By Sallie L. Moppert


Detective Samuel Marlowe hooked his thumbs into his belt loops and leaned up against the brick wall as he watched from the second story window the reporters on the ground below pushing and shoving each other to get to the front of the crowd, like children fighting to get to the new toy first.

“They’re like a bunch of damned vultures,” he muttered gruffly.

Junior detective Dahlia Bennett glanced up from the paperwork she had dutifully been completing.

“I thought you liked the press, Sam,” she commented as she tucked a stray piece of curly black hair back behind her ear. “You know, bask in the glory of how you singlehandedly kept the city safe from evildoers.”

Sam watched the group of reporters part like the Red Sea as four police officers quickly escorted someone in handcuffs into the Odette police department. Although the identity of the handcuffed man had been obscured by the police jackets that had been draped over his head, Sam was well aware of whom it was that was arriving at his department. Turning away from the window, he threw a stoic glance at Dahlia.

“They’re not here to see me,” Sam stated flatly. “They’re here for Louie Donato.”

Dahlia raised a manicured eyebrow at Sam.

The Louie Donato?” she questioned.

Sam strolled over to his desk. Compared to Dahlia’s, his desk appeared cluttered and disorganized, but Sam knew where everything was. He shoved some stray papers aside and grabbed his signature blue lighter, stuffing it in the back pocket of his navy blue trousers.

“Yeah, that Louie Donato,” Sam confirmed. “Chief wants me to grill him, Bennett, so grab your things; you’re going to sit in on this one.”

Dahlia popped out of her chair, nearly knocking over her neatly stacked books and papers in her eagerness. She gathered everything she deemed necessary to bring to the interrogation room and then practically skipped over to Sam, who was perfecting his appearance in the tiny oval mirror that hung on the wall of the bullpen.

“Christ, Bennett, this is a murder investigation, not the first day of school,” he exclaimed. “Put that shit back; you’re only going to need a pen, paper and the case file, Bennett, not the entire stock of Office Depot.”

“Sorry, Sam,” Dahlia said as she returned some of her things to her desk. “I’m just excited. This is my first big case; I want to make sure that everything goes perfectly.”

Pleased with his appearance, Sam turned to face Dahlia, who was at her desk. “I’m gonna have a smoke before this all goes down. Meet me outside the interrogation room in about twenty minutes.”

“Yes, sir!” Dahlia saluted.

* * *

Twenty minutes later, Sam took one last drag of his cigarette before extinguishing it in the disposal on top of the garbage bin next to him on the sidewalk just outside of the police department. He exhaled a small puff of smoke as he adjusted his suit coat.

“You’re going down, Donato,” Sam muttered to himself.

He then turned and walked back into the brick building behind him, ready to meet with Louie Donato. Inside, Sam made his way through the halls, silently relishing in the gazes of awe cast upon him by his fellow officers. To be selected to lead such an important case-by the police chief, no less-made him the envy of the department and Sam was content to have it that way.

Standing outside the interrogation room, Dahlia impatiently glanced down at her watch. Becoming slightly annoyed, she searched for any sight of Sam, finally spotting him walking toward her from the south hallway.

“You’re late, Sam,” Dahlia said flatly.

“Nah, you’re just early, Bennett,” Sam retorted smugly. “Ready?”

Dahlia nodded. “Good,” he replied. “Be sure to take notes because you are about to see the master at work.”

Sam headed into the interrogation room, Dahlia following closely behind him. Seated at the lone table in the broom closet sized room was the man who had suddenly been thrust into the spotlight, Louie Donato. He sat slumped in the chair, his rusty red locks looking disheveled as bits of it fell over his face, though it did nothing to mask the tiredness in his peridot eyes or the look of defeat that was written all over his visage.

“Oh no, not you,” Louie moaned at the sight of Sam. “Anyone but you.”

“Nice to see you too,” Sam replied as he sat down directly across from Louie, unfazed by the other man’s obvious displeasure at his presence.

Louie looked pleadingly over at Dahlia, who had situated herself in the corner of the room to observe Sam.

“Can’t you take over?” he asked her.

Dahlia shook her head.

“Sorry, but I can’t,” she said. “The chief asked for Detective Marlowe personally.”

