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Calling Cards

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Poor Ms. Dore - Editor

Calling Cards

by Stephen Pohl

I was in the Owl Bar, off the Hotel Belvedere’s lobby, working on a prime rib French dip sandwich and fries, when Dolan walked in and scanned the room. He came to my table and took a seat without waiting for an invitation.

“Glad you could join me.” I said, wondering why he was there.

Dolan didn’t smile. He squared up to me, and leaned forward over the table. It had been ten years since we worked together, but he still had the lean and hungry look I’ve traded in for a bulky and bemused facade.

“Name Janice Dore mean anything to you, Moriarty?”

“No,” I didn’t like his tone, “Why?”

“We found one of your business cards in the glove compartment of her car. I was hoping you could shed some light on your relationship with her.”

“I don’t know her. How could I have a relationship with her? Is she a suspect or a victim?” Sgt. Mike Dolan was Baltimore PD Homicide, which meant he was talking about a homicidal relationship.

“She was strangled in her apartment at Charles Plaza.”

“Great.” I shoved my plate away. “So, I’m a suspect or a PI with a murdered client I never met. Don’t know her, never heard the name.”

Dolan didn’t respond. He just cocked his head and eyed me. I was glad he wasn’t a regular dinner partner. I prefer more reassuring friendships.

“Look, you have more of a relationship with your victim than me. At least you’ve met her body. But I would like to know how a dead woman got my card. I’ll check it out. Somebody may have referred her to me and she never got around to calling. I’ll give you whatever I come up with.”

“OK, but stay on your side of the fence.” He got up.

“Fair enough,” I said. “Can you get me a picture? Maybe I’ll recognize her.”

“I’ll e-mail a photo tomorrow,” he said and headed for the door.

I paid the tab and went back to my office on the second floor. I ran Janice Dore through all the data bases I use. Not much came up other than her MVA records, which gave me her address, age, race, height, weight and what kind of car she liked or could afford. She was 5’2” 110, white, blue eyes, brown hair, age 29, glasses or contacts, owned a Toyota.  She didn’t ring a bell. The name, DOB and address gave me enough to run her through the Maryland Judiciary Case Search website. She had never been a party to any criminal or civil litigation, at least in the Maryland courts.

I went through my old phone logs and appointment books to see if I had somehow forgotten her. No help there. Finally, I closed up shop and walked the two blocks to my apartment on St. Paul Street and went to bed.

The next morning I got more from The Baltimore Sun than I had from Dolan the night before. Janice Dore worked as a nurse at University Hospital. Her strangled body was found in her apartment after concerned co-workers called Police when she failed to show up for work and didn’t answer phone calls. The body was in the living room on the sofa. It was a short article, not much longer than a spot in the police blotter section. I wondered what was left out. A lot, I guessed, and Dolan wasn’t going to give it up to me any more than he would to the news media.

Dolan’s e-mail, with the photo of Janice Dore arrived. She was attractive, in the cute sense, looking younger than she was, with hair cut short, freckles and a pixie smile. I still didn’t recognize her. I printed a few copies of the photo and put them in a folder, then made the rounds of my corporate clients and claims adjusters, hoping one of them knew her and might have given her my card as a referral.

By the end of the day, I had shown Janice Dore’s photo to a lot of people, but no one remembered giving her one of my business cards, recognized or knew her.

That evening, Dolan showed up at the Owl Bar again at dinnertime.

“Any luck?” he asked.

“No. How about you? Any surprises in the autopsy results?”

I saw a brief twitch of annoyance in his face before he responded. “Confirmed death by strangulation.”

“Any hot prospects?”

“Other than you? I wish. Help me out, Bob”

“Yeah, and you too.”

Two days later a death notice was in the paper giving the viewing and funeral information for Janice Dore. There was also a brief follow up article on the murder. It mentioned a father, James Dore, who had made the funeral arrangements, a deceased mother and a deceased brother. The funeral home was in Dundalk, on the east side, where the father lived and Janice had grown up.

#

The next evening I was at the funeral home, on the parking lot, hoping to see someone that connected me to Janice Dore. Dolan was there with his video surveillance crew, also looking for a connection. I hoped I wasn’t the only one he saw. The early crowd was blue collar, Dundalk types. Some were wearing jackets with the Longshoreman Local colors, co-workers of Jim Dore. He was a big graying man, strong, but tired in the eyes. During the first hour I struck out. I didn’t spot one person I recognized. Then the white collar shift, Janice Dore’s co-workers, arrived and I got lucky. I recognized several people, including two doctors from University Hospital. But it was two others I recognized, a married couple, Annette and Richard Clarke, who interested me. Annette Clarke was an attorney and a former client. I knew her husband Richard too, but only from a distance. He was an investment banker. We had never been introduced.

After the last mourner had left, Dolan waved me over to his car.

“See anybody you know?” he asked.

