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Authors: LS Sygnet

Tags: #murder, #mystery, #deception, #human trafficking, #corrupt cops

Always Watching (30 page)

BOOK: Always Watching
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I stared at the woman sitting on the other
side of the observation window.  She looked like a shell of a
human being.  The fear and trepidation I witnessed the first
time we spoke was gone.


Is she
sedated?”


No,” Crevan said. 
“The only thing we’ve gotten out of her since I got here is that
she must speak to you and only you.”


Hmm.”


Helen, there’s no way
Melissa Sherman could’ve gotten word to Florence.  We’ve kept
her segregated at Central Division since we took her into
custody.”


And the state police
personnel that have had contact, are these men and women that we
trust implicitly?”


I’ve been here for a
little more than a few weeks, Helen.  I don’t know these
people like I do the guys at Downey Division.  I trust Johnny
more than anybody in the world.  If he vetted them, it’s good
enough for me.”


Where is Chris
Darnell?”


He’s on his way to
Montgomery to help Devlin tear through the Sherman
house.”

I gouged multiple fingers into my temples,
trying to will the pounding headache away with brute force. 
“Can’t waste time doubting myself.  We don’t have the luxury
right now.”


Helen?”


Never mind,” I
muttered.  “It’s been a hell of a day.”  Poor Crevan
didn’t even know one of many disturbing pieces of information we
learned today – the one that related directly to him.  “Ready
to go in?”


Helen, I know what I
promised Johnny, but there’s no way Payette is gonna talk to you if
I’m in that room.  I’ll be with you through the
mirror.”

I grinned at him.  “You realize he’ll
have both our butts in a sling if he ever finds out.”


Oh, he’ll find out. 
We’ve been rolling tape since the moment we planted her
uncooperative ass in the interrogation room.  I think all
things considered, it’s more important that we get answers from her
before a judge possibly rules against Zack this afternoon.  Or
do you disagree?”


Not one little
bit.”

I pushed the door open and watched dull
brown eyes lift.  There was no fear in her face, no passion
either.


Ms. Helen,” she said
softly.  The first bit of emotion bled from her lips. 
Relief.

I pulled out a chair beside her and sat
down.  “Detective Conall called me.  He said you’ve been
asking to speak to me, Florence.  I was afraid you’d never
want to talk to me again after what happened the other day.”

She nodded slowly.  “I don’t have much
time, ma’am.  Ms. Sherman is gonna find out what I did, and
send me away, just like she did my mama.”


Florence, is that what
you wanted to tell me?”


No,” so softly whispered,
I thought I imagined it, had it not been accompanied by the
slightest shake of the head. 


What is it?”

The nervous mousy girl returned, despite the
fact that Florence was biologically old enough to be my
mother.  Her finger started tracing random patterns before
picking at the edge of the tabletop.


She’s gonna say she
didn’t have anything to do with that little baby, Ms. Helen. 
That’s a lie.”


All right.  Can you
tell me how you know it’s a lie, Florence?”


She came over here, to
the apartment where Mr. Sherman made me live when he said I had to
be a nurse,” Florence said.  “She said that Mr. Sherman wanted
me to do something very important for him.”


How long ago was that,
Florence?”

She shrugged.


You don’t
remember?”


When you said Mr. Sherman
was… was dead …”


What about it, Florence?”
I asked gently.


Um.”  She stammered
softly.  “When did Mr. Sherman pass?”

I felt Crevan’s eyes burning through my
back.  Panic constricted my trachea.  The recent doubts
fueled the sensation.  What if I replied with the wrong
approach and Florence retreated again, wouldn’t tell me what it was
she specifically requested to see me to say?

Gently, dipping a tip of the conversational
toe into the pool of simmering acid, I said, “It’s been a few
weeks, Florence.”


More than
two?”

Yes, in fact, it was closer to four weeks
than two now.  I nodded.  “He passed away last month,
Florence, before the middle of February.”

She retreated into the shell that had so
discomfited me when I entered the interrogation room.  My
brain screamed in protest.  How in the hell had my delivery
been too brutal for her?


Florence, I’m so sorry
that Mrs. Sherman didn’t tell you that Eugene passed away. 
She shouldn’t have kept that a secret from you.  Obviously,
you cared for him after all the years that… well, you knew
him.”

Her eyes focused.  “I’m not sorry he
passed, ma’am,” she said softly.  “Ms. Sherman lied to
me.  But I lied to you too.  They never said that baby
was stolen from Ms. Sherman.  They said it was bad people who
didn’t deserve that little girl.  She told me that Mr. Sherman
was too busy to tell me to take that little baby away from the bad
people himself, so he sent her.”

My heart hammered hard enough to make my
skull feel like it would split open.  “Florence, did Mrs.
Sherman say why the bad people couldn’t have their little
baby?”


That girl’s daddy is
going to prison.”

Not anymore.


And her mama is too young
to take proper care of a baby.  No matter how much Mr. Sherman
thought of her daddy, that baby needed good parents.”


Mr. Sherman knew the
baby’s father?”

Florence nodded.  “They were friends
for a long, long time, Ms. Eriksson.  Mr. Datello used to come
to Montgomery all the time to talk to Mr. Sherman about important
stuff.”

Johnny’s investigation into illegal campaign
contributions popped into my head along with rumors Devlin told me
that swirled over Datello influencing the upcoming election, his
desire to find a challenger to Joe Collangelo who would be amenable
to maintaining the status quo in Darkwater Bay.


Is that what you wanted
to tell me, Florence?”


No,” she
whispered.

I waited.  Push and risk another
retreat after all.


If Mr. Sherman died
before Ms. Sherman came to see me, I know he didn’t ask for me to
save that little baby.”


How do you know that for
sure, Florence?”

