“ Here, ruining people is considered sport.”
Suicide Note of White House Attorney Vincent Foster referring to Washington, D.C.
It is a tree that comes forth in the root of Hell;
it’s spathes are as the heads of Satans,
and they eat of it, and of it fill their bellies,
then on top of it they have a brew of boiling water ….
The Koran, XXXVII.63
It is closing time at the Labyrinth, a posh Washington, D.C., restaurant in the northwest quadrant of Capitol Hill. The Labyrinth has been catering to Washington’s power elite for nearly two decades. It’s an exclusive place, where senators and congressmen routinely dine with the heads of capital and industry. It is where movers meet shakers over $1,000-a-plate fundraisers. Within these elegant confines, lobbyists lurk, padding their expense accounts, picking up checks, while relentlessly pandering for the special interests of whomever is paying them. Each night, amid the sounds of colliding crystal glass toasts, a ballet of public relations is performed. While the movements of this ballet are purposely subtle, they are meant as much to be seen as they are to be heard. The pumping handshake, the slap on the back and the occasional burst of insincere laughter all punctuate the chorus melody of succulent sirloin being cut on fine china.
The man in charge of the evening operation is the Maitre D’, Alexi Defarshi, an Iranian in his mid-30s who always refers to himself as Persian. He fled his homeland after the revolution and he has never wanted to return. Alexi is a handsome man with olive skin, black penetrating eyes and a thick, well-trimmed mustache. His hands are soft and well manicured reflecting a lifetime of abstinence from manual labor. He is a sophisticated, worldly man and an impeccable dresser. Through this façade Alexi maintains his commanding presence which at times borders on the ominous. He is an intimidating man who gives quiet, firm orders that are never questioned by his staff. He rarely uses the word please.
It is 3:30 a.m. at the Labyrinth and the final cleanup and checkout operations are nearly complete. Alexi paused for a moment from conducting his final inspection of the dining room and gazed intently at the view outside. Framed perfectly in the enormous dining room window is the nation’s Capital. The Capital’s white Rotunda stands illuminated in the night by a thousand spotlights, a glowing white beacon in the dark which marks the citadel of American power. Dressed in his Armani tuxedo, Alexi’s 6-foot frame is silhouetted against this formidable backdrop. It was a moment Jennifer Vallos, a waitress that evening, will never forget. Although she wanted to tell Alexi so much more, she instead uttered a faint “goodnight” and quietly closed the entrance door behind her. Alexi, who appeared lost in his own thoughts, never acknowledged her. It was time to go. He set the alarm and left.
A cold and late autumn evening greeted Alexi as he emerged from the foyer of the Labyrinth. Leaves were plastered to the wet pavement by a pelting rainfall which had ended an hour earlier. Alexi lit his first Kool cigarette of the evening, inhaled deeply, walking briskly to his car in the side parking garage. His gray Astin Martin sports car awaited him. As always, he finished his cigarette before entering the car. The throbbing pulse of this finely tuned engine was music to Alexi’s ears. He waited until the walnut enshrined gauge indicated the proper temperature, then he shifted into gear, speeding off in the direction of his townhouse.
It was a five minute drive to the other side of Capital Hill at this time of morning. As he approached his home, Alexi could see a black sedan pulling away from a parking space to the rear of his house. Candace Cole’s yellow Mustang was parked in the alley entrance to his driveway. Candy, as he liked to call her, was Alexi’s significant other. Significant or not, she should never have blocked the alley entrance to the garage. Alexi would never leave his car on the street and Candy knew that. For now he would have to park in the space which had just become available. Then he would wake her ass up and they would exchange places.
Alexi parked in the vacated space and turned off the engine. The last pulsating noise of combustion faded into the night as Alexi slowly opened the car door. He did not yet see the dark figure emerge from behind the shadows of the tree across the street. The darkly clothed figure of a man approached rapidly from the rear of Alexi’s view. The figure was within arm’s reach of Alexi, who was standing with his back facing the figure. The figure’s right arm was now fully extended and the black leather fist was clutching a .32-caliber automatic with silencer. Something made Alexi turn before shutting the door. The weapon was thrust inches from Alexi’s back at the moment Alexi turned and confronted the figure.
