Thursday, June 2, 2016

Chapter 56

Friday, January 15, 1965

By now, I had become convinced that no one on the staff could have, or would have, poisoned their colleague. Their biographies didn't produce a motive. Besides, Gina Scarpelli, aka Sister Angela, was looking pretty good as the culprit. 

The problem was that she had left her order. While this only increased our suspicions about her, we had no idea where she was. Finding her was no walk in the park. Her family was the order. She had been raised by them, worked with them, and joined them. That's all she knew. 

Somebody in the order would know where she was, I was sure.  Getting that person to tell us was the problem. Sarah, who knew more about women religious than I did was pessimistic. Gina Scarpelli was family, even if she had flown the nest. 

Still we had to try. The only other option was tough going. It meant searching medical institutions, on the theory that she'd take a nursing job somewhere. We didn't have a net that wide, though Sarah pointed out that this did make it more likely that someone in her order would have served as a reference and would then have a clue about her whereabouts.

Again, we had to try to crack the sisterhood.

We didn't have a strong interest in nailing Gina Scarpelli for murder. In some ways, we could have cared less. If Bernhard Fuchs participated in the death of her father, and indirectly her mother, maybe he deserved what we got. But we needed to pin the murder on somebody else in order to get Dingo Dave released. Eli had made that clear. He promised to look into Dave's release, but he wasn't optimistic. Chief Ziolkowski wasn't either, noting that the county authorities would not reopen the case without proof. And so it went. If we were to get Dingo Dave any help, we were going to have to find Gina Scarpelli and get her to confess.
Easy peasy. Yeah, right. 

I talked it over with the team at suppertime. Sarah agreed to make another trip up to the motherhouse, hoping mother superior or her assistant would be forthcoming. Sarah herself wasn't optimistic, explaining that mother superior would feel an obligation to someone whose only family had been the order. Still she agreed to try.

Then Sissy put in her two cents. "Go ahead, Mom. Sure, they won't tell you right off, but when you explain that there's an innocent boy in jail ..."

"It's not really jail," I said.

"He thinks it is," said Butch.

"Okay, in a group home that feels like jail," corrected Sissy. "Anyway, you're trying to help a boy who was wrongly accused and Sister Angela, um Gina, can help. Even if they won't tell you where this Gina is, I bet they'd tell her about Dingo Dave. Maybe she'll feel so guilty she'll come forward."

"You think so?" I asked. "She could be charged with murder."

"I bet she can't carry the guilt she feels," said Sissy.

"You know, Sissy has a point," said Sarah. "We're dealing with super Catholics here. If we use a little guilt ..."

"Something you're good at, Mom," said Butch with a straight face.

"World class," said Sissy with a not-so straight face.

"Looks like we're depending on your wiles, Sarah," I said.

"Looks like it," said Sarah.

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