Category Archives: writing

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FREE Kindle Book Murder in Galveston

Murder in Galveston

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Thursday, September 15, 2022, 12:00 AM PDTMonday, September 19, 2022, 11:59 PM PDT


9/11- the world grieves, which reminds us of personal losses. I am reposting this video that I put together a couple of months ago, hoping that it will help at least one person deal with the pain of loss.

Hurt and Disappointed

When life deals a gut wrenching blow, self-care is vital. The sick feeling in the pit of your stomach indicates that it is time to give yourself a hug. Below are some techniques for healing.

  1. Eat comfort food
  2. Snuggle under your favorite blanket
  3. Pet your dog or cat.
  4. Go for a walk, run or other exercise that you like
  5. Call a friend
  6. Go to bed early

We cannot control others’ actions, but we can control how we respond to them. It is important to remember that you are a survivor and this too will pass.

Sending much love to all.

Life is to Live

“Life is short, and it is here to be lived.” Kate Winslet

I saw this quote today and wanted to share it with you. Many of us follow a rigid schedule, without any room for flexibility. My mother used to say that we get up, go to work, eat, sleep and do it all again, until one day we wake up old and wonder where our lives went. Structure provides direction, but too much of it stifles creativity. We function like robots, neglecting to see. Staring at our phones, we miss the beauty that surrounds. Ear buds block our ability to hear the birds. Attached, we do not relate to real people, including our families. “Friends” are on social media. Most we will never meet.

Below are 5 suggestions to start living, not existing.

  1. Try different routes to work or a different grocery store. Force yourself to think about what you are doing.
  2. Take an unplugged walk before work. Let your senses fill with sight, scents and sound. Feel the sun and breeze on your face.
  3. Plan dinners with family or friends sans electronics. Put phones on “Do Not Disturb.” Listen to what others are saying. Express how you feel.
  4. Take day trips. Get out into nature. Go somewhere you have never been. Listen to various types of music. Expand your mind. Visit museums. Step out of your comfort zone. Try new foods. Do something you have never done.
  5. Make a list of dreams, things you would like to do but put off because you do not have the time or money. Pick one and make it a goal. If you dream of having a yacht, think about other ways to get onto the water, sooner than later. Perhaps a canoe would fill the bill.

A wise woman told me not to wait to afford the big trips, but to build memories with mini adventures. Life is a collection of snapshots. Create moments to remember. Be present and enjoy!

Ten Ways To Lift Your Mood

  1. Start the day being grateful. If you do not feel it, fake it until you make it.
  2. Exercise. Make it a priority. If you cannot carve out a thirty-minute block, sneak in ten minutes, three times a day. Take the stairs. Pick a more distant parking space. Dance to music, while you make lunches. Do leg lifts while seated at your computer. Stand, twist, move, walk.
  3. Eat nourishing foods. Do not skip meals. Food fuels the body and provides the energy to cope with daily challenges. Hydrate.
  4. Get at least eight hours of sleep per night. There are exceptions, but make them occasional, not the norm. Exhaustion makes pebbles into mountains.
  5. Play. Let out the inner child.
  6. Laugh. Look for the humor in situations. Watch comedies. Laughter relieves stress.
  7. Help others. It takes the focus off your own problems and gives you warm fuzzies.
  8. Shut off the Ego voice in your head that makes you feel inadequate. You are your worst critic. Give yourself a hug. You deserve it.
  9. Get out into nature. Feel connected. Listen to the birds.
  10. Do what makes your heart sing. It may be chopping vegetables, planting flowers, listening to music, dancing, painting, writing, to name a few. Whatever you love, plug it into your life.

Murder in a Locked Box, Michaels and Clark Investigations Short Story, Episode 2

For the twelfth day in a row, the forecast is hazy, hot and humid. The Boston skyline hides behind a thick, orange cloud. Four times around the neighborhood yields a tight spot for my ten-year-old, white Mini-Cooper convertible. Feeding the meter every three hours will be today’s exercise and an excuse to get out of the office. To say work has been slow would be an understatement. I grab three coffees and muffins at the shop on the first floor and mount the stairs to our street-facing office on the second floor. Mary Ellen, our receptionist is knitting at her desk when I enter. She peers at me over her half-lenses.

