Slaughters’ next call was to Ellison Caldwell. He was running a Fancy Food Distributor franchise, headquartered in Peoria, Illinois.
She introduced herself and he flippantly said “Murphy, huh? Strange name for a woman. Anybody ever call you Murph?” Slaughter tersely replied “not more than once.”
“I understand you’re a retired newspaper editor.”
He said “yes I am.” After a few minutes of conversation, it was clear that he was quite impressed with himself and truly believed that the newspaper industry was now faltering simply because he had chosen to leave the profession.
It was also clear that he actually thought that he was going to be able to manipulate the call into an interview about the wonder that was him.
“I’ve taken file clerks and turned them into award-winning journalists. I’ve taken mediocre writers and turned them into successful novelists. I’ve overseen ongoing articles that have come close to winning Pulitzer Prizes. I have turned second-rate editors into top-flight, highly sought-after instructors.”
“I have almost single-handedly succeeded in saving many papers and ultimately turned them into profit-makers.”
Slaughter coyly said “so you were the sole reason for their survival and therefore, by default, your departure was instrumental in their ultimate demise because nobody is as good as you? Fair enough. I’ll let you wear your crown but that’s not the reason for my call.”
She could hear the disgust in Caldwells’ voice when he said “okay. What is the reason for your call?”
“I’m investigating a series of deaths and I believe you were acquainted with one of the deceased, a Mr. Larz Østergaard.”
“Yes. I knew him and I heard that he was killed.” The self-promotion continued when he said “I don’t know if you’re aware of this but I used to head up the investigative reporting department at several newspapers and I would be happy to give you a few pointers. I have numerous awards for my work.”
“I’m sure you do,” said Slaughter. “I’m sure you have accolades and plaques that you take down, dust off and show to your friends who stop by for a beer. I’m sure they’re appropriately impressed but I’m not talking about finding some political figure with his pants down around his ankles in front of the wrong woman. I’m talking about a murder.”
“Fine,” Caldwell said. “I just thought a little background information about myself might lend some credence to our conversation. I’m not some Joe Schmo off the street, you know.”
Clearly tired of playing the “I’m the smartest person on the phone” game, Slaughter said “being the excellent journalist that you obviously believe that you are, I will let you tout your own triumphs in your autobiography but this is not about you. See if you can focus for one minute and tell me what you know about Mr. Østergaard.”
She knew she had angered him when he impatiently quipped in monotone, “okay. I know he was from Denmark. I know he sold us our new computer system. I know he liked to drink and play golf. I know that most of the women thought he was charming and good-looking but I didn’t personally know him other than to nod if we passed in the hallway.”
“Did you know any of his friends? You say women thought he was good-looking. Do you know if he dated any of them?”
“I don’t have a clue. I wasn’t his social calendar keeper,” said Caldwell.
“Did it bother you that women thought he was good-looking? I mean it seems to me that you would be a little put off by somebody who garnered some attention.”
“What the fuck is that supposed to mean?” Caldwell asked. “It means exactly what you think it means,” said Slaughter. “It’s been my experience that men like you don’t do well with competition on any front and that leads to the question, did you have a problem with him?”
Caldwell gruffly said “no, I didn’t and just for your information, I’ve had more than my share of attention from women and I enjoyed it.”
“But you obviously don’t enjoy it when one of those women aren’t enamored by your self-important bullshit.”
Slaughter had to move the phone away from her ear when Caldwell literally screamed, “this conversation is over!”
She said “the conversation will be over after I ask a few more questions.”
“Go ahead,” growled Caldwell.
“Did you know George and Lisa Moore?”
“Nope, can’t say that I did.”
“How about Marvin Jackson?”
“How about David Ludlow?”
“No. Who are these people and what do they have to do with me?” asked Caldwell.
“They’re victims and we’re trying to connect them somehow,” said Slaughter.
“Well, good luck. I’m afraid I can’t help you. Is that all?” asked Caldwell.
“One more question. With your winning personality and being a self-proclaimed savior, why did you retire from the business that you were so clearly responsible for saving? Could it be possible that you were forced out?”
Slaughter smiled as she heard the phone disconnect.
A few minutes later, Burke called to tell her that he was headed back to the station and asked if she had managed to connect with Caldwell.
Again, he was pleasantly surprised when Slaughter let out an unexpected giggle and said “this man is so full of himself. It was difficult to get anything out of him, other than what a consummate expert he thinks he is. He rattled off a list of accomplishments that was as long as his dick, I think. So in other words, he’s done nothing.”
To be continued_________________