|READ FIRST CHAPTERS
June couldn’t imagine her altogether-knowing-every-step-he’d-take-on-his-climb-to success brother committing
suicide. Too full of anxiety to wait for the elevator, she raced up the stairwell to his third floor apartment. The
stairwell door thudded closed loudly behind her. Apartment 302 was wide open. Her step mother, Cassandra, sat
just inside the open door. Her red wool coat, Dolly Pardon blond hair, black leather gloved hands placed neatly,
palms up in her lap—all prim and proper. Always prim and proper even in the middle of the night. This angered
June, but she wasn’t sure why. Tears clouded her vision as she stepped into the apartment.
Police, coroner and her father, Frank Fabrizio, occupied the area near her brother’s bedroom door. The rest of the
room and people didn’t matter. Derek’s friend Jerry sat alone in the tiny alcove off the kitchen near Derek’s desk.
He was dressed in jeans, tee-shirt and multi-pocketed fishing vest and his good-luck fishing hat studded with
trout flies. He smoked a cigarette. His forearms rested on his knees. Focused, it seemed, on the glow of his
cigarette ember and the floor, he never acknowledged her or anyone’s presence. From what she heard he had
Police detective and long time friend, Jessica Rozan, stood just at the doorway of her brother’s room. She brushed
her hand up to push a blond curl behind her ear. Jessica turned as June approached the small group. June never
even paused to acknowledge her step mother’s existence. She realized it now, though it was too late to rectify her
rudeness. If it mattered. She tolerated Cassandra for her father’s sake. She couldn’t like the woman who ripped
June out of the family that shared her grief over the loss of their mother to send her away to Aunt Rosa when June
desperately needed her siblings.
“Middle child.” Cassandra had said it like it tasted foul in her mouth, like it was a disease, “Middle children are
always the most difficult to deal with.” What was difficult? Because she was a loner, because she kept to herself
and didn’t ask for anything?
Cassandra had informed Aunt Rosa about June’s difficult middle child status as she unloaded the two suitcases
from the trunk of the car and the small box of books that belonged to June. Her favorite and last doll her mother
had given her wasn’t in the trunk of the car. June asked Cassandra where it was. “Oh, it’s just a doll.” She faced
Aunt Rosa with a perplexed look and a shrug.
“It’s my favorite. It’s the last one my mother gave me.” June had retorted. Cassandra said she’d send it. She never
did. So the rudeness didn’t matter now either. It wasn’t about her or Cassandra’s history, it was about Derek. It
was about the oldest of her two younger brothers. He was two years younger than June. It was after all her brother
that was the primary concern here.
Her father surrounded her in a bear hug. “What happened, Daddy? When? How? Why?” she blurted out short
chops of questions. Closing her eyes against the
tears that refused to be kept confined. She absorbed the warmth of her father’s hug. How does one deal with the
death of a younger brother? Feeling her father’s grief or— A son in the prime of his life?
“We don’t know yet.” Her father’s breath puffed tufts of her fine red hair as he spoke. Her hair stirred from his
nearness. His heart beat against her ear that pressed against his chest and his hug warmed her. He could
always fix everything, but he couldn’t fix this. She let the tears flow. There was no comfort in the love he had always
dispensed so freely.
June’s older sister, Belinda, joined the family circle of disbelief. “So what happened to Mr. Perfect with all his
ducks in a row?” Cross as usual, Belinda was as tall as Daddy. They stood eye to eye. Without a modicum of
remorse or sadness crossing her perfectly made up face, Belinda never tempted Mother Nature by allowing a
scowl of sorrow to cross her face and perhaps create a line or crease in it.
Did she ever love or feel pain or loss? June remembered the comments and neutral display when their mother
died in child birth. Belinda was only ten, but she already had a stone heart. “Stop your bawling,” she had screamed
at her and Jayde even though Jayde was older she and June were more kindred spirits, the sister more like June
than Belinda ever was. “We don’t need Mother anyway. All she did was make rules and dump her work load on us.
Now we have a new baby to take care of and she takes the easy way out.”
Even then Belinda was calloused and brutal. June cried herself to sleep many days after that. Not just because
her mother was gone. Belinda had been ten when their brother Tony was born.
A hand on her shoulder pulled her attention back to the room and her brother’s tragic end. She turned to face
“I’m so sorry. “You gonna be okay?” Concern pulled her navy blue eyes deep beneath her dark black eye brows.
June nodded. “It’s such a shock. He seemed so…” She paused. He was so organized. So on target with his
goals, his life. She flipped her hands in a gesture of exasperation. “Why?”
Jessica took her hand “That’s what we’ll try to figure out. It doesn’t appear he left a note. That usually, the note, I
mean, is our starting point.”
