BY: JOHN ANDES
Detective First Grade Tony Sattill of the NYPD is assigned the crime scene investigation of the gruesome, ritualistic “Handyman Murders.” Once the case is turned over to the homicide detectives, Tony is asked to dig into the past of fellow Detective, Elija Washington. Tony uncovers uncommonly large cash flows in Elija’s past and a possible major cover-up by NYPD, but then the evidence in the Handyman case begins to incriminate Tony. Lab tests reveal a link between him and the murders, and he knew all the victims. Tony’s world is crashing in on him while, all around him, close friends are dying. Is Tony pegged to be the fall guy—or just the next victim?
TAYLOR JONES SAYS: In Hidden Agenda by John Andes, Tony Satill is an NYPD crime-scene detective. When he is asked to dig into the activities of a fellow detective, things start to go bad for Tony. His friends start dying, and he becomes the person of interest in the murders. Now he has to do some fancy footwork in order to find the real killer and save himself, not to mention his career. With the help of his friend and attorney, Franklin, Tony digs for the truth, but what he uncovers may be worse than losing his career. It may cost him his life.
Well written, fast paced, and down-to-earth, the story will not only catch and hold your interest, it will keep you guessing until the end.
REGAN MURPHY SAYS: Hidden Agenda by John Andes is the story of Tony Sattill, a detective for the NYPD. Tony is called to the scene of a murder—his friend Charlotte Jenks—and things begin to go downhill from there. Once the case is handed over to the homicide detectives, Tony is assigned to investigate a colleague who is suspected of not properly investigating a bank case. Tony discovers that not only was the bank case closed too soon, but it hints of corruption at the highest levels. But before he can report his findings, he discovers he is a suspect in Charlotte’s murder. He knows he is being framed, but by who, what for, and how does he prove it?
Written in a unique voice, filled with great characters, fast paced, and gritty, Hidden Agenda will keep you glued to your seat, turning pages as fast as you can—a mystery you can really sink your teeth into.
“Who are you?”
In a world of former lives and changing partners, do we ever really know? Beneath a very beautiful stone can be the home of a snake. Beneath a discolored moss-covered shard can be gold. Where have all the good men gone and where are all the gods? Where has all the honesty gone?
Our parents work hard to keep alive the heart of integrity. In my youth, life mirrored the turn of the century and Great Depression attitudes inculcated by my grandparents into my parents. Work hard. Save. Be clean, somber, and sober. Feed, clothe, and protect the children. Then the next Great War came and went. Morals and mores were distorted by the war effort. The economy expanded so rapidly, anything was possible, and we wanted it all. More education. Bigger houses and cars. Much, much more money. More free time to enjoy the fruits of our labors. The world’s endless possibilities grew beyond our wildest dreams. Each generation wanted more. More religion. More assurance of peace and tranquility. More ways to escape. Booze, drugs, and out-in-the-open intimacy ruled. Money became God.
Some people succeed. Some people stumble. Some people fall from grace. Some of these are reborn into new worlds, new faces, lives, and lifestyles. But they have to pay for this rebirth. Nothing comes without a price. Leave home. Leave family. Sacrifice others. Those who are sacrificed seek not balance, but retribution. Everyone has a hidden agenda. We just don’t know what’s on the list.
1204 Lexington Avenue:
She drowned. Drowned in her own blood. Probably took the better part of an hour. She couldn’t fight against it. Never shook her head. No blood splatters on the wall or floor. Why? The caked blood from her nose to her nipples indicates she tried to blow the blood from her lungs, but her mouth was taped shut side to side and top to bottom. The tape wrapped around her neck was like a collar and affixed to the wall. It was intentionally loose so as not to choke, yet it was secure enough so that the vic could not escape. True sadistic torture. Eyes wide open so she could see. Seeing, but not being able to do anything, was its own fear. Pain without the tormentor to which the victim could respond. It must have been hell. Slowly swallowing her death, all the while trying to breathe. Trying to exhale death and inhale life at the same time. Impossible.
