A Circumstantial Case - Cover

A Circumstantial Case

by jake60

Copyright© 2010 by jake60

Mystery Story: Mark Evans has disappeared, and it looks like his wife Lisa and best friend Blake are involved.

Tags: Romance   Crime   Drama   Violence   Detective  

It was Saturday night, and the sun had just gone down, creating that twilight that leaves you wondering whether you should have your headlights turned on yet or not. Mark Evans didn't have to make that choice, as he was in the process of pulling into his garage, located on a quiet residential street in Sharpsburg. In a moment the slim, dark-haired man emerged from the side door carrying his garment bag, briefcase and laptop case, long experience allowing him to manage the three bulky items with ease. One didn't travel as much as he was forced to, without developing this type of skill.

He unlocked and entered the side door of his home, but didn't bother to call out to his wife, Lisa, to let her know he was there; he already knew she wasn't home. Instead, he walked through to the living room with his briefcase and laptop, having deposited his garment bag at the foot of the stairs leading up to the second floor of their modest, but comfortable, home. He set the two items on the sofa before removing his topcoat, which he then carried to the closet near the front door, where he hung it on its accustomed hanger.

Only now, with both hands free and in the comfort of his own home, did he remove his jacket and tie, and unbutton the top two buttons on his white shirt. He didn't normally wear such formal business attire, but today he'd returned from a regional meeting of managers working for his employer, ABC Industries. Technically he wasn't in management, but his role as the most knowledgeable systems analyst on staff mandated that he had to attend the meetings in Pittsburg. His immediate supervisor was a good man at organizing the personnel, but he knew virtually nothing about the computer systems that let their business operate smoothly.

He could have been home the night before, but that wouldn't have fit with his plans. Instead he had told his wife that the meeting was followed by a series of workshops that would last the weekend, and that he would be returning on Monday. He had his reasons for telling her that, and had been forced to waste time for the majority of the day so that he wouldn't return home too early. He also wished he had been able to pack more comfortable clothing for this trip, but if he had done so Lisa might have wondered why he needed to do that; he never took anything but his dress clothes to these regularly scheduled business meetings.

Now that he was at home, his first step would be to go have a shower and then change into something a little more comfortable. 20 minutes after disappearing upstairs with his garment bag, he returned to the main floor dressed, wearing his more normal jeans and polo shirt, and looking very refreshed from his quick shower.

The next half-hour was spent choosing, reheating, and then eating a meal comprised of leftovers from the refrigerator. Lisa was a good cook, and even the leftovers made a good meal. His meal was washed down with a bottle of light premium beer, one of his few vices. By the time he had finished the bottle of beer he had moved to the living room, where he was now stretched back in a La-Z-Boy chair, reading the front page of the local newspaper. To any casual observer he was a typical husband, relaxing after a long and arduous trip out of town.

In truth, he was simply killing more time, following his script to the letter, patiently waiting for the selected time to bring his major personal crisis to a head. He'd had a month to work alone on the five stages of grief, and really, the only one to have been successfully dealt with was denial. Anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance were all in play at the moment. He hoped that over the course of the night he could make some progress on several of those remaining four stages.

It was after midnight, and Sunday was freshly minted, when he finally seemed satisfied with what his watch was telling him, and got up to return the empty beer bottle to the kitchen counter. While there he moved his dirty dishes to the dishwasher, before using a damp cloth to return the tabletop to a pristine condition. He knew as he did these minor chores that it was simply a form of delay, a way for his second thoughts and apprehensions to make him reconsider his chosen path. When no new solution to his problem presented itself, he went to the hall closet for a light jacket, and then began making his way to the side door, and the beginning of his nights' mission.

As his fingertips brushed the doorknob he suddenly yanked his hand back, snapped his fingers, and said, "Damn! I almost forgot." He hurried back into the living room, placed his briefcase on the coffee table, and then set his laptop upon the briefcase. In less than a minute he had turned on the laptop, logged himself in and had secured a connection to the Internet through the wireless router situated in the computer room he and Lisa maintained. Several minutes of typing and sending an e-mail completed the tasks that he had forgotten, and once he had logged off and shut down the laptop, he returned to the side door, confidently and unhurriedly leaving the house.