The first muffled explosion sent a bullet directly into Alexi’s navel, penetrating his spine. Alexi doubled over from the pain as he stared speechlessly into the face of his assailant. The figure then shoved Alexi back into his car while firing a second shot which entered the lung just to the right of Alexi’s heart. The impact of this second bullet knocked out what little wind there was left in his remaining lung.
It was now impossible to scream. While writhing with pain on the seat of his car, the third and final bullet was shot directly into Alexi’s gaping mouth.The bullet exited from the back of his skull and embedded itself into the carpet. During these last few seconds of life, Alexi’s body went into violent convulsions, hissing a choking death rattle. The figure reached down and lifted up Alexi’s legs, stuffing them back into the car. Then quietly, shut the car door and walked across the street into the shadows of the trees and lit a Marlboro cigarette. A minute later a car pulled up and stopped under the tree. The figure finished his cigarette and then got into the black sedan to be driven away.
The Crime Scene
The body of Alexi Defarshi was discovered moments after sunrise by an early morning jogger. Police units arrived at 5:20 a.m. Knowing not to touch anything, they secured the crime scene by enveloping it with yellow tape and posting officers around the perimeter who awaited the arrival of homicide. Detective Darren ‘Hoops’ Harrison of the Homicide Division arrived 27 minutes later. After locking his unmarked car, Harrison stood away from the scene and surveyed it from a distance. His 6-foot, 6-inch frame was draped in a black London Fog trench coat, but his dark complexion and cool stare explained why it was rarely necessary for Harrison to say “step aside please.” In his four years as a homicide investigator, Harrison had sent 27 men to Lorton prison for murder and one more to the morgue when he proved reluctant to stand trial. Back in his college days, Harrison played basketball at Howard University. Now he was a young and well connected black man, both on the department and in City Hall. He was going places.
Harrison surveyed the scene from a distance. Bright yellow tape which read Police Line Do Not Cross surrounded the gray Astin Martin. Harrison took out his notebook and began to quickly jot down his first impressions. The shooter stood at the left side of vehicle. How did he approach? Was he known to victim? If not known, how could he approach victim and not be seen? Check out scene after dark! Streets: Two One Ways and One Two Way. No apartment houses only townhouses. Car parked before alley. No townhouses across the street because of Park. Trees — cover and concealment? Harrison stopped writing and walked toward the car. He ducked under the bright yellow tape while slipping on a pair of surgical latex gloves.
Members of the evidence team were photographing the various angles of the murder scene. Others were preparing to crane the victim’s car. Two of the .32-caliber shell casings had been located outside the car and a third casing was visible inside the vehicle. Harrison instructed evidence to wait until Doctor Lee, the coroner, was through examining the body before attempting to remove and bag the third casing. The vehicle would be towed to the Evidence Bay for processing. The body would be taken to the morgue for a post mortem. Harrison observed powder burns on the victim’s mouth, indicating that the shot was taken at extremely close range. Most likely from inside the vehicle.
“Isn’t this the kind of car James Bond used to drive, Doctor Lee?” Detective Harrison asked.
“Yes it was. Why do you ask? Do I look like Odd Job to you? ” replied Doctor Lee with his normally thick, Korean accent.
“This man was no James Bond,” Doctor Lee said. “He definitely forgot to put up the protective shield,” he said while looking up from the corpse and smiling at his own joke. “And how have you been Detective Harrison?”
“Just hanging when it’s this early in the morning, Doctor. Let me take a wild guess — the victim died of gunshot wounds.”
“I can do better than that Detective. My preliminarily investigation indicates the victim died of this gunshot wound.” Doctor Lee said while rolling Alexi’s head to one side and pointing to the hole in the back of his skull. When Doctor Lee lifted the head, strands of the blood syrup clung to the carpet.
Harrison knelt down for a closer look. “Looks pretty fatal to me.” Harrison agreed. “ How long ago?”
“Two — maybe three hours — pretty fresh. I’ll tell you more later,” Doctor Lee said.
Harrison retrieved the personal effects. Wallet, an address book, a Rolex watch and a passport. Now it was Ziploc time. The body could be moved.