“So, Louie, long time, no see,” Sam interjected. “As I recall, the last time you were here, you were a two bit criminal being brought up on illegal gambling charges. Now you’ve graduated to murder, congrats.”

“I didn’t do it!” Louie exclaimed. “I loved Honey; I would never hurt her!”

“Murders don’t happen very often in small towns like Odette, in fact, the last one was nearly three years ago when another sweet little lady like your wife was killed. And you know what happened?” Sam asked. “Her husband blew her brains out.”

“You can’t charge me just on that,” Louie stated, flinching slightly from the image Sam painted.

“You’re right,” Sam admitted. “That can’t make the charges stick, but evidence can.”

“Wait, what?” Louie seemed genuinely surprised.

Sam leaned back in his chair with a smug look.

“Oh, we have plenty of evidence to convict you,” he stated. “But for the sake of protocol, why don’t you tell me what you were doing on the night of June 20th?”

“Why should I?” Louie countered. “You’ve already made your mind up that I’m guilty.”

“Humor me.”

“Fine,” Louie conceded. “I was working at the casino during my regular shift, which ended at five. I called Honey before I left to see what she wanted for dinner. I picked up takeout before heading home. We had dinner and then split a bottle of wine. Honey said she wanted to talk to me about something but wanted some wine first. We talked and then went to bed.”

“What did you talk about?” Sam questioned.

“Nothing in particular,” Louie answered quickly.

“Really? That wasn’t just an ordinary chat, Louie. It sounds like Honey needed some liquid courage first.”

Louie put his arms on the table in front of him, resting his head in his hands for a moment before looking back up at Sam.

“We argued,” Louie revealed.

“About what?” Sam asked.

“I plead the fifth.”

Sam, who had been twirling his pen around, stopped abruptly and straightened up in his chair.

“Louis,” he began sternly. “You’re only going to hurt yourself by not telling me everything.”

“But that’s the thing,” Louie tried to explain. “Telling you what we argued about will only make me seem even guiltier than you already think I am.”

“I can’t help you if you don’t help me.”

Louie closed his eyes tightly, mentally preparing himself to reveal this specific piece of information.

“She told me she was cheating on me,” he said quickly, quietly.

“I see,” Sam mumbled in response, not even a flicker of emotion on his stone cold face. “Did she say who she was cheating with?”

“No,” Louie shook his head. “Believe me, if she did, I would definitely be guilty of murder because I would have killed that bastard.”

“Has Honey ever cheated on you before?”

“No, never,” Louie explained.          

“Did she give you any indication why?” Sam asked.

“No. This was completely out of left field,” Louie said. “I mean, we had our fights like any other couple but our relationship was pretty solid, at least I thought so.”

“Did it, perhaps, have anything to do with your criminal history?”

Louie frowned.

“You just had to bring that up, didn’t you, Marlowe?”

“I’m a detective, Louie,” Sam replied with a shrug. “I have to explore every avenue in an investigation.”

“Really? I don’t recall you ever being so thorough before,” Louie said sarcastically.

A faint smile crossed Sam’s lips.

“You’re a criminal and I’m a cop; you do something wrong and it’s my job to arrest you,” Sam paused. “But I’m sure you’re well aware of how that works.”

“Yes, I’ve done some stupid things

“You got caught running an illegal betting and gambling ring. Twice,” Sam interjected.

“Yeah, I know, but I’ve cleaned up my act,” Louie tried to explain. “I’ve got a legitimate job at the casino now. I’m going straight.”

“So Lucky Louini’s services are officially closed?”

“I have put the name ‘Lucky Louini’ behind me,” Louie confirmed.

“Tell me, Louie, what inspired your change of heart?” Sam asked. “Did it have anything to do with the fact that you were one strike away from a one way ticket to a permanent residence at the Odette Penitentiary?”

Louie let out a breath.

“Yeah, I admit that was part of it, but that was not the only reason,” Louie replied. “I also wanted to clean up my act for Honey. She stuck with me through every stupid thing I’ve done and she deserved better than the two bit criminal that she agreed to marry ten years ago.”

“You’re right, Louie. Honey did deserve better,” Sam declared, earning a quizzical look from Louie. “Instead, this is what she got.”

Sam held his hand out to Dahlia, who quickly produced the document he wanted.