After spending about five minutes in his garage, he raised the garage door, backed out onto the street, turned on his headlights and slowly drove away as the garage door closed silently behind him.

It was 7:37 a.m. when the Sharpsburg 911 operator answered a new incoming call. "This is your 911 Emergency Operator. What is the nature of your emergency?"

A vaguely female voice, seemingly young, replied on an apparently poor telephone connection, "I ... I think I need the police. I think a crime has been committed."

The 911 operator coolly continued, "What is your location, ma'am? We need your location to send the police on the call."

"I'm ... I'm on Park Drive, the payphone on Park Drive beside George Washington Park." The word payphone immediately explained the poor connection to the operator.

"What kind of crime has been committed, ma'am? Have you been attacked or robbed?"

There was a slight delay before the young woman replied, "No, it's not me. I'm OK. It's just ... I just came from jogging through the park on the paved access road, the one that circles around to the picnic areas. There's a car there, beside one of the picnic sites. The doors are open, and the light is on inside it, and there's blood ... Lots of blood."

The 911 operator was now very interested in the call, and asked, "Will an ambulance be needed? Are there injured parties involved?"

"No, there's no one there that's injured. At least I didn't see anyone there. There's just the empty car and the blood." A few seconds passed before the woman continued, "I didn't look around too much. I was afraid that someone would be coming after me too, so I ran out here to the pay phone to call you."

"You did the right thing, I'm sure. A car has been dispatched and should be there in less than 10 minutes. Please wait for the officers so that you can tell them exactly where this car is situated."

The caller, sounding a bit anxious, replied, "No, I'm not going to wait around here. What if whoever did this comes after me? I'm going to go straight home." Her last words were followed by the click of the receiver as she hung up the phone.

The 911 operator looked helplessly at her screen as the blinking computer image of the caller's number disappeared as the phone was hung up. "Damn. I suppose this was just her idea of a joke. Oh well, hopefully I didn't take those officers away from anything more important than their coffee break."

It was almost 2 p.m. on that Sunday afternoon when Detective Peter Nesbitt suddenly sat up straightly in his seat as a car turned into the driveway at the Evans residence. He was already getting out of his unmarked car as the pretty, short haired, blond woman driving the car pulled up to a stop in front of the garage.

He was walking rapidly across the street as she got out of her car, and he quickly said, "Excuse me. I'm looking for Mrs. Evans."

She turned around as she removed an overnight case from the seat beside her and replied, "I'm Lisa Evans." She took a second look at the detective and continued, "Do I know you?"

"No ma'am. I'm Detective Peter Nesbitt of the Sharpsburg police. I'm here in regard to your husband, Mark Evans. We're in the process of trying to locate him with regard to finding his car abandoned in George Washington Park this morning." He quickly returned his photo ID and badge to his pocket.

Lisa Evans' face was momentarily overcome with grave concern, before it cleared and she said, "Mark is in Pittsburgh. He always leaves his car at the airport when he takes these trips, so I don't know how it could have been found in the park. You must be mistaken."

By this time Detective Nesbitt had reached her side, and he continued, "No, we're very certain it's his car. Both the license plate and the VIN correspond with his registration."

Her face now showed consternation, and she began walking slowly towards the side door of her home. "Well, if it's his car, then it must have been stolen from the airport. I don't know what else I can tell you."

The detective was quite persistent, and once again spoke up. "When was the last time you spoke with your husband? Would it be possible for you to call him now, so that we can verify he is really still in Pittsburgh? Does he have a cell phone you could call?"

