Thursday afternoon I was sitting in the police station in downtown Charleston waiting for my appointment with Josh Crammer when my cell phone rang. I started to just press the button that would send the call to voicemail, but when I saw Vanessa Pederson on the display I told the desk clerk that I was stepping out in the hall for a minute and answered the call.
"Anything new?" I asked hopefully.
"No, and Garrett's mom is a pill." She said. "Thankfully I didn't have to get them a hotel, since they're just staying at his house of course- Wynn Jr. had me call a professional cleaning service to get the place straightened up before they got there. The better I get to know him, the more I like that guy." She said. "I mean, he's a lousy lawyer, but, a great boss. Drake would have probably just sent me over there with some paper towels or let them deal with it themselves. But, I picked them up at the airport, and they wanted to rent a car- which I understand, I mean Mr. Whitson has some arthritis problems, and climbing up into Garrett's truck probably wouldn't be easy on him- so I took them over to the office and she just kept yapping at the poor clerk."
"Yapping?" I regretting the word as soon as it left my lips. I did not want to get involved with gossip.
"Just being picky- nothing satisfied her. But they finally got a car, and she wanted to go home and rest for a while. I'm sure that she was tired from the trip and all, but… she's just driving me crazy. They finally went to the hospital yesterday afternoon, but only stayed for about half an hour. This morning she was complaining about the lack of good restaurants in Wilmington and-"
"Vanessa," I interrupted when I couldn't take any more. "I'm sorry, but I have to go in for an interview. I'll talk to you later."
I slipped back inside and sat down again. I purposed to not think about my conversation with Vanessa, although what she said about Garrett's mom was really bizarre. Since I wasn't going to think about that gossip, I should have been thinking about the case and what I was going to discuss with Sgt. Crammer once he became available, but instead my thoughts began to wander to my evening with Professor Jones.
Thankfully after only a few minutes more, the matron told me that the sergeant was waiting for me in conference room A, and let me through the door into the other hallway. I found conference room A, and wondered why she didn't refer to it as the 'interrogation suite'. It was furnished with the standard particle board, plasticy brown table and matching chairs, drab gray walls, and a large mirror (i.e. one-way glass). The uniformed sergeant was sitting with his back to the glass with a folder set on the table in front of him, and a bored expression on his face.
I stepped in and closed the door behind me. He looked up, "You're Quinby Xander?"
I nodded, not quite sure how to take the statement. He sounded shocked. "Yes. Thank you for meeting with me today, Sgt. Crammer." I took the seat across from him and took a moment to assess the man. He was about my age with a squarish face, and stocky build. His sandy blonde hair was cut close in military fashion, and I would bet money he'd spend most of middle school despising the freckles across his nose.
"I'm not quite sure why you want to meet with me anyway, ma'am." He said, "Your office has already issued me a subpoena, and I must say that I strongly object to going all the way to Delaware."
"Yes, I instructed them to serve you as soon as I read the trial transcript, before the prosecutor could do so."
"Why did you do that?"
"I read your testimony at the first trial. I'm shocked that Mr. Cannon wasn't on his feet objecting to almost every question the DA asked. He was obviously leading you and when he wasn't your answers were of no help at all to him. I concluded that you know something he didn't want exposed."
I already talked to that other detective- I don't remember his name, but he was working for Miss Walsh's other attorney. He didn't think I could be of any assistance."
The revelation did not faze me. I was already operating under the assumption that Clyde Martin was an incompetent investigator. Thus far it had proved to be a reliable theory, and I wasn't changing my mind yet. "Yes, I have spoken with Mr. Martin. We agreed that it would be best if I revisited each witness and got a fresh statement. Sometimes, as I'm sure you know, the mind recalls things afterward that are too jumbled to recite soon after an event."
He shrugged, "Fair enough."
I took out my phone, "You don't mind if I record this for my personal reference, do you?" he shook his head. "Okay, so I understand that you were the chief investigating officer in the abduction of Lawrence Matteson in February 2011. Is that correct?"
"And ultimately you were the one who arrested Paisley Walsh and charged her with the crime?"
"What made you suspect Miss Walsh?"
"This isn't the trial you know," he said, with a hint of a grin that made me relax considerably."
