‘There wolves’
‘There wolves . . . there castle.’
--Young Frankenstein

Mrs. Rosenkrantz

by Arthur Sánchez © 2005

The interrogation room at the 25th precinct was barely larger than a broom closet. Stark, cold, containing only a table, a pair of mismatched chairs, and a two-way mirror that was as subtle as a slap in the face, it could make even the most hardened of criminals feel trapped and confined. But today it seemed huge when compared to the little old woman who sat quietly at the table sipping tea from an oversized mug that proclaimed her to be the "World's Best Dad." Lieutenant Montoya stood in the recording booth and stared at the old woman through the two-way mirror. He frowned so that his thick dark eyebrows bristled with irritation. "Why does the suspect have a cup of coffee in the interrogation room?"

Sgt. Carson looked uncomfortable. Scratching a cauliflower ear with a beefy right hand he tried to sound casual. "It's tea, Lieutenant. She, ah, asked for a cup."

Luis shot the man a disapproving look. "So you gave her yours? She's a confessed murderess, Bobby. How would you like to be the one interrogating her when she flips out and tosses hot tea all over the place?"

Sgt. Carson lowered his head at the reproach. "Look, Lieutenant," he said in an attempt to explain himself, "she's eighty. How dangerous can she be? And she's not crazy. You talk to her and you'll see. So I didn't see the harm. As for being a murderess, well, I just think she's lonely and looking for some attention."

Luis sighed. Carson is one of the good guys; a cop that actually thinks his job is to protect and serve. Despite his poor judgment, he was just trying to do his best. "That's just my point," Luis said in a gentler tone. "If she's lonely and thinks confessing to murder is a good way of getting attention then she's crazy. I'm telling you, Bobby, she gets any tea on my suit and you're paying the dry cleaning bill."

Sgt. Carson looked up and his broad honest face broke into a grin. He could tell the Lieutenant wasn't really angry with him. "Deal. And may I say how lovely a suit it is too. I hear polyester is all the rage in Paris these days."

Luis raised a finger menacingly. "Don't push it, Bobby. Maria bought me this suit. She said . . ." he dropped the finger, "that polyester doesn't wrinkle as much."

Sgt. Carson kept a straight face. "A very wise woman, your wife."

Luis picked up the manila folder with the case file and stalked past the sergeant to the door of the interrogation room. "Just turn on the cameras, will ya." And he opened the door.

Walking into the room, Luis put on his best game face: calm, confident, stern -- but not arrogant or superior. She might be an old woman but he tried to approach every one of these sessions as a professional. Everyone, no matter how crazy, was entitled to due process. He'd follow procedure even if it was a waste of time.

"Good afternoon, Mrs. Rosenkrantz. I'm Lieutenant Montoya. I'm here to ask you a few simple questions."

The old woman looked up at him and smiled. She had a face that was as soft and as wrinkled as set of flannel sheets. Her features were round; with laugh lines accenting every detail but her clear blue eyes were sharp and filled with intelligence. Watch the eyes, Luis reminded himself. Expressions and words can be faked but the eyes always tell the truth. Twenty years of police work had taught him that.

"Hello officer Montoya," she said in a voice that was hardly louder than a whisper, "it's a pleasure to meet you."

Luis nodded his head. "I need to inform you that this session is being recorded. That's for your safety. We don't want anyone saying that we put words in your mouth."

"Of course," she agreed.

"You've been read you're rights, correct? And you've chosen not to have an attorney present?"

"Correct on both counts."

Luis paused. "Do you mind if I ask why you don't want an attorney present, mam? Murder is a serious charge."

Mrs. Rosenkrantz smiled again. "Call me Shirley. I don't need a lawyer. I won't be going to jail."

Luis looked her in the eye but she didn't flinch. She knew exactly what she was saying. In fact, she seemed so certain of herself that it was Luis who broke off eye contact first. "Then, if you're not going to jail, what is it that you think you will be doing?"

"I'll be moving on," she said without hesitation. Then, realizing how her words must have sounded. "Oh, I'm not dying. I just plan on leaving town for a while. Look, Lieutenant, I'm here because you boys have a lot to do and if I can save you the trouble of investigating this death, then I'd like to do that."

Luis pulled out the only remaining chair, and sat down. "Ok, I can appreciate that. Let's talk about the murder. You say you killed a, ah, Mr. Jackson. He was your upstairs neighbor. Correct?"