“Does every person leave a note when they commit—I mean suicide—It—.” The terrible words didn’t make sense
to her. June tried to keep the tears from taking over again. She raised her gaze to the ceiling as if an answer could
magically appear there.
“Not always.” Jessica nudged her away from the family group. “Not always, but there’s usually clues. Did you
notice anything strange, something bothering him lately?”
She sat on the couch where Jessica patted the cushion and invited her to sit. “I…, no, not really. I don’t think.” She
stared at the brown shades of the tweed carpet. “What makes anyone feel life is so hopeless that suicide is the
only answer?” She asked not expecting an answer. If it had been Tony she could better understand. Tony never
could accept that he didn’t cause their mother’s death as Belinda constantly reminded him when she was in one
of her moods. June supposed that would be hard to live with, but after he reached his twentieth birthday, she would
have thought he would have gotten past that. He would be more the candidate for suicide, not Derek.
“Private.” Jessica lowered her voice to a whisper. “I don’t think he committed suicide.” Louder she stated, “We’ll
have to probe further before the coroner will sign a death certificate.” Jessica indicated a tiny nod toward Belinda
who seemed intent on eaves dropping on their discussion.
June glanced up as Belinda abruptly turned away, hand on her father’s shoulder.
“Come here and sit, Father.” She shot a look at Jessica and June that said if looks could kill—she would.
Oh, dear, she’s going to cause a wrinkle. She turned back to Jessica. “What on earth is up with her?”
“Good question.” Jessica jotted a note in her note book. “Does everything look normal to you in Derek’s
apartment? Other than the toppled chair, of course, in his bedroom, I mean.”
June rose to her feet and followed Jessica around the sparsely furnished all-male, mid-sized two-bedroom
apartment. In the living room, her brother’s sports memorabilia, his love of chrome and black, square, sturdy, no
nonsense furnishings. A smile crept across her lips turning up the corners when she spotted the bookshelf with
some of his rescued Tonka Toys on one of the shelves. “A part of us never grows up. It’s been a while since I was
here last. His fishing gear.” She shot a glance at Jessica. “If he was planning suicide, why did he have all his
fishing gear ready to head out the door?”
Jessica’s pen scratched a neat scrawl across the note pad. “Your step mom seems to be detached.” Her attention
now focused on the older woman sitting rigid where she had been since June arrived.
“She and Derek never really hit it off too well.” June shrugged. “Truth is Cassandra never tried to fit in with anything
that went on in our family.” This wouldn’t be any different.
Jessica’s pen made a scratching noise on the hard covered notepad that she worked over. The noise grated on
June’s nerves like a death sentence. She didn’t know what to make of what was left of her family. It was getting
smaller by the hour, it seemed. She searched her father’s ash-grey face and hoped he could survive another
death of one of his children. Jayde’s death had been almost enough to kill him, but he held on. Three out of the five
children gone in a heartbeat. Jayde, drowned under suspicious circumstances, Tony burned in his own bed result
of a cigarette smoldering in his mattress after he quit smoking, now Derek. June cringed, who ever could have
expected so much tragedy would fall on one family.
He had Cassandra to fall back on. At least, she was good to him. She did seem to love him, not like she was after
his considerable pile of money, a fortune by anyone’s standards. She didn’t seem to be a gold digger. She had
money of her own from one of her past husbands. Frank Fabrizio was number five on the long list of her
conquests. Did that mean anything? Did bad luck just follow her, or did she…? June purposely jerked herself out
of that thought. First it wasn’t fair; second this wasn’t the time or place.
June watched the movement in the bedroom with an air of detachment as Jessica and the forensics crew drew
and photographed everything there and everywhere else in the small apartment. As the forensic crew members
lowered her brother down from the noose where he hung, June breathed a sigh of relief. Before, she thought it
was crude to leave him hanging there, he might still be alive—why wouldn’t they cut him down the minute they
came in. She knew the answer, she just didn’t want to internalize it. It was already too late when the police arrived,
rigor mortis had already stiffened and released his body, according to the words she heard the forensics team
exchanged with Jessica.
The uniformed officer outside the front door kept curiosity voyeurs from contaminating the scene. Local newspaper
reporters jammed the hallway and pressed for answers.
She didn’t want to watch as the body bag encased her brother. His bloated and swollen face seemed to belong to
someone else, not handsome, young Derek Fabrizio. June turned as the sound of the zipper closing chased up
her spine and shuddered her insides. She spun away when the gurney wheeled past her—wheels squeaking like
some ghostly protest. The EMTs pushed it toward the front door.