“The absence of tape burns on her wrists confirms there was no struggle. My guess is that she’s been dead between twelve and twenty-four hours. The accurate determination is better left to the rats in the lab. There is nothing sexy about a blood-covered, nude female. NYPD Crime Analysis Team is halfway through its on-site investigation.”
Each CAT included a lead detective, a uniform, and two members from the Scientific and Technical Analysis Group. The STAGs were the lab rats, techies, and near-meds. Each borough had three CATs. CAT was the brainchild of some committee downtown at One Police Plaza and was designed to train up-and-coming force members with actual crime scene procedure and analysis, as well as take the burden of initial data gathering off the shoulders of the investigative force. Each CAT was headed by a young detective selected after rigorous psychological testing. Selected on the basis that the detective had all the right tools for command decisions and the gift. The gift of deep comprehension, for seeing the little details and their connectors that abounded or for sensing what was missing or what did not fit. For grasping what probably happened at a crime scene. Not the why, but the what.
The lead detective was not a glamorous profiler. He was just a very observant, intelligent, and sensitive individual. CAT operated only in non-immediate violent crime situations—deaths, which were over twelve hours old. The trail of the perp was cold. CAT replaced the two detectives, four uniforms, and a complete Crime Scene Unit in cold situations only. Most calls for CAT came directly to the precinct and not through nine-one-one.
Veteran detectives called it the Cold Asshole Team or the Pussy Squad. If it was not an emergency, give it to the pussycats. They hated it because they thought it took the entire process of old-fashioned detective work away from the ill-fitting suits. What they really objected to was that it was the crest of the wave of the future, wherein there would be greater specialization and greater reliance on awareness and sensitivity and less on legwork and the third degree.
The future, according to the seers and knowers, would be one of modularity. Each module would be connected by and interlinked to each other and the precincts, and precincts would be interlinked to each other via the citywide computer system. The entire plan was quite simple and very efficient. CAT was assembled and sent, based on who was up, who was available from the various disciplines. A roster was kept in the NYPD main computer system and could be tapped by any precinct captain or shift commander. Often the team would be comprised of members who were not from the same precinct. The CATs were sent borough-wide and not beholden to an individual precinct. The team went to the cold scene, gathered all the pertinent information, spent time walking and looking at the scene from all angles, made observations, drew vague conclusions, and issued hypotheses. All in the prescribed format, CAT 1221. The four members spoke into personal digital-recorders at the scene. Later, they downloaded electronic blips into networked laptops, so they could read each other’s findings and observations.
It was up to the team leader—in this case, Detective First Grade Tony Sattill—to merge and purge the information, infuse his hypotheses, and develop a single comprehensive report on the murder scene. This report along with the coroner’s report was turned over to the investigating detectives within twenty-four hours of the on-site analysis. Addenda from anyone other than the medical examiner’s office were considered a sign of shoddy work on the part of the CAT leader. An addendum was considered an error by the older detectives and corroborated their view that CAT was worthless.
Sattill was a veteran of the force and one of its soon-to-be powerful. Minor excursions into the lands of alcohol and Colombian Candy held up his advancement, but he had repaid his dues five-fold. He also had a Dutch Uncle or godfather on the force. Now he was ready to move up. When promoted, he would oversee the CATs in Manhattan. When the old man was ready to be transitioned to One Police Plaza, Tony and two others would be in line to move into a single spot. Like musical chairs: three dancers and one chair. He had worked his butt off and introduced as much technology as the old dinosaur could understand. When Tony took over, new technology could be introduced to all field trips, not just in his borough. Only JJ Rierdan and Elija Washington could sit in what would be Tony’s chair.”
Tony continued walking, staring, and talking. Stalking an absent killer who stalked the victim. Tony tried to take the exact steps, make the exact moves of the killer, who was long gone from the scene.
“Well, he is really sick. Bobby, don’t miss the dried goo on her knees. It looks like it could be semen. Maybe the perp did her up, did her, and did her in. I wonder if he fucked her before he stuck the instrument in her throat. My guess is an ice pick or something very similar. Or, maybe he stabbed her as he came a la de Sade. Before or after? Carefully examine the wrists. Wrists taped, the tape was folded into a flap of numerous layers, and then the flap was nailed to the wall. Extra-long roofing nails. Ones that won’t pull out or tear the tape. The guy must have used a full roll of duct tape. His work reflects handyman talents. Took his time. Yet he experienced passion and fucked her. Or, at least, he came on her.
