Mark Terry

Monday, June 08, 2009

FLAT-FOOTED, Part 14--The Conclusion

June 8, 2009


Detective Rain called her fellow cops and told them to pick up Chad Laud and Steve Laud for questioning. She made a call to an assistant D.A. to discuss picking up Shala Fontaigne, fully aware that that she would arrive with a battalion of lawyers.

Finally she loaded Melanie Potemkin into her own car to make a formal statement. She turned to Biz. “Why don’t you follow me in. Want to watch some interrogations?”

It took a couple hours to get everyone and everything in place. Detective Rain and one of her partners, Detective Michael Barrow, a thick, gruff man with skin the color of charcoal and cropped hair the color of vanilla ice cream, double-teamed Chad Laud, who, as it turned out, was a modestly successful actor. He’d done a little bit of TV, some local theater and a number of TV commercials. Biz thought he was TV handsome, which is to say, thin, tall, good skin, perfect smile, full head of hair, big eyes. Put him in a line-up with a dozen other struggling actors and you wouldn’t know who the hell he was except he wasn’t blond.

Biz watched on a TV monitor from a separate room with the assistant D.A., a vulture-like man with a hook of a nose, thinning hair and stooped shoulders. Biz thought he looked like a character on The Simpsons.

Chad Laud crossed one leg casually over the other, studying the crease in his tan slacks. “Don’t I get a phone call?”

Barrow said, “We just wanna talk. Ask a few questions.”

“About what?”

“Where were you last night?”

Laud plastered on a big smile, but Biz didn’t find it all that convincing. Laud seemed nervous. “Hey, I had a date.”

“What’s her name?” Rain asked.

Laud splayed his hands. “Hey, I don’t kiss and tell.”

“You should start,” Barrow said. “It might make your life a lot easier.”

Laud’s smile faltered. “Er... I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

Summer Rain said, “You need a cup of coffee or anything? Water?”

Laud blinked. “What?”

“Can I get you a drink?”

“No, I’m good.”

The D.A. scratched his pointed chin and said, “He’s awfully cool this one. I’m not sure we’re going to tweeze them apart.”

Biz studied the actor, thinking back to everything--what little he knew--about twins and about the case so far. “Hey...”

The D.A. looked at him. “Something?”

“I need to go in there for a minute.” He headed for the door. The D.A. followed.

“Mr. Leightner...”

Biz stopped. The D.A. studied him for a moment. “Don’t screw this up. You want to tell me what you’re going to do?”

“Just think of me as a can opener. I’m hoping to open a crack in the case.”

A moment later Biz was in the interrogation room. Both detectives looked like they wished he were somewhere else. Like, say, Siberia.

Biz smiled at Laud. “Mr. Laud, how are you today?”

“Who are you?”

“Biz Leightner. I’m a private investigator.” Biz reached into his pocket and pulled out his set of keys. He tossed them gently to Laud, who caught them with his left hand. Biz held out his hand. “Are you left handed, Mr. Laud?”

Laud tossed the jangling keys back to Biz. “Yeah, so what?”

Biz smiled. “Good luck to you, Mr. Laud.” He left the room, followed by Summer Rain.

“What the hell was that all about?”

“Oh, let’s go talk to his twin brother.” 

Steve Laud was in another interrogation room, this time accompanied by his attorney, a blonde woman in a two thousand dollar power suit who was so sharp and edgy she looked like she was made out of crystal. Steve Laud, unlike his brother, seemed a little nervous. He wore a blue suit, blue shirt and red tie. It was a nice suit, but it paled in comparison to his attorney’s. He was drinking a cup of coffee from a Styrofoam cup. Holding it in his right hand.

Biz introduced himself. He gestured to the Styrofoam cup. “Enjoying your coffee?”

“It sucks, to be honest with you.”

His attorney raised a quieting hand. “Not a word, Mr. Laud. Even about coffee.”

“Are you right handed?”

The attorney said, “Why do you want to know?”

“He’s drinking his coffee with his right hand.”

Laud looked baffled. His attorney looked suspicious. Summer Rain said, “Answer the question, please.”

The attorney frowned. She looked at the D.A. “Jim, what’s this about?”

