A Woman Obsessed
A Woman Obsessed
By Connie Anderson
“Sergeant, it’s Dr. Garret from the coroner’s office. A woman who worked in the cosmetics’ department at Martin’s was strangled. Forensics is still out, but it appears she was stabbed about a dozen times with something sharp and narrow.”
“Boy, someone was sure pissed, Doc. What did they use?”
“I found some tiny fibers that our lab thinks are pink satin.
“Pink satin, like a ribbon?”
“And her body was doused with so much perfume the staff almost passed out.”
I pulled the sheet off the victim’s face. “Oh my god, it’s the perfume pest who squirted me with Obsession when I was in Martin’s yesterday!”
The victim, 36-year-old Alexi Bradley, lived and died alone in her apartment. Her naked body was lying face down.
At the scene, my partner, Det. Jake Grayling, and I dug through Alexi’s life, searching for clues to her past. Why was she killed? Who hated her enough to murder her?
“Jake, this seems like a crime of passion.”
A notebook was found in which Alexi had scrawled “Mrs. Smith” numerous times. “Jake, we have many Smiths, a.k.a. Alexi’s almost future husband, to check out.”
Martin’s was quite busy, and management did provide a room where I could interview Alexi’s coworkers. Scanning the list, my mouth dropped open, “Is some joker pulling my chain? Every one of Alexi’s associates is named Smith.”
First in was bosomy Deanna Smith, 19, short of skirt and brains. Had an air-tight alibi. Anyway, she seemed the type of girl who’d just stamp her feet and cry if she were upset—but not murder.
Next in was Roseanne Smith, late fifty-ish. “Where was your husband Tuesday night?”
“Randall was in Las Vegas again.”
On a quick call to Randall Smith in Las Vegas, he says a waitress is his alibi for Tuesday night, and then she confirmed it.”
Ella Ann Smith was pretty, late thirties. “Ella Ann, are you married?”
She was chatty but nervous, glancing around the room. “Yes, Ted and I got married last December. Ted works in management. We met when I started working at Martin’s a couple years ago. Boy, are they upset upstairs. Martin’s loves to see their company name in print, but now I imagine damage control will be needed. That is Ted’s department, so likely this means many more long hours and late nights.”
“Ella Ann, was Ted home on Tuesday evening?”
“No, a meeting kept him long past closing. He finally got home right before the ‘Tonight Show.’ Those long days really tire him out. All I get is a “Hi, Hon,” and a peck on the cheek before he collapses into bed.”
I hear strains of jealousy music again. The man works long hours. His new wife is jealous of his job.
“You and Alexi were about the same age. Did you socialize outside the store?
Ella Ann explained, “Alexi was working at Martin’s before I started, and we did some clubbing together before I met Ted. Then he insisted I stop telling her our personal business.”
Now we’re getting somewhere—jealous wife, controlling husband, beautiful co-worker.
“By the way, Ella Ann, do you own anything with pink satin ribbons?”
“My, ah, my husband just bought me a beautiful nightgown, with long pink satin ribbon for our first anniversary. Why do you ask?”
“Just part of the investigation.”
Smith No. 4, Janet was mid-forties. She worked to help feed the family since her husband was a commissions-based salesman. Her income depended on how hard she pushed to make sales.
“Janet, what does your husband sell?”
“Cosmetics. That’s how I got my job here.”
“Where were you and your husband Tuesday night?”
“I worked the late shift. My husband was available by cell phone so our teenagers could check in with him. Here’s his cell number.”
Four Smith women. Was it possible that one was married to the Mr. Smith that Alexi obviously adored? Was he playing on both sides of a double bed?
Now to the Smith men. Randall was back in town at our insistence. “Jake, you take it. I think Randall would respond better to a man.” As I watched through the two-way mirror, Randall actually looked sheepish when Jake quizzed him. Randall and the waitress hadn’t gone to a late floorshow like she said, but to a show of their own making at a by-the-hour motel. He even had a receipt to prove it. One unfaithful husband—now eliminated as a suspect.
Next was Ted. “Did you know Alexi?”
“Yes, I knew her before Ella Ann came. Yeah, we hung out. Lexi and I had a few laughs. What’s wrong with that?”
“Nothing. If you have a solid alibi for Tuesday night, this will go no further. Does your wife know you and Alexi were close?
“That’s old news, and I want it to stay old news. I worked late with my secretary.
Ted had been working, and maybe playing house with his secretary, but he had an alibi. One Smith husband left.