“Good morning, Mary Ellen. I brought breakfast.”

“I had mine, but it wouldn’t hurt to have a taste.”

I open the inner office door. A crumpled, paper ball bounces off my nose.

“Damn. It would have gone in.” My partner’s feet are on the desk, left of his laptop. A ream of printer paper is on the floor.

“No apology for hitting me in the face?”

“You should apologize for wrecking my shot.”

“You’re impossible.” I set the goodies on my desk. “Come and get it.”

“Don’t you deliver?” he asks.

My neck veins bulge. “It must be nice to have a cook and butler at home. Get off your butt and help yourself like the rest of us.”

Laughing, he helps himself and perches on the edge of his desk. “What’s on the agenda, Madam Slavedriver.”

“Whatever it is can wait,” a voice bellows from the doorway. “Mind if I join the party?”

Detective O’Malley is an imposing figure at six feet. Judging by his tone and hawk-like scrutiny, this is not a social call.

“What can we do for you, Detective?” Elliot asks.

“Where were the two of you last night between the hours of nine and eleven.”

“I was home, in bed.”


“No. With Sherlock Holmes.”

“Don’t be a smartass with me, kid.”

“The book is called the Hound of the Baskervilles.”

“Can anyone corroborate your story?”

“No. My help leaves at eight. What’s this about?”

“Miss Clark? Where were you between nine and eleven last night?”

“I was driving home from the Cape. There was an accident on the Sagamore Bridge. I was stuck in traffic for two hours. I didn’t get back until one.”

“Were you with anyone?”


“You went to the Cape alone?”

Three pairs of eyes feel like lasers.

“I drove alone to and from a friend’s home in Chatham.”

“What’s the friend’s name?”

“The name is irrelevant. You can corroborate the accident piece. Now it’s your turn. Why are you asking us for alibis?”

“Mind if I sit? These new shoes are making my dogs bark.”

Elliot points to a chair. “Go for it.”

The detective sits and stretches his legs. “Last night a man died in his locked study.”

“Why think we had anything to do with it?” I ask.

“He had your business card in his hand when he died.”

“What’s his name?” Elliot asks.

“Philip Burbridge.”

“Name doesn’t ring a bell. Sam?”

“Never heard of him. Mary Ellen, please check our calendar.”

“I know there’s nothing in the calendar.”

O’Malley snickered. “Business is that good, huh?”

“We’ve been busier. What’s the cause of death?” Elliot asks.

“Nothing obvious. We’ll have to wait for the autopsy.

“Sounds like natural causes. Why are you investigating?”

“Burbridge was a partner in Burbridge, Latham and Jenkins, Attorneys at Law. According to Mr. Latham, Burbridge was preparing to file a lawsuit for a watchdog group, which would have brought the US oil tycoons to their knees.”

Elliot lets out a low whistle. “The media will be screaming murder conspiracy.”

“Exactly. Chief wants a thorough investigation.”

“Do you want us to consult?”

O’Malley raises his bulk from the chair. “Might as well. You’re up to your neck in it. Place is on Hancock.”

Family heirlooms adorn the six thousand square foot, quintessential home of Boston society. The maid escorts us to the study, a second-floor room facing the street. The white, wood paneled door has a steel core, with a keypad lock.

“Who has the code for the lock?” I ask.

“Mr. and Mrs. Burbridge.”

“Do you live here?”

“No. The cook and I work from ten to eight.”

“Do all the doors on this floor lead to bedrooms?”

She points to the first door on the right. “No. The ventilation system for the safe room is in there.”

“Could we see it?”

“Ask Mrs. Burbridge. I don’t have a key.”

Elliot crosses to the inner sanctum, while I thank our guide, “Call us if you think of anything that would help with our investigation.”

