The lady of the house on Foothill Road, Beverly Hills, California, the loving wife, the courteous neighbor, the one and only Mrs. Brooke Woodley, had just been awarded new titles: the late, the deceased, the former, the murder victim. She’d been shot dead in her own living room; now titled the crime scene.
LAPD officers were the first to arrive at the scene and they sniffed around for a while, scavenging for signs, facts, suggestions, and indications - searching for evidence. But the alacrity with which the big boys called the FBI arrived at the crime scene stole all the attention from the media and a handful of neighbors.
As far as normal procedure was concerned, it was supposed to have been the decision of the LAPD to request for assistance from the FBI, but the local law enforcement officers from Los Angeles had barely gotten a chance to even scratch the surface when Quantico’s finest showed up in suits with a clear intention of taking over the investigation.
Two detectives – a tall, athletic man in his mid-thirties, and his deputy – a stunning brunette, in her late twenties with the body of a model, stood out as the FBI crew hurriedly entered the house. The two walked up to the officer in charge.
“Brett Dawson, this is my deputy Nicole Anderson. I believe you’ve been called by the FBI Field Office.”
“You guys don’t waste time, do you?” the officer remarked, unimpressed. He had just received the call a few minutes before the FBI entourage pulled up outside the house. The instructions over the phone had been clear – to hand over the investigation as soon as the feds showed up. Apparently, the dead woman was of great value to the FBI.
Ignoring him, Brett went on. “We understand that you are looking into a robbery gone bad, correct?” he asked, as if he’d come with all the answers.
“Yeah, something like that – which the LAPD can still handle. So can I ask why the investigation has suddenly turned federal?” the officer was just as unrelenting.
“It’s bigger,” Brett answered as his eyes darted around the living room.
“Seriously? It’s bigger…that’s all you gonna say? What does that even mean?”
“That what happened here is a matter of national importance.” Brett paused then changed the subject, “Who made the call?”
A little disappointed, the officer answered, “An anonymous 911 caller. They didn’t say much, just mumbled about hearing a gunshot inside the house then cut the call. The officers who were dispatched to the scene found her,” the officer gestured to Brooke’s body covered by a white sheet in the center of the living room. The three moved toward the corpse. Brett crouched at the body and lifted the sheet to look at the dead woman’s face.
"At first we thought it had been a robbery gone bad, but nothing seems to have been stolen and I have a feeling you know more than we do, right?”
Brett ignored the question but continued to engage the officer. “Tell us about your robbery theory anyway,” Brett said, returning the white sheet over Brooke’s corpse and straightening up to listen to the officer’s response.
“At first we thought an armed burglar had broken in, Brooke returned home much earlier than anticipated and stumbled upon the thief in the living room. This startled him and in the heat of things, the armed thief fired a shot.”
Silently Brett took a glance around the cozy living room as the FBI’s forensics team began foraging for foot and finger prints, hairs, scratches, and anything else that could give an indication of what had transpired.
He took out a small notebook and checked his notes. The murder victim had been bumped off around 7:15 pm. He then turned to the array of photos embellishing the living room. The message from the photos was clear - Brooke’s marriage had been bliss. The faces of the couple were full of life, beaming with joy and happiness. Brett was strangely drawn to one of their wedding photos in which the husband was kissing his new wife on the lips.
Nicole took notice of Brett starring at the wedding picture. She couldn’t see anything peculiar in the photograph. What is he looking at? she wondered. With his eyes still fixated on the photo, he asked, “Has the husband been contacted?”
“His phone is not going through, but now that you’re taking over I guess it’s your responsibility to break the bad news to him when he finds you trampling over his carpet,” the officer replied.
Brett turned to the murder weapon on a coffee table, properly sealed in a transparent evidence bag. The gun had been recovered in the hallway leading to the back door.
Brett gestured at one of the forensics experts who quickly handed him a pair of latex gloves. He put them on and walked to the coffee table to examine the aluminum-alloy-framed, small J-frame Smith and Wesson air-weight revolver model.
“Only one bullet missing,” the officer said as Brett emptied the barrel.
Brett turned to Nicole as he replaced the gun in the evidence bag and asked, “What do you think?”
“She must have either really pissed somebody off, or knew something she wasn’t supposed to,” Nicole responded just as the stretcher was rolled to the center of the living room to ferry Brooke’s body from the house.
“I think it’s our time to leave. All the best with the investigation,” the officer said.
Brett turned. “Just one question before you go.”
“Have you tried calling the husband’s friends, colleagues…?”
“Those we contacted last saw him at work…No one knows where he is now.”
“Thank you, officer,” Brett said. The officer reciprocated with a slight nod then turned to go.
“We’re heading back to the lab to start on the autopsy. Maybe she’ll tell us more there,” the coroner said, preparing to roll out Brooke’s body.
“I need that report first thing tomorrow morning.”
As the coroner began rolling the stretcher out, Nicole stepped closer to Brett and asked, “Why are we here Brett?”
“What do you mean?” instantly he turned to her with a frown.
“I mean apart from her name we haven’t been told anything of national importance about the dead woman. And as you can see, the place is super clean, there’s no indication of a forced entry, no witnesses, no prints - not even a scratch! Nothing appears to have been stolen, and the shooter used only one bullet and left the gun behind? I just get the vibe that this is an assassination. Has ADIC told you anything about her that you’ve yet to share? ”
“Nope, Anderson didn’t say much…just that a woman who was of great importance to national security had been shot and he needed us to take over from the LAPD. He made it clear that her death is of national interest.”
“Some sort of CI?”
Brett shrugged his shoulders, “That’s all he said. Even Anderson is in the dark about this, just like we are.”
“So it’s either her enemy or the government that killed her…”
“Whoa!” Brett interjected, “Let’s not jump the gun here…maybe it’s just an ordinary homicide investigation, and until we have reasons to believe otherwise we’ll treat it as such, okay?”
She paused for a moment. “Okay,” she finally said.
“First we have to establish the probable motive of the killer. To start with I want you to find out everything significant about the victim and her husband. Did they own a gun? If they did, who registered for it, does it match the one recovered at the crime scene, where did she work, did she have enemies from work, has she ever reported anyone threatening her to the police, who are her girlfriends, does she have a secret boyfriend…?”
“Hang on a minute Detective Jim Gordon! Did you actually say boyfriend?” Nicole retorted with a smirk on her face.
“With all your staring at the wedding photos?”
“You assume they were happy?” he asked sarcastically.
“Isn’t it obvious?”
“Look, I’m not accusing her of anything, but what if she was having an affair and her husband found out?” Brett turned to the lovely wedding photo then meditatively said, “She was very pretty.”
“So she was a cheater because she was hot?” Nicole fired back.
Brett turned from the photo. “Didn’t say that, just keeping an open mind. We’re investigators who don’t have anything at the moment. Anybody could be a suspect, even a seemingly loving husband.”
“I think you’re way off on this one Sherlock Holmes,” she said stretching her hand to touch the wedding photo.
“What time is it?” he asked suddenly.
“9:15 pm, why?” she asked with a frown. She had no idea where he was going with the random and out of context question.
“Happy husbands get home early to be with their loving wives, right? Law enforcement has been here what – about an hour? Isn’t it getting late for a happily married man to still be out and unreachable?”
“Many men work late, his being late doesn’t necessarily mean anything.”
“Those many men you’re talking about work late to avoid spending time with their wives. You know why?”
“Because they’re not happy at home? That’s what you think? No wonder you’re still single,” she tilted her head, studying Brett’s reaction.
“Okay look - let’s just find the husband, because as of now he is a serious person of interest.”