A crowd formed around the police barriers. The Press had arrived and they where taking pictures. A camera crew and reporter from the “One and Only Channel Nine” was filming the scene live from the top of their van. Ziploc time was always a media favorite. They loved filming the body bag getting stuffed into the meat wagon. In seconds, these microwave transmissions from the crime scene would be beamed to every home in the D.C. metropolitan area just in time for morning breakfast and the early morning edition of the “One and Only News.” Good morning Wash- ing – ton!
A police officer approached Detective Harrison and whispered in his ear. Harrison nodded slowly acknowledging the message. Alexi’s significant other, Candice Cole, would like the detective to meet her in Alexi’s townhouse. She hated the press.
Candace Cole greeted Detective Harrison at the foyer entrance to Alexi’s townhouse. She was visibly shaking and a single tear had managed to snake its way down the corner of her lightly freckled cheek, smearing her freshly applied base coat of makeup. Her red hair was neatly in place, barely touching her shoulders and her shapely figure was cloaked in expensive, casual clothes. She was wearing charcoal pants and a coral colored cashmere sweater masked her small firm breasts, looking like a page out of a Talbot’s catalogue. Her jewelry had an understated elegance.
Single gold pieces. A charm necklace, a gold lady’s Rolex, a college or signet ring of some kind and the obviously tell-tale marks of a missing wedding ring which Harrison now figured was hidden somewhere in her Gucci bag. Harrison would take her written statement downtown, however, first he wanted to go inside and have a look around. He began as always, by expressing his condolences. After having his walk around inside and talking briefly with Candace Cole, like it or not, he knew it was time to call in the dinosaur.
“Hello,” Rogers answered fumbling after recovering from dropping the phone at the third ring. The hollow sounding thud echoed off the walls of the sparsely furnished, uncarpeted bedroom. Once again Rogers was awakening to what would prove to be an excruciating hangover.
“Sgt. Rogers this is Harrison, I’m sorry to have to wake you, but I think I’m going to need some help on a homicide we are handling here.” Harrison could hear Rogers clearing his throat on the other end of the line.
Harrison continued, “The victim is an Iranian named Alexi Defarshi. He was the Maitre D’ at the Labyrinth, according to his girlfriend. He’s been shot three times … stomach – chest – and head. It looks like a professional hit. No jewelry or money taken. Someone definitely wanted him dead.”
“What’s the girlfriend’s story?” Rogers asked abruptly.
“Well, she is the reason that I’m calling you. The girlfriend is Candace Cole, the daughter of the Connecticut Cole, as in Senator from the State of. Senator Roy Cole is also the chairman of the Intelligence Committee.” Harrison paused long enough to let it sink in, and then he proceeded. “Also the victim had an address book on him. You would not believe the names in this book Sarge!”
“So — what do you need me for Darren?” Rogers knew, but he wanted to hear Harrison say it.
“Well … this looks like it’s going to be a high profile case. The media is already busting my balls to find out what happened. With a United States senator’s daughter involved, I want to make sure …”
“C.Y.A.” Rogers interrupted. “Guess you figure I don’t have a career left to lose huh, Darren?’
“ Well Sarge … I would prefer to say — utilize your ex-per-tease.” Harrison replied while conjuring up his best North Carolina drawl for emphasis. “You’ll see what I mean when you get here. We’re all gonna be walking on pins and needles with this one sir,” he said with deliberate affectation.
“Whatever,” Rogers replied wearily. “I’m on my way. Be there in 45 minutes or so.”
They both hung up.
“Yes!” Harrison said aloud.
Irwin Rogers was getting out of the shower thinking to himself about C.Y.A. Cover Your Ass — the first commandment of law enforcement thought Rogers grumbling as he prepared to shave. Call in the expendable. If things fuck up now, they’ll have someone to blame it on. The dinosaur did it. Sorry Senator Shit Head. It was all that asshole Rogers’ fault. You have our word that it won’t happen again. That dinosaur is about to become extinct.
Rogers had nothing against Darren Harrison. He had seen Harrison under fire and liked what he saw. Rogers helped investigate Harrison’s first departmental shooting two years earlier. Harrison had a murder warrant for a cold-blooded killer named Willie Norton. Norton had been on a one-man crime wave across the city holding up taxi drivers. Whenever cabbies failed to come up with at least $100 during the hold up, Willie blew their heads off with his sawed off 12 gauge he carried under his overcoat. Three heads later, Darren Harrison was on his case, warrant in hand.