Philip Burbridge’s Fortress of Solitude is smaller than I imagined. The tiger maple desk to the right takes up a third of the floor space. Hunched forward on the desk, is a white male, in his mid-fifties. A bourbon bottle and glass lie on the floor. Bookshelves stretch from floor to ceiling straight ahead. To the left are filing cabinets and a half-bath.

“Don’t you have anything better to do on the first day of Spring?” Garbed in hooded, paper suit and booties, Liza Steele straightens and views us through plastic goggles.

Elliot and she have a history, not all of it professional. “Sadly, no. Do you have a cause of death?” he asks.

“Nothing official until I perform the autopsy.”

“O’Malley asked us to consult. Please send me a copy of the autopsy report.”

“Will do. Same email?”

“Yes. Good seeing you.”

“Same here. Call if you have questions.

The techs wheel the gurney to the elevator. Liza follows, carrying a black, vinyl case, which resembles a toolbox. We opt for the stairs. The maid meets us in the foyer.

“Is Mrs. Burbridge available?” Elliot asks.

“Who shall I say is calling?”

“Michaels and Clark.”

Faking interest in the wall art, I edge my way down the hall in her wake.

“Ma’am, Michaels and Clark want to speak to you.”

“What are they doing here?”

“They consult for the police.”

“Show them in. Come back in five minutes to show them out.”

Mrs. Burbridge strikes me as the perfect fit for Dallas society. Her tropical pant suit and cropped, bleached blonde hair seems out of place in conservative New England.

“Good morning, Mrs. Burbridge. I am Elliot Michaels and this is my partner, Samantha Clark. We are private investigators.”

“I know. I gave your card to my husband.”


“To investigate a girl claiming to be his daughter.”

“A DNA test would have resolved the issue.”

“He didn’t want to offend her by asking for one. I told him that he would be doing his daughter a favor to prove her legitimacy.”

“What was his reaction?”

“Philip was a ponderer. I learned to plant a seed and let it germinate.”

“What is the woman’s name?”

“Stacy Washington.”

“Where can we find her?”

“Philip put her up at the Four Seasons.”

“Do you have children?”

“Our three boys are mine, not his. Why are you asking me all these questions?”

“Your husband was working on a high-profile case. The police want to rule out foul play. Do you know anything about the case?”

“No. Philip kept me in the dark. He said that what I didn’t know couldn’t hurt me. That’s why he worked in the safe room.”

“Sounds like he knew the risks. Sorry to have to ask, but where were you and your sons last night?”

“We went to a play at the Wilbur, which started at 8 and ended at 10:30. After the play, we stopped off for a drink.”

“That’s all I have. Sam, do you have any questions?”

“Just one. If Miss Washington proved to be his daughter, what were his intentions?”

“He was going to include her in the family and his will.”

“Thank you for your time, Mrs. Burbridge,” Elliot closes.

The maid appears in the doorway at five minutes on the dot. Before leaving, I learn that a cable repairman was there the day Philip died to upgrade the boxes.

On the street, Elliot and I throw around possibilities. We agree that a hit is most logical. Oil tycoons stood to lose billions through the class action suit and anti-trust fines.

Back at the office, Mary Ellen brings us up to speed on the family. Alicia Burbridge met her husband thirteen years ago at the country club, where she was bartending. His first wife. Louise, died in a car accident seven months earlier. They had a whirlwind courtship and married three months later. He raised her boys, but never adopted them. Michael, her oldest is an accountant, David, the middle one a psychologist and Mark, the youngest is attending Harvard Law School. All are single and have their own apartments.

“Sounds like the current Mrs. Burbridge found her pot of gold,” Elliot said.

Elliot shoots baskets to pass the time, while I list the suspects: Alicia, her sons, Stacy Washington, maid, cook, cable guy and oil companies. The motive and opportunity columns require legwork. Mary Ellen tackles the National Cable Communications’ customer service line and I call the Four Seasons with my cell phone.

Mary Ellen places the handset in the cradle on my desk. “They didn’t send anyone to the house.”

“We need to know who got into the house under false pretenses and why? Call the maid at the Burbridge residence. Ask if the house has security cameras. Be sure to get it when you talk to her.”

“Were you able to make an appointment with the daughter?”

