“So what did you think about Toni’s statement” Corbin asked.

They had interviewed all the girls. Hazel and Jasmine hadn’t given any new information. Their testimony was pretty much the exact same thing Toni’s; without the Ben Adrian part.

“I think we should look into this Ben Adrian.” James replied. “It sounds like there is more to the story.”

“Maybe they were having a secret love affair” Corbin joked, as James picked up the phone and requested information on Ben Adrian. “Toni said Carla mentioned a sycamore tree? Maybe that was their rendezvous spot.”

“Yeah good luck with finding it” James snorted, hanging up the phone. There are hundreds of them in this town.”

“Well I bet Adrian can tell us where it is.” Corbin said. “You got an address yet?”

“I’m working on it.” James said. “So what did you think about the other girls?”

“I don’t know really.” Corbin replied. “They didn’t look like they were telling the whole truth. I bet you one of them knows something.”

“You think one of them killed her?” James asked.

“I think they all killed her.” Corbin laughed. “Seriously though, they might have all killed her and covered it up. If you ask me their testimony sounded too straight like it was rehearsed.”

“Exactly,” James said.  “They know more than they are letting on. But Toni seemed like she was trying to covey something. You think that tree was a hoax?”

“Yeah she might be trying to throw us off.” Corbin said as an officer showed by and dropped a piece of paper o James desk. “Either way we are still picking up Adrian. Please tell me he is eighteen. I don’t feel like having another interrogation with another set of parents.”

“Yes he actually is.” James said peering at the paper the officer dropped on his desk.”

“Well let’s hope he doesn’t leave us stuck in the woods?” Corbin chuckled.

James stared at him in shock.

“What?” Corbin asked defensively. “I’m allowed to make jokes.”

James grabbed his phone and dialed a number

“Who are you calling” Corbin asked.

“CSU” James replied.

“Why are you calling CSU?” Corbin asked, looking confused.

James held up a finger. “Hey Dawn” He said after a few seconds. “I have a quick question for you. What is the kind of tree where Carla was killed?”

*                                                                           *                                                                                                          *

“It is a coincidence” Corbin insisted. They were in the car on their way to Adrian’s

“I don’t think so” James replied. “They were meeting at a Sycamore tree, and then the next thing she was found murdered at a Sycamore tree?”

“You said it yourself; there are hundreds of them out there.” Corbin asked.

“It is still not a coincidence.” James insisted.

They pulled up in front of the house. It was painted white with wine bricks. They walked up to the front porch and knocked. A woman opened the door.

“Good afternoon” James said politely. “We are here to talk to Ben Adrian.” They held up their badges

“Ben” The woman called up the stairs. “The police are here.” She turned to them. “Please come in.”

As they walked inside, James heard running feet and the back door slam.

“Do you think-” Corbin asked

“Do you think it is a coincidence now?” James said as he turned round and raced out the door. Corbin followed him. His mother- James assumed- just stood there in shock

They got outside and saw a figure carrying a backpack running in the distance.

“Hey stop! Police” James yelled as he chased after him. Corbin was not far behind. Ben kept running.

James was pumped up with adrenaline. He couldn’t feel the pain in his leg. He chased hard after him gaining on him. Ben banked left. James followed suit he ran towards a low fence and jumped over it. James followed with no trouble. He glanced at Corbin. He had a look of concentration on his face. Running was his least favourite part of the job. It was James favourite.

Ben ran into an alley. James followed a shortcut and cut through the right he came up directly behind Ben. He tackled him to the ground. Ben let out a groan of frustration. James frisked him arms behind him.

“You have the right to remain silent.” James said reading him his rights.

“C’mon I didn’t do anything” Ben protested. “What are you arresting me for?”

“Running away from a police officer” Corbin said as he arrived panting heavily. “You made me run you piece of shit.” He joined James and lifted him up on his feet. James finished reading him his rights.

“Do you understand these rights I have read to you?”

*                                                                                                   *                                                                                                          *

“I want a lawyer present.” Ben folded his arms

They were in the interrogation room. Ben was uncooperative so far.

“You get a lawyer and then he tells you to be quiet and then you don’t get a chance to talk.” Corbin said. “And you could use all the talking you can get.”

“Look I didn’t kill Carla alright?” Ben fumed. “I’m sure John has told you all sorts of bullshit about how I wanted her dead but I didn’t kill her.”

“John? Carla’s brother? We haven’t even spoken to John yet” James said. “So is that why you were running? Because you think he told us something?”

