When murder strikes a dysfunctional family.

More chapters from ToxiCity

A VG Serial: ToxiCity

Episode 24

Mrs. Simon took her coffee to a polished oak table near the bay window overlooking the woods. A few patches of yellow, orange and red still clung to the trees, in vivid contrast to the dark greens of pine and spruce. She sat with her back to the window. Matt and Nelson took seats facing her.

“Tell me what happened, Mrs. Simon.” Matt stirred his coffee.

“I knew there was a problem when I didn’t hear from Louis on Saturday. It’s just not like him. He always calls—” She stopped.

“Always calls?” Matt repeated.

“Yes.”

“So he was away from the house Friday night?” He pulled out a notepad and starting writing. “Was he traveling?”

She frowned at her coffee and picked up a spoon. Deep lines creased her forehead. “Hell. You’d find out anyway.”

Matt leaned forward. So did Nelson.

“You know the story about the man who went to Vegas for the weekend, shtupped a couple of showgirls, and was asked what kind of Shabbos he had?”

Matt vaguely remembered the joke. The punch line was “great Shabbos”, he recalled.

“Well, my husband had a great Shabbos every week. Without needing to travel.”

Matt swallowed. Nelson looked baffled.

Charlene turned a snappish gaze to Nelson. “My husband was a philanderer, Detective,” she said. “A real skirt chaser. He liked them young, dumb, and blond. But he wasn’t picky.”

Nelson winced.

“He didn’t even bother to hide it any more. He’s got an office in Glenbrook and one downtown. But he spends more time at East Bank than anywhere else. He goes there to work out, then finds someone to work on him.” The corners of her mouth turned up, but there was no mirth in the smile.

“When was the last time you heard from him?”

“Friday afternoon. He said he’d be home for dinner. Actually, I was surprised. I figured he’d struck out.”

“But you didn’t call the police till Sunday.”

“He never showed up. I assumed he must have picked someone up after all. I didn’t expect to see him until Saturday night.”

“Why is that?”

“It’s only a one night stand with his Shabbos house floozies. He never wants—wanted entanglements. He doesn’t even take showers away from home.”

Matt glanced at the trees. She knew what he was and condoned it. There ought to be a sign on their lawn that says “dysfunctional and proud of it.”

“What about you? Where were you on Friday night?”

“Where do you think? I was here, watching our dinner get cold.”

He’d just about convinced himself that it was okay to dislike this woman when he recalled something a playwright once said. “A husband, even he that has sinned, is still one.” In the final analysis, it didn’t matter what Louis Simon had done, or how his wife reacted. The man had been her husband, and now he was dead. He softened his voice. “Can anyone confirm that?”

She played with her spoon. “I did get a couple of phone calls. Normally, we don’t pick up on Friday night, but I thought it might be Louis.”

Matt took down the names and times of the callers. “Did your husband have any enemies you knew of?”

“Are you kidding? Louis was a dentist. You know, cavities, root canals, implants. He wouldn’t hurt a fly.”

Except you, Matt thought. “What about children?”

She shook her head.

“Did he seem preoccupied or upset recently?”

“No.”

“What about medications? Was he taking anything new recently?”

“Aside from Celebrex for his arthritis, and that little blue pill, I don’t believe so.”

“Can we take a look at the medicine cabinet?”

She rose from the table and led them to a large bathroom with gold wallpaper and black fixtures. Matt and Nelson looked through a mirrored cabinet the width of the wall. Nelson pointed to a half-filled bottle of Vicodin. Charlene’s name was on the label.

“What about these?” Matt asked.

“They were for a root canal Louis did on me a while back. No one’s used them in years.”

As they finished their search, the sound of Nelson’s cell phone cut through the quiet. She fished it out of her bag.

“Yeah? Good work,” she murmured. “No. I’ll let you know. Thanks.” She hung up. “We found your husband’s car, Mrs. Simon. In the East Bank garage. You have a spare set of keys?”

Charlene nodded.

That meant Simon didn’t use the car when he left East Bank, Matt thought. More important, whoever killed him didn’t either. Matt looked over at Nelson. “You’ll make arrangements to have it gone over?”

“You bet.”

Episodes in the novel will be published on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.

Please click the following title,ToxiCity, to read more about Libby Fischer Hellman’s books on Amazon.

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