She was out. I left a message. Book her as soon as possible when she calls. Elliot…” My eyes rest on his empty chair. “Did you see him leave?”


“I can’t believe he went home without saying good-bye.”

“You shouldn’t jump to conclusions,” Elliot preaches from the doorway. He has a cardboard tray with three extra-large coffee cups. Tucked under his right arm is a paper bag.

“What’s all this? It’s time to go home.”

“Liza sent the autopsy report. There were high concentrations of nitrogen in the blood. She ruled his death a homicide.”

“In a room, locked from the inside.”

The sandwiches and coffee more than fill the hole. As we down the meatball grinders, we bring Elliot up to speed.

The outer door creaks open. Before Mary Ellen can respond, a willowy, African American woman enters the room. With chiseled features and flawless skin, she could pass for a bronze sculpture. Elliot and she exchange greetings.

“Is Samantha Clark here?”

I finish chewing, wipe the tomato sauce off my face, stand and introduce myself.

“I got your message. I’m Stacy Washington.”

“Stacy, I’m so glad to meet you. Please have a seat.”

She chooses the one that Mary Ellen vacated.

“Tell us about your father.”

Her eyes light up as she speaks. “He was gentle, kind, funny and respectful. I understand why my mother fell in love with him.”

“Do you mind sharing their story with us?”

“He was attending Harvard University Law School and living in the family home. My mother was four years younger and working as a chamber maid. Staff had rooms on the third floor. They fell in love. She slept in his room most nights. Everyone in the household knew. It was not unusual for sex to be a job requirement, but theirs was a love story. When she discovered that she was pregnant, she left without telling him. He had a brilliant future. Together, they had none.”

My eyes fill with tears. “That’s so sad.”

“Why did you contact your father?” Elliot asks.

“My mother passed away six months ago. When I was going through her possessions, I found a shoe box, tied with a red ribbon and filled with dried red roses, pictures, notes and poetry. His words were so loving and tender, I had to meet him. I hounded my aunt until she told me the whole story.”

“How did he react when you confronted him?”

“He looked like he had seen a ghost. Before I could say anything, he got up from his desk, told me that I have my mother’s beauty and hugged me.”

“You must have been in shock,” I say.

“I was. We talked for hours. He was happy to have closure and excited to learn that I practice the same type of law.”

“That’s unbelievable.”

“I know.”

“Did he have plans for you?”

“He asked me to move into his house, but I declined.”

“Have you ever been there?”

“Yes. He invited me to dinner.”

“You met Mrs. Bainbridge?” Elliot asks.


“How did that go?”

“She was courteous, but aloof.”

“What did you have to gain by your father’s death.”


“I’m all set. Sam, do you have any more questions?”

“No. Thanks for dropping by to share your story, Miss Washington.”

More like a model than an attorney, the ebony creature glides across the room to the door. When the coast is clear, Mary Ellen pops into the room, plops onto the blue, leather sofa and stretches her legs onto the matching rectangular ottoman.

“What do you think?” Elliot asks.

“I believe her. She had nothing to gain, unless her father had changed his will,” I reply.

“The motive is money. Who stood to lose or gain it by Philip’s death?”

“The oil companies would be off the hook for billions. Mrs. Burbridge is golden with him alive or dead.”

“We’ve got to get another look at the house.”

“Mary Ellen, did you talk to the maid?”

“Yes. Her name is Latisha Brown. Security cameras are inside and outside the house.”

Elliot picks up the desk phone. “Good work. I’ll call O’Malley. We’ve got to see the footage. Go home. He won’t be able to do anything until morning.”

In bed before midnight, I toss and turn with the image of a giant hand scooping up a village and squashing it. At six, the alarm ends the torture. Exhausted, I stumble to the bathroom.

The red, Mercedes AMG Roadster is at the curb, when I round the corner, sweaty from my five-mile run.

“Jump in. O’Malley has the security footage. The only showing is in fifteen minutes.”

“I can’t go like this!”