“Look he showed up at my house last night” Ben said. “And he said all sorts of thing about how I killed his sister and that he was going to make me pay.”

“Wait he showed up at your house? What time was this?” James asked

“About 11:30 last night.”

“Why would John think you killed his sister?”

“Look everyone heard about what happened with the test questions alright?” He panted “We were both applying to Yale and because of that I didn’t get in even though my name was cleared. Everyone thought she was trying to sabotage me. She didn’t have to. Her parents are rich enough to buy out any school.”

“So Yale didn’t rescind her admission?” Corbin asked.

“No.” Ben said. “Like I said her parents are very rich.”

“So didn’t that make you angry knowing what she did and yet getting away with it?” Corbin asked.

“No it didn’t” Ben said helplessly.

“It didn’t?” James raised an eyebrow. “I would be pretty mad if it was me.”

“There are thing you don’t understand.” Ben said his voice low.

“Bullshit.” James snorted.

“No, really” Ben replied pleadingly. He swallowed and then struggled to find his words. “Carla didn’t steal those questions. I did.”

Both Corbin and James looked at each other. “You stole those questions?”

“Yes.” Ben swallowed. “Look I was having a hard time preparing for the tests okay? I am the Student president, and I have to maintain my perfect G.P.A to get into Yale. I had the keys to the exam office so I went in and took them.”

“And you got caught taking them?” James asked.

Ben shook his head. “They were found in my locker after. Carla knew how much I was struggling so she decided to take the fall for me. She said her parents can get her out of anything.”

“That’s quite a tale seeing as She isn’t here to corroborate your story.” Corbin said.

“No, I swear it true.” Ben said earnestly. “Carla was a good person she’d never do something like that.”

“You said she knew you were struggling? Were you two close?” James asked.

“Not before that.” Ben said. “I was actually surprised she took the fall for me. She told me it was because of Jaz. She didn’t want her friend getting hurt.”

“Give me a break” Corbin said. “Wouldn’t she have been more upset that her friend tried to frame her boyfriend?”

“Yes but to Jaz, she didn’t actually go through with it.” Ben said. “She confessed and apologized. That goes a long way with her.”

“What about that conversation you had outside her house?” Corbin said.

“When?” Ben looked confused.

“Two nights before she left? You said something about not wanting to keep it a secret? About a sycamore tree”

“Oh yeah that” Ben said. We were talking about the test questions. I wanted to tell Jaz. “Carla thought it was a bad idea.”

“What about the sycamore tree?” Corbin fired. “You expect us to believe the fact that you were meeting at a sycamore tree and then suddenly she turns up dead at that same tree is a coincidence?”

“That’s the part. That John didn’t believe.” Ben said. “He found us there three nights ago just talking and-”

“Wait you are telling me you saw her three nights ago when she was supposed to be missing and you didn’t tell the Police?”

“She begged me not to.” Ben pleaded. “We met there every night, but that night James shows up and he throws a fit of rage and starts yelling about how selfish she was and all that bullcrap. Then later he storms off. That was the last time I saw her.”

“So you met there every night? What were you talking about? Why did you even plan to meet there in the first place?” James asked

“It was our hangout spot.” Ben said. “After the incident we became close, and it would have seemed weird to people if we became friends after she ruined my life. We met there by accident one day when I was hiking, and then slowly we started hanging out there.” He said. “It has nice shades.” He added.

“So she called you after she disappeared?” Corbin asked.

“She contacted me the night the girls came back. I received a text that said Sycamore tree, tell no one. I knew it was her.”

“Why was she hiding?” James said.

“She said someone was trying to kill her.” Ben said. “She didn’t trust anyone she, even thought it was one of her friends.”

“She didn’t give any details? ” James pressed.

“She just said it happened in Newport. And she was trying to figuring out who.”

“Why not call the police?” Corbin asked.

“She didn’t trust you guys too.” Ben said. “When her brother saw her, she freaked. She didn’t want to meet again the next night. Then last night I received a text from her that we should meet again. I got there and found her body like that.”

“You didn’t call the police?” James asked.

“I was in shock so I sat there for like a minute, then I heard someone coming. It sounded like there were two of them. I thought it was the killer coming back to clean his job so I ran like hell.”

“What time was this?” James asked.

“Around eight o’clock” He replied. “When I got home and was thinking about what to do I heard that they found her body. Please you have to believe me. I would never hurt Carla.”

James sighed. He had a feeling this was going to be a very long day.

*                                                                                      *                                                                                                                      *

“Did you buy any of that?” Corbin asked.

