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Chapter I: The Beginning of the End


The clocks struck eleven, in the darkest of nights. As shopkeepers and residents of Friberne retreated to their study wooden chalets, the capital of Santos-Dominius seemed to go to sleep. But, as the saying goes: "The city never sleeps......"

The National Senate Palace shut its doors, with the last of legislators walking out into the wide, paved boulevards beyond its premises. The building's halls, old, storied and with a subtle hint of medieval flair, darkened as the last lights and electronic candles were switched off. The groundskeeper, Mr. Osborne, was to be the only person in the building under normal conditions. This was to be untrue on this fateful night.

Meeting Room No. 132 was like any other, but also different in that on this night, it was bustling with noise while its adjacent counterparts were empty and collecting the few scraps of dust Mr. Osborne had not cleaned. Inside the room, President Paul Goldberg, Vice President Donald Verbloem and Senators Dennis Ford and Jan Lovings were in a heated discussion. Just by looking, any observer would come to the conclusion that was a dignified affair, but in reality the words these men uttered hid sharp knifes and strong blades. Politics was a game of reputation, and the four of them knew that insulting one another was neither the best way to reach agreement nor the best way to give someone else a good impression. Instead, their words, though polished and reserved, were heavy and with subtle deceit. Neither side was willing to back down or strong arm the other.

As the night went on, the conversation finally deteriorated. What began as a simple insult lodged by Senator Ford and aimed at President Goldberg circled the drain, and soon the room erupted into strong(but still dignified and somehow polite) rhetoric. President Goldberg, who did not care for these arguments and insults, attempted several times to de-escalate the situation, all to no avail. Vice President Verbloem and Senator Ford kept hurling words of contempt at each other, while Senator Lovings, visibly annoyed by this petty argument, joined it constantly to rebuke both men, only to be yelled at and shut out from the conversation.

"Gentlemen, please, for the love of God, sit down and take a deep breath," Goldberg said.

"NOT A CHANCE!" Ford exclaimed. "You already have the Presidency. I won't yield any further concessions to you!"

"Do you SEE this repugnant man, Paul? How dare HE, a LOWLY SENATOR, insult ME, the VICE PRESIDENT!?" Verbloem shouted.

Lovings yelled: "BOTH OF YOU, SIT DOWN and STOP this MADNESS!"

Goldberg had had enough. He knew, out of years of experience in politics, that this conversation was not going to produce any useful results. Hence, he strongly exclaimed, in the most dignified and presidential way possible: "GENTLEMEN. This. Meeting. Is. Adjourned."

Verbloem, Ford and Lovings all looked at the bearded President, first with contempt, then with shock, and then finally with apologetic looks. No one wanted to infiuriate the highest government official of the country they serve. The four men shook hands with each other, whispered a few words of apology and disappointment, and exited the room into the few dimly-lit hallways of the National Senate Palace.

Goldberg, already burdened with the complications and work of the Presidency, strolled slowly down the halls, walking steadily towards the exit. Halfway down the third corridor he passed through, he met a jubilant Mr. Osborne.

"You look positively happy, Osborne. What made you so?" Goldberg asked.

"I successfully cleaned the portrait frame of our founding President, Bill Mulberry, without damaging the painting itself. It was a hard job, but I pulled it off!" Mr. Osborne replied in an excited manner.

Goldberg smiled, pat the satisfied groundskeeper on the back, and continued to walk towards the exit he used whenever he came to the National Senate. Mr. Osborne walked in the other direction, past Meeting Room No. 132 and down a dark, almost pitch-black corridor. Goldberg did not give this action of his much thought. The presidential exit door of the National Senate Palace was in sight when a muffled but blood-curdling cry of shock rang through the halls, followed by someone screaming: "MURDER! Mr. President, where are you? Poor Mr. Osborne has been murdered!"

Without even a second thought, Goldberg rushed out the building and out into the National Senate gardens. There, he rushed over to the safety of his limousine, and was swiftly escorted back to the Presidential Residence. This is going to be a long night, the President thought. This would prove true.