Lisa Evans stopped abruptly and turned to face the detective. She placed her overnight bag on the ground beside her and dug in her purse for her cell phone. "He called me early yesterday afternoon from Pittsburgh. If it will make you happy, I'll call him right now." She pressed a set of numbers on her phone, anxious to show the detective that her husband hadn't been in the park.

A moment later, a cell phone began to ring in the detective's jacket pocket. He pulled it out, and brought it to his ear before saying, "Hello, Mrs. Evans."

The look of surprise on Lisa's face was quite genuine. In a moment, when the shock had subsided, she said, "Where did you get Mark's phone?"

The detective switched the phone off and began to put it into his jacket pocket again when she said, "You should give me my husband's phone. It must have been lost"

"I'm afraid I can't, Mrs. Evans. It's now evidence in a possible major crime. It was found on the floor of your husband's car."

Lisa was once again concerned, and asked, "A major crime? What do you mean?"

"Your husband's car was found early this morning in the middle of George Washington Park. The doors were open and there was a lot of blood and a bullet hole in the passenger's seat. There was more blood outside the car, and evidence that another bullet had been fired. We searched the park thoroughly, and didn't find anyone who could've been the victim of the violence noted. We really need to locate your husband so that we can rule him out as the victim or the perpetrator. Would it be possible for you to try calling him at his hotel in Pittsburgh?"

Lisa turned back to the house, picked up her overnight case and said, "Certainly; I can do that. I have the hotel's number in my address book. He always stays at the same Holiday Inn. I'm sure he must have forgotten his cell phone in the car, and that's why it was there when his car was stolen. Come inside with me and we'll get this taken care of immediately."

Detective Nisbett followed her into the kitchen and watched while she set her case and purse down, located the address book, and quickly began dialing the phone while absent mindedly looking across the hallway into the living room. He could clearly hear the hotel clerk saying, "Hello ... Hello," as he watched her place the handset back on the phone. As she hung it up she was turning to the detective, her face ashen, and quickly said, "Mark has been home! His briefcase and laptop are in the living room, on the coffee table ... I don't understand."

The detective had a pensive look on his face as he stepped back and took his own cell phone out of an inside pocket. He quickly dialed a number and said, "Hello, Dave; Pete here. I need you to get hold of the DA on call. I'd like a search warrant for the Evans residence. We're going to need to search this place to help us decide whether Mr. Evans is involved as a victim or potential suspect. Bring it up here to me as soon as you get it. I'll be waiting." He hung up and sat down across from Lisa.

"A search warrant? Why do you need that? You're welcome to look at anything you want; just ask. I want you to find my husband!"

Detective Nesbitt looked impassively at Lisa and said, "I want to do this by the book, ma'am. If I perform an illegal search, and your husband has been involved in anything illegal, anything I find may not be usable in court."

Lisa was a bit angry now and quickly replied, "Illegal? Mark is not involved in anything illegal. He works on computers, for God's sake."

"Well, something brought him back to town unexpectedly. Can you think of any reason why he would be here unexpectedly, and unknown to you, his wife?"

Lisa's face again lost its color, and she quietly muttered, "God no ... He can't ... Oh, no..." A somewhat panicked look had now taken over her face, and for a few seconds she was quiet, simply staring at the detective. Finally she said, "I have no idea why my husband came home early. I just know that he's not involved in anything illegal." Her look slowly became one of complete panic, and she continued, "Oh, God! Mark may be hurt, laying somewhere waiting for help. You've got to find him!"

Seeing how upset she had become, the compassionate side of Peter Nesbitt took over, and he now spoke with her in a much more gentle way. "We don't know anything for sure yet, Mrs. Evans. As a police officer I have to do things the proper way. At this point in time there's no proof your husband has done anything wrong, or that he is even involved in all of this. Why don't you make us some coffee while we wait for my partner to arrive with the warrant? There's nothing more we can do right now; all of our on-duty personnel are searching, or on the lookout, for your husband."