"He needed killing," she answered, with not a trace of remorse.

Luis lost a beat as he was struck by her utter frankness. "W-Why?" he asked.

Mrs. Rosenkrantz sighed. "I believe if you check his . . . " she frowned, as if searching for the right term, "D.N.A you'll find that Mr. Jackson has assaulted several young woman in the community."

The truth was Luis already knew that Mr. Jackson had a record of sexual assault. DNA tests were under way to see if he could be linked to any recent crimes. "How do you know this?"

For the first time Mrs. Rosenkrantz lowered her eyes as she sipped her tea. "Violence has a certain smell to it."

Luis wasn't sure what to make of this statement. But that didn't matter. An eighty year-old grandmother could not have killed a forty year-old violent offender. Not the way this man was killed. It was time to end the interview. "How did you kill him?"

That was the question that always tripped up the crazies. The police never release all the details. The more interesting facts are always kept out of the press. Most times the confessors just make up details or attempt to hide their ignorance through vague references.

"I attacked him in his living room," she said. "We struggled as I ripped out his throat. A lot of the furniture got overturned and he ended up landing on his back on the coffee table. Once I had him down, I tore open his chest and belly and ate his heart, liver, and about ten pounds of that beer gut of which he seemed so proud."

Luis' jaw must have dropped because Mrs. Rosenkrantz actually gave him a concerned look. "Oh, dear, don't look so upset. I thought you knew how he died. And you mustn't think badly of me. I don't normally eat that way but I needed those extra calories for my transformation."

Luis spoke without thinking. "Transformation?"

"Yes," she said with a pleasant lilt to her voice, "back into my human form. I'm a werewolf you see and it takes a lot of energy to go from one form to the other. A large beer gut is an excellent source of the calories one needs -- much better than flesh or sinew. Though, to be honest with you, I gave up eating fatty foods years ago so it was a bit of an ordeal to eat that much."

Luis rose from his chair. "Can you excuse me for just one second?"

Mrs. Rosenkrantz nodded her head. "Of course."

Luis stepped back into the recording room and turned to Sgt. Carson. "Call Bellevue, tell 'em we've got a live one."

Sgt. Carson's eyes were wide. "Luis, she described the crime scene perfectly. You don't think she could have . . ."

Luis shook his head. "I don't know what to think. She's eighty but who knows, maybe she surprised Jackson. Crazy people can be incredibly strong. I once saw a guy stand up with five officers hanging off him and throw them around the room like they were rag dolls. Who knows what a determined old woman can do? Get a couple of guys up here with some restraints. I don't want to spook her but if she gets violent . . . " He let his statement fade.


"And turn those cameras off."

Carson froze. "Lieutenant?"

Luis hesitated at the door. "Do you really want to film us restraining an eighty year-old woman?" He opened the door.

"Everything all right, dear?" Mrs. Rosenkrantz asked him as he re-entered the room.

"Yes, fine," he lied, "just needed to talk to the sergeant for a second."

"You turned off the cameras, didn't you?" She said with just a hint of mischief in her eyes.

Luis hesitated. For some reason he felt compelled to answer her. "Yes, we did."

"Good," she said with an approving nod, "now we can talk freely."

Sitting down cautiously he looked her in the eyes again. If he didn't know better he would have said she was as sane as any of them. "And what is it that you would like to talk about?" He glanced at the two-way mirror. Did Carson call the squad room or did he rush out to collect the guys personally. That would leave him alone. She was an old woman. Who would have thought they would need more than two men to question her?

"He's not there, dear," Mrs. Rosenkrantz said noting the movement of his eyes. "I heard him go out into the hallway."

Luis gave her a wide-eyed stare. "You heard him?"

"I have excellent sight, smell, and hearing. Even for a wolf," she assured him. "We're all alone. But don't worry. At my age I don't bite--much." She began to giggle. It sounded almost girlish.

"So," Luis began, trying to sound casual. He needed to buy some time. Keep her comfortable till the back up showed. "You're a werewolf. What's that like?"

She gave him a frown. "Don't be patronizing, Lieutenant, I know you think I'm crazy. I heard you tell the sergeant. And by the way, you dominate your pack members quite well. Most Alphas think that shouting is the way to assert oneself but you've mastered the right tone of voice. Much more effective. I could almost hear poor Sgt. Carson quaking when you reprimanded him for giving me a cup of tea. Though, to be honest, it wasn't his fault. I can be quite persuasive. I'm also an Alpha. People tend to do what I ask."

