TONIA GEOFFREY WAS yet to come to terms with the dastardly murder of her husband, still unable to wrap her bewildered mind around the incident. So she allowed herself a faint glimmer of hope when the detectives came to her home that afternoon; she thought they might have hit a break in their investigations.
She however felt disappointed when she discovered they’d come chasing shadows. But what was even more annoying was that the questions they asked were mostly repetitive; questions she’d answered before: she got back from work late that night, around 10 o’clock, entered the apartment using her own set of keys because the door had been locked. The apartment was dimly lit and the music was playing softly on the speakers, and her beloved husband was on the floor, twisted, and crumpled down like a bundle of clothes for the laundry.
“That’s where I found him, Detectives,” she said to Davies and Simmons, pointing to the exact spot not far from where they were seated, before continuing with her narrative:
Thomas wasn’t entirely dead at the time; he was gurgling miserably, unable to speak, choking. All the doors around the house were locked, and there were no signs of anyone being in the house with Thomas. No, she wasn’t suspecting anyone, couldn’t think of anyone who badly wanted her husband dead.
Then she paused again, thinking, as her eyes lit up with a dreadful expression. She looked as though she’d suddenly recollected an important detail in the hollow story.
Detective Davies observed the look in the bereaved woman’s eyes, and he edged forward on his seat, staring at her keenly. “What is it, Mrs. Geoffrey?” he asked, his tone quiet yet urgent. “Do you remember something you haven’t mentioned before? Something you may have overlooked in your initial testimony?”
She looked at him and nodded uncertainly. “Perhaps the night was fiddling with my mind. But I thought I saw something that night, when I walked into the house.”
“Say it, please,” said Davies. “Let me decide whether it’s important or not.”
“Well, when I got into the house, I thought there was someone, a person standing over my husband’s body,” she said, speaking slowly and reflectively. “But I was mistaken. The house was quite dark at the time; the shadows from the flickering candlelight dancing across the furniture might have caused an illusion.” She paused, and then clenched her lips despondently.
Lee Davies and his partner exchanged a quiet glance. Then he turned to her. “Why wasn’t this in your statement to the police, Mrs. Geoffrey?” he asked.
“It turned out to be nothing, like I said, Detective; there wasn’t anyone in the house that night. Whoever killed my husband was long gone before I got home,” she replied. “Coming from the well-lit corridor, the gloom I found in my apartment seemed to have a form. But that’s natural, right? Fading lights often play tricks on sight.”
No one said anything, for a moment.
She said, after a while, “Still, it was weird, Detective.”
Davies looked up curiously. “What d’you mean?”
“I really thought I perceived a presence in here that night. It was unseen, but yet I felt it intensely. I was mystified, felt goose bumps all over my body.” Tonia Geoffrey paused, stared at the detectives directly. “You know that feeling, don’t you? The one you get when something isn’t right?”
Davies nodded slowly. Then said, “But you saw no one at all?”
“No,” she answered quietly, turning away in a manner that clearly stated that she was tired of speaking then.
The detectives hesitated. Then they thanked her for her time, with the firm reassurance that the police was doing everything to find who murdered her husband. Tonia glared at them and grinned slyly, unimpressed by their vague promise.
Next stop was the home of Mason Forester, whose young daughter had been a primary witness of the Alley boys’ massacre.
Detective Davies had placed a call through to Mr. Forester earlier on, getting his permission to stop by at the house and have a follow-up chat with his daughter, Gertrude, about the event of that fateful night in the alley.
Forester didn’t like the idea of policemen coming to his house again and he objected at first. Then he changed his mind on the precondition that his attorney would be present for the interrogation.
“It’s not exactly an interrogation, Mr. Forester,” Davies said politely. “Your daughter hasn’t done anything wrong and she’s not under investigation. I just want to speak with her again about the murders she witnessed, to see if she can remember anything that might be of help. It won’t take too much time, and you’re welcome to be present in the meeting,” he added lightly.
“You bet I’ll be present,” said Forester, grouchy.
Davies and Simmons got to the home of the Foresters after leaving Tonia’s. Davies was polite and gentle with his approach, but he didn’t mince words, getting right down to business as soon as they were ushered into the house.
“Thanks for having us over, Sir,” said Davies quietly.
Mason Forester nodded curtly, muttered something under his voice, his intense gaze boring into them as they took their seats.
