Authors: Ava Collins
Tags: #Thriller, #Romance, #Cozy, #Witch, #Mystery, #Paranormal
“I believe we already have our killer. But you know these residents better than I do. Who should I be looking at as suspects?” Gibbs asked.
“Mrs. Abbott,” Bancroft said.
Without thinking, I responded aloud. “Mrs. Abbott?”
“Why Mrs. Abbott?” Gibbs asked.
Mr. Bancroft shrugged.
I fumbled for words. “Um, because everyone is a suspect. And we can’t be too careful.”
Detective Gibbs looked at his watch. “It’s almost 1:30 in the morning. I find witnesses are a lot more willing to talk when they’re not woken out of a dead sleep.”
“Time is of the essence,” I said. “We should do a knock and talk right now. If a crime isn’t solved in the first 48 hours, the odds of ever solving it go down dramatically.”
“I’m telling you. We’ll get better information tomorrow,” Gibbs said. “And I’ll have more information back from the forensics lab.”
I squinted at Gibbs. “Are you just trying to get rid of me?”
“No. I’m tired, and I want to go home.” Gibbs handed me his card. He said he’d be back in the morning, then he left.
“You’re not really serious about Mrs. Abbott being a suspect, are you?” I said to Bancroft.
“Time will tell, it always does,” Bancroft said. “I believe this was a crime of panic.”
“Panic? What do you mean?”
“It seems haphazard. Last-minute. Someone got scared,” Bancroft said. He thought about this for a moment, then shrugged. “Who knows.”
“But you don’t think it was Jake, do you?”
Bancroft raised his eyebrows and shrugged again.
“What are you not telling me?”
“It seems there is more to young Jake than meets the eye,” Bancroft said.
“Come on, Banksy, what do you know?”
“Well, it seems that Mrs. DuMond had a bit of dirt on Jake.”
“What kind of dirt?” I asked.
“Prior felony conviction.”
“What?” I exclaimed.
“All I know is what I overheard in the office. Jake was standing up for Isabella, and Mrs. DuMond was threatening him. She told him that he should be very careful, and mind his own business. That he was lucky to have this job, since no one else was likely to hire a convicted felon.”
“What did he get convicted of?”
“I don’t know. But apparently Roger DuMond saw fit to give Jake a second chance and hire him on. Mrs. DuMond, however, was less altruistic. She cut Jake’s pay.”
“Do you think he killed her?” I asked.
“He was steaming mad when he left the office,” Bancroft said.
“Have you killed everyone you were ever mad at?”
“He knows Mrs. DuMond's routine. He could have easily waited for her in the parking garage. Bashed her over the head with the tool and changed shoes in the maintenance closet.”
“Why? Why throw the wrench in the trashcan? Why leave the bloody shoes in the maintenance closet?”
“Maybe he thought he would clear everything out in the morning,” Bancroft said. “I don’t think it was well thought out.”
“Something doesn’t fit,” I said. “He would have blood spattered on his clothes. But they didn’t find any clothes in the maintenance closet.”
“Maybe he changed in his apartment.”
“Why change shoes in one place and your clothes in another?”
“We need to search his apartment,” I said.
“You mean, I need to search his apartment.”
I followed Bancroft to Jake’s apartment and watched him pass through the door. I waited a few minutes in the hallway.
“Well, what do you see in there?” I whispered through the door.
“A normal guy’s messy apartment,” Bancroft said. “He seriously needs to do some dishes.”
“Let me in,” I said.
Bancroft poked is head through the door. “It’s not like I can turn knobs. Takes too much force. Have you checked to see if it’s even locked?”
I twisted the knob, and the door lurched open. I snuck inside and closed the door behind me.
“Congratulations. You are now breaking and entering,” Bancroft said.
“I didn’t break anything.”
I rummaged through the drawers, closets, and dirty clothes on the floor. I couldn’t find anything with bloodstains. Then I gasped in horror, suddenly remembering. “I still need to write my paper.”
“Whoops,” Bancroft said.
“Will you walk with me down to the parking garage to get my book?”
“Of course, my dear. But it’s a false sense of security. It’s not like I can do anything anyway if something were to happen.”
“Yes, Banksy,” I said. “But it makes me feel better having you around.”
We left Jake’s apartment and took the elevator down to the parking garage. I grabbed my forensic science book from my car. Walking back to the elevator, we paused at the crime scene. The bloodstains on the concrete were a grim reminder of what had happened.
“You know, whoever killed Mrs. DuMond had to have a key to the maintenance closet,” I said.
“Not necessarily. The maintenance closet is usually unlocked during the day.”
“But it was locked when Detective Gibbs tried to open it,” I said.
“Anyone could have locked it from the inside,” Bancroft said.
I really didn’t want to think that Jake had committed this crime.
We walked back to my apartment, and I said goodnight to Bancroft. He drifted away, gliding down the hall. I’m not really sure what he did all night, since he didn’t need sleep. Mostly, I think he tried to amuse himself with little haunts. Thumping on walls, unscrewing light bulbs. That kind of thing.
Mom was already in bed. Newport was lying on the couch, still watching TV. I went to my desk to start writing my paper and promptly passed out.
A phone call woke me up at around 9:30 the next morning. It was Detective Gibbs.
“Got the finger prints back from the lab. I think you’ll find the results rather interesting,” Gibbs said.
“THERE WERE TWO sets of fingerprints on that wrench,” Gibbs said.
I gulped. “Really?”
“One of them belonged to Jake.”
There was a long moment of silence. “And the other set of prints?” I asked, nervously. My heart was beating so loud I was sure Gibbs could hear it on the other end of the line.