"I'm trying to stick to questions that have admissible answers." I explained. "I would prefer to ask you to just tell me about the investigation, but I'd bet there's information in there you can't share, and some that might lead into objectionable areas. I think this will save us both time."
"Sounds good to me." He leaned forward. "I had no choice but to arrest Paisley. When Lawrence's statement was taken in the hospital once he woke up, he said she'd done it."
"And that was completely consistent with the evidence you'd discovered through your investigation?"
"Could you elaborate, please?"
"For Miss Walsh to be the perpetrator was not consistent with the results of my investigation."
I resisted the urge to roll my eyes. We weren't, after all, in court, and I wasn't going to try and admit this recording. "Why not?"
He looked up at me and our eyes locked. We engaged in a staring contest for a few moments before he spoke. "First of all, she didn't have much opportunity. Yes, she was around him at the time he was abducted, but there's no way she got him out to Hobcaw Creek before she told the principal he was missing. We couldn't find any fiber or DNA evidence in the trunk of her car. Even a professional detailer can't remove blood, and that vehicle had definitely not been recently detailed."
"Is there any chance you have photos of the car at the time it was examined?" I asked hopefully.
"Maybe. I'm not sure. I'll look into it."
"I would appreciate it. Was there any other reason you thought Miss Walsh to be a poor suspect?"
"Lack of motive." He replied. "That's actually, in my opinion, the only reason she got a retrial. Being singled out by the victim is pretty hard to ignore, but no one could ever find a motive. If it weren't for Lawrence, I would have immediately dismissed her. Sure, she had means, but so did two hundred other people."
Sgt. Crammer thought on my question for a while before answering, "This is extremely shaky, so much so, that I hesitate to bring it up, and I doubt I would be willing to mention it in court, but Lawrence wasn't completely unconscious when he was found."
"Okay," I waited to see what else he would say.
"Now, you've got to understand that he was extremely dehydrated and very disoriented, which is why I don't put much stock in this, but he was talking about his kidnapper. Not coherently, mind you, but he definitely said 'he' and 'him'. Multiple times."
"You mean he positively ID'd his abductor as male?"
"Yes, no question. I would swear that he said it, but I can't even suggest that he was aware of what he was saying at the time."
"Which is why you arrested Paisley Walsh when he identified her once he was coherent."
I reached over and turned off the recorder. "Is there anyone you did like as a suspect?"
He chuckled, "I'm not going to be caught answering that question, ma'am." He said.
"Not even off the record?"
"Okay," I turned the recorder back on. "So, you found neither fiber nor DNA evidence in Miss Walsh's car, did you find any evidence elsewhere?"
"There were a few fingerprints in the cabin, but it's impossible to tell when they were put there."
"Did you lift them?"
"Yes, and I ran them in our database. They aren't in the system. Also, we found some red fuzz on Lawrence's shirt, like from a sweatshirt of hoodie, but that isn't much to go on."
"I agree. The fingerprints-" I backtracked for a moment, "Man or woman?"
"Man. Those fingers were bigger than mine."
I glanced down at his hands. Yes, those prints had definitely been male. Poor woman if not. "Any other evidence?"
He shook his head, "If Lawrence hadn't seen her it would have been the perfect crime."
"I don't believe he saw her anyway." I pushed back my chair and stood. "Thank you for your time, Sergeant. I'll see you in court."
Sgt. Crammer chuckled, rose, and shook my hand, "You sound like Perry Mason, Ms. Xander." I smiled wordlessly and took my leave.
Once in my car I uploaded the recorded interview into my 'cloud', something Garrett had set up for me when I started at Salisbury and Ashton, and had actually come in quite handy. I was able to transfer files between devices without a cord, and better yet, didn't have to worry about something getting deleted by accident. Once that was done, I called Drake Ashton.
"Hello, Mr. Ashton, it's Quinby."
"I hope you have good news."
"I think so," I said, "I just got done interviewing the investigating officer from the Charleston Police Department, Sergeant Josh Crammer."
"He says that there isn't any real evidence to tie Paisley to the crime."
"I've read the transcript, Quinby, I know that. The problem is the victim positively identified her. He named her and then picked her out of a lineup- twice."
