Dangerous Secrets (Mystery — Day 6)

The next morning, Tara managed to eat a scrambled egg with a slice of toast and drink a glass of orange juice.  She was preparing to go for a walk in the woods, when the doorbell rang.  She opened the door to Sergeant Ken Olsen.

“Good morning, Mrs. Richardson.  I hope I’m not disturbing you, but I need to talk with you.”

“Please, come in.  Have you found the person responsible for Jaime’s death?”

“No, ma’am, I’m sorry, we haven’t.  We are fairly certain that it is a man we are looking for.  It appears that Mr. Richardson was hit very hard with a blunt object on the back of the head.  The object must have a sharp, pointy piece as well, as there was a puncture wound in his head as well.  I am here to see if I can find something that may fit the description of the murder weapon.”

“Oh, please, feel free to look around.”

“I also need to ask you some questions, if you have some time.”

“Of course.  I was just going to take a walk, but that can wait.”

Tara waited in the sitting room, while Sergeant Olsen looked around the desk in the den area.

“Mrs. Richardson, could I bother you for a large plastic bag?”

Tara went to the kitchen and retrieved a wastebasket bag from the cupboard.

“Will this do?”

“Yes, thank you.  You don’t mind if I take this statue to the lab for analysis, do you?”

Tara noticed that he was interested in the statue that Jaime’s father had given him years ago, a statue of a man with a rifle and a hunting dog by his side.  Jaime’s father had taken Jaime hunting when he was younger, and they had both cherished those hunting trips.  Jaime hadn’t been hunting since he had begun working at Jacobson Mergers.  He said he didn’t have the time.  His father had been disappointed the first several years that Jaime turned him down when asked about the hunting trips, but then he just stopped asking and he and Jaime had drifted apart, just like she and Jaime had drifted apart.  She had never really thought about that before.

“Mrs. Richardson, I said, do you mind if I take this statue to the lab for analysis?”

“What?  Oh, no, of course not.  I’m sorry.”

“What were you just thinking about?”

“Jaime’s father gave him that statue about seven years ago.  They used to go hunting together, but they haven’t gone in years.”

“Do Mr. Richardson’s parents live around here?  Have they been notified of his passing?”

“Oh, my, I never thought to give them a call!  They live about an hour away.  If you don’t mind, I’ll take a minute and call them now.”

“Of course.  I’ll take this statue and lock it in my police car and return to ask you some questions.”

Tara called Jaime’s parents and told them as gently as she could of the events of the past twenty-four hours.  She thought it felt more like years.  Of course, Jaime’s mother cried and his father asked if there was anything they could do for her.  She had never been very close to them, but suddenly wanted them nearby.  She asked if they could come and stay with her for a while, and Allen, Jaime’s father, promised they would be there in time for dinner.

Sergeant Olsen came back inside, and he and Tara sat at the small table in the kitchen.

“Mrs. Richardson, do you have any family living nearby?”

“No, my parents both passed away years ago.  I have one brother, but he lives halfway across the country, and I haven’t heard from him in years.  He’s ten years older than me.”

“I see.  Do you know if there is a life insurance policy on Mr. Richardson?”

“Yes.  We both have life insurance.”

“Do you know how much his policy is worth?”

“I think it’s worth $250,000.  He always said if anything happened to him, he wanted to be sure that I wouldn’t be left with any debt.”

“Do you know if Mr. Richardson had a will?”

“I know that he had a will, but I don’t know anything about it.  He insisted in meeting with an attorney and taking care of that in private.  He said that I should do the same, but I never have, because I wouldn’t have anyone to leave anything to except Jaime anyway, and now, he’s gone.  I always thought I’d get a will set up once we had a child.”

“Do you know what attorney Mr. Richardson met with to draw up his will?”

“I really don’t remember.  It was a long time ago.”

“Well, the coroner’s office is ready to release Mr. Richardson’s body for burial or cremation.  You’ll have to go to the coroner’s office to make the arrangements.”

“Would it be okay to do that tomorrow?  Jaime’s parents are driving down and will be arriving this evening.  I would really like his dad to help me with all of that.”

“Of course.  I’ll tell them to expect you tomorrow.”

“Thank you.”

“Thank you, Mrs. Richardson.  I’m really sorry you have to go through all of this.”

Allen and Eva Richardson arrived at Tara’s house at 6 p.m., and Tara had dinner ready for them.  She had prepared a beef roast with glazed carrots, mashed potatoes and a tossed salad.  They ate in the dining room but not much food was consumed.  Eva asked a lot of questions and sniffled in between.  Allen just listened.  It was a very somber meal, and they all retired to their bedrooms after dinner.  Allen and Eva were tired from the drive and Tara was tired from the fresh emotions of the evening.

The next morning Allen and Tara went to the coroner’s office, while Eva remained at Tara’s house.  They walked into the coroner’s office and Tara told the girl at the desk who she was and that she was there to make arrangements for her husband’s body.  The receptionist looked at her oddly and said, “Who did you say you were?”

“I’m Tara Richardson and I’m here to make arrangements for my husband’s body.  He was murdered two days ago, and I was told the coroner was ready to release his body for burial.”

“Please excuse me a moment.  I’ll be right back.”

“She seems a bit strange,” said Tara, and Allen agreed.

A few minutes later, the receptionist returned with a white-haired gentleman.

“Hello, I’m Seth Calloway, the coroner.  How can I help you?”

“Well, as I told your receptionist, I am Tara Richardson and I am here to make arrangements for my husband’s body — Jaime Richardson.”

“Do you have some kind of I.D.?”

“What?  Oh, yes, I have my driver’s license.”  Tara began searching through her bag for her wallet.  “Here.”

“I’m sorry, Mrs. Richardson, but there must be some mistake.  There was another woman in her earlier who said she was Mrs. Richardson, and she’s already claimed the body of Jaime Richardson.”

“What?!  What do you mean another Mrs. Richardson?”

“I’m sure I don’t know, ma’am, but there was a woman here earlier, said she was Mrs. Richardson, and Jaime Richardson’s body is no longer here.”

Tara felt her knees go weak, and then she felt an arm around her to offer support.  Allen helped her to a nearby chair and the receptionist quickly got a glass of water.  Tara took a few sips of water and felt her head clearing a little, but she was very confused and she couldn’t stop shaking.  How could there be another Mrs. Richardson?

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