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Timothy Gilbert

Damage Control

1

September 1, 2002

Lansdale, Pennsylvania

8:15am

Joe Costa stepped out of his cruiser and onto Willow Lane. He was a lead detective in the

Chester County sheriff's office which serviced Lansdale, a bedroom community of the greater

Philadelphia area.

Joe tried not to think about the stomach problems he'd been having that morning.

The detective looked up at the Linder house. The nice looking brick structure highlighted

a two columned front entrance partly obscured by three large oak trees filling the front yard. A

grey SUV sat parked up onto the curb in the back of the driveway, and sticking halfway out of the

open garage was a dark red sedan suffering from a beat up back end - all of which gave Joe the

feeling that his hopes for a blissful morning on the can were about to be dashed.

“Okay, gentleman what do we have this morning?” Joe asked two policemen waiting for

him on the front step of the home.

“Come on in. I hope you had a light breakfast,” remarked Officer Tom Lightman.

Joe stepped into the house, observing that the front door and lock were intact. There was

no smell of blood to knock him over, but Joe definitely smelled gasoline.

“The victims are in the kitchen,” Officer Rudy Jenkins informed Joe.

The spacious front foyer to the home featured a winding staircase with an oriental runner

lining the middle of the wood stairs. Joe glanced at the living room on his left and dining room on

his right, both holding furniture that pointed to an annual income light years away from Joe's

detective pay grade. The morning sun shone through the bay window in the living room and

landing softly on the grand piano.

The gasoline smell came alive as Joe walked closer to the kitchen, which was positioned

behind the front staircase, so he took a few seconds to reset his concentration. The doorframe to

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the kitchen entrance and the surrounding wall space had been torn to shreds, drawing Joe to run

his fingers across the bullet entries. No small gun could have produced that kind of damage.

Mr. and Mrs. Harold Linder were each tied to a chair on the backside of the kitchen

island. Their throats had been slit, while Harold's left pinky laid on the floor. The gasoline source blanketed Mrs. Linder, soaking her neck down and pooling at her feet. The Linders looked to be

in their 50's.

Joe leaned in for a closer look: the large patch of hair missing in Mrs. Linder's head was

just a few inches above her broken right eye socket, and her right hand fingernails had bloody

skin on them, indicating severe scratching of the attacker.

“She must have put up a hell of a fight,” Joe said calmly, running his fingers lightly

through Mrs. Linder's hair and finding a sizeable lump on the side of her head. Tiny glass pieces

covered the Linders' clothing.

“We found another guy in this hallway.” Officer Tom pointed to the back hallway

leading to the garage. “You should see the garage.”

Joe looked at Officer Tom in disbelief. “More bodies in the garage?”

“No, but the sedan is a quarter way out of the garage…its front doors are open, the keys

are in the ignition and its rear end is smashed in,” Officer Tom stated flatly.

It must have been awfully loud when all of this went down. Maybe a neighbor heard, or,

even better, saw something.

Faint laughter suddenly filled the house and the two officers looked at the detective.

Another burst of laughter….from a woman… upstairs. They drew their guns, then fanned out.

Joe spotted the staircase in the kitchen leading to the back of the house and started his

way up the stairs with his gun pointed upward to the second floor landing. The stairs led to a

bedroom, bathroom and a closed door that Joe suspected was another bedroom. This part of the

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house was above the garage. Another two steps up led into another empty bedroom. Joe walked

through this bedroom only to find Officer Tom in the main upstairs hallway. Officer Tom had

checked all other rooms upstairs, so they headed back down to the closed bedroom door.

Officer Tom aimed the gun at the door and Joe fired it open. Two people under a white

bed sheet looked to be on top of one another. A college-age young man looked out from the bed

sheet, his face radiating complete rage over the ecstasy interruption. The naked young man,

excited sky high, climbed out of the bed and pulled a golf club from underneath. He completely

ignored Joe's loud announcement of who he and Officer Tom were. The next thing Joe knew, this

kid started charging him with the club, and he might have clobbered Joe over the head were it not

for Officer Tom shooting the ceiling as a warning. The young man halted, dropped the club, and

looked over at the bed where the woman he was with hid under the bed sheet.

“Who the hell are you?” he drunkenly slurred. The young man sported short, brown hair

and looked around 5'11'' and 170.

“Cool it son, I'm detective Joe Costa!” Joe shouted. “Do you live here?”

Sitting down on the bed, the young man looked sheepishly up at Joe. When he didn't say

anything for a few seconds, Joe thought about asking the question again.

“Mom, we have company!” the young man suddenly shouted while reaching for his

boxers.

Joe put his gun away, wondering why the boy had no problems shouting for his mother

with a naked girl in his bed.

