[If you have not already done so, you must
read the Introduction
Revenge Should Have No Bounds 091
Chapter 17 (7 of 11): Interviews
“Did you and Trinh ever slap each other around?”
“Absolutely not.” Fabian was not outraged, but calmly quick to answer. “She tried that a couple of times when we first started seeing each other … that way, but I told her it was unacceptable. I wouldn’t hit her, ever, and I wouldn’t allow her to hit me. Pure and simple. And she went for it. After that, it never came up again. It just wasn’t the kind of relationship I wanted with her. Or anybody. Ask Yukiko: I never laid a hand on her.”
“O.K., that’s fine.” Willard hands it back to Phoebe.
“So you and Trinh had been seeing each other romantically for how long?” she asked.
“I’d say about a couple of years, almost two years.”
“Were you planning to marry?”
“We’d talked about it,” he said, his shoulders slumped in weary dejection. “She didn’t work. Didn’t need to. Her father supported her, and she was publishing papers. Getting a resumé together and planning to look for a position at a university or a company. I would have quit my job here to follow her. But we never got beyond the talking stage as far as our plans together went.”
As he comes to the end of this narrative, there is no mistaking the watery eyes of the big police officer. Again, Phoebe reminds herself that tears are a sign, a sign of grief as much as of guilt. Which is it in this case?
As if to sway here in one direction, Darling says, “It all started out as kind of a lark. I was attracted to her, I told you, and it flattered me. Here was this gorgeous young woman, obviously sharp as a tack, and she’s interested in me. I’m twice her age, overweight, haven’t made the smartest career moves.” There was no self-pity on Darling’s part lurking in this recital, just an effort at explaining himself and his feelings. “As I said before, my marriage to Yukiko was already on the rocks. Trinh and I got to talking, meeting, and one thing led to another. I think it … it just kind of happened.” His face was distraught. “And now … now she’s not here.” He stared glumly at a far place. “Again, I don’t know if it would have gone anywhere for us, but it was a start. It could have. I’ve even been losing some weight – not that she cared, but she made me feel like I wanted to.”
The detectives eyed each other in the whirring silence of the little room. Fabian Darling pulled out his handkerchief once more and blew his nose.
“Would you like to take a break, Officer?” Phoebe asked sympathetically.
He brushed the air in front of him. “No, no, that’s not necessary. Just give me a second to get myself together.”
Every detective in the room is now wondering what these tears signify. Phoebe has begun to formulate her own opinion on the matter but has little inkling of what the others are thinking. Their faces are masks of neutrality.
After a few minutes, she resumes. “Officer, we have to ask you an obvious question.”
Fabian nods. He knows the drill. “Sure.”
“But before we do, let me remind you that you don’t have to answer. You’re not under arrest at this point and are therefore not obligated to supply us any information. At the same time, anything you do say is being recorded and could be used against you if, later, you were arrested and put on trial in this matter.”
Fabian chuckled bleakly. “A kind of hypothetical Miranda, is that it?”
“Something like that, Officer.”
“Well, I’ve got nothing to hide. You go ahead and ask your question.”
“Officer Darling, did you kill Trinh Cao?”
“No, I did not kill her. I loved her. I really loved that woman.” This, of course, as every detective in the room, once more, realized, was a mantra that all too many murderers resorted to whose love had suddenly flipped to murderous hate. That line from Catullus flitted through Phoebe’s head again. Odi et amo and nescio quare and ‘I hate and I love’ and ‘I don’t know why’ and all that. She was going to have to pull out her old OCT text and check out the exact wording of the couplet. Funny the things that pop into your head at the oddest moments.
Well, Phoebe thought, it sounded sincere enough. If he had done it, would he, a policeman, say anything without lawyering up? Or was exactly this his cunning stratagem? Make them think just that! It was a set of infinite mirrors.
“I noticed from the watch sheets,” Phoebe continued, “that you were off this past weekend. Friday morning until Monday morning.”
“Correct. I was on medical leave. Small bunions. Too much walking in shoes that are too small. Simple surgery at University Hospital.”
Phoebe wrote it down.
“What make of car do you have?”
“I don’t. Yukiko got it in the settlement. A nice big SVU. I’m not even sure if she still has it.”
Ulla picked up the questioning. “Officer,” she said, “even though you and your wife were having trouble before you met Trinh, do you think she could be involved in any way? In the murder?” Phoebe wasn’t so sure that was a good question, but she let it slide. Their marriage may have been on the rocks, but unless Darling had ended up affirmatively hating this Yukiko, would he implicate her at all? Could he?
“No. It’s out of the question.” His answer was without vacillation.
“How can you be so sure?”
“We got divorced, but we stayed in touch, sort of.”
“Sort of?” Ulla prompted.
“We’d have dinner together once in a while. Sometimes Yukiko would call me just to talk. She’d just started seeing somebody new last summer, and she was kind of excited about it. Not like her. She wasn’t a very excitable kind of lady. Pretty reserved, laid back. Maybe kind of like some of your typical Asian woman, you know.” Ulla raised her eyebrows but nobody else seemed to offer any reaction to this. “I just don’t see it.”
