suckers are heavy. No, look for places where she stopped more than once or for at least fifteen minutes, either right at or next to a storage place. I'm going to call CJ. He may know if she has any relatives nearby or be able to find out if she owns any property where she could stash the fridge.”
When I got off the phone, after getting negative answers to both my questions, Tanya had arrived and Meg filled her in. Tanya now realized we had tracking data on Gorman's car and also that she shouldn't ask any questions about how we got it. She wasn't comfortable but she went along with the program.
Then the Lady at the hardware store called again: the clerk just remembered Gorman hadn't taken her purchases with her when she bought them; she'd returned later that day with a pickup truck and collected them! Damn, Damn, DAMN!!!
* * *
By the time Tanya and the Ladies left, we had four locations with a storage facility adjacent to where Gorman's car had stopped repeatedly or for an extended time in the days right before and right after her hardware purchases. We knew this was probably a dead end, but we had so little to go on that we couldn't pass on anything.
CJ called: he had learned that Gorman had borrowed the pickup and a hand truck from a neighbor. She’d had them for about three hours, no idea how many miles she put on the truck. Figuring at least an hour at the storage place to set things up, that meant it was within a one hour or maybe fifty mile radius of her home. Nearly eight thousand square miles. Shit.
I hung up the phone and swore again, then said, “We're never going to find that damn refrigerator!”
Meg sat silently for a minute, then said, “Maybe we don't have to.”
“What do you mean? Of course we do. That's the answer to everything!”
“No. Gorman's the answer to everything. We just need her to think we found it. Or, rather, we need her to think Lester found it.”
* * *
When morning rolled around we had it all worked out. After the Ladies showed up we sent them on their assigned tasks, then by phone told Tanya and CJ our idea. And then we caught a couple of hours rest. Not sleep, rest.
CJ’s call got us up: he had convinced the ADA to hold off another day or two before meeting with Gorman. Then the Lady with the big SUV returned from the hardware store, mini-fridge and generator in tow, the exact same models Gorman had bought. Now if only our Lady with the hi-resolution camera got the shot we needed, we’d be in business. Damn, I hate waiting.
* * *
It was late afternoon when our photographer returned, with apologies. She'd gotten the shots we were after, but only of one scene and Lester's wife was in all of them, too. Well, maybe she could be erased.
Loren, the daughter of another of our Ladies, was a graphic designer and she showed up, as excited as her mother to be working on 'a real murder case!' We told her what we wanted and then went through the photos together to find the most suitable candidate. The one we settled on caught Lester and Snowton at the rear of his Escalade with the hatch open. They both appeared to be looking at two cases of wine inside the back of the car. Loren took some measurements, then we moved the frig and generator to the very back of the SUV and had our photographer Lady take photos of them there and uploaded all of it to our designer’s laptop. I asked her about removing Snowton; she said she'd rather do the add-ons first and make copies, then delete the wife. Adding is easier than deleting because you don't have to create anything. With Gorman being intimately involved with computers, this had to be perfect.
Half an hour later Loren showed us the first option. And it was perfect, showing Lester and his wife in back of the car looking at the fridge and generator inside on the rear deck, with a gas can and bunch of boxes indistinctly visible behind them. CJ arrived then and also agreed it was perfect.
Eliminating Snowton from the photo took our designer a longer time but the resulting image appeared great, too. However, as she pointed out, she didn't have any close-ups of the rear of Lester’s car without someone or something blocking the area she'd recreated from stock photos of that model. What if there were a scratch or a dent, or even a bumper sticker? If Gorman was familiar with the car, as was likely, she might notice something like that. We all agreed to go with the first photo and hope Gorman didn't know for sure that Lester hadn’t confessed all to his wife and persuaded her to help: after all, with all their grandiose plans, none of them could afford a scandal.