"He was also on the scene when Lawrence was taken by ambulance. He said the boy kept talking about his abductor, but was definitely using the word 'he'."
"He? As in a man?"
"Yes, Sgt. Crammer said he would swear that Lawrence said 'he' and 'him' multiple times."
"Well, that is good news. We've already served him, so,"
"He said he doesn't think we can make it stand up." I cut in.
"Why ever not?" Mr. Ashton asked. "I can call him as an expert witness in investigation, there's no question of his credibility."
"No, but of Lawrence's coherency." I replied, "The prosecution can probably subpoena the admitting doctor at the E.R. or one of the paramedics to swear that Lawrence was delirious, and wouldn't have had the faintest idea what he was saying at the time."
"Well, you have to figure out some way to prove otherwise." He snapped. "This is the only thing we have to go on."
"Yes, sir, I'll try my best."
By now it was late, and I stopped at a seafood stand downtown to pick up supper before going back to my rental house. While I ate, I made a case list, trying to find an angle I hadn't examined. I'd talked to Mr. and Mrs. Matteson, couldn't talk to Lawrence, and interviewed the principal at the school whom Paisley had told that Lawrence was missing. I made a note to try and find the playground supervisor, Miss… (I consulted the transcript of Principal Simon's interview) Spratt, and see if she had anything to add. I'd tried to discuss Lawrence's school performance with his teacher, but of course, Harry couldn't discuss that with me. Oh, goodness! I thought, I hope Harry doesn't think I'm just trying to pump him for information! I would have to address that the next time we were together. I'd talked to the investigating officer, and as many members of the search party as possible. I remembered Clark Harrison. I decided to work on trying to find him the next day. I didn't really want to send him a Facebook message and tip him off that I was looking for him, and scare him away, if he was indeed, as I suspected, hiding something. I searched for him on Twitter, and found that he had an account. If I followed him, (technologically) I might figure out his habits enough to arrange a way to run into him. Although, if he noticed that I was following him, he might do some research and figure out that I'm a detective, and that wouldn't be good. I sighed, and opened a new tab to Yahoo! to create a fake email address so I could start another Twitter account. I was trying to think of a name when I remembered something. I looked at my watch. It was late, but not too late. I dialed Kent Ingram's cell phone.
"I was beginning to wonder if you'd dropped off the face of the earth." He said by way of greeting.
"Ha! You aren't getting rid of me that easily." I replied. "I'm here to interrogate you."
"Augh! I'm scared! What do you want? I'll do anything, just don't torture me!" I hear Livi's voice in the background, and imagined the look she was giving him.
"Last summer when you made all that stuff for Kiley Aubuchon, did you happen to create her a Twitter account?"
"But of course," he said, "What celebrity doesn't tweet?"
"Did you delete the account?"
"Probably not. I don't remember deleting it. I was kind of busy right about then, if you recall."
"I recall. Do you remember the user name and password?"
"Are you ready to become a celebrity again?" he teased.
"Um, no. I just want to stalk somebody."
"If anyone else told me that, I'd call the cops, you know."
"I would hope. So, do you still remember?"
"I think so." He recited an email address and password, and I scrawled them on my list.
"Thank you. See, that wasn't so bad, was it?"
"Not at all. It's been a pleasure doing business with you, Kiley."
I did my best to affect a snooty accent, "That's Miss Aubuchon to you." I said.
He chuckled. "Whatever. I'll talk to you later."
After following Clark Harrison on Twitter, (and reminding myself to never, ever, ever let Kent have the password to my real Twitter account after seeing the stupid stuff he'd posted last summer for Kiley) I took some time to check my email. I found one from Caden from two days ago (oops) that detailed his caseload for the week. "As you can see," he wrote, "I'm swamped. Please consider hiring a part-timer at least to do research."
I sat back and contemplated before replying. A year and a half ago, I wouldn't have ever believed that I would be needing to hire one assistant, much less two. I decided to think on that for a while before I wrote Caden back, and closed my laptop and went to bed. Yes, I thought as I was starting to doze off. I could probably at least run an ad for a researcher and file clerk in the paper. Suddenly it came to me. I knew how to get Clark Harrison to meet with me.