“Are you sure this is a good idea, Sam?” Dahlia whispered.

“Just give me the damn picture, Bennett,” he said.

Dahlia obeyed, placing the photograph into her partner’s outstretched hand before retreating back to the corner of the room. Sam took the picture and slammed it down on the table in front of Louie.

“You see what she gets, Louie?” Sam yelled.

Louie immediately closed his eyes and turned away.

“I don’t want to look at it!” Louie pleaded. “I can’t see her like that!”

“Open your eyes, Louie,” Sam commanded. “You need to take a good, hard look at how you repay your wife for all the years she stood behind your sorry ass. You repaid Honey with a bullet to the head!”

The pressure from Sam got to Louie and he reluctantly opened one eye. Honey had been found on her bedroom floor with a single gunshot wound between her sapphire blue eyes. Her golden locks were splayed around her head like an angel’s halo stained with blood. Louie turned in his chair and leaned forward, heaving as the image of his dead wife became permanently etched into his memory.

“I’m gonna be sick,” Louie gasped.

“Grab the trash bin, Bennett,” he stated. “I’ll get some ginger ale and some paper towels.”

Sam left the room while Dahlia grabbed the trash bin. She just managed to place it in front of Louie and jump back before the handcuffed man lost his lunch.

“Here,” Sam said flatly when he returned moments later.

He placed a can of ginger ale and a roll of paper towels on the table. “I’m going for a smoke while Louini, here, composes himself.”

Dahlia threw a glare at Sam, but he ignored her displeasure and departed from the room again. She grabbed the paper towels and handed them to Louie before opening the soda can with a loud click.

“Sorry about this,” he said quietly to Dahlia as he wiped his sweaty brow with a fresh paper towel.

Dahlia shrugged.

“Hey, shit happens,” she replied.

Dahlia snuck a quick glance at the door and saw that Sam was nowhere near them. “Louie off the record did you murder your wife?” she questioned.

“No,” Louie choked out. “I could never hurt her like that. You have to believe me...”

Louie looked directly into Dahlia’s eyes. The silence in the room was soon broken when the interrogation room door flew open and Sam strolled in.

“Feeling better?” he asked Louie, true compassion absent from his tone.

Louie nodded weakly, not breaking eye contact with Dahlia. “Good,” Sam continued, plopping back down in his chair.

Dahlia returned to her post in the corner and Louie turned around in his chair to face Sam. “Where’s your gun, Louie?” Sam questioned.

Louie shifted uncomfortably in his chair.

“I can’t find it,” he admitted in a barely audible whisper.

“That’s awfully convenient.”

“Seriously, detective, my gun is missing,” Louie stated. “It wasn’t in my gun case. I honestly have no idea where my gun disappeared to.”

“Did you report it missing?” Sam asked, even though he already knew the answer.


“Any reason?”

“I’ve been in enough legal trouble that I really didn’t want to get the police involved,” Louie said with a shrug.

“Or did you just want to pretend it was missing so you could have an alibi after you killed your wife with it?”

“Someone used my gun to murder Honey?” Louie asked, stunned.

“Ballistics report matches a .32 FN Browning registered to a ‘Louis Donato’,” Sam stated.

“It can’t be!” Louie protested. “My gun is missing; whoever’s got my gun shot my wife!”

Sam rose from his chair.

“Sure, Louie, it’s a conspiracy against you,” he stated sarcastically. “Tell that to the judge; maybe they’ll let you go by reason of insanity.”

Sam glanced over at Dahlia. “Book him, Bennett,” he instructed.

“I didn’t kill Honey!” Louie exclaimed. “I thought you were going to help me!”

Sam, who had been primping his appearance in the reflection of the one way glass, said matter-of-factly, “I decided to help myself instead.”

“You bastard,” Louie sneered. “You’ll never get away with this.”

Sam winked at Louie.

“I already did,” he said smugly. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to give the media what they really want: me.”

* * *

Reclining back in his chair with his feet on his desk, Sam didn’t bother to open his eyes as the clack of heels against the wooden floor approached him.

“Congrats, Sam, you made the front page,” he heard Dahlia say as she tossed something onto his chest. “Wife killer guilty, gets life.”

