Sex and Murder.com: A Paul Turner Mysteryby Mark Richard Zubro
Craig Lenzati, the rich and powerful CEO of Chicago's answer to Microsoft, is found brutally murdered with stab wounds all over his body. The murder is reported anonymously, and a quick and quiet resolution to the case is demanded by City Hall. Meanwhile, the list of suspects is almost endless and that along has the powers-that-be breathing down the necks of
Craig Lenzati, the rich and powerful CEO of Chicago's answer to Microsoft, is found brutally murdered with stab wounds all over his body. The murder is reported anonymously, and a quick and quiet resolution to the case is demanded by City Hall. Meanwhile, the list of suspects is almost endless and that along has the powers-that-be breathing down the necks of Chicago Police Detectives Paul Turner and Buck Fenwick. But as the two struggle to untangle the case and find the killer, they soon learn that the killer has only just begun.
Mark Richard Zubro's wisecracking detectives are back and better than ever in Sex and Murder.com.
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Sex and Murder.com
By Mark Richard Zubro
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2001 Mark Richard Zubro
All rights reserved.
It is surprisingly easy to pick a victim. The real problem is waiting for the one you've chosen to be sufficiently frightened before killing them. The waiting can be a pain in the ass.
Standing in the bedroom doorway, Detectives Paul Turner and Buck Fenwick gazed at the dead body. Neither of them had gaped at a murder scene in years, but Turner thought that if he was going to gape at one, this was it. He could see blood covering or splashed on or flecked over every surface. The man who had become a pincushion for the killer lay in the middle of the floor. He had bled copiously from stab wounds on his face, neck, chest, arms, stomach, thighs, and calves.
Fenwick said, "I hate to go too far out on a limb here, but my guess is that we have a very, very, very, very, very angry killer."
"That's so like you," Turner said, "always jumping to wild conclusions."
"I feel philosophical angst when I don't jump to conclusions."
"I hope that isn't catching. Anybody been in here?"
Fenwick wrinkled up his nose. "It smells like piss."
The dead man's wet and stained boxer shorts were the only clothing he wore. They were soaked, but they weren't red. Turner knew it wasn't blood.
Tommy Quiroz, one of the beat cops, said, "I know my training. I didn't touch anything. I waited for you guys."
"How'd you get in?" Fenwick asked.
"The gate was open. We found the entire security system completely shut down."
"What kind of system?" Turner asked.
"As far as we could tell, he had alarms on all the doors and windows, even those on the second floor. A surveillance camera on the street entrance."
Fenwick said, "Did the victim shut it down, and if so why? Although my money is on the killer shutting it down."
All of them moved aside for the personnel from the medical examiner's office and the evidence techs to enter the room.
Continuing to be careful not to step in any of the smears of blood, the three cops retreated to the hallway to wait for the experts to finish their work.
"Who is this guy?" Turner asked.
Tommy Quiroz flipped open his notebook. "I assume it's Craig Lenzati, the owner. We found a wallet in one of the other rooms. My partner says he was rich. Place is sure big enough for it to be true. I think I read something in the papers about this guy owning half the Loop."
"I always wondered who owned the other half," Fenwick said.
"It's nice of you to be willing to share," Turner said.
The mansion was south and east of the Loop, the Prairie Avenue District. These homes had been spared by the Great Chicago Fire back in 1871. The fire had traveled north and east from its origins on the site of the current Fire Academy between Jefferson and Clinton Streets just south of Taylor. Turner found it intriguing that they had decided to build the academy on the site of the conflagration's beginning.
All the rooms on the ground floor had high ceilings with windows close to the ground. Each room they'd seen had been crammed with antiques.
"Supposedly he owned a lot of real estate, businesses, and politicians." Quiroz leaned closer. "The rumor is the call reporting the crime came in from the police superintendent's office."
"As in Devin Nelson superintendent of police in Chicago?" Turner asked.
"How's old Devin?" Fenwick asked.
"I don't know if he asked for you specifically," Quiroz said.
"He doesn't call me much anymore," Fenwick said.
"The superintendent found the body?" Turner asked. "Was it someone in his office or the superintendent himself who called?"
"I don't know."
Fenwick said, "We need to find out the sequence of events and who was involved in them, even if it includes everyone in the superintendent's office, which would be no bad thing. Locking up bureaucrats should earn me several merit badges."
