Trigger Warning: Murder
THE INSTITUTION OF MARRIAGE
“The institution of marriage, my fat ass.” Leah slumped back in her chair, and looked across the table at her husband, Leo.
“Leah, I sense some hostility,” said the other woman in the room.
“No shit, Caroline. There is definitely hostility.”
Leah shot Caroline — or Dr. Winter as she preferred to be called by her patients — a withering look.
“Do you care to explain Leah?”
“Sure,” she said, still defiant. “When we got married, we promised each other that we would always tell each other everything. Not necessarily the little trivial things that don’t impact a relationship, but the big things. But, recently, we seemed to be talking less and less, so we started coming here. Big bloody mistake. All of a sudden the Leo I married is gone, and all I have is this incommunicative stranger who refuses to talk about anything other than the little things. That, Caroline, is why I don’t believe in the institution of marriage. Not any more. Not when it’s only a one-way street, where it used to be a two way street.” She looked from Leo to Dr. Winter, jaw clenched.
Dr. Winter broke eye contact with Leah, and swivelled her gaze toward Leo.
“Leo, what do you feel when you hear Leah talk about her loss of faith in your marriage?”
“I dunno. It’s what she thinks. I’m not sure that I agree with her, but I guess she’s entitled to her own opinion.”
“Are. You. Kidding. Me.” said Leah, stunned. “Why, Leo, do you think that I’ve lost faith in this marriage?” She paused looking at him. “Come on Leo, give it a guess. I’m sure you can figure it out. You’re a smart guy.”
Leo avoided Leah’s gaze, looking around the room. All of a sudden the ceiling of Dr. Winter’s office was very, very interesting. He said nothing.
Dr. Winter interjected. “Leah, you seem to be exhibiting aggression towards Leo. Care to explain why you are so hostile?”
“Sure, Caroline. Since we started therapy, Leo has, all of a sudden become a very private person. He takes his phone with him everywhere. He’s added a password on it, which he never had before. He runs out of the room when he receives a text. He’s lost weight, and he actually bought new clothes that make him look good. He’s never done that before. As far as I can tell, he’s hiding something.” She took a breath and looked directly at Leo. “Or someone.”
Dr. Winter looked at Leo. “Leo, what do you want to say to Leah? Are her concerns justified?”
“I think she’s crazy, Doc. She’s the one who’s all weird. Sure, I added a password to my phone because she’s always looking at it, reading my texts and e-mails. Even my work e-mails! I can’t have her reading those. If it’s work-related, it’s confidential.”
Leah slapped the table with her both of her palms. “Oh my God, Leo. You’re using the ‘bitch be crazy’ defence? I don't believe it!" She shook her head. "Please tell me why you need to take your phone into the washroom? Seriously? You prefer to answer the texts your girlfriend is sending you while taking a dump? How romantic!”
“I am not texting my girlfriend. And I am not taking a dump. The washroom is the only room with a lock on the door, and the only room that I can have some privacy without you trying to creep up behind me and read my private texts.”
“Who are you texting, Leo?” said Leah, staring at him directly.
“None. Of. Your. Business. If I thought you should know, I’d tell you. So, because I haven’t told you, consider it private.”
“You are such a jerk,” said Leah. She looked at the ceiling. “Right now, I hate you. A lot.”
“Leah,” said Dr. Winter, “remember what we said about name-calling. It’s not how we express our feelings. You can’t project on to your partner.”
Leah swivelled her head to look at the doctor. “Really? Cuz right now you’re almost as big a jerk as Leo, and I’m not loving your sanctimonious tone.”
Dr. Winter looked at her watch. “Well, we seem to have completed this evening’s session. For next week’s appointment, I want each of you to think of five things that you like about your partner.” She stood up. “Until next week.” She walked to the office door, and held it open for Leo and Leah to exit.
While Leo got his parking ticket validated, Leah stood with her arms crossed, scowling at him. When it was her turn, Leo stood there waiting for her.
Why’s he waiting? We don’t even like each other anymore. She squinted at him. Old habits die hard.
As they walked along the hall towards the parking garage entrance, Leo was the first to speak.
“Do you really hate me that much?”
Leah looked at him. “Yup,” she said. “You lie, and you cheat, and you expect me to take it. Apparently, treating my like crap doesn’t bother you as much as it bothers me.”
They stopped in the hallway.
“You know, if people can fall in love, they can fall out of love as well,” he said, not looking at her.
Leah gave him side-eye. “Next thing you’ll be telling me is that humans aren’t meant to be monogamous.”
“I’m not sure they are —"
“I knew it! You fucker! All that ‘boo hoo, poor me,’ in Caroline’s office! You’re seeing someone else, and you don’t have the guts to admit it in front of her. You disgust me!”
They stood looking at each other. Leah furious, her hands clenched at her side, body tense. Leo the epitome of calmness, his body steady.
