The Stoltz/Martin file consisted of two banker’s boxes. It was sitting on my desk when I came in for my first regular day at work. I pulled out the envelope of photographs. In life, Rita Martin has been a beautiful woman. Even the harsh crime-scene photograph of her dead nude body captured some of that beauty.

I was the newest member of the Special Investigations Unit of Ohio BCI, the criminal investigation arm within the Office of the State Attorney General. The small SIU staff provided support to local law enforcement and investigated sensitive cases and cold cases referred by local law enforcement. Stoltz/Martin was sensitive and cold.

Brett Stoltz was the elected county auditor of a suburban/rural county just north of Cincinnati. At 48, Stoltz was a political “up and comer” who had established his conservative, “family values” credentials. Rita Martin, a divorcee, had been treasurer of Stoltz’s first campaign for auditor. When Stoltz won, he made Martin his chief deputy. According to the file, it was common knowledge that Stoltz and Martin were lovers.

Stoltz and Martin had been found on the floor of her kitchen. Both bodies were nude. Both victims’ hands had been bound behind their backs with flex ties. Both Stoltz and Martin had been shot twice in the head, at close range, with a .22 caliber gun. The coroner estimated that Stoltz and Martin had died between 9:00 and 11:00 p.m. the night before their bodies were found. That had been almost two and a half years ago.

There was little to go on. Entry to Martin’s house had not been forced. No potential forensic evidence, other than fingerprints and DNA belonging to Martin and Stoltz, had been found in the house. The county sheriff had investigated and eliminated as suspects everyone known to have connections to the victims. The only evidence was the bullets themselves and a neighbor who saw an unfamiliar grey pick-up truck was parked outside Martin’s house around 10:00 p.m. on the night of the murders.

I had not been a cop before joining BCI. Rather, I had been a practicing lawyer. I had joined a large Southwest Ohio law firm straight out of law school. I became disillusioned after three years of unceasing pressure to generate ever more billable hours while striving to relieve wealthy individuals and large companies from the consequences of their actions. An older partner in the firm, who was something of an outlier, had become a mentor. He was personally and politically connected to the state Attorney General. He used those connection to get me the job at BCI.

After a solid week of reviewing the Stoltz/Martin file, it looked to me like the Sheriff’s people had done a thorough job, notwithstanding the intervening pandemic. I had zero expectations as I pulled out the folders containing Brett Stoltz’s and Rita Martin’s credit card statements for the three years preceding their deaths.

The only mildly interesting thing in the statements were charges from something called “Citrus Cove Resort” in the Orlando, Florida area over the Halloween weekend, a week before Stoltz and Martin were killed. The amount of the Citrus Cove charge led me to speculate it might be room charges for a multi-night stay. Going back in time, I found other charges from Citrus Cove Resort about every month to six weeks throughout the period covered by the statements. Sometimes Stoltz paid, sometimes Martin did. Apparently, no one had investigated these credit card charges.

Going online, I learned that Citrus Cove was a large, expensive “clothing optional” resort. The resort’s website photo gallery confirmed that “clothing optional” meant nudist resort. That Stoltz and Martin went there regularly seemed at odds with Stoltz’s public image. Did it have anything to do with their murders? Probably not, but it was the only thing I found that hadn’t been investigated already.

I e-mailed a letter to the resort with head shot photos of Stoltz and Martin. I asked for everything the resort could tell me about Stoltz or Martin. The letter produced a phone call from a man named Bob Williams, who identified himself as the owner and manager of Citrus Cove. Williams confirmed that Stoltz and Martin had been regular guests for a little over three years before they died. Williams didn’t remember much about Stoltz or Martin beyond that they seemed to be pleasant people, tipped well, and never had any problems. “They seemed to be quite friendly with some of our other regulars,” Williams added. “Many of those other people are still regulars. They probably remember more than I do.” Williams chuckled. “I guess you’d have to come down here and ask them.”

“When would I be most likely to find people who knew the victims?” I asked.

“Now that it’s spring,” Williams replied, “you’re likely to find a few regulars here any weekend.”

The boss would not like me going to interview people at a nudist resort in Florida, but I didn’t see anything else to do with the case that hadn’t been done already. I wrote up a proposal for my boss. A day later, I was in my boss’s office.

