Desperation

When Christina Martin was found, she was in the bed of an old pickup truck that was owned by one Franklin Torrence who was the gardener for Edward Jacobson.

Edward was in the driver’s seat, and when Franklin Torrence was questioned, he said, “Mr. Jacobson said he needed my truck. I just assumed he didn’t want to scuff the lining of his own truck. Rich people are like that. They buy a truck that could haul a small house, and they put a liner in it to keep it safe and then they never use it because they don’t want to scuff the liner. In truth, they just like how trucks look but they never like to use it as a truck so when he asked to borrow mine, I just assumed it was that kind of situation. Rich people are weird.”

Edward Jacobson, when questioned, said that he didn’t kill Christina Martin, but she’d died the previous evening and he panicked and so he did what people who panic tend to do – he tried to get rid of the body, but not because he was guilty.

When they searched the house of Edward Jacobson, they found a partially eaten dinner. The glass of wine on one side of the table was found to have high levels of arsenic. The glass on the other side did not.

When they looked through the records of Christina Martin, they found that she had a life insurance policy that had been opened five years earlier and the beneficiary was her estranged daughter, Rosalind Murphy. She’d never adjusted the value and she’d never changed the recipient.

The total value of the life insurance policy was half a million dollars.

At the time of his arrest, the net worth of Edward Jacobson was a little over four million dollars.

Nothing seemed to point to the idea that the death – eventually ruled a homicide – was about money at all, as Edward Jacobson had no major outstanding debts or gambling issues. Additionally, he didn’t have a basement with assorted fetish gear or a large collection of snuff films.

By all logical interpretations, the murder – which, to this day Edward Jacobson claims was not a murder at all – was fueled by some other motive, or else Edward Jacobson is an innocent man and someone else murdered Christina Martin.

Jacobson, of course, holds that that explanation was far more likely as he swears – to this day, in fact – that he had no reason to murder Christina. In his written testimony, he admits that their relationship certainly had issues from time to time, but that they were no more extreme than issues about loading the dishwasher or forgetting anniversary dates.

Jacobson’s lawyer – one Mr. Hugh Robinson Malone of Malone, Stansbury, and Burk – was unable to offer enough evidence to support the notion that the other most likely suspect, Rosalind Murphy, was a viable candidate on account of the fact that Rosalind lived three states away and had no idea that the murder had occurred. Additionally, Rosalind had no boyfriends or lovers – jaded or otherwise – nor did she seem to actually know where her mother lived as she’d not seen her since Rosalind had left home at the age of seventeen in the state of Tennesee, after which, she took her father’s last name rather than keeping her mother’s maiden name.

From there, Christina Martin had moved to Pennsylvania where, in due time, she had met Edward Jacobson and the rest, as they say, is history.

This brings me to Carl Frye.

When the authorities found Carl Frye, he was dead on the floor of a kitchen with a half-eaten ham sandwich and a small, broken, porcelain plate and two teeth knocked loose from where his face had struck the counter as he fell to his death.

His wife, Eleanor Bowman – who had chosen not to take his name in the marriage – called the authorities immediately, fearing that he’d had a heart attack.

Upon inspection, nothing about Carl Frye’s health seemed to indicate anything leading to a heart attack, coronary, embolism, or anything else that should make a man go from living to dead in a matter of minutes.

Upon running a tox-screen, they found that Carl Frye had high levels of arsenic in his blood which was only rivaled by the amount of arsenic in his ham sandwich.

At this point, you can probably see something of a pattern emerging.

Eleanor Bowman was by no means a millionaire. Carl Frye had a life insurance policy of two-hundred thousand dollars, but the policy was initially set to be paid out to his son, Victor Frye. Victor, however, preceded Carl in death at the hands of little more than bad luck, high speed, and a light pole. Six months prior to his death, Carl changed the recipient to Dean Frye, Victor’s only son who was undergoing treatment for lymphoma.

