Saving Cheryl

Info silverhawk
26 Nov. '18


Cops live in a relatively small world.  That world is mostly composed of other cops and their families, and its because people other than other cops and their families don’t understand what our lives are like.  Most don’t want to.  They’d prefer to go about their business without ever meeting one of us.  That’s because when they do meet one of us, it’s either because they’ve done something against the law or they’re involved in a situation where someone else has caused them or theirs harm. We don’t enjoy those situations either.

Contrary to what most people think, cops don’t really like arresting people.  We’d be a lot happier if we didn’t have to chase down some asshole, wrestle with him or her to get them into cuffs, and then do all the paperwork to record what happened. We also don’t like testifying in court.  Some lawyers are assholes too.

What we do enjoy is helping people.  It might be just checking on a senior citizen to make sure they’re just staying inside and aren’t hurt or sick.  It might be finding the guy who robbed your house and then finding out what he did with your grandmother’s wedding ring so you can get it back.  It might be staying with you after you’ve been in a car accident so you won’t feel alone and you’ll know help is on the way.  We feel good about doing things like that.  It’s the only reason some of us have been a cop for fifteen years like I have.

I had hopes of getting that feeling again one day in July.  The station had gotten a call from Belle Venica that one of their residents had somehow gotten lost.  When the call went out, I was close to Belle Venica so I said I’d go talk to them.

Belle Venica is called an assisted living community for seniors, but their residents tend to be those with memory problems or health problems that require monitoring.  They have a doctor and several nurses on staff to do that so in my mind anyway, it’s more of a nursing home.  They have a large yard with trees and places to sit so the residents can get some fresh air.  

They also have a nine foot chain link fence around that yard and the doors that lead out onto the street are all locked except the visitors entrance.  That one has an unlocked door that opens into a vestibule.  The door from the vestibule to the lobby is unlocked by a receptionist after you state your business over the intercom.

I’d been to Belle Venica once before to interview one of their residents about a burglary in his house.  We’d nabbed a guy we suspected of a different robbery, and got a search warrant for his house and car.  When I looked through what we’d found, there was a man’s wallet with his ID.  I ran the ID and found out he was the victim in an earlier burglary, so I wanted to see if he could identify any of the things we found.

My first impression of the place was that it looked more like a prison than a nursing home.  I suppose when one gets to the age one needs help with bathing and going to the bathroom, it would be better than nothing, but I decided I’d never want to live like that.  Anyway, the guy identified a camera and a couple pieces of jewelry, so I had him sign a statement and then went back to the station and charged the perp with that burglary too.

The same little blonde with the same cheery smile buzzed me into the lobby that day.  I asked to see Beverly Rand, the manager of Belle Venica and the person who’d made the call.

Beverly was a pretty good-looking woman if you like the professional woman type.  Me, I’m not a big fan of women’s business suits, hair done up in a tight bun, and wire rimmed glasses.  The ass she had crammed into her tight skirt and the big tits that pushed out her frilly silk blouse looked inviting though.  What wasn’t inviting was her attitude.  I’m also not a big fan of anybody who seems to work at being an asshole.  Beverly was like that.

As soon as I walked into her office, she smiled.  That was the last smile I was to see from her.  After she said hello and I shook her hand, she frowned.

“This morning when the nurses made their rounds with meds, they discovered Mrs. Tillerson wasn’t in her room.  We’re not sure how or when she got away from us, but she apparently did so sometime last night.”

She shook her head.

“I have to keep telling the night nurses to watch carefully when visiting hours are over.  There’s always a crowd of people who wait until the last second to leave and they stack up in the lobby waiting to get out the door.  It’s worse than visiting day at the juvenile detention center I supervised a few years ago.

“I think Mrs. Tillerson probably got herself in the middle of the crowd and just walked out.  Our security cameras don’t show her leaving, but there was a large group of people walking to the parking lot together so she could have been in the middle of them.  

“The camera in our parking lot stopped working last week and I haven’t been able to get the goddamned repair guy out to look at it.  He say’s he’s busy with a new installation down town.  What the hell does he think I’m paying him a retainer for – to sit around and play with himself?”

Beverly calmed down a little then.

“Mrs. Tillerson is physically fine for her age, but she has some problems remembering things and when she’s at home, she drinks.  That’s why her son put her here a month ago.  I don’t think she’s a danger to anyone but herself, but God knows where she might wander off to.  She’s really not with it most of the time.  She may seem all right, but she keeps having these delusions about people kidnapping her and being locked up in here.  We have tight security, but people are free to leave with their relatives any time they want.”

I asked what clothing Mrs. Tillerson might have been wearing when she left.  Beverly frowned again.

“If I had my way, it would have been just scrubs so we can tell the residents from the visitors, but the kids of these people want them to look like they’re fine and enjoying their stay here.  It could have been anything, though the nurses say she seems to like black pants and white blouses.  She has several of each.  Oh, and she likes white tennis shoes.  I don’t think she has any other kind of shoes.”

I asked if she had a picture I could have.  Beverly printed one from their resident data base.  I couldn’t help but notice it looked like one of the mug shots I show people.  It had her name, Cheryl Tillerson, and her room number on one of those little boards with removable letters, and she was holding it under her chin.

I said I’d circulate the picture, and if Mrs. Tillerson was in the area, we’d probably find her within a day.  It’s happened before, not from Belle Venica, but because some man or woman went for a walk and then couldn’t remember how to get home.  They’re easy to spot because they look confused.  Usually they’re happy to be found.

After having one of the office clerks send the picture out to all the squad cars and posting it on the missing person’s board, I started driving my regular route.  It was difficult to figure out where Mrs. Tillerson might have gone, because people with memory problems will often surprise you.  They might not be able to remember where the bathroom is in their own house, but they’ll remember how to get to someplace they used to go a lot.

