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'Love of Life'

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Episode #16


Matt

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Episode #16

Monday, 5/14/07

Same Day, Late Afternoon

Rosehill Police Department, Interrogation Room

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“Do you recognize this gun, Dr. Crawford?” Lt. Alphonso asked as he opened a manila envelope and pulled out the plastic baggie that contained the gun.

Tom felt a large knot form in his throat. He most definitely did recognize it.

“I… I’m not sure,” Tom Crawford muttered.

“We’ve had the lab going over this gun with a fine tooth comb, Dr. Crawford.” Lt. Alphonso pushed it closer to Tom. “We’ve determined that this is, in fact, the gun that was used to kill Mrs. Marriott.”

“It… is?” Tom was beginning to feel more anxious and uncomfortable by the second.

“Even more interestingly is the fact that we now know exactly who this gun is registered to.”

“You… do?”

“Yes, Dr. Crawford.” The lieutenant paused, ever so briefly. “It’s registered to you. This is your gun, Dr. Crawford.”

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Carlson Paper & Publishing, A.J.’s office

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“Knock, knock,” Suzanne Prentiss smiled as she rapped lightly on the door. “Got time for a social visit?”

“Suzanne!” A.J. Sterling exclaimed, quickly rising from his seat behind his desk. “Doris didn’t tell me you were here.”

“Oh, I bribed your secretary with some cookies out of the machine.” She let out a laugh and stepped into the office. “You know, it’s amazing how easily your employees can be bribed.”

“I think it’s because she knows how often we used to have lunch together when you were downstairs working for the paper.” He folded his arms across his chest and eyed her suspiciously. “You’re not here to tell me you’re ready to come back, are you? The Herald could really use your skills, right now.”

“No, A.J., this is just a social visit.” However, her sigh of disappointment betrayed her true feelings.

“Unuh, not buying it.” A.J. walked over to her, grabbed her lightly by the shoulders, and directed her to a chair. “Now sit down and tell me what’s really on your mind.”

Suzanne looked up at him, feeling rather foolish, and let out a weary sigh, not really sure where to begin. “I miss this place, A.J.. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t. I miss the boys down in the copy room. I miss coming up here to see you every day to go over the latest edition of the paper. I miss us debating over what we think Ruth’s smoking when she puts together that silly advice column of hers.”

“We axed that column, by the way. It was getting too surreal.”

“Finally!” She let out a warm laugh and then paused for a moment. “See! This is what I’ve been missing. All the activity of the newsroom – adult conversation.”

“Baby talk with Tess not doing it for you, huh?”

“Hardly,” she sighed. “Don’t get me wrong, I love my baby very much. Being a mother is the… the most wonderful experience I could’ve ever imagined. And I love John more than I ever thought I could love someone, but…” Suzanne’s shoulders slumped, burdened by the weight of conflicting thoughts and emotions. “I don’t know. Maybe I had fairytale expectations. John and I went through so much just to be together. Maybe I had it in my head that getting married was going to finally bring all of that trouble to an end.”

“And it hasn’t?” A.J. looked at her intently, sincerely interested in Suzanne and her obvious dilemma.

“John’s gotten mixed up with Andy and that damned Beaver Ridge. It’s taking up so much of his time that Tess and I hardly ever get to see him. I know he’s doing it for us and I know he loves me, it’s just that… Oh, I don’t even know what I’m trying to say.”

A.J. leaned back on the edge of his desk and strummed his fingers on the top. A sudden, unexpected thought had just struck him. “Suzanne, did you know that Harold’s retiring?”

“W-what?” No, she didn’t know and she was shocked with this piece of news. “He’s been the editor of the Herald for… forever. I thought he’d die before he’d ever retire.”

“Me, too, but, apparently, he’s decided to chuck it all and move to Florida to spend his twilight years fishing off the coast.” A.J. tapped his chin with his index finger, deep in thought. “You’d be the perfect person to replace him in the editor’s chair.”

“Me?” Her eyes grew wide. It was a possibility she’d never even honestly considered. “But… but I’m not qualified…”

“Not qualified?” He let out a laugh. “Suzanne, what about those years you spent in Europe as a correspondent for the Associated Press? You were the best investigative reporter this newspaper ever had. Hell, you’ve got a journalism degree from Stanford, for pete’s sake. You’re more than qualified and I think you’re the perfect person for the job.”

“I… I don’t know.” Her face fell blank. She didn’t really know what to say or think, it was all so out of left field. Yes, it would be an excellent career opportunity, but she hadn’t even fully decided on whether she even wanted to go back to work part-time or not. It was too much for her to even think about.

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Rosehill Police Department, Interrogation Room

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“Well, Dr. Crawford, I’m waiting.” Lt. Alphonso leaned back in his chair and rested his hands on the table. “You know this is your gun, don’t you? You knew it was your gun before I even told you, didn’t you?”

Tom sat in silence, his eyes locked on the gun inside the plastic baggie.

“Well? Don’t you have anything to say?”

“Yes, Lieutenant, I knew it was my gun,” Tom finally confessed, “but I did not murder Meg!”

“Then can you possibly explain how your gun ended up being the same gun that shot Mrs. Marriott to death?” The lieutenant cocked his head slightly, very interested in the answer Tom would give.

“I keep that gun in a locked box with some personal papers inside my safe,” Tom began to explain after a very long moment of hesitation. “A few days ago I discovered the box was missing along with those papers and that gun.”

