Best Laid Plans

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Detective Murphy

Seemingly weighing at least one ton, the Stone-Fisher case is bulky and takes up most of my desk. Interviewing the witnesses revealed what I had suspected, Cora Stone was guilty of the alleged crimes. I sit and stare at the files and lean back in my chair. The day I got the call, I drove straight to the scene of the crime. A nice house in a quiet suburban neighborhood with looky-loos all about. Police officers were instructing them to remain behind the crime scene tape that sectioned the house from the sidewalk. I showed my badge and entered the roped off section and headed straight into the house. I’ll never forget the blood splatter on the walls, and the puddle of blood where a man’s body had laid. By the time I arrived, Kingsley River had already been sped off to Brewer’s Hospital by ambulance.

I wasn’t there for him, yet. I needed to speak to my first witness, Ellie Coleman. She was sitting outside with a uniformed female officer. Ellie Coleman had a blanket wrapped around her shoulders. It was evident that the responding personnel had given it to her in attempt of comfort as she was visibly shaken. I walked over to her and introduced myself. I explained that she was not under arrest, but we needed her to accompany me back to the station. Ellie Coleman was understandably upset by this and unsure whether she wanted to go. I explained that she had a right to an attorney. She said she understood, though she waived the right and got into the back seat of my undercover vehicle.

Back at the station, we walked straight into an interview room. I offered Ellie Coleman coffee, tea, and water. It was the first smile I had seen from her. She took me up on the tea. I left her in the room alone while I brewed her a quick tea. I returned and she had unmistakable tears and red blotches on her cheeks. “You’ve been crying,” I said gently as I handed her the tea. “I know this is hard for you. What you saw, that must have been quite the shock.” I sat in the seat across from her, “Tell me, how well do you know Kingsley River?”

“I don’t really know him at all, to be honest. I met his fiancée, Cora, through my friend, Lucy,” she looked down at her hands folded in her lap.

“What were you doing at the River Residence? If you didn’t know Kingsley well, you must have known Cora Stone?”

“No, well, yes, I do know her, but not well. When we first met, Cora and I didn’t quite hit it off. She wasn’t pleasant. I went to her house because she is good friends with Lucy, and I was really looking for Lucy. You see, I hadn’t heard from her and she has had issues with someone stalking her. I needed to make sure she was okay. She wasn’t picking up her phone.”

“A stalker? Can you tell me more about that?”

“Her ex-boyfriend, at least, that’s who she suspected at first. Though, when I got to Cora’s house and found Kingsley, I thought it was blazingly obvious that it wasn’t her ex-boyfriend. So, I called him after I checked Lucy’s GPS location and told him where to go. His name is Dominic, by the way. Dominic Walker,” she added. “Anyway, he happened to be going that direction already, so he was able to get there fast.”

“What made you believe he wasn’t involved in your friend’s disappearance? Did any part of you find it odd that he just so happened to be on his way to the exact location where Lucy Fisher’s GPS was showing her?” It was time to poke the bear.

I saw that my questioning worked. I watched as Ellie Coleman sat thoughtfully for a moment, before she turned to me in response, “I didn’t think of that. I inexplicably trusted what was laid out in front of me.”

“Perception is reality,” I told her.

“Did they find them?” she started to cry again.

“Did who find them? Are you asking if the units we sent to locate Lucy Fisher, Dominic Walker, and Cora Stone have fulfilled their duties?” I clarified.

“Yes, and you knew who I meant,” her accusatory tone was sharp.

“I needed to clarify, didn’t want to assume. We have a helicopter out searching for them as we speak. I will let you know the moment I get an update,” I reassured her. She seemed to take this well and sat quietly. She was waiting for my next question, though I decided to give the young woman a break. “I’m going to go get myself a coffee. Would you like anything else? More tea? A bathroom break?” I glanced at her untouched tea and she shook her head no. I walked out and stood outside the interview room, took out my cell phone, and called a fellow detective who responded to the hospital with Kingsley River.

“Hey, how’s it going there?” I asked.

“The victim is in critical condition. They have him in surgery. They’re throwing phrases around like ‘medically induced coma’ and it’s making me nervous. His witness statement is paramount to this investigation,” the other detective said. She sounded frustrated.

“Actually, I wouldn’t be so sure. Based on my progress here with Ellie Coleman, we may have enough information to figure this out. Right now, our prime suspects are his fiancée, Cora Stone, the friend, Lucy Fisher, and Lucy’s ex-boyfriend, Dominic Walker.”

“What about Ellie Coleman? Is she a suspect or a witness?”

“I haven’t ruled anyone out, but I can tell you, it’s very unlikely that she was involved in this. It seems to be a case of in the wrong place at the wrong time. Or, depending how this turns out, in the right place at the right time.” I hung up and walked back into the interview room. It was time to share the news update with Ellie Coleman.

“The helicopter located your friends near the Sands River. They traveled quite a distance from their vehicles. We took Dominic Walker into custody and sent Lucy Fisher to the hospital. She needed medical attention. I am going to take your witness statement as it is now, unless you have anything to add?” she shook her head to indicate she did not. “Okay, if you remember anything, please call me at any time,” I handed her my card and escorted her out of the station. I needed to interview Dominic Walker. There still wasn’t an update on the location of Cora Stone, but I had full faith that our air team would find her. From the sounds of it, she was knocked off the cliff into the river below by the dog. It was sad for me to hear the dog went down with her, That was a shame.

My team located a gun on the side of the river. Dispatch ran the serial number through the Firearm System and got a hit. The gun was a Sig Sauer P226 registered to Kingsley River. We knew Cora Stone lived with Kingsley and she would have had access to the gun within the house. According to one of my detectives who interviewed Lucy Fisher at the scene, Cora Stone held her at gunpoint. There was a moment when Lucy Fisher heard Cora Stone attempt to shoot the gun, however, nothing happened. My detective on scene who recovered the gun had mentioned that the magazine was not seated after it had been reloaded. A mistake like that would cost an officer his or her life in the field, but fortunately, it ended up saving the life of Lucy Fisher.

An active investigation has many players at work. At the time of the investigation, I had the Records Division running Cora Stone’s name through the system. According to her driver’s license, she had an alias. Records looked further into it and ran her alias through the system. The criminal history attached to that name was extensive. It was mainly petty theft, one count of identity theft, multiple restraining orders, and one charge of assault. They pulled the reports and booking photos from the involved agencies and confirmed that Cora Stone was in fact the same person as Candace Griggs. It appeared that Candace Griggs lived a hard life. She was in constant trouble with the law and well known to authorities in her home state of Arizona. Seemed she came to California to start a new life. I waited on this information for one key component, DNA. When Candace Griggs was arrested, they took a DNA sample. If Cora Stone’s DNA matched, it would be foolproof evidence. My cases are always thoroughly investigated. I never cut corners. It’s not my style.

Finally, the call I was waiting for came in from CSI. We had a match and all we needed now was a body. We sent teams in to search for Candace Griggs, but over time, the search and rescue morphed into a recovery missions that became fewer and far between. When the temperature dropped, all recovery efforts came to a halt. It was difficult for me to accept that my suspect evaded my every effort, even through death. The Stone- Fisher case never made it to trial.

That was three years ago today. I’m now on my way out for retirement. I would have loved closure on this case, but it doesn’t seem to be in the cards. I pick up the case file and walk it over to my replacement.

“It’s in your hands now, Detective Green. Just so you know,

Kingsley River ultimately pulled through, though his quality of life has diminished. He is now paralyzed from his waist down. Poor fellow, he was scammed by a professional con woman. She sure was beautiful, though.”

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