I didn’t know where that might be in Mrs. Tillerson’s case, but since it was on my patrol route, I decided to stop by the address Beverly gave me as Mrs. Tillerson’s home.  When I drove up in front of the house, there was a red SUV parked in the drive.  

The woman who answered my knock was maybe forty, and she looked more like she was getting ready for a night on the town than doing anything else.  I introduced myself and stated my reason for being there.  The woman fluffed her dark brown hair, batted eyelashes that were obviously fake and looked ridiculously long, and smiled.

“Officer, I’m so worried about her.  When the home called, I just about died.  My husband’s mother is the dearest woman in the world and I’ve been thinking about all the bad things that could happen to her.”

“Well Mrs. Tillerson – I’m assuming it’s Tillerson.

She smiled at me with her red painted lips.

“Actually, it’s Anderson-Tillerson, but please call me Andrea.”

“Ok.  Andrea, can you tell me anyplace she might like to go?  Sometimes people with memory issues remember things you wouldn’t think they would.  Maybe she liked a certain park or a certain store, things like that.”

“Well…other than this house, I can’t think of any.  It was hard to get her to leave, but it was for her own good.  We’re trying to sell it now.  I came over to clean because I thought it might take my mind off her being out roaming the streets.  It isn’t helping much though.”

“How long ago was it you took her to Belle Venica?”

“A month.  She got confused and ended up at the liquor store two blocks away.  We know the owner and he didn’t think she should have been there so he called me.  When I went to pick her up, she said she knew where she was and just wanted to buy some vodka.  She drinks and that seems to make her worse.  That’s another reason we put her in Belle Venica.”

I thanked Andrea for the information, assured her the entire police force was looking for her mother-in-law, and then left.

As I drove away from the house, I was a little suspicious.  My cop nose had picked up something that seemed a little off.  Call me a cynical bastard if you want, but it was a little odd that if Mrs. Tillerson’s daughter-in-law was so worried about her, why didn’t she also call the station to report it?  The only call we’d gotten was from Belle Venica.  In the past with a case like this, the desk sergeant often gets a call from a worried family member about every hour until we find the person.  

I supposed she could have been being honest about being worried and coming over to clean the house to take her mind off it, but after a few years of interviewing people, a cop starts to be able to read faces and body language.  A lot of times, body language and facial expressions will tell us as much or more than the words we’re hearing.  Andrea didn’t seem as upset as she said she was.  In fact, she smiled most of the time.

I drove to the liquor store where Andrea said Mrs. Tillerson had gone.  The owner remembered her.

“Mrs. Tillerson?  Sure.  She was a good customer for a lot of years.  Bought a fifth of vodka every two weeks or so.  At Thanksgiving she’d buy a quart of rum.  For her Christmas fruitcake she said.  Man, you should have tasted it.  I don’t like fruitcake, but what she made was great.  She said she baked it the day after Thanksgiving and then soaked it with rum every day until Christmas.  She always brought me a big piece wrapped in foil.  She hasn’t been in for about a month though.  Something happen to her?”

“Did it look as if she might have a drinking problem?”

He waved his hand.

“Mrs. Tillerson.  Nah, never.  I mean, how could you have a drinking problem if all you drank was a fifth every two weeks?  That’s what, a shot a day?  I have customers who buy two quarts of something every week.”

“Maybe she bought more somewhere else.”

“Not Mrs. Tillerson.  She was sober as a judge every time she came in here.”

“The last time she was here – do you remember anything different about her?”

He thought for a minute, then frowned.

“No…she seemed happy.  Just picked out her usual, paid me, and then left.  No, wait.  She did say she’d twisted her ankle walking down to my store and it hurt.  She had me call Andrea to come pick her up so she wouldn’t have to walk back.”

“Who would this Andrea be?”

He frowned.

“Andrea is Mrs. Tillerson daughter-in-law.  Her husband and I used to work together before I bought this place.  Now there’s a real case for you.”

“Oh, how so?”

“Just how she acts and dresses.  It’s always fancy clothes, lots of makeup, and lots of jewelry.  Must cost Mrs. Tillerson’s son a fortune keeping her that way.  She’s a lot on the stuck-up side too.  Most of my customers are pretty down to earth people.  Andrea seems to think she’s better than most.  That’s how she acts anyway.”

I thanked him for the information and started driving again.  This was starting to smell worse and I’d only talked to two people.  I’d learned not to come to conclusions before exhausting all the possibilities though.  Those premature  conclusions can come back to bite you in the ass if you’re not careful.

My shift ended without any word from any other officer about Mrs. Tillerson.  I was a little worried for her.  It’s warm enough in July she wouldn’t get cold at night, but there are a lot of animals in people suits out there who’d not think twice about hurting an older woman.

As I started to pour my third scotch that night, I had to stop and think.  I’d asked the liquor store owner if he thought Mrs. Tillerson had a drinking problem, and here I was starting on my third.  I capped the bottle, put it back in the cabinet, and pulled a soda from the fridge.

The next day after my lunch of a burger and fries, I drove back past Mrs. Tillerson’s house.  It was just a hunch, but older people don’t walk very fast and it was almost three miles from Belle Venica to her house.  The red SUV wasn’t in the drive, so I pulled in.  Nobody answered my knock, so I walked around back.  

Like a lot of these old houses, the garage was behind the house.  It was unlocked, so after I banged on the door with no response, I went inside.  No, it wasn’t legal to do that, but I figured maybe Mrs. Tillerson might have come back and since she couldn’t get in the house, she might be in the garage.

There was nothing in the garage except a bunch of plastic bins.  I didn’t open any of them because I wasn’t looking for things.  I was looking for a person.  I just walked back outside and closed the door.  It was then I saw somebody peeking around the corner of the garage nearest the alley.

I couldn’t tell if it was her or not.  All I could see was the white hair and one eye, but I didn’t know who else it could be.  I stepped away from the garage with my hands raised.