His sympathetic tone and comforting words seemed to help Lisa, as she began relaxing, and a bit of her natural color returned to her face. She got up and began preparing a pot of coffee for the two of them to share. Her calm state didn't last for long, though, as with his next sentence, Lisa once again became tense and nervous. All this occurred when he said, "Maybe while we're having coffee you can give me the details of how you spent the last 48 hours. Before this case is closed we're likely going to need statements from anyone even remotely involved."

Detective Nesbitt decided to hold off for a few minutes before getting a preliminary statement from Lisa Evans, and it seemed that she wasn't interested in broaching the subject on her own. Instead, the two of them sat at the kitchen table drinking their coffee while the detective retold the details of how the car came to be discovered, and the state of its interior.

Lisa seemed horrified by some of the details that came out, particularly that there was an apparent bullet hole in the center of a thoroughly blood-soaked section of the front passenger seat of her husband's car. He had described as well that there was blood evidence that a second bullet had been fired into a body that was resting against a block of firewood on the ground beside the car, and that this bullet was in the process of being removed from the wood for testing in their Forensics Lab. The car had been towed for examination, and evidence was still being gathered from it. Finally, he stated that a medical examiner and a forensics investigator were still going over the scene in detail.

They had barely started their second cup of the coffee she had made when Detective David Klein, Peter Nesbitt's partner, arrived much sooner than expected with the search warrant that had been requested. He was accompanied by two forensics technicians, and soon the three new arrivals began a systematic and careful search of the Evans home, to be followed by the garage and Lisa's car. While this was taking place Detective Nesbitt arranged with Lisa to locate her husband's razor and toothbrush, so that DNA could be obtained to compare with the blood evidence they already had.

Throughout the duration of the search, and particularly when the subject of DNA comparisons came up, Lisa was in such a state of distress that Detective Nesbitt was eventually forced to take her to the living room, where he requested that she remain seated on the sofa while he joined the others in completing the search of the home.

At the end of an hour of seemingly fruitless searching in the house, the detectives decided that about the only things that they would need to return to the station with, besides the DNA samples, were Mark Evans' briefcase and laptop computer. Detective Nesbitt had already discovered that the computer was protected with a password, and they wouldn't be able to access anything on it until they found a way around that.

"Mrs. Evans, do you happen to know the password your husband used on his laptop?" This question seemed to bring Lisa out of her state of desperate and intermittent crying, as it seemed like something that she could perhaps assist with.

"It used to be his first name, followed by his year of birth. Try Mark1971. That should be it." Unfortunately, it was soon apparent that he had changed his password, as no variation of his old one would work for the detective.

"That's all right, Mrs. Evans. We have expert computer technicians in our forensics department who will find a way past your husband's password. With any luck at all, that shouldn't take too long." The two items were tagged and removed to the van used by the two forensics technicians.

Alone with Lisa Evans, Detective Nesbitt decided to again broach the subject of getting a preliminary statement from her. "Now then, Mrs. Evans, I'm going to need to get some basic facts about your whereabouts this weekend. Let's just cover Saturday morning until you arrived back here this afternoon." He got out his notepad and pen, and sat poised to record her description of how she had spent the time period in question.

Lisa Evans took a deep breath, and began, "Well, until noon on Saturday, I just did normal housekeeping stuff around the house. Mark phoned me from Pittsburgh around one o'clock, or maybe it was 1:30. We talked for just a few minutes. He told me how sorry he was that he couldn't be here for the weekend. After that, I went shopping until about 4:30, and then I came home. After supper, about 7:30 p.m., I went out to visit a friend, and I spent the night there. I got up late this morning, took my time, and got home, as you know, around two o'clock." She seemed to have been getting more tense as her explanation went on, and by the time she was finished she was looking down at the floor, and was wringing their hands together.

When he finished writing the last word of her explanation into his notepad, Detective Nesbitt flipped it closed and sat there tapping it with his pen for several seconds before he said, "We may need more detail than that, Mrs. Evans. This will do for now, but be prepared to provide more details and closer times if the progression of this case demands that." He slipped his notepad and pen back into his pocket before standing.

