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Authors: Debby Giusti

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BOOK: Person of Interest
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A dark sedan followed them but was forced to stop as the light turned red.

Everett crossed over the highway and turned left onto another ramp that led back to I-285, only this time they were headed in the opposite direction.

Merging with the flow of traffic on the highway, he glanced back. “We’ll know if we fooled him in the next few minutes. Chances are he’ll continue straight.”

Natalie kept her right hand on the dashboard and watched for a dark sedan. “Did you see the driver?”

He shook his head. “He might not have been following us after all.”

“You’re saying that to ease my concern.”

He nodded. “You’re right.”

“Maybe you should phone Frank and find out who knew we were meeting Wanda.”

“Let’s put a little distance between us and that car before I make the call.”

They drove some miles without seeing the dark sedan. Everett turned back onto Camp Creek Parkway and headed to I-75, then turned north toward the city.

The Atlanta downtown area came into view. Tall skyscrapers stood out against the gray sky. The State Capitol appeared in the distance, the gold dome reflecting in the subdued afternoon sunlight.

Everett flicked his gaze to the rearview mirror to check that they had eluded the tail.

Could it have been Mason?

He glanced at Natalie. “Do a White Pages search on your phone. See if you can find Annabelle Yates’s address. She might provide information about Mason and Tammy.”

Natalie was successful, and a map search provided directions to the sister’s home in Decatur.

“Will she talk to us?” Natalie asked.

“Depends on her relationship with her brother. Let’s be careful what we reveal.”

Natalie nodded. “Maybe you should do the talking. I’m liable to reveal too much, especially the way I feel about Mason right now.”

Everett nodded. “Then follow my lead.”

NINE

“T
urn right at the traffic light.” Natalie checked the GPS on her phone. “Eventually we’ll pass Agnes Scott College on our right, and then we’ll turn left at one of the next intersections.”

“You’ve been here before?”

“Last Labor Day. I drove up for the Decatur Book Festival. Big-name authors gave talks, and booths were set up where vendors and publishers and local writers sold books.”

“Do you read a lot?”

“When I have time. The festival had a number of children’s authors, which is what interested me.”

“You plan to teach high school?”

“Probably kids in middle school. They’re just coming into their own, trying to be independent, yet totally focused on what their peers are doing. It’s a tough time. At least it was for me.”

“I was still fairly naive at that point.” Everett smiled. “I didn’t notice girls until I got to ninth grade.”

“I bet all the young ladies had their eyes on you.”

“Hardly. I was tall and skinny. The word
gawky
fit me to a T. Plus, I was totally clueless about the opposite sex, except that my sister was two years older and never wanted me to interfere with her life.”

“You’re close now?” she asked.

He smiled. “Very, and she lets me dote on her children.”

“Proud uncle.”

He nodded. “What about you? Any siblings?”

She shook her head. “Only child.” She held up her hand and rolled her eyes. “No comments about being spoiled.”

He smirked playfully. “Were you?”

“Spoiled?” She shook her head and picked at her jeans. “Hardly. There wasn’t enough of anything to be spoiled about. My parents had little and wanted to be anything except a mom and dad.”

“Hard for a kid, huh?”

“I pretended not to be bothered and developed a tough skin.”

“Which you’ve shed.”

“No one in the military cares about the past. We’re all focused on getting the job done. That was a refreshing change for me.”

“Do you ever go home?”

“No reason. My dad died when I was in Germany. He loved the bottle, but it didn’t love him.”

“And mom?”

“She called me a disappointment.”

“You think she was sincere?”

“No reason to think otherwise. Some people shouldn’t have children.”

“Is that why you went into education? To help kids who might get shoved aside by parents who don’t care enough?”

“That probably plays into it. I wanted to advocate for kids. Tell them they can succeed. To set their goals high. I wanted them to know their dreams can come true.”

He kept his gaze on the road and was silent for a long moment. Natalie turned to look at the stores they were passing, knowing she’d shared too much.

What was it about Everett that made her feel free to talk about her past? The entire time she’d been in the military, she’d kept her youth buried. No need to reveal the dysfunction that had been her life. She’d joined the military to get away and make something more of herself.

