This wasn't the first time Ginger Caulfield had seen the video on television. She'd viewed it a dozen times at police headquarters, but now it looked more like a made-for-TV movie when it ran on the nightly news. That's probably what the studio's executive producer had in mind, but he wasn't exactly Alfred Hitchcock. One of the local news anchors was doing the voice-over, explaining what was happening on the screen, as though it needed clarification.
In the original version there was no commentary,
just the cold, stark reality of the deed.
But Ginger could have given a better description
of what led to the discovery of the video.
After all, she'd been dumped into the middle
of this mess, and she knew the characters
involved and knew what really happened and
why. Hell, she was even considered a suspect
. . . Wait a minute. That's getting ahead
of the story. After all, Mrs. Ginger Caulfield
was just a Pasadena housewife with a "questionable
background," as the defense attorney
had tried to spin it. But this is how it
started . . .
July 11, 1995
A balmy breeze carried the scent of gardenia and honeysuckle up the beach. Soft music played out across the inky water, while the waning moon cloaked the sand in thick black velvet. Even in the shadows there was a sense of the lush life in the air. As long as the Malibu hills weren't burning or washing away, the Pacific Coast Highway was a sumptuous drive.
The house sat high above the surf with its rear windows flung open so that you could pick up the faint sound of the tide as it was dragged back into the deep. Though, on the night in question, the ocean was just so much background music.
A trickle of luxury cars entered the exclusive neighborhood just off the highway, but at that hour most of the residents were either enjoying a quiet evening at home or warming loge seats at the Ahmanson. The only thing passers-by could see was the high-tech track lighting illuminating the interior of that prime California real estate.
Clear white light flooded the highly polished hardwood floors and pooled on stark, ultramodern furniture made from bleached and blond woods. A crystal chandelier hung suspended from the whitewashed ceiling over a glass-topped dining room table. From a distance the whole structure appeared ethereal. It looked as if a gust of wind could lift it off the cliff and carry it out to sea.
Two amorphous figures seemed to float behind the sheer curtains billowing in the breeze. Marcella, a striking, light-skinned black woman, wearing a diaphanous gown in the palest shade of peach, glided across the floor like a vapor.
With her was Adrian, her constant companion for the past year. He was wearing a soft green silk kimono with giant mums splashed across it in shades of the faintest pink and yellow. Adrian, too, was a very light-skinned black, but rumor had it his skin was bleached. Even his hair was a curious shade of golden blond.
The pair skipped barefoot to the open kitchen. The space was all white cabinets and frosted glass. The only ornamentation was a cluster of forest green canisters sitting on the white tiled counter. Everything else was hidden behind roll-down partitions or glass-fronted doors.
Marcella opened the refrigerator and pulled out a tray laden with fruit and cheese for an evening snack. Adrian expertly opened and then poured white wine into two chilled tulip-shaped glasses with pale green leaves winding up their stems.
Returning to the living area, Marcella draped herself across the huge white couch that encircled half the airy room. She threw her head back and laughed while Adrian struggled with the brimming goblets and the bottle of wine, spilling and mugging as he crossed the floor.
He assessed the damage, stopped, and then slurped from both glasses, daring her to comment. Setting the half-empty wine glasses on the coffee table, he refilled them. Then he used the wine dripping off his fingers like perfume and daubed some behind his ears. She laughed again, while he grabbed for a piece of cheese.
Marcella continued her vamping on the couch. She had picked up a handful of green grapes and was holding them over her head like a Greek goddess, pulling off one at a time and eating them slowly, sucking her fingers with gleeful noise.
"I can do better than that," said Adrian, grabbing another bunch of grapes and dropping down on the couch. He placed the bunch between his toes and dangled them in her direction. She flipped her body under his feet and tried biting at the grapes above her head.
Marcella squealed, "Hold still, hold still! Wait a minute. Do you ever wash your feet?"
They giggled together like a couple of schoolgirls. Adrian dropped the grapes between his toes and howled even louder.
He leaned off the couch to retrieve the grapes he had dropped. He started feeding them to Marcella, pushing them into her mouth as she shrieked with laughter, choking on the sweet juice.
She finally managed to say, "What, no crackers?"
The duo convulsed with delight, rolling on the white couch like two playful pups.
VIEW FROM SURVEILLANCE CAMERA:
A grainy, colorless figure moved through blurry shadows to the side of the house. It stopped beside a magnificent profusion of bird-of-paradise, but in the dark the brilliant plumage of those radiant flowers was rendered lifeless. The figure stared upward at the large windows partially obscured by sheer organza curtains.
