Chester (Chet) Lapinski claims to be Debra Padget's murderer. He refuses to speak with anyone but Sheriff Oleson.
Arriving at headquarters, Derek Oleson learns the suspect was terminated from his employment after being accused of fraudulent service claims by Darcy Shaw, Debra Padget's niece.
HEADQUARTERS, GRANITE MTN. SHERIFF DEPARTMENT
Detective Ron Jolly's persistent digging revealed Chet Lapinski had strong motive for wanting Debra Padget dead. When and how to utilize this information required patience and finesse much like the art of fly-fishing. Devotee Sherrif Derek Oleson had painstakingly nurtured both qualities, and the man in custody was to be pitied if he thought this all a game.
Detective Jolly's opinion of the suspect, Chet Lapinski, had neither been asked for nor offered. But the detective suspected his superior would soon discover the same troubling discrepancies he had.
Chet Lapinski acts more like a junkie on a crack high than a cool-headed serial killer.
Derek Oleson uncoiled his spine and stretched to his full height. His demeanor was controlled and his words curt, "Ron, get a copy of your report to Jana Burke, then come find me. I want you to be in the room when I interview Chet Lapinski."
"Sure thing, but you're gonna have a fight on your hands, Sir. Our newest recruit is hot to get the confession."
Ron laughed when he saw the fox-at-the-coop-door look on his boss's face. “Ouch,” he blurted. “I remember getting that look a few times. Knocked me off my high horse and taught me to shut my mouth and open my eyes.” On his feet and moving through the doorway, he continued, “Hope that idiot kid realizes this is the best damned department he'll ever work for!"
Detective Jolly located the room Jana was using to conduct her interview with Darcy Shaw. He rapped lightly on the door.
"Who is it?" He barely heard Jana's raspy reply.
"Sorry to interrupt, Detective Burke. I've got something you need to see."
There was no immediate reply, and he debated whether to knock again or enter uninvited. The door opened just as his knuckles touched its surface. Detective Jana Burke smiled sourly and said, "Can it wait, Ron?"
He slapped the report against his open palm. “The Boss wants you to have a copy ..." He was prevented from finishing by Jana's dramatic sneeze into the wad of Kleenex in her fist. The overpowering smell of perfume nearly knocked him back.
The perfume's source sat on a couch at one end of the room. By design, his first view of Darcy Shaw was of shapely legs and a pin-up pose. A beat later, he noted how her perfect porcelain smile burned out when she registered the color of his skin.
"This won't take long, Ms. Shaw,” Detective Burke mumbled in the general direction of the woman and pulled the door closed before she could protest.
"Ron, I need a bottle of water. Would you mind grabbing one for me.” Rotating her eyes in the direction of the waiting woman. "And one for the princess, too."
Her eyes were already running down the page of facts he'd provided, so he pulled back the comment on his lips and hurried to the break room. When he returned with the water bottles, Jana appeared revitalized.
She hooked two fingers around the bottle tops and nodded her thanks. "You and Derek gonna interrogate Chet Lapinski together?”
His throat tightened around his words, "Yes, how'd you know?"
Belying the dignity with which she held herself, Ron recognized a fiery pride dampened by disappointment in her unguarded face.
"I know, because it's the way I'd do it."
"Justice is a process, not an outcome, Derek." Besides giving him a reason to crawl into the bottom of a bottle of Jack Daniels and stay there for six years, his ex-wife, Janine, had unwittingly given him the mantra by which he conducted himself professionally. She'd come from a long line of Texas lawmen -- her own daddy had been a Texas ranger. After he sobered up, he realized she'd offered him the best damned advice he'd ever gotten.
Derek Oleson excelled in his job because he focused on what he was able to manage and assumed the rest was out of his hands. And he believed Jana Burke innately possessed this same knowledge. She gave every inch of herself to making a good case, yet was able to distance herself emotionally from the inevitable disappointment of seeing her hard work undermined by a sympathetic jury.
With a rogue rookie on his hands, the sheriff needed Jana to take care of a potential problem in the person of Darcy Shaw. He hoped she understood this wasn't about her being the only female in the department, but a decision based on common sense: Detective Jolly had an uncanny ability to cull the chaff from a criminal's alibi. Together, the two men had a reputation for putting together rock-solid cases.
Sheriff Oleson rounded the corner in time to see Detectives Newstead and Hitchens in the midst of a heated conversation. Hitchens stepped away, but Detective Newstead stood his ground.
"Insolence or balls of steel, hard to know with this one," thought Derek.
With a smile to disarm, he dug right in. "I understand you feel entitled to be the one who interviews our suspect, Detective Newstead."