Leah broke eye contact, her gaze focussing somewhere over his left shoulder. “I am so glad that we didn’t have any kids. They would be so disappointed in their dad.”
“Look, Leah, twelve years is a long time—“
“No Leo, it’s not!” Her eyes snapped back to his face. “You can’t get a pension in twelve years. Twelve-year-old scotch is only okay. Cicadas still have another five years underground. Twelve years is not a long time. Not when you promised me forever.”
Leo stepped towards her.
“Don’t you dare touch me, you bastard.”
She turned and walked towards the parking garage, walking faster, leaving Leo in her wake. Leo slowly trailed behind her. He was in no hurry. They had each brought their own cars. Right now she was angry, and she was unreasonable. Hopefully she would be gone by the time he reached his car.
Leo entered the fifth floor of the parking garage and stopped short, staring at the scene in front of him.
“Leah! Caroline! What the hell are you doing?”
Caroline spoke first. “I’m doing Leah a favour.” She was holding a handgun, a shiny chrome handgun with a suppressor attached to the barrel, and she had it pointed at Leo’s head.
Leo turned toward Leah.
“Leah, please. Don’t let her do this.”
“You shouldn’t have slept with her, Leo. She expected you to proclaim your love for her tonight in our session. And you didn’t. She’s disappointed. And she’s angry.”
Caroline spoke up, “I am angry Leo. Very angry.” She pulled the trigger twice in rapid succession. Leo dropped to the dirty floor of the garage, dead.
Caroline looked at Leah, her hands dropping to her sides.
“I did it.” She looked at Leah. “We can be together, now.”
Leah shook her head. “I don’t think so Caroline.”
In one smooth move, Leah pulled her own handgun out of her shoulder holster and pointed it at Caroline.
“Police! Drop the gun!” Leah shouted.
“Leah, you said we would be together if I killed Leo. You said we could make it look like a robbery gone wrong, that we'd be safe. You said you loved me.”
Confusion swam across Caroline’s face.
“I lied,” said Leah. She shot Caroline three times, centre mass. She dropped beside Leo, also dead.
Detective Terry Waits stood with her hands on her hips as she surveyed the crime scene. Her partner, Detective Carlos Ito, stood beside her, also evaluating the scene.
It was ten in the evening, two hours after the shooting. The detectives had briefly interviewed Officer Ramirez about the basics of the crime, before sending her to the hospital to be checked out. They had made an appointment to have her come in and make a formal statement the next afternoon.
“Okay, so according to Officer Ramirez, her husband, Leo Ramirez walked into the parking garage ahead of her, and was confronted by the doctor — " she pulled out her notebook, "— Dr. Caroline Winter, their marriage counsellor.” Waits pointed to the door to the parking garage, with a big number five painted on it. “Before Officer Ramirez arrived on this level, she heard her husband, Leo, say 'Don’t do it! Please Caroline, don’t do it.' Fearing for her husband’s life, she unholstered her service weapon, and ran up the stairs to the fifth floor. Before she arrived she heard what sounded like two suppressed gun shots. When she pushed through the door, her husband was on the ground, two shots to the head,” she said pointing to the larger body that had been identified as Leo Ramirez. “Winter was standing over him, gun in hand. Officer Ramirez identified herself, and ordered Winter to drop her gun. Winter refused, and started to raise the gun towards Officer Ramirez. Officer Ramirez then shot her in self-defence.” She pointed to the second, smaller body, five feet away from Ramirez’s body, and turned to Ito. “Sound right?”
“I dunno,” said Ito. “I have a few questions.”
“Yeah,” replied Waits, “Me too.”
Back at the station, Waits and Ito each sat a their own desk. The desks abutted each other, allowing them to sit facing each other.
“Let’s check where we are with this case,” said Waits. “Surveillance tapes?”
“Where the actual shooting took place, is a blind spot. But there are cameras in the office building, and at the doors to the parking garage.”
“Okay. How about ballistics?”
“Initial findings match with what Ramirez said — two to the head for Leo Ramirez came from the gun found beside Winter. Gunshot residue found on her hands and clothing. No prints on the gun, she was wearing gloves. Bullets retrieved from Winter’s body match Officer Ramirez’s service weapon. GSR on Officer Ramirez’s hands and body, as expected.”
“Was the gun registered?”
“Yes. But it was reported stolen from Robert Tyler in 2017. We’re still checking the Integrated Ballistics Identification System database for a bullet match. I have no idea when they’ll get back to us.”
“Okay. Hopefully IBIS will have something for us soon. How ‘bout the vics’ phones? Anything?”
“Not yet. IT is trying to get into them. We’re waiting for the phone companies to give us a record of the calls and cell tower data from the both victims' phones, as well as Officer Ramirez’s phone. Hopefully we’ll have something by the morning.”
“Good. Can you think of anything else we should be doing?”
Ito thought a minute. “We could subpoena Winter’s files vis-à-vis the Ramirez’s counselling sessions.
