Inside Out Online - Elise Title



MONDAY, 10:35 A.M.

AUGUST 5, 1997

DETECTIVE MITCHELL OATES, a burly African American, was standing a few feet from an open doorway to one of those Architectural Digest-style bedrooms in a posh town house in Boston’s historic Beacon Hill. He stepped aside to give his partner, Leo Coscarelli, a better view of the body. The two detectives had been teamed up for close to three years now. Oates, at thirty-one, was the younger by two years, but you wouldn’t know it to look at them. Coscarelli had the guileless face and lean, wiry body of a postadolescent. Coscarelli’s boyish looks, surprisingly, had turned out to be his biggest asset as a homicide detective. Many suspects over the past seven years had made the mistake of thinking the lieutenant was wet behind the ears, and therefore a pushover. What often happened was, they’d let their guard down, get sloppy, and find out the hard way that it was never smart to judge a book by its cover.

Oates had been at the crime scene for about fifteen minutes. Coscarelli had just arrived. Like his partner, Coscarelli was supposed to be off-duty that day, but given the high-profile victim, he'and Oates had been handpicked by the Homicide chief to take charge of the case.

When the call came in at 10:05 A.M. to hightail it over to the Slater home, Coscarelli was still in bed. But he wasn’t sleeping. And he wasn’t alone. He was having sex with Suzanne Holden, an ex-druggie and -prostitute he was endeavoring to “rehabilitate. ” In hindsight, he wished the call had come in a few minutes earlier. Then it could have been one of those “saved by the bell” situations—the situation being one he definitely should not have been in in the first place. But “saving bells” rarely went off in real life.

Coscarelli peered down at the bare-chested body of the criminal defense attorney—revered or reviled, depending on whether you were the defendant or the plaintiff.

“You knew him, right?” Oates muttered.

“Who in Homicide doesn’t know Matthew Slater?” Coscarelli answered, noting, with a modicum of envy, that for a guy in his late forties, Slater was enviably buff. Not that all those workouts at the gym were going to do the poor bastard much good now— unless you counted looking pumped in your casket.

Coscarelli looked over his shoulder at Oates. “So, what’s the story?”

“Call came in at nine-oh-five A.M. A local unit got here at nine-twenty A.M. with a couple of paramedics. Slater was pronounced dead by one of the EMT boys. Coroner and CSI team are on the way.”

“Media got here quick enough.”

Coscarelli squatted down, took in the dead attorney’s facial bruising, including what looked to be a badly broken nose. But he doubted it was the punch, or more likely, punches, that killed Matthew Slater. “Gotta wait for the ME, but my money’s on manual strangulation.” Not touching the corpse, he pointed to the darker bruise marks around the lawyer’s neck. “Who found him?”

“Joyce Halber . . . Slater’s secretary. She got worried because the boss didn’t show up at the office for an important breakfast meeting scheduled for eight A.M. and she couldn’t reach him on his cell phone. So she drove over. Got here at approximately eight forty-five A.M. When he didn’t answer her rings or knocks, she let herself in. Oh—she had a key to the house. Said Slater had given it to her when she first started working for him three years ago. Anyway, like I said . . . she came over here, unlocked the door—”

“She said it was locked?” Coscarelli interrupted.

Oates flipped open a notebook and retrieved a handwritten report from the cop who’d arrived on the scene first. “Yep.”

Oates continued, referring to the report. “She looked downstairs first, then figured he must have overslept—she said that he took sleeping pills on occasion. So she went upstairs and found him right where he is now. She swears she didn’t touch him or anything else in the room.”

Coscarelli nodded. “I’d say by the looks of our corpse and the smell, our killer struck a good two, three days ago. Nobody missed Slater before this morning?”

Oates shrugged. “It was the weekend. According to what the secretary told the uniform, the Slaters have a place out on Martha’s Vineyard. The wife spends the summer there, and Slater flies out most weekends. Halber assumed he was there. Just before I talked to the secretary on the phone, I heard from the sheriff on the Vineyard. He’d just