True to his promise and with Janice’s connections, Alberto Winter arrived in Laconia later that day to put an end to the grilling of Detective Frank Baxter and his team. Sarah was near the breaking point when Winter strode into the police station where she was being held and was freed of the brow-beating she was on the wrong end of from the detectives who just wanted to close out the Joe Garrity murder at last after a long gap of wondering if it would just go unsolved. Winter dismissed the police with his traditional flourish as Sarah looked up in confusion at the determined-looking man in the crisp, black suit.
“My attorney?” Sarah asked as she wiped away some tears. “I did not hire any attorney.”
“I am well aware, Mrs. Holding. But you have some very concerned friends out there who did. May I call you Sarah?”
“Sure, I guess…friends?”
“We can get to that in a minute. My name is Alberto Winter. Please call me Albert. Now…first things first. I am here to hear your side of this fiasco to see how it lines up with what I have gotten briefly from outside and see if I feel I can be of assistance to you.”
“I am not sure I understand, Albert.”
“I was paid a small retainer to interview you and if it looks promising, then you and I will talk in more detail and come up with a strategy to get you cleared of this thing. How much have you told the police so far?”
“Not much. Just that they have the wrong person. I would never hurt Joe. We were…we…”
Sarah lost her voice as her emotions took over.
“It’s OK, Sarah. Take your time. I know how horrible this is for you.”
“OK…no matter how many times I have told them this and denied any of it, they just will not let up.”
“It’s their job, Sarah. And in this instance they have been hitting dead ends in the investigation for so long my guess is they are desperate to close it out. How about you give me your version of all that has happened.”
Sarah nodded and exhaled before beginning. Alberto sat back with his notebook as she went through the sequence of events that had led to her initial questioning and then arrest for Joe’s murder. She looked off to one wall as if peering out a window at some distant view as she told him of coming to Joe’s apartment one evening to find him dead in the living room. How she had called in the discovery and then how she had been targeted as the police’s prime suspect due to her relationship with Joe.
“It’s how they proceed, Sarah. At the beginning of an investigation, investigators will look at a husband or wife or other close family members first. I understand that Joe had no real close family members, yes?”
“And that you and he were in a personal relationship?”
“You are divorced?”
“Soon. My husband and I are in the midst of the final details of it, but nothing has been signed off yet. Next month will mark the 1-year separation period required in Tennessee prior to a divorce being completed.”
Winter nodded as he jotted notes down on his legal pad.
“And your husband, James is it? He had been served with a restraining order due to his threats and being a potential danger to you?”
“Yes. James Holding. As I am sure you may already know, I was the victim of some abuse in my marriage and I had to flee for my safety many months ago.”
Again Winter nodded as he wrote more.
“And did the police consider James a possible suspect? I mean as maybe having done this in a jealous rage against you and Joe?”
“I brought that up but they say he has a solid alibi for the established time of Joe’s murder.”
Winter already knew that but he wanted to see if she had brought that up in her interrogation with the detectives.
“And they say they found the murder weapon in Joe’s apartment with your fingerprints on it?”
“That’s what they tell me.”
“But the knife is yours?”
“Want to tell me why a knife belonging to you is in Joe’s apartment, Sarah?”
“Sure…Joe did not have a great selection of knives at his place and I left him that one for us to use when needed. I am not surprised at all that my fingerprints might be on it.”
“They say it was not with his other utensils but well hidden behind a loose panel in the wall.”
“That is what I was told. But I have no idea how it got there.”
Winter nodded as he finished up some more notes.
“And you are sure you and Mr. Garrity had no issues? No fights, no arguments that might be public knowledge, no circumstances that might be used as a motive for you to want to harm him?”
She shook her head no as she began to tear up again.
“Money issues? Other women in his life that might have made you angry enough to just snap?”
“No, Albert. Joe and I were in love! This whole thing is ludicrous. You can talk to anyone in town that knew us both.” Sarah exclaimed as her voice grew louder.
“OK, Sarah…thanks. I will talk to your friends and acquaintances in town. And do not take my questions as a personal attack. These are all questions that I am sure the DA will pepper you with if this goes to trial.”
“Sure…sure…I am sorry.”
“No apology necessary.”
“So can you help me?”
“After speaking with you, Sarah, I am sure I can. The whole thing smells of circumstantial evidence and events on top of the police trying to close out an unsolved murder. I know this kind of thing is probably not a common thing for the Laconia department which may add to the rush to indicting you.”
“So what is next?”
“First of all, I will see what is involved in getting you released until we either hammer this out with the DA and get him convinced that there is not enough solid evidence to proceed to trial or if he insists, then we prepare for your defense based on just that. Your lack of any kind of a police record will speak volumes in getting you out of this place. Let me work on that and then I will meet with the DA.”
Sarah looked up as Winter was gathering his things.
“I can hardly afford to pay you for this.”
“That has been taken care of, Sarah. No need to put that anxiety on top of everything else you are dealing with at the moment.”
“What do yo mean has been taken care of?”
“You have some wonderful friends, Sarah. I will just leave it at that for now, OK?”
Sarah knew that Orville had to be behind this. He was the only one of her friends in town that she could imagine with the kind of money that would be required to hire Alberto Winter for her. Winter turned just as he was leaving the interview room.
“One other thing, Sarah?”
“Your soon-to-be ex-husband? Do you think he could be capable of setting this all up to have you take the fall? Could he be that vindictive and vengeful?”
Sarah thought for a moment.
“If you had asked me that a while back I would have said no, but after all his drunken rages and attacks on me and how irate and incensed he got after the restraining order was put into place, I guess it is definitely possible. It sure does not fit with the man I knew when we first got married, but now…I guess I would have to say it is possible. You think it is true, Albert, what people say?”
“That old saying that you never really know anyone. Not deep down?”
“I suppose, Sarah. In all my years of practice I have definitely seen lots of examples of this. Is James’ reputation and behavior toward you well-known in Laconia? I mean all this anger expressed once you were free of him?”
Sarah nodded glumly.
“It’s a small town, Albert. I am sure you will find this out when you talk to people.”
He nodded and smiled.
“OK. Good. Sit tight and I will do my best to get you out of here as soon as possible.”