6: Ellen

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Ellen sat in the back of the taxi that made its way towards San Bernardino County Police station. The journey took roughly thirty minutes, but Ellen didn't care about either the time or the impending cost of the journey. Ellen was in no state to drive, and Carla was afraid that there was still some alcohol in her system from the night before. Ellen wasn't exactly broke, as once she got used to her lavish lifestyle with Mike, she had always saved a lot of her own salary in a separate bank account. 

That way, thankfully, it never became part of the investigations into Mike that, ultimately, put him in prison. 

And soon, a coffin. 

When the taxi arrived, the two women stepped out after Ellen paid the driver. Ellen look a slow, deep breath, looking up at the police station in the centre of downtown San Bernardino. Then, she felt a warm hand squeeze her arm gently. 

"Don't worry, sis. I'm right here." 

Ellen squeezed Carla's hand with her own free one, exhaled her deep breath, and stepped into the station. As they entered, they saw a relatively quiet reception, with a tall, handsome police officer at the enquiries desk. 

"Good afternoon, ladies," the blond-haired officer greeted. "How may I help you today?" 

"A colleague of yours from Liverburg," Carla began," Sergeant Perez, advised us to meet with a Ramón Diaz at this station regarding a murder investigation." 

"I see," said the officer, clearly unexpecting the topic of conversation. "Sergeant Diaz is currently on vacation, but I may be able to help. May I asked who the deceased is?" 

"Mike Carson," replied Ellen. "I'm his wife." 

"Ms. Carson, I'm so very sorry for your loss," the officer said quickly, moving towards the doorway to let the women into a locked corridor. "Let's move into one of our meeting rooms, and we can talk there." 

When the three sat down, the officer properly introduced himself as Karl Simpson. Ellen explained that she heard of her husband's murder from the radio that morning, prompting a visible shock from Karl, something she thought was refreshing, if not probably unprofessional for a policeman.

"Ma'am, you absolutely should have been informed of the events of the past few days before the media announced it. That's yet another twist in this case."

"I'm sorry," Ellen replied. "'Another'? What do you mean?"

"It's not my place to say, and Sergeant Diaz is meant to be the one to inform you, but with him not here..."

"Officer," Carla interrupted, "I appreciate that you're bound to certain rules and standards, but my friend has found out about her ex-husband in a seriously unprofessional and hurtful manner. If your heart is in the right place, I think you can try to tell is as much as you can."

Karl looked at Carla for a moment, before breaking his gaze to commit to his decision.

"When a death takes place in a state institution, whether it's a police station, fire department, prison, whatever, a notification is sent to the local police to make them aware, and a sergeant is sent to wherever the death occured. I work on the public relations team for the county police, so I should have been made aware of your late husband's death when it happened. Only, I wasn't. None of us were. I only found out about it when the prison's press officer sent me the draft version of their media alert to send out. The alert was approved by Ramón - sorry, I mean Sergeant Diaz - but we haven't seen him since yesterday as he's on PTO."

Ellen interrupted. "PTO?"

"Sorry; Paid Time Off. Another way of saying vacation."

"So, you're saying that Ramón Diaz knew about the murder, and approved the media alert, but didn't report it?"

"Look, it might be an honest mistake, or maybe there's a synchronization error with our systems. I just wont know until Sergeant Diaz returns from his vacation. Again, considering he approved the media alert, I just assumed everything else had taken place as normal, and that any next of kin were informed before we send out the media alert. I'm very sorry, Ms. Carson."

"Thank you, Officer," Ellen replied, but it's quite clear that I'll need to speak to Sergeant Diaz. When does he return?"

"I'll have to make a call," Karl replied. "He doesn't have an out-of-office message on his email."

"See that you do, please, and call me when you know more." Ellen opened her handbag and took out a business card, giving it to Karl. "Better yet, see if Mister Diaz can call me."

"Of course, Ma'am."

Ellen and Carla said goodbye to Officer Simpson and made their way back out onto the sidewalk. They looked at each other with a mixture of concern for each other, confusion at what just happened, and suspicion for this Diaz character.

"So, what now," Ellen said.

"I think we need food," Carla replied, "and I also need to make a phone call. I know someone who might just know a little more about what happened to Mike."

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