Janet’s husband was the cosmetic salesman who called on buyers at area department stores. The head buyer said Joel was successful, and most persuasive. When I met Joel, he didn’t look like a lady’s man.
“Joel, did you know Alexi Bradley?”
“I was shocked to hear she had been murdered. She was at Martin’s for several years. She didn’t take no for an answer, and sold tons of perfumes, especially Obsession. We often joked that she was ‘obsessed’ with being their best salesperson.”
“Did you know her socially, on the other side of the counter?”
“Absolutely not. My company forbids that. I’m no fool. I would not risk my lucrative job for a quick roll in the hay.”
“Got it. It was against company policy. Where were you Tuesday night from 6 to 10 p.m.?”
“I called on suburban stores. About six, I had a quick dinner and went to a movie. Janet was working the late shift, so I figured, why not?”
“Have anything that would place you at the movies? Joel dug through his pockets.
“What movie did you see, Joel?”
“It was more of a sappy chick flick so I left early and drove around, getting home ten minutes before Janet.”
Joel had no alibi, but neither did he have an obvious reason to kill Alexi.
Something was bugging me. When I asked Joel’s district manager what kind of employee Joel was, Amanda Brandt gave me an earful. “Joel is a distrustful, ego-centric man who should have been fired years ago. And if I’d had my way, he would have been! He has broken many company rules, but never pays the price, because the truth is, he is our top producer, every single month.”
“What kinds of rules?
“All our sales reps keep their zipper zipped—everyone but Joel. He has a girl at every cosmetic counter. Why?”
“A perfume expert at Martin’s in Los Angeles was murdered, and we are investigating anyone even slightly connected. Joel’s wife worked with the victim, and Joel knew her because he calls on Martin’s.”
Back at Alexi’s apartment, we knocked on the door across from the crime scene. The TV was blaring. An elderly woman peered out her chained door, opening it only after she inspected our badges. “Do you know what happened across the hall, Mrs. Greenway? Did you see or hear anything on Tuesday night between 6 and 7, while you watched the news?”
“Yes, there was a rather tall woman with wild red hair, carrying a huge bag, but I saw only her back. Alexi opened the door wearing a pink nightgown. I didn’t hear anything because my TV was loud.”
“Was she about my height, 5’4” or more like Det. Grayling, over 6 foot?”
Mrs. Greenway asked both of us to stand by Alexi’s door with our back to her. “Her visitor was tall, like him,” she said, pointing to Jake.
Later we sat in our squad car hashing over what we had and hadn’t learned. A very tall woman visited about the time Alexi was killed. All our Smith women were no taller than me, even in high heels.
Amanda Brandt left a message. “Sergeant, I’m in trouble for what I told you, but I don’t care. I’ve learned that Joel knew the deceased intimately. They also had a scam going about the perfume contest.”
Amanda’s information cemented my suspicion. Bringing Joel back in for a second interview, I asked, “How well did you know Alexi?”
“On occasion, I’d take some of the counter gals out to a thank-you lunch, but nothing else. Why do you ask?”
“Do you know who’s winning the trip for two to Paris for the most Obsession sales?”
Every one of his face muscles tightened. “I, I think, it might have been Alexi. She was great at sales. How sad.”
Jake entered and motioned for Joel to stand up, nose to nose, asking, “Joel, why did you kill Alexi?” as if it was the most logical question.
Writing up the report, I noted that smug S.O.B. was having an affair with Alexi. He had promised he'd leave Janet when Alexi, with his help, was named the Paris trip winner. But Alexi got wise to his lies, and knew he might go on the trip, but would never get divorced. No matter how many times she wrote “Mrs. Smith,” she would never be his Mrs. Smith.
Desperate, wearing a woman's disguise, Joel entered the building unrecognized. When Alexi confronted him, she was furious, and they struggled. With his marriage and job at stake, he strangled her with the pink satin ribbons on the nightgown he had given Alexi days earlier. As she lay limp, the enraged Joel grabbed a metal nail file and slashed at her. Then he ripped her nightgown off, and stuffed it into his bag, along with his red wig. Why the final dousing of Obsession, we’ll never know. !
Connie Anderson (WordsAndDeeds.com) has been editing both non-fiction and general fiction books for over 25 years. She believes that the right editor can help make your book the best possible. She has written three books. Her latest, The “I” of a Woman: How To Succeed in Life with Humor and Grace, is also available on Amazon.