Between the Lines

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Chapter 38

“So Max saved your life. Wow, that is so hard to believe,” Claire said in wonderment. They were gathered at their usual table at the pub, and Keeley had been filling them in on the details of the events that had transpired the previous evening. Keeley had a strong urge to say “See, I told you Max was a great cat” to Claire, and felt quite proud of herself for refraining. Kira had heard the whole story already, but she listened again with the same rapt attention as Claire and Lily. The sisters were stunned that someone they had known for such a long time could be so evil, without them having had the least suspicion.

“I think I did,” Keeley said slowly, and they all looked at her questioningly. She turned to Kira. “You know how you’re always saying we need to trust our intuition?” Kira nodded. “Something didn’t feel right to me about John Banks, there was something, I don’t know, off every time I saw him. I know now that my intuition was trying to warn me, but I always ignored the feeling, and tried to explain it away logically. The first time I met him, he had just had an argument with Ashley, and then at the Chamber of Commerce meeting, I thought he was annoyed because I’d walked out of the interview with him. Every time I saw him, there was some reason to explain away why I felt uncomfortable in his presence.”

Everyone was silent while they considered what Keeley had just said. Then Lily started to giggle, but stopped when everyone looked at her in disbelief. “Sorry, I know you went through hell, Keeley, but I just got a visual of John Banks with a fifteen pound cat on his head, and it seemed pretty funny.”

“I guess it was,” Keeley said, “although nothing felt funny to me at the time. Banks sure didn’t think it was funny. Max did some major damage. He was bleeding quite badly when Max finally let go, and it looked like his head had swelled. He was screaming about how he was going to sue me. Can you believe the colossal nerve? The guy breaks into my house with the intention of killing me, and then he’s going to sue me?”

Thinking about Keeley’s near death experience sobered the group, and all traces of amusement left Lily’s face. “Have you seen Daniel?” she asked.

Keeley nodded. “Yes, I talked to him this afternoon. He felt terrible about what happened, but relieved that at least the police know now who killed his father, and that he and his mom are off the hook. The whole family is very relieved that the mystery has been solved.”

“do you think you guys will get back together, now that it’s over?” Claire asked curiously.

“No. Daniel still has a lot of grief to process, and to deal with the guilt he’s feeling over blaming his father for something he feels he should have known his dad would never do. That’s going to be something the whole family will have to come to terms with now that they know the truth. Daniel came along at a time in my life when I really needed someone like him, and I consider him a good friend, but that’s all we’re going to be.”

Kira was uncharacteristically quiet. She was feeling remorse because she thought that she’d let Keeley down by not recognizing that there was a negative energy surrounding Keeley which would put her in danger. No matter how many times Keeley had told her that was ridiculous, she still felt like she’d failed her best friend. Wayne was sitting beside her, his arm around her shoulders. Keeley idly noticed that Wayne was wearing jeans tonight. Either Kira had been wrong about his wardrobe, or he had made a recent purchase. She smiled to herself. There was no doubt he was smitten. Keeley hoped he would be able to talk some sense into Kira, and make her see she had nothing to feel guilty about.

“Oh, I almost forgot!” Lily dove into her bag and pulled out a paperback. “I brought you the first book in that mystery series I was telling you about by Sue Grafton.”

Keeley took the book she held out, and looked at the cover. A is for Alibi. “Thanks, Lily. That’s so sweet of you.” She put the book in her own bag. She didn’t have the heart to tell her friend that she’d had more than enough of mysteries for the time being.

The group continued to discuss what had happened, presenting their various theories for why someone could behave so atrociously, and get away with it for so long. Then the talk turned to when the criminal trials might be, and potential outcomes.

“There’s Detective McDonald,” Claire said suddenly. “I’m going to see what he can tell us.” She went over to the bar, and returned shortly with the detective in tow.

“Good evening, everyone”, he said, taking the chair Kira had pulled in between herself and Keeley. “How are you doing?” he asked Keeley quietly.

“Much better,” she said, heat creeping into her cheeks as she remembered the last time he had seen her, shaking, with mascara running down her face. He had been very kind and compassionate when he had taken her statement shortly after the arrests of John Banks and Dennis Olson. She cringed inwardly as she remembered how she had broken down in tears a couple of times as she told her story. He had waited patiently, not rushing her, and he had even gotten up to make her a cup of coffee, which had given her a few minutes to wash her tear and mascara stained face.

“You should have come to me after you found the picture in the newspaper,” he said.

Keeley looked at him in disbelief. “After the way you yelled at me when I told you about Sue Ferguson? I wasn’t going to go through that again.”

He looked uncomfortable. “I didn’t yell at you,” he protested. “And I did talk to Susan Ferguson. I warned her not to issue threats against you, and to stay away from your residence.”

Keeley shrugged and looked down. She really wished she had gone to him. She would have given a lot not to have experienced the terror of being at the mercy of a sociopathic killer, but at least it had turned out okay in the end. The killers had been caught, and hopefully would not be a threat to anyone else for a very long time, if ever. Another positive was that it was highly unlikely Chelsea would ever be back to bother her again.

Detective McDonald continued to study her until forced to turn his attention to the barrage of questions facing him. He responded patiently when he had answers, although a few times he had to ask them to not all talk at the same time. Carol, the waitress, came over whenever she didn’t have orders to take from or deliver to customers. She was as curious as the rest. Keeley asked her how Traci was doing.

“She’s pretty upset. She really thought she loved that jerk.” Carol shook her head. “Traci has the worst taste in men.” Then she shrugged. “I guess it runs in the family.” Keeley smiled sympathetically.

