#22 – Unwillingly Involved
- Richard McKinelle died and left his entire estate to his widow.
- Leticia McKinelle, Richard’s youngest daughter, prepares to challenge the will.
- Leticia McKinelle approaches lawyer Elizabeth Marshall for advice with the will challenge.
- Duncan Marshall is arrested for the California murder of Claudio Breza.
“Leticia,” Elizabeth said as she took her hand. “It’s been way too long.”
Leticia knew it was a pleasantry and nothing more. She didn’t figure Elizabeth for two-faced, but at the same time one doesn’t exactly claim that it’s been “too long” when they greet their husband’s mistress unless one is going through the motions of polite behavior. “How have you been?”
“Well enough,” Elizabeth said. “So I looked over the documents that you sent me and… I’ve gotta tell you… they all seem in order.”
Leticia winced slightly, “that’s what I was afraid of.”
Elizabeth nodded, “yeah. Well, it’s not like there isn’t a basis for challenging an otherwise legally written document. Wills are a funny thing,” she said, “the spirit in which they’re written can be as important as the document itself. For example the mental capacity of the testator or undue outside influence at the time of writing…”
Elizabeth chuckled, “that’s what we call the person who wrote the will. Your Dad, in this case.”
“Ah,” Leticia said, “so there is a possibility that the will can be overturned?”
“Amended more likely,” Elizabeth corrected, “completely overturning the will would drive the estate into intestacy and we don’t want that either.”
“I’m confused,” Leticia said, taking a sip of the water that was placed in front of her.
“Good,” Elizabeth smiled, “that means I’m earning my fee.”
John Godspeed leaned against the door frame of the District Attorney’s office. It had been decided years ago that having an office for the D.A. in the Emerald Heights police department would save a great deal of time. Giulia Pagani was typing furiously into her computer, she had yet to look up since Godspeed had arrived at her door.
He cleared his throat in an attempt to get her attention. “Giulia,” he said as her fingers came to a halt and she looked up, “the, uh, suspects… have been processed.”
“Duncan and the Breza woman?” Giulia asked by way of clarification. It was only formality as there were no other inmates being processed that evening.
Godspeed nodded, “yeah.” He always felt terribly awkward speaking to Pagani while in her office. The room echoed something fierce and none of the sounds of the hustle and bustle of the main precinct room seemed to make it down the hall. He always felt that his voice was inordinately loud in this room – and it didn’t help that Giulia Pagani was young enough to be his daughter. “When are they to be transported to California?”
She shook her head, “it’s too late to transport them tonight,” she said, “and California isn’t going to pay to transfer them over the weekend, so we’ll probably have them until Monday.”
He nodded, “thanks.” He turned to go back down the hall when she spoke.
“Chief?” She asked.
He turned back as she stood and stepped around her desk. She leaned against the front of it with her arms crossed. It struck him as a far more serious pose than her soft features allowed. He leaned against the doorframe in his customary way, “you know this Marshall man better than I do… what do you think?” She asked further.
He drew in a long breath and then exhaled slowly and loudly. “I don’t know,” he said. “I knew his father very well… good man,” he added as he sort of looked over her shoulder, as if looking into the past. “Duncan doesn’t seem the sort, really, but then we know that in Emerald Heights that doesn’t count for much.” Giulia nodded. Godspeed added, “have you seen Burgess’ evidence?”
She shook her head, “just what the Los Angeles D.A. submitted in the warrant. He has a motive and the opportunity,” Giulia stated. “But… I can’t help but feeling like Burgess has an axe to grind. To come all this way and spend a week digging into Marshall’s personal life…” She trailed off.
Godspeed nodded, “maybe someone needs to investigate the detective?”
“Huh, oh nothing,” the man said, “just thinking out loud.” With that he straightened himself and left the District Attorney to her work.
“So our best bet is to try to prove that Clara somehow forced Dad to change the will?” Leticia repeated.
Elizabeth nodded, “yes, but it won’t be easy. You see, to me, it’s strange that this new will was crafted so shortly after your father and this woman began their relationship. There’s something strange about a man like your Dad disinheriting his children for a woman he’d only known for a few months.”
