Read Chasing Darkness Online

Authors: Danielle Girard

Tags: #Fiction, #Historical, #Literary

Chasing Darkness (9 page)

BOOK: Chasing Darkness
7.74Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

“No,”
she said quickly. “It’s a good idea.”

He
watched her, the nervousness in the way her eyes flitted across the room and
she played with her blazer button. He pretended to watch Polaski, wondering
what she would say.

“Where
did you want to go?”

He
shrugged. “I’ll think of something.”

She
paused and tried to look nonchalant. “Okay. Tell me where and I’ll meet you
there.”

Nick
grinned. “Okay. I’ll leave you a message tomorrow.”

Polaski
waved for Nick to return.

“Got
to go.” He paused and looked at her. “See you tomorrow?”

She
nodded. “Tomorrow.” She motioned to the room. “Give Lugino my regards.”

“You
gonna watch?”

She
smiled without meeting his gaze. “Wouldn’t miss it.”

He
thought briefly about the prospect of a dinner alone with Sam. Apart from work,
they hadn’t been alone since that night. She’d always kept at least one boy
around as a barrier. Or maybe there was just always a boy around. He reminded
himself that tomorrow would just be two friends having dinner. With a quick
breath, Nick entered the interview room and sat down next to Polaski.

They
had already agreed that Nick would take the regular questions and Polaski would
butt in when they didn’t like Lugino’s answers. A classic good cop, bad cop.

Nick
cracked his knuckles to relieve some of the tension that had built up in his
body and forced his mind back to the case.

“You
ready to talk to us, Lugino?” Nick asked.

The
man nodded, looking exhausted.

Nick
flipped on the handheld recorder and placed it in front of the suspect. “Please
state your full name for the record.”

“James
Lee Lugino.”

“Date
of birth,” Nick continued.

“March
twenty-four, nineteen fifty-three.”

“What
was the nature of your relationship with Sandi Walters?”

Lugino
furrowed his brow.

“How
did you know Sandi Walters, Mr. Lugino?”

Lugino
nodded. “She was my girlfriend.”

“But
she was with someone else, maybe even married to him. Sandi was with Mick
Walters, wasn’t she?”

He
shook his head. “They weren’t together, and they never got married. He’s
Molly’s dad, is all.”

“And
that doesn’t bother you?”

Lugino
shook his head. “He’s basically a good guy. Sandi and I were good together.
They weren’t.”

“You
sure Sandi wasn’t planning to get back with Mick? Maybe that made you jealous?
Maybe you lost your temper?”

Lugino
shook his head. “Ask Sandi’s mom, ask Mick. Hell, you can even ask Molly. Sandi
and I were together, Mick’s around for Molly’s sake, but Sandi wasn’t
interested in him.”

Nick
continued to question Lugino on his relationship with Sandi Walters, when they
met, where they went. He’d already heard it three times, but this time it was
official. This time it was being recorded. It wasn’t going anywhere. Even as he
spoke, he wondered if the lab would get any more information on the case—some other
lead to follow, a match to the print.

“Do
you use alcohol?”

He
nodded.

“Out
loud, please, Mr. Lugino.”

“Yes,
I drink sometimes.”

“How
about drugs?”

“No.”

“Did
you ever take drugs with Sandi Walters?”

“No,”
he answered again.

Nick
didn’t need to see Polaski’s reaction to know Lugino was lying. He was a bad
liar.

“Have
you ever taken drugs, Mr. Lugino?” Polaski interrupted, leaning over the table
and pushing his scarred face toward Lugino.

The
suspect looked around the room and then closed his eyes before answering.
“Yeah, a long time ago I did.”

“Don’t
lie to us again,” Polaski warned.

Lugino
looked at Nick for help.

“What
sort of drugs?” Nick asked.

Lugino
shifted in his seat, the plastic chair making a cracking sound. “It was a long
time ago. What difference does it make?”

“Answer
the question,” Polaski ordered tightly.

Lugino
wiped a hand across his forehead. “Yeah, I used to do drugs.”

“What
sort of drugs?”

The
man shrugged, though he appeared anything but relaxed. “I don’t know—pot
mostly. Some acid, ’shrooms.”

“What
about heroin?”

Lugino
nodded.

Polaski
made a low sound like a growl.

“Yeah,
some smack once or twice maybe.”

“Methamphetamine?”
Nick continued like he was reading off a laundry list.

Lugino
gave him a blank look.

“Crank,”
Polaski added. “You ever do crank?”