“Mrs. Tillerson?  I’m officer Mike Ransom.  I don’t want to arrest you or hurt you.  I just want to talk to you.”

The voice was female, and was surprisingly strong for an older woman who was supposed to drink a lot and forget where she was all the time.

“You just want to take me back to Belle Venica.”

“No, at least not until I talk to you.  I’m not sure I believe everything I’ve been told about you and I want to hear your side.  Can you come a little closer so I don’t have to yell?”

She walked out from behind the garage slowly, but she didn’t appear to be hurt.  She walked better than some younger people I’d arrested.  When she was about fifteen feet away, she stopped.

“I’m close enough.  What do you want to know?”

“Well, why you ran away from Belle Venica for starters.”

“I ran away because that Beverly broad is in cahoots with my daughter-in-law. I went to bed one night and woke up the next morning in there.  They must have drugged me because I don’t remember any of it.  After that, Andrea started bugging me to give my son power of attorney so they can sell my house, but I said I wasn’t going to sign anything unless my attorney looked at it first.  

“Once I said that, the nursing home started giving me drugs.  They wouldn’t tell me what the drugs are for, but I’m not stupid.  I’m not sick so I don’t need any medicine.  The only reason for the pills is to dope me up enough I will sign.”

She grinned.

I fooled ‘em though.  My lower plate is kinda loose, so I’d just stick the pill under it and pretend to swallow.  When they made me open my mouth to prove I’d swallowed, they wouldn’t see any pill.  When the nurse left, I’d flush it down the toilet.  I have to act like I’m a little groggy though.  That’s a real pain in the ass.  There’s a couple of men there that I like, but they think I’m all ga-ga all the time.”

“Where did you spend the night?”

She smiled.

“With a friend.  He has a really nice refrigerator box and a mattress with two blankets he got from the mission down the street.”

“You spent the night with a homeless man?”

“Yes I did.  Jeremy’s a really nice man.  He was in the Army and went to Afghanistan.  When he came back, he had some problems fitting in, so he started living on the street.  My husband Rick was in Vietnam so I understand Jeremy.  I used to bring him and his friends sandwiches every other day, and he told me if I ever needed anything, I should ask him.  After I walked out of that prison they call an assisted living facility, I walked to his alley and asked. Jeremy’s a big man, so I knew I’d be safe with him.

“I’d still be making him sandwiches if that bitch Andrea hadn’t put me in Belle Venica.  Pardon my French, young man, but that’s what she is – a real bitch.  She spends money like it’s water and she has my son Randolph wrapped around her little finger.  Randolph always was a wimp, but I think he’s worse now.  A few years ago I used the bathroom in their house.  In the bathroom closet I found a dog collar, a leash, and a little whip.  They didn’t have a dog and as far as I know, never had one.”

I found myself starting to like Mrs. Tillerson.  At least she was believable.  She didn’t seem senile, and she didn’t seem like a drunk.  She was also pretty feisty for an older woman.

“Mrs. Tillerson, I’d like to believe you, but I really need some proof.  Could I talk with Jeremy?”

She thought for a few seconds, then frowned.

“If you go walking down that alley, all the people will scatter because they’ll think you’re going to arrest them.  Maybe I can talk him into coming with me out of the alley.  I’ll have to see.  If I can, just be nice to him, OK?  Oh, and could you bring yourself to call me Cheryl?  I know I look old enough to be your mother, but I don’t feel that old.”

“I promise I won’t do anything to upset him.  Where is this alley?”

I waited on the street corner while Cheryl walked down the alley.  It was a risk to let her go.  She could easily have just kept on walking and I’d have lost her again, but I didn’t think that would happen.  She seemed to eager to clear up what I’d heard from Andrea.

Ten minutes later she came back out leading a man in an Army field jacket by the hand.  They stopped and she pointed at me and then said something to the man.  He nodded, and they started walking again.  When they were a few feet away, Cheryl said, “This is Jeremy.  Jeremy, this officer just wants to ask you some questions about me so don’t be afraid, OK?”

I stuck out my hand.  

“Hi Jeremy.  I’m Mike.  Those are Staff Sergeant strips aren’t they?”

Jeremy shook my hand.

“Yeah.  Got ‘em in Afghanistan.”

I smiled.

“I’m impressed.  I only made it to buck sergeant.”

His face brightened a little.

“You were in the Army?”

“Desert Storm.  It was a cakewalk compared to what you guys went through.”

“Yeah, it was pretty rough over there.”

“Cheryl here tells me you’re a friend of hers.”

He grinned.

“She used to bring us sandwiches before they took her away.  She’s a nice lady.”

“She spent the night with you?”

I saw a fleeting look of fear in his eyes.  Cheryl squeezed his hand.

“It’s OK, Jeremy, you can tell him.”

Jeremy still looked afraid, but he answered me.

“Yes, sir.  She did, but I didn’t do anything to her.”

I smiled.

“I didn’t think you did, Jeremy.  I just wanted you to confirm what she said.  She said she felt safe with you and I believe her.  She’s lucky to have a man like you to help her out.”

He smiled.

“I’d do anything for Cheryl and I wouldn’t ever let anything happen to her.”

Cheryl looked at me.

“Satisfied?”

“Yes.  I believe you.”

She smiled.

“I promised Jeremy ten dollars if he’d come talk to you.  Since I don’t have any money with me…”

Jeremy walked back down the alley with my ten dollar bill in his pocket.  When he was out of sight, Cheryl turned to me.

“OK, now how do we get my butt out of this mess?”

“Well, first we need to figure out what I’m going to do with you.  I should take you back to Belle Venica, but I don’t think that’s a good idea.  They’ll probably figure out that you weren’t taking the drugs they were giving you and try something else to keep you inside.”

Cheryl grinned.

“You got a spare bedroom?”

“Yes, but that would probably get me fired.  What would you say to a hotel room?”

She grinned again.