Detective Nesbitt was about to leave the house to join the others who were searching the garage and Lisa's car. He was confident that the house had been fully checked out, when he suddenly realized that there was one other item he needed. "Oh, Mrs. Evans. Do you have any recent full body photographs of your husband? A good head shot would also be helpful. We only have his photo from the driver's license database at this time. Something a little less official would be good for us to circulate amongst the patrol officers." After saying this he walked over to the mantle above the fireplace and looked at several of the wedding photos there, while Lisa Evans quickly moved to a book rack where she selected a thick photo album.

"Here are several good recent photos, detective. Take your pick." She had returned to her seat on the sofa, and the detective sat beside her as she opened the album. The last page in the book contained several very good photos for his purposes, with perhaps the best one including Mark's wife standing to his right, while a tall, well-built, sandy haired man stood close by to his left.

"This one would be good," said the detective as he indicated the group photograph. "We can crop out you and this other fellow." A couple of seconds later the detective selected another photo, a very good head and shoulders shot of Mark Evans. "These two photos will be more than sufficient for our needs."

When Lisa had removed the two photos from the book and handed them to the detective, he took another look at them and asked, "Would the fellow in this photo with you and your husband be a relative of his? If he has a sibling or parent available for providing a DNA sample, it might be helpful if they can't get anything usable from the razor or toothbrush."

Lisa quickly replied, "No, that's Blake Moore. He's my husband's best friend, since grade school. My husband doesn't have any relatives who live near here."

After thanking her for the photos, Detective Nesbitt went out to join the others in the garage. He left Lisa sitting at her kitchen table looking forlorn and on the verge of tears. He was beginning to think that he felt sorry for the woman, and the position she was now in. Her husband was missing, and may or may not have been involved in a serious shooting. The fact that she didn't know he was even in town, though, made the detective wonder what exactly was going on.

The detectives, along with their two forensics experts, soon concluded the search of the garage and car. It was while the technicians were carefully going over Lisa's car that they noticed something potentially important, and certainly suspicious. Both the accelerator and brake pedal showed staining by what turned out to be blood, when it was tested chemically. It was immediately decided that the car would be towed back to the garage for extensive examination and testing.

While the two technicians packed up their equipment, and prepared to leave, the two detectives stepped aside to discuss their feelings about the case.

Detective Nesbitt, standing so that he could look back at the side door of the Evans house, said to his partner, "What's your opinion of Mrs. Evans? I've been back and forth in my thoughts about her, and this positive test for blood on the pedals in her car really has me wondering."

"Well, you have the advantage on me, as regards Mrs. Evans. I've just been here for the search. She seemed like a typical worried wife, but you know how that kind of thing can go. Right now I wouldn't want to put money on whether she's involved in something here, or is simply what she seems to be."

Nesbitt suddenly started walking towards the side door, saying as he went, "Come with me, Dave. Let's both see how she reacts when we tell her about the blood we found, and that her car is being towed."

The two detectives walked up to the side door, knocked, and entered. Lisa Evans was on her cell phone, and looked very startled when the two men stepped into the kitchen. She quickly turned off the phone, without even saying a word to whoever was on the other end of the conversation. "You're back! I thought that you were all finished here."

Peter Nesbitt stepped aside, so that his partner would have an equal opportunity to observe Lisa Evans. "We thought we were done here, too. However, the forensics technicians have found what appear to be smears of blood on both the brake pedal and accelerator of your car. Where taking your car to the impound lot so that we can give it a thorough inspection. I hope you don't mind."

Lisa appeared genuinely shocked when she said, "Blood in my car! How would that get there? I didn't see any blood anywhere."

The two detectives were watching her closely, as he replied, "That's a question we're likely going to want an answer to. We have no way to know at this time whether it's related to the incident in the park, but if it turns out to be a match for the blood found there, you can be sure we're going to insist on some answers. Oh, and we're going to need the shoes that you were wearing today."

