Authors: Gary Hastings
Borough of Manhattan, New York
atrick O’Connor was a dedicated man. His life was focused on his career as Chief of Detectives of the New York City Police Department. He was good at it and couldn’t imagine doing anything else. He was recently offered the top uniformed cop job as Chief of Department, but turned it down to remain in the job he loved.
Pat was single and lived alone. However, there was a special romance in his life in the form of a tall, slim, and attractive brunette by the name of Maggie Parker. Maggie was the Special Agent in Charge of the New York Field Office of the United States Secret Service. Their paths had crossed professionally and they had been seeing each other for several years. Maggie was fond of saying the real love of Pat’s life was the NYPD and that he was married to the gold shield in his pocket.
Pat and Maggie had agreed to meet at the Steamboat Café for dinner. The Steamboat was one of the restaurants where Pat played jazz for several years before joining the NYPD. He still sometimes sat in and played with the band. Pat dropped Dickie off and parked the black NYPD Chrysler in front of the restaurant. Maggie had promised to meet him there.
Pat arrived a few minutes early and was quickly seated by Sam Spicer, owner of the club. He let Sam know Maggie would be joining him. Pat was there only a few minutes before Maggie arrived. Sam took her by the arm and escorted her to Pat’s table. Sam always seemed to love having them there. Pat enjoyed the atmosphere of this restaurant. It was extensively decorated in a New Orleans theme, with lots of band instruments and photographs of famous jazz musicians on almost every wall. There were also a lot of pictures and models of paddlewheel steamboats from a bygone era.
“Everyone better be on their best behavior tonight. We have New York’s finest in the joint.” Sam announced.
Pat responded. “I’ve been coming here for almost 30 years, Sam, and I’ve never seen a problem. Anyways, I’m a customer tonight and have the prettiest gal in New York with me.”
“I won’t argue about that, Patrick.”
Sam handed them menus and walked away. Maggie looked at Pat and smiled.
“It used to irritate me when you’d say that, but the older I get, the better it sounds to me.”
“Yep, you’re really old now. What are you 43?”
“Almost 44.” Maggie said.
“I’m still convinced.”
Pat and Maggie had spent a week in New Orleans earlier in the year. Pat was there playing trumpet at a jazz festival with the house band from the Steamboat Cafe. It had been a wonderful week, and Pat had enjoyed showing Maggie the old stomping ground from his youth. The trip had strengthened their love of New Orleans food, culture, and music.
They ordered Shrimp Creole off the menu and reminisced about the trip.
“This brings back some good memories, Pat.”
“Indeed it does.”
“I understand why you love it so much. There’s just an ambience about the city.”
“I know. I sometimes wonder what would have happened if I had just stayed in New Orleans, instead of taking the Julliard scholarship.”
“I’m sure you will always wonder, but I’m glad you’re here with me.”
“So am I.”
“How’s your week been, Sweetheart?” Maggie asked.
“Pretty routine, but I’ve been dabbling in an interesting case. I don’t want to talk shop, but I think you’ll find this interesting.”
“When do we ever not talk shop, Pat?”
“Good point. The widow of a retired detective came in to see me this week. Her husband allegedly killed himself the weekend before 9/11. She never believed it was a suicide, but the investigating detectives assured her it was. Now, almost 10 years later, she has found some hidden files which revealed that her husband, a PI, was working on a pretty sensitive case. I’ve read his reports, and my suspicions have been aroused. I have people reviewing the original investigation, but the people who knew this guy were all surprised he killed himself.”
“What are you going to do with this?”
“If I have enough unanswered questions, I’ll have the case re-opened.”
“Won’t that be difficult, after all these years?”
“Difficult? Yes. Impossible? No.”
“Is there anything we can do to help?”
“Well, I don’t think he was into funny money or threatening the President, but you never know.”
“Don’t be sarcastic. What we do is important.” Maggie reacted.
“Of course it is, and I was only joking.”
The waitress delivered the Shrimp Creole and the aroma of the spices brought both Pat and Maggie back to their days in New Orleans. After taking a bite, Maggie smiled and said; “You have converted me into a New Orleans gourmet connoisseur. This is absolutely delicious, Pat.”
“I agree. We should get some pecan pralines on the way home.”
“I bet you can’t find New Orleans pralines in this city.”
“Probably not, but it sure sounds good.”
Pat made a mental note to order Maggie some pralines on-line for the next special occasion. He had saved a brochure from a candy company in the French Quarter that made them.
As Pat and Maggie were finishing dinner, the clarinetist, Warren Downing, and the band started playing “Way
Down Yonder in New Orleans.” Pat ordered coffee for the two of them and hoped Maggie would stay for a little while. Pat was inspired and went out and retrieved his trumpet from the trunk of the Chrysler. He always kept an old horn available in case he got a chance to play.
When Pat returned with his trumpet, Warren Downing wasted no time in getting him up on the bandstand to play.
“Ladies and gentlemen, we have a celebrity in our midst tonight. You know this man from his day gig, but right now I want to introduce you to one of New York’s finest trumpet men, Pat O’Connor.”
Everyone applauded, including Maggie. Pat walked onto the stage and started playing an old Louis Armstrong composition, “
Struttin’ With Some Barbecue.” The old horn sounded good, and Maggie seemed to enjoy it as much as Pat did. Pat finished out the set and was in a state of mind only music could create for him. It was a brief escape from his world in the NYPD.
Pat walked Maggie to her car. They had a brief kiss, and Maggie sat down in her gold Lexus. She looked up at Pat with her dark and beautiful eyes.
