My name is Brockton Hooker and I was working my first solo case. For almost three years I had worked alongside seasoned detectives, learning the proverbial ropes and being the second banana. Many were slowly burning out and more than willing to let me help ease their work load by cutting me loose. What to them might have been a run-of-the-mill case, was to me a chance to make a name for myself.
Some poor slob had mysteriously died in his sleep and the investigation fell to me. He lived in the Chestnut Hill area of Philadelphia. Old money lived there and you could smell it all the way downtown.
The dead man was a third generation real estate mogul named Coleman Stark. The Stark dynasty had virtually swallowed up the other brokers and created a monopoly that encompassed almost the entire state of Pennsylvania.
As I entered the three-story mansion, I tried to give the impression that I frequented houses of that ilk on a regular basis but I admit that I was intimidated by an elegance that was completely foreign to me. It was a far cry from my tiny one bedroom walk-up in the seedy part of town.
An enormous chandelier graced the foyer and I was certain that it was bigger than most people’s living rooms. Light performed pirouettes on the crystals and I thought “if I had a dollar for every one of those crystals, I could retire tomorrow.”
Like many older wealthy gentlemen, Mr. Coleman had been married and divorced more than a few times. Against his children’s wishes, he married his much younger secretary shortly before he retired.
There had been whispers about her and Coleman’s children had unsuccessfully tried to convince him that she, who they referred to as Jezebel, was nothing more than a gold-digger. He had refused their demand to make her sign a prenuptial agreement. His view was that it would be insulting and told them that he was sure of her love for him, even if they weren’t. This angered his children, especially since he would become her third husband at the age of only 27.
Shortly after I arrived, I heard the officers whispering about her nickname, “The Angel Maker.” One of them said her two previous husbands had died of heart attacks and even though in both cases, the coroners’ report confirmed no foul play, there were lingering questions. Like Mr. Stark, they had been much older men of considerable means but unlike Mr. Stark, they had left her nothing more than a mere pittance in their wills.
The first time I saw her, despite my obvious lame attempt at professionalism, I was immediately captivated by this alluring vision of beauty. I could feel myself questioning how she could possibly be a murderer but I could certainly understand how a man of a certain age could die of a heart attack. Getting frisky with her would surely try even a healthy young man, but it would be a marvelous way to go.
She had all the earmarks of what old money could buy. Her long blonde hair hung loosely around her shoulders. Her piercing green eyes were almost hypnotic and I suddenly got the feeling that she knew she could have her way with me.
She almost floated as she walked toward me and extended her hand. For a brief moment, I was unsure whether to shake it or bring it to my mouth and kiss it, while on one knee. She had smooth, shapely legs that seemed to go all the way up to her shoulders. With a flick of her hand, she tossed her hair behind her back and in a soft, beckoning voice said “hello. I’m Emberlyn Stark, and you are?”
I think I said Brockton Hooker but I’m not sure. She was the epitome of pure, raw sex appeal and I was drawn to her like a moth to a flame. I fumbled my words as I tried to ask if she was up to answering a few questions about her late husband. Apparently I managed to get the words out because she smiled and said “of course.”
We sat down and I immediately entered a fantasy world. I began to play a mental video of writhing naked on the floor with her. Her long hair would cover me like a soft blanket and her skin would feel like liquid silk as my hungry hands explored her body. We would fit together like a giant jigsaw puzzle.
I was abruptly brought back to reality when she leaned over and said “are you alright, detective Hooker?” I managed a polite but embarrassed “yes,” as I began.
“Can you tell me the last time you saw your husband alive?” I asked.
“Last night,” she said.
“Did he seem to be ill?”
“No. He was in good spirits and went to bed at his usual time. I followed later.”
“What time would that be?” I asked.
“His usual time is around nine o’clock. With an almost impish smile, she said “I am a bit more of a night owl.”
She had used the present tense about his bedtime, which was an indication of either not yet accepting the fact that he was dead or being a manipulative psychopath, knowing how to use the exact right word or phrase.
I mentioned that the time of death seemed to have been several hours ago and asked why she hadn’t noticed that something wasn’t right when she woke this morning.
“We sleep in separate bedrooms detective, so there’s no way I would have noticed.”
“Who discovered his body?” I asked.
She said “our maid, Helga but she’s understandably quite a mess right now.” She motioned for the butler and said “Bronson, would you please ask Helga to come here?”
Helga reluctantly came into the room, not really knowing what to expect. I have to admit that it was difficult for me to keep my composure. She was one of those unfortunate women you hear described as falling out of an ugly tree and hitting every single branch on the way down. She spoke with a thick accent, aided by hands that nervously flitted in such a way that it reminded me of an insect trapped in a glass jar desperately trying to get free.
All I could gather from Helgas’ manic sign language was that she had discovered Mr. Stark laying in the bed, clutching a rose.
“A rose?” I asked. “Yes,” Helga said. “A rose.” She wiped her nose with a tissue, did the sign of the cross and said “now he is with the angels.”
The irony of that statement was not lost on me. Mr. Stark was “with the angels” and I was sitting in front of the “angel maker.”
To be continued_________________