CHAPTER SIX

“So how did the test go” Corbin asked as he dropped a file on James’s desk.
“What’s that?” James asked glancing at the file.
“Oh just a list of people present at the gala.” Corbin said sitting down on the edge of the desk. “Already gone through it, there is nothing there.”
“Might still come in handy” James said running his hands over his hair. “I think she aced it”
“Hazel aced the test?” Corbin asked. “How?”
“She was telling the truth” James. “Here watch this video” He turned his monitor to face Corbin.  A video was playing showing two girls talking on a patio. Corbin looked closely.

“That’s Hazel and Carla.” Corbin said pointing at the screen. “Can you guess what they are saying?”

“No clue. I have some guys deciphering it for me now.” James said. They continued watching. Then they watched as Hazel gave Carla a hug, her long red hair flowing around Carla’s shoulders.

“So that’s where the hair got there.” Corbin said.

“Yeah,” said James. “And look at her clothes. That’s the same top she was wearing when her body was found.”

“So this is the day she was killed.” Corbin said

“Yes most likely.” James said. “And remember when Hazel said she looked like she was chased down the forest?”

“Yeah.”

“Well this is the same day Ben Adrian said John Heathway saw them in the forest. He said Carla freaked out and ran.”

“So as far as we know Hazel was the last person to see Carla.” Corbin said.

“As far as we know.” James said. “Look at the time stamp.” he said pointing to the bottom of the screen. Corbin read it. It showed 8:32pm.

“So there is no telling who she went to next.” Corbin said. “Who else could have cash help her get out of town?”

“Good luck with that, this town is crawling with them.” He looked at his watch. “By the way where have you been for the last two hours?”

“It was not easy getting this.” He pointed to the file. “Maria Stuart says she would send the Security footage from the gala.”

“I wonder if John Heathway was at that Gala” James mused. “Where is he by the way? He should have been here by now.”

“Relax.” Corbin said. “You said he had no Idea his sister was dead?”

“That’s what it seemed when I spoke to his friend.” James said.

“But didn’t Ben say that-”

“He came to his house the night her body was found accusing him of killing her?”  James said. “That’s what I was thinking. Perhaps he is not aware we have talked to Adrian.”

“Well I am not jumping on the John bandwagon here, I am still on Hazel.” Corbin said. “I still think she is hiding something.”

“Yeah, I think she is the polygraph wasn’t all smooth.” James said

“What happened?” Corbin asked

“Well we kept asking her questions pertaining to whether her friends knew she was in town. She said no but the machine indicated she was lying.”

“So you think she is covering for who killed her?”

“Well we asked her if she knew who killed Carla she said no, and the machine claimed she was being truthful.”

“So what do you think then?” Corbin asked.

“There is more to her story” James said. “She also said her friends didn’t see Carla on Friday and she was able to answer no.”

“So they saw her another day? Maybe earlier?”

“Maybe. Or they didn’t see her at all, and she called them right after.”

“But why would she not just say that.”

“Perhaps she hoped to leave them out of this.” James said. An officer came to James door.

“John Heathway and Jeremiah Gates are here to see you.” He said.

“Took them long enough” Corbin said getting up. “Show time?”
* * *
Hazel picked her phone and dialed a number. After a few rings Toni picked up
“So how did it go” Toni asked.
“They made me take a freaking polygraph” Hazel said.
“Wait what? How did you do?” Toni asked
“I passed, I think. I didn’t mention what happened that night though.”
“Oh cool.” Toni said. “So are you totally off the hook now?”
“I doubt it. He said something about keeping in touch.” There was a noise at the background. “Where are you?”
“Oh, I am at home.” Toni replied. There was another noise and Carla heard a guy calling Toni.
“Are you at Tom’s house again?” Hazel said.
“No I am not bye now” The other end went dead. Hazel looked at the phone then shook her head. She set it down and opened up her laptop. Her phone buzzed. She picked it up, and saw there was a text from Jeremiah. It read ‘At the Police station now’. She sighed set down her phone and closed her laptop. She was going to Jaz’s house.
She grabbed her keys and walked down the stairs and found Ben waiting for her.
“What are you doing here Ben?” Hazel asked
“Looking for Jaz.” He replied. “Is she here?”
“No, did you try calling her?” Hazel asked
“She doesn’t want to talk to me” Ben said helplessly.
“Well what do you expect.” Hazel replied. “You have been lying to her for months”.
” I know and I shouldn’t have.” Ben said. “But I really need to see her.”
“If she isn’t home I don’t know where she is.” Hazel said. “You have checked her house haven’t you?”
“Yeah she wasn’t there.” Ben said. He sat down. “This week is the worst of my life” He said.
“Don’t be so dramatic Jaz will come around eventually.” Hazel said rolling her eyes.
“Not just Jaz; Carla, school, Yale, the police” He said
“I thought you were off the hook?” Hazel said. ”
“I am still a suspect.” Ben said. “Do you know who Carla was so afraid of?”
Hazel’s heart quickened. “No I don’t. Did she say something to you?”
“She was mostly asking me questions. But when I tried to ask her some of mine she shut me out. Like she was trying to protect someone.”
“Who?” Hazel asked.
“I have no idea” Ben said.
“What questions was she asking you?”
“Weird ones like who disappeared from town when you guys were gone, who was throwing a party, If I had seen someone hanging around the graveyard after school, how her family was busy, things like that.” He said
“Did you tell the cops about this?” Hazel asked.
“Did I have a choice? I told them everything.”
Hazel sighed. “Okay, I am going to tell you something just promise you wouldn’t freak out.” She said
“Promise.” Ben said. “What is it?”
Hazel told him. As she talked his eyes got wider. when she was done he just looked shocked.
“No. Way.”
* * *
“So you are Jeremiah Gates” Corbin asked as they stood in the hallway.
“The one and only.” Jeremiah said. “So are you charging my client or releasing him?”
Corbin looked at him with incredulity
“Kidding.” Jeremiah said. “Just trying to lighten the mood seeing my best friend is in custody for murder”
“We are not arresting him. Just have a few questions.” Corbin asