Between the Lines

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Chapter 27

The next day, Keeley parked her car on the street in front of the house where Bryan Ferguson lived. She’d gotten the address from the phone book. The house was located in an older neighborhood of cookie cutter ranch houses that retained their sameness despite the inhabitants attempts to make them appear different. The houses on either side of the Ferguson’s residence were well maintained, with impeccable lawns and lush flowers. This made the house between them look more unkempt than it actually was. The grass was spotted with weeds, and past due for mowing. Children’s bikes and toys were scattered on the sidewalk and spilled onto the lawn. The few pathetic flowers were being overtaken by weeds. Bryan and Sue Ferguson were probably not very popular with their neighbors, at least not in the area of taking care of their home.

Of course, it was entirely possible that it wasn’t the same Bryan Ferguson, but the spelling of the first name increased the likelihood that it was the person they were looking for from the school yearbook. Kira had offered to go with Keeley, but she hadn’t wanted to wait until Kira was finished work, so she had opted to go alone. Kira had brought up the possibility that if this man was a former boyfriend of the victim, and had been involved in her death, it might very well be dangerous to talk to him alone. Keeley assured Kira that she wouldn’t enter the house, and would make sure he knew that other people knew of her whereabouts. Making Keeley promise to text her just before she approached the house, and to call her immediately after the meeting, Kira reluctantly acquiesced. All of this had made Keeley feel quite nervous, but she wasn’t about to back away now. She took a deep breath and rang the doorbell. A short while later, the door was opened by a short, slim woman wearing green capris and a white teeshirt. She looked at Keeley suspiciously.

“Can I help you?”

Keeley smiled. “I’m looking for Bryan Ferguson. Is he home?”

Instantly, the woman became even less welcoming, if that was possible. “Who are you and what do you want with Bryan?” she said curtly.

Great, what should I say now? Keeley wondered. I can’t very well ask her if her husband or boyfriend murdered his former girlfriend. Google had not covered this situation. Her only option seemed to be the truth, so she introduced herself and explained that she was trying to find out more information about the long ago murder of the father of a friend of hers, and was hoping to talk to anyone who may have known Joyce Williams. “Did you know her?” Keeley asked, guessing the woman was around the same age as Joyce.

“Yes, I knew her, and if you want to know who would have wanted her dead, try everybody. She was a bitch. My husband can’t help you, so leave us alone!” With that she closed the door in Keeley’s face. There was the distinctive sound of a deadbolt being turned.

Okay, that went well. Keeley walked back to where she’d parked her car, and made notes in the murder book, thinking that she had just found a good suspect candidate. The only problem was, how was she going to find out more information if the woman wouldn’t talk to her? She wondered if the police knew about the Fergusons. Only one way to find out. She quickly called Kira to report in, and then drove to the police station. Detective McDonald was unavailable, she was told. Would she like him to call her, or would she like to talk to someone else? She debated for a moment, then decided it would be easier to talk to someone familiar with the case, so asked that Detective McDonald call her when he became available.

Since the encounter with Mrs. Ferguson had been unfruitful, as well as quite unpleasant, Keeley decided she would need to be much more prepared when she questioned any other potential witnesses or suspects. She would ask Kira, Claire and Lily for ideas as well. She texted them all, and everyone agreed to come over that evening for a brainstorming session. She decided to get some snacks together for when the others arrived. She had just taken a batch of vegan oatmeal chocolate chip cookies out of the oven when the front doorbell rang. Accompanied by the ever curious Max, she went to answer the door. Detective McDonald was standing on the porch, returning her call in person. Flustered, she invited him in. She offered him coffee, which he accepted, so she poured them each a cup and put out a plate of the still warm cookies. “I hope you like them,” she said. “They’re vegan.”

“You’re a vegan?” he asked, picking up a cookie and taking a cautious bite.

“Not me. Kira is though.”

“They’re good,” he told her, and he obviously was telling the truth because she was amused to see that several of the cookies disappeared in record time. Seeing her smile, he admitted that he hadn’t had lunch. Keeley immediately offered to make him a sandwich, but he shook his head.

“What did you want to talk to me about?” he asked, switching into official mode and getting out his ever present notebook and pen. She launched into the explanation of how she and her friends had discovered a possible lead in the case, and the results of her visit that morning.

He put his notebook away and looked at her in obvious exasperation. “I’m sure you mean well, but you really need to back off and let the police work this case. There is a process to follow, and we’re following it. The last thing that is helpful is a bunch of civilian sleuth wannabes muddying up the waters. We have things well in hand, believe me. You and your friends need to stay out of this, and let us do what we do best.”

“I know you’re working hard on the case, but you don’t know the people involved. I don’t either, except for Daniel, but Claire and Lily have lived in this town their whole lives. We could be really helpful to you, and we want to do it. Do you know the name of the caretaker and the kid who confirmed Tom Freemont was a frequent visitor to Joyce’s apartment? I’d like to talk to them.”

“Did you hear anything I just said? I know you’re involved with Freemont, but you’re not doing him any favours by interfering in police business. If your boyfriend is innocent, he has nothing to worry about. Thanks for the coffee.” He stood up and let himself out, leaving Keeley feeling chastened, and seething in frustration.

“We wouldn’t have to get involved if they would hurry up and solve the case,” she told Max. “Why can’t he understand that it’s hard to watch your friends go through something like this without wanting to help them? But he’s so mean and grumpy, he probably doesn’t have any friends.” Max stared at her with his intense green eyes, but when he realized she was making no move to get the cat treats out, he completely lost interest in her rant, and jumped up to the very top of the cupboards to take a nap.

When she repeated what Detective McDonald had said to the others later, she was surprised that they weren’t as annoyed as she had been. “Maybe we shouldn’t get involved. What if it does mess things up more?” asked Kira. “That Ferguson woman sounds like she could be dangerous, and let’s face it, we’re out of our depths in a murder investigation. You might have been talking to a killer today. I’m worried about where this could lead.”

Keeley had known that the others weren’t quite as committed to this course of action as she was, and although it was disappointing, she couldn’t really blame them. But she had promised Daniel she would do everything she could to help, and she vowed to herself she would continue, no matter what the others level of participation. After a lot of discussion over a bottle of wine, everyone agreed that they would continue to do whatever they could, but that Keeley would not go alone to question any more witnesses.

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