Michael J. McCann

Author of the Donaghue and Stainer Crime Novel Series

The Fregoli Delusion: An Excerpt

Lieutenant Hank Donaghue put away his notebook and looked at his watch, surprised to see that it was nearly noon. He rubbed his neck, trying to relieve the stiffness and cramping he felt from having kept his eyes on the ground for much of the morning.

Their crime scene was on a bike path in Granger Park, a district in northwest Glendale that was home to the wealthiest stratum of the city’s population. A protected green space, it featured well-trimmed stretches of grass, an abundance of trees, and decorative shrubbery. It was a pretty spot.

The sky, he noticed as he moved his head around to loosen his neck muscles, was clear and blue. The sun was almost directly overhead, baking the air to the ninety-degree Fahrenheit temperature predicted to continue pounding Maryland for at least the next week. His shirt was damp beneath his suit jacket, and his mouth was a little dry.

He walked over to Captain Martinez, who was flipping through the pages of her notebook.

“I don’t mind talking to them, Ann.”

Martinez shook her head. “I’ve got this. Then we need to talk. Things are happening.”

They walked together to the yellow tape at the edge of the crime scene. Hank gestured to a uniformed officer, who moved the small crowd of reporters back a few yards. He and Martinez ducked under the tape and stood before the small circle of microphones, cameras, and notepads.

“The deceased is a male in his late sixties,” Martinez said without preamble in a high, clear voice. “He was shot once in the head. Evidence indicates he was riding on the bike path when he stopped, possibly to speak to the person who shot him. His bicycle was found upright on its kickstand a few yards away from the body. Robbery may have been a motive. The victim’s wallet was found farther down the path under a bush with no cash or credit cards in it. The identity of the victim is being withheld pending notification of next of kin.”

“Who found the body?” someone asked.

“The victim was found by a man who was taking photographs in the park and heard the shot in the distance.”

“What’s his name?”

“Is he a suspect?”

“Did he shoot the victim?”

“What’s he saying? Did he see who did it?”

Martinez held up her hand. “Just a minute, take it easy. At this time he’s being treated as a witness. We’re still in the process of interviewing him and we’ll let you know as soon as possible whatever we can. That’s all for now.”

“Captain Martinez,” one of the journalists called out as she turned away, “can you comment on the fact that the recent outbreak of murders downtown now seems to have spread to Granger Park? Is the mayor’s campaign against violent crime a failure?”

Hank stepped forward. “We’re fairly certain this is an isolated incident in no way connected to any recent events in Midtown or anywhere else in the city. You can remind your readers that, statistically, violent crime is down this calendar year compared to last year, due in large part to the mayor’s campaign. The people of Glendale can rest assured that the police department is doing everything possible to keep our streets and homes safe.”

The journalist gave him a thin smile and shook his head.

Hank followed Martinez back to the crime scene command post behind the barriers, where Detective Karen Stainer was stripping off her latex gloves.

“I gotta take him downtown,” Karen said. “He’s not making a hell of a lot of sense, and his old man called their lawyer.”

“All right.” Hank saw a uniformed officer leading their only witness back along the bike path, away from the reporters. “He said he knew the victim?”

“Yeah.” Karen glanced at Martinez. “He gave us all this yakkety-yak about taking pictures of the trees and hearing the shot and finding the vic. He said his father works for the old man. So he calls his father and waits until he gets here before doing anything. I mean, does that sound right? The guy’s in his thirties and he has to wait for his daddy before he can dial nine-one-one? Give me a break.”

Karen’s Texan drawl, which made “right” sound like “raht” and “give” sound like “gee-uv,” would be charming if it weren’t coming from a mouth that looked like it might bite a chain in half at any moment. She was thirty-seven years old and a sixteen-year veteran of the police department. A Tai-kwon-do black belt with a mean streak, she was five feet, three inches tall, weighed one hundred and five pounds, and had small fists that could punch a hole through drywall without any special effort at all. Her blond hair was shoulder length, her nose and chin were somewhat pointed, and her pale blue eyes tended to fix on people in a laser beam cop’s stare.

“Well,” Martinez said to her, “see what you can get out of him.” She looked around the scene. The bike path was sealed off for fifty yards in each direction from where the body had been found. Granger Park was a district of gated communities, mansions, and high-end developments. The bike path was used almost exclusively by millionaires and their children. She looked at the fluttering yellow tape, the yellow numbered markers identifying evidence that was still being photographed and collected by crime scene technicians, and the gurney from the office of the medical examiner that was waiting to transport the body to the morgue.

“We need to nail this down,” she said. “This is a big one.”

“You ain’t kidding.” Karen turned on her heel and headed off after her witness.

