Maureen looked like hell twice over. Her clothes had cost hundreds of dollars and at one time someone could have recognized that. Now they were dirty rags hidden beneath a filthy white and mangy fur coat.
Carrying a folder, Langston entered the interview room. He was immediately hit by the stench of vomit, urine, and body odor. He used his mouth to draw a deep breath and motioned the officer to leave. Langston sat down in the chair across the table from her. The woman had her head on the table with her face buried in a smelly fur sleeve.
“Maureen?” Langston said.
“Go away,” she muttered.
“I can’t. I need to talk to you. Can you please sit up?”
She lifted her head, glaring at him. “I didn’t do anything wrong. Why are you harassing me?”
“I’m not harassing you, Maureen. This is the first time we’ve met.”
She stared at him, then scowled and laid her head on her arm, staring across the room.
“Would you like some water? Coffee? Something to eat?”
“I want my scotch back. The officer took it before he threw me in his car.”
“Did he really throw you in?”
She looked at him again. Langston smiled, which was hard to do since he really didn’t want to breathe through his nose and smell anymore of the rancid air.
“You’re not a cop.”
“No. I’m a forensic scientist. I’m trying to identify this woman.” Langston took a photograph from the folder and placed it on the table before her. “I was told she’s called Saint Bernadette.”
Maureen picked up the photograph, looking at the photograph. It was of the woman lying in the morgue. She touched the photograph and then sat it down.
“She’s dead, isn’t she?”
“Yes she is.”
Maureen slid it across to him. She laid her head on her arm.
“I was told she called you mom,” Langston said.
“She called me Mon. M-o-n.”
“It was a nickname derived from my name.”
“I see. Do you know what her real name was?”
Maureen shook her head. “Saint Bernadette. I don’t know how that got started, but that’s what we called her. She was sweet, even when I wasn’t.”
“I’m told you’re not very nice.”
Maureen sighed. “I lost everything in the recession. My job, home. When the money ran out, so did my husband. My dog even ran away.”
Langston put a photograph of Dean on the table.
“Did you ever see this man around Saint Bernadette?”
“Yeah.” Maureen nodded. “He was one of her regulars. He came every Friday night. She said usually he just took her to a movie or dinner so they could talk. Sometimes they had sex. She liked the guy – as a client and all. She said he was a good man.”
“So he did pay her?”
Maureen shrugged. “I don’t know. She said he was a client. I guess so.”
“Did you see him two weeks ago? It would have been a Friday.”
“Yeah. He drove me to the shelter that day and they left together.”
“Did he do that often?”
“If she asked him to he would. I think he had a crush on her, but he was married.” Maureen tapped her left ring finger. “He wore the proof.”
“What else do you remember about her?”
“She said she worked for me.”
“Where did you work?”
Maureen sat up, leaning against the back of her chair. “Taggard Enterprises.”
Langston knew it. The company was an electronics company that closed suddenly when it was announced they had been in debt for the last five years. The local television stations and newspapers had been rabid with the company, despite there being no conspiracy. The CEOs had held out as long as they could in hopes the economy would pick up and their employees could keep their jobs.
“What did you do there?”
“I was VP of international marketing and sales.” Maureen closed her eyes. “I can barely remember that life. Parties, clothes, people I thought were friends…”
“I’m sorry you’ve fallen on such hard times, Maureen. I wouldn’t wish that on anyone.”
She looked up at him. “She said she was an assistant to the assistant of the CFO. I can give you their names, but I doubt you’ll find any of them. Everyone from that company seems to have disappeared.”
“But I can try.” Langston slid a pad of paper and pen to her.
“I could really use a shower and some food.”
Langston smiled. “That sounds like a fair trade to me, Maureen. I’ll arrange it.”
Maureen picked up the pen and started writing.
The officer stepped back into the room. “Doctor Langston, Catherine is trying to reach you. It’s urgent.”
Langston looked at his cell phone, bringing up the latest text message. He jumped up, hurrying toward the door.
“When she’s done, gets her a shower and a good meal,” Langston paused to point at the notebook. “And see that notebook gets to my desk.”