Sam opened his eyes and picked up the newspaper Dahlia tossed at him. Indeed, he had made the front page, as a picture of him on the witness stand accompanied the article about Louie’s conviction for Honey’s murder.

“I look pretty damn good,” Sam stated.

Dahlia rolled her eyes and shook her head as she walked back to her desk.

“What’s with you, Bennett?” Sam questioned as he folded up the newspaper and threw it aside on his desk. “You should be happy; we got a murderer off the streets.”

“If you say so,” Dahlia retorted, eyes glued to the paperwork she was pretending to fill out.

“What, you think he’s innocent?” Sam asked.

Dahlia shrugged in response. Annoyed, Sam swung his feet off the desk and faced his partner.

“Listen, Bennett,” he began to say in that tone that instantly told Dahlia that he was about to impart his own personal brand of wisdom on her whether she wanted him to or not. “Louie Donato was guilty and where do guilty people end up? Prison. It’s as simple as that.”

“So you never once considered that Louie could have been innocent?” Dahlia blurted out. “Not even once since Honey’s body was found last year?”

“I don’t know what he said to you to brainwash that mind of yours, but, whatever it is, I want you to forget it. Now,” Sam told her sternly. “He killed his wife with his gun in his house after arguing with her when she revealed she had an affair. With that amount of evidence, Louie should have just called the police on himself after he was done murdering Honey.”

The expression on Dahlia’s face revealed to Sam that she was not convinced by his argument. “One of my C.O.’s in the police academy told me that we don’t catch the smart ones. There was so much evidence pointing to Louie, how could he not have done it? If he was a smart criminal, he wouldn’t have been arrested twice before he murdered his wife.”

“If you say so,” Dahlia replied with her infamous last words.

* * *

With a quick flick, Sam ignited his trusty blue lighter. He held the flame up to the edge of his fresh cigarette until it glowed. Sam offered a light to his bedroom companion on this particular evening and she held her cigarette out to oblige the offer. Layla Young let out a puff of smoke as she laid back against the pillow. She nervously bit at her bottom lip, effectively removing the last remnants of her lipstick.

“Listen, Sam,” Layla started to say. “We need to talk.”

“Sure. What’s on your mind?” Sam replied as he tucked a stray piece of Layla’s fiery red hair back behind her ear.

“I appreciate you allowing me to help Adam in this way,” Layla explained, her chocolate eyes peering deeply into Sam’s grey ones. “But he’s turning his life around.”

“So what?”

“So, we’re going to need to break this off.”

“Oh, I see how it is,” Sam retorted.

He threw back the covers and got out of bed and began to pick up his clothing that was scattered throughout the cramped bedroom of Layla’s house. “The moment your husband decides to finally keep his sorry ass out of the slammer, you toss me aside like yesterday’s news.”

“Don’t you dare try to play that card with me,” Layla countered. “You’re the one that came up with this stupid ass scheme! I only agreed to it to keep Adam out of prison!”

“Layla,” Sam tried to interrupt.

“No, don’t ‘Layla’ me,” Layla stammered.

She tossed the bed sheets back angrily, smashed her cigarette in the crystal ash tray on the nightstand next to her bed and then haphazardly threw on a t-shirt before storming over to Sam.

“I have done every single thing you have asked of me, no matter how disgusting or vile it was. Hell, I even agreed to sleep with you! And do you know why I did that? To help my husband stay out of jail!” Layla declared, poking Sam’s bare chest with her finger for emphasis. “But I’m done. I am done with you, Sam, and your stupid games. And, you know what? I’m going to tell Adam. I’m going to tell him all about what you made me do in order to keep him out of prison. Then, you’ll be sorry,”

Sam grabbed Layla’s hand as she went to poke his chest yet again and gripped her wrist tightly, causing Layla to wince.

“You say anything and you will regret it,” Sam growled.

Layla yanked her hand away.

“Oh yeah? Whatcha gonna do, big man? Kill me?” Layla taunted.

Sam pulled his shirt over his head. He grabbed his things and headed toward the bedroom doorway. Throwing a seething glance over his shoulder at Layla, Sam stepped out of the room.

“I’ll see myself out,” he stated just loud enough for Layla to hear from the bedroom.

She was unaware, however, of what he added in a tone that was barely above a whisper. “But only after I take care of your darling husband’s prized possession first.”