"I never knew you were a Boy Scout," Turner said.
"I have many secrets," Fenwick replied. "What pisses me off is top police brass being involved in anything I am connected with. I was depressed enough already when I got to work."
"About what?" Turner asked.
"Life," Fenwick replied.
"You've been testy since before roll call. I know you haven't been to court to get steamed at the judicial system lately. You haven't seen any of the higher-ups all day. Something wrong at home?"
Fenwick was taciturn and not forthcoming, which was unusual but not unheard of. Turner knew to let him be when this happened. Eventually his partner would tell him what was bothering him. For now his reticence was not interfering with their jobs and might lead to a slackening in Fenwick's output of ghastly humor, though Turner doubted he'd be that lucky.
Fenwick continued, "If I see too many idiots from downtown, I'm not sure I'll be up to making death scene, cute-corpse comments."
"I'm not sure that's all bad," Turner said.
Fenwick said, "I live to make cute-corpse comments. It's my métier."
Everyone present, the medical examiner, the crime lab and evidence technicians, the photographers, and the beat cops, all stared at Fenwick. He saw the attention and smiled, "What?"
"Buck," Turner said, "why don't you go back to making cute-corpse comments. It fills a need in your soul, and it might keep you from spouting out-of-character clichés. Philosophical angst? Métier?"
"You don't like my grim cop humor? Instead of philosophical angst, you want me to talk about hemorrhoids?"
"Specifically or generically?" the ME asked.
"Hell of a choice," an evidence tech said. "If we're voting, I vote for neither."
Turner said, "Buck, we've been partners for years. I've heard more of your trenchant comments, gotten more information about your physical oddities, and heard more of your jokes than anyone except your wife."
"More. She cuts me off from sex if I keep it up."
Turner guffawed loud enough for beat cops in the living room to enter the hall and stare at him wonderingly. When Turner stopped chuckling, he said, "I certainly hope that was an inadvertent choice of words rather than a description of reality."
The ME said, "Did I hear right? Somebody's cutting off Fenwick's dick? I want to be there for that."
"That's not what he said," a crime scene tech said, "however, we could make that a threat to keep him from telling any more jokes. And we could offer to make it a complicated, painful operation using only a spoon and a fork."
"Count me out," Turner said. "The sight of blood makes me want to interrogate people."
An evidence tech said, "Maybe the killer heard one of Fenwick's jokes and went berserk."
"Can we get out of here?" Quiroz asked. "It's painful when you guys stand around trying to be funny. I don't get paid for listening to that crap."
"Let's cut off his nuts," Fenwick suggested.
The beat cops in the past few years had become less inclined to put up with Fenwick's jeers and sneers. One of them muttered in a stage whisper, "If we're lucky, he'll be next."
"I heard that," Fenwick snapped. "It's not funny."
The reference to being "next" was to a report in that morning's Chicago Tribune claiming that there was a serial killer on the loose who was targeting police detectives. The reporter had drawn a line from Boston to Gary, Indiana, with five stops in between, where police detectives had been killed. All had been in cities through which Interstate 90 ran. Starting in Boston and preceding west through Albany and Buffalo, New York; Cleveland and Toledo, Ohio; South Bend and Gary, Indiana, one cop in each city had been stabbed multiple times. The murders had occurred once every six months over the past three years. If the killer was on schedule, according to the report, he or she would strike within the next week to ten days and the next major city west on the Interstate was Chicago. While the cop profiles in each city had not matched perfectly, the parallels the reporter had drawn between the descriptions and lives of the victims had been numerous and unsettling. Few cops might admit it, but Turner guessed most detectives in Chicago had checked to see if they matched the profile of the victims. Turner and Fenwick had each met some of the criteria.
Unfortunately, no one could be certain what the discrepancies might portend. The reporter's analysis could be inaccurate, or incomplete, or dead wrong. Cops could hope they weren't in danger, but no one could be sure. Turner knew that if there was a serial killer, this doubt was one of the things he or she could prey upon.CHAPTER 2
I like it best when they're complacent. When they don't believe it could happen to them. Detectives have huge egos. I want to deflate them. Their indifference to real human problems causes pain and suffering. I'm going to make them pay for all the indifference, and all the pain, and all the suffering.