Lugino
looked down at the floor. “Yeah, probably, but a long time ago.”

“Cocaine?”

Lugino
looked relieved. “No. I never did coke.”

Nick
knew it was too expensive. “What about the night of July twelfth? Were you taking
drugs then?”

He
shook his head.

“Please
answer out loud,” Nick said.

“I
don’t think so.”

“You
don’t think so?” Polaski asked.

Lugino
ran a hand through his hair, which he had pulled straight and it was now
standing on end in some places. The gray showed under the harsh halogen lights,
and Nick noticed his skin looked gray too. “I don’t remember—maybe.”

“What
sort of drugs would you have taken?”

“Pot,
maybe some downers.”

“No
heroin?”

Lugino
squinted, turning his head to the side, perplexed, the way dogs did. “What?”

“Heroin,”
Polaski repeated. “Smack, H, horse, scag. I thought you said you’d done heroin
before?”

Lugino
looked straight at Nick without blinking. “I didn’t. Not that night.”

“Did
Sandi Walters take heroin that night?”

“I
don’t know. I wasn’t with her until later.”

“But
you didn’t take heroin that night?”

He
shook his head fiercely. “No.”

“Did
you kill Sandi Walters?” Polaski asked.

Lugino
shook his head, his eyes wide with the look of a man truly shocked. “No.”

“But
you do admit having sex with her that night?” Nick continued.

Lugino
nodded, his shoulders sagging. His hands in his lap, he dropped his head. “She
told me to meet her at that field. She loved that place. There were a couple
horses across from there. Hell, she’d even named the damn horses—Cupcake and
Butterscotch.” He blinked hard, and his voice was rougher when he spoke again.
“That night, I was late—almost a half hour, I think. She was just leaning up
against the tree, almost naked.”

“Tell
us what happened then,” Nick prodded

“I
came to talk to her. I’d been drinking some. I remember she seemed out of it.”

“Out
of it, meaning what?”

“Passed
out.”

“Not
moving?” Nick continued.

Lugino
winced at the implication. “Yeah, not moving.”

“But
you didn’t think she might be dead?” Polaski pushed.

“God,
no. No. I never thought that. I thought she’d passed out. She does that from
time to time.”

“She
was naked when you found her?” Nick added.

“Wearing
her underwear.” He touched his neck. “With these little branches in her hair.”

“And
that didn’t strike you as unusual?” Polaski asked, clearly not buying the
story.

Lugino
seemed to crumple. “No. To be honest, Sandi always loved to be naked. She’d
been doing heroin lately.” He looked up. “I haven’t, but she had. And it made
her do some crazy stuff. It made her feel hot and she loved the feel of the air
on her skin. So she was taking her clothes off all the time. It didn’t seem so
weird. I thought it was kind of sexy.” The last word seemed to leave him small
and deflated.

“And
you had sex with her despite her lack of movement?” Polaski continued without
missing a beat.

Lugino
looked up at Nick, his eyes begging someone to stop the questions.

“Is
that right, Mr. Lugino?” Polaski continued.

Nick
sat back and listened. Nothing about Lugino’s reaction seemed off. Nick found
it hard to buy the story about having sex with a dead woman without knowing it,
but stranger things had happened.

“Yes.
I had sex with her.” His head down, Lugino’s shoulders shook, and Nick was
fairly certain he was crying. His voice quivering, he told the story again.
When she hadn’t moved after sex, he tried to rouse her. That was when he
figured out she was dead. In a moment of panic, he’d bolted.

“You
didn’t take her underwear off?”

He
shook his head.

“Please
answer the question.”

“No.
I didn’t take them off.”

“How
did you have sex with her without removing her underwear?”

He
motioned to the side with his hand. “I just sort of, moved them to the side,”
he said without looking up.

“You
didn’t make any markings on the body?”

Lugino
looked up at Polaski. “No.”

“You
didn’t put anything on her foot?”

“No.”

“Do
you chew gum, Mr. Lugino?”

He
frowned. “Gum?”

“Right.
Do you chew gum?”

He
shook his head. “Nah. Gets stuck in some crowns I’ve got.”

“How
about Ms. Walters?”

“You
mean about gum?”

“Right.”

Lugino
nodded. “Yeah, Sandi likes—liked gum.”

“What
kind?”

“Big
Red.”

“Any
others?”

“No.
Mostly just that one, I think.”

Nick
stopped and watched Lugino, starting to feel sorry for the guy. Nick pictured him
realizing Sandi Walters was dead after having sex with her and rushing off. How
long would it be until Lugino could close his eyes without thinking about
having sex with a corpse? Would he ever?