The D.A., James Butcher, shrugged. “It’s a basic question, though. I can’t imagine why he wouldn’t want to answer it.”

“I’m right handed. So what?”

His legal eagle shushed him, but it was too late.

Biz thanked them and walked out. “Let’s go take a look at the photographs I took. You got them, Summer?”

She led them to her desk, which held a computer and about a dozen three-ring binders, each one, Biz knew, representing a murder investigation. She dropped in the disk he had burned and brought up the photographs.

Biz tapped the photograph of one of the Lauds catching the car keys thrown to him by Shala Fontaigne. His left hand high. He said, “Not all identical twins are mirror image. I guess about twenty percent are, which means one is left handed and one is right handed. I don’t suppose this is quite enough evidence to put them in jail, but it’s decent evidence that it was Chad Laud who was with Shala Fontaigne at the time her husband was murdered, not his twin brother, Steve.”

Summer Rain and Jim Butcher gave each other a significant look. Butcher said, “I would think you could work with that. Play them against each other.”

Summer leaned down and gave Biz a peck on the cheek. “That’s a down payment, Biz. You’re a genius.”



Biz smiled. It had been a hell of a day. Once Summer could place Chad Laud with Shala Fontaigne, she was able to hammer on the brothers until Chad cracked. It had to be Chad, he supposed, because Steve Laud’s high-octane attorney wouldn’t let him talk. And neither would Shala Fontaigne’s.

Chad Laud was spinning the story to put his brother in the best light--that Shala Fontaigne forced him to confront her husband, that things had gotten out of hand, Del had attacked him, they’d wrestled for the gun, and it had gone of.

Multiple times.

A team of cops had gone around collecting surveillance footage from the security systems of everybody home around the Fontaigne’s Holmby Hills estate, and indeed, there was footage of either Steve or Chad Laud driving down the street near the Fontaigne’s house.

Shala Fontaigne, of course, was claiming she knew nothing about it. Steve Laud, the apparent killer and weakest link, wasn’t being allowed to say anything by his attorney, who unfortunately worked for the same law firm that represented Shala Fontaigne, the big fish with all the money. Biz supposed there was a conflict of interest there somewhere, but he was out of it now. 

It was hard to say where it was going to go, lacking confessions. Still, it looked like the D.A. and the SEC had enough evidence to put Shala Fontaigne in prison for quite some time on charges of fraud and “IPO spinning,” basically manipulating the initial public offering--and trying to frame her husband for it if she got caught. An army of accountants would be tearing the company’s finances to bits. They might be able to tack on conspiracy to murder charges, although in his cynical way Biz thought the D.A. and a federal prosecutor might throw on a conspiracy and murder charge with the hopes of a deal--confessing to the fraud charges in exchange for dropping the murder-related charges.

Chad Laud was probably going to spend some time trying to dodge an accessory to murder charge. Steve Laud might go down for manslaughter, depending on whether Shala Fontaigne’s attorneys continued to defend him once Shala Fontaigne stopped footing the bill.

Ugly, thought Biz. But then, murder always is.

It had been a very long day. Rumproast snuffled, stood up, twirled around and thumped back down on the bed next to Biz.

“For a little dog he takes up a lot of room in bed.” 

Biz glanced over at Summer Rain, lying next to him under the sheet, very naked and very beautiful. “It’s his very large personality.”

She rolled over so she was inches away from, face in shadows, auburn hair partially obscuring her face. “So dogs do take after their owners.”

“Yeah,” he said. “I guess they do. I’ve got a very, ahem, large personality.”

Summer kissed him. “As a matter of fact, you do.”

The End


Blogger Erica Orloff said...

Woo-hoo! He gets the beautiful woman at the end. :-) You made this reader VERY happy.


5:12 AM  
Blogger Mark Terry said...

Glad you liked it.

6:02 AM  
Blogger LurkerMonkey said...


I was hoping Biz got the girl in the end ...

6:45 AM  
Blogger spyscribbler said...

"A down payment." I love that, LOL! I, too, am so glad the flat-foot got the girl in the end. :-)

Thanks for sharing this story, Mark!

12:09 PM  

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