Willie was one of those guys who used to brag to his Home Boys about how he “ain’t never gonna go back to jail again. They’ll have to k-i-l-l me!” he boasted to his fellow Gangstas in the Hood. Fortunately for Harrison, one of Norton’s homies was also an informant who remembered Harrison back in the days he played for Howard. There were a few Gangstas out there who didn’t want to see Harrison get hurt.
“ Yo man, you ain’t gonna take Willie down without a fight. I’m telling you that straight up,” Harrison was warned. “If you give him a chance, Willie will 12 gauge you ass.”
A pair of Redskin tickets will buy you a lot of information on the streets of D.C. and Harrison had the connections to pick up a pair now and then. It was a pair of Skin tickets that bought Harrison the location of Willie’s hide-out. That same night Willie got his wish, right between the eyes while running down a fire escape, 12 gauge in hand. The last words he ever heard were Harrison’s when he peeked around the corner of the building and yelled “ Yo … Willie” BANG. “Freeze … Po- lice.” Of course Rogers wrote the report up a little differently than that. Rogers understood that there are still assholes out there who seriously believe that when you come face-to-face with a psycho armed with a shotgun, you’re supposed to first say “Freeze … Po-lice” so that the psycho gets a fair shake at blowing your head off. Play by the rules against those who play by none. Yeah, right! Maybe in TV Land, but not in D.C. Land. On the real streets, if you want to come home in one piece, there is a simple motto to live by. It is far better to give than to receive. Rogers remembered watching the coroner Zip Locking Norton’s corpse while preparing to take him to morgue. “Now you know how it feels Willie,” Rogers remembered thinking.
The shower was waking Rogers and he was beginning to better understand why Darren Harrison was calling him in. Two decades ago Rogers would have called in a dinosaur to cover his butt. Now it was Rogers’ turn to play dinosaur and he was beginning to understand the natural selection process. This involved politics, and in Washington, D.C., that means anything goes. Everybody thinks they’re a somebody in this town, Rogers thought. Police work in D.C. is like no other place on earth. Always being careful. Careful not to get shot and especially careful about whom you offend.
Irwin Rogers looked into the mirror and realized he looked like every bit of his 46 years. For exactly half his life he had been a cop. Fresh out of the Army and a tour in ‘Nam, being a cop was the first job Rogers took. At 23, he used to be the guy on the fast track, or so he thought. Shit happens and now he’s the dinosaur. A white dinosaur and a minority within his department and city. His career was at the end of the track and he knew it. His 6-foot frame carried 30 pounds more than it needed and the injuries of his youth were slowly turning arthritic. It ached to get up in the morning and stumble out of bed. The trip to the bathroom meant wading through a minefield of last night’s beer cans. If it wasn’t for his child support payments, Rogers would have been retired long ago. Two more years Rogers thought, as he pulled the razor across his graying stubble. Two more years and I’m out of here.
“Shit,” Rogers remembered aloud. Two of his three suits were in the cleaners and the third was in a wrinkled mass in the chair next to his bed. Plug in the iron. “Please,” Rogers thought, “let there be a fresh shirt at least.” There was one left. The white one with the missing top button. Why did I bother to shave, Rogers thought to himself, I might as well go to work looking like a complete wino. “Two more years to go,” he said aloud. He finished dressing and headed out the door holding a cup of coffee in one hand and his keys in the other.
On the Case
Rogers arrived at Police Headquarters, 1400 Indiana Avenue, at exactly 8 a.m. He took the elevator up to Homicide Division where he met with Harrison who was busy taking a witness statement from Candace Cole. Also in the room was Inspector Alphonso Foggs. Inspector Foggs was engaged in a self initiated career enhancement activity. Put simply, Foggs was sucking up to Candace Cole. That was typical of Foggs, Rogers thought. He couldn’t wait for his next promotion. It wasn’t the money he sought. Contrary to popular belief, the annual income of an Assistant Chief isn’t much more than Rogers and his ex-wife used to pull in together. Hardly enough to sell your soul for. It must be the power he needed. The added authority gave him a boost of testosterone. Rogers imagined that as soon as Foggs found out a senator’s daughter was in the building, he polished his name plate and made it a point to strut into Homicide for the sole purpose of kissing butt. In Rogers’ mind there would always be two basic kinds of cops in the world – those who kicked ass and those who kissed it. Foggs would always be a world-class kisser.
