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Most of the house was dark, but there were lights on in a downstairs room. The driveway ended at a turnaround. As soon as Anthony brought the car to a stop the ornately carved front door swung open and a frightened man in a robe and pajamas dashed into the rain. He was just under six feet tall and slender. The rain matted his uncombed, graying hair and spotted the lenses of his wire-rimmed glasses. I've called for an ambulance.

The man led the detectives into a cavernous entry hall, where an immense Persian carpet covered a good portion of the hardwood floor. Before them was a wide staircase with a polished oak banister. Anthony brushed the rain from his thinning red hair. He was a large man with a square jaw, a broken nose and pale blue eyes. The detective's shoulders were too wide and his clothes never fit properly.

Under his raincoat he wore a brown tweed sports jacket that was frayed at the elbows and wrinkled tan slacks.

The Undertaker's Widow by Phillip Margolin

Anthony had started buttoning the jacket to conceal an emerging beer gut. The blue knit tie his son had bought him for his fortieth birthday was at half-mast. It's across from the master bedroom. There was a shot. At first, I thought it was thunder. Then there were more shots. I ran next door and saw a man on the floor near the bed. There was a lot of blood. And Ms. I think he's dead, but I can't say for sure. She wouldn't let me near him. She's got a gun.

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The detectives followed the houseman up the winding stairs with barely a glance at the oil paintings and tapestries that hung over the staircase. Dennis had his gun out but felt a little foolish. It sounded as if the danger was over. Allen led them to a room at the end of a dimly lit, carpeted hall. The door to the room was open. The detective knew Crease well enough to call her Ellen, but he had no idea what frame of mind she was in.

He wasn't taking any chances if she had a gun. Crease, this is James. James Allen. I have two police officers with me. They want to come into the bedroom. You know me. I'm a detective with the Portland Police. My partner and I are coming into the room. Anthony took a deep breath and stepped through the doorway. The bedroom lights were off, but the light from the hall bathed the large room in a pale yellow glow. A man sprawled on the floor roughly halfway between the door and the west wall. The dead man's legs were bent at the knee as if he had crumpled to the floor.

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His feet were almost touching a French Provincial armoire that stood against the south wall across from a king-size bed. The doors of the armoire were partly open and Anthony could see a television. The man's head was near the foot of the bed, surrounded by a halo of blood. Near one of his hands lay a.

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Anthony pulled his attention away from the dead man and stared at the tableau directly in front of him. Seated on the side of the bed farthest from the door, as if posing for one of Caravaggio's dark oils, was Ellen Crease. She was facing away from Anthony and the back of her plain white nightgown was spattered with blood. Lamar Hoyt's naked body lay sideways across the bed. Crease's back shielded part of his upper body from Anthony, but he could make out two entry wounds and rivulets of blood running through the thick gray hair that covered Hoyt's bearlike torso.

Hoyt's large head rested in his wife's lap and Crease was rocking slightly, making little mewing sounds. Anthony noticed that her right hand was resting on her husband's massive chest and that her left hand held a. Crease continued to rock and sob. The detective edged past the armoire, then stepped over the dead man's faded jeans and took in his navy-blue windbreaker. The dead man's hair was wet from the rain and saturated with blood.

His clothing was waterlogged. Anthony looked away and focused on Crease.

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She was holding the gun, but lightly, and she was staring at her husband. What was left of Hoyt's face was covered with blood that was soaking through the white nightgown. As Anthony arrived at her side, Crease looked up. Her face was tearstained and torn by grief. Forty-five minutes later, police cars, an ambulance and the van from the Medical Examiner's Office choked the driveway in front of the Hoyt mansion.

While forensic experts worked the crime scene, Lou Anthony waited patiently for Ellen Crease in one of the deep, red leather armchairs in the library. The room was unusually clean and he sensed that neither Hoyt nor Crease entered it much. Anthony had examined some of the hand-tooled, leather-bound volumes stacked tightly in the floor-to-ceiling, cherrywood bookshelves. His brief inspection had uncovered no book with a spine that had been cracked. The detective was holding a volume of Hemingway short stories when Ellen Crease entered the library wearing jeans, an Oxford-blue shirt, and a baggy, dark green, Irish wool sweater.

State Senator Ellen Crease was thirty-five, but she had the compact, athletic body of a woman ten years younger. Crease's personality was as rugged as her physique.

Margolin, Phillip M. / The Undertaker's Widow

Her complexion was dark and her sleek black hair framed a face with features that were always on guard. There was nothing coy about Ellen Crease. She was an iron fist that never fit inside a velvet glove. Anthony hastily replaced the book and shook it.

How are you holding up? Anthony marveled at her composure. He had seen Crease's grief, but there was no trace of tears now. The detective assumed Crease was repressing any feelings she had about the death of her husband. She would also be repressing her feelings about killing the intruder, but Anthony knew the guilt would soon surface to haunt Crease as it had haunted him when he had killed a man in the line of duty. A board of inquiry had cleared Anthony.

He had even been decorated. Still, it had taken several years before he could put the shooting behind him. For most people, taking a human life, even in self-defense, was very difficult to live with. Crease took a chair opposite Anthony and selected a slender Mouton Davidoff Cadet from a humidor on an oak end table. Anthony watched Crease light up the cigar. Her hand was remarkably steady. Anthony hesitated, uncertain whether to still read the rights. Then he thought better of it.

He wanted to spare Crease as much discomfort as possible and speeding up his interview was one way to accomplish his purpose. Crease drew in smoke from her cigar. It seemed to calm her. She closed her eyes for a moment.

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Anthony thought that she looked totally spent. When she spoke, Crease sounded listless. You know that I'm right in the middle of a primary campaign against Ben Gage for the Republican nomination to the U. Lamar wanted to make love before he went to sleep, so we did. Then I got up to change into a nightgown so I could go down to my study. I was going to go to the bathroom when there was a particularly bright flash of lightning. I walked over to the window. As I watched the storm there was another lightning flash. It illuminated the area around the pool.

I thought I saw someone standing under one of the trees near the wall, but the light faded before I could focus on the spot. I wrote it off as a figment of my imagination. The intruder must have been watching from there. He wasn't carrying any ID, but it's only a matter of time before we identify him.

Why don't you go on? For a second, Crease's self-control deserted her. She closed her eyes.

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