“The ice pick was driven in at the proper angle to pierce the artery and let the blood run down the throat and not out the entry wound. Only one wound. He knew where, how, and why it would work. This guy is a pro or a really torqued psycho. There are no fingerprints in the blood. But there is a cigarette butt. It’s a Doral. Snuffed out by hand on the wall, not on her, and dropped near her left foot. Did he smoke before or after the murder? He is not afraid to mark his territory. Why? Why the left foot? Is he sure we can’t find him?
“Tell the detectives to check FBI files and look for MOs that match. DNA analysis won’t be back from the labs for thirty-six hours.”
Recorder entry over, Tony hovered over the body. “Did anyone find an ice pick?”
The question earned a resounding silence from everyone.
“Bobby. Morris. Make sure you download your tapes before seven. I want to work on this tonight and tomorrow. Please tell Doctor Cut Up that this case is special. I need an interim report by eleven tonight and her complete report no later than Saturday noon. She will have to work OT. I’ll authorize the time and charges. This is front page, leading, bleeding news. There will be hell to pay come Sunday if we don’t have a ton of real information for our friends, the wrinkled-shirt, donut-scarfing detectives. It’s okay to cut her down, bag her, and call the meat wagon.”
The room was a bloody mess. Charlotte Jenks was dead. Why? Who? No one at the scene realized that Tony knew Charlotte. No one knew they shared a summerhouse with six other people. Charlotte was the bed-sharing friend of Bill Davis. Also in the house were Tony’s lover, Connie Wilhaus; Dan and Mildred Bren; and the Saylors, Red and Babs. This tenuous, behind-the-scenes relationship between Tony and the deceased must never get into the public light. Otherwise, he would have to take heat from people with nothing better to do. Or simply removed from the case to avoid the appearance of impropriety. Too many questions. Too little information. No one must know. No one.
Tony had a sense that this MO would not be found in anyone’s files. Like sensing something was about to come out of the shadows and strike him, Tony felt he was going to see a repeat of this carnage before too long. This event was just the beginning. He never had this sense before, but he had never seen a non-police friend as a victim. Was it Charlotte or was it the scene? How long before it happens again? When? How to stop it before it happens?
Tony’s personal life had always been separate from his day job. The other members of CAT thought he was just another college boy, like Rierdan and Washington—too fancy for the pubs after the shift and too busy for the weekend cookouts in Queens or Brooklyn. He had his own circle of friends, old college chums. These friends knew he worked for the NYPD in some arcane capacity. They never probed for facts. That wouldn’t be proper according to the Code of Non-intrusion to which the graduates of The Ancient Eight strictly adhered. Tony lived two lives, not unlike James Philbrick. The spheres were separate because that’s what Tony wanted.
Fridays from the first of May to the end of September, Tony’s non-police-force friends shared a beach house in Mantoloking on the Jersey shore. It had been this way for years. Every Friday evening, four couples raced from their respective homes in metropolitan New York to The Bluffs, the name of the shore house. The race was more like a road rally: specific times for specific distances. Everyone knew the exact distance from their abodes to The Bluffs. So, requiring an average speed of sixty miles per hour, precise ETAs had been established for each couple.
Tony and Connie traveled from 60 East Ninety-Sixth Street in Manhattan, a trip of eighty-two miles or one hour and twenty-two minutes. The Brens lived at 145 Nutley Boulevard in Montclair, New Jersey. Their trip was seventy-one minutes. The Saylors traveled eighty-eight minutes from sixteen Laymon Court in Englewood, New Jersey. Bill and Charlotte left from either her house in Brooklyn or his co-op at the tip of Manhattan Island. Their trip was either eighty or seventy-four minutes. To meet the benchmarks, the competitors had to fight through city or suburban traffic with all the lights and gridlocks of Fridays. Then speed at eighty-five-plus miles per hour on the New Jersey Turnpike and Garden State Parkway to compensate for any previously lost time. And, there was always lost time prior to the Jersey Autobahns.
