Anything bad that happens at Disney World easily makes it to the national news within minutes.
Murder is always sure to lead on the six o’clock news. So, a murder happening at the most Magical Place on Earth was big talk around every water cooler in America the day after the headlines hit. Add in both the suspect and victims were minor Disney celebrities and the tabloids went nuts.
She was a former Mouseketeer, from 82 to 83, married to the star of two Disney movies, from the Seventies. They had divorced once but it did not take and they were working on their tenth year of wedded turbulence. Saying theirs was a hostile relationship would be an understatement. The Jets and the Sharks got along better, in fact the marriage had ended similarly to what had happened to Riff and Bernardo. She was still alive him not so much. She was the first and only suspect.
Her lawyers wanted to pay me a lot of money, to look over the official version and see if I could poke some holes in it. The defense team waved a bunch of money at me and thought I would jump. Typically, I would be a fool to say no. But this was a high-profile case and a lot of eyes were on it and I did not like being near the spotlight. I avoided public attention like a redhaired freckled face tourist avoids the Florida sun. But the paycheck was right; big, huge, and enormous. So, I agreed and signed non-disclosure contracts with addendums and clauses.
The law firm wanted me to read the files first but I waved them off. I wanted to go to the scene of the crime and view it with my own peepers before I started slogging through other people’s impressions.
Now it is said ‘no one dies at Walt Disney World’ and this is technically true. No one is officially dead until a Sawbones says, ‘that man is dead.’ But for all the adults in the room we know that is just not true. People are dead no matter where a doc says those four little words. But hey who am I to disagree with a technicality.
I arrived at the Polynesian Resort lobby to meet my minder, Jerry Waters. Jerry was the lead investigator for the D.A.s office, a decent guy but he was a company man, and he never let you forget it. I was going to be the metaphorical enemy for this interaction. We made small talk but I avoided questions about the case until I could see the scene.
We had walked around the outside of the Moorea Longhouse and I saw that Disney had not been asleep at the switch. Surrounding the end of the exterior of the Longhouse was a tasteful but blocking barrier of moveable shrubs in wheeled planters.
I know all about Disney but I don’t know how they maintained this army of silent green and brown sentinels. Was there a lone person out there responsible for keeping them trimmed and watered, who turned them occasionally so that they had a nice uniformity of growth. Inquiring minds wanted to know.
We approached a Disney Security Host sitting in a golf cart, underneath a big umbrella trying hard to look alert while watching the slowing growing botany barrier. I wondered if he had a watering can; you know to help maintain its lush greenness.
Jerry showed his ID and the bored Security Host dutifully checked his clipboard and had both of us sign in. Jerry produced a Disney card key, that we would use from the interior hallway. It was the last room on the end facing the water and Jerry told me that Disney had emptied all the rooms beside, across and above it so no one could look into the patio area of the crime scene.
Jerry handed me a pair of gloves which I put on, not bothering to remind him that I was already under strict instructions to touch nothing. It was pointless anyways the Crime Scene Investigators had already been through the place, photographing, videoing, collecting, printing, and inventorying everything in the room.
I saw that all the sheets and such were missing from the bed and a large section of the carpet had been cut out as well. No doubt being examined under a microscope at the Orange County Crime Lab.
I asked Jerry to tell me the D.A.’s theory of the crime. I stressed theory to remind him I was working for the opposing counsel.
Jerry looked at me with aloofness as if he had all the answers and I was going to come up empty. I was under no illusion that I could disprove the prosecutors , but I do like to come up with my own answers. I am hardheaded that way. So, I simply listened intently to the facts and set aside his attitude.
“The victim. (He said the name but I for the sake of avoiding sensationalism I will not use it here.) He had come back from the autograph signing at the Contemporary.
“From all reports, no evidence of anyone else in the room except his wife, the killer.”
“Alleged killer.” I said, just to continue our verbal jousting.
Jerry sighed. “The accused, came back two hours later, drunk as a skunk, she had to be escorted back by her assistant. The deceased was sitting on the patio and the married couple continued their low-level argument from earlier in the evening and the assistant departed. An hour later their argument escalated and she stabbed him with the steak knife that was on the room service tray. She then cleaned the blood off her hands with the bloody towels and wash cloths from the shower. She then took off to Disney Springs where she drank until she was cut off from further intoxicating beverages by the staff, then she came back here and called the cops putting on a big boo hoo show for the cops.”
“How did you get the timeline?”
“Well, the door was activated by the deceased’s card key at six p.m., then he ordered room service, a steak which came with the murder weapon.” He paused for dramatic effect. “The statement of the assistant, and then her getting cut off at Raglan Road down at Springs, then her call to 911 from the room. Not to mention temperature of the corpse and rigor mortis.”