Florence clamped her mouth shut.


This isn’t right,
Florence.  If you know something about who told you to save
the baby, you need to tell me.  It’s very
important.”

A large tear rolled down Florence’s gaunt,
pale cheek.  “She’s gonna blame me for this, isn’t she? 
If I don’t tell the truth?”


Yes.  I want to help
you, Florence.  I believe you.  I don’t think you
would’ve taken the baby if someone hadn’t made you do
it.”


She promised me that she
would bring my mother back if I did it, that Mr. Sherman promised
to let Mama come home again.”


And that made you believe
that Mr. Sherman didn’t really want you to save the little
baby?”

The flow from her eyes dripped in little
puddles on the table.  “I wasn’t supposed to hear.  I
wasn’t supposed to hide and listen to Mr. Sherman, ma’am, but I
knew they couldn’t bring back Mama.”

All right.  Now we were getting
somewhere.  I leaned forward and gently gripped one of
Florence’s hands.  “You must tell me what you overheard,
Florence.”


Mr. Sherman said where
they buried my mother,” she whispered.  “I knew she was
dead.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 25

 

That was the first huge revelation Florence
Payette made.  The second prompted a frantic phone call to
Devlin.  We needed cadaver dogs on the Sherman property. 
The old bastard buried his slave in the wooded area behind the
house.

Crevan warned me that we should call Johnny
before doing anything drastic. 

In his opinion, removing any remains to Bay
County would be a drastic move.


Listen to me,” I
hissed.  “This is our case – OSI.  We are here. 
Maya is already up to speed with the investigation.  She
understands why it was imperative to keep the Villanueva findings
concealed from Agent Preston.  As it turns out, he didn’t give
a damn about that dead child.  His mission was simple. 
Provide the loophole that would free Melissa
Sherman. 


Now we’ve got a very
limited amount of time before Sherman’s cagey lawyer finagles bail
for her.  Do you really want that to impede this
investigation?”

He muttered a curse about me being the most
stubborn woman he’d ever met and called Devlin back.  “Ship
any remains, should you find them, back to Winslow at the Bay
County ME’s Office.”

I dialed Johnny’s cell phone.


She
what
?” he growled after I divulged
the substance of my conversation with Florence to
him. 


Johnny, you’ve got to
tell Zack now.  If this Marcel gets his clutches into
Florence, he’ll shut her up before she can tell me what else she
may have overheard Eugene Sherman say.  Call me back after you
talk to him.” 

I disconnected before he could argue with
me.  That was when the carpet abuse began.  How long
could it take to confer with one district attorney?


Pacing faster won’t move
the hands on the clock by sheer force of will, Helen,” Crevan
said.  “I know you have issues with patience, but
really.”


So I’m stubborn
and
impatient,
huh?”


A little bit,” he
grinned.  “For the record, Devlin said that he agreed with
your instincts to keep all the autopsies under one scalpel.  I
think you could suggest that rolling naked through hot coals would
be a good idea and he wouldn’t argue.”


Crevan, please don’t
start.”

He held up his hands in a defensive
swipe.  “I’m not accusing you of anything, Helen.  Or
him, for that matter.  You’re the one who beat it through my
skull that we can’t change who we love.”


He doesn’t love me,” I
muttered. 


I disagree, but even that
isn’t what’s important.”

My eyebrow spoke the unuttered question.


How you and Johnny feel
about each other.  That’s all I meant about
importance.”


You know I love
him.”


I know
he
loves
you
.”

We agreed (or at least I had insisted) that
our most recent personal development be kept quiet for the time
being.  I hadn’t thought about when or how or even if we would
tell anyone that I accepted Johnny’s marriage proposal.


You’re not pacing
anymore.  I’m not sure if that’s a good sign or a bad one,” he
said.


It’s not bad.  I’m
just not sure how pissed off Johnny will be if I steal his thunder
and tell you before he does.”

Crevan’s eyes twinkled.  “Who says I
don’t already know?”

I doubted it.  Johnny already told me
that Crevan and Maya suspected the reason for my sudden and
persistent queasiness, not to mention the wild mood swings.


Johnny and I had a
terrible fight the other day,” I said.

Crevan’s smile faded.  “Helen –”


I told him that he needs
to move out.”


Shit.”


He’s not leaving,” I
brushed aside the concern quickly.  “In fact, he asked me to
marry him.”

Eyes widened, but Crevan held his
tongue.  Maybe he was too wary of my emotional lability to
ask.


I said yes.”


Oh, Helen, that’s
fantastic news!”


You have to act surprised
when he tells you.  He hadn’t already, I presume.  Either
that, or your acting skills are seriously Oscar worthy.”


No, he never said a
thing.  That surprises me.  I figured if he ever worked
up the nerve to ask you, and you said yes, that he’d be screaming
it in the streets.”


The timing isn’t so great
right now.  The case, I mean.  We’re trying to stay
focused on quickly getting answers.  I wonder why he hasn’t
called me back yet.”

Crevan stepped in my path before the pacing
reached fever pitch again.  “Hey, you could you at least let
your dearest Darkwater buddy give you a congratulatory hug?”


I should be asking you to
be my bridesmaid before Johnny steals you for his side of the
aisle,” the well concealed buff arms of my friend wrapped around me
for a hug.  His laugh rippled into my ear.


You’ve got Maya for
that.”


True, but she’s not the
first person we told.  I told.  Whatever.”

Crevan’s cell phone rang.  He slipped
it out of his pocket without displacing me from the embrace and
pressed it to his ear.  “Conall.  Oh, hey, Dev. 
Hang on.  Helen’s here with me.  Let me put you on
speaker.”  He flicked a button.  “Go.”

BOOK: Always Watching
10.08Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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