To keep everyone honest required that one of the members of each team call The Bluffs just as the team was starting the trip. The answering machine would record the date, time, and telephone number of the four calls. The teams would punch in at the house using the Zeit clock on the mantel. Punching the time clock gave them the feeling of working in a factory: a world they never knew. The clock was driven by satellite, which carried the time from Greenwich, England. The satellite was capable of adjusting the time on the mantel clock if it ever wavered from the truth, as in electrical storms or outages. The eight had invested over $5,000 in the clock and telephone system. The telephone system included lines for eight discrete receivers.
Everyone worked over the weekend, for no other reason than to show the others how difficult was their lot in life.
To add interest to the road rally, each couple had to kick in $200 per weekend. Winner take all. The winning time had to be no more than fifteen seconds under the true allotted time—never over. And arrival had to be before ten, which meant that driving was done during the worst traffic on the East Coast. If no team won, the pot rolled over to the next weekend. A team could win or lose a maximum of $3,000 during the summer. But winning the money was not as important as beating the others.
The males of the group vaguely remembered each other from college. Some reconnected via former relationships, disconnected, then reconnected. There had not been a constant cohesion. Now there was a bond based on memories and faith in the inaccuracy of history. Time gaps meant there was always something new to tell. There were many life gyrations of emotional and economic drunkalogs. The eight were compatible, though occasionally aloof. The camaraderie forged in the economic, social, and academic furnace of Brown had long since cooled. New pressures from careers caused the chums to become self-protective and somewhat self-centered.
Police work was its own shield. Nobody really wanted to know the politics, shitty hours, violence, and the endless drudgery of details, forms, and CYA documents. Friends and neighbors, if they knew Tony was a cop, were interested only in the exhilaration and glamour of midnight raids on the drug houses and arrests of syndicate bosses. This was not Tony’s world.
Who was Charlotte? Charlotte Jenks was a fabric designer. She was, as expected, constantly sketching and experimenting with colors and patterns. Having worked for three Fashion Avenue houses, she went out on her own a few years ago. Apparently made decent money, but the pressure to always be different and better was horrendous. She drank a little too much very expensive vodka. She drank too much very strong coffee. Took tranquilizers and mood elevators. Never seemed to eat much. A classic case of well-directed self-destruction. Yesterday, someone just beat her to her demise.
Bill Davis worked in the financial world. He was the liaison between his company and the mutual fund managers, who managed the portfolios in annuities and variable life insurance sold by the company. He had been with North American Financial Markets since B-school. He started at NAFM well before the big Bull market and rode the beast for all it was worth. The right place at the right time. Income was deep into the six figures. He had a bunch stashed in various instruments. He was set for life. Never married. Tony was never one-hundred-percent sure of Bill’s heterosexuality. His mannerisms were vaguely foppish.
Tony shared a city residence with his girlfriend of the past few years, Connie Wilhaus. Connie had been a cheerleader at Penn State, and it showed. Vivacious and wholesome on the outside. Unfortunately though, moody and sometimes confrontational when she wanted something her own way. Connie was deep into physical fitness—the right nutrition, food, and supplements, proper exercise, and only a little drinking. Maybe a little too centered. But she was successful. One of the owners of a small chain of spas called The Seven Sisters. The spas catered to younger businesswomen or any female who could afford the steep membership fee and the extras that were always available; the latest in casual athletic clothes and accessories, group vacations, four-night hikes. No men allowed.
Dan and Mildred Bren were Amway distributors. They sold the right to buy from the catalog to those who sold the right to buy from the catalog. Regular meetings, extensive travel, and daily counseling down-line and up-line. Dan had been a detailer for a French drug firm. His territory was Metro New York to Boston. He met Millie at an Amway meeting. Instant love…or heat. Their combined enthusiasm and energy were natural strengths to make multi-level marketing successful. Plus, he had contacts with doctors, nurses, and hospital administrators. Married three years less than they had been in the business. The first for both. They now made enough to never work again, but they were driving to one more level for complete financial security. Security for their children and their children.