“I was kinda hoping for the bedroom thing.  A hotel would work if it’s not one of the chains.  Somebody might decide to look for my name on the register if it was.”

I got Cheryl a room at The Imperial Gardens.  It was a small motel on a highway that was a main thoroughfare before the interstate system.  Most of the residents were elderly people who lived there permanently, so Cheryl fit right in.  I rented the room for a week because I didn’t know how long it was going to take me to get all the details of the case.

It was probably the wrong thing to do, but Cheryl’s story made sense and I didn’t think Jeremy was lying to me.  He wouldn’t be the most reliable witness in court, but his body language and his voice told me he was telling me the truth.

The Imperial Gardens had refrigerators and little stoves in each room, so after telling Cheryl not to open the door unless it was me, I went to the local Walmart and bought half a dozen frozen personal pizzas, some bread and cold cuts, and some frozen breakfasts.  When I took them back to her room, Cheryl looked at me and grinned.

“It’s a good thing I like pizza isn’t it?  You weren’t very imaginative.”

“Well, this is what I usually buy for home.  If you want something else, I can go get it.”

“No, this will do fine.  Can I use your cell phone?  They took mine away from me at Belle Venica.”

“Who are you going to call?”

“My daughter.  She’s the only one of my kids with any sense.  She probably doesn’t know what’s going on because Andrea would never tell her until it’s over.  Lacey will want to come help me.  Is that all right?”

I said I supposed it was, but she shouldn’t tell anybody where she’s going or why.

“Lacey’s not married and she works from home.  Nobody will know.”

The call took almost half an hour.  When Cheryl handed my cell phone back to me, she smiled.

“Lacey will be here tomorrow.  I hope she can find this place.  It’s so far out in the sticks I’m surprised you found it.  

After cautioning her again not to open the door for anybody except me or Lacey, I left.  Once I was back in the city, I called dispatch and said I’d been following a lead and didn’t have time to call in, but that I was headed back to the station.

I needed someone to confess to what they were doing to Cheryl if I was going to get her out of Belle Venica permanently, and I was pretty sure neither Beverly nor Andrea would crack.  So far, they really hadn’t done anything they couldn’t explain.  All Beverly had done was try to calm a delusional woman with what she’d say was a drug commonly prescribed for that purpose.  

I wasn’t sure how she’d have gotten the prescription unless the staff doctor was in on the deal.  The more I thought about it, the more likely that seemed and especially so if Cheryl had been drugged to get her to Belle Venica.  Andrea would have to get the drug from a doctor. A doctor would know the right drug and the right dose for Cheryl’s weight.

Andrea would just say she needed the money from the sale of Cheryl’s house to pay for the care her mother-in-law needed.  I’d heard a couple of the guys on the force say they’d had to do that when their parents got to an age they couldn’t do things for themselves.  There wasn’t anything illegal about that unless they tried to do it without a power of attorney or Cheryl’s signature on the sale paperwork.  Andrea would just say they were getting the house ready to sell and would get Cheryl’s consent before they listed it.

Cheryl had said her son, Randolph, was a wimp.  If that was true, I might be able to get him to tell me what was really going on.  I just needed to approach him the right way.

By putting Cheryl in a motel after I found her, I had my ass hanging out about a mile and a half.  If the Captain found out from somebody else, I’d be in deep shit.  I figured he might be a little more on my side if I told him what I was doing, so as soon as I got to the station, I knocked on his office door.  He waved me in, and then gave me a questioning look when I closed the door behind me.

“So, Mike, what’s so important that you closed my door?”

“I found Mrs. Tillerson.”

“OK.  She’s back in Belle Venica, right.”

“No, not exactly.  She’s in a motel over on Sunstrand.”

“What!”

“Just let me tell you what else I know and you’ll understand…I hope.”

I told the Captain about my conversation with Cheryl, my conversation with her daughter-in-law, my conversation with the liquor store owner, and my conversation with Jeremy.  He listened to everything before he said anything else.  He didn’t sound all that convinced.

“So, she says they’ve put her in Belle Venica so they can take her money.  The daughter-in-law says she’d forgetful and she drinks, but the liquor store owner and the homeless guy say she’s the salt of the earth.  That about right?”

“Well, I wouldn’t say the liquor store guy and Jeremy went quite that far, but they didn’t say she was like the daughter-in-law said.”

“It’s pretty shaky, Mike.  I”ll turn it over to one of the detectives, but I don’t know.”

“Yeah, I know it’s shaky but I’m positive she’s telling me the truth.  Mrs. Tillerson trusts me and she might not trust anybody else, so I think I should finish this up.  I think I have a way to prove what’s going on if you’ll go along with me.  I want to get a look at her finances and I want to talk to her son.  A day should do it.”

“Why do you need to see her finances?”

“Her house is worth maybe eighty thousand.  If, like I suspect, there are three people who’ll end up splitting that, it isn’t much money for the risk they’re taking.  Once her son gets her to sign a power of attorney, he can take everything she has.  I want to see how much that really is.  The more money, the greater the incentive to take the risk.

“The son might be the key.  Mrs. Tillerson said he’s a wimp who does whatever his wife tells him to do.  If I can talk to him alone, he might own up to everything.”

The Captain frowned.

“I’ll give you one day and I’ll talk to the DA about a warrant for her finances.  After that, you either prove your case or she goes back to Belle Venica.”  

The next morning, I called the phone number Cheryl had given me for Randolph Tillerson’s office.  When he answered, I gave him my name and explained that I needed to talk to him about his mother.  When he asked if we’d found her and if she was all right, I just said I’d rather tell him that in person.  It was my way of planting the seed that she might not be all right so he’d have that to think about while he was coming to the station.

When he got to the station, Andrea was with him.  I’d sort of expected that.  If he was as soft as Cheryl had said, Andrea wouldn’t want to risk letting him talk to me by himself.  I escorted them both to the interrogation room, and opened the door for Randolph.  When Andrea started to follow him, I stepped in front of her.