“What you think he was lying?” James asked.

“Come on.” Corbin scoffed. “He had motive and opportunity. I say he met her at the spot, killed her, tries to get rid of the body, but he gets interrupted. Then he swings by the ME’s office later to finish what he started”

James shook his head. “”His mother confirmed his alibi. He has been home all day. He couldn’t have murdered Gary.”

“Please” Corbin scoffed. “His mother is protecting him. Besides he could have someone do his dirty work for him.”

“Okay let’s just say he was telling the truth. If Carla has been In town all this while she was staying somewhere.” James said.

“Maybe she was hiding out in a woodshed or something.” Corbin suggested.

“No, if that was the case, Adrian would have been bringing her food. It seems like she just needed someone to talk to. A hotel or perhaps, maybe one of her friend house” James theorized

“No, Adrian said she thought it might have been one of them.”

“Or all of them” James said. “Come to think of it if someone did try to kill her maybe it is the same person that got her in the end.”

“The person had to have been in Newport the night she disappeared.” Corbin said.

“And the person knew where she was meeting Adrian.” James said. “Who can fit that description?”

“One of the girls” Corbin suggested

“Maybe” James said. “But what about Thomas Bridges? His alibi for that night is flimsy. But he was with me when Gary was killed.”

“Didn’t you say the blonde left immediately after us?” Corbin said “the one who conveniently pointed us in Adrian’s direction?”

James shook his head. “Not enough time. Besides you think she could have taken out Gary?”

“Chicks are crazy, dude.” Corbin said. “Who else?”

“Her brother, John Heathway” James said suddenly. “He wasn’t in his house the past week; he knew where Carla was meeting.”

“Why would he want to kill his sister?” Corbin asked

“Well we can find out” James said standing up.

“Easy there tiger” Corbin laughed. “No one knows where he is remember? He could be in Hawaii by now. I’ll issue out an APB.”

“Did tech track Carla’s phone?” James asked. “If Adrian was telling the truth it would be with the killer.”

“They got nothing” Corbin said. “Killer probably tossed it”

“Why did the killer text Adrian after he had killed Carla?” James wondered.

“It could have been Carla who sent the text before she got snuffed.” Corbin countered

“You heard Gary. Her body was ice cold. She had been dead for a while.” James replied

“So someone tried to frame Adrian. But who did? Who would want to make him look guilty?”

“All roads lead back to the blonde” Corbin laughed.

An officer came running up at that moment. “Sir CSU result just came back. They found trace amounts of DNA at the crime scene. Both male, and female.”

“So we know who?” James asked.

The officer shook his head. “They are not in our system, Forensics say part of it was corrupted. So we don’t know the exact details.”

“I bet our killer’s DNA is there.” James said grimly.

“One more thing.” The officer said. “The Killer took Carla’s body but Forensics still had her clothes. Strands of hair were found on her clothes, red hair.”

“Red hair” James asked in excitement. “Did they match it to the DNA found at the scene?”

“We couldn’t get a read?” The officer said regretfully. “There were no follicles present.”

“Okay, is there anything else?” James asked.

“I’ll let you know.” The officer nodded and left the room.

James turned to his partner, “Now who do we know that was in Newport that night, and could have possibly found out where Carla was meeting Adrian, and has red hair?”

Corbin nodded. They both knew who. Hazel Stuart.

*                                                                                       *                                                                                                                      *

Later that day James got home. He poured himself a glass of scotch and sat down sighing. His leg throbbed with pain. Grimacing he took a swig of the poison. Ever since the accident, his leg was always reminding him of it. the doctor said it was just ghost pains, but they felt real each time.

He looked at the TV. It was off, and the remote was lying five feet away. Grunting he stood up and limped over to the remote. As he held it in his grip he was suddenly reminded of that night.

It was dark, and James couldn’t see clearly. The rain poured heavily pounding on his windshields. Suddenly a car out of nowhere slammed into his side. His car tumbled over. He tried to move his leg but it was stuck, and bleeding. Not long after he passed out, and woke up in the hospital. They said your life flashes through your eyes when you are about to die, but James didn’t experience that. He didn’t see his father beat up his mother. He didn’t see when he had to go to a foster home, because his father was in jail and his mother was dead. He didn’t see all those times he had struggled to make it through high school, when he was poor. All he saw was the inside of his car, and all that ran through his mind was ‘Not today, Not today.’

He wondered if Carla had the same experience. Maybe when she was fighting for her life, all that ran through her mind was ‘Not today.’ Too bad her wish want granted.


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