Saylor, Winfield and Baker, Inc. was a law firm founded by this generation’s fathers. Randolph Edmonton Dalhousie “Red” Saylor IV was the partner aggressively pushing the firm into mergers and acquisitions. Barbara Stillington Winfield “Babs” was his bride of the ten years. Second marriage for both. Often, they were just “too cute for words.” Children from previous unions lived with former spouses in Arizona and Pennsylvania, respectively. Red and Babs were talking about a new brood of the breed. But they loved the self-indulgences of money and no children—regular evening tennis, every-night dinners at the best restaurants or their clubs, and matching Mercedes convertibles that were never more than three years old. Babs brought as much money and emotional baggage into the relationship as Red. She constantly sniped at “her boy, Red” and aggressively flirted with beach boys and tennis pros—entitlements of her privileged status, she claimed after four drinks. Their presence at The Bluffs was a showy escape from everyday neighbors, who must rely on the Northern New Jersey Golf and Country Club for the summer weekends.
No race for Tony this weekend. He’d just forfeit his $200. Couldn’t leave until well after ten, because of Charlotte’s murder. This delay suited Connie. She had to meet with the accountant and money people to discuss the expansion plans for the chain. She pushed for a Saturday morning departure. She would come home when she was done with her work, and they could leave before seven. This allowed Tony to work until he fell asleep. By seven, all the files would be downloaded, and he could bug Dr. Cut Up at the NYPD Morgue by nine. The doctor would go through her usual flirt-attack routine on the telephone. These were the first two stages of the conquer-submit syndrome. The game always ended in a tie, because that’s the way of office politics. Numerous times she thought she had won because that was the way of Tony’s politics.
It was Friday, the unofficial holy day of purity-driven indulgence. He showered off the smell and dirt of death from Charlotte’s apartment and started to prep dinner. The feast of sundown consisted of veal, pan seared in extra virgin olive oil, Chardonnay, shallots and capers, wild rice, and a salad of plum tomatoes, bean sprouts, hearts of lettuce and black olives: comfort food for the chosen. Two glasses of a ’91 California Merlot cleansed the taste of death. Tony had saved some of the feast for Connie. The complete Hallelujah Chorus, compliments of the London Philharmonic, was playing at volume level fifteen. The fantastically energizing effort poured from eight speakers, filled every corner and space in the five rooms, and swabbed his ears of city noise and the pettiness of the day. The ritual complete, his personal space became quiet, or as quiet as can be expected from a fourth-floor loft on Friday night in the summer. Window air conditioners and industrial strength ceiling fans performed the dual functions of cooling and blocking the street noise. Dishes done, he settled into work. The roll-top desk and chair in his office were a gift from his brother after Tony’s return to the clean and sober crowd. The set made a definitive statement about his new work values.
He was plugged into the NYPD system. The Fax was poised for spewing. He drew down the reports from the lab-rats, Bobby and Morris. They had worked together for the past couple of years and saw things slightly differently on each scene. Bobby tended to be theoretical, whereas Morris was flat out black-and-white. Combined, their reports gave a textural picture of the scene. The report from the uniform on the scene covered facts about the victim: address, name, lifestyle based on clothing in the closets, food in the kitchen, furniture, art, magazines, books, videos, etc. The uniform also took information from the super, who had gone into the apartment to check the pipes for a leak. He found the cold body and called the precinct. Tony read, cut and pasted into the appropriate boxes in form CAT 1221, accessible by the investigating detectives. If they wanted all of the backup, they could go to the shared files. Tony can’t afford to miss any details. Any small deviation in the different reports must be noted because it could be critical to solving the case. Tony called Dr. Martha Minnig, a.k.a. Dr. Cut Up.
“Hello, Doctor, Detective Sattill here. I’m calling to determine your progress on the female victim brought into you earlier today. She was stabbed with an ice pick.”