"I wasn't anywhere near the park. I haven't been there in weeks. I don't see how there could be blood in my car; certainly not any of the blood that you described was in my husband's car." As she was speaking she reached down and removed the shoes she was wearing, handing them to Detective Nesbitt. When that was done she slumped in her seat, covered her face with her hands, and began sobbing. The two detectives, realizing that there wasn't very much more they could say or do without more information, said goodbye to her, leaving her in the same position, slumped in her kitchen chair.

"What do you think, Dave? Is she what she seems; a wife worried sick about her husband? Or do you think that maybe she's just a very good actress? Did you notice that she was on the phone when we walked in, and hung up on whoever it was?"

David Klein shook his head and said, "I just don't know Pete, I just don't know. She seems genuine enough, but you know how these things go. If the blood in his car turns out to be the husband's, there's a good chance his spouse is involved. We see that over and over. Maybe we should make some background checks on this couple; talk to their friends and neighbors. Somebody may know something that is relevant to this whole business. As for the phone call, she was probably talking to her best girlfriend. Women always seem to turn to their best girlfriend when things go wrong."

"Yeah, I guess you're right. Some good old-fashioned digging just might lead somewhere. What I'd really like to find out is why he came into town two days earlier than expected. That might be the key to this whole thing." When he got to his car, Detective Nesbitt pulled out a plastic evidence bag, slipped in the pair of shoes, and firmly sealed the bag.

Since the two partners had arrived separately, each had his own car. As they drove back to the station, each in his own solitude, they individually tried to figure out the clues they had so far been presented with. Unfortunately, neither of them had enough to go on to come up with anything better than what they had already discussed. Both of them were busy completing reports and other paperwork until the end of their shift. No new information had come up from the lab before they departed for their homes, so the two of them were left to consider only what they had already learned during that day.

The next morning both Peter and Dave arrived a half an hour early. It was obvious that the Mark Evans case was high on both of their agendas. Fortunately their dedication to their jobs was rewarded; a stack of reports from the forensics department and the medical examiner were there to greet them. It took them an hour to read the reports, passing them back and forth between each other as they digested the information that was being presented. After they finished what had been waiting there for them, they both realized that there were still going to be a number of further reports to come.

As he looked over one particular report, Peter Nesbitt said to his partner, "These certainly seem to be pointing in one direction, don't they? Is seems there are a few more reports we can expect this morning, though, so I don't think we should jump on this too quickly. I'd rather not go off half cocked."

David Klein was nodding his head as his partner spoke, and replied, "I think you're right. Let's see if they can get some more out of the computer. We could go out in the meantime and talk to his lawyer, and some of the people that he worked with. I'm not certain that we have enough for an arrest yet. We're going to need to take some official statements as well, before we talk to the DA."

The two men were in complete agreement, and left just after 9 a.m. for the office of Mark Evans' lawyer. Like all members of the legal community, Robert Graham didn't want to seem to be biased against the police, especially during an investigation. He quickly gave them a few minutes of his time.

"You realize that I can't discuss anything pertaining to my client's legal situation? That said, let's hear what you want from me, so that I can decide whether or not to answer your questions." The lawyer leaned back in his chair and waited expectantly.

Detective Nesbitt quickly spoke, not wanting to waste too much of the lawyer's valuable time. "We have several email messages here, messages that we obtained under a search warrant from Mark Evans' computer. Could you please confirm receipt of them for us? We simply need to know that the messages were actually sent to you over the past couple of weeks. We want to be sure they weren't just draft copies."

He proceeded to hand over four sheets of paper to the lawyer, who quickly glanced at each of them, before he replied, "These do appear to be genuine. I can confirm receipt of each of them."

He handed them back to the detective who immediately stood and said, "Thank you, Mr. Graham. That's all we need. We couldn't very well make investigative decisions based on what these emails tell us, without some confirmation that they were genuine." The two detectives left the office, exchanging a smile as they headed back to their car.

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