She’d almost succeeded, until Mason Yates stepped back into her life.

“I shouldn’t talk so much,” she admitted.

“I came from a good home and loving parents, but I was lucky. I’m sorry things were rough for you.”

“I don’t want your pity.”

“Why would I pity you? You’ve succeeded to change your life. That’s admirable.”

“Unless it’s for naught.”

“Why do you say that?”

“Because I’m a person of interest in two murder cases. If Mason Yates has his way, I could end up in jail.”

She’d said it, her darkest fear. She’d come close to being arrested in her youth and had strived to work hard in the military. Maybe she hadn’t worked hard enough.

“We’re not far.” She pointed to the upcoming street. “Take a left at the corner.”

Decatur was a pretty town with brick buildings and tall trees. They passed a park where people ambled along the sidewalk, pushing baby strollers while toddlers frolicked at their sides.

“Once the investigation is over, you can return to your classes and complete your degree. Student teaching comes next?”

“I’ve got two exams to take first, then the student teaching. I hope to apply for jobs next spring.”

But everything had changed now that Mason had returned to Georgia.

“There.” She pointed. “On the left.”

A row of condos. The number on the side of the building matched Annabelle’s address. “Her condo is second from the end.”

Everett circled the block and pulled to a stop in an alleyway behind a row of homes. “We’ll be less exposed if we use the back door.”

Natalie glanced out the window. “She might not be home.”

“Only one way to find out.” Everett opened the door and stepped to the pavement. Natalie did the same. The air was fresh with a brisk breeze that caught her hair.

She pulled the wayward strands into submission and walked next to him along the sidewalk. He turned to glance around them, his right hand reaching under his jacket.

“Remember to follow my lead,” he cautioned.

“You’re in charge.”

Natalie held her breath as Everett knocked three times. When no one answered, she felt a sense of letdown, discouraged that their trip had been for naught. She had started to turn away when footsteps sounded from inside.

Everett touched her arm with his left hand. She nodded and gathered her courage, not knowing what they’d find or who they’d see when the door opened.

* * *

“Ms. Yates?”

“Yes.” The woman was tall and big boned, with long brown hair, streaked with gray, pulled back into a braid. Thick glasses perched on a too-sharp nose, and her thin lips were pulled into a frown.

Everett held up his identification. “Special Agent Kohl, ma’am. I’m with the Criminal Investigation Division at Fort Rickman.”

Her shoulders drooped and grief flashed from her eyes. “You came because of Tammy.”

“We’d like to ask you some questions.”

“Didn’t you talk to Mason? He’s right there on post. Surely you can find out anything you need to know by questioning him.”

“He is being questioned, ma’am, but we wanted to talk to you, as well.” Everett hesitated for half a second, before adding. “May we come in?”

She pushed open the screen door. “Of course, please overlook my lack of hospitality.”

Everett stepped inside first and glanced around the airy and comfortable dwelling. The place was neat and clean and filled with a number of antiques. Turning back at Natalie, he held the door for her and nodded his approval, letting her know the house appeared safe. She stepped inside and stood next to him.

The sister pointed to the sofa in the living room. “Please, sit down. I could make iced tea or coffee.”

“No need. We won’t be long.”

Natalie settled next to him on the couch, and Annabelle pulled up a side chair.

“Have you heard from your brother, ma’am?” Everett asked once they were seated.

“He called with news of Tammy’s death.” Annabelle shook her head, sorrow evident in her gaze. “I was worried about her, but I didn’t think it would come to this.”

“Ma’am?” Everett leaned in closer.

“She wouldn’t listen to me.”

Everett pulled a notebook and pencil from his pocket. “Mind if I take notes?”

“Of course not.”

“Could you start at the beginning, ma’am?”

“The beginning was when Mason and Tammy met. Don’t get me wrong, I liked Tammy, but she wasn’t right for my brother.”

“In what way?”

“She was an extrovert who needed people around her to make her happy. Mason is more subdued, introspective. He’s always been a homebody. She was more a party girl who enjoyed socializing. I think she liked that aspect of military life, the social functions and get-togethers.”

