Detective Horton

As she arrived home from her meeting with Edward and John, Rosemary was surprised to see a Michigan state police car in the driveway in front of her house. It was a bright blue car with official Michigan license plates, flashers, and large police logos on the doors. Jerry dropped her off at the front door and as she came inside, Linda Sue whispered anxiously, “that Detective Horton is here to see you. He’s in the front room.”

As she walked in Rosemary, with all of the renewed sense of self-confidence she took away from her meeting with the lawyers, said “Detective Horton? I’m Rosemary Mueller.”

“How do you do, ma’am.” Turning to the man on his right, he said “This is my partner Sgt. Evans.”

“Won’t you have a seat, gentlemen? And, please tell me why you are here in Ohio.” It was more of a question than a request. “It is legal for you to be here, isn’t it?”

“Yes ma’am. The Ohio authorities have been briefed on the reasons we are here and, if you are uncertain about talking with us, I can give you a number to call in Columbus. Mrs. Mueller, Sgt. Evans and I are with the Cold Case unit of the Michigan Bureau of Investigations. We have recently gotten some new information that has caused us — my boss, actually — to reopen an old case involving the circumstances surrounding the death of your husband’s first wife. Did you know her? Claire, I believe her name was.”

“No. I never met her. She was already long gone when I met Harry.”

“And, Harry is — or was — your husband, J.B. Mueller?”

“Yes.”

“Do you know anything about how she — his first wife — died?”

That was the question she had been dreading.

“Well, as my husband explained it to me, she didn’t exactly die. Have you talked with my husband’s attorney, Edward Graham about this?”

At the question, Detective Horton’s face went to a definite scowl. “Yes, ma’am. Or at least we tried. He clammed up and claimed attorney client privilege, even though as I reminded him, his client was dead. He said you were now his client. Is that correct?”

“Well, then, should I be talking to you without Edward being here?”

“That is your right, ma’am. But I have to tell you, it would look suspicious, you lawyering up at this point.”

“You see, Mrs. Mueller” he continued, “Here is our problem. According to all the official records of the State of Ohio, your predecessor,” looking at his notes, “Mrs. Claire Mueller, died in this very house, or” he looked around the room “at least at this street address thirty eight years ago. But about a year ago, an unidentified body turned up in Tulsa, Oklahoma. It was that of a woman in her late sixties with identification indicating an address in Grosse Point, Michigan. DNA records turned up nothing, but then we caught a break. The medical examiner spotted a experimental filling in one of her teeth matching a procedure developed at Ohio State University in the late 1940s. It never caught on, but through dental records in Ohio we were able to identify the victim as one Claire McMillen Mueller.”

“What we are trying to establish is how this first Mrs. Mueller managed to die twice. Now how would you explain that?”

Not only was she able to explain Claire’s apparent double deaths, over the next half hour she also supplied the detectives with a possible motive for the murders. “Detective Horton,” she began. “My husband’s first wife was what my grandmother used to call a hussy, and my mother called a floozy. She married Harry — that is, J.B. — for his money and betrayed him many times before he caught on. My husband was a financial wizard who got awfully rich, but in many ways he was a very innocent man, and by the time he saw her clearly for what she was it was already too late.”

“You can confirm all of this with Edward Graham, Detective Horton, although he will not want to talk about this for the obvious reason. He was one of her conquests. In a moment of what I believe they call ‘youthful passion’ he betrayed his best friend, and spent the rest of his friend’s life trying to make it up to him. As far as I know, Harry never suspected anything — with Edward at least.”

“But his deceit gave Edward a powerful reason for helping Harry. Together they cooked up this cockamame scheme to buy off Claire, send her away and bury an anonymous female corpse in her place, getting her completely out of Harry’s life and saving the county the expense of a burial. They bought the silence of the county coroner — who has long since retired and died — with some fancy piece of lab equipment and no one was ever the wiser until now.”

“It was one of the few times that the local press gave Harry a break. You can imagine the headlines: Beautiful young wife of local miser dies of agonizing disease. The story apparently dragged on for days, with lots of speculation about how it was that someone as unappealing as Harry could have married someone as young and beautiful as Claire. Part of the reason, of course, was that the editor at that time was one of her conquests. None of the men she had affairs with ever seemed to question the story that Madeline — on no, actually, it was Madeline’s predecessor, Delores Fellows. No one ever questioned the stories Delores put out over the many weeks of Claire’s “illness” or the report of her death.

“Well, Mrs. Mueller, I have to admit. I’ve been a detective for twenty years but that is one of the strangest, most implausible stories I’ve ever heard. Except that it all sort of makes sense. Betrayed husband “kills off” unfaithful wife, pays her off and sends her packing. I’m sure you are aware most of the things you’ve told me should be pretty easily corroborated if they are true.”

“Yes. I’m aware of that, detective. Anyway, I was no where near here until at least two years later. I’m just telling you what Harry told me.”

“Mrs. Mueller, I have to ask. Have you been to Tulsa recently?”

“No.”

“Do you know anyone there?”

“No.”

“Do you own a gun?”

“No.”

“Well I guess that’s about it for now then. Can we call you again if we have any more questions?”

As the walked down the driveway, the younger man asked his senior colleague, “Did you believe that story?”

“I don’t know. There’s plenty here for us to check out. I have to admit it’s pretty suspicious that the first wife and the husband both die within a few days of one another. If we come up with anything, we may have to have the bodies exhumed.”

“Meanwhile, I want to get back to Michigan as quickly as possible. Just being here in Buckeye territory makes my teeth itch! If I see one more red and white bumper sticker or kid wearing an OSU jersey I think I’m gonna puke.”

Like what you read? Give Phil Anthropod a round of applause.

From a quick cheer to a standing ovation, clap to show how much you enjoyed this story.