The brakes locked when Nick jammed his foot against the pedal. His Denali stopped inches from the bumper of a radio car. Nick jumped out, not bothering to turn off the engine or close the door. At the front of the line were officers with guns aimed at the square, whitewashed house. Catherine and Langston stood behind them.
“Who’s inside?” Nick asked.
“Sara and Hodges,” Catherine answered. “They’d come back to see if they could find out where Alice might have gone. She was home and took Hodges hostage. Sara went into try talking to her and she took her hostage too.”
“Any contact with her yet?”
“No,” Langston answered. “She won’t answer the phone.”
Nick looked at the house. “Has anyone told her Dean is dead?”
“Sara was going to tell her,” Catherine answered.
“So she may not know. We could use that to our advantage.”
Nick and Catherine looked at each other.
“No. Nick, no.”
Nick tilted his head. “Catherine, I am probably the only person that can get close to her.”
An officer nearby turned, taking interest in the conversation.
“You know I’m right, Catherine.”
“You have no idea how he behaved. You could mess up and get everyone killed.”
“I believe I can pull this off.”
“This will end messy if we try anything else, Catherine,” the officer told her. “And your C.S.I. could be caught in the middle of it.”
Catherine looked up at Langston. He shrugged a little.
“Not without a vest,” Catherine told him.
“And I have a plan with that, too.”
Hodges was trembling so hard Sara could feel it through the loveseat. She wanted to tell him to stop, but knew it was involuntary. Alice paced the living room, talking to herself.
“Alice?” Sara said.
She glanced at her.
“Alice, what is it you want the police to do? They’re going to want to know.”
Alice didn’t answer. Sara was about to speak again when the front door cracked open.
“Alice?” someone said. “Honey?”
She spun to face it, her eyes widened, and a smile spread across her face. The door pushed open a little more and Nick came inside.
“DEAN!” She ran to him, throwing her arms around him, and waving the pistol during it.
Nick looked at Sara, then Hodges.
“Ni—” Hodges began, but Sara smacked his stomach hard, knocking the window out of him.
She shot him a glare when he looked at her.
Alice turned, staring at them. She looked at Nick, then at Sara. She pulled back, looking back at Nick.
“She just walked into our house, Dean.” She waved her pistol at the C.S.I. on the loveseat. “And I found him digging through our kitchen cupboards. Who are they, Dean? Why are they here?”
“I sent them here.”
She turned back to him. Her finger twitched on the hammer of the pistol.
“To pick up something for me,” Nick added.
“Where have you been? I thought… I thought I killed you the other night when I caught you with that woman. I thought I shot both of you.”
“No. I was mad. I didn’t want to come back. I sent them here to get my things. But when I came to find out what was taking so long, and saw all those police out there, I asked them if you and I could talk.” Nick looked out the window, staring as if he was thinking about the situation. He turned his head, looking her in the eye.
She smiled and pressed her hand against his face. “Let’s just sneak out and run, baby. I haven’t done anything wrong. She was just a whore.”
Nick shook his head. “I think we should talk to them. Explain what happened.”
“No.” She dropped her hand. Her thumb twitched on the hammer again.
“It was an accident. You didn’t mean to kill her, did you?”
Alice looked to the side.
She looked up. “I wanted to kill both of you. I was angry. You promised that you wouldn’t see her anymore. And then I found you in bed with her again.”
Nick reached out and laid his hand on her face. “I’m sorry. I never meant to hurt you.”
Hodges cleared his throat. Sara shot him a death glare. He looked away when Alice glanced at him.
“I have to use the restroom,” Hodges muttered.
“They don’t look like anyone you’d know,” Alice told Nick.
“You know everyone I do, huh?” Nick took her wrist, pulling her close. He wrapped an arm around her waist, smiling when she looked at him.
“No. I guess not.”
Nick smiled, resting his forehead against her forehead. “Okay. We’ll sneak out and run.” He slid his hand down her other arm, his fingers slowly closing around the gun handle. “Anywhere you want, honey.”
She laughed, pulling her head back and coming close to kissing him. Nick pulled back, but he never stopped smiling.
“I missed you,” Alice told him.
Nick’s fingers slowly worked under her hand until he almost had ahold of the handle. He started to pull it away.
