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by Victor Uribe
Description: On an afternoon, late August, Vincent Tuscani, a private investigator, was waiting for Chepene and Rosalina Ramireson, at his office on the 20th floor of the Venetian building located ov Lake Shore Drive, Chicago. The Ramireson's 15-year-old son, Armandus, had been charged with the brutal murder of Katisha Flanderini, an exotic dancer, and the boy was currently in detention at Hope House, a facility for socially deviant minors, on the south side of Chicago. Vincent sighed, wondering why he had agreed to see them. From what he had heard on the news, the evidence against the boy was overwhelming.
eBook Publisher: ebooksonthe.net/ebooksonthe.net, 2003 ebook
eBookwise Release Date: December 2007
1 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [27 KB]
Reading time: 14-19 min.
On an afternoon, late August, Vincent Tuscani, a private investigator, was waiting for Chester and Maria Ramsey, at his office on the 20th floor of the Venetian building located ov Lake Shore Drive, Chicago. The Ramsey's 15-year-old son, Andrew, had been charged with the brutal murder of Katisha Flanderini, an exotic dancer, and the boy was currently in detention at Hope House, a facility for socially deviant minors, on the south side of Chicago. Vincent sighed, wondering why he had agreed to see them. From what he had heard on the news, the evidence against the boy was overwhelming.
His mind on the case, Vincent walked to the window and looked down at the restless waters of Lake Michigan below. Today, they looked grey under dark and lowering skies. Unusual weather for August, he thought, as he took out a cigar, but didn't light it, then dropped into his desk chair of caiman leather. Vincent wondered what the parents thought he could do when the boy had already confessed. He stroked his thick mustache, picked up the case file, and wished he could offer them some hope.
Miss Flanderini had been stabbed numerous times by her frenzied attacker. The prosecutor already was talking about trying the boy as an adult because of the heinous nature of the crime. His mouth dry, Vincent caught up a soft tan leather wine boot, and squeezed out a sip of Manzanilla, his favorite Spanish Jerez wine.
The sharp taste brought back memories of Pamplona and running with the bulls under the hot Spanish sun. A moment of courage, a time of measuring his valor as a man. Would Andrew Ramsey ever find for himself such a moment of courage?
Vincent drank again, savoring the taste of the wine and the memory of a time when he had felt strong and invincible. But on this day, he felt defeated, before he had begun. This case, the boy, only fifteen ... If they tried him as an adult, he could get the death penalty.
Like most of Chicago, Vincent had first heard of the Flanderini murder two weeks earlier on the TV news after the Chicago police had released a 911 tape. The victim's panicky voice, her sobs and anguish made the words hard to understand, but the news had helpfully run a crawl of her words under the confused sobbing, and the woman's voice gasping out her last words, while the calm voice of the dispatcher kept asking her name, and where she was while she sobbed and pleaded. Help me. I'm Katisha Flanderini ... I was stabbed ... Then there was the sound of the receiver being dropped and silence. Not even the sound of labored breathing could be heard through the phone line.
Tracing the call, the dispatcher had sent police and paramedics to the Ramsey's home. According to police reports, they had entered Andrew Ramsey's bedroom, and found the half-naked body of 30-year-old Katisha Flanderini, dead of multiple stab wounds. Her blouse and underwear had been ripped away. One of the wounds had struck an artery and blood spattered the walls, the floor, the telephone table. Andrew Ramsey sat on the floor, holding her body cradled in his arms and sobbing uncontrollably. There were blood stains on the knees of his trousers and smears of her blood on his white shirt. A bloody kitchen knife lay within his reach and bloody fingerprints on the handle could be seen with the naked eye. Andrew's hands had been smeared with blood that forensic tests later showed to belong to the victim.
Though the woman was clearly dead, paramedics had worked over her body while an officer handcuffed the still-sobbing boy, reciting by rote his Miranda rights.
Vincent sighed and picked up another report. A psychiatrist at Hope House stated that Andrew had developed 'Selective Psychogenic Amnesia' about the crime scene. He couldn't or wouldn't say anything. The criminologists had identified his and his mother's fingerprints on their kitchen knife. Vincent wondered again what kind of kid Andrew was, and as he always did when puzzled, he stroked his mustache. There was something in the reports that didn't add up.... Vincent raised an eyebrow, looked at the photos again and became convinced the boy was innocent.
A knock on the door interrupted his pondering. Vincent opened it, to see a couple in their 40s or 50s. The woman looked younger, but her face had that "tight" look produced by plastic surgeons, so it was hard to tell exactly. The man, Chester Ramsey, was not tall, but rushed in with a "take over" manner, and introduced himself. He wore dark horn-rimmed glasses and multi-pocketed hunter's shirt over blue jeans. His wife, dressed in a casual but neat blouse and skirt, followed more slowly. To Vincent, she appeared less sure of herself, smaller than her husband. Certainly she was less aggressive.
For parents who were late for an appointment with a detective they hoped would help their son, they seemed intent on making up for lost time.
Chester rushed to the point before Vincent could offer them a seat. "Andrew didn't kill Katisha Flanderini."
Maria looked up at him with pleading eyes. "We count on you to help our son to be able to remember what happened, and to find the real killer."
Vincent pointed out the chairs in front of the desk, and went around to sit behind it. Chester took the seat indicated, but Maria went to stand beside the window looking out, her arms crossed on her chest.
"This whole case is ridiculous. God knows Andrew is innocent!" Chester clenched the arms of the chair, his knuckles white.
"If there is a god," Maria moaned.
"Fill me in on some details," Vincent pressed. "Where were you two when Katisha died?"