Detective McDonald was answering another of Claire’s questions, and Keeley and Carol turned their attention back to the group discussion.

Banks had not confessed to the murders of Joyce Williams and Tom Freemont, but from the information they got from questioning Dennis Olson, and what Keeley had provided, as well as information gathered in their own investigation, the police had put together a comprehensive picture of the events that had taken place. Banks had been having an affair with the much younger woman, and it was he, and not Tom Freemont who had been a frequent visitor to her apartment. Dennis Olson had been in the habit of spying on Joyce Williams, and had seen her and Banks together several times before the night the murders had taken place. The night of Joyce’s murder, he had been looking through the window, and witnessed a verbal disagreement between them, that escalated into Banks knocking Joyce Williams down, and then smothering her with a pillow. Olson had taken the opportunity of trying to improve his financial situation by essentially attempting to blackmail Banks. Needing help disposing of the body, Banks agreed to pay Olson five thousand dollars. They packed up some of Joyce Williams’s clothing, and left the note for the landlord. Olson had stolen Joyce’s gold pendant without Banks noticing. They managed to get the body and the suitcase with her personal effects out of the apartment and took it over to the construction site, since the house was uninhabited at the time. It was the best place they could think of to dispose of the body. Tom Freemont unluckily came back to the job site that night for some reason, and Olson killed him. He insisted Banks forced him to, which was probably so that he could then be sure Olson wouldn’t turn him in for Joyce Williams’s murder. They buried both bodies, and then drove Joyce’s car out to the airport and left it in long term parking. The clothes and suitcase were later donated to a charity shop in the next city. They didn’t want to take the chance of throwing it in a dumpster, and having questions raised if it was found. Dennis Olson was the juvenile that had told the police he had seen Tom Freemont enter Joyce’s apartment on more than one occasion. The apartment caretaker could not identify who it was he had seen with Joyce, only that the man had appeared much older than she was. Once it was accepted that Tom Freemont and Joyce Williams had run away together, Banks and Olson thought they had gotten away with the murders.

“By the way, we tracked down Olson’s mother, Anne, and she’s alive and well,” Detective McDonald told them. Keeley had told him about Lily’s idea that she may have been Dennis’s first victim, making certain he knew where the theory had originated. She had not exactly been proud of throwing Lily under the bus, so to speak, but she didn’t want the detective to think she was any more of a loose screw than he probably already believed.

“How could anyone kill two people, or at least be responsible for the deaths of them both, and then plan to kill three more, just to avoid getting caught having an affair? It’s beyond crazy,” Lily said, bringing the conversation back to John Banks.

“It may have had something to do with his political aspirations, in addition to wanting to avoid incurring his wife’s wrath. Not too many voters are going to elect someone Banks age taking up with such a young woman. People like to think their elected officials have a high standard of morals.”

“When Banks found out Olson had taken Joyce Williams’s pendant, which he recognized, maybe even had given to her, he decided Olson was too much of a liability. It probably seemed to him that arranging a murder suicide involving Olson and Keeley would solve both his problems, and tie everything up in a nice bow,” Mac said.

The women continued to pepper him with questions until finally, their curiosity was satisfied as much as was possible at the time. No doubt more information would come out during the trial.

“This has been so hard on the Freemont’s but at least maybe now they can find some closure,” said Claire.

“Where is Freemont?” Detective McDonald asked Keeley.

“I don’t know. Home I guess. We broke up,” she added quietly.

He took a sip from the barely touched beer in front of him, and then stood up, extending his hand to Keeley. “Let’s dance,” he suggested. She stood up and took his hand, carefully avoiding looking at the others, not wanting to see the smirks that she knew would be on their faces. She walked with Detective McDonald to the dance floor. Nora Jones was crooning “Come Away With Me” from the speakers on the edge of the tiny dance area. A few other couples were there before them. The detective took her in his arms and they started to move to the music. He was a good dancer. They were silent for a few moments, each lost in their own thoughts.

“Detective McDonald do you really think John Banks will be found guilty and sent to prison?" Keeley finally asked, looking up at him. "I’m worried that he’ll hire some lawyer who’ll find a loophole and get him off.”

“Call me Mac, or Nate.” He nodded thoughtfully. “Yes, I do think he'll be convicted. We’ve definitely got him on breaking and entering, unlawful confinement and a whole host of other charges from last night. It was a clean arrest, so his high priced legal team isn’t going to find anything to work with there. And Dennis Olson has been singing nonstop, trying to work out some kind of deal with the prosecutor, although that’s unlikely. The prosecutor told me he thinks the murder case is solid against both of them. The search turned up that piece of jewelry that belonged to Joyce Williams in Olson’s car. He’s claiming Banks insisted he get the piece back from his girlfriend, which he did, and then turned it over to Banks. Banks put it in Olson’s car as more incriminating evidence. I would bet money that they’re both going down for the murders. There’s a lot of physical evidence, and that combined with the circumstantial stuff is pretty compelling. Even Bank’s wife knows he’s guilty. I heard she’s already filed for divorce, and taken off somewhere with the daughter.”

“Poor Barbara, and Ashley. How horrible to find out someone you love, someone you’ve lived with all those years, is a murderer.”

Mac nodded. “But how about if we forget all of that for now, and talk about something else,” he suggested.

“Deal.” She had thought about little else since the terror of almost being killed, and it would be a relief to take a break.

“You got your hair cut,” he noted.

“Yeah, it felt like the right time.”

He looked at her consideringly, but didn’t ask her to explain her comment.

“I like it,” he said.

THE END


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