THE LAST CASE
By James Blakey
Morris stood at the gravestone next to the woman in black.
Beloved Daughter and Sister
“Guess ‘Beloved Wife’ was out of the question,” he muttered.
* * *
“And the last time you saw your wife?” asked Detective Morris.
Paul Inverso sighed. “Friday, when she left for work. We’ve been over this a dozen times.”
“And this was at was seven-thirty?”
“Yes, seven-thirty in the morning,” said Paul. His irritation was obvious.
The detective jotted in his notebook. “I understand you’re upset, Mr. Inverso. We’re just making sure we didn’t miss anything. Any troubles in your marriage?”
“Nope, everything is fine.”
An officer descended the steps carrying a PC tower.
“Hey, I gave you Lori’s laptop,” said Paul. “The computer is mine.”
“She doesn’t use it?” asked Morris.
Paul frowned. “I guess she does sometimes.”
“Any objections to having our techs look at it?”
“No, I just want you to find her.”
The detective nodded. With almost twenty-five years on the force, Morris could tell the difference between the truth and a lie.
* * *
“You claimed everything is fine with your marriage,” said Morris.
“It is,” said Inverso.
“Do you know a woman Jane Catlin?”
“Sure, she’s a friend of Lori’s. Lives a couple of blocks over.”
“How would you characterize your relationship with Ms. Catlin?”
“We’re friendly, neighborly. Like I said, she’s more of Lori’s friend.”
Morris flipped through his notes. “I spoke with Ms. Catlin this morning. According to her characterization, you’re more the friend than Lori.”
Paul remained silent.
“Are you sure you don’t want to rethink your last answer?”
“Okay, I’m sleeping with Jane.”
Morris sighed. “It’s never a good idea to lie to the police. But it’s especially unhelpful when we’re trying to find your wife.”
“Lori has no idea. Jane means nothing to me. Just a harmless flirtation.”
“Ms. Catlin seems to think it’s more than a flirtation. Says you were going to leave Lori.”
“Jane’s imagining something that isn’t there. I would never leave Lori.”
* * *
“The techs found something unusual on your computer,” said Morris.
“Unusual how?” asked Paul.
“Internet searches for ‘How to dispose of a body?’ and ‘Methods to speed up decomposition.’”
“I don’t know anything about that.”
* * *
“Any recent changes in Lori’s behavior?” asked Morris.
“She did get a phone call a earlier this month,” said Paul. “It seemed to upset her, but she wouldn’t tell me what it was about.”
“What about her routine?”
“The past couple of weeks, she pulled a few double-shifts at work.” Paul paused. “Or at least she said she was working. I was able to hide my affair from her. Maybe she hid one from me. You should ask her co-workers at the donut shop.”
“We did. If she were having an affair, no one noticed.”
* * *
“We found your wife’s car submerged in a lake in the Pine Barrens,” said Morris.
“And Lori?” asked Paul.
“No body. No personal belongings. But we did find your cell phone in the car. Any idea how it got there?”
“It disappeared around the same time Lori did. I had to go to Verizon and get a replacement. She must have grabbed mine by mistake. She’s done it before.”
“If she grabbed yours by mistake, then her phone should be in the house. Have you seen it?”
Paul shook his head.
* * *
“We found some odd charges on your credit card,” said Morris.
“What do you mean odd?” asked Paul.
“Morturary.com. Apothecaries ‘R’ Us.”
“I’ve never even heard of them.”
“We pulled the orders. They shipped eight pounds of sodium hydroxide. That’s lye. And a cadaver bag.”
“This has to be a set up.”
“Really, Mr. Inverso? Who would set you up and have access to your credit card?”
“How about Jane? Maybe she finally realized I wouldn’t leave Lori.”
“That’s not what she claims.”
“She’s lying. Where was she when Lori disappeared?”
“We checked. She was at the NJEA Convention in Atlantic City from Thursday to Sunday. Twenty witnesses place her there.”
“Maybe, she has an accomplice.”
“Like a lover?”
* * *
“Paul Inverso, you are under arrest for the murder of your wife, Lori Inverso,” said Morris.
“I didn’t do it!” said Paul.
* * *
Inverso Sentenced to Life in Prison read the headline. The detective put down the paper. Now he could retire.
* * *
“Guess ‘Beloved Wife’ was out of the question,” Morris muttered.
The woman in black chuckled. She wrapped her arms around him and pulled close. “What now?” asked Lori.
“We start our new life together,” said the ex-detective.