“Motive?” I asked hoping the widow did not have one.
“She found him making out with a blonde fangirl in the Green Room earlier today, which was probably revenge for her affair last year with the pool boy.”
“Ouch.” I said. “Clichésish, but good motive.” And I thought, something the jury would just eat up if this went to trial.
I looked around the room visualizing his account. Her coming back to the room entering from the patio, him following. Them arguing about his infidelity, him throwing hers up in her face. Her getting mad, grabbing a knife off the tray on the table and stabbing him, then her cleaning up, and going back out while her husband was bleeding out on the now bloodstained mattress. “So, she stabs him, cleans up, and leaves with him bleeding out on the bed?”
“Have you met her?”
I shook my head. “I have not had the pleasure.”
“Cold. A real ice queen.”
I got a blank look from Jerry.
I shook my head. “Philistine.” I said quietly.
“What did you say?”
“I said ‘Canteen’ as in enough blood to fill a canteen.” I said, motioning towards the stained mattress.
“Oh.” Jerry said unconvinced.
“Just one wound?”
“Up through the stomach, nicked a lung, took him a while to bleed out.”
I looked around, the room. “So, your theory is she stabbed him, washed her hands, left to go drink more, then comes back here and calls the cops.” I shook my head something was not right.
“The drinks were wearing off but she was still not thinking straight, probably thinking her celebrity would mean she would be believed. Plus, she has a history of violence.”
I raised an eyebrow.
“Six separate incidents of her picking up whatever was in reach and either throwing or hitting someone or at least trying to. And the cops are very familiar with their address in LA.”
Jerry looked a little uncomfortable at this. “No convictions and only two arrests, but all the others were documented they just did not go anywhere, officially.”
“People were paid off.” Jerry said.
“Now that sounds shaky.”
Now Jerry shrugged.
I nodded and decided that I had seen enough. I bid adieu to Jerry and headed back to the lawyers office to review the file. This included looking at the crime scene photos and an inventory of the room. Nothing jumped out at me, the case looked strong from a forensics point of view. No stray fibers, no unidentified fingerprints, no suspicious gloves, or strange footprints in the bushes outside the crime scene.
No matter what you see on television, hardly any cases are made on forensic evidence. Oh, it helps to confirm some things, it sometimes eliminates possibilities but usually most cases are made by good interviews and someone messing up or eyewitnesses seeing something. And forget about the shocking reveal in court under testimony, that is strictly a dramatic TV tool.
I started reading through the statements taken by the detectives. They had interviewed everyone, including the wife. I read her’s first.
They only thing that differed from Jerry’s account was the stabbing. She said her dear husband was alive and well when she left to go get a few more drinks.
I read it through a couple of times looking for something out of place but everything seemed straightforward. Pausing I got some food brought in, paid for by the law firm, sandwiches always taste better when someone else if picking up the tab. This is my opinion and I am sticking to it.
While eating my toasted ham and cheese on wheat I read through the Disney Cast Members statements. A few housekeeping statements, the Security Host who responded to the room and checked the pulse of the dead man, who then had the now widow wait outside the room with her until the cops got there just a few minutes later. Disney seemed to have managed their part perfectly. The Deputies statement, even he seemed to have done it by the book, then the scene was handed over to the medical examiners office and the crime lab.
After finishing my lunch or early dinner I decided to get into the meat of the matter. First, I read the statement of the girl the deceased had been canoodling with in the green room. She freely admitted to being with the much older but charismatic man and getting caught by wife. She then left after harsh words were said and spent the evening with her friends in the Magic Kingdom. Her ticket and ride photos from Splash Mountain and the Haunted Mansion had confirmed she had been in the park the rest of the night, until long after the deceased was stabbed.
I still put her statement off to the side to review at a later date in case something else came up. My job was not to find a killer, just to create doubt that the client was the killer.
Then I got to Archie the Assistant. Yes, his actual name was Archie. I did not believe I had ever met an Archie in person, the only ones I knew were from reruns of All in the Family and the one who hung out with Jughead, Betty and Veronica.
I always liked Betty over Veronica; what can I say I like blondes.
Archies statement was long, so I got comfortable and started reading. Archie had been with the client for only a short time. He admitted to being a super fan of hers and how big a thrill it had been to be hired to work for her. He admitted that she was drunk when they left the Contemporary, in fact she was drinking on the monorail. She had carried the cup all the way back to the room and thrown it away in the trash can when they arrived at the room.
I nodded at this. I had known a drunk that carried a two-liter glass growler fifteen blocks in the Netherlands. He fell down twice and it never touched the ground. Drunks can and have done strange and amazing things.
I made a mental note to check the inventory of the room’s trash.