“Did you question the attraction when they were dating?”

“I did, but Mason was sure she was the one.”

“You didn’t agree?”

“I thought they didn’t have enough in common.”

“Yet they’ve remained married. How many years has it been?”

Annabelle thought for a moment. “Seven years. They were older when they met. Mason had been married before, and—”

Everett glanced at Natalie.

The sister noticed. “Is that a problem?”

“Could you tell me about the first wife, ma’am?”

“Janet Owens. I don’t know her new last name. She remarried and moved to Pennsylvania.”

“Were there children?”

“Mason said Janet didn’t want to spoil her figure. She was pretty and petite and, according to him, quite self-serving.”

“But she remarried?”

“That’s what Mason told me a year or so after their divorce was final. Evidently he knew the guy. They had been stationed together at Fort Bliss.”

“He was in the army?”

“A civilian. He worked with the Post Exchange there and then transferred to Pennsylvania. Mason mentioned an army college there.”

“The Army War College in Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania?”

Annabelle tilted her head. “That sounds right.”

“Do you know why your brother and Janet divorced?”

“Oh, no. I don’t pry, and Mason doesn’t discuss his personal affairs with me.”

Natalie scooted forward on the couch. “It must have been a shock when you learned about Tammy’s death.”

“I couldn’t believe how it had happened.” Annabelle shook her head with regret. “They had stayed with me for a few weeks when they came back from Germany. Mason signed in at Fort Rickman, but the quarters weren’t ready so Tammy remained here.”

“How’d she seem?” Natalie asked.

“I don’t want to say anything now that she’s gone. Tammy and I were friends. She had a big heart.”

“But what?” Natalie pressed.

“I sensed something was wrong. Then Vernon Ingalls stopped by.”

Everett made note of the name. “Someone Tammy knew?”

“She grew up in Savannah and had dated Vernon before she met Mason. A few years ago, Vernon moved to Decatur. Somehow he learned Tammy was back in town and staying with me. I had been at the grocery and came home to find them having coffee. They both looked embarrassed, and I sensed something was going on.”

“Like what?” Everett held the pencil over the notebook.

“Like a rekindling of their former attraction, perhaps.”

“Did she see him again?”

“A number of times. I never asked, but I had the feeling she was trying to decide whether to stay with Mason.”

“But she moved to Fort Rickman.”

“That’s right. Still, I worried about my brother being hurt again.”

“What do you mean?” Everett asked.

“Our mother left us when we were young. Mason never got over the pain of being abandoned. Then when his first marriage didn’t work, I wanted him to find happiness. Evidently Tammy got restless.”

“Did you tell Mason that Tammy had seen her old boyfriend?”

Annabelle shook her head. “I kept that to myself. As you know, Mason has an important job and a lot of responsibility. He didn’t need to worry about his marriage when he’s under so much stress with his new assignment.”

“It sounds as if you and your brother have remained close,” Natalie said.

“He’s all I have.”

“How can we find Mr. Ingalls?” Everett asked. “I’d like to talk to him.”

“He lives a few miles from here.” She provided the address, then hesitated for a long moment. “Mason said the funeral will be delayed.”

Everett nodded. “An autopsy needs to be done first. That could take time.”

“Do you know where she’ll be buried?” Natalie asked.

“There’s a cemetery on the outskirts of town. We have a family plot. I presume Mason will inter her there.”

“Does Tammy have family in the area?”

Annabelle shook her head. “She doesn’t have anyone.”

“What about Mason’s first wife?” Everett asked.

“Janet’s brother runs a restaurant in the heart of Decatur. The Peach Grill. You can ask for Danny, if you want more information.”

Natalie and Everett stood and shook Annabelle’s hand. “Thank you for talking to us today.”

“What shall I tell Mason if he calls?”

The question took Everett by surprise. “Tell him the truth.”

Her face darkened. “He won’t like that I talked about him to strangers. Maybe I won’t mention your visit.”

Did Mason hold some type of control over his sister? “Whatever you think is best.”

BOOK: Person of Interest
4.55Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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