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Chapter II: Deceit and Distrust

It was three whole days after the murder of Mr. Osborne. The National Senate hastily convened in a hotel ballroom a few city blocks away from its original meeting place, now tainted with the permeating stench of bloody murder. The National Senate Palace was cordoned off by police, the residents of Friberne now in an uproar. The murder had shocked the Santo-Dominian capital, once a peaceful and tranquil city built on hillsides. Now, there were four suspects, and they belonged to the highest and lowest echelons of society at the same time: politicians.

President Paul Goldberg arrived for his interrogation session on a sunny Thursday. The weather was good, his emotions were not. A bloody murder, he thought, and a poor, innocent victim. Mr. Osborne did not deserve such a terrible fate. I would've taken a bullet for him. Regardless, a dapper man dressed in a neatly pressed black suit came into the interrogation office. The man closed the door, sat down opposite the President, and said, "Good morning, Mr. President. My name is Andy Albanese, and I'm a crime scene investigator here at the Police of the Federal City of Friberne. As the chief of the investigation into this terrible murder, I will be asking you questions. Your duty as a citizen is to answer them truthfully without reservation or deceit."

"I understand, Mr. Albanese." Goldberg replied. "Your job isn't easy."

"Thank you, Mr. President. Now, as an officer of the law, I must declare to you your rights. If you want access to a lawyer, you shall be granted that access. If you cannot afford a lawyer, the Government will provide one for you. You have the right to remain silent, but your silence may be used against you in a trial. Any testimony you offer can be used against you in a trial. Your testimony will be videotaped by this camera on the table here, but anything you say that is related to this case can be used and may be used against you."

"Thank you, Mr. Albanese. Now, we shan't waste time. What questions do you have for me?"

Albanese said, in a calm and collected manner, "Mr. President. Did you commit the crime? Did you murder Mr. Osborne that night?"

"No, I did not. I was alerted by a cry of shock that I presume to be uttered by Mr. Osborne as he was fatally attacked by the culprit."

Albanese continued, "Were there any other people in the National Senate Palace at the time of the crime?"

"Yes, Mr. Albanese. Vice President Donald Verbloem and Senators Jan Davis Lovings and Dennis Ford. All three were in the building, I presume. One of them alerted me to Mr. Osborne's death, but I am not sure who that was." Goldberg replied.

"Mr. President, did you come in contact with Mr. Osborne on the day of the crime?"

"No. I did not see or talk or contact Mr. Osborne in any way, shape or form. I was occupied with meetings and commitments throughout the day." This was evidently a lie, but the President collected himself. By now, he had become accustomed to the art of subtly lying to the most investigative of journalists and reporters. It was a necessary lie, Goldberg told himself.

Seeming to have sensed Goldberg's uneasiness, Albanese sat up and stared at him for a few moments. Goldberg did not respond, and Albanese backed down from whatever plan he hatched. Taking out a notepad and a pencil, he flipped to the first page and asked: "Mr. President, do you have any predictions on who may have committed the crime? Would Senators Ford, Lovings or the Vice President have committed the crime? Do they have any motive you were aware of that would make them murder Mr. Osborne?"

Goldberg replied: "I am not aware that any of my fellow colleagues had any motive to murder Mr. Osborne. I don't know if the Senators or the Vice President have any vendetta against Mr. Osborne, and I am not aware of such vendettas even if they do exist."

Albanese skeptically looked into the President's eyes. This guy is claiming innocence......perhaps too obviously, Albanese told himself. He edged his seat closer to the table and said: "And what about you, Mr. President? Do you have any motive or vendetta against Mr. Osborne? Did you have any friendship, relationship, feud or similar things with Mr. Osborne?"

Goldberg knew that he had to lie again. He was friends with Mr. Osborne, and had been so since they were in middle school. However, to save himself from looking guilty, he had to lie again. "No, Mr. Albanese. I was not friends with Mr. Osborne, and I did not have any relationships with him. I did not feud with him either. He was a man I did not know well."