“Hello, Tony. I have nothing exciting or arcane yet. Yours was third in line as of two p.m. As of now, she’s on the table. I’m about to start. I should have some dangerously sketchy knowledge for you in about two hours, say around eleven. Call back then.”
Advantage Doctor. The edge in her voice signaled her awareness that she was being pushed and that she didn’t like it. But she was the best cutter in the department. She worked at this seemingly thankless task because her father had. She could be Chief Medical Examiner of the five boroughs in a few years. Dr. Cut Up had a voice that could peel chrome off a bumper at fifty feet. That was intriguing to Tony. The good doctor was smart, held a position of power, was great at her job, and her voice turned him on. Tony wondered what she looked like. Was she as wonderfully sensuous and attractive as her voice hinted, or was she like Allison Steele? Steele was a late-night DJ on WNEW. She was known as the Nightbird. She would sexually intone free verse over the intro song to her gig. Her throatiness and the electro-sounds of the decade were seductive. In person, Allison was not what all the young men had hoped based on her voice.
Tony turned on the TV news to see if the vic had made the electronic medium. The longer she was out of the public eye, the longer the investigative detectives had to work their magic. What about Bill? Does he know? He can’t know as much as I know. Or, can he? Thoughts bounced in his head like a dream. His nap was interrupted by Connie’s entrance. The large metal door opens noisily on purpose.
“Hey, sweetie, how was your financial cluster-fuck? If you’re hungry, the remains of the sacrificed veal and all the other goodies can be nuked. Would you like me to set your table?”
“That would be great. I want to shower. Is there any wine open?”
“A Merlot. I’ll heat the meal and pour. You wash.”
In fifteen minutes, she slinks into the kitchen wrapped in terry—head and body. She glides into a cushioned seat at the banquet before her on the oak table. Tony has poured two glasses of wine and opened a second bottle. Her dining experience lasts about ten minutes. She is famished. Waves her glass for more wine.
“Well, Detective First Grade Anthony William Sattill Jr., you are looking at an about-to-be very wealthy woman. Tonight, we decided to go public to fund the expansion of The Seven Sisters. My portion of the pie should be worth ten to twenty million dollars. My share of the retained stock will be worth the same and more when we go national or get eaten by a larger fish. All the details and final value have to be worked out over the next months. Money is in the wings. So, while the seven of us focus on becoming millionaires, we have to slowly relinquish the all the day-to-day crap to the managers. We will even launch an advertising campaign to create awareness in the buying public. I am so filled with facts and things to do that I can hardly speak. This much I know. I want a third glass of wine. I want to dry my hair. And I want to love you into spasms of exhaustion.”
“That’s super, sweetie. Beautiful, rich, and horny. Wow! A combination more powerful than I could have anticipated for tonight.”
“But we can’t tell anybody about the plans for The Seven Sisters. No one can know before our advisors are ready to leak the information. Fair deal?”
“Fair deal. Now you dry, and I’ll clean up. Here, have another touch of the grape.”
Ten rings at the Morgue mean that the good doctor is involved in her work. At this hour they’re all in the cut-up room.
“You’re twenty minutes late, Tony. Here’s what I know. She was not in good health before she died. A lot of alcohol damage to her system. The balance of the chemical and tox screen will be available by tomorrow morning. Her last meal was a non-descript cereal. One ice pick puncture. She drowned in her own blood. Minor bruises on the wrists and ankles. No marks of a beating or violence. She was not penetrated. No tears or abrasions. The semen was deposited. None in the mouth. Interesting, the little soldiers lost their tails. They were not fresh when deposited. As if they were stored prior to arrival. Premeditation. And here is the kicker. She was pregnant. Tops, three months. Fetus died right after the mother. So far, here’s what I guess. Whoever did this knew exactly what he was doing. And, therefore why. Was in her home, got her drunk, and sadistically killed her. It looks like he then tossed his sperm on her to show contempt for her. This is my best shrink-like guess. It’s free, so it’s worth what you paid. I’ll input all the information in the shared files. You can retrieve it at your leisure by the ocean side. And, a thank you is insufficient. Good night.”
Game to the good doctor.
© 2017 by John Andes