======= ======= ====== ====== ====== ===== ==== ====== ====== ===== ==== ======= ======= ====== ====== ====== ===== ==== ====== ====== ===== ====
Inside of a cafe a few blocks from Denise’s dorm room, mother and daughter sat in comfortable silence while they both stared transfixed at their respective iPhones. A few minutes into this standoff, a waiter came over to their set down a black tea and a cappuccino.
“What a fucking philistine. It’s almost 4:00 p.m.,” thought Denise to herself as her mother picked up the cappuccino.
Out loud, Denise set her iPhone down on the table. “What did you want me to tell me about Dad?”
“Oh, your father. Well let’s hold off on that for a moment. What do you think about Italy, Denise?”
“What about it?”
“Well, I was thinking maybe we could go. Just you and me! That’d be fun, wouldn’t it?”
“What about school?”
“School is always going to be there, honey. Italy isn’t.”
“Mom, I’m sorry but what the fuck? Do you even listen to yourself when you’re talking?” Realizing that she had attracted the attention of a couple a few tables over sharing a cinnamon roll, Denise leaned in over the table and, getting dangerously close to touching Ellen’s face, said in almost a whisper, “Why are you here?”
Ellen’s phone began vibrating on the table. She looked down at the phone. She looked up at Denise, smirked, and then back down at the phone again. The number wasn’t one she recognized, but the area code was (203), that of Darien, CT.
Torrential rains in Darien were a cause for concern at the Flanagan crime scene. The Darien police department did not officially have a forensics unit, and because of this, they had been forced to call in a favor from nearby New Haven.
But the NHPD had clearly sent their B-team to the scene because when it was time to get Terry Flanagan into a body bag and off to the coroner’s office, no one was able to find a cadaver pouch to place the deceased in. Of the five squad cars, ambulance, and forensic unit van, not a one of them had brought a human remains pouch to place Terry in. That, in and of itself, speaks to how unusual this kind of crime was in the area.
Officer Nutbeem, the rookie from Tennessee who had inexplicably made his way to Fairfield County after college, suggested they place a bed sheet from the master bedroom over Terry so that they could wheel him out to the ambulance. He used colloquialisms unfamiliar and strange to natives of Connecticut – stuff like “reckon” and “hot damn” – and while Nutbeem wasn’t stupid, the east coast elitism that afflicts many in the region could be seen on others when he spoke.
“Jesus Christ, Beaufield, will you get the hell out of the kitchen? You’re contaminating my crime scene,” said Lang. “Kid’s a fucking idiot.”
Nutbeem sheepishly went back outside to stand underneath the awning of the front door, and it was ultimately decided by the forensics team, along with Detectives Lang and Cromstock, that they would have to pull the ambulance backward into the boat garage that was connected to the two-car garage and accessible through the kitchen. They simply couldn’t risk wheeling the body out into the rain and washing away incriminating evidence.
Annually, Darien, Connecticut experiences an average of zero rapes, murders, and robberies per year. The town frequently claims the top spot of safest places to live in America, while simultaneously having some of the least affordable housing. That is not a coincidence.
Tom Lang had been a detective for a little over a year and Cromstock had only been one for five. As a duo in the past, they had exclusively worked on small-time break-ins. Houses getting burglarized over a long holiday weekend when the owners were on vacation and stolen vehicles left in the driveways of the affluent. Simple, run of the mill stuff. It’s not like Darien was a hotbed for criminal masterminds, and part of the reason both of them liked Fairfield County so much was because their jobs were relatively easy going. Petty crime was all Cromstock and Lang knew up to this point, and the death of Terry Flanagan was going to be somewhat of a trial by fire.
“Can you get me the number for this guy’s wife?” Lang asked Cromstock as two paramedics lowered a gurney and placed a stiff, dark blue Terry onto it.
“Already got it pulled up for ya. You can use my phone. Her name’s Ellen. You’re going to have to tell her what’s happened. I don’t think that Schwartz woman has called anyone yet.”
Ellen picked her phone up and held her pointer finger up at Denise to signify that she needed a moment. In the most cheerful tone possible, she sang “Hello” into the receiving end of the phone.
Ellen’s eyes widened. “What?” her eyes now welling with tears. “WHAT?” she yelled hysterically.
“Mom, what’s going on?” said Denise.
“I have to call you back,” screamed Ellen into the phone. “Well, Officer whatever-the-fuck-your-name-is, I’m having lunch with my daughter and this is just…” Ellen screamed, bawling at the top of her lungs in the cafe while making sure that the detective on the other end could hear her.
Ellen no longer had a choice in this matter. Where originally she had thought that Denise could be trusted, the call from the police had suddenly changed her mind. She could no longer let Denise in on the details of the situation. She’d have to trick everyone – her daughter, her friends, extended family, etc. – into thinking that she had nothing to do with this.
“MOM. What the hell is going on?” Denise said, now visibly distraught.
Ellen held her hand over the receiver now. “I don’t know, honey, this man on the phone says he’s a detective and that your father was found dead in the house a few hours ago.”
Now, back into the phone, Ellen, in her best sniffly, concerned voice said “I need to call you back, please. I’m on the way home.” .