“I’m sorry, Mrs. Tillerson, but I have to talk to Randolph alone.  He’s Mrs. Tillerson’s next of kin and the only one the law will allow to be present when I explain what we’ve found.  You can wait out here or you can go to the break room, but you can’t be in the same room with Randolph while we talk.”

Andrea muttered something about calling a lawyer and stomped off on her high heels toward the lobby.  I closed the door and sat down across the table from Randolph.

Randolph looked nervous as hell and I was glad.  I intended to make him a lot more nervous before I was done.

“Mr. Tillerson, we need to have a serious conversation about your mother.”

“Did you find her?”

I wasn’t about to answer that question, not yet.

“Mr. Tillerson, we suspect there might be foul play involved in your mother’s disappearance.  Do you know of anyone who might want to hurt your mother?”

He shook his head.

“No, everybody liked Mother.”

“You haven’t gotten any ransom demands you haven’t told us about, have you?”

“No.  Why would I?  Has she been kidnapped?”

“I don’t think so.  I was just asking to be sure.  I needed to ask those two questions to eliminate them as possible reasons for her disappearance.  Since you said nobody would want to hurt your mother and you haven’t gotten any ransom demands, that leaves one other possibility.

“As I’m sure you know from all the police shows on TV, the first suspects in any disappearance are the spouse and immediate family members.”

Randolph’s eyes sort of bugged out.

“You think I had something to do with this?”

I shrugged.

“I went to Belle Venica.  It’s almost as secure as most jails. I don’t know how she’d have gotten out without help, and I don’t know of anybody she’d trust except you.  I don’t know what you did with her after you took her out, but I’m pretty sure you were the one who got her out the door.  I just can’t figure out why.  Why don’t you tell me what happened?”

Randolph’s eyes looked as big as dinner plates.  I had him scared shitless.  I hoped that was enough to get him to tell me what was going on.  He looked at me for a second, then said, “I haven’t been to that place since Andrea had her put there.  You can check their visitor logs if you don’t believe me.”

“I’ll do that.  You’re telling me Andrea put her there?  Why would Andrea have your mother put in a nursing home and how would she have done that?  I always thought it was a son or daughter who did that.  You would have had to sign something to get her in there.  Your wife couldn’t because she’d not next of kin.”

“I did sign the paper Andrea’s lawyer drew up.  She said it was just to guarantee the nursing home would get paid every month.”

I looked at him, frowned, and scratched my head.

“Funny, I don’t remember Andrea saying anything like that.  She said you had to sell your mother’s house to pay for the nursing home.”

Randolph kept adjusting his position in his chair.  That was a sure sign Randolph was hiding something.

“I could have paid for it.  It would have stretched our budget, but I could have paid for it.  Andrea said it would be better to sell the house now instead of waiting until Mother passed away.”

“OK, but why would she have you sign a paper saying you’d pay for the nursing home if she was going to use the money from the sale of the house?”

“I don’t know.”

I looked through the file folder I’d stuffed with papers from my inbox so it would look like I had more information than I actually had.

“Ah…here it is.  I checked with the city and Mrs. Tillerson owns that house free and clear.  In order for you to sell it for her, you wouldn’t have to contend with a bank or finance company, but wouldn’t she have to agree to that?”

“Yes, I suppose so.”

“Well, did she?  It would have to be in writing to be legal, like if she gave you power of attorney or signed the house over to you.  I didn’t find any property transfer in city records.  Did she sign a power of attorney giving you control of her property?”

“No, she said she wouldn’t.”

I closed the folder and looked Randolph square in the eyes.

“Mr. Tillerson, you have to realize how this looks.  You’re trying to sell her house, but you don’t have legal authority to do that and she won’t sign a power of attorney.  Then, your mother disappears.  If she’s dead, that means you’re her legal heir and you can do with the house whatever you want.  To me, that sounds like you helped her get out of Belle Venica so you could kill her and get access to everything she owned.  If that’s not what happened, you need to tell me what’s really going on.”

Randolph was just sitting there.  I figured he was thinking about his options.  I wanted to narrow down those options to one and give Randolph a way out that made it not entirely his fault.

“Randolph, I don’t think you started all this.  I think your wife did, but you’re involved and you’ll be charged just like Andrea will be.  If you tell me what’s going on now, I can probably get the DA to go easy on you. If it comes out in your trial, he’ll ask for the maximum jail time.  Just something to think about.  Prison can be rough on a man like you.”

Randolph thought for at least two minutes.  I could tell he was struggling.  Finally he looked up at me and said, “It wasn’t supposed to end up like this.”

“What wasn’t supposed to end up like this?”

“Mother has more than the house.  She owns three other houses and has a very large savings account and investment portfolio.  Father was pretty good at investments and when he died, he left her over two hundred thousand dollars in bonds and CD’s.  

“Andrea knew when Mother passes away, I’d get half of that.  I have a sister who lives in Utah, and she’d get the other half. I’m to be the executor of her estate and that’s what Mother wrote in her will, that both of us would get half..  It wasn’t enough for Andrea.  She wanted it all, and she didn’t want to wait for Mother to pass.  

She went to college with the woman who manages Belle Venica, and they thought if they could get Mother there and she signed a power of attorney, I could transfer almost all the money to our account.  When Mother did pass, we’d tell Lacey paying for the nursing home had used up most of Mother’s money.  Since I’d be the executor of the estate, Lacey would have to believe me.  Lacey would get half of what’s left so she’d be none the wiser.

“It was easy to get Mother into Belle Venica.  The woman at Belle Venica gave Andrea something to put in the drink Mother had every night.  Mother went to sleep, and then we carried her to the car and took her to Belle Venica.

“She was pretty mad when she woke up.  Andrea had me tell Mother it was because she forgot things and because she drank.  I asked her to sign the power of attorney papers that day.  She just threw the paper back at me and said she’d never sign.