“Do
you know a woman named Karen Jacobs?” Nick asked.

Lugino
sniffled and looked up, the cheeks above his beard red and splotchy. “Who?”

“Karen
Jacobs?”

Lugino
stared at the far wall and then shook his head. “No. I never heard of her.”

“How
about Charlie Sloan?”

Lugino
frowned. “That name’s familiar. He work at Denny’s with Sandi?”

Nick
glanced at Polaski, who shook his head. He lifted the recorder off the table
and pressed the stop button. Then he followed Polaski out of the room.

“I
don’t buy that sex thing. He’s got to be lying,” Polaski said when they’d shut the
door on Lugino. “Who the hell could have sex with someone and not realize
they’re dead? It’s too sick.”

Nick
rubbed his eyes. Damn, he was tired. “I agree it sounds hard to believe. But he
didn’t even blink at the sound of Karen Jacobs’ name or Charlie Sloan’s.”

“Maybe
he didn’t know their names,” Polaski continued. “Doesn’t mean someone didn’t
tell him about the case. It’ll be easy to check if his blood type matches the
semen at the scene. He’s admitted he was there. It’s got to be him.”

Nick
nodded, not sure what he thought anymore. His mind kept coming back to the
evidence. The evidence pointed at Lugino. His fingerprints, the semen, it was
enough to close the case. “See if he’ll agree to toxicology. Maybe we can find
something that proves he’s lying. And we’ve got a print on the body. We’re
running him against that.”

Polaski
nodded and headed back into the interview room.

But
he knew what the D.A.’s office would want—and it was the one thing he couldn’t
give them. What was the damn motive?

Chapter
Seven

In
restless sleep, Gerry shifted against the hard, cold surface that felt like the
floor of his cell. He was out of jail. He was free. What was the cold? It
should be warm here. Opening his eyes, he turned his shoulders and touched the
rounded porcelain of the bathtub. He was in his bathroom—the bathroom of his
apartment. It should’ve been a relief. He should have been thrilled to realize
he was no longer trapped, no longer behind bars.

But
in the distance he could still hear them chanting. “Pervert. Pervert. Pervert.”
It was like a steady drum against his skull. He was surprised he’d slept at
all. Exhaustion and fear had driven him from his bedroom. The bathroom was the
only room without a window. They had broken the glass the first night.

Finally,
after midnight, they had been forced by the police to leave him alone long
enough to get the window boarded up. But the board didn’t keep out the chill or
the noise, and the small apartment had left no alternative but that bathroom.

Even
worse, there would be no relief from the tiny apartment. He had applied for a
dozen jobs in the area, but every one had turned him down flat. They knew who
he was. They weren’t going to have anything to do with a pedophile. They didn’t
call him that, though. No one did. They said things like “sicko” and “freak.”
He supposed they were right. He was, wasn’t he? He could change, but not if
they didn’t leave him alone.

Without
sleep, his mind did crazy things. He no longer had control. It was like being
on drugs. He just needed a chance—an opportunity to prove himself again. If
they would just leave him alone.

But
no one would give him that chance. There was no good transportation here, and
without a car he couldn’t look for jobs further than a couple of miles from his
apartment.

The
last time he left the apartment to pick up groceries, he had called his brother
in Fairfield. Bobby hadn’t even heard three words before he’d hung up. Gerry
guessed he couldn’t blame Bobby much. It was probably hard for a normal guy to
have a brother like him. Gerry didn’t dare call his parents. And his sister’s
husband hated him. Gerry knew Stan would keep her from helping him.

His
mother would have helped him if she could. But his father kept too close an eye
on her for her to do much. The one time she’d come to visit him in prison, his
father had found out about it and threatened to kick her out of the house.
She’d written him a very nice letter explaining how sorry she was that she
wouldn’t be visiting anymore, or probably writing either. She had always been
passive, and he knew she wouldn’t ever stand up to his father. He hadn’t
written her back. He had enough on his conscience without worrying that she’d
get kicked out of the house on his account.

BOOK: Chasing Darkness
7.74Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Other books

A Day to Pick Your Own Cotton by Michael Phillips
Flirting with Destiny by Corona, Eva
Flood Rising (A Jenna Flood Thriller) by Jeremy Robinson, Sean Ellis
Kelan's Pursuit by Lavinia Lewis
Dying Days 6 by Armand Rosamilia
Rolling Thunder by John Varley