Elliot’s expression conveys zero tolerance for my vanity. I get in and buckle as the five hundred fifty horses roar into to roadway. The acrid smell of burnt coffee, greets my nostrils when we enter the station. O’Malley grumbles a salutation and points to two chairs at a table to the right of his desk. The footage shows the serviceman entering, with his head down, face hidden by the brim of his cap and exiting, back turned to the camera. Nothing else was recorded.

“What’s up with this?” Elliot asks.

O’Malley chuckles. “You wanted to see it. Looks like the guy knew what he was doing.”

I tune out the banter and rerun the video at half-speed, stopping it when the man was halfway down the walk. He wore black, converse sneakers. Dirty blonde, scraggly hair hung beneath his hat and he walked with a distinctive swing of his right arm, while his left hung close to his side.

I interrupt the conversation. “I know who he is.”

O’Malley barks his disbelief. Elliot eyes me with skepticism.

“Eddie Dixon.”

Both lean closer to sniff the screen.

“See it yet? Watch his gait. He’s got a slight limp from the fall he took from a second story window.”

“She’s right. That’s Eddie,” O’Malley concedes.

“It doesn’t match his MO. He didn’t steal anything. Has he turned hit man?” Elliot asks.

“He’s not a killer,” I note.

“Every man has his price,” O’Malley pipes.

“Any ideas about how the nitrogen got into the room?” Elliot asks.

“Not yet.”

“Check the ventilation system for the safe room. Eddie could have picked the lock, blindfolded, with both hands tied behind his back.”

“I’ll get the forensic team over there.”

“Sam and I will pay Eddie a visit.”

“No rough stuff.”

“You know me better than that. I’m all about finesse.”

Back in the car, I plead for a shower and breakfast. In response, Elliot hands me wipes from the console, lowers the convertible top and fires up the engine. Lack of sleep, low blood sugar and caffeine withdrawal make me cranky. I hope Eddie is cooperative.

The GPS leads us to an address in Roxbury Crossing, a neighborhood known for high crime statistics. The old, three-story Queen Anne Victorian, has six apartments, judging by the mailboxes by the entrance.

Like bees from a broken hive, young, adult males swarm the car. My tough girl image would not impress this crowd. I look to Elliot for a plan.

“Hi guys,” he says with a smile.

Stone faces, with penetrating eyes, do not speak.

“I have a business proposition. Who’s the boss?”

The crowd parts to allow a heavy set, African American to step forward. The braids on top of his head meet in a knot. Shaved on each side is a snake cut-out. “I am.”

 “Nice to meet you, Mr…”


Elliot points to Eddie’s apartment building. “Mr. Snake, my partner and I are going into that building. We’ll be gone a half hour. I will give you $500 to protect my car.”

Pursed lips cracked with laughter. “We could strip it in five minutes and make a fortune. Why would we settle for $500?”

“Because I am working for the cops. I know who you are and where you are. If you prefer, I can send the heat to disrupt your car and drug businesses. I’m sure the competition will pick up the slack while we pull you off the street for a while. I offered you $500. It’s now $400. Take it or leave it. The price drops another hundred in one minute. Sam, time it.”

“All right. You have a deal.”

Elliot hands him two, one-hundred-dollar bills. “You get the rest when the job is done.”

The boss orders ten men to form a protective ring around the car. We crash the line and make our way to porch. Elliot pushes the button under mailbox 3B. There is no answer. Elliot rings again to no avail. On the third attempt, he leans on the buzzer without pause.

“Get off the damn buzzer!” A voice barks from the speaker.

“This is Elliot Michaels. My partner, Sam Clark and I would like to ask you a few questions.”

There is dead silence at the other end. Elliot rings again.

“We’ve got a runner. Cover the front,” he says, as he runs down the side, brick walk toward the rear of the house.

From behind a bush, Eddie sticks out a leg. Elliot is airborne until gravity prevails.

Streaking down the property line, the slippery thief is beyond my reach. I whistle and point. Snakes’s men knab Eddie and drag him back to the car.

“Thanks, guys. We’re back up to $500.”

Elliot rounds the corner of the house as Snake’s men throw Eddie at my feet.

