The coffee at the police station was terrible. They ushered Carson into a tiny room, leaving him there to stare at the walls. The god-awful white room with the uncomfortable chairs was the same one he’d seen on every crime show. The worst thing was, he was in one.
Sanchez entered the room with a coffee in one hand and a folder in the other. He sat across from Carson, placing the manila file folder in the center of the table. “Thanks for coming here, Mr. Winfield; we appreciate your time in this.”
Carson looked at Sanchez. He wondered if he would have had a choice in the matter. He smiled while stirring the bad coffee in the Styrofoam cup.
“I understand from the news that you’re a lucky man—no cancer, a clean bill of health. This must be a great weight off your shoulders” Sanchez said.
“Yes, of course. Finding out that I’m no longer circling the drain, as everyone likes to call it, is a relief. Now I need to get my life back,” Carson said.
“Circling the drain? I’ve never heard that. Funny expression. But this thing you mention about getting your life back. Perhaps you can explain how you mean to do this?” Sanchez asked. His head was down, looking into his coffee as if the motion of the stir stick were of more interest than his words.
Carson sensed something. He could see a trap forming. In all his business dealings, he always knew when a person was baiting him with a loaded question.
“Well, you know, get back on my feet, back into business. Four months ago I was given six months to live. I resigned myself to it by selling off all my assets and winding up my affairs. Now I’m told I’m healthy with a long life ahead of me. I guess you’d say I’m like one reborn—unfortunately, I’m broke.” He chuckled a bit at his predicament.
Sanchez pushed his coffee aside and pulled the file folder toward him. “You know, I’ve seen you many times on television over the years. One of my cousins bought a nice two-bedroom rancher from you in Chula Vista.”
Carson smiled. “Nice neighborhood, good resale value.”
“Yeah, he was happy with it, but he’s going through a divorce . . . so I think he’s going to sell it.”
“Well, I’d be happy to help,” Carson said, almost regretting the words out of his mouth. His natural real estate instinct was returning. He doubted he was here for real estate advice.
“No, I have a cousin who just became a realtor, but thanks,” Sanchez said.
“Oh, I see . . .” Carson said. He let the words hang. The next words from Sanchez would be what this meeting was about. The small talk was over.
Sanchez flipped open the file. He shuffled the pages and brought out a page to examine it, “Mr. Winfield, in my line of work, the things that are right in front of us are not evident. It is because the people who commit crimes do so in such a clever fashion that sometimes we cannot see all the layers that they place to hide the crime from us.”
“I have no idea what you’re getting at,” Carson said.
“Well, Mr. Winfield, here we have you getting a clean bill of health . . . you’re no longer going to die of cancer. That’s correct?”
“Yes, it is.” Carson nodded. He watched Sanchez; something ominous was in the air.
“And you gave all your money away to Saint Michael’s Hospital?”
Carson coughed. “Well, actually, I wrote a check for five million to Doctor Jerry Albright, who was supposed to forward it to the hospital.”
“And it seems that the doctor has disappeared. And your money . . . it’s gone with him?”
Carson could feel his jaws clench as he answered. “It would appear so. If you could help me locate him, I’d be very much obliged.”
Sanchez looked down at his file again. “Yes, we’ve put an all-points bulletin out on the doctor; however, all of this would be a strange series of events, if it were not for the call I received from the FBI this morning. They claim that two million of the money you gave to Doctor Albright came from funds transferred to you from a mortgage company.”
“Well, yes, I was a part owner of the company. I had millions tied up in mortgage funds. I basically had the company bring in other investors, and I was bought out. I don’t see what the problem is with that.”
“As of this morning, eighty percent of those mortgages are in default. The FBI believes you’ve committed a fraud.”
Carson’s face went red. “All those funds were transferred in good faith. They were triple A properties with excellent mortgages based on revenue. I have no idea how the FBI could have come up with this. I’ll get a lawyer—I’ll fight these preposterous allegations.”
Sanchez leaned forward. “You can save all of your speeches for the District Attorney’s office. I’m trying to figure out your angle in all this. How does one of this county’s smartest real estates investors get caught up in a scam?”