“I don’t know what Andrea did after that because she won’t tell me.  I didn’t know Mother had left Belle Venica until Andrea told me the day after.  She’s mad at me now because I couldn’t get Mother to sign the paperwork, and she says it’s my fault Mother got away.

“I don’t know where Mother is, but I didn’t help her get out and I couldn’t ever kill my own mother.  That’s the honest truth.”

I pushed a pad of paper in front of Randolph and then a pen.

“If you’ll write all that down and sign it, I’ll go have a talk with the DA.”

After I’d read Randolph’s confession and watched him sign it, I left him in the interrogation room and went to find Andrea.  She was sitting in the waiting area and it was obvious she was pissed.  She had her legs crossed and the leg on top was bobbing away like crazy.  I stepped in front of her and said she could go talk to Randolph now.

I led her back to the interrogation rooms and opened the door to the room next to the one where I had Randolph.  She walked in and almost ran me down trying to get back out.

“Where is Randolph?”

“Just have a seat, Mrs. Tillerson.  I need to ask you a few questions.”

I’d expected her to demand a lawyer before she said a word, and she didn’t disappoint me.  She’d called one as soon as I started talking to Randolph.  Until her lawyer got there, I could ask her any questions, so I locked her in the interrogation room and went to see if the report on Cheryl’s finances had come back.

It had, and between the bank account, some municipal bonds and CD’s, Cheryl was worth a little less than two hundred thousand.  If she owned her house and three others, I figured the scam would have given Andrea and her partners somewhere little over three hundred thousand.  That was more than enough to prove motive in any court.  

I had Randolph’s confession implicating Andrea as the one who made the plan.  Now I needed to find out how many other people were in on it.  I thought Andrea might give me the names if I threatened her enough.

When her lawyer got there, I let him have half an hour with her before I walked in and sat down.

“Andrea, I’m going to lay all my cards on the table for you so you can see what you’re up against.  Your husband has signed a confession that you and he were trying to take his mother’s money by putting her in a nursing home and getting her to sign a power of attorney turning over her assets to him.  

“I know from his confession you somehow got a drug to put in her drink to put her to sleep. What I don’t know is why Belle Venica let you bring a drugged woman there and where you got the drugs.  No reputable nursing home would accept a patient who wasn’t conscious unless there was a doctor with her who said it was necessary for her own safety.  Would you care to explain that?”

Andrea whispered something to her lawyer and he whispered something back.  Andrea then looked at me.

“What am I being charged with?”

“Right now, I’m going to charge you with intent to defraud, assault, and kidnapping.  When we find your mother-in-law’s body, I’ll charge you with first degree murder.”

“What do you mean when you find her body.  She’s not dead is she?”

“Well, she disappeared from Belle Venica, and from what Randolph told me about her financial situation, you had a lot of reasons to kill her.  If she was dead, there wouldn’t be any need for a power of attorney.  Randolph would inherit half her assets.  Since he was named as her executor, I’m sure you’d have figured out a way to get it all.  That makes you a prime suspect.”

Andrea and her lawyer had a whispered conversation for a couple minutes before she turned back to me.

“I’ll admit to trying to take her money, but I won’t admit to killing her because I didn’t.”

“Who got you the drugs?”

“The doctor at Belle Venica.  He was supposed to get a quarter of her money.  Beverly and I were going to split the rest.”

“Beverly Rand, the manager of Belle Venica?”

“Yes.  It was her idea in the first place.  I was telling her about how much money Randolph’s mother had and she said we should figure out a way to get it now instead of waiting until she died.”

I pushed my pad of paper and a pen in front of Andrea.

“If you’ll write all that down and sign it, I’ll see what the DA has to say.  If your confession turns out to be the truth, he might lower the charges a little.  I’m not promising anything, but I know Dick.  If you don’t write it down and sign it, he’ll go for the maximum prison time.  You’re probably looking at ten to twelve, maybe eight if you behave yourself.”

I knew Dick had been with the Captain watching both interrogations on the closed circuit TV system.  When I walked out of the interrogation room with Andrea’s signed confession, he was standing there grinning.  

“Great job, Mike.  You saved me a lot of work and a lot of time in court.  I’ll set the arraignment hearing for tomorrow.”

The Captain shook my hand.

“Mike, you did good.  I think you can take Cheryl home now, and I don’t mean Belle Venica.  I have four officers on the way over there to arrest the manager and the doctor.  They probably won’t be accepting any more residents for a while.”

I felt pretty good when I drove up to The Imperial Gardens and knocked on Cheryl’s door. She grinned when she saw my smile.

“Did you do it?”

“Yes.  Your son and Andrea both confessed, and Andrea told me the manager and doctor at Belle Venica were both in on it.  They’re being arrested right now.  You can go home, Cheryl.”

“Well good.  I can get out of these clothes, take a bath, and get into something clean.  Lacey bought me some jeans and a top but I haven’t had time to change yet.  Come in and meet her.”

Now, I’m probably the least romantic guy you’d ever meet.  I always laughed when one of the female officers told me about finding love at first sight.  I’m not sure it was love, but when I saw Lacey standing there, something in my head sort of went “Wow”.  

She was tall and slender with a figure that looked just about perfect.  She was also about my age, or so I guessed.  Her dark brown hair cascaded in waves over the soft shoulders bared by her tank top, and the way that tank top fit let a lot of cleavage peek over the low neck.  Her jeans were tight enough I didn’t have to imagine how slender and shapely her legs were.  

I figured Lacey looked a lot like her mother had when she was younger, and as I quickly learned, Lacey was every bit as feisty.   She grinned at me and stuck out her hand.

“So you’re the man who took care of my mama.  You look like you could take care of a woman pretty well.”

“Well, I found her and hid her here if that’s what you mean.”

Lacey giggled.

“Mama said you wouldn’t take her home with you.  She was disappointed.  I can see why.”

Cheryl chuckled.