Vinnie Girote, the mayor's press secretary, and Alex Yerson, the director of news affairs for the police department, showed up fifteen minutes after the evidence techs. Fenwick spotted the unwanted intruders. He asked, "Why are we being inundated with those fools?"
Turner said, "A desire to work on the side of truth and light? The politicians are frightened about the impact of the killing? One of our prominent fair citizens committed the murder? Hysterical overreaction? Damage control? I don't know, Buck. How many more guesses do I get?"
Fenwick said, "You can be Mister Question Man, and I'll be Mister Wisdom."
"How come you always get to be Mister Wisdom?"
"I'm better at making cute-corpse comments."
"That's getting just a trifle stale today." Turner knew that Fenwick was always one to beat a good joke to death.
Girote was a short, bald man in his late sixties, whose clothes never seemed to fit him quite right. They might be the most expensive, but he always looked like he'd just lost or gained fifteen pounds, so his clothes either clung too tight or billowed out too far. He had one characteristic Turner found most annoying. The detective had seen the type before: those who believed that if you were shouting, you were being effective.
Turner had seen Girote on the news and in person. His role as cheerleader seldom got in the way of his avoiding giving out information that was helpful or informative. The press corps, however, seemed to like him. He always made sure they had copious amounts of food at press buffets at major events and his sound bites resonated perfectly for the evening news. The reporters got plenty of advance notice of hot stories, which might be mostly geared to shed favorable light on the mayor and his administration, but it also made the reporters' jobs easier. Girote was also fantastic at doling out perks. If a writer needed tickets for their kids to an important sports event, they got them. If a reporter wanted front row seats at a hot theater opening, the tickets would miraculously appear.
Girote bulled past the beat cop stationed at the hallway entrance. He attempted the same maneuver on Fenwick.
"Going somewhere?" Fenwick asked. He moved his bulk to block Girote's progress. Fenwick's heft was legendary. His ability to pack away food second to none. His ability to devour chocolate unrivaled. His size, as much as his determination, effectively blocked the way.
"I need to see the body," Girote said. "I'm Vinnie Girote, the mayor's press secretary." Turner wished he had a volume control knob so he could bring the guy down several decibels.
"No." Fenwick's voice matched Girote's in volume, but Fenwick's tone also gave the syllable enough finality to impress a hardened gangbanger. Girote, at the moment immune to Fenwick's best, tried to push past him again.
"How would you know where the body was?" Turner asked.
Girote ignored him and attempted to surge forward for the third time.
Fenwick put a large fist on the man's chest. He said, "You are not going to disturb my crime scene. You are not going any farther. You are going to turn around and march out of this house faster than you came in."
Girote drew in more than his full share of oxygen and resumed shouting, "I told you who I am. You're only a cop. I represent the most important politician in this city. That makes what I want to know important." He began rocking from foot to foot, a prize fighter out of his element, or a case of nerves in someone unable to conceal his emotions.
Turner liked it when press people were nearly out of control. They were actually easier to handle at such moments and far more likely to blurt out something indiscreet.
Fenwick laughed. He asked, "Are you the pope or a close relative of his? Wouldn't matter. He wouldn't get in there either."
"Why are you here?" Turner asked. "And why do you need to see the body?"
"The mayor is very concerned."
Turner said, "How does him being concerned have anything to do with you seeing the body or the crime scene? I see no connection. What is it exactly he is concerned about?"
"I don't answer to you," Girote said.
Fenwick gave his lowest grumble, before which crazed, heroin-addicted triple murderers had quailed. He said, "This is a murder investigation. If necessary, you will answer to me." He took a step forward.
Girote stopped talking and moving. He eyed both detectives carefully.
Turner said, "I asked you once already. How did you know which direction to go in to look for the body?"
"Am I a suspect?" Girote demanded.
"Not if you have a good alibi," Turner said.
"Would you like to be?" Fenwick asked.
The man continued to breathe heavily. His eyes bugged out like a fish on a cold slab waiting to be grilled. His mouth gaped like a nozzle on a vacuum cleaner hose.
Finally Fenwick said, "I'll get someone to escort you out." He took the man's elbow in one massive paw.
Girote tried to yank his arm away from the grip. "Let me go!"
Turner said, "Buck, wait a second. Mr. Girote, if you give us some useful background about Craig Lenzati, perhaps we can accommodate you in some way."