"I never said I was entitled to anything, Sir," he countered while jabbing a finger into the air between them. "Most of you have done this hundreds of times. I just want my chance to show that I can pull my weight around here."
The senior detective rarely lost his cool with his employees, but when pressed, he could unleash a sharp verbal hook you never saw coming. "Really, Detective. It's your professional opinion that I should entrust the confession of someone claiming to have commited one of the most sensational murders ever seen in this county to a new recruit with less than a year's experience? What kind of a damned fool do you take me for?!"
The rookie reacted like a man who'd stepped in a thick pile of cow shit with his brand new two hundred-dollar boots.
"Here's what you're going to spend your next forty-eight hours doing, Detective. I'm putting you in charge of discovering how details of this investigation were leaked to the press."
Newstead's jaw went slack and he sputtered, "Why are you doing this to me? Can't one of the older guys like Hitchens do that?" Ron Jolly put out his arm in time to prevent Detective Hutchins from launching himself on Newstead.
In a tone devoid of any emotion, Derek continued, "You have your orders. Now either comply," holding out his hand, "or surrender your service pistol and badge."
Finally, the gravity of his situation got through to the man. He rushed to make things right. "Please excuse my behavior just now, Sir. I'll have a report on your desk in forty hours, I promise."
Derek's instincts told him the younger man was trouble waiting to hitch a ride with the right opportunity. But without proof, his only recourse was to isolate Detective Newstead from the more active aspects of the investigation.
"I suggest you get moving, Detective. The clock is ticking."
""""This interview is being conducted on September 13, 2010, at 3:54 P.M. by myself, Sheriff Derek Oleson, in the presence of Detective Ronald Jolly. Let it be noted that Chester Lapinski has been apprised of his constitutional rights, and has waived his right to counsel at this time."
"Chester, I'm Sheriff Derek Oleson, and this is Detective Jolly."
"Chet ... call me Chet, will ya? Only my father ever called me Chester. I knew I was in for a beating when he called me Chester."
"Your dad beating you--that happen a lot, Chet?" Derek asked gently.
Eyes bright with desperation, Chet looked away from the sheriff's face to hide the sheen of tears.
"Yes, but never on Sundays! Mama forbade my daddy's drinking being the Lord's Day and all."
Derek probed deeper. "It sounds like your mama could stop your daddy's drinking when she wanted to, Chet. So how come she couldn't stop the beatings?"
Crossing his arms and caressing his biceps, Chet met the investigator's eyes head on. "Because she enjoyed watching. She'd stand in the doorway and say things like, 'that'll teach you to sass me.' And afterwards, I could hear the bedboard banging against their bedroom wall."
Derek pulled a single sheet from a file on the table and appeared to study it. In his peripheral vision, he could see Chet Lapinski bouncing his knees like he had a baby in his lap.
"Says here that you currently reside with your mother. Is that correct, Chet?"
The garbled response was mostly unintelligible.
"Chet, you're going to have to speak up." Pointing to the recording device.
"Are you currently residing with your mother, Chet?"
The suspect rose halfway out of the chair and spat out his words.
"Yes, I live with my mother, okay?! I had my own apartment until that bitch Marion Burdock fired me."
Chet leaned back and stared at the ceiling. "She always had it in for me. She never even gave me a chance to explain my side of the story."
"Is that why you killed Debra Padget? Because she got you fired?"
The suspect's eyes darted about like a man trying to find something familiar in a fog-shrouded landscape.
"The voice said 'Kill Debra Padget' and that's what I did. I walked right up to her front door. It took her a long time to answer because of the wheelchair. She screamed when she saw it was me and tried to shut the door. I stuck my foot out so she couldn't close it all the way. I chased her into the bedroom and choked her with my bare hands."
Derek Oleson kept his voice neutral and friendly, despite his frustration. "After you strangled Mrs. Padget, did you do anything else with her body?"
Chet struggled to pick up the cue. "I...uh...threw a blanket over her body and left the house."
The senior detective placed the paper back into the file, stood up and said, "Detective Jolly will take the remainder of your statement, Mr. Lapinski."
"Say, what's going on here? I don't want to talk with one of your minions. You don't believe me, do you?!"
Before Chet's fingers could make contact with the fabric of Derek Oleson's sleeve, Ron Jolly had the man pinned in his seat.
Sheriff Oleson exited the room, leaving Ron in charge. In the hallway's silence, the fear that had been dodging reason rose in full force.
Hours wasted entertaining the delusions of a pathetic wanna-be. I've got a hunter on my hands, and all I can do is follow his trail of bodies.