Luis didn't know where to put his hands. He found himself crossing and uncrossing his arms. She heard them? The recording booth was soundproofed. "Is that so?"

"Yes, it is." Then she cocked her head to one side and gave him an appraising look. "You don't believe a word of what I'm saying, do you?"

It's when they sounded the most reasonable that a crazy is most dangerous. Luis could feel himself checking to see where he was in relation to the exit. "Well, I have to admit, you caught me by surprise. I've never met a werewolf before."

Mrs. Rosenkrantz picked up her tea. "Oh, I'm sure you have. There are a lot more of us than people know. Though most of us live quiet lives as respectable members of society, on occasion you get a throwback like Mr. Jackson -- a man who is barely more than a beast." She said this with obvious distaste.

Luis nodded his head as if accepting every word. "So, Mr. Jackson was a werewolf too?"

"Yes. Normally the Alpha Male is responsible for disciplining the rogues but my husband passed several years ago. That's why it was up to me to take care of Mr. Jackson. But I'm not as young as I used to be and I'm afraid I made a mess of it. Our kind prefers to handle these sorts of things in private. The police and the tabloids rarely get wind of it. But, as you know, this killing has made all the papers and, well, we just can't have that. Now can we? The key to peacefully co-existence is to avoid frightening people. It's bad enough that the film industry insists on perpetuating old stereotypes. I don't need to be adding fuel to that fire."

"No, you don't," Luis agreed with her.

Mrs. Rosenkrantz peered at him intently from over her wire rim glasses. "Lieutenant, do you realize that you haven't asked me the obvious question."

"I haven't?"


"What is the obvious question?"

"Why am I telling you all of this?"

Luis paused. That was the obvious question. For a moment she had him intrigued. "And that reason would be . . .?"

Mrs. Rosnekrantz leaned back in her chair and gave him a prim stare. "As I told you, I made a mess of things. I'll need to leave town for a while. Mr. Jackson had associates who are rather unhappy with me. I think they have plans of getting 'even'. Not that I'm worried, of course. I'll deal with them in my own good time. But while I'm laying low, there won't be any dominating force within the community. You understand how important it is to have a leader who enforces discipline, don't you?" Luis nodded his head. "Of course you do. So, while I'm gone, some of the less disciplined members of my community may become troublesome. Most simply drink too much. A few are mean. But all will respond to a firm voice. That's why I was so impressed with your handling of Sgt. Carson. You know how to command without being a bully. You know," she said, her face brightening, "you might have some Lycanthrope in you."


"Werewolf," she explained.

Luis couldn't believe he was having this conversation. Where was that back up? "So, you want me to watch out for other members of your community while you are away?"

"Yes," she said enthusiastically. "I would consider it a personal favor. Just swing by the neighborhood every few days. Let people see you. I've left explicit instructions that pack members are to cooperate with the police."

Luis considered this. He wished other community leaders would be so considerate. "And how, exactly, do I distinguish the werewolves from the regular drunks and brawlers? I mean, you look quite ordinary."

"Oh," she said as if remembering something she'd meant to say, "the traditional ways: excessive body hair, large canine teeth," she smiled to reveal a full set of toothy choppers. They appeared to be her own. "A severe dislike of anything made of silver. But most importantly," she said with authority, "and the surest way to identify a werewolf, is by smell."


"Yes, werewolves smell different from regular people." She held out her arm. "Take a whiff."

Fascinated, Luis sniffed her wrist. There was a rather odd and distinctive muskiness to the old woman. "That's an interesting perfume you're wearing."

"I never wear perfume," she confided, "confuses the males. But you can smell it, can?t you?" Luis nodded his head. "I thought you might. Takes a keen nose and not everyone has one. I'll definitely have to research your blood lines when I get back. We could be cousins." But before he could say anything, Mrs. Rosenkrantz rose to her feet and began straightening out the lines of her suit. "And now, I believe, Sgt. Carson is about to arrive with . . . four young men to see me to my car. Oh my, such an escort." And she giggled again.

At that moment, there was a knock at the door. "Hey, Lieutenant, you ok?" From the sound of his voice, Carson was definitely worried.

"Can I count on your help, Lieutenant Montoya," Mrs. Rosenkrantz said as she turned towards the door.