Leticia stabbed an unwitting tomato with undue viciousness, the fork clanked against the plate. She looked up into the other woman’s eyes for a moment, “yeah.” She said simply and contemplatively. “How do we figure out if she somehow pressured Dad into rewriting the will?”
“Now that’s the tricky part,” Elizabeth said, “the only way to prove it is… well… with proof. You have to get evidence that we can submit at trial that will show that Clara forced your father to change the will.”
“And that’s up to me… us?” Leticia asked.
Elizabeth nodded, “yep. There’s nothing that law enforcement can do unless what’s done was criminal – and we can’t prove that until after the case. See, I told you wills were special.”
“You said funny,” Leticia corrected, wagging a fork-speared piece of lettuce at the other woman.
“Not funny ha-ha…”
“I’m picking up on that,” Leticia said nodding. “I still have some things left at Pinewood that I have to pick up – so maybe I’ll have to a chance to snoop around while I’m there.”
“Okay,” Elizabeth said, “and those are the parts that I don’t want to know about.” She winked at Leticia who smiled back. Together the two women finished their lunch, neither giving any hint that, at one time, they had been arch enemies.
As Godspeed made his way back into the precinct room he noted that Anita Breza was still sitting against the far wall. His officers were no doubt preparing a cell for the woman. Still standing where he had left her Cassandra Marshall was shifting her gaze back and forth between Breza and the California detective.
He stepped up alongside Cassandra and gentle touched her elbow, “you can sit, Ms. Marshall,” he said.
She shook her head, “thank you, Chief.” She stopped looking back and forth between Burgess and Breza and turned her gaze toward Godspeed, “do you think he’s guilty?”
Godspeed shook his head, “no, I don’t.” He paused and then jerked his head gently toward Burgess, “and I think there’s more going on here than we know. I don’t get a good feeling about this Burgess fellow.”
Cassandra frowned and looked at him intently. It made the chief slightly uncomfortable, “what do you mean?”
Godspeed shook his head, “I don’t know, exactly. But he’s been in town for weeks, Cassandra, and he’s only just brought forward the warrants. I don’t think there’s anything in Emerald Heights that had anything to do with the case… it all has to do with your husband. The warrant,” he said, lowering his voice even further, “could have been written with the information that the LAPD already knew.”
Godspeed watched the woman turn and look at the detective, who was watching the pair of them closely. “What do you think he wants?” She asked.
“I dunno…” Godspeed said, “but I plan to find out.”
“I can’t believe she went to Elizabeth Marshall,” Pamela said as she lifted her head from looking at a folder of documents. Leticia frowned as she realized that her sister was talking about her rather than to her.
“Yeah,” her brother agreed, “well, I can’t believe you went and no one got their eyes scratched out. You’re basically the reason why she’s divorced, Let.” Her brother Richard added.
Leticia opened her mouth to speak, but her sister spoke first, “not really, Rich.” Pamela said seemingly in her defence.
“Thank you, Pam,” Leticia replied.
Pamela shook her head, “no, Let, I mean that jackass, Roland, was going to screw around on her one way or another… you were just the first woman willing enough to….”
Leticia’s eyes narrowed into a scowl that she leveled at her sister; there wasn’t any way to retort a statement like that without either defending the infidelity or condemning her own lack of standards. “okay… so back to Dad’s will. Do you understand it all?”
Pamela looked up at her, “of course not. I’m a banker Let, I transfer estates… this is my first challenge.”
Leticia shook her head, and looked at her elder brother for some support. He shook his head, “I get the contract – and yeah, it’s definitely legal – but I’m not sure how we’re supposed to come up with anything that shows that Clara forced Dad to change the will.”
“Neither do I,” Leticia said sighing, “I guess I’m just going to have to see what I can find at Pinewood when I go back there this week.”
“Front row tickets for that, please,” Pamela said, raising her hand like she was ordering something.
Richard, however, was more serious about the situation, “Leticia, you can’t get yourself caught snooping through the house…”
Leticia shook her head, “no, of course not. I’m going to be stealthy.”
Pamela and Richard caught each other’s glance.
“We’re screwed.”Tags:Cassandra Marshall, Chief John Godspeed, Duncan Marshall, Elizabeth Marshall, Leticia McKinelle-Glendale