“It’s okay June, he doesn’t feel anything, not anymore.” Belinda breathed down her nose at June. She was
standing so close her heavy perfume assaulted June. It made her feel nauseous.
“What’s that supposed to mean?” she shot at her sister. Seeing her father’s drawn face as he nearly toppled when
the gurney squeaked past him. June rushed to his side.
“Daddy, here, sit here.” She guided him to the couch.
Cassandra reached out and took his hand as he sank into the couch beside her chair. Grief scrunched his face
into a macabre mask of pain. She pulled his hand to her cheek and put one arm around his shoulder. “He’ll be
okay. I’ll take care of him,” she said to June. Cassandra’s face was lined with concern.
Belinda snorted turned on her heel and stormed out the door after the gurney.
Cassandra’s angry gaze followed her and then returned, softened to Frank Fabrizio. He leaned into her shoulder.
“Why?” he murmured.
That’s what we all wonder. June didn’t say anything as she moved away toward the kitchen.Absent mindedly June
went to the sink and drew water in the coffee urn and began to make a pot of coffee. It was nearly day light. Traffic
began to increase in the street below. Funny how she was oblivious to what others in the small town of Naperville
might have been experiencing. Deaths, births, wedding ceremonies, events you only paid attention to if they were
your own. If someone died, the world didn’t stop to notice, unless, you were a celebrity. Even then, it was only until
the funeral if that long. Then everyone once again went on their way in their ordinary days, ordinary lives.
Her brother’s clients would be reassigned in a heartbeat. Glove & Trotter Insurance would hardly notice the switch
in a month.
“June, would you like a ride home?” Jessica made a motion with her arm gesturing to encompass the room. “We’
re done here, for tonight. We don’t want anything moved or changed until we have a chance to finish our analysis.
We need to be sure we haven’t missed anything.”
“I…was making coffee, I…?” She fanned the air with one hand. No one would want coffee now. They just wanted to
get back home. To her own surprise she held the carafe under the faucet, water over flowed into the sink. She
turned off the water and emptied the carafe. “Daddy?”
“He and your step mother left a few minutes ago.”
June hadn’t noticed. Did they tell her goodnight? It would be strange; he wouldn’t forget. Unless, he was so out of
it because of Derek. She looked at Jessica. “Yes, I—ran all the way here when Daddy called. I didn’t trust me to
drive.” She tried to pull herself together. “What, what did you find out?”
“We’ll talk in the car.” Jessica motioned toward the door where an officer held yellow crime scene tape while
waiting for them to leave. June took a quick look around the room. Her brother was a neat freak, never a thing out
of place. What was wrong with the window seat? She paused, and then shook her head. Probably disturbed by the
“Why an investigation? His room doesn’t show any signs of breaking and entering or some sort of struggle does
“No, but whenever there is a suspicious death, we need to do a prelim. Just to rule out foul play. An autopsy will tell
us cause of death, if there was any reason to believe there was foul play—that sort of stuff.”
June followed Jessica to the elevator. She hated elevators. They took her breath away, but she supposed going
down two floors wasn’t dangerous. A chill wrapped around her shoulders when the elevator doors opened. She
backed away. “Would you mind very much if we used the stairs instead?”
Jessica looked at her with her head cocked as she so often did when she had a question she didn’t know if she
“I don’t do elevators well.”
“Sure, no problem.” Jessica turned toward the stairs.
“Did anyone tell Derek’s girl friend about this?”
“Not that I know of.”
“I’ll do that as soon as I get home.”
“Were they on good terms?” Jessica stopped at the bottom of the stairs and held the door open as if she expected
someone else to be coming down them.
“As far as I know,” June said.
“You don’t think he would commit suicide over a woman do you?”
She was almost insulted that Jessica would even consider her brother would be weak enough or stupid enough
to seek suicide because he was dumped—if he was, it wouldn’t have been the first time.
“We have to consider every angle. Like I said earlier—it just doesn’t seem to fit together right. No note, no mention
to anyone earlier that he was thinking of suicide. No idea that he was depressed or... It just doesn’t make sense.”
June shook her head. It sure didn’t seem like what Derek would do. But then, suicide to her was an improbable
solution for any sane person. And Derek was sane, organized, and practical, not suicidal, wasn’t he?
“What’s her name? This woman he was seeing?”
“Aimee, Aimee Soul.”
“Would you consider coming with me to talk to her?”
“Sure, she is a very warm and friendly person. We all liked her right away. Something you should know though, a
few days ago her ex went ballistic at The Other Place Bar, because as he put it, Derek stole Aimee away from him.
As a matter of fact he threatened to kill him. Of course, everyone dismissed him as a loud-mouthed drunk and the
bouncers escorted him off the premises. No one thought anything more of it. You don’t think…”