“Did your ex-wife ever talk to you about Trinh? She did know you were seeing her, didn’t she?” Ulla asked.
“She knew. And, yes, we did talk about it. She asked me how it was going. Wanted to know what Trinh did, where she was from, was she nice to me, that kind of thing. Kind of sweet on Yukiko’s part, now that you come to think of it. In the end the three of us even ended up having dinner together a few times. After the divorce, that is.” He processed what he had just said. “Actually, that wasn’t all that surprising for Yukiko. As I say, she was a sweet kid.”
Yeah, maybe, thought Ulla. I’m the only woman here even close to her age.
“O.K.,” Willard jumped in. “Do you have any thoughts about anybody else who might have had it in for Trinh? Parents, friends at school, problems with anyone she may have mentioned to you?”
Fabian took his time rolling that one around in his head. He seemed reluctant.
“No, not her parents. She loved them, she really did. Everything I could see, they loved her back. It was a tight family. Sure, maybe her father was a little controlling. I mean Trinh wasn’t a teenager any longer. But murder?” He shook his head vehemently. “That would be hard to believe.”
Fabian hesitated. “Well, there was this woman … this woman I used to see.”
“When you were still married?”
“Yeah.” He was openly embarrassed.
“Well, once I started seeing Trinh – this was back at the start of two thousand – I stopped seeing this other woman.”
“And you think she might have been jealous?”
He snorted. “Jealous? No, not jealous. Greedy.”
“I’m not sure I understand.”
“All right, I suppose it’s going to come out anyway. She was a hooker.”
Interest in the room perked up noticeably.
“Why,” Phoebe stepped in, “why would a hooker be upset about your new girlfriend?”
“Well, I’d been seeing this hooker for a couple of years, since about ninety-eight, I think, and now all of a sudden I don’t want to see her any more. I was a good customer.”
“I see,” Phoebe said.
“Trinh didn’t know about this. It was just something I wanted to do. Trinh made me feel … made me feel I shouldn’t be seeing a hooker.”
“Does this hooker have a name?”
Darling seemed to give that some thought. Pages in notebooks were being turned and pens were racing across the blank spaces.
“It wouldn’t do any good, anyway.”
“What do you mean by that?” Willard pressed.
“Well, she’s not exactly a street walker. High class, you know. She with an outfit that’s got protection. Downtown. Upstairs.”
The detectives were taken aback but stuck to procedure and played along, nodding their heads, as though this were old news. Phoebe had heard rumors about this kind of thing but never seen anything remotely like a smoking gun. Maybe this was. Why would Fabian lie about something like that? To deflect attention from himself and any possible connection to the dead woman?
“I see. Why don’t you let us worry about that. We’re just interested in a name.”
Fabian gave an in-for-a-dime-in-for-a-dollar shrug.
“Sure. The outfit’s named Aspasia’s and her name is Mazarine. Mazarine Cape.”
Bingo, Phoebe yelled to herself, and she could see the same ‘click’ on the faces of the other people sitting around the table.
“Mazarine,” she said. “Mazarine? Can you spell that for us?”
“Sure.” Fabian spelled it.
“And you think she might have had something to do with Trinh’s murder?”
“It’s a possibility. I was running this investigation, I’d have a real good look at her. I’m not saying she did it, you understand. But you asked me what I thought and I’m telling you. I think you should talk to one of the other beat cops, Benny Jameson, too. He told me he saw Mazarine and Trinh Friday evening near the Momiji. I can’t think of anyone else.”
“He can put the two of them together? Friday evening?”
“That’s what he told me.”
“He knows Mazarine?”
“He knows I used to … see her. And he’s met Trinh. They’re both lookers. It’d be hard not to notice them together.”
Phoebe looks up from the pad she has been filling with her jottings.
“Did this Mazarine know your ex-wife?”
Fabian Darling snorts. “Yeah, you could say that. They were real … tight.”
“So Mazarine, Trinh and your ex-wife all knew each other? Is that right?”
“I would assume so. As I’ve said, certainly Mazarine knew Trinh, and Yukiko knew Mazarine. I don’t know for a fact that Trinh and Yukiko knew each other, but that seems a reasonable assumption.”
“I see.” Phoebe looked around the room. “Anybody have any more question?” Nobody did, and they all flipped their notebooks closed and tucked away their pens. Phoebe leaned into the Panasonic. “This interview is not finished. The time is … four nineteen.” She clicked the stop button and ejected the tape, which she carefully labeled. Then she handed it to Pete Anders, who had ejected the video tape and was marking it. “Part of the file record, Pete.”
“Right,” he said, and left the room.
As Darling got up, Phoebe said, “We’re very grateful to you for your help in this. And, for what it’s worth, I’m sorry for your … loss.”
“Thank you,” he mumbled. “I’m available twenty-four seven if you need any more help from me on this. Whatever it is. I’m willing to work on my own time if need be.”
“We’ll keep that in mind. Thank you.”
TO BE CONTINUED