“Thank you for a wonderful evening, Pat.”
“You’re welcome, Gorgeous. I had a great time too.”
“Be safe going home.”
“I will, don’t worry.”
As Pat walked toward the Chrysler, he then saw Maggie’s back-up lights come on, and she was backing down the street. She stopped in front of his car and rolled down the window.
“Did you forget something, Maggie?”
“No, but I was just thinking about your case. You know the Service has forensic psychologists who study the nut cases who threaten our protectees. I may be able to find someone to help with the psychological side of your case. If you like, I can make a call in the morning.”
“That would be helpful. Thanks, Maggie. I love you!”
“You’re welcome, and I love you too, Pat.”
Friday, January 21 - Day 3
Chief of Detectives’ Office - One Police Plaza
Borough of Manhattan, New York
at O’Connor had enjoyed an uneventful week and was glad it was Friday. Of course, as Chief of Detectives, he was often called regarding the various crimes in the “Big Apple” 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It came with the job and he was accustomed to it. This week there had been a double homicide in the Bronx, but it was quickly solved with an arrest made by precinct detectives. When cases got more complicated, they often ended up in his lap.
Pat received the email from OCCB Chief, Ray
Capese, containing a list of some close friends of Forrest Butelli. There were six names on the list, and Ray had taken the time to list their current phone numbers and addresses. At this stage, the case was only an inquiry because they were simply responding to the concerns of Margaret Butelli. Officially, the case had been exceptionally cleared as a suicide.
Pat had briefed his driver on the case and asked him to contact the people on the list to get a general feel for how people close to Forrest
Butelli felt about his death. Pat hoped someone could shed light on a possible reason why he may have taken his own life.
At 0900 hours
Dickie met in Pat’s spacious office to discuss his findings.
“I appreciate you giving me a chance to do a little real work, Boss.”
“No problem, Dickie. It’s good for us to keep our skills sharp. I also know how boring your job can be driving me around.”
“It’s not boring, Chief, but I do spend a lot of time waiting in the car.”
“That’s what I mean. Anyway, what did you find out about Butelli?”
“I’ve talked to all six of these guys, and it was interesting. You have no idea how these guys love to talk about their days on the job.”
“All cops love that, Dickie. They may leave the job, but the job never leaves them.”
“None of these guys had anything bad to say bad about Forrest
Butelli. They were all surprised he ended his life the way he did. They were clueless as to what would have provoked it. Probably the closest guy to him was Curtis Young, who also retired out of Mid-Town Detectives. Curtis had lunch with Forrest on the Thursday before he died. Curtis said they talked about old times, and he even asked Curtis if he was interested in going to work for Manhattan Investigations. Curtis was of the impression Forrest was doing well financially and didn’t know of any health issues. He said Forrest adored his wife, Margaret, and mentioned her often. Margaret actually acted as the secretary for the PI business. Curtis did mention that Forrest told him he had an interesting case and he wished he could tell him about it, but he told him it was very sensitive.”
“Did he mention anything about the nature of the case?”
“No, but Forrest told him it was a real
cloak and dagger
kind of case and even the client insisted on remaining anonymous. He said Forrest was really excited about having a case which wasn’t a domestic squabble or divorce case.”
“Did he have any clue who the client might have been?”
“No. He was certain Forrest never mentioned it.”
“No speculation as to why he may have whacked himself?”
“No and honestly, Chief, they don’t think he killed himself, but they don’t have a clue who would’ve killed him. Most of these guys were still on the job when Forrest died, but became so tied up in the events of 9/11 and afterwards, that they all accepted it. They were so consumed by their work that they didn’t really have time to think about it. It’s sad, but they just put Forrest out of their minds after 9/11.”
“I need you to write these statements up with as much detail as possible,
Dickie. Forrest Butelli’s wife thinks he was murdered, but she has no evidence.”
“Suicide is often an act of rebellion against the family.”
“I know it’s difficult. It’ll be even more difficult if he was murdered.”
“Do you think that’s possible?”
“Anything is possible, but I have Bryan Flannery reviewing the case file to see if we missed anything. He’s supposed to meet with me at 1500 on Monday to fill me in. You should come to the meeting also.”
“Yes sir, Chief, and I’ll have the statements typed before then.”
Dickie, I appreciate your efforts.”
“It’s great to be a cop again.”
“I’m glad you’re enjoying it.”
Monday, January 24 - Day 6
Chief of Detectives’ Office - One Police Plaza
Borough of Manhattan, New York
at began his usual Monday morning with boring meetings. There were always
topics to discuss, like budget cuts and the Mayor’s latest idea on how the NYPD should operate. Pat believed running the police department should be left to the cops. What could a mayor or council member know about law enforcement? He had long ago concluded that the answer was: Not much!
Captain Bryan Flannery was on time for his meeting with the Chief of Detectives. Detective
Dickie Davis and Lieutenant Angela Wilson were also invited. Pat closed the door and offered everyone coffee. Only Bryan Flannery accepted, because he loved the Chief’s favorite brew of the flavorful Jamaican coffee.
Pat opened the meeting. “A few days ago, I met with Margaret
Butelli. She’s the widow of Forrest Butelli, who retired off the job in ‘98 and was working as a private investigator, until he allegedly whacked himself in Central Park on September 8, 2001. She’s certain it wasn’t a suicide. This happened right before 9/11. She says she complained back then, but was assured by the NYPD it was a suicide. She just can’t let go of it. I’ve asked each of you to do some background. You’ve reviewed the file, Bryan. What can you tell us?”