Rogers tightened his buttonless collar by pulling the knot on his tie closer to his neck. He hoped Alphonso Foggs wouldn’t notice when entering the room. He headed straight for Harrison.
“Good Morning Inspector,” Rogers said routinely while walking past the inspector and directly toward Harrison.
“Detective,” Foggs replied, never glancing in Rogers’ direction.
“Let’s talk,”Rogers said toHarrison, gesturing toward the adjacent room with his eyes.
Once in the adjacent room they closed the door.
“ Looks like you had a rough night Sarge,” Harrison said smiling.
“Thanks for noticing,” Rogers said. “Listen, since we’re going to be working together if it’s all the same to you, I would prefer Irwin to that Sarge stuff. Sarge reminds me too much of the Army.”
“O.K. Irwin,” Harrison replied, still smiling. Harrison would have preferred just about anything other than to be asked to call a man Irwin.
“Secondly,” Rogers said, continuing, “I can live with the fact that I bear no resemblance to a page out of G.Q., rather than be my fashion consultant, I would much prefer to hear your comments about the victim,” Rogers said with some impatience.
“O.K.” Harrison said catching the hint. “Alexi Defarshi was living large, especially for a Maitre D’. The man lived a rich man’s life and he had a crib to match. According to some papers I happened to glance at in his desk, Defarshi maintained a six-figure bank balance at Riggs National Bank along with a safe deposit box. In his two-car garage there was a brand new Porsche behind door number one and behind door number two he parked that vintage Astin Martin he was driving on the evening in question. His townhouse was the half a million dollar variety and he didn’t cut any corners when it came to the interior decorations either. Oriental rugs, oil paintings, and a wardrobe that even I would envy.” Harrison said concluding with another smile. “Oh, and check out this Rolex while you’re at it. A Presidential no less.”
Rogers was impressed but tried not to show it.
“Anything in my size?” said Rogers, smiling back, attempting a rebound off Harrison’s smile.
Harrison held his smile and then slowly shook his head left to right.
“So,” Rogers said, continuing “ our victim obviously had another source of income and he worked as a Maitre D’. That gave him access to the rich and powerful every night, so what was his game? Drugs?”
“Well,” Harrison said, “this address book I was telling you about has some very interesting names in it.” Three senators, one is our witness’ father, Senator Cole. Then there are some names I don’t recognize along with half a dozen Congressmen that I do. Also, there is a name you should be familiar with. Sabrina Delfuco.
“Madame Sabrina?” Rogers said in astonishment.
“That’s right,” said Harrison. “ Madame Freaky Deeky herself.”
“I remember when she was operating out of the Columbia Plaza next to Watergate. That was back in the break-in days of Nixon. I can’t believe she is still operating,” Rogers said in amazement.
“Guess you can teach an old whore new tricks,” Harrison said.
Just then, Inspector Alphonso Foggs loudly interrupted their conversation.
“I believe that Miss Cole is through writing her statement — so — if one of you detectives wouldn’t mind adjourning from your meeting, I’m sure that Miss Cole would appreciate your consideration,” Foggs said loudly enough for her to hear him in the other room.
No doubt about it, Rogers thought, Alphonso Foggs had all the makings of a Chief of Police.
George Munkelwitz has been a law enforcement officer for 32 years. He spent 22 years patrolling the streets as a Prince George’s County Police officer. He served in Vietnam as a military intelligence specialist where he worked with the controversial Phoenix Program. Prior to the anthrax attack, he was writing the book “The Mother of Satan.” After the anthrax attack, an article appeared in the Washington Times magazine Insight, quoting his expertise in military intelligence, and mentioning his book. ABC news interviewed him but he felt the network treated him like a suspect and not an expert in the field. He never published the book after that interview. Nearly two decades later, his serial novel is finally published by Baltimore Post-Examiner.