“Lacey, that’s why I said you had to meet him.  You’re young enough he probably wouldn’t tell you no like he did me.”

“Well, I don’t think I’ll ask him…not yet, anyway.  What I will do is take you both out to dinner.  Mike, can you give up your pizza for a decent meal?  Mama said that’s all you eat at home.  It must get boring.”

Dinner was probably great, but I don’t remember what I had.  I couldn’t take my eyes off Lacey.  We talked a lot.  I do remember doing that.  I just don’t remember what we talked about.  The other thing I remember is that when we sat down, Lacey was talking with both me and Cheryl.  As things went on though, it seemed like she was only talking to me.

I drove them both to Cheryl’s house and was going to go home so they could spend some time together.  Cheryl stopped me by asking if I’d come inside for a while.  I couldn’t really say no.  I didn’t want to say no anyway.

Cheryl turned over what looked like a rock in the plants by her steps, picked up a key, and laughed.

“I put this key here after I locked myself out one time.  I never thought I’d get locked out by my daughter-in-law.”

Cheryl’s living room was pretty nice.  It wasn’t as feminine as I’d expected.  There was a fireplace on one wall and over that fireplace was a heavy, wood mantle.  I was looking at the pictures that sat there when Lacey came out of the kitchen with a beer in each hand.

“I found these in Mama’s fridge.  She doesn’t drink beer, so I guess Randy must have put them there.  Want one?  I don’t think he’d care.”

She handed me one of the bottles after she unscrewed the top.

“I see you’re looking at Mama’s pictures.  That’s Daddy in his uniform.  He was a police officer in Louisville for thirty years before he retired and they moved to Nashville.”

“I didn’t know that.  Cheryl never said what her husband did, or even that she had a husband for that matter.”

“Well, Mama doesn’t talk about him much anymore.  I think it hurts her too much to remember him.  I remember him though.  He taught me how to shoot a pistol and how to defend myself, but he also taught me about what life means and why I should follow my heart instead of doing what everybody says I should do.  It’s been working pretty well so far.”

“He must have been a great guy then.”

“He was.  I always hoped I’d find a man like him.  Haven’t so far, but I’m still hoping.”  

“So, how long will you be in town?”

Lacey tipped up her bottle and took a small sip, then smiled at me.

“I don’t know.  Long enough to get Mama settled in again and maybe long enough to see how long Randy has to go to jail.  It doesn’t really matter.  I teach classes in computer software so I fly all over the place anyway.  Why?”

“I just thought maybe you’d like to have dinner some night.”

Lacey grinned at me.

“And then you’ll take me home with you like Mama said?”

“Well, no.  I wouldn’t do that on a first date, probably not even on the third.”

“Damn, I was kinda hoping you’d ask.”

Well, that first date turned into six months of weekend dates.  Lacey did fly back to Utah to get what she needed to run her business from Cheryl’s house and to put her furniture in storage.  After that, I started seeing her every Saturday.  On our fourth date, we were sitting at Capelo’s finishing our coffee after dinner.

Lacey put her hand on mine and smiled.

“It’s our fourth date.  You said after the fourth you’d ask me to go home with you.”

I was a little stunned by that, but over the past four weeks, I’d learned that Lacey was a lot like her mother in that she said what she thought.  

“No, I said I wouldn’t ask you to do that even after the third.”

She stroked the back of my hand with her fingertip.

“Well…if you were to ask me, I’d probably say yes.”

“Really?”

“Yes, really.”

“Shouldn’t you let Cheryl know you’re not coming home?”

Lacey smiled.

“I did that before we left.”

Lacey was a pretty woman when she was dressed and she wasn’t bashful when we got to my apartment.  I’d just closed and locked the door when she put her arms around my neck.

“Remember when I said I hadn’t found a man like Daddy yet?”

“Yes.”

“I think I might have found him now.  It all depends.”

“Depends on what?”

“On if what Mama said was right or not.”

I really didn’t know what that meant, but after she stood on her tiptoes and kissed me, I forgot all about it.  There was something different about that kiss.  At the time, I didn’t know what that was.  All I knew is I wanted to hold Lacey like that forever.

She wouldn’t let me do that, though.  She eased back down on her feet and grinned at me.

“So far, so good.  Where’s the bed?”

Lacey was a pretty woman in tight jeans and snug top.  Naked, she was more woman that I’d ever been with.  Everything about her, from her perky breasts to hips that swelled sensuously from her narrow waist, was making me want her like I’d never wanted any other woman.  When she pressed her soft breasts into my naked chest, I slipped my hands down and cupped her ass cheeks.  When I stroked a finger down her butt crack, Lacey voice was a low, sultry, purr.

“Mmm…I like that.  Show me what else you can do.”

I showed her a lot of things that night.  I showed her how much I loved fondling her breasts and how much I loved the feeling of her nipples in my mouth.  I showed her how hard my cock got when she found it and slowly stroked my shaft.  I showed her how gentle I could be when I stroked her slit through the trimmed, dark brown hair between her smooth thighs.

It seemed to not take long before Lacey nibbled at my chest and then whispered, “roll over on your back”.  After I did, Lacey straddled my thighs, then leaned down and kissed me.  Her rigid nipples brushed my chest hair as she worked her body down until my cock felt soft, wet hair.  I felt her reach between us then, find my cock, and rub the swollen head between her lips.

A few seconds later, Lacy found her entrance with my cock head and began slowly impaling herself.  After a short push, she raised back up and then pushed her body back down again.  I felt my cock pushing into a narrowing and then the zing as it went through.  Lacey caught her breath and kept pushing down until she was laying on my belly with her breasts mashed into my chest.

She raised up then, and my cock slid deeper inside her.  Lacey moaned and pulled my hands to her breasts, then started riding my cock.  Her up and down motion was slow and deliberate.  The little gasps and moans she made when I stroked, pinched, and pulled on her nipples were almost as exciting as the feeling of her rippled passage stroking my cock.  

