I was stunned in complete disbelief. This had nothing to do with Neil Shelton at all or the past twenty-four hours. The police had found a cell phone used to call Zoe Burke and Sarah Jacobs along with the murder weapon in my office. It was shocking, to say the least, but it answered a number of questions. The puzzle pieces were starting to fit together.
First of all, the delay this morning in the twins interrogating me was the result of getting and executing a search warrant for my office and most likely my house. They wanted extra time to hopefully find something they could use against me during the questioning. In their mind, they hit the jackpot, finding the murder weapon and corroborating evidence against a person they despised and believed guilty. It was likely the best day of their professional career. The smug and conceited attitudes also made perfect sense. Both of them thought they had everything they needed to convict me on at least two counts of murder.
The purpose of the break-in also became clear. It was never about a robbery or finding a vital piece of information from the paperwork. It was the complete opposite. They didn’t take anything but left something instead. Whoever broke in did it with the purpose of planting the evidence.
Whatever I said next was critical to this interview and whether I was able to get out to look for Jane or spending some extended time in a jail cell. The twins were waiting for me to talk. They weren’t going to say a word until I did. The situation was crystal clear. I looked back at the two pictures for a minute thinking about what I needed to say. I cleared my throat before I began talking.
“Whatever you found in my house does not alter the facts I told you. Nothing has changed. I did not murder Zoe Burke, Sarah Jacobs, or Neil Shelton. Period. Everything I said was completely truthful.” The last statement was stretching the truth a bit but not in what truly mattered.
“Cut the crap, Alex,” the short fat one said viciously. “We found not only the murder weapon used to kill both Zoe Burke and Sarah Jacobs in your office, but also an untraceable cell phone used to contact the victims. We found bloody clothes in the bathroom of your office and more bloody clothes and shoes hidden in a bag in the back of the car you were driving. There was also a towel with blood on it in the same bathroom you used to clean off your hands and wherever else you got blood on you killing Neil Shelton. Not to mention, we also located copies of the crime scene photos on one of your portable drives, so you could look at your handiwork anytime you wanted. You knew the two women who happened to look surprisingly similar to your late fiancée and you were just fired from your job by the third victim. Tell me, what the fuck else should we think?” He was on a roll.
“First off, I told you to leave Hannah out of this. My late fiancée and her slight resemblance to two murdered victims have no bearing on my guilt or innocence. None whatsoever.” They had brought Hannah up as a way of getting me riled up and it had worked perfectly.
“We will determine what information is pertinent to this investigation. Not you or anyone else.” The tall skinny one was calm and collected, simply stating a fact.
“I would hope the two of you would take your heads out of each other’s asses and think about it for a minute. It should be obvious to even the two of you, the phone and gun were planted in my office during the break-in a few days ago. I never found it because I was looking for what was missing not what someone left behind. All of the other so-called evidence has already been explained to you. The bloody clothes, the shoes, the towel, me finding Neil’s body, and disturbing the crime scene. All of it would make sense if you would look past your hatred for me. I have no idea what my father did to you two but let it go for God’s sakes.”
Both of the twins were silent for a minute. They switched between looking at their notes, each other and over at me. It was unclear what they were doing. It could have been another stall tactic to keep me talking, but I was keeping my mouth shut after my last tirade. They stood up together and headed for the door.
The tall skinny one looked back over his shoulder and said, “We have been at this for a while. A break is in order. Don’t leave this room.” They left the room and closed the door behind them. Their unspoken communication must not be working perfectly today. They needed to confer with each other outside so I would not be able to hear what they were planning next.
Once again, for the umpteenth time in the past few days, I put my head in my hands rubbing my face, not being able to believe what was happening. My head was beginning to ache something horrible. I just couldn’t fathom the events of the past week. I was more concerned about what had happened to Jane and less worried about my own wellbeing. Losing her as the result of something to do with me would be devastating. Something I wouldn’t be able to mentally survive.
The door opened up and I expected to see the detective twins walk back in ready for round two. Instead, Bruno walked in and closed the door quickly. I started to spout out a cell phone and the knife used to murder Zoe Burke and Sarah Jacobs were found in my office, but Bruno once again held up his hand indicating I needed to keep my mouth shut. Jane’s life may depend on him, so I did as instructed.
“I wanted to keep you informed on the kidnapping case of Jane Curso,” Bruno said, glancing at the two-way mirror letting me know our conversation was most likely being recorded. “A report of a stolen car came in overnight matching your description of the vehicle used in her abduction. We put out an APB on the car and found it a few hours later. It was abandoned in a parking lot near downtown this morning. The parking lot attendant was having it towed because whoever left the car hadn’t paid.