“I missed you too,” he told her.
She pulled back suddenly, taking the gun with her. “We can go to Cabo. I’ve always wanted to go there.”
Nick almost paused too long. Sara could see he was frustrated he hadn’t gotten the gun away from her.
“Alice, let’s just go,” Nick said. He took a step back toward the kitchen. “Come on, honey.” He held out his hand to her.
She smiled, taking it. “We can’t just leave them. They’re guests!”
Nick pulled her back into his arms and slowly worked his way toward the kitchen with her.
“Cabo will be beautiful,” Alice told him.
“Yes it will.”
“You can get a fishing boat and I’ll make things to sell.”
“Yes,” Nick answered. He smiled again.
Sara never realized how well he could fake a genuine smile until now. It made her wonder how many times he had for her.
The curtains in the front of the room didn’t cover a section of the front window. As they stepped into that area, red dots quickly focused on them, and then on Alice. Nick saw them, but said nothing. He should have.
Alice saw them and stopped, watching them dance across her body. She looked at Nick’s face, and then down – noticing they weren’t focused on him. She took three large steps back behind the curtain and aimed the gun at him, cocking it.
“Honey?” Nick questioned.
“Who are you?” she demanded.
“No… No you’re not. You’re being way too nice. He hasn’t talked about Cabo in months. And those police aren’t aiming at you. You’re that twin he’s obsessed with!”
“You’re saying I’m not Dean? Your husband?”
Nick took small, slow steps toward her.
“That I don’t sound like him? I don’t look like him?”
“You don’t act like him.”
“You shot me. Of course I don’t.”
She blinked. The answer stunned her.
“Are you a ghost?”
“When I held you, did it feel like I was?”
The gun was slowly starting to drop, but she hadn’t swallowed the lie yet.
“You don’t act like my husband!”
“When was the last time I did?”
She started crying. “I… Can’t remember.”
“I’m trying to start over here, Alice. I don’t know what else to do. We are so screwed up but I still love you. I’m trying to do what’s best for us.”
Alice started crying harder. It was difficult for her to aim at Nick when she shook with her sobs.
“I killed that woman and I know I killed you too.”
“But I’m standing here. How could you have?”
Alice backed away from him. She lifted the gun back up. “You’re his twin brother. That Nicholas guy he was always looking for. You aren’t Dean. Stay away from me!”
Nick stopped moving. “Fine. I’ll leave. I’ll leave you all alone.” He turned and started toward the door.
The gun went off and the bullet hit the door. Nick stopped, looking back at her.
“Do you hate me that much?” Nick asked.
“I love you, Dean.”
“Then why are you doing this Alice?” Nick turned and stormed up to her. He grabbed the barrel of the gun and pushed it against his chest, into the Kevlar jacket hidden under his jacket. “If you hate me so much, shoot me. Right now. Get this over with. Because you either love me and you’ll let me help you, or you hate me and you’ll kill me.”
“What? What is it, Alice? What the hell do you want from me?”
The gun went off again. The bullet hit the jacket with such force that Nick fell backward and hit the floor hard. Blood began flowing from the gunshot. Nick looked up Sara, meeting her eyes, and then glanced at Alice.
“What have you done?” Sara asked. “God, Alice, what have you done?!”
Alice was trembling, holding onto the gun by the finger loop. Sara grabbed it from her and handed it back to Hodges. He held it in both hands with a death grip.
“Go get towels! Hurry!”
Alice ran off to obey. Sara turned to Nick, who, for having lost as much blood as he had, didn’t look it.
“What the hell are you doing, Nick?” Sara whispered.
“I’m going to die now. Talk her into leaving out the back. They’re waiting,” Nick whispered and then played dead.
“What… Uh…” Hodges started.
“Sit there and don’t speak, Hodges,” Sara snarled.
Alice came running into the room with towels. Sara looked up at her.
“He’s dead. You killed him.”
Alice clutched the towels in her hands to her chest.
“I didn’t… I didn’t mean to.”
“You think the police will believe that? You’ve killed two people now, Alice. You had better run. They will not be sympathetic about this. Go out the back. Hurry!”
Alice dropped the towels and ran out of the kitchen, right into police waiting for her.