Whoddunit? (IV-1)

by Frederika Katrina Piccolo M. Taduran

December 19, 2001, Beverly Hills, California – The atmosphere was heavily charged with different emotions – grief, fear, apprehension, anticipation, hatred and tension that one could almost touch it. Outside, the bright sun was already setting on the Western horizon lending the room an eerie glow that sent shivers down everyone’s spine.

They had just come from the burial of the great shipping magnate, Don Ricardo Carvallo, builder and owner of the prestigious Carvallo Shipping Lines, and were now gathered at the exquisite den of his palatial mansion (at his request), to witness the reading of the late Don’s last will and testament, as the Don’s piercing eyes on his almost-real portrait done by Luisa dela Cruz, seemed to watch over them.

Five days earlier, Don Ricardo, while being confined at LA’s Center City Hospital awaiting a triple bypass operation to be performed by the world-renowned cardiac surgeon Yvonne Abrihan, was declared dead by his attending physicians Dr. Aying Navarro and Dr. Grace Montemayor, due to a massive heart attack complicated by pneumonia. However, upon autopsy, pathologist Judith Casupanan discovered that Don RC’s blood was poisoned with 100cc of Demerol. This last bit of information was revealed only to Fritz Arce, chief of security in the Don’s chain of businesses.

She intended to keep it a secret until after the murderer was caught but New York Times’ ace correspondent Peachie Taduran caught on to this secret after a thorough-investigation since the Don revealed to her in an earlier interview that someone was trying to kill him. Together, Fritz and Peach conducted an exhaustive investigation with the help of LA’s Sherlock Holmes, Che-Che Azucena.

While America’s highest-paid lawyer and the Don’s right hand person Carla Garcia, was reading the Don’s will, Fritz and Peachie scanned the faces of the women (Don RC enjoyed surrounding himself with women) present and measured once more each’s involvement in the murder.

CCH pharmacist Chi Chi Cruz had easy access to the drug and the ill man, but she had no motive to kill him. Don RC’s team of  psychologists – London-based Princess Villanueva, San Francisco- based Donna Benzon and Honolulu-based Sarj Galura – also had nothing to gain by killing the Don.

Any of Don RC’s colleagues – Rowena Torres, general manager of the London branch; DetDet Sia, branch manager in Athens and Calcutta branch manager Renu Balani – could have killed him for reasons of ambition, but all of them were in their respective branches at the time of the Don’s untimely death.

Chief accountant of the Don’s l5usiness conglomerate, Rowena Nazario and the departmental heads in the main branch in Los Angeles – Angie Tuano, sales department; Macris Bonifacio, shipping department; Myra Cabio, production department and Rosanna Yano public relations department were in close proximity to the Don but none had any motive for killing him.

Don Ricardo’s friends from the AMOA Architecture and Designs, the firm which designed and decorated all of his buildings including this palace – Noemi Amigleo, Mitch Matias, Ame Ochoa, and Wowot Alejo – were present since they were probably included in the Don’s will. None of them though, could’ve murdered him because all were attending a company meeting at the time of the tragedy.

Two women – American Airlines’ stewardess Virginia Ignacio and Paris’ top high fashion model Chai Cruz were also present, as requested by the Don – very unlikely culprits since they had no connection with the Don, unless of course, they were once-upon-a-time more than just friends of his. They though, wouldn’t gain anything if the Don died.

Face-of-the-2000′s winner Angie Afable, present “friend” of Don RC wasn’t particularly pleased with him recently, since his attention was starting to wander towards New York’s greatest Broadway actress Shiella Ebo. But this wasn’t enough to prod anyone to kill him.

A strong candidate was Marife Buscaino, the owner of the CSL’s rival shipping company, Buscaino Lines. With his death, she would lose a strong competition and business would soar, but, at the time, she was in Spain closing a dea1 with the hotshots of the Un Accelerado Electronics – chairman of the board Rachel Torralba and board members Loy Lacaba, Luisa Mariano, Marites Cunanan, May Tiongson and Olen Lumanglas.

Don Ricardo’s two daughters by his first wife – Hollywood’s leading actress Rose Rosales and CSL’s LA branch manager Jo Lato had a lot to gain from his death, financially speaking, but the former was then shooting a film in the Pacific while the latter then was vacationing in
Aspen with pals Joy Cabrillas, owner of the Ritz and 5-time Grammy awards winner Levia Guce.

Their mother, the former Cher Zambrano, Miss Universe ’90, who, needless to say, would gain a lot from his death. money- and power-wise. was attending an art exhibit at the Prado Museum in Madrid, so she could not have killed him.

His daughters by his second wife who would be gaining even more from their father’s death than most others, weren’t really interested in his affairs, so no one among his three daughters – Paco Catholic School’s principal Rose Halili, multi-awarded singer Ada Tan and Carvallo Foundation for Handicapped Children managing directress Sor Anna Esteron who is ably assisted by Nobel Prize winner for Education Eliza Umali and Filipina-turned-Hindu professor Eleanor Espiritu, would’ve killed their dad.

The last face in the room was Don Ricardo’s second wife, Janet Atutubo, seemingly grief stricken and frail, acting like the distressed wife she was supposed to be. With Don RC dead, she would be inheriting more than half of his properties and power, too. Aside from this, she’d
also be inheriting her freedom – to marry her fourth husband whom she had been seeing for the last two months. A very good motive. Besides, the nurses in the CCH said that she was the last visitor of the Don on the night he died.

After the reading of the will, everyone thought it was all over and was already starting to rise and leave. However, before anyone could do so, the chief of security and the reporter went in front and the latter spoke up, explaining that the death of Don Ricardo wasn’t due to heart attack as previously believed, but due to blood poisoning.

Peachie continued, “After conducting an exhaustive and thorough investigation during the last few days, we have gathered enough evidence to believe that the killer is in our midst.”

As a gasp of horror and surprise was heard, Fritz added, “As much as we hate to believe it and to tell you this, the killer of Don Ricardo Carvallo is … “

“Cut!”, Mrs. Arlene Brazal,IV-1 ‘s fighter-lover adviser of some, 15 years back, interrupted in a gentle yet firm voice. “Girls, as you all know, this, is our first major reunion after 15 years. For this occasion, therefore, we have prepared a well-rounded program fpr everyone, so I guess we better stop this fantasy and proceed’ to the dining hall as dinner is already served. Besides, it would be nice to continue catching up on each other’s lives while eating.”

As 47 women entered the dining hall to a scrumptious banquet, Mommy Arlene Brazal was left behind wondering ‘whodunnit’?