I continued to read the statement. Archie described how totally blasted the lady was, she had tried to get off at the Grand Floridian because she had stayed there last time Disney had invited her back for one of these Mouseketeer Reunions, he of course stopped her and got her safely to the Polynesian. He described how the deceased had started cursing the accused out as soon they came into view. He described how the deceased had ordered him to leave after she went into the room crying. He had been unsure what to do but after hanging outside for a little bit he went to the Ticketing and Transportation Center to catch his bus to the All-Star Movie resort where the accused had put him up at her expense. He was adamant in his statement he did not believe his most admired starlet could have killed her nasty husband and he believed some crazed fan had done the deed, going as far as to suggest the hussy from earlier.
I put down the statement, looked through the file for the inventory of the room then I called the partner that hired me and told him to set up a meeting with the District Attorney.
We met in one of the District Attorney’s conference rooms the next morning. The Defense Attorney, the lead D.A., Jerry his investigator, the accused and Archie the Assistant, and little old me.
This was the first time I met the accused; I try and judge everyone by my own appraisal but I agreed with Jerry’s assessment, she was one cold individual. I suppose it could have been a performance, that was her profession after all, but something told me this was the real person, tightly composed, unflustered, and distant. Maybe that is why she drank to feel things. But that was not really important. I turned my attention to Archie. He was young and seemed to defer to his boss in everything. In fact, the only time he turned away from her was when someone was talking directly to him.
After we were settled the barrister who hired me allowed me to take the lead. I started with the accused.
“So, on the night of the murder you were very drunk.”
She simply shrugged.
“Anyone give you a breathalyzer?”
She nodded. “Once they took me to the police station.”
I checked my notes. “The test indicated you had a blood alcohol level of .02. I think most people will agree that is not very drunk.”
“It says in Archie’s statement that you took an alcoholic drink onto the monorail.”
“I do not recall, I had quite a few drinks earlier in the evening.”
“Do you know that alcoholic drinks are not allowed on the monorail?”
She simply shrugged. Her lawyer nodded for her to speak. “I am not sure I knew that rule.”
“Were you aware that they give black straws for alcoholic drinks, it makes it easier for Disney Security to identify drinks and enforce the rules on the monorail.”
She shrugged again but verbally answered as well. “I did not know that either.”
“I know the team that works that station, they are really good at turning away drinks.” It really was not a question so she remained impassive.
Now I turned my questioning to Archie. “Sir could you read the copy of the inventory of the trash can from the crime scene?” I slid the highlighted document over to Archie.
“One clear plastic cup and one clear straw.” He read out loud.
“So, in your statement you said she took an alcoholic drink onto the monorail and carried the cup all the way back to the room.”
Archie looked a little confused, then muttered. “I guess I was wrong.”
“I guess you were.” I looked over the statement, then added. “Let’s see if you were wrong any place else.” I continued from the statement. “You also stated that you had to restrain your boss from getting off the monorail at the Grand Floridian, which does not make any sense. As the resort monorail leaves the Contemporary, then stops at the TTC then the Polynesian. It does not stop at the Grand until after the Poly.”
Archie looked towards his employer. She more or less looked through him. He answered “I guess I was wrong; she might have just said that in passing, that she almost got off at that stop before. I was a bit confused when I gave that statement.”
I nodded. “Yes, you were confused about that night.” I quoted his statement. “I left the room by the patio door and walked to the Ticketing and Transportation Center and just missed my bus and sat for a half an hour waiting for the next one to my room at the All-Star Movie Resort.” I watched Archie start to fidget.
“You did not miss your bus; in fact, you never took a bus from the TTC to your resort because there is no bus service from the TTC to any Disney resort.”
Archie did not know what to do. He just stared at the woman he idolized and broke down crying. “I did it for you, so you could be free of the despicable jerk, you said you hated him. You said you would be better off without him, then we could be together.”
Finally, I saw the ice queen show emotion. Mostly shock. “I never said any such thing. What did you do?”
“You left, you had an alibi, so I came back into the room through the patio door you left open and he laughed at me when I told him you were going to leave him and run off with me.” I saw a big tear run down his face. “He laughed at me.”
That is when Jerry signaled for the boys in blue to come in and take away the crying Archie. He shouted as he was handcuffed. “I did it for you, so you could be free of him. So, we could be together.”
That was three days ago, I got a nice big check from the law firm today and the charges against the former Mouseketeer were dropped and then charges were filed on Archie the Assistant.
It just goes to show you what the Blue Fairy said to Pinocchio was correct. “A lie grows and grows until it is plain as the nose on your face.”
Other Miles Mitchell Mysteries
The Case of the Unhappy Camper
The Case of the Unhappy Camper -Audio Version
The Case of the Misplaced Ice Thingy
The Case of the Distrustful Defensive Defender