“This case is high enough visibility that we can’t ignore anything, no matter how dippy,” my boss intoned. “I have no choice but to let you follow up. But, remember you are not on vacation. There will not be any charges from this nudie place on your expense forms. Also, you are not there to get dirt on Stolz or Martin. Unless it leads to the killer, no one finds out that Stoltz and his girlfriend regularly went to Florida and ran around naked. Also,” the boss instructed, “call the Florida Department of Law Enforcement before you go. We don’t want them thinking we’re investigating something in their jurisdiction without telling them, and someone with a Florida badge may get farther than you will.”

As I neared security in the Orlando airport, I started looking around for my FDLE contact. I didn’t see any men that fit my mental image. As I passed security, a young woman wearing a jacket over a dress held up a small sign that said “Mueller.” As I started walking towards her, she lowered the sign and turned on a dazzling smile.

The woman appeared to be about my age, late twenties. She had shoulder-length light brown hair, prominent cheekbones, a strong chin, and bright blue eyes. While her jacket largely concealed her figure, its swell suggested an attractive chest. Her dress stopped just above her knees. Her calves were nicely shaped with some noticeable muscle.

Of course, shaking hands had become a major faux pas. The young woman’s hand was extended to show me an FDLE photo ID card bearing her picture and the name Gail MacDonald. I pulled out and displayed my BCI ID. “Nice to meet you Mr. Mueller,” Ms. MacDonald said. She made it sound like she meant it.

“My pleasure,” I replied. I did mean it. I hadn’t interacted with a woman anywhere near as attractive as Gail MacDonald since my girlfriend had dumped me because I left law practice.

When I picked up my one bag at baggage claim, Ms. MacDonald said, “You travel light.”

“On my salary, I can’t afford a large wardrobe,” I replied.

“I’m with you there,” MacDonald said with a smile. “Don’t worry about a rental car,” she added, “I’m your chauffer while you’re here. What’s your schedule?”

“I’m supposed to meet the owner of this ‘Citrus Cove Resort’ between 1:30 and 2:00,” I replied.

“Good,” MacDonald said, “we’ve got time to drop your bag and get lunch. You can fill me in on the case. Where are you staying?” I told her. MacDonald made a face. “Your expense allowance must be about as bad as mine.”

“Hey, I had to get special approval for this motel,” I said, “our expense allowance for in-state overnight travel is only $ 40 per day.”

MacDonald smiled. “You win. Your expense allowance is worse than mine.”

“And I get snow, don’t forget,” I added.

I guessed that MacDonald was good at interviews. I had only met her a few minutes earlier and she already had me at ease. Her appearance undoubtedly helped. She was beautiful, which made her sort of instinctively likeable, but didn’t appear to work at being beautiful, which many people find off-putting.

Over lunch, I explained the case to MacDonald. She asked several insightful questions. We agreed that she would start the questioning of each person we talked to because she was a Florida officer. I had no more official status in Florida than any other tourist.

On the drive to Citrus Cove, I asked Gail what, if anything, she knew about the place. “Tourism,” she responded, “is our most lucrative industry. Nude resorts are a significant component of that. We have more in Florida than any other state. Don’t assume that the people who go to nude resorts are all leftover hippies or even that they are liberals. The resorts here draw a lot of doctors, lawyers, bankers, and insurance agents. I expect Citrus Cove has a high percentage of people like that. It is an expensive place to stay. It is considered on par with the state’s top-end clothed resorts.”

Entering the resort grounds, we had to identify ourselves to a guard who opened the gate for us. He told us the office and front desk was the first building on our right and asked us not to drive beyond it. I hadn’t spent time at any type of resort, so I had nothing to compare it to, but the building we parked in front of looked expensive and elegant to me. To my relief, the front desk staff was clothed.

Bob Williams, also clothed, took us to a small conference room. A woman about his age was already in the room. MacDonald and I both showed our IDs. Williams introduced the woman as his wife Sandy. “She is part-owner and is really the one who keeps the place running,” Williams said.

“Rita and Brett came so regularly and fit in so well,” Sandy said, “we were a bit mystified when they just quit coming. We didn’t know they had been murdered. How awful!”