“Good call. Make sure it includes any audio or visual recordings as well. And, while we’re getting a subpoena for the files, get a search warrant for the Ramirez house and vehicles, as well as Winter’s home and vehicle. Include electronics.” She shrugged her shoulders. “Who knows, maybe we’ll find something interesting. When’s Officer Ramirez coming in for an interview?” she asked, changing the subject.
“Uh—“ Ito pulled out his phone checked his calendar. “Tomorrow, three o’clock. She’s got a one o’clock interview with Internal Affairs, to make sure the shooting was justified.”
“Good. Once she’s in with IAD, we’ll be able to check her house. That’ll give us a couple of hours for the search. We can search Winter’s place first thing in the morning. Make sure we have an IT tech lined up. Electronics might be able to answer all of our questions.”
It was almost three-thirty when Waits and Ito entered the interview room.
“Sorry for the delay” said Waits. “I’m Detective Terry Waits, and this is my partner Detective Carlos Ito. We met briefly yesterday, at the crime scene.”
Waits held out her arm to shake Officer Ramirez’s hand. Ramirez stood to shake both detectives' hands. She introduced herself, “Officer Leah Ramirez.”
Everyone sat down, Leah on one side, Waits and Ito on the other.
“So, Officer Ramirez, this is an interview regarding the deaths of your husband, Leo Ramirez, and your subsequent shooting and killing of his assailant, Dr. Caroline Winter. I’m going to Mirandize you, for your protection and for ours. Do you understand?”
“Yes,” said Leah. Waits Mirandized her.
“You know that you are entitled to a lawyer. Do you wish to have one present?” asked Waits.
“No,” said Leah.
“Okay,” said Waits, “if you’ll just sign this release.” She slid the paper and a pen over to Leah, who signed with a flourish. There was nothing unusual about the request. Everyone in the room knew that Waits and Ito were just following the department’s SOP — standard operating procedures — when interviewing a suspect.
Waits settled back in her chair. “Okay Officer Ramirez, tell us, in your own words, what happened last night.
Leah recounted the story much the same way as she had at the scene. She didn’t embellish, but kept to her original story.
When she finished, Waits thanked her.
“We have a few questions for you, Officer. Once we’re finished with those, you can be on your way.”
“Great,” said Leah. “It’s been a long day. And, I have to make funeral arrangements for Leo.” She looked down at the table, her eyes misting.
“So, how long had you been in a relationship with Dr. Winter?”
“Leo and I started seeing her about six months ago,” Leah replied.
“No, sorry,” said Waits, holding up her hand. “You misunderstand me. How long had you and Dr. Winter been involved in a sexual relationship?”
Leah looked stunned. “I think you’re confused. Leo was the one having a sexual relationship with Dr. Winter, not me.”
Waits taped the screen of her phone and flipped it around. “That’s you and Dr. Winter canoodling in her backyard, isn’t it?” showing Leah the video. “Dr. Winter had a home surveillance system. Inside and out. We have other less PG videos, if you’d like. And yes, your husband was having an affair with Dr. Winter as well. We saw those tapes as well. But he didn’t start up until well after you.”
Leah said nothing.
“Plus there’s audio, so, yeah, we know the whole story.”
“Lawyer,” said Leah.
“No problem. I’ll just talk. You don’t have to say anything, just listen.” She smiled at Leah.
Leah’s calm demeanour had faded. She was furious, her body rigid. There was a vein pulsing at her temple.
“Let’s start after your session with Dr. Winter ended last night. The surveillance camera in Dr. Winter’s building shows you and Leo arguing after your appointment, and you leave first, not Leo. The camera at the garage entrance shows you going through the door about twenty seconds before Leo, so you couldn’t have heard him say anything, nor could you have heard the gunshots — you were already on the fifth floor with Dr. Winter, facing the door, waiting to ambush Leo, so Dr. Winter could shoot him. Also, if you had come through the door and shot Dr. Winter, she would have fallen away from the door, not towards it, so you weren’t standing where you said you were when you fired your gun.”
Ito spoke up for the first time during the interview. “The gun that Dr. Winter used was used in another crime. One that you worked on in 2018. In fact, it was you who signed the gun into evidence. But it’s not there any more. But we all know where it ended up. And, as a bonus, we have you on video giving it to Dr. Winter at her home.”
Leah looked at them, and uttered one word. “Lawyer.”
Outside the interrogation room Waits and Ito waited watched as Officer Leah Ramirez was taken away, handcuffed, to be booked for the murder of Dr. Caroline Winter, and conspiracy to murder her husband, Leo Ramirez.
“I love home surveillance systems,” said Ito. “They make our job so much easier.”
“Yeah,” said Waits. “That and stupid criminals.” She paused, watching Leah being led down the hall. “Even if they are one of ours.”
They turned and headed back toward their desks, and the mountain of paper work that awaited them.