Albanese looked even more skeptical. With frustration and harsh skepticism written all over the CSI's face, the President did not flinch. Both men were accustomed to people like the other, and neither side would back down, give up or tell the truth. For now, it was a stalemate, and Albanese said: "Mr. President, I believe that's all for now. You can leave."

"Thank you, Mr. Albanese. If you have any further questions, do not hesitate to contact my office to schedule more appointments and meetings. Now please excuse me, as I have an appointment to attend. Have a good day, Mr. Albanese."

Andy Albanese did not respond.

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Chapter III: Albanese and the Two Senators

It was the day after President Paul Goldberg's interrogation session. Andy Albanese was less than convinced that the President was completely innocent, and worse yet, the other three suspects were roaming free. Wishing to interrogate and investigate at the same time, Albanese invited two of the suspects, Senators Dennis Ford and Jan Lovings, to investigate the crime scene with him.

The three men arrived at the National Senate Palace in downtown Friberne in the early hours. The expansive building was, unlike the time of the crime, well-lit, with police officers patrolling its halls, staircases, rooms and even the gardens surrounding it. As Albanese, Ford and Lovings entered the palace, police officers greeted them.

They arrived at the scene of the murder in the damp and old north wing of the building, walking up grand wooden staircases and pushing open wooden doors that creaked boisterously under pressure. The sight of Mr. Osborne's corpse, lying in the door and drenched in blood, shocked Ford and Lovings, but Albanese did not flinch; being a crime scene investigator, he had regularly seen corpses and dead bodies before. As the three men inspected the body while avoiding getting themselves wet, Albanese whipped out his notepad, took out a pencil from his jacket's pocket, and looked at the two Senators.

Opting for a direct question, he asked: "Senators, did you murder Mr. Osborne?"

"No, Mr. Albanese. I'm appalled that you might ask such a question to a person of good character like me." Lovings replied. Meanwhile, Ford maintained silence.

Albanese said: "Senator Ford? Did you murder Mr. Osborne?" Ford walked up to Albanese and whispered something in the crime scene investigator's ear. Albanese's face turned from one of mistrust to one of shock.

He said: "You murdered Mr. Osborne."

"Yes. I murdered Mr. Osborne right here." Ford replied in an unusually calm manner.

"How could you, Dennis?" Lovings exclaimed. "Mr. Osborne was a poor fellow. How big of a monster can you be that would lead you to commit such a horrific crime?"

Albanese said: "Senator Lovings, it's important that we do not argue. Right now, I need Senator Ford here to tell us everything. Senator Ford, please. Tell us why, how and when you committed this crime."

"I refuse to comment on that." Ford said, standing defiantly.

Albanese looked at Ford with anger. Jotting down notes furiously, he said: "Senator Ford, I must place you under arrest right now. I will arrange for an interrogation session with you soon. I expect you to change your mind by then." He took out handcuffs and arrested Ford, whose icy eyes stared at Lovings.

"Mr. Albanese, am I free to go now?" Lovings asked. "Now that Senator Ford has admitted guilt, I believe that this case is closed."

Albanese looked at Lovings for a while, much to Lovings' visible discomfort, and said: "Yes, Senator Lovings. If we need anything, I'll call your office and arrange an appointment with you." He then took Ford to a police car outside the building, while Lovings walked out and into his own SUV.

Wearing a creepy smirk, the senator and former President told his aide: "Take me to the Police HQ and drive quicker than Albanese's police cars. Arrange for a meeting between myself and the Police Chief. Tell him not to tell anyone else about this, and that I am meeting him to talk about Andy Albanese."

"Understood, Senator. What about Osborne's family? They want to go public." The aide asked.

Lovings remained silent for a brief moment, then said: "Bring them to my warehouse, in the dead of night. Keep them there and ensure that no one will go inside or see them being escorted inside."

"Understood. Senator, it's good to be your partner in crime." The aide said while taking out a small-sized camcorder, seemingly already recording, while Lovings fell asleep.

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