“A couple of doctors from University, but I don’t think they’re suspects,” I said. “How ‘bout you?”

“The same.”

“You going tell me anything more about this case, or leave me in the dark?”

“I thought you liked the dark,” he said, with a cold smile. I knew I wouldn’t get more out of Dolan. Hell, I might be his only suspect if he hadn’t come up with anyone else yet. I couldn’t go snooping around his crime scene or the people he was interviewing without getting myself into deep hot water. But I did have a reason to contact Annette Clarke. She had been my client, with an expectation of confidentiality and that was a good enough excuse for leaving Dolan out of the loop until I had talked with her.

The next morning I called Annette Clarkes’s office. She was out. I left my name and phone numbers. She called back that afternoon. I asked if she could stop by my office for five minutes on the way home that afternoon. “It’s a minor matter, but I’d prefer to discuss it in person.”

She agreed to stop by about 4:45 and arrived as promised and on schedule. Six inches taller than Janice Dore, she couldn’t have looked more different, with long black hair and an aristocratic face that belied her middle class breeding. She was as attractive as a woman can be when wearing the basic gray pinstripe business suit favored by many lawyers, which makes them look like they’re in perpetual mourning. Of course, with the skirt option and a modest amount of cleavage showing, she had had it all over the old goats and young studs in pinstripes.

She was very poised except for jangling her car keys as she sat in an easy chair I have my office for clients. I apologized for the inconvenience, and got down to business. “Mrs. Clarke, the police found one of my business cards in the glove compartment Janice Dore’s car and you were at her viewing. Since I never knew or ever meet her, I’m hoping you can tell me how she got my card. You’re the only connection I’ve found between her and me.”

She stiffened. “Janice was my room mate and best friend in college. When I hired you to check up on my husband, I didn’t want to have anything at home or in my bags that he might find. And I didn’t want anything that personal in my office either. So I gave Janice your card. I also gave her the reports you gave me, for safekeeping. I dropped them off at her apartment each time after we met. But then it all came to nothing. The business card found in her car is almost certainly the one I gave her.”

“So, you confided in her when you hired me?”

“Actually, before. I told her of my suspicions and that I was going to hire a detective even before I called you. She thought I was crazy to suspect Richard of cheating and it turned out she was right. But I had to know and I needed to confide in someone.”

I stood up. “Thank you. I’m sorry to have bothered you about the matter, but it’s been preying on my mind.”

She picked up her purse from the floor next to the chair.  “I understand. It’s been very upsetting to me. I can’t understand why anyone would kill Janice and there doesn’t seem to be much progress in the police investigation. It’s devastating for her father and difficult for her friends, and it will be until they make an arrest. Her brother was killed in Iraq in 2004 and her mother died of cancer only a year ago. I don’t know if her father will ever recover from this. He’s lost his whole family in just a few years.”

I showed Mrs. Clarke out of the office and down to the lobby. As she left I crossed the lobby to the Owl Bar for dinner. While I waited for my order I called Dolan. He was out of the office. I left messages on his office and cell phones for him to call me. The suddenly dead by violence were always making unscheduled claims on Dolan’s time and there was no shortage in Baltimore. He could have dinner with them. They wouldn’t find his company as irritating as I did lately.

Next morning I was drinking my first cup of coffee at home, when Dolan called. “What’s your story?”

“I found out who gave Janice Dore my business card.”

“Yeah? Who?”

“A former client. I was doing surveillance on the husband and the client didn’t want to have anything from me that might tip him. She gave my card to Janice Dore, who was a friend and confidant. I didn’t find anything suspicious and the job was closed after two months. I don’t want to drag the client into this for obvious reasons.”

“Don’t test my patience with that confidentiality crap.”

“You have patience? Then bear with me. I could have kept this to myself. I need something from you to clear up a question I have.”

“What?’

“The client also gave my surveillance reports to Janice Dore for safekeeping. In the end, since I didn’t find what the client was looking for, the reports could have been tossed as worthless. If that happened, it’s no problem; but there’s no way to be sure if they were thrown. If they weren’t and you didn’t find them we may have a problem,”

“I didn’t find them. Who’s your client?”

“Forced entry? Was the place tossed?”

“No and no. Who’s your client?”

“Was anything of value taken?”

“No. Who’s your client?”

“Did Janice Dore have a boyfriend? Do you know his name?”

“Yes. He’s Mr. X, the invisible man. Who’s your client?”

“Mrs. X, I think. I have one more thing to do. Meet me at my office tomorrow at 3:00 and we’ll go see Mr. X.” I hung up and dialed Felicia Gelder’s number. I wanted her to meet Mr. X too. I wanted her to lead him around by the nose while I picked up thedebris he left behind. She’s better at leading men than any woman I’ve ever known. Put her in a room with ten men and before long it looks like a conga line is following her.