"Well, I suppose," Girote said.
Fenwick let him go. They repaired to the kitchen, out of the way of any technicians. The director of news affairs for the police department followed silently.
Fenwick asked, "Why are the politicians so concerned about this murder?"
"It's obvious. He's a prominent citizen. One of the richest in the city. He was thinking of buying a professional sports team and bringing it to Chicago. He's brought a lot of high tech jobs to this town. His loss will be severely felt. The mayor wanted to make sure the investigation was being pursued with all vigor."
"Why not just call our boss and apply pressure?" Fenwick asked. "Why send you?"
"Is that really germane to solving the case?" Girote asked. "I think the mayor's concern is natural."
Without discounting this explanation, Turner remained highly suspicious of this level of direct personal concern.
"Tell us more about Lenzati," Turner said. "What's his background?"
"I thought everyone knew about Craig Lenzati. Don't you detectives read Kup's column or the INC column or anything?"
"Humor me," Turner said.
"Well, he and a friend started one of those Internet businesses in their garage while they were still in college at Northwestern. They were very rich before they were twenty-five. They sold their company for over a billion dollars. Now they have an experimental technology company that's making even more money. The original company employs several thousand people in this area. The new company is expanding very fast. They are on the cutting edge. It is only a slight exaggeration to say that he and his company were responsible for the technological renaissance in the city. Before them, it was moribund. Forget Motorola. They were pikers compared to these guys. He has also invested heavily in real estate in cities around the world, but nowhere more so than in Chicago."
"What kind of guy was he?"
"Great. Smart, a genius. A big tipper. A big contributor to charitable causes. He always had a big smile for everyone, but shy. A computer nerd, after all. Socially okay, in a if-I-don't-make-a-move-I-won't-make-a-faux-pas kind of way."
"Did he live alone?" Turner asked.
"As far as I know, he did. He came to many functions with eligible young women. One more beautiful than the last. I don't know if he was serious about any of them."
Fenwick said, "I hate it when they have mostly frivolous relationships with women."
Girote gave him a puzzled look.
"Gritty cop humor," Fenwick said. "Not important to solving the case."
"Do you think you should be approaching this with a flippant attitude? Maybe the mayor should get someone else on this case."
Fenwick said, "You're the one who wants to look at a dead body for no discernible reason, unless you've got a corpse fetish."
They glared at each other.
"Who's his partner?" Turner asked.
"You really don't know?"
Turner said, "If I know the answer to a question, I promise not to ask it."
Excerpted from Sex and Murder.com by Mark Richard Zubro. Copyright © 2001 Mark Richard Zubro. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Meet the Author
Mark Richard Zubro is the Lambda Literary Award-winning author of more than a dozen previous mysteries. He lives in Mokena, Illinois.
Mark Richard Zubro is the Lambda Literary Award winning author of two gay mystery series - the Tom&Scott series featuring high school teacher Tom Mason and his lover professional baseball player Scott Carpenter, and the Paul Turner series, featuring gay Chicago Police Detective Paul Turner. He is a high-school teacher, and president of the teacher's union, in the Chicago suburb of Mokena, Illinois.
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Craig Lenzati and Brooks Werberg were two nerdy individuals who worked in their garage trying to develop a dot.com company. They succeeded beyond their wildest dreams and sold their company for billions of dollars. They opened up another company that worked on cutting edge technology, especially artificial intelligence. Chicago detectives Paul Turner and his partner Buck Fenwick are called out to Craig¿s home. Someone murdered Craig using a large sharp knife with blood splattered everywhere. The killer struck him many times with the weapon before Craig died. The detectives also think the perpetrator urinated on the victim before he left. A few days later, the exact same thing happened to Brooks. The police believe they are dealing with an angry serial killer. As they dig into the victims¿ lives, the genteel veneer crumbles to reveal two oversexed powerful males playing games that made a lot of people angry. Paul and Buck have more suspects than a duck has feathers. SEX AND MURDER.COM is an exciting very dark police procedural that shows the reader the mindset of a police officer during a heinous investigation. The plot is fast moving and action packed, but turns quite graphic concerning the crime scenes. It is fascinating to read about a police investigation that demonstrates the usually slow pace of the puzzle pieces coming together. Mark Richard Zubro will surely receive a Lambda nomination if not the award for this engaging work. Harriet Klausner