The watcher tensed at the sound of the antics going on inside. Then the lone figure slowly made his way around to the stairs leading to a secluded area of the redwood deck that encircled three sides of the spacious living room. Along that narrow side of the house were floor-to-ceiling windows that wrapped around to the back.
The solitary figure stood outside the windows, watching the cavorting going on inside. From that vantage point, the two on the couch were mere apparitions floating on white light. The figure clenched his gloved fist, then suddenly, in one swift move, he raised his hand and smashed it through the window.
At first Marcella and Adrian must have thought it was an earthquake. They sat up on the couch and prepared to hold on for a wild ride. That was when the sound of shoes crunching over broken glass caught their attention, and they saw the figure coming through the shattered window toward them.Marcella reeled back on the couch, surprised. Then, for an instant, she got a perturbed look on her face. Adrian turned his head slightly. His hands were partly raised as if fending off an insult, when the first shot rang out.
The dark figure kept pumping and firing the
shotgun, over and over again. When he finally
stopped, he hesitated a moment before taking
a few tentative steps forward until he was
standing next to the couch. His body obscured
the surveillance camera's view of the scene
in front of him. He didn't move for several
seconds. He was looking down, staring, expecting
movement. Slowly, he backed away until he
got to the shattered window. He turned his
shoulders slightly to avoid several jagged
pieces of glass still hanging from the wooden
frame. Behind him were the two illuminated
bodies sagging on the white couch, which
now had dark splotches spreading over it.
The solitary figure took one last look, and
then turned slowly toward the opening . .
That is where the grainy videotape would have abruptly stopped in the made-for-TV movie. Too bad it hadn't been found earlier to spare everyone the endless hours of talk and opinion and guessing and misreporting and . . . well, you know. But the circus must go on.
This is the rest of the story.
The pale hardwood floor glistened as the morning sun streamed through the open windows, while the curtains moved softly in the breeze. There was no dust, no lint, only a thick pool of drying blood next to the crimson-stained couch. Near the largest puddle was a smaller smudge. This one was a series of whorls and lines, resembling a huge fingerprint . . . in red.
Outside, the sound of gulls swooping up and down the beach was competing with a faint, high-pitched whine. Within a minute the screeching turned into the wail of sirens rushing up the coast road toward the house perched on a rock above the sea. The pale blue morning was slashed by red lights gyrating wildly across the front lawn.
In less than an hour the oleander bushes that encircled the yard were strung with yards of yellow crime-scene tape, until the lawn looked as if it had been rolled with toilet paper in a graduation prank. The beach on either side of the house was cordoned off, and there were more blue uniforms swarming over the grounds than in a Mel Gibson movie.
Inside the house, the pace was a little more subdued. The few people allowed indoors were virtually silent as they methodically went through their paces. A tall, good-looking man stared out the front window at the Barnum & Bailey atmosphere being generated on the lawn and backing all the way to the highway. He half-wished they'd get mowed down by a speeding truck, but then he'd have to write that one up, too. He shook off the feeling and went back to work.
"Get me some pictures of this area and-hey! Watch your step! That's a good footprint right there," he said, pointing to various areas around the window.
Detective Lawrence Patrick had been with LAPD for more than fifteen years. He frequently told his wife it seemed a hell of a lot longer. He called some of his cases "time bombs," because he never knew when one would blow up in his face. His wife laughed and quietly wished he'd quit and join his brother in the printing business. Lawrence wasn't driving a squad car anymore, but the twelve-hour days, the countless cups of high-octane coffee, the endless stream of human debris, and the pounding headaches were wearing him down.
Larry was a trim man in his late thirties. He worked out, laid off the jelly doughnuts, and kept his nose clean. And in this town that meant something. His brown hair was showing early signs of gray, but he still had clear eyes. He told his wife, when the eyes glaze over you're either bored, on drugs, or dead. Some days he wondered which he was-and he didn't do drugs.
The police photographer sidestepped the footprint on the polished floor and took several close-up shots from different angles. He paused to look at Detective Patrick.
Pointing to the female, deceased, he asked, "You know who that is, don't you?"
Larry didn't bat an eye. "Yeah. Trouble. Big trouble."
The photographer stood up and glanced around the room. "What do you think he'll say?"
Detective Patrick shook his head. His people were working quietly around him, dusting for prints and picking up what few pieces of lint they could find.
"By the book, people. This one's gonna
be a bitch."
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