At 5:00 the next afternoon Dolan and I sat in a car a half bock away and across the street from the Cubana Club on Eastern Avenue, Richard Clarke’s happy hour haunt. There was a smoking bar on the sidewalk in front with a waitress taking orders for the bar and grill inside. Richard smoked his cigar outside, seated on a stool at a small round table, gabbing with the other regulars and greeting passersby. I had watched him do this almost daily for two months after his wife had hired me. He was at his favorite perch, when Felicia Gelder approached and took a seat at the table next to his. It was like watching a silent movie as we observed Felicia reel him in.  By the time she had finished her first drink Clarke’s cigar had burned down to a stub, and Felicia stood up, took Clarke by the hand and led him inside. The waitress started clearing tables. Dolan and I ejected from the car like a couple of spent shell casings and got to Clarke’s abandoned spot just ahead of the waitress. Mike had Clarke’s well chewed cigar stub into an evidence bag and in his pocket faster than a magician makes a coin disappear. We left Felicia to enjoy a drink on Richard and headed back to Police Headquarters and the crime lab.

“Please tell me you have some DNA to check this sample against,” I said as we drove to Headquarters. Dolan remained silent. We delivered the stub to the lab and went up to the homicide unit. He called two of his squad into his office, leaving me in the bull pen. Two minutes later the detectives left, Dolan waved me in and I took a seat.

“This is going to take some time,” he said. “Clarke is all over Dore’s phone logs, but so is his wife and Clarke managed Dore’s investments. Small change by his standards, but the way the markets have been lately these guys get a lot of calls from clients that need hand holding. This may still lead to a dead end. So keep your lips zipped until I get the lab results.”

A month passed before he called. This time we sat in my office as he laid it out for me.

“We got a match on Richard Clarke’s DNA.”

“Match with what?”

“His child, we got a paternity match. Janice Dore was ten weeks pregnant. Richard Clarke was the father. Janice told at least two girlfriends that she was pregnant. She hoped she could get the father, Mr. X, who nobody had met, to marry her. He was married, but had no kids. The child was the hook, she thought. Wrong. He told her to get rid of it. She refused, thought he would come around by the time the kid was born. Wrong again. When he came around, he killed her and the kid she was carrying. His phone logs since the murder show enough contacts with a criminal defense firm to indicate he’s probably retained counsel already in case we zeroed in on him. I think we’ve got him boxed.”

He did have him boxed, with a strong circumstantial case. Clarke couldn’t account for his whereabouts in the timeframe of the murder. Annette wouldn’t give him an alibi. Their house was collateral for his bond. But he had wiggle room inside the box.  On the trial’s opening day, Dolan grabbed me at the courtroom door and pulled me down the hall.

“They’re working out a plea,” he said, swinging his head toward the Assistant State’s Attorney and Clarke’s defense counsel further down the hall. Over his shoulder I saw Jim Dore and then Annette Clarke go into the courtroom.

The attorneys down the hall wrapped up their business, walked past us and into the courtroom. Dolan and I slipped in and took seats at the back of the room.

A few minutes later the Honorable Robert Bender entered from his chambers behind the bench and was announced by the clerk, who then called the docket: The State of Maryland versus Richard Clarke, charged with murder in the first degree.

It was all down hill from there.  The State’s Attorney and Clarke’s defense counsel announced that a plea deal had been worked out in the hallway. Clarke would plead guilty to a single count of manslaughter and the State would drop the first-degree murder charge.  The judge granted a thirty day postponement with Clarke’s bail extended so he could settle his affairs before sentencing. James Dore shouted at the State’s Attorney as the bailiffs hustled Clarke out a side door. Annette Clarke sat rigid in her seat in the midst of the chaos as I slipped out into the hallway behind Dolan, who kept walking and shaking his head until waved me off and disappeared into a stairwell.

A week before his sentencing hearing Richard Clarke disappeared. Annette, worried about loosing the house, notified Dolan. He struck out trying to reacquire his man. The day before the hearing date, a letter from James Dore arrived at my office. “You can find Clarke at the end of Pier One on Clinton Street. Annette shouldn’t loose the house. Thanks for fingering the bastard.”

On sentencing day I stood with Dolan at the end of Pier One and watched the BPD Marine Unit’s dive team at work, with Fort McHenry in the background across the harbor entrance. Bobbing for bodies, one cop called it. After about two hours, a diver’s head popped up on the water’s surface and his hand shot up. Clinton Street ends on a spit of land named Lazaretto Point, but Clarke didn’t walk out of his watery grave. He was wrapped up by cable and weights that held him down like a buoy, but without enough slack to float on the surface. The autopsy determined he’d been thrown in alive.

Jim Dore had signed up for a vacation cruise that sailed the day his letter to me was postmarked. Somewhere between Baltimore and Bermuda, he went overboard for a midnight swim.

Annette Clarke moved out of state after she buried her husband.

No exit for me. Dolan was right. It all led to a dead end.

©2010

 

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