Luis decided not to alarm her. "Of course, I'll be happy to keep an eye open for any werewolves while you're away. I assume you'll contact me once you're back in town?"

"Oh, yes," she assured him. Standing, Mrs. Rosenkrantz barely reached the height of Luis' chin but her back was ramrod straight and her sheer sense of presence made her feel much taller. She could have been royalty or a movie star from the way she carried herself. "I'll be in touch once I'm settled in again."

The knocking at the door became more insistent. "Hey, Lieutenant, is it ok to come in?"

"Yeah, Bobby, go ahead," Luis shouted out. "Everything is fine."

Sgt. Carson opened the door slowly. Behind him were four uniformed policemen with perplexed looks on their faces. Bobby must have told them they were going to escort a werewolf to Bellevue. When they saw Mrs. Rosenkrantz, the four of them could barely keep from laughing.

"Is the van here, Sergeant?" Luis snapped in order to draw their attention to him. Sure enough, the uniforms all lost their smirks.

"Yes, sir, it's waiting downstairs."

"Good, then escort Mrs. Rosenkrantz out, will you?" The five men made a tunnel leading away from the door. They kept their eyes straight and their faces neutral.

Mrs. Rosenkrantz turned to the Lieutenant. "You see, it is all in the tone of the voice." Then she patted his face gently. "I'll see you soon, Luis." And she walked out the door into the midst of the waiting officers. She took Sgt. Carson's arm and smiled warmly at him.

Luis heard the sergeant say: "This way, mam."

Luis closed the door behind her. What a story she told. An eighty year-old werewolf! The boys at Bellevue were going to have field day with that one. Now he could honestly say that he'd heard it all. Luis started to shake his head. He was going to have a talk with Sgt. Carson. How many regulations could one officer forget to follow? No food in the interrogation room. No leaving the recording booth unattended. No . . . Luis froze. Mrs. Rosenkrantz had called him Luis. He never told her his first name. How did she . . . He opened the door to the interrogation room. Suddenly, he could hear shouts and the sound of men running.

Luis rushed out into the hallway. "What's happening? What's going on?"

An overweight detective came huffing towards him, his badly stained and worn tie flapping behind him like one of last year's World Series pennants. "That old woman, you see her go by here?"

"What, Mrs. Rosenkrantz?" Luis said with growing dread. "Sgt. Carson was escorting out."

"Yeah, well," the detective began, "I don't think Sgt. Carson will be escorting anybody out. He's handcuffed to the radiator."


The detective suddenly realized to whom he was speaking. "Um, sorry Lieutenant, the suspect overpowered the sergeant."

Luis gritted his teeth. "She's eighty years old! How can she overpower a police officer?"

The detective knew where this was going and didn't want any part of it. "I don't know Sir; all I can say is that one minute they were walking her out and the next they were picking themselves up off the floor. She's fast for an old woman. But don't worry Sir, she couldn't have gotten far. We'll catch her." And he continued on his way down the hall.

Luis was beside himself. She was a confessed murderess. Crazy, sure, but confessed.

Internal affairs is going to have my balls for this. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath to calm himself. That's when he smelled her. It was that weird perfume she claimed she wasn't wearing. She had definitely come down the hall--twice. In his mind's eye he could make out two distinct trails: one softer and less pronounced from when Carson walked her out. The second stronger and more scattered from when she came back this way--alone. He didn't know how he knew this but he did. Luis opened his eyes. There was a fire escape at the end of the hall. She would have made for it and gotten out onto the street. She was gone. Of that he was certain.

Luis began walking back to his office. He was going to have to make some phone calls; explain what happened, get a bulletin out on her. He was also going to have to think about what she'd said. There were a lot of ethnic groups in the city and he'd always prided himself on knowing enough about each so as to not insult anybody. Maybe, he thought, I should get a book on Werewolves. Brush up on my mythology. Or maybe he should just wait for Mrs. Rosenkrantz. He had a feeling he'd be seeing her again. After all, she was the Alpha--and a leader doesn't abandon her pack. Twenty years of police work had also taught him that.

x x x

I’ve got a kitten who thinks she’s an alpha. Walks around with her tail straight up all day; pushes the other cats out of the sunbeams and off the cushy spots. I like her a lot—and I like Mrs Rosenkrantz, too. Wonder if she likes sunbeams and cushy spots . . . - GM

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