Carson leaned back in his chair. “Scam? What do you mean? I’ve been a legitimate businessman in this county for twenty years. How dare you—”
“Please save your theatrics for the courtroom. I haven’t got time for them.”
“Courtroom? What the hell are you getting at?”
“This.” Sanchez threw a piece of paper across the table.
Carson stared at the paper. “This is a plane ticket . . .” He picked it up to read it. “I have no idea about this.”
“Really?” Sanchez said. “You have no idea how this plane ticket came to be in your name? The flight is this evening out of LAX to Dubai in the Arab Emirates. You have no recollection of booking this ticket?”
Carson shot the paper back across the table. “I never booked this ticket. I have no intention of going to Dubai.”
Sanchez took the paper, smiling. “We call that the first denial when dealing with people who’ve committed a crime—or, in your case, crimes.” He held up the paper. “It’s fascinating when you look at this plane ticket. First class and one way to one of only six countries in the world that doesn’t have an extradition treaty with the United States.”
Carson let his hands fall on the table as he leaned back in his chair. “You can come up with all kinds of theories about this plane ticket, but I’m saying I didn’t book it, have no knowledge of who booked, and why the hell would I go to Dubai? I haven’t got any money. I gave it all away, remember?”
“Ah, now that’s a fascinating part of this story of yours.” Sanchez took another piece of paper from the file. He slid it across the table to rest between Carson’s hands.
Carson looked down at the paper. His face drained of color. The paper was a bank document showing the receipt of five million US dollars into a Dubai bank. The account was in his name.
“I have no idea. I . . . Obviously someone is trying to frame me for something. I have no idea what’s going on.”
“Really, Mr. Winfield? Now this is where I get to enjoy my job. You see, they give us the title of detective because we work at detecting the crimes people hide from us.”
Carson slunk deeper in his chair. “Okay, Detective, you can enlighten me as to what crime . . . or crimes . . . you think I’ve committed.”
Sanchez slid the last piece of paper across the table. Carson read it and he looked up at Sanchez. “I don’t understand what this is.”
“According to the police department’s medical examiner, that’s a pharmacology report from the hospital. That lists all the drugs that your wife, Barbara Saunders, was given over the past year. You may not recognize the names of the drugs, but they were for high blood pressure, high cholesterol, gastro reflux, and two antidepressants. Oh, at the bottom of this list is an antipsychotic.”
“I had no idea Barbara was taking any of these.” Carson said. “I don’t recall her being diagnosed with high blood pressure or high cholesterol. Sure, she was depressed, but that was after she was diagnosed with cancer.”
Sanchez tapped his finger on the paper. “There’s also a prescription for a large amount of Demerol. Our ME said it was enough to put a person into respiratory arrest. I believe that’s the one that stands out here. We call it the smoking gun.”
Carson stammered, “I have no idea why . . .”
Sanchez raised his hand to interrupt Carson. “Here’s a theory that’s floating around our police department, and it’s with the District Attorney’s office right now. We think all of these drugs were given to your wife without her knowing it. The medical examiner claims that these drugs cause fatigue and symptoms similar to what a person would experience with cancer.”
Carson sat up in his chair. “You think that Albright gave these drugs to Barbara to simulate cancer and then killed her with Demerol?”
“Ah, the light comes on,” Sanchez said. “You might have been a good detective. Now here’s the part that I think you’re going to like.” He leaned across the table. “We think that the good Doctor Albright and you conspired to kill your wife and collect her two million in insurance. Your cancer scare was a clever ruse to liquidate your assets, which you transferred to Doctor Albright. Obviously the hospital found the fraudulent switch of the reports, and the doctor makes a run for it . . . and you,” Sanchez tapped the paper with the plane ticket, “were not going to be far behind.”
“That’s crazy . . . you can’t be serious about this.”
“Can’t I? What if I told you we have people who will testify that you were having numerous affairs with women—some of them while your wife was dying?”
Carson felt as if the air had been knocked out of him. He struggled to take a breath. “I have nothing more to say without a lawyer.”
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