Before You Accuse Me

“You want the truth?” Eleanor “Shoobie” Dube’s voice escaped from between gritted teeth and tight lips. “I knew where the evening was going as soon as he asked me if I still had handcuffs.”

Guthrie knew he had to ask. Shoobie’s divorce had been final eighteen months, and she’d barely dated at all in spite of everyone’s urging her to get back in the saddle.

“Do I look kinky?” she demanded. “I mean, really. Tell me the truth.”

Shoobie was one of three beautiful women in Guthrie’s life. In a funky blazer over a silk tee with a cool necklace, she could make better men than Guthrie think dirty thoughts.

“What’s your bio like?” He knew she was trying because it was impossible to meet guys in Detroit with her weird work hours. “Any boots and black leather? Or chains?”

“I’m a nice girl, dammit.” Shoobie gave him her ing├łnue eye-blink, which was pretty good, but they’d gone through the Detroit police training together, so he knew she was about his own forty. Their careers and personal lives had bounced off lots of hard surfaces since then.

“Guys of a certain age don’t want nice girls anymore,” Guthrie said.

“Speaking from experience now, are we?” Shoobie cocked an eyebrow. “Should I quote you?”

“Guys are assholes,” he said. “And, yeah, I guess I am speaking from experience.”

Shoobie let that sink in. “You think maybe I should re-do my bio?”

“Can’t tell without looking at it,” he said. “And it’s none of my business anyway. I’m in a serious, mature, committed relationship.”

“Yeah, rub it in.” Shoobie turned to her computer. “Here, check this out.”

Guthrie crossed to her desk and looked at the monitor.  He recognized the picture, Shoobie with her face turned slightly to the left to minimize the small scar under that eye. Her hair fell to her shoulders and her smile made her look young again.

“Nice picture,” he said. “Who took it?”

“Lowe. I trusted him more than Maxwell.”

“Good choice.” Guthrie read the bio and interests. She left off her age, stressing that she liked music and dancing and animals and didn’t eat red meat. But she had her college degree in law enforcement and social science out there for all to see… along with her fourteen-year career in law enforcement.

“I think I see the problem,” he said. “But I don’t know what you can do about it without leaving a big gap. Or lying, which is tacky on a dating site. Unless you’re a guy. Guys all lie.”

“That guys are assholes thing again?” Shoobie studied the screen.

“Yeah. Income, IQ, charm…”


Guthrie cleared his throat. Shoobie tapped a nail on the screen. She wore clear nail polish and kept her nails short.

“It’s the cop thing, isn’t it? The guy figures I’m this big butch broad, probably into B & D stuff, right?”

“I don’t know.” Guthrie studied her picture, attractive, but certainly not suggestive. “What did he look like?”

“Bigger than you.”

“That’s no feat. I still rely on my marvelous posture and sparkling personality.”

Shoobie rolled her eyes and rattled off details like the homicide cop she’d been until last winter. “About six-one, buff like he works out. Three-day stubble, shaggy hair, not long, just trying to look funky.”


“None that I saw. If the evening had gone farther, I might’ve found some. But when he asked about the handcuffs, I took a step away from the package. When he asked if I had a brass bed so he could lock me to the headboard, I was gone like a cool breeze.”

“Damn.” Guthrie felt like he had to apologize for his gender, but knew it was a waste of time. “Can you downplay the job, punch up the dancing? Try a picture in jeans or something, washing the car?”

“I don’t want to be in an ad for Ford Trucks, Woody. I’m not a cheerleader or a sorority chick. I’m just a normal girl who wants a little healthy stimulation to get my life back out of neutral.”

“Yeah.” Guthrie escaped to his own desk. “Maybe talk to Valerie when she comes in tomorrow. She can probably help. Why don’t I take a long lunch so you can show her your page.”

“That might work.” Shoobie stared at the screen. “You know, you’re not as big an asshole as a lot of guys.”

“No, the guy you met last night was taller. You said so.”

Their landline phones rang in unison. Guthrie picked up first. A man’s voice, tighter vowels than he usually heard in Detroit.

“I’d like to speak to Christopher Guthrie.”

“You are, sir. And you are… ?””My name is Daniel Lynch. I’m an attorney in Hartford, Connecticut.”

Guthrie glanced at his caller ID. Sure enough, 860 area code, not local. Shoobie motioned to his phone and he put the call on speaker while she hung up.

“I’m afraid you have the wrong Guthrie, Mr. Lynch. I’m in Detroit.”

“Yes, I know. I represent Samuel and Sarah Henderson, who wanted me to call you.”

“Samuel and Sarah…” Guthrie struggled to place the names. He didn’t go back to his high school reunion, but that was still in Michigan so it didn’t help much.

“Sarah McKinnon Guthrie Henderson.”

Guthrie felt a huge weight materialize in his stomach.

“That was a long time ago, Mr. Lynch.”

“Indeed, Mr. Guthrie. I told the Hendersons I didn’t recommend calling you, but your ex-wife insisted. I represent her husband, who is involved in a… situation here in Hartford. His wife wants me to hire you to investigate.”

“Mr… Lynch.” What was an unfortunate name for a lawyer, like a dentist named Doctor Payne or an accountant named Dewey Cheatem. “I’m sure you have several competent investigators in your area already. And if you throw in my travel and hotel expenses, they’re all probably a lot cheaper, too.”

“No doubt, Mr. Guthrie, but Doctor Henderson was adamant that I call you.”

Guthrie remembered Sarah when she dug in her heels. “Adamant” was an understatement, like saying the Rock of Gibraltar is solid.

“What’s the situation, counselor?” Guthrie found himself pulling a legal pad into position. Shoobie frowned and shook her head.

“Doctor Samuel Henderson is a prominent surgeon in central Connecticut,” Lynch said. “He’s one of the most respected brain surgeons in the area, a civic leader, a fine lecturer…”

“But he’s in trouble, isn’t he?” Guthrie knew he was hanging up in another minute. He opened his drawer and fanned several take-out menus across his desk.

Lynch exhaled through the phone. “The Hartford police consider him a person of interest in the murder of a young woman. They have questioned him thoroughly and still think he’s their man, although they don’t have enough evidence to make an arrest. Doctor Sarah–your ex-wife–wants you to come out here and work with me to prove his innocence.”

Guthrie put aside the pizza menu and picked up a Chinese instead. Shoobie liked Chinese, too.

“Do they really have enough evidence to consider him a serious suspect? Or are they just on a snipe hunt?”

“Well, he did know the woman in question. And there may have been a motive. But they can’t pin down the exact time of death, and he has no alibi for part of the critical period.”

“When you say ‘motive…'”

Daniel Lynch drew another deep breath.

“Frederika Holmstadt was Dr. Henderson’s mistress.”