I opened the door to my apartment, reached to the side and flicked on the light. I froze staring at the gory and grisly scene that was my living room. A man lay covered in and in a pool of blood. A knife, one of my kitchen knives, protruded from his chest. I closed the door and stood in the hallway silently cursing.
Time to take stock. The dead man was an obvious crime thriller story hook. I hadn’t actually walked into the apartment so I didn’t have any trace evidence from the victim on me and I had an alibi of sorts for most of the night so this probably wouldn’t turn into “Fugitive” scenario. There was a dead man in my apartment which meant “someone” had killed him. An obvious statement but it helped focus my thoughts. Who had killed him? Organized crime? Maybe this was a burglary gone wrong. Double crossed by a partner? Whatever had happened I was stuck in the thick of it for now. I could try to avoid the rest but I had to deal with this. I needed to call the police.
I considered calling Jenny to come back so I wouldn’t have to face the police alone. It might look odd, possibly incriminating, if I called my friend before I called the police. I dialed 911.
An hour later, I was talking with a homicide detective who looked like he had stepped out of a primetime police procedural. His hair was black slicked back with traces of salt at his temples. Clean pressed shirt and tie. Only a faint beard shadow betrayed how long he had been on shift. From inside his leather jacket, he pulled out a small notebook, flipped it open, and began speaking to me.
“Are you Francine Espinosa?” I nodded. “Do you mind if I ask you a few questions?”
“No go right ahead,” I said feeling my hands were tied. In most cases, it is ill-advised to talk to police but if this was playing out as part of the story hook, I would look like the prime suspect if I didn’t answer some questions.
“Did you know the victim?”
“Have you ever seen the victim before tonight?”
“The coroner places the time of death at around an two hours before you called 911. Do you have an alibi for the time leading up to the time of death and after?”
“I do but it’s complicated.” Why did this happen on tonight of all nights? Not that any other night would have been better to find a dead body.
“Just start at the beginning,” he said with his pen poised over his notepad.
“Well, I was scheduled to work the evening shift–”
“And where do you work?”
“RJ Dudds. The one in Southshore Mall. But I called in sick to go see a movie.”
“What showing and did you go alone?”
“No, I was going with my friend. The 7:10 pm showing of Mutant High 2”
“And their name?”
“Jenny, Jenny Farris.”
“So, you were watching a movie while the murder was being committed?”
“Not exactly. Just before the movie started this woman I met online texted me. We’ve been trading messages for a few days and seem to be hitting it off. She wanted to meet in person for a date.”
“You left your friend at the movie theater to go on a date?” He stopped note taking to look at me with a raised eyebrow.
“Yes.” As long as I stuck to the truth I wouldn’t get tripped up.
“Ok and what is her name and where did you go?” He resumed note taking.
“Amy Richards. Her profile name is catgirl4380. We went to Josie’s Bar and Diner on Eighth St.”
“And the two of you were there for how long?”
“I don’t know how long she was there but I left after about half an hour.”
“You just left her in the bar?”
“No, I texted my sister to call me and pretend one of our aunts had a stroke.”
“You did what?” He voiced raised slightly as his eyebrows shot up his forehead.
“Look, Amy seemed nice and sweet online and through texts but in person, she had some rough edges. So yeah, I used my escape codeword with my sister and left her in the bar.”
I didn’t need to tell the detective that she had given off major chaser vibes. Telling me she never would have known if I hadn’t told her. Asking me when I was going to have the surgery. Complimenting me on my make-up.
“Ok and what time was that?” he asked.
“About eight o’clock.”
“Did you go home at that point?”
“No, I grabbed a cab and texted Jenny and let her know that the date was a wash I would meet her at our after movie hangout.”
“And where is that?”
“Pancakes on highway twelve.”
“Did you go straight there after your date?”
“Yes, I sat and drank coffee for forty minutes until Jenny showed. Then we ordered a short stack of buttermilk pancakes and talked about the movie for and hour.”
“If you didn’t see the movie, how did you talk about it for an hour?”
“I saw it opening weekend but Jenny doesn’t like to be super crowded so she’s been waiting for a weekday. I was going to go see it again with her so we could do Pancakes after.”
“I see. And after that?”
“Jenny drove me home. I walked into my apartment, turned on the light, saw the dead guy and called 911.”
“So, let me get this straight. You were scheduled to work at the time of the murder but called out sick to see a movie with your friend, Jenny. At the last minute, you got a date with Ms. Richards so you canceled on your friend Jenny. You left your date because she had some “rough edges” and had your sister call you with a fake family emergency. You took a cab to the restaurant you and Jenny go to after movies and waited there for forty minutes until Jenny arrived. The two of you had a stack of buttermilk pancakes and talked about the movie you didn’t see tonight but had seen previously. Jenny drove you home and when you entered your apartment the unknown man was already dead. Is that right?”
“Do you have any receipts from the cabs or the bar?”
“I do.” I reached into my purse and pulled out the untorn ticket stub, two cab receipts, the short bar tab, and the receipt from Pancakes. I shuffled them into the correct order and handed them to him. He looked at them noting the timestamp on each paper slip.
“I’ve read political thrillers that weren’t that complex.” He slapped his notebook closed. “Even with these receipts, it’s going to take me all day to verify your story. Are all your nights like this?”
“No, most nights I don’t find a dead man in my apartment.”