Descent To Madness
Descent To Madness
In minutes, a police car and an ambulance were parked in front of the Swain mansion. The two paramedics were exiting the ambulance. Two uniformed officers stood on the porch, one poised to knock as a third unmarked car pulled up. Detective Sergeant Laird Chappell and his partner, Alejo Aldana approached. The uniformed officers parted. One of them said, "Just arrived."
"See that," Chappell said and lifted the heavy bronze knocker but the door swung in before it connected. A Mexican-looking woman backed from the door, head lowered. "Come in."
The husband and wife stood before him except for a young adult woman, a daughter, Chappell guessed, who descended the grand staircase to join the others assembled in an expansive and opulently appointed foyer that rose thirty feet above. She stopped beside the older woman, likely her mother who slipped an arm through one of hers, patting a hand. The husband and the two women stared at the gathering of uniformed police officers that flanked Chappell and Aldana to either side. The phalanx of cops stared back.
The paramedics edged past the detectives to a Mexican man sitting on a settee in the huge foyer, head back, eyes closed. Several minutes passed as the situation resolved with Manuel being placed on a gurney, a protective neck support applied and wheeled to the ambulance. The vehicle's many emergency lights flashed as it left the quiet neighborhood.
Luminous sunlight streamed through windows framed and muntined in stone with a Romanesque shape. Looking up, Chappell felt like he entered a French medieval castle. Clouds and some kind of angels were painted on the domed ceiling high above. A white male in a chef's jacket stood behind the family. The woman who admitted them joined the chef, standing stiffly beside him.
"I'm Detective Chappell and this Detective Aldana of the Robbery Division of the Los Angeles Police Department." Chappell opened his suit jacket exposing the badge.
"I'm Manley Swain. Thank you for promptly arriving." He took a step forward.
"Can you tell us what happened, Mr. Swain?"
"An armed thief has robbed us of jewelry and terrorized our family. My wife was roughly handled. Our gardener was struck on the head, bound and left outside."
Glynnis dropped her head.
"Anyone need medical treatment besides the gardener?" Chappell asked.
Glynnis looked at him shaking her head. "Bumps and bruises." She looked furtively at Daphne who noticed and glanced away.
"Is that blood on your face and clothes, Mr. Swain?" Chappell asked.
Swain pursed his lips. "He injected me with something that rendered me briefly unconscious and apparently applied red paint or something to convince Glynnis that he shot me in the head - murdered me for God's sake. Penciled a very convincing hole in my forehead. Damn stuff doesn't wipe off."
The detectives studied Swain's face, seeing the remnants of the subterfuge.
"Red paint?" Aldana asked turning to his partner. "That's a first."
"Was anyone else harmed?" Chappell repeated, shifting his eyes among the Swain family members. He settled his eyes on Daphne. "What about you, miss? Were you harmed?"
"No, I was pushed around like mother but...." She shook her head.
Chappell's peripheral vision noticed a blood stain on her right foot. She caught the direction of his stare and slid her left foot in front. Her arms were clutched tightly about her body. She wore a thick robe hemmed at her ankles.
Glynnis shot a quick look at her daughter, eyes wetting with tears. "It was a harrowing experience officers," she said, covering sadness for her daughter and attempting to shift Chappell's eyes to hers.
"What was taken?" Chappell asked, looking at her.
Manley stepped closer to him, speaking in a low voice that the staff couldn't hear. "Jewelry appraised at three point five million. Ins