The Angel Maker – Chapter One

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_________________

 

 

Happy Mothers’ Day, Mama

You’ve been gone for more than nine years but I still think about you now and then.  I still carry you around in the trunk of my car although I rarely, if ever, remember that you are there.

For years, I searched for a proper urn to put you in but I could never find one.  Just a few weeks ago, I found one that would have been perfect but I was afraid if I took you out of my car, it would be bad luck.

I have always thought that somehow, since you never cared about me when you were alive, maybe you would care about me when you were dead.

I never thought it was disrespectful or maybe I didn’t think it was as disrespectful as it was when you called me a parasite or told me that I looked like a street-walker.

I remember that you hated the few times my daddy defended me and you would start calling me “your highness” or “your royalness.”  When he left, you would grab my hair and pull it so hard it left knots on my head and then you’d start beating me.

I have no idea where you are but I imagine that you are in Heaven.  God seems to forgive people who almost beat their children to death and think it was deserved and He seems to overlook the drunks who inflict their vicious abuse on somebody and never remember it.

In my mind, I can still see your long, chestnut brown hair, your porcelain skin and your ice blue eyes.  I remember how statuesque I thought you looked wearing your high heels, even after you kicked me between the legs and made me bleed.

I remember thinking there was nothing you couldn’t do.  How I wanted to be like you.

I remember that you never fell apart, even when you had to endure the devastation of losing your first son by my hands.

I remember that you never cried but I remember that you would beat me until I did.  Once you made me cry, I remember the look of satisfaction on your face.

You used to make fun of me when I cried.  You would smirk and say “that’s right.  Turn on the waterworks.”  Then you would beat me until I stopped. As determined as I was to hold back my tears, you always won.

I’m different today.  You couldn’t make me cry and you wouldn’t have to beat me to make me stop.  Now I can smirk when I say the waterworks have been turned off.  I will never shed another tear.  I win.

I remember how afraid I was when you towered over me and gritted your teeth.  I remember the fear I felt when I saw your clenched fists.  I remember how hard you could hit when you had a broom handle or a baseball bat or a belt in your hands.

Even when you weren’t armed with a weapon, your words became tools that inflicted horrible, invisible slashes.  The wounds were so deep that I could almost feel myself bleeding to death.

I used to wish you had been allowed to deliver what would have surely been a fatal blow.  A hammer strike to the back of my head would have ended my torture but as fate would have it, your mama walked in and stopped you.

I remember asking why you didn’t just kill me.  You said “because I don’t want to go to jail.”

I remember seeing such hatred in those ice blue eyes.  I remember asking why you didn’t love me and I remember what you said.

I remember your beautiful long fingers that covered my entire face when you slapped me.  I remember how sometimes, you would powder my face to try to hide the bruises you left.

I remember how you would look at my youngest daughter with that same familiar hatred in your ice blue eyes, because she looked just like me.

I raised my bright, beautiful, intelligent and talented children not knowing their grandmother and grandfather because you weren’t interested in them. They were mine and because of that, you thought they weren’t worth knowing.

I think you would be happy if you knew that I am alone.  I think you would smile if you knew that my children no longer speak to me.  I think you would be satisfied if you knew that I will get no acknowledgment for Mothers’ Day.

I think you would tell me that I am getting exactly what I deserve and you would say the reason is that I have never done anything to make anybody love me.  That’s why you said you didn’t love me.

I wish I knew the love of a mama.  When I broke my leg the second time, I wish I knew how it felt to be comforted instead of being threatened that if I broke it again, you would whip me.  I wish I knew how it felt to wake up and see you sitting beside my bed, because I was sick.

I wish I knew how it felt for you to walk into my room and say “time to rise and shine,” instead of waking me up by throwing a drawer of silverware in my face.

I wish I knew how it felt to be hugged by you…just once.

I wish all these things but they will never happen.  I won’t see you in Heaven because you damaged me beyond repair.  You, other mamas and other mamas’ sons taught me how to hate.  You, other mamas and other mamas’ sons taught me that I am worthless.

You, other mamas and other mamas’ sons taught me to despise the phrase “I love you.”  You, other mamas and other mamas’ sons made it impossible for me to be able to say those words to my children.

You never said it to me but other mamas and other mamas’ sons cavalierly tossed that phrase around after a violent outburst of soul-killing abuse, as if it could repair the emotional murder they had just commited.

I think I’ll borrow the sarcastic phrase my oldest daughter used in her last scathing email, when she made sure that her family, my family, her friends and I all knew what a worthless piece of garbage she thinks I am.

“Well done.  Good job.  You are the best!!”