* * *

Dahlia tapped the end of her pen against her cheek thoughtfully as she carefully skimmed through the case report that Sam had given her to review.

“Victim Layla Young was shot twice in the heart with a Smith & Wesson revolver, which was discovered to belong to the victim’s spouse, Adam Young. According to Mr. Young, the gun was a family heirloom that was passed down from the grandfather of Mr. Young, to his father, and is now in Mr. Young’s possession,” Dahlia summarized.

She looked up from the report on her desk and glanced a few feet across the bullpen at Sam. He was in his usual laid back position, with his feet on his desk and was sipping a fresh cup of coffee from a Styrofoam cup. Once he finished his drink, Sam crushed the cup in his hands and then shot it like a basketball into the trash bin next to his desk.

“Doesn’t this seem awfully familiar to you?” Dahlia questioned. “You know, Hannah Parker was shot and killed five years ago, then Honey Donato was shot and killed two years ago and now this?”

Sam did not respond immediately. “Hey, Larry Bird, get your head out of the court and focus,” she said sternly. “This is the third woman in five years to be murdered. But not only that, all three were shot to death by their husbands, all of whom claimed that their guns were missing shortly before their wives were killed.”

“I’m sorry, Bennett. What were you saying? I tune out conspiracy theories,” Sam replied sarcastically.

“Must you be such an asshole, Sam?” she asked rhetorically.

“My personality is one of my best features,” Sam grinned at his partner.

“I’m serious, Sam,” Dahlia interjected. “I think there’s more to this and that the husbands really were innocent. I want to speak to the Chief and see if he’ll let me reopen these investigations.”

Dahlia stood up from her chair, pausing when she heard Sam utter a “tsk, tsk,” noise.

“I wouldn’t do that if I were you,” Sam said nonchalantly.

Dahlia put her hands on her hips.

“And why not?” she retorted.

“Because,” Sam started to explain in a tone that was very matter-of-fact. “If you go sticking that pretty little neck of yours in places it doesn’t belong, you might end up dead.”

“Gee, Sam, that almost makes it sound like you killed these three women and then framed their husbands for their murders,” Dahlia replied sarcastically.

Sam smirked at his young partner as he put his hands behind his head and reclined in his desk chair.

“Sure, Bennett, I was screwing all three women in exchange for keeping their criminal husbands out of jail and then using the hubbys’ guns to murder them when they were going to spill the beans about our steamy love affairs and then frame the husbands for the crimes,” Sam said. “You need to lay off the Agatha Christie and Georgette Heyer books, Bennett, because that is awfully absurd.”

Dahlia was quiet for a moment, mulling over what Sam had told her in what she assumed was his ill attempt at humor to make light of a humorless subject.

“I still want to talk to the Chief about these cases,” she stated. “They’re not sitting right with me.”

“Bennett, you need to take a break. Why don’t you go grab me a soda from the vending machine in the cafeteria?”

Dahlia opened her mouth to protest, but Sam spoke before she had the chance to. “That’s an order, Bennett.”

“Yes, sir,” Dahlia grumbled before turning and stomping out of the bullpen.

Once the coast was clear, Sam got up and walked over to Dahlia’s desk. He slid open the center drawer and reached inside to get a hold of the item that his partner had taped to the inside of her desk in case of an emergency: a spare house key. Sam quickly pocketed the key before returning to his desk just as Dahlia came back into the bullpen, soda in hand.

“Your soda, your highness,” she said to him.

“Thanks, Bennett,” Sam said as he accepted the can with a wink. “I don’t know how I’d manage without you.”

“Good thing because you’re going to be stuck with me for a long time,” Dahlia replied as she sat down at her desk once again.

Sam just smiled to himself. He could only think of one of his soon to be ex-partner’s famous lines in response to her last statement. Sure, Dahlia, if you say so...

A New York native, Sallie has a Masters degree in Criminal Justice, with a Specialization in Forensic Science. A lifelong mystery fan, she has combined her love and passion for writing with her interests in criminal justice, law and forensic science. Sallie currently resides in New York with her family and two dogs and works as a proofreader for several major newspapers.
Copyright 2016 Sallie L. Moppert. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of the author is prohibited. OMDB! and OMDB! logos are trademarks of Over My Dead Body!

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