“Convenient.”

“It’s the truth, Lieutenant! I swear it!” Tom was beginning to grow panicked. He didn’t like the direction this interview was starting to take. “I would never have shot Meg! What motive would I have to shoot her?”

“There is that matter of funding for your research project,” the lieutenant reminded. “She did cancel all funding right before she died. You could’ve argued over that funding and…”

“I would never have hurt Meg!”

Lt. Alphonso quickly flipped to a separate page of notes. “You did push her down the stairs once, did you not, Dr. Crawford?”

“That was a very, very long time ago and I did not push her. It was an accident – we were arguing and she fell.”

“But you did hurt her in that instance, didn’t you, Dr. Crawford.”

Tom hung his head. The lieutenant had a point. “Yes. I suppose you could say that.”

“Dr. Crawford, I believe you went to Mrs. Marriott’s home with the gun as a means of ‘persuading’ her into reconsidering her funding. You two got into a verbal altercation and it got out of hand. Perhaps you didn’t even intend on shooting Mrs. Marriott let alone killing her, but that’s what happened. Maybe she struggled with you over the gun and it went off. You panicked and fled, dropping the gun.”

“None of that ever happened!” Tom bolted up out of his chair in anger and frustration. “I told you my gun was stolen out of my safe!”

“Along with some personal papers, yes I remember.” Lt. Alphonso flipped back to his current set of notes and quickly jotted something down. “What were those personal papers, Dr. Crawford? Is there any reason someone would want to take them?”

“They… they’re just some personal documents, that’s all.” Tom looked away from him. He couldn’t tell him the whole truth. “They wouldn’t be of interested to anyone but me.”

“When was the last time you saw the locked box, Dr. Crawford?”

“About… a month ago, I suppose. That was the last time I’d gotten into my safe.” Tom thought back to the night Meg had thrown a grand dinner party. “Meg had given me a pair of diamond and platinum cufflinks once and I kept them in the safe to only wear on special occasions. I wore them that night.”

“Were those cufflinks stolen along with the box?”

“No.”

“I see, so some mysterious person only took a box containing unimportant personal papers and a gun, but left all other valuables behind?” Lt. Alphonso cocked an eyebrow – a highly implausible scenario. “Dr. Crawford, can you explain why your fingerprints were the only ones found on the gun?”

“I… can’t.” He leaned forward, his eyes pleading. “Lieutenant, you have to believe me. I did not murder Meg. I didn’t do it!”

“I’m afraid this evidence is something I can’t explain any other way.” The lieutenant rose from his chair. “Dr. Crawford, I’m placing you under arrest for the murder of Meg Marriott.”

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Beaver Ridge Complex, Lobby

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“Where is everybody?” Alison Marriot asked as she walked through the front doors of the lobby, immediately noticing the utter absence of activity. “The crew better not be taking another one of their long lunch breaks. We’re behind schedule as it is and…”

“There is no crew, Alison. Not any more.” Her father, Andy Marriott, sat slumped in his chair, his heads buried in his hands. “Paulson’s out and his money’s right along with him. We’re over budget because we bent over backwards to pacify that jerk and now we’re completely tapped out.”

“W-what?” To say that she was stunned wouldn’t do her reaction justice. “That’s… that’s impossible!”

“Combined, John and I maybe have enough money left in the bank to make it another couple of weeks,” Andy began to explain as he rose from his seat. “I was trying to talk Rick Latimer into climbing on board to replace Paulson, but he didn’t seem too committal about it. Apparently, his wife keeps him on a short leash and he won’t make a move without running it past her first.”

“But you just said we had enough money to keep going for two more weeks.” Alison couldn’t understand why, if there was still money, they weren’t still moving forward with the project. “Why aren’t there workers here?”

“What’s the point, honey?” Andy walked over to his makeshift desk and pulled a bottle of bourbon out of his briefcase, emptying the last remnants of its contents into his mug. “It’s over. Why prolong the agony? I cut our losses. If we kept going, we wouldn’t have anything left.”

“Oh, god.” She shook her head in utter disbelief. “I can’t believe Paulson pulled out just like that. I talked to him last week. I showed him those numbers we put together! I thought I had everything smoothed over!”

“Well, apparently, he got a package delivered to his office in Albany. It was from Meg. Obviously, she mailed it right before she died.” Andy walked back over to his chair, mug of bourbon in hand, and sat back down. “It was a copy of Beaver Ridge’s financial records and plans – the real ones. Not the ones we doctored up for his benefit. He saw every design shortcut we could come up with to get this place up and running cheaply and still just make code.”

The color began to drain from Alison’s face.

“I see you’re having the exact same reaction I had when I heard the news.” Andy’s laugh was tinged with bitter sarcasm. “I just wish I knew how Meg got her hands on those files. We didn’t make those changes until after I managed to force her out of the project and brought John on. There’s no way she could’ve even known about any of that let alone had exact copies of every single thing we were keeping from Paulson.”

Alison slowly slumped down onto a crate beside the desk. No, there wasn’t any way Meg could’ve gotten her hands on those records.

Except one.

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This is so awsome! I can't wait for your next episode....I like that you're interfacing Suzanne's conflict (career vs. motherhood) and all the trashy tidbits of Meg's murder. Who's framing Tom? Who gave Meg the documents about Beaver Ridge?

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