“This isn't friggin' happening,” the deep voice said despairingly from under the bed

sheet.

“Whoever is under the covers, please show yourself,” Joe said not so firmly, thinking

now that the voice didn't sound much like a woman.

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Hands emerged and slowly pulled down the sheet to reveal a young man looking slightly

younger than the other. He looked beet red.

Officer Rudy came running into the room. “Whoa! What is going on here…two boys?”

he asked with a mild chuckle of astonishment. “Wait a minute, I know you…you're Tom Rivers.”

Officer Rudy pointed at the newly revealed young man.

“Joe, this kid quarterbacks for Woodland High”, the officer said excitedly. “Who's this

other guy?”

Joe raised his eyes to the golf club swinging young man in a way to prompt an answer.

“Umm….Jimmy Linder…I'm their son.”

Jimmy Linder, 19 years old, had just completed his freshman year at Colgate University.

Joe walked over to Jimmy and thought about sitting down on the bed but changed his

mind because the whole bed reeked of alcohol. Joe had a real good idea whose SUV was parked

in the driveway.

“Son, where were you last night?” the detective asked. He looked over at Tom Rivers

who was sitting in the bed with the bed sheet pulled up to his chest.

Jimmy stood up and headed to the door of the room. “Mom! Dad! Hello? You guys want

to come up here please?”

The young man looked back at Joe and the officers. “I don't know…I got piss drunk with

a bunch of high school buddies…Tom and I didn't get home „til maybe three this morning…are

you here to arrest me for getting drunk?”

Certain this boy was still drunk, Joe decided not to answer Jimmy's question.

“How did you get into the house this morning?” Joe asked.

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Jimmy looked at Joe like it was a stupid question and scratched his ass. “Huh? I don't

know…we came in through the back door and walked upstairs…we spent the past month at a

buddy's house in the Hamptons.”

Tom started sobbing in the bed. Joe realized that these two could not be ruled out as

suspects, though there was not a scratch on the young man - his mother had clearly scratched her

attacker mightily – and somebody this drunk likely could not have pulled off a triple homicide.

“And you guys didn't trip over anybody on the floor in the back hallway?” Rudy asked.

Jimmy was vividly trying to be serious, yet he burst into laughter and didn't address the

question.

Joe sat on the bed with Jimmy. “Son, we hate to break this news to you, but your parents

are dead…”

Fifteen seconds of awkward silence ensued before Joe told Officer Rudy to stay with the

young men while Joe and Officer Tom continued checking things around the house.

Joe walked downstairs with Officer Tom, desperately trying to remove the image of the

two naked young men from his mind.

The ID on the body in the back hallway belonged to a Bill Walters. The bullet to the back

of Bill's head probably killed him instantly. Joe and Officer Tom walked into the garage to look

at the sedan, which was sporting a fresh looking rear end smash along with a shattered driver side

window. Joe then walked out to the awkwardly parked SUV, opened the door and spotted an open

bottle of vodka on the front passenger seat.

“Well, forensics is on their way…what did the Linders do for a living?” Joe asked.

“The cleaning lady that called it in this morning told us that Mr. Linder was a leading

cardiologist in the area.”

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Joe stretched out his arms and let out a long breath. Officer Tom looked at him strangely,

before deciding to walk back into the house. Joe followed, wondering why he stayed up so late

the night before.

“Okay…so this muscle guy tries to fend off the home invaders while the Linders try to

get away in their sedan?” the officer asked.

Joe nodded his head. “Right, so, at some point, probably before they get dragged out of

the sedan, the bodyguard is iced with a single gunshot to the back of the head….Does that make

sense? This guy is firing away, tearing up the kitchen, so how do our intruders take him out with

a bullet to the back of the head?”

Nobody said anything for a minute or so.

Officer Tom stepped forward. “But, why does this couple need a bodyguard? They must

have been expecting the intruders.”

Joe patted Officer Tom on the back for his solid deduction, and pulled out his notepad to

start writing down a list of things he would need to cover. The clue he needed to make sense of it

all was in this house, somewhere.

1) Talk with neighbors – anybody hear anything?

2) SUV in the driveway – most likely Jimmy's

3) Talk with medical peers

4) DNA underneath Mrs. Linder's fingernails.

5) Who is Bill Walters?

6) Why wasn't Mrs. Linder set ablaze?

7) Talk with relatives. Get list from Jimmy.

8) Dig into Dr. Linder's financial history, phone records, email.

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Officer Tom walked back into the kitchen, announcing that he had figured out how the

intruders got into the house: a long panel window in the family room had its entire glass cut from

the frame and placed intact on the lawn outside.

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September 1, 2002

9:30 am