Chester shrugged, then looked away, "I went to Milwaukee. I go there to attend meetings of the Midwest Hunter's Association."
"How did you hear what happened?"
"Maria told me when I got home."
Vincent turned to her. "And you, Mrs. Ramsey? Where were you that afternoon."
"I had gone downtown. Shopping."
"Was anyone with you?"
"No. I went alone." Her face looked pale as she at last took the chair beside her husband, tugging it a bit away from his before she sat down. Vincent wondered if she were afraid of him and why.
"How did you find out?"
"The police had left an officer on the scene. He was still there when I got home. Such a mess--crime scene tape and fingerprint powder everywhere."
Vincent pressed, "The knife had Katisha's blood and your fingerprints."
Maria paled. "Of course it had my fingerprints. It came from my kitchen. Who else would wash it and put it away?"
Vincent asked them if they had any idea who could have murdered the woman other than their son. Both said no. Neither looked as enraged as the parent of a child unjustly accused of murder should look. Vincent began to wonder about them--and their son.
"Tell me about Andrew."
"He is a good boy, but a bit of a rebel sometimes. We do our best for him, but--he has a big mouth." Chester rushed to answer first, as if he didn't trust what his wife might say.
"How is that?"
"Teenage boys, you know how it is, they like to test a father's authority. He called me abusive and threatened to hit me." Chester held out his hands, palms up, in a what-am-I-going-to-do, gesture. "A man tries to act like the head of his household and his own son turns against him."
Maria gazed at Chester angrily, her face pink. "You have mistreated us. You have tortured our son."
"What did you know about the victim?" Vincent kept his gaze on Chester, ignoring the wife for the moment. No need starting a war.
"She was a stripper." He smiled. "She worked at one of those sex clubs, you know, down in Old Town Chicago. They don't serve liquor and the girls can touch the customers, but they can't touch the girls."
"How do you know?"
"I checked her out. She performed at the International Club." Chester's face turned fiery red, but he continued. "I used to go there, sometimes."
"How did Andrew meet her?"
"I can tell you that," Maria interrupted, still looking angry. "They met at the Enigma Café. It's right across from Chester's auto parts store."
Vincent turned toward Chester. "So you knew her before your son met her?"
"Of course not." Chester sat up straighter. "I had seen her at the club, that was all. I didn't know her."
"Mumph." Maria's sound of protest was wordless, but her rejection of her husband's statement was clear to Vincent. He understood from the look she flashed at Chester that she believed he and the victim had been lovers.
"Okay, we went out a few times. It was nothing serious. And it was finished. I had told her it was over." Chester glared at his wife.
"I believe she went there deliberately to pick up my son." Maria said. "She wanted to punish my husband for dumping her. I told Chester not to let Andrew work at the store anymore, after I saw him with her one day. We both forbade him to see that whore."
"We did, but she was hot after him," said Chester.
"How did you know?"
"From the way Andrew ran to get it each time the phone rang, I suspected someone was calling him and he didn't want us to know who it was. I put a recorder on the line in our room, one that taped whatever was said every time the phone rang. She called him all the time. Maria insulted Katisha and threatened to sue her for stalking and corrupting a minor. Katisha was outraged. She made--threats."
"What did she say?" Vincent asked.
"She said, 'Lady, you don't want to mess with me.' And she kept right on calling my son," Maria said. "I got furious with her. The woman was dangerous. I didn't want that vixen, twice my baby's age, to take him away from me."
"Your baby?" asked Vincent.
"Yes, my baby before, now and always," emphasized Maria.
"Her baby is an understatement," said Chester sarcastically.
This time, Vincent let them get under each others skin hoping one of them would say too much.
"Shut up! You have always resented how much I care for our son. You're jealous of your own child," she said.
"No wonder! You only have time for him and ignore me."
She paled. "Bull shit. Don't blame me. You're paranoid. You blame others for your own wicked thoughts."
"What do you mean?" Chester's jaw twitched.
She screamed, "Your unfaithfulness. You whipped Andrew with a belt and locked him up in a dark closet. Years ago, you hit our other son with the butt of your hunting rifle. I will always believe that blow contributed to the bone cancer that caused his death." She was breathless and trembled. "You caused the death of one son, and berate me because I try to prevent it happening again. That's what I mean."
Chester leapt to his feet and stood over her. "That's enough!" he shouted. "You have no right to blame me because our son had cancer. Stop it." He shook his fist at her, then caught himself and turned away, silent for a time. When he spoke again, he said, "I am an evil SOB--my father made me like that--he hit me, tightened a rope around my chest, hung me from the ceiling, and burned the soles of my feet. Then he made me walk barefoot on the sidewalk until my feet bled. But I survived and in the end, it made me stronger. I'm a survivor, and Andrew is going to be one, too!" He held his head high, showed no remorse, and offered no apology.
Vincent decided he'd had enough of the Ramseys. He drew the prepared agreements from his desk drawer, explained his fees, and asked them to sign as responsible parties. Andrew's parents agreed, signed the contracts, and left without ever again speaking to each other.
Vincent went to the window and looked down at Lake Shore Drive and Lake Michigan. The streets were slick with rain. Then he sat, and stroked his moustache. He lit his Habana cigar, and drank Manzanilla. Neither made him feel better about the boy's chances, or the case. Chester and Maria both knew more than they were saying. Vincent was almost certain they knew who had killed the girl. Are they covering up for their son? Maybe Andrew did kill her. He picked up the photos again, and shook his head. At least maybe he knows who did. Is he only alleging amnesia? And if so, who is he covering for? His mother, or father, or both?