“As yet unknown. They didn’t match anything in our database.”
I sighed. “Oh, well, that’s too bad.”
“I know you have a fondness for the guy, but I think he’s guilty.”
“What does he say?” I asked.
“Jake says he’s innocent, just like everybody else who gets arrested says.”
“Does he have an alibi?”
“He says about 9:30pm he escorted Isabella to her apartment. She was upset. They talked for about half an hour. He went back to his apartment around 10pm.”
“Did he say what Isabella talked about?” I asked.
“He said it was a private conversation. That’s all he would say,” Gibbs said. “Look, he’s a convicted felon, with a record of assault. I think he got into an argument with the old lady. He got a little hot under the collar. Bashed her over the head without putting too much thought into it.”
“It just doesn’t sound like Jake.”
“You never really know somebody,” Gibbs sighed. “Medical examiner said the fatal blow was struck by a left-hander, judging by the angle of the lacerations. Your boy, Jake, is a lefty. There’s enough evidence for the grand jury to indict him. Sorry, kid. But he’s going down for this. I’ve got officers over there now searching the apartment.”
“But there’s nothing in Jake’s apartment,” I blurted out. “I mean, do you think there’s really something in there?”
“That’s why we search. I’m on my way over there now.”
I hung up with Detective Gibbs and raced down to Jake’s apartment. The door was open, and two officers were rummaging through the place. I peered in through the doorway. The wood was splintered where the officers had kicked in the deadbolt.
“Excuse me ma’am, this is official police business. Can you please step outside!” one of the officers said.
I waited in the lobby for Gibbs to arrive. By the time he got there, the officers had turned over every inch of Jake’s apartment. One of the officers emerged from the apartment with a pair of bloody coveralls. My eyes grew wide at the sight. The officer handed them to Detective Gibbs.
“Put these into evidence,” Gibbs said, handing the coveralls back.
I searched every inch of his apartment last night. I’m absolutely positive that those coveralls weren’t in there. But I couldn’t exactly come out and say that I had broken into his apartment and searched.
“How do you know those are Jake’s?” I asked.
“They were found in his apartment, whose else would they be?” Gibbs asked.
“It’s possible somebody could have planted those.”
“You watch too much television,” Gibbs said. “Remember what I said? The simplest explanation is often the correct one.”
“I’m just saying, someone could have snuck in during the night and planted the evidence. It is possible.”
“Possible. But improbable,” Gibbs said. “Look, if you want to be a good detective, you’re going to have to let go of any bias you may have. Good police work is about being objective and looking at the facts.”
“But Jake’s door was unlocked. Anyone could’ve gotten in there.”
“How do you know it was unlocked?”
“I’m just assuming,” I stammered. “He probably didn’t have time to lock the door when your officers pulled him out of his apartment.”
“Well, your assumption is wrong. When my officers got here the door was locked. They had to get a key from Elliott.”
I didn’t lock the door when I left the apartment last night. I left it exactly as I found it. Someone had deposited the bloodstained coveralls and locked the door when they left.
“I’m sorry, kid. The guy is guilty,” Gibbs said. “But that’s not for me to decide. He’ll face a jury of his peers.”
“What about Elliott and Charlotte?” I asked.
“I spoke with Thomas Kemp. Everything checks out.”
“And you believe him?”
“He didn’t have too many nice things to say about Charlotte. But he did say he was on the phone with her the entire time. I don’t see any reason for him to lie,” he said.
“Are you still going to get statements from the residents?”
“I’ve got other cases that need my attention. This one is a slam dunk,” Gibbs said. “But if you find anything out, you call me.”
I couldn’t believe it. Jake was going to go down for something I was sure he didn’t do. I needed to talk to Jake, look him in the eye, and get his side of the story.
It was almost 10:00am, and my paper was due at 11:30. A paper that I hadn’t started yet. I raced back to my apartment. I scribbled down something that vaguely resembled an essay on the proper examination of physical evidence. Something that seemed to be sorely lacking in this case.
I raced to campus, and by the time I got to class it was 11:35am. Professor Hicks wouldn’t accept the paper because it was five minutes late. It was my first failing grade. Ever.
I didn’t stay for class. What was the point? That F was going to seriously affect my GPA. I wanted to cast some type of spell over Professor Hicks, but I thought better of it. For one, I wanted to make my grades on my own merit. Two, spells for my own personal gain have never worked. The last time I used magic for my own gain it turned out badly.
From there, I went to the county jail downtown. I lied and said I was Jake’s attorney and was granted visitation privileges. I met with him in a small room, with the table and an overhead light. The kind you see in movies. There was a two-way mirror, with an observation room on the other side.
I sat at the table, waiting for Jake to arrive. After almost half an hour, Jake was escorted into the room in handcuffs by a guard. Jake sat across the table from me in an orange jumpsuit. I reiterated to the guard that this was a privileged conversation. Making sure to note it should not be recorded or observed.
“What are you doing here?” Jake asked.
“Trying to help you,” I said.
“You’re not my attorney.”
“Have they assigned you one yet?”
“You’re the first person I’ve talked to. I have no idea what’s going on,” Jake said.
“You’re in a whole heap of trouble.”
“Tell me something I don’t know.”
“I just need to know one thing. Did you kill Mrs. DuMond?”
“Of course not,” Jake said.
“Swear to me.”
“I swear,” Jake said.
“I’d pinky swear if I weren’t handcuffed.”
“What’s your felony conviction for?” I asked.
Jake shook his head. “It’s not like that.”
“What’s it like, then?”
“Some guy harasses my girlfriend and I get an assault charge for defending her,” Jake said.