Not only are my partner’s khaki trousers caked with dirt, but they are torn in the knees.

Elliot places a foot on Eddie’s chest. “All we want is a nice, quiet conversation. You’d better give me straight answers or I’ll let you spend recreational time with these men. Got it?”

Eddie nods his understanding.

“Why were you at the Burbridge residence yesterday?”

“I don’t know any Burbridge.”

Elliot’s foot gains weight. Eddie’s face displays pain. “Try again.”

“Alright. Get your foot off me.”

Elliot digs into his pocket and pulls out five bills. “Thanks, Mr. Snake. You earned a bonus. We’ve got it from here.”

Snake counts the money and stuffs it into the front pocket of his jeans. “Pleasure doing business.” He smiles and disappears into the throng.

Elliot helps Eddie to his feet. “Ready to answer some questions?”

“What do you want to know?”

What were you doing in the Burbridge home?”

“Installing a camera.”


“In the air vent for the study.”


“They wanted a view of the desk.”

“Who’s they?”

“I don’t know.”

“Sam, find Mr. Snake.”

“Wait. I swear, I’m telling the truth. I got a letter with instructions and $750. Got another $750 in the mail today. I can show it to you.”

“I don’t want to see the money, but I need the letter and envelopes. Was anything in the room besides the ventilation system?”

“A ladder and a couple of fire extinguishers.”

With letters in hand, we drop by the police station. O’Malley is in his office, mumbling at the whiteboard.

I knock. “We’ve brought you a present.”

He turns. “Jeez, Michaels. You let that weasel get the drop on you?”

We recount the chat with Eddie, excluding the use of Snake’s men. O’Malley’s brow furrows.

“Forensics found two small holes in the flexible hose to intake vent. They didn’t find a camera, fire extinguishers or a ladder.”

“Eddie’s letter proves that he’s telling the truth,” Elliot says.

“Could the fire extinguishers be red nitrogen tanks?” I ask.

“Which were removed after the murder with the camera,” Elliot adds.

O’Malley agreed.

“According to the maid, the only ones with keys were Mr. and Mrs. Bainbridge. My money is on his wife, I add.

“What’s the motive?” O’Malley asks.

“Money. Philip Burbridge had a daughter, or so he thought. She killed her husband before he changed his will.”

Elliot points out that she has an alibi.

“If not Mrs. Bainbridge, then who?” O’Malley asks.

“The maid has access to the bedrooms. She could have taken the keys and had others made,” Elliot theorizes.

“I’ll have background checks run on the cook and the maid.”

“We’ll work on Mrs. Burbridge’s alibi.

Elliot drops me at my apartment with the promise to return in an hour. Famished, I stuff my face with guacamole on crackers, washed down with diet iced tea. Four oatmeal cookies complete my heart healthy breakfast, lunch combo. Enroute to the bathroom, I eye the fluffy, comforter on my bed. I resist the urge to crawl under it and push through to restorative hot water pulsating on my neck, shoulder and back.

Time. The word repeats in my brain. As I wrap my hair in a towel, I consider the possibilities. It was time to file the lawsuit. The oil companies were running out of time. Setting up the nitrogen and removing the tanks took time. Eddie needed time to plant the camera. The killer needed time to turn on the tanks. Philip Burbridge ran out of time.

When I step out of the apartment building, I grin. Elliot is ahead of time. Shaved, showered and perfectly coiffed, he should be on the cover of GQ Magazine.

On the way to the office, I relate the epiphany that I had in the shower. “If Mrs. Burbridge had the tanks set up and a cab waiting, she could have made it home, turned on the tanks and gotten back to the theater during intermission.”

“That would be tight.”

“But doable.”

Mary Ellen is at her desk when we arrive. “Mail is on Sam’s desk. There is an envelope from Philip Burbridge.”

If she was going for shock value, Elliot and I did not disappoint. The hand-addressed #10 envelope bore his return address in the upper left-hand corner. A clever lawyer, Philip knew that his writing would confirm the contents’ validity. Inside is a handwritten letter and his most recent will.