“Did you know that Mr. Stoltz was an elected official in Ohio?” Gail asked.

“No, but we don’t ask what our guests do,” Bob Williams said. “We have a few Florida elected officials who visit from time to time and at least one member of Congress.”

“Did you know Mr. Stoltz and Ms. Martin’s marital status?” Gail asked.

“Again,” Bob Williams said, “that is not something we ask our guests.”

“My impression,” Sandy said, “was that they were married to each other. They acted like it.”

Gail asked, “what else can you tell us about either Mr. Stoltz or Ms. Martin or about any of their stays here?”

“We try to get to know our regular guests,” Sandy said. “If you’d asked me that question two and a half years ago, I probably could have told you something. When we didn’t hear from them for several months, I decided they probably weren’t coming back and put them out of my mind.”

I asked, “Do you think there are any guests on the grounds who knew Mr. Stoltz or Ms. Martin?”

“Yes,” Sandy said. “Ward and Annette Jackson are here. I think they spent time with Rita and Brett when they were here. I warned them you were coming and might want to talk with them.” Sandy Williams stood up. “Come on,” she said, “I’m sure they’re at their usual spot by the pool.” Gail and I followed Mrs. Williams outside.

The pool area at Citrus Cove provided one of the biggest shocks of my life. We were on a concrete patio was textured, to give traction when wet I assumed. There were two swimming pools” one sort of kidney-bean shaped and another rectangular one with a volleyball net across it at the middle. There were a couple of in-ground hot tubs. On the far side of the open area, in front of a two-story building I took to house guest rooms, was a bar with a thatched awning. Almost everywhere, there were lounge chairs. Most of the lounge chairs were taken, as were all the stools in front of the bar. Maybe twenty people were in the pool playing volleyball. More than that were in or sitting on the side of the other pool.

The facilities weren’t what shocked me. Out of maybe a hundred people in the area, Gail, Mrs. Williams, and I were the only people wearing any clothes. Without even turning my head, I saw more bare breasts, buttocks, vaginas, and penises in one minute than I had during my 29 years before that. No one seemed embarrassed. To the contrary, everyone looked like they were happy and having fun. I was aware Gail was looking at me, trying to gauge my reaction, I guess. Just then, I didn’t feel right looking at her.

We followed Mrs. Williams as she threaded her way between the lounge chairs. I was struck by an oddity. The three of us were normally dressed. Everyone else was stark naked, yet we were the ones who stood out.

Mrs. Williams stopped at the foot of two lounge chairs placed side-by-side under a tree. A nude man lay on his back in one chair. A nude woman lay on her back in the other. I guessed they were both in their forties. Both looked fit and deeply tanned. The woman’s legs were spread, giving a clear view of her vagina. She didn’t close her legs when we walked up. That made me a little uncomfortable.

“Annette, Ward,” Sandy Williams said, “these are the police officers I told you about.” MacDonald and I showed our ID cards.

Ward Johnson looked at both IDs and then said, “Ohio? Aren’t you out of your jurisdiction?”

“I’m not,” Gail replied. “You knew Brett Stoltz and Rita Martin? They were murdered in Ohio. We are hoping you have information that can help us catch their killer.”

“We knew a Brett and Rita who used to come here a lot,” Annette Johnson said. “I don’t remember their last names, if we ever knew them.”

I showed Mrs. Johnson photos of Rita and Brett. She looked at them and handed them to her husband. “Those are the people we knew,” Ward Johnson said after a moment. “Murdered? Why?”

“That’s part of what we are trying to find out,” I replied. “What can you tell us about them?”

“We met them here, damn, maybe four or five years ago,” Ward said. “I don’t remember exactly how. They were fun people to be around. It got to the point where they’d tell us when they were coming, and we come here on the same dates. There were two other couples that were part of our group. We’d all get together here when Rita and Brett came in.”

“Did either of them ever mention any concerns, problems, trouble they were having?” I asked.

“Not that I can recall,” Annette answered.

“Did you know that Mr. Stoltz was an elected official in Ohio and Ms. Martin was his chief deputy?” I asked.

“No, but I’m not surprised,” Ward said. “Brett had the charisma you’d expect of a politician. Rita was charismatic too, and a bit of a flirt.”