For a while, that’s all she did, just ride my cock and shudder when I tweaked her nipple or stroked her hip.  I’d been with several women in the past, and had enjoyed them, but Lacey was different.  With those other women, I’d made them cum and I had too and it was great.  I hadn’t gotten to that point with Lacey yet but it felt even better.

I sort of got lost in her that night.  It was a joy to fondle her breasts and feel her shiver at my touch.  It was a joy to hear her moan when I lightly pinched her nipples and twisted them.  It was more than I’d ever imagined when she leaned down, poked her right nipple in my face and then shuddered when I sucked it.  She moaned then and a second later I had to groan and push my cock up into her stroke.  The little contraction that squeezed my cock head wouldn’t let me do anything else.

I was at the point of needing to hold back when Lacey gasped and ground her lips into the base of my cock.

“Oh God, Mike…I’m almost there.”

Lacey sped up her strokes and when I pinched her nipple between my teeth, she shrieked and slammed her body down over my cock.  She started to pant and her strokes pushed my cock deep inside her.  Then, she did this rocking thing with her hips and pushed my cock into something so soft and so wet I was having trouble holding back.  I knew it was useless after the second time she did this.  I was going to cum and there wasn’t anything I could do about it.

I grabbed Lacey’s hips and met her stroke halfway.  She shrieked again, and I lost any semblance of control.  Lacey’s hips started rolling around at the same time she was moving up and down over my cock.  I felt a gush of warm wetness around my shaft and then Lacey shrieked again.  I’m not sure what happened after that.  I was cumming too hard to think.

Lacey made one last push that drove my cock back inside her and then eased down on my chest.  For a while, we just laid there.  Lacey kept making little moans and with each, I’d feel her passage contract around my cock.  When those little contractions slowed down, she raised her head and grinned.

“I think Mama was right about you.”

“Oh.  What did she say about me?”

“She said you reminded her of Daddy, and that you’d probably make me feel like he made her feel.”

“Did I?”

“Mmm…I think it was better than she told me it would be.  I’m not sure I can move yet.  I don’t want to either.  I just want to stay like this.”

Of course, we couldn’t.  My cock quickly softened to the point it wouldn’t stay inside Lacey though she tried to keep it there.  When it slipped out, she rolled to my side, pressed her breasts into the side of my chest and snuggled up to me.  

After six months with Lacey, I’d decided I didn’t want to be without her.  I knew she loved me because she’d said so a lot.  I was worried though.  It’s tough to live with a cop.  We don’t have the most regular hours sometimes, and there’s always a risk we won’t come home some night.  I was thinking about whether I should ask her to marry me when I drove to the station that day.

When I went past the desk, the desk sergeant said the Captain wanted to see me.  When I walked into his office he asked me to close the door and then have a seat.  What he said hit me like a ton of bricks.

“Mike, I hate to lose you as a patrol officer, but I’m afraid I have to let you go.”

“Why?  What the hell did I do?”

He frowned.

“You took it upon yourself to hide that woman instead of taking her back to Belle Venica and then you involved yourself in an investigation of fraud you should have passed on to the detectives.  I can’t have my patrolmen doing shit like that.  They’re supposed to be out there arresting people for traffic violations and for sticking up businesses and dragging hookers to jail so the judge can release them an hour later.”

“But you said I did a good job.  So did the DA.”

He grinned then.

“Gotcha, didn’t I?  I’m not going to fire you Mike.  You did really well on the detectives exam, and it just so happens I have an opening.  Bill Jenkins called it quits this morning.  You go back home and change that uniform into a suit and tie and come back tomorrow.  You’ll have Bill’s desk along with his open case file.  Now get your ass out of here and go celebrate.”

Lacey and I did celebrate that night.  When she’d gasped out the orgasm and then snuggled up beside me, I told her about my promotion.  She stroked my chest.

“Is that something you wanted?”

“Yes, it is.  I didn’t think it would be right to ask you to marry me if I was still a patrolman.  There was too big a risk I might not come home some night.  Now, well, detectives don’t usually get into situations like that.”

“I wouldn’t have said no if you’d asked me.”

“Would you still say yes now?”

Lacey snuggled up a little tighter.

“Mmm…as long as we can do this, I would.”

Lacey moved back to Nashville a week later and moved into my apartment.  Our wedding wasn’t a big affair.  We were married by the Justice of the Peace and then went to Cheryl’s house.  I was a little surprised by all the people who were there.  She’d invited all the homeless people from down the block.  I was even more surprised when Jeremy walked up and offered his hand.

“Mike, I was afraid that day that you’d arrest me, but Cheryl said I could trust you and she was right.  You’re one of the good ones, Mike.  If you ever need help, Cheryl will know where I live.  Best of luck to you and Lacey.”

We settled down in my apartment until the lease ran out and then moved into one of the houses Cheryl owned.  We’re as happy as anybody, I guess.  Lacey is flying somewhere at least once a week, but she’s always home on the weekends.  We make those weekends special times.

I’m still a detective and I like the work, but sometimes I think the patrolmen have it easier.  It’s that old “grass is greener” thing I guess.  When I was a patrolman I thought the same thing about the detectives.

Cheryl is still Cheryl.  She makes sandwiches for the homeless people every other day, and when it started getting cold, made sure they all had a couple blankets.  She makes a trip every other week down to that same liquor store for a fifth of vodka.  She says it helps the arthritis in her hip, but I’ve never seen her limp.  Lacey says she drinks a shot every night because that’s what they did when her Daddy was still alive.  I guess old habits are hard to break especially if you have a reason to keep them going.

Well, Lacey just walked into the den wearing nothing and crooked her finger at me, so I need to stop typing.  She’s as feisty as her mother sometimes and I love that.  Other times, like I figure tonight’s going to be, she’s all woman and more woman than I ever thought I’d find.  I love that even more.

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