Tim Byrne, the crime scene investigation team leader, informed them his crew would be finished processing the scene in about twenty minutes. Dr. Jim Easton, the medical examiner, was now supervising the movement of the body to the gurney. An ambulance waited at the curb along Cumberland Avenue, the street paralleling the bike path. Reporters were beginning to peel away from the crowd to record and file their stories.

“Let’s go,” Martinez said to Hank. She led the way to her car, one of the new unmarked Ford Taurus Police Interceptor models, which was parked half a block away.

Martinez started the engine, waited for a television news van to pass, then pulled away from the curb. “You know these people.”

“Somewhat.” Hank fastened his seat belt and slipped on his sunglasses. “The witness, Brett Parris, I’ve never met. His father, Walter, I know slightly. Walter’s mother, Constance Parris, is a friend of my mother. I know her fairly well. I was introduced to the victim once, at a reception or something my mother dragged me to when I was in college. It was a five-second thing. He seemed like an arrogant bastard. Billionaires don’t tend to notice the teenaged sons of retired state’s attorneys.”

“What I mean is, you know these people. You know what makes them tick.”

Hank looked at her. Martinez was forty-two years old, the daughter of a convenience store owner. She’d worked her way up the ladder through hard work, dedication, and a strong sense of internal politics. Hank had been her supervisory lieutenant when she was an up-and-coming detective, and now she was his captain. They trusted each other, and because of the history between them he knew she could handle whatever was thrown at her, but Hank understood her discomfort with the social circle into which this case was going to pull them.

“Yeah,” he said. “I know what makes them tick.”

“I need you to take the lead in this.” She glanced in the rear-view mirror. “When I called the chief to tell him who the vic was, he said he wanted you working it. He told me to talk to the media to keep them out of your hair. Which translates as him wanting future press conferences at his level, I guess, with me as his second fiddle. He wants you to focus on the investigation. Stainer can work it with you as long as she minds her Ps and Qs, but given the current state of our budget and the fact that Jarvis took Carleson with him to that damned Chinatown task force, I can’t give you any more help than that until I talk to him again. That’s where I’m going right now. To plead our case.”


“Start by informing the widow and getting her statement. I’ll drop you off.”

“No problem, Ann.”

“There’s more,” she said, glancing over at him.

“There always is.”

“Barkley’s been chosen to replace Paup as deputy chief.”

“I’m not surprised,” Hank said.

“They’ve asked me to move up to acting commander of Detective Services Bureau.”

Now that was a surprise. “Congratulations, Ann. That’s great news.”

“Yeah, I guess.” She braked at a stop sign and looked at him. “They called me in last night. They’re not going to backfill my spot. The budget, as I said, is a bitch right now. They expect me to continue running Major Crimes along with the rest of the bureau. I told them they had to move you up to acting captain to run Major Crimes for me, but the chief refused. On top of that, he said he wouldn’t fill our detective vacancies.” She turned the corner and shook her head. “Given the huge case just dumped into our laps this morning, I’ve got to go right back and ask him to reconsider. We’re going to take major heat, and we need a small army to work this one.”

“Good luck,” Hank said.

“I’m going to need it.” She looked at him. “I won’t have much time to spare. I need you to run Homicide for me. It sucks they won’t pay you for it, but I need you to cover my ass.”

“You’ve got it.”

“Thanks. You have no idea.” Martinez slowed the car at an intersection, frowning at the street signs. “Am I going the right way? Am I getting close to Fairbanks Court?”

“You’re just a few blocks away,” Hank said. “Next right, then a left.”

She glanced again in the rear view mirror. “Where’s the cruiser? They’re supposed to be right behind us.”

“They’re coming, Ann. They know where to go. It’s their district.”

“I talked to Peterson before I came over,” she said, referring to Aaron Peterson, commander of Granger Park district. “He’ll make sure you have whatever uniformed assistance you need on this.”

“That’s fine.”

She sighed. “I have to get used to this.”

“You’ll be great.”

She slowed alongside a high cement wall topped with wire and cameras. “This must be it.” She pulled up to a gate. A uniformed security guard stepped out of a booth and approached the car. Martinez looked at Hank.

“I feel bad, dumping this on you.”

“No problem, Ann,” Hank said, unbuckling his seat belt. “This is what I do. Good luck downtown.”

“Yeah, thanks.”

Hank got out of the car and watched her drive away. Then he turned to the security guard and held up the leather wallet containing his badge and identification.

“Lieutenant Hank Donaghue, Glendale Police Department. I’m here to see Mrs. Jarrett.”

The security guard frowned. “Got an appointment?”

“Funny guy.” Hank looked at a golf cart parked on the other side of the gate. “Do I have to drive that thing myself, or is somebody going to take me up to the house?”

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