Victor was not estranged from Carl, but Victor and Dean lived roughly three hundred miles away and had for long enough that Dean had few meaningful interactions with Carl and nothing could place Dean, his biological mother Rosemary, or any friends or associates within a hundred miles of Carl at the time of his death.

Though Eleanor claimed innocence, the only evidence on hand was a dead man, a ham sandwich with enough arsenic to kill a horse, and a woman who – to use her own words – “Would never think to harm a hair on Carl’s head, let alone try to kill him.”

This brings me to Gina Hampton who is currently married to Alex Perry. Her son Ronald has been battling drug addiction for the last three years in a rehab center some eighty miles away from where she lives.

Her marriage is nothing spectacular. Neither she nor her husband makes a great deal of money. They have two cars, neither one is new and neither one was new when they bought them. She shops wisely and saves a small amount of money where she can – which tends to never be quite enough and, even when it is, it seems that life tends to intervene to take most of it with the cost of an appliance to replace a broken one or new roofing after a hail storm.

She’s happy in her marriage the same way that people are happy in marriage after they’ve been married so long that it’s more of a partnership that, during certain calendar occurrences, also involves sex which is about as passionate as one would expect given the wording used to explain the scenario.

Her husband, as far as she knows, has never cheated on her, has no addictions, and doesn’t gamble. His only real vice seems to be that he occasionally has a six-pack of beer during certain football games and, upon doing so, will often fall asleep in his recliner.

She has a life insurance policy of three hundred, twenty-five thousand dollars which she put in the name of her son, Ronald, before he became addicted to heroin. She’s never changed the amount, but she would if she could. She’s thought about changing the recipient many times because she fears that the only thing Ronald would use it for is more drugs and she worries that in her desire to help him, she’ll give him the thing he needs to finally kill himself.

Still, she wants to believe the best of her son even if she finds it hard to do more often than not. More and more, she’s worried about what will happen to him when he can no longer afford rehab – a reality that is becoming harder and harder to ignore.

She is, like so many people when the chips are down, desperate.

Desperation, as I think we all know, is one of the greatest facilitators of things in the world.

A desperate man who has never so much as swung a fist at someone can beat a man to death with a crowbar with such ferocity that when the cops arrive, there’s nothing left but a jagged mess of blood and skull and brain where a head used to be.

Desperation can make someone see the monetary incentive to shove three condoms full of heroin up their rectum and risk dying if they should rupture all so they can get their promised percentage and pay down their staggering credit card debt.

I tell Gina Hampton that I don’t deal in dangerous, but I deal in desperation.

I ask her, “Are you really that desperate?”

It’s not a leading question.

I’m not here to pull people into a world they don’t want to be part of. I’m not here to lure or lie.

I’m here because I can tell people how to get what they want, but they have to understand what they want because if they start having doubts, then all of this goes sideways and they don’t want to see what happens if I get desperate because if I get desperate, I get dangerous and I let her know that if I need to become dangerous, I’ll kill everyone she’s ever known or ever talked to – including her drug addict son.

I tell her that, when this is over, everything in life will change. I tell her that this is the cost of how things work. I tell her that death by suicide will often see a life insurance policy become forfeit because suicide is not covered.

She nods at me and tries not to cry and I push a box of tissues towards her and I give her a small envelope that’s half the size of a playing card and I tell her that inside is enough arsenic to do what needs to be done and then some. I tell her to use it all. I tell her this is not the time for half-measures.

When she takes it from me, she pauses and I put my hand over hers – but not in a reassuring way.

I tell her that this isn’t a game. I tell her that lives are about to be destroyed.

She slides her hand back, still holding the envelope and she asks me how much she owes me.

I tell her I’m not in this business for the money.

I tell her we all have addictions.

I tell her this one is mine.

I tell her that her husband will likely spend his life in prison and I need her to run that sentence through her head a few hundred times because if she can’t swallow that truth, she has no business trying to swallow that much arsenic.

She says she’s willing to do anything for her son.

I tell her that desperation is a hell of a drug.