“Why are you doing this? You son of a bitch!” Franklin screamed at the man. He grabbed him by the lapels lifted him out of his chair and up against the back wall. “What did she ever do to you?”
“What are you talking about, you psycho?” Vaughn shouted, grabbing Franklin’s wrist to free himself. He shook off the smaller man, and shoved him hard enough to send him sprawling over a chair to the side of his desk.
Scrambling to his feet, Franklin screamed, “You! You’ve been sending me these text messages all day screwing with me! Why?”
The Blackberry lay at Vaughn’s feet, and bent to pick it up. The screen still showed the dead girl, her bloody corpse in sharp relief against the white sheets.
“Jesus Christ, Bill! Is this…?”
“You know who it is!” he sobbed.
“Bill, you have to call the cops.”
“This is a dead body, you idiot. You have to call the cops if you know anything about it.”
“What do you know about it?”
“Are you out of your mind?” Vaughn shouted again. “She’s your mistress! What do you mean what do I know about it?”
“You asked me if she was worth it. The same question the text messages kept asking.”
Vaughn scrolled through the repeated messages. He shook his head and handed it back. He took out his own phone and dialed Franklin’s number. The phone rang, with Vaughn’s name and number clearly displayed. Franklin blinked, and stared at his boss.
“If it were me, you’d know.”
Franklin slumped against the side wall of the office. He was drained in body and spirit.
“Go home, Bill,” Vaughn told him. “Call your lawyer, call the cops, do something about this. You’re no good here today. Just go home.”
Franklin hung his head and nodded. He mumbled an apology, but didn’t wait for the reply. Whatever else, he needed to go home.
As he pulled into the driveway, Franklin noticed the black Ford Crown Victoria pulled up on the street in front of his house. He saw the small dome light in the front window, and the side mounted spotlight, and knew the police were there. His wife met him at the door.
“Bill, the police are here, they want to know about some woman? Is it someone you work with?” she asked, anxiety mixed with fear in her voice.
One of the plainclothes officers stepped between them, facing Franklin. “Mr. William Franklin?”
“Yes,” he replied.
Flashing his badge, the officer continued. “We’d like to ask you some questions regarding Nancy Prescott.”
The other officer chimed in from across the foyer, “Mr. Franklin, were you with Mrs. Prescott between the hours of 10:00pm and 2:00am last night?”
“No, he wasn’t,” his wife interrupted. “He was at work on an overseas account.” She wanted to believe it, her eyes pleading with her husband for this to be the truth.
“Before you answer, Mr. Franklin, please be aware your fingerprints were all over the hotel room, as well as her body,” the closer of the two policeman offered.
Franklin swallowed hard, his wife’s expression freezing him into silence. She crossed the room and slapped him hard across the face, the pain biting into his cheek and ear as she struck. She covered her mouth and quickly walked to the back of the house. The two officers shook their heads.
His eyes welling, the red mark rising on his left cheek, Franklin said, “Yes, I was there, but I didn’t do anything.”
“The crime lab people have hair and semen samples under analysis right now. Is there anything you want to tell us?”
“We were having an affair; it was just sex, just two adults enjoying each other. There was no commitment or anything. I was trying to end it. I’ve been trying to get in touch with Nancy, um, Mrs. Prescott all day.”
The other officer again spoke. “When did you last speak to Mrs. Prescott?”
Franklin turned to answer him. “About 1:30 I think, just before I left to go home.”
The closer officer studied Franklin. “Mr. Franklin, did you kill Nancy Prescott?”
His spine stiffened. “No! I could never kill anyone. It couldn’t be me; she was alive when I left.”
The second officer produced a bloody, mud splattered carving knife from inside his jacket. “Have you seen this knife before?”
Franklin shook his head.
“We found it behind your garage, along with a piece of steel pipe with hair and blood all over it. Anything to say about that?”
“I didn’t do anything! She was alive when I left her!” He looked around; his wife was nowhere to be seen.
