Sunday, March 30, 2008



Ray set his coffee on the desk without tasting it.

I pulled a yellow writing pad from my left hand drawer, selected a black pen, and took another sip of coffee. I set my mug on the coaster before speaking.

"Ray, tell me everything. Start at the beginning.”

He set the mug on the coaster I slid toward him and intertwined his fingers, his elbows resting on the arms of the chair.

"That morning, Beth and I drove to The Rock to work out.”

“When was that?”

“The thirteenth. I remember cause the next day was Beth’s birthday.”

“The Rock, is that the gym over on Walnut Road?”

“Yes, that’s it. Anyway,” Ray continued, “she was teaching the six o'clock Jazzercise class, and I was going to lift weights and then jog back to my apartment. We walked in together then we each went our separate ways.”

“What time was that?”

“Around five thirty, I guess.”

Ordinarily I would have laughed out loud about anyone being up before dawn to work out. Right then it wasn’t funny.

He paused and inhaled deeply before finishing. “That was the last time I saw her.”

“That’s it? You didn’t see her again?”


“You didn’t walk by her class on your way to the weight room? She didn’t come talk to you while you were working out?”

“No. Once I was in the locker room I decided not to lift.” He paused for a sip of coffee. “I ran one lap around the outdoor track and then jogged home.” Ray clenched his right hand into a fist before adding, “Maybe if I had stopped in to tell her I was leaving early. If I had stayed to lift weights. Maybe I could have done something or seen something.”

“Why didn’t you tell her you were leaving?”

“I figured she was busy preparing for her class. She told me she had a new routine that she wanted to practice before class started.”

I looked over at Sofía, who at the moment sat quietly, pondering the depths of her coffee.

"The police called me that morning to tell me about her.”

"How'd they know to contact you?”

"I guess Jerome told them.”

“Who’s Jerome?”

“He works the front desk at the club in the morning.”

I jotted on my yellow pad before asking, "Did Jerome see you leave?"

"No, I don’t think so. I walked out the back door of the club to get to the track.”

“Did anyone see you walk out? Was anyone else on the track with you?”

“If anyone saw me leave, I didn’t see them. And I didn’t notice anyone else on the track.

"How long did it take you to get home?"

"Maybe twenty-five, thirty minutes. Then I showered, dressed and left for work. I needed to be in early to get some work done. That’s why I decided to skip the weightlifting.”

“So then how did you learn about Beth?”

"The police came by my office in the afternoon to talk to me, but that’s the first I’d heard about it. I mean, about anything happening to her.” He wiped his eyes with his fingertips.

“But I thought you said the police called you in the morning?”

“I was in meetings all day. When they called they left a message. I guess since I didn’t return their call they decided to come to the office.”

“So what did you tell them?”

“What I just told you. There’s nothing else to tell. They said I wasn’t a suspect. That they were questioning everyone who had been in contact with her that morning.”

“What happened to make them take you in yesterday?”

“They said I’m their prime suspect. I think they were trying to scare me into telling them a different story, but I told them the same as before. Same as I just told you.”

I leaned back in my chair and studied Ray. He avoided looking me in the eyes, finding great interest in his coffee mug. Why wouldn’t he look at me? Because he was grieving? Or because he was lying? Were his answers too easy?

“Didn’t you usually talk to your girlfriend during the day? Maybe make plans for dinner or just to say hello?”

Ray shook his head, “I knew she was in schoolall day, and I had told her I’d be in meetings most of the day. We already had plans for dinner.”

"Why would anyone kill Beth?"

"I don't know." He looked around the office as if he'd find the murderer lurking in a corner, then his eyes settled on my face. "I keep thinking it was a crazy person. Everybody loves Beth. I'll always love Beth.” He hung his head and sat quietly.

Sofía reached over and put an arm around Ray’s shoulders.

"Ya, Ray, ya.” Then to me, “Beth was wonderful. She was over at our house quite a few times and she was always so cheerful. When she and Ray came over for dinner, she’d always help with the dishes afterward. She was going to college and working at the gym.”

“How long had you been seeing her?”

Sofía answered for him. “They'd been going almost a year and were going to get married."

I darted a look at Ray and wrote in my yellow pad.

"You were engaged?"

"Yeah. No. Well, we'd talked about getting married, but I hadn’t proposed.”

He shifted in his chair and reached for the coffee mug.

I asked Sofía to get me another coffee. Once Ray and I were alone, I leaned forward in my chair and stared at him until the silence in the room was thick. When he finally lifted his gaze to me I asked, “What really happened that morning? Did you hurt Beth?”

Ray stared at me without a word and swallowed hard.

“Maybe an argument got out of hand? Sometimes that happens. We all have a breaking point. You probably didn’t mean to hurt her....”

“No! I love her. I’d never hurt her.” With his fists on the edge of the desk, Ray’s breathing became ragged. “I know the cops don’t believe me. But I swear I’m telling the truth!”

I pushed away from the desk, increasing the space between him and me.

“Should I believe you? Did you ever lose your temper with Beth?”

“No. I love her. I’ll always love her.” As he regained control, he sat back in the chair, deflated and pale.

“How was she killed?”

“The police told me her head was bashed in.” His voice was full of tears as he stared into the space between us as if seeing the whole scene.

Sofía returned and set the mug in front of me. “Should I walk out again?”

“It’s all right.” I placed the mug on my coaster, never taking my eyes off Ray’s face.

At times during our talk Ray seemed vulnerable and hurt, which made me want to help him. But some holes in his story only raised more questions. What time did he get back to the apartment? Was he really in meetings all morning?

On the other hand, Dallas police had a reputation of their own. Some people said that racial profiling was invented by the Dallas cops. And still others said Dallas cops weren’t the kind to shoot first and ask questions later.

But if I didn’t contribute to the solution, I was siding with the police in their efforts to pin the murder on the Mexican boyfriend.

“Okay. I have a few days before my next audit. I’ll see what I can do.”

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