Elliot calls to Mary Ellen. “Call O’Malley. Tell him we solved the case and have loose ends to tie up. Then round up Alicia Burbridge, her sons, Michael, David and Mark Collins, Stacy Washington, Latisha Brown and Eddie Dixon. Ask them to be here at seven.”

“Got it.”

“We’d better serve drinks. This one is tough to swallow,” I comment.

At six forty-five, the self-serve bar is busy. Most elect an alcoholic beverage and pass on the snacks. At seven, all find seats in a semi-circle and Elliot takes the floor. I stand by the door with Mary Ellen.

“Thank you for coming. When you leave here, you will know not only how, but also why Philip Burbridge died. I will lay out to the events that led up to his death. As you know, Mr. Burbridge was working on a class action suit against the major oil companies for price gouging. Eddie, please tell everyone why you posed as the cable repairman the day of Philip Burbridge’s death.”

“I ain’t proud of it, but a guy’s gotta eat. I got a letter in the mail and money to plant a camera in the ventilation grate. I don’t know what the guy was thinking. The study was like Fort Knox, but the room with the ventilation system was nothing more than a locked broom closet. A kid could pick the lock.”

Alicia comes to her husband’s defense. “The room is a secure place to work and keep sensitive documents. It is not a bomb shelter.”

Elliot takes charge. “Thank you for the explanation. What did you see in the room, Eddie?”

“Two fire extinguishers and a ladder.”

“We now know that those fire extinguishers were nitrogen cannisters. Nitrogen poisoning causes a quick, painless death with unremarkable autopsy findings. Everything pointed to a natural death except the toxicology report showed higher levels of nitrogen in the blood.”

“Mrs. Burbridge, you were at the Wilbur Theater with your sons the night your husband died. This afternoon, Sam tracked down a taxi driver who will testify that he picked you up at intermission, drove you home and back to the theater. You paid him an extra $100 to step on it and run lights. Is that true?”

All heads swiveled in her direction.

Michael’s eyes are wide as saucers. “Mother, you told us that there was a long wait in the ladies room.”

Stacy was on her feet. “You killed my father because you were afraid he’d leave everything to me.”

“I didn’t kill him.”

“Miss Washington, please sit down. She didn’t kill your father.”

Alicia’s tough façade crumbles. Burying her face in her hands, she quivers with silent sobs.

“Mrs. Burbridge, please tell us what happened that night.”

She uncovers her mascara-streaked face and lifts her head. “Philip had pancreatic cancer. None of the proposed treatments promised a cure. He researched different methods of suicide and decided on nitrogen. I didn’t want to see him suffer, so I agreed to help him. My part was to remove the tanks and ladder, so his death would appear natural. He didn’t want Stacy, Michael, David and Mark to carry any guilt that they should have seen it coming and stopped it. Philip was familiar with Eddie’s skills and hired him to install the camera. I distracted Latisha long enough for Eddie to do the job. Philip wanted his death recorded, to prove that it was at his hand and to protect me. That night, he insisted that I go to the play with the boys, so that we all had an alibi. With the house empty, he would place the tanks, turn them on and go to sleep. He had the Michaels and Clark business card in his hand because he wanted them involved from the start. During the first act, I couldn’t bear the thought that he was going to die alone. I ran home to stop him, but it was too late. I had no choice, but to follow his plan, so I returned to the theater.” She pulls the camera from her purse. “It’s all on here.”

Elliot lifts the letter from Philip. “Today, we received this handwritten letter from Philip, which corroborates everything you heard.”

Alicia stands, walks over to Stacy and crouches in front of her. “If I seemed distant when we met, you weren’t the problem. I was having a tough time facing your father’s imminent death. I made up the DNA stuff to keep the detectives engaged until Philip’s letter arrived. I am not worried about money. When we were married, I signed a pre-nup. Philip created a two-million-dollar fund for me, which has done nicely over the years and guaranteed my sons’ college educations. Whether we divorced or he died, I would be financially secure. I loved your father and he loved me, but there was always a faraway look in his eyes. Now I know why. Your father didn’t need DNA proof because he knew that you are his flesh and blood. He suspected that your mother disappeared because she was pregnant. Your coming into his life was the answer to a dying man’s prayer. He shared his changed will with me. We agreed that you would inherit everything, including the house. It is the family home and you are his blood heir, the daughter created with his first and true love. He also stated in the will that he would be honored if you took your rightful name of Burbridge.”