“We got a crime scene technician down to the lot right away and found evidence in the trunk indicating Jane was, in fact, in the trunk at one point. She was able to scratch her name into the side so we know with absolute confidence it was her. I was able to positively verify Jane was kidnapped with extreme certainty. As a result, it is being pursued as a priority case regardless of what is happening with your current situation.”
“Fantastic, Bruno. I hope like hell you can find her.”
“Everyone does and I am not just saying it to improve your mood.”
I reached in my back pocket and grabbed my wallet getting out the card John Burns had given me. “I forgot I had this. It doesn’t contain any real information but I wanted to make sure you had it.” I extended my hand out to Bruno for him to take the card.
“I can’t take anything from you. I am only allowed to work on the kidnapping of Jane. All of my involvement with the three murders has been taken away.”
I threw the card on the table, so the twins would see it when they walked in. Bruno looked down casually at it.
“You said your client’s name was John Burns. This card says something different. W. John Burns.”
I had totally forgotten he told me he went by his middle name. I had only referred to him as John the whole time. “I didn’t remember with everything going on or my brain never felt it was consequential enough to bring it up. Does it matter?”
“This is very important. Did he ever mention what his first name was? Think hard.”
I replayed all of the conversations we had back through my head and couldn’t think of anything. The only time he mentioned his first name was not John was when he handed me the card. “No. Never. Why?”
Bruno smiled as he often did when a connection was made in his mind. Before he could answer, the door opened up and both of the detective twins walked in.
The short fat one exploded, “Bruno! What the fuck are you doing in here? You have been taken off of this case and have been specifically instructed to stay away from the investigation.”
“Calm down, Dick,” Bruno responded calmly. “I was just updating Alex on the progress that has been made on the confirmed kidnapping of Jane Curso, his employee and friend.”
Both of the twins looked surprised at what they heard and were silent for a minute. All four of us were looking around at each other, not saying a word.
The tall skinny one finally broke the tension. “Bruno, it’s time to go. We have a few more questions for Alex and it sounds like you have some work to do on your own.” The calmness in which he spoke and the pleasant words seemed to shock everyone in the room. He had his doubts about my true involvement in these murders and with one sentence, Bruno confirmed his misgivings. I had a long way to go to get out of this, but there was now a light at the end of the tunnel.
“Sounds like a good idea,” Bruno said cordially. Turning to look at me he said, “Alex, don’t worry everything will be OK. Everyone, including these two, knows you are innocent of the murders and had nothing to do with them. Jane will be just fine. Mark my word. Whatever you do, stay focused on the task at hand and go to your happy place. For instance, where you tried going on your own that one summer.”
After he spoke, he simply turned around and left, leaving the door wide opened behind him. The twins stared at each other completely ignoring the fact I was still in the room. The both sighed heavily and headed out the door keeping it open as well.
The tall skinny one called out over his shoulder to me on the way out, “You are free to go get something to drink or use the restroom if needed. We need to talk some more.”
For the first time in the past few days, I actually felt hopeful this entire situation was going to be resolved positively. The twins had obviously thought I was simply running from the cops and had made up the whole story about Jane being kidnapped. Bruno confirmed my story was the truth, throwing doubt into their belief of what happened. This suddenly made my version of the events not only plausible, but likely. They needed more time to confer with each other and plan out their next steps.
As I sat there in the interrogation room by myself, I was confused at why Bruno was so interested in John Burns’ full name and what he said to me right before leaving. Bruno had never talked so strangely in my presence before. Happy place? Not a normal phrase used by a hardened homicide police detective. I hadn’t heard that expression in quite some time, not since I was young, growing up after my mother had left.
When I was feeling down and depressed, my counselor at school would tell me to go to my happy place as a method of attempting to cheer me up. My place was always Hilton Head Island in my mind after one magical summer trip with some friends and family. It just seemed odd Bruno wanted me to think of a vacation location while I was being interviewed for three gruesome murders that revolved around me.
Bruno wasn’t a touchy-feely kind of person, so it was doubtful he was trying to improve my mood. Was he trying to make me laugh? The one summer I had tried to do it on my own was after a big fight with my dad over something meaningless and long forgotten. I had threatened to run away and go there on my own, telling him, even as a great policeman, he would never find me.
I sat up straight in my chair with instant clarity. He was a crafty devil, giving me a message only I would understand and if problems arose, could be easily explained away.
Bruno wanted me to escape.