The first cop approached, handcuffs out and ready. He shoved Franklin in a circle up against the foyer wall, bringing his hands back and behind him in a well-practiced rush. “Mr. Franklin, you are under arrest in connection with the murder of one Nancy Prescott. You have the right to remain silent, and anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney…”
“I didn’t kill her!” he screamed, wrenching against the officer and the handcuffs. “This can’t be happening! I need to talk to my lawyer…”
“What you need to do, sir, is calm down, and go out the car. We will be taking you down to central booking, and you can call your lawyer when we’re there. I would suggest you exercise your right to remain silent, and go with the officer out to the car.”
Franklin nodded in silence as the second officer led him out. They were at the sidewalk just feet from the car when Franklin felt a sharp blow between his shoulder blades and fell forward face first towards the concrete. A quick twist and he took the majority of the impact on his left shoulder instead of his nose and forehead. He looked back in shock at the policeman already reaching down to help him up.
“If you wouldn’t resist arrest, you might not have fallen, Mr. Franklin,” he offered, smiling as he jerked the fallen man to his feet. Franklin was at a loss for words, so he offered none. The cop opened the passenger rear door to guide his prisoner into the back, but instead of helping to guide his head safely into the car, he again shoved him from the side. A white hot flash of pain burst Franklin’s head as it slammed into the top of the doorframe. He slumped into the back seat his eyes losing focus. The cop opened the passenger side front door and slid in, turning to face the barely conscious Franklin in the back.
“Hey! Don’t you pass out on me you piece of shit!” he called out. Franklin opened his eyes. “You never answered my question.”
Franklin’s head was pounding. “Question? You mean about the knife and the pipe?”
“What are you talking about?”
“Was she worth it?”
Franklin’s eyes went wide, staring in disbelief.
The officer shook his head. “It took a while, you know. I didn’t want to believe it at first. I mean, you put your faith and trust in someone, then they rip your heart out and grind it under their high heel. So when she left, I did whatever she asked. I left her alone, you know, let her have her space. But then she started screwing this other guy, a married guy. Can you imagine? She’d rather have a guy who’d never leave his wife, who’d probably just use her for sex, than me. It wasn’t right. So I followed her, right, just to see what the competition was like.”
Franklin furrowed his brow. The pain was slowly being replaced by something more primal.
“So you found out the competition was …?”
“It doesn’t matter. She found out I was following her. The little slut still smelled like the guy’s cheap-assed cologne. You know the kind of shit they sell in the men’s room, beside the aspirin and condoms? Anyway, she threatened to call the cops on me.” He laughed out loud. “Can you believe that shit?”
Franklin could only stare. “You…?”
The officer nodded. “The thing is, she used to be my wife, but she was my partner’s sister. She wasn’t coming back to me, I knew that. And your wife? She’s not gonna be waiting for you, if you ever get out of prison. See, he thinks you killed his sister, so he’s gonna take care of your wife. Returning the favor, you know what I mean? But here’s the beauty part. He’s doing the same thing I did. He’s making it look like you killed your wife, too.”
Fear spread through him. There was nothing he could do, but go along with the madman in the front seat. Who would believe him over a couple of cops? He was going to prison, most likely to die, for two murders he didn’t commit. If he tried to run, he was a dead man anyway.
The partner returned, jumping in the driver’s side and turning the key. “Too bad we didn’t get here before this guy killed his wife.”
“I know, but he’ll have lots of time to think about the error of his ways.”
The car lurched forward, jerking Franklin back into the real world. He began to sob. The two officers in the front looked back at him, one turned and the other in the mirror. Nancy’s husband looked back at him with a maniacal grin, his eyes cold and piercing.
“So, was she worth it?”
Ronald W. Adams is the author of two novels in the Joe Banks Private Detective series. To find out more about Ron check out his website here:http://www.ronaldwadams.com/ or his blog here: http://shadowsandnight.blogspot.com/