Stacy’s forehead wrinkled. “I am proud of my mother’s name and I built my career with it, but I will consider a hyphenated version.”

“He would have liked that. I will be out of your hair by the first of next month.”

“You don’t have to move. It’s a big house. Please stay.”


“Yes. Latisha, I’d like you and the cook to stay.”

“I will. Can’t speak for the cook.”

Elliot smiles. “Detective O’Malley, here is the evidence that Philip’s death was by suicide. When you officially close the case, I want the letter returned for our files and the camera returned to Alicia Burbridge.”

“I’ll see to it,” O’Malley replied.

Elliot lifts his glass. “Please join me in toasting a wise, selfless man, Philip Burbridge.”

Hang Loose

Do you suffer from headaches or sore back, shoulders, neck legs, knees? If yes, your body may be warning you of too much stress in our daily life. If unheeded, serious illness may result.

Recently, I experienced a pulled muscle in the right buttock, pain in the knee and down the leg to my ankle. Stretching in a pool for two weeks solved the problems, until I returned home from vacation. The next day, on my morning walk, I asked my body what it was trying to tell me. Do not X this blog because it is too weird. Stick around for the answer. It may save you months of physical therapy.

The answer was to literally hang loose. I concentrated on relaxing my muscles as I walked. I started in the face and traveled to the jaw, neck, shoulders, back, buttocks, legs and feet. Relief was immediate.

Unaware that we carry concerns in our bodies, we mask pain with drugs and alcohol, instead of getting to the roots of the problems. Learn to let go of what you cannot change. Act on those you can change. We can improve ourselves, but cannot dictate the lives of others, including adult children. Each has a unique path of learning and growth.

Exercise and relaxation cure many ills. Many hit the gym, jog, walk and/or participate in a sport, but forget that the body needs to recover. Close your eyes and let every muscle relax. Listen to your body. It knows what it needs to stay healthy.

Life is magical. Enjoy!

Ditch the Blame Game

To blame your circumstances on everyone else is an easy way to relieve guilt. Life deals cards that are beyond your control, but you decide how they are played. Loss of job, home or person can be devastating. The choice is yours to curl up in a fetal position or rise from the ashes.

Everyone has a story. We all get hurt. Bend like a willow or snap like an immovable oak. Open to change and be accountable. Learn from mistakes and mishaps. Playing the blame game prohibits progress.

Be aware of the atrocities and focus on the beauty of this planet. Notice when someone is kind, including small, courteous gestures. Too often we think the news is a representation of the entire world.

Stand up! Be accountable for your actions! Playing the victim grows old. Know that you are worthy with a lot to give. Reach out and offer a helping hand.  Your world will be a better place.

Sanctuary or Battle Ground

Home should be a place of peace and harmony, a plug to recharge depleted batteries. World’s strife should stay on the doorstep with the door barred. We should be aware and compassionate but learn to let go of situations beyond our control.

Too often we take home the day’s problems, turn on the news and escalate our stress and anxiety. Without realizing it, we take out our frustrations on those we love the most. Our anger flares and we say things that we would never say to a stranger or colleague. An insignificant issue can be the match that starts a raging inferno.

Suggestions for maintaining a happy home:

  1. Watch news in the morning when rested
  2. Discuss inappropriate behaviors. Do not resort to name calling.
  3. Ignore trivial annoying habits and accept them as part of the person
  4. Say “I love you” often. I read something fifty years ago that the word money is used more in a home than the word love. We can turn that around in our homes.
  5. Sleep eight hours per night.
  6. Eat nutritious meals with the family. Lines of communication open around the dinner table.

Peace and harmony are lofty goals in a bustling household with crazy schedules, but worth the effort. We have the power to change. World peace begins at home.