“And they were physically beautiful people,” Annette added. “Especially naked.”

“Were you here when they came for Halloween two years ago?” I asked.

“Yes,” Annette replied.

“Was there anything unusual or anything bothering either Brett or Rita?” I asked.

“No,” Annette said.

“Wait a minute,” Ward interjected. “There was something. I think they saw someone here whom they knew from home and were not happy about it.”

“Were upset that someone from home saw them here?” I asked.

“I don’t think that was it,” Ward said. “More like it was someone whom they disliked. You know who you should talk to is Jason and Carrie, uh, Danner I think is their last name. They were closer to Rita and Brett than we were. I think Rita and Brett sometimes visited their home. They live around Ocala somewhere.”

“Is there anything else you can tell us?” I asked.

“I don’t think so,” Ward said.

“Ward’s right,” Annette said, “I remember now. Brett saw a man that he knew from somewhere else. I don’t think Brett or Rita talked to the man. I remember Brett saying something like, ‘what’s that asshole doing here again?'”

We thanked the Johnsons and left. Back in the office, we asked Bob Williams about Jason and Carrie Danner. Williams checked a computer and said they were regulars whose stays had coincided with Stoltz and Martin.”

“Can you give me their address?” Gail asked.

“I’d better not, unless you have a warrant,” he replied.

“Mr. Williams,” I said, “we don’t believe they are in any trouble. We want to talk to them as part of finding out who murdered two of your regular guests.”

“I’ll tell you the town,” Williams said. “It’s Eureka. You can find them from that.”

“Thank you,” I said.

As we walked from the building to Gail’s car, she said, “That seemed like a pretty nice place.”

“Would you go there, as a guest I mean?” I asked.

Gail smiled. “Ian,” she said, “I grew up in the Keys. I doubt there are many people who’ve lived in the Keys who haven’t done some skinny dipping or nude sunbathing. I remember one Sunday the summer after my senior year of high school, we had a party on one little island. About 30 of us, girls and guys. Everyone stripped off. Didn’t they do things like that where you grew up?”

“Not that I was aware of,” I replied somewhat sheepishly.

“You’ve been deprived,” Gail said. She stopped and did something on her notebook computer. “I’ve got an address and phone number for the Danners. It’s too late to get up there and back today. Let me call them and see if they’ll talk to us tomorrow.” She made the call, had a brief conversation, and reported “Mrs. Danner says they’ll both be home all day tomorrow. We’re welcome to drop in any time.”

Gail drove me back to my motel. “I’d go to dinner with you, but I’ve got a commitment tonight,” she said before dropping me off.

I found food at a carry-out fast-food restaurant and bought two 20 oz. beers at a convenience store. I took those back to my room. After I ate, I pulled out my laptop. Over the years, I had become very facile at searching the internet. I was bored and curious. I powered up the laptop to see what I could learn about Gail MacDonald.

There was, of course, nothing online about her since she had joined FDLE. Information about law enforcement officers, down to home address and phone numbers, was usually confidential. I did learn that she had been born 28 years earlier in New York City. Apparently, her family had moved to the Keys when she was small. She had gotten her Bachelor’s in criminology, with honors, from the University of Florida. To my surprise, I also discovered that Gail had been a Florida Gators cheerleader for three years. A bit of digging turned up a seven-year-old picture of her in uniform on the sidelines. She looked good in the form-fitting cheerleader outfit that stopped just below her ass. However, I thought Gail was more beautiful now than then. I was impressed that Gail had reached the semi-finals of the state girls’ tennis tournament as a singles player in her senior year of high school and that she had graduated high school as class salutatorian.

Gail picked me up the next morning. She had thought that the drive to Eureka would take a couple of hours. That might have been true had traffic on I-75 not been so heavy. There were only brief stretches between Orlando and Ocala where we got up to the posted speed limit. We had been talking about the case when Gail asked, out of the blue, “why does someone who was in the top ten percent of his law school class and had a job at a prestige law firm become a criminal investigator?”

“You’ve been doing your homework,” I commented. I explained why I had left law practice. Then, I asked “why does a cheerleader at big time sports university major in criminology?”