Detective Davies dished out pretty much the same sets of questions he’d asked Mrs. Geoffrey, with little variations, of course. Then after about thirty minutes of going over the answers again and again, he and his partner agreed it was time to wrap it up. They thanked the obviously disconcerted girl and her father for their time before leaving.
Outside on their way down to the car, they both eyed each other and sighed discretely. Nothing much was gleaned from that interview.
Julie Sanderton, still recoiling from the gruesomeness of what happened the previous night, was home with her parents when Davies and Simmons showed up.
The poor girl looked sick to her bones; her stare was somewhat blank as though she was staring back into her head every time. Her concerned parents only reluctantly gave their consent to letting the cops speak with Julie because she was the only one with Kamil Parker when he vanished ‘into the mirror’, as she dramatically put it, quite akin to what was obtained in paranormal movies.
The cops, of course, were not taking her seriously; concluded she must’ve been high on some banned substance even though the preliminary tests they ran taking saliva swap from her and blood sample from the bathroom had come back negative for drug, both for her and the still missing boy.
So what had really happened that night? Only Julie could say for sure.
When they spoke with her, Julie seemed quite terrified. Her response was slow and animated as if she was in a trance, or reciting from a memorized script. The words came through like a grim, ominous prophesy even though it was an account of something that had already taken place.
Then when she came to the part of the clawed hands that came from behind and pulled her boyfriend into the mirror before her very eyes, the broken glass and the spray of blood that gushed out, Julie sucked in her breath and shuddered visibly. She paused and buried her face in her hands, bursting into tears.
That, plus the burrowing eyes of Mr. Sanderton and the distraught look on the face of his wife, was the signal for the interview to end. Detective Davies thanked the family for their time, patted the weeping girl gently on her shoulders and then left the apartment.
As they got into their car and drove off, Lee Davies wondered quietly, just for the heck of it; ‘what if Julie Sanderton was telling the truth? What if she really saw what she said she saw? What if they were all telling the truth?’
The thought irked him severely. Julie’s story seemed compelling, in spite of whatever else he or anyone thought of it. However, according to the girl, before the bathroom episode she’d actually spotted someone staring at her earlier on, back on the street that same evening. But then, it might have been a random stalker with no ties to the strange event that was to occur in Kamil Parker’s home afterwards.
The part about this stalker was not in her prior statement to the police; she’d only recalled it to mind when Davies had prompted her for anything suspicious she could remember.
Driving back to the department, Detective Davies frowned slightly, juggling these thoughts in his mind, weighing the depth of them.
“Who was this person watching you, Julie?” he’d asked her quietly during the interview. “Did you see his face?”
She’d sniffed, paused uncertainly. “No.” Her voice was low. “It was quite a distance, and he was standing in the shades.” Then she paused again, shook her head as though she was discounting a small thought.
Like in the case of Mrs. Geoffrey, Davies spotted a window and he seized it. Leaning forward in his seat subtly, he said, “But who did he strike you like, from where you were standing? Anyone in particular comes to mind?”
The girl hesitated, paused and glanced briefly at her parents. “Well,” she answered, “I thought he looked like someone I know, a friend. But it couldn’t have been him, though.”
“Tell me all the same.”
Again, she hesitated. “I first thought he looked very much like Alan Prince.”
“Who’s that?” asked Simmons, staring at her.
“A friend,” said Julie. “We were in school together.”
“And why do you think it wasn’t this Alan after all, Julie?”
She looked at him somberly. “Alan Prince was in an accident and has been in the hospital all week,” she said quietly. “He’s been in a coma for days, so it couldn’t have been him there yesterday.”
Lee Davies mulled this quietly as he drove along the freeway. It was a dead end scenario. But still, he could zero in on one recurring decimal in the murder narratives – all the known witnesses he spoke with either ‘felt’ or actually saw something strange, according to their testimonies. A vague person in the shadows.
He thought more about Julie Sanderton and the name she’d thrown up; Alan Prince. Ordinarily, the Prince boy might be tagged a possible suspect, but Julie said he’d been in the hospital for a while and couldn’t possibly have been the stalker.
Maybe. Maybe not.
But just for the hell of it, Detective Lee Davies thought he’d pay a visit to the home of Alan Prince, make sure everything checked out at their end.
But not today.
He had to return to the precinct and do some paper works before wrapping up his shift for the day. Tomorrow, however, there might be new opportunities. He would start with following up on the Alan Prince angle; check with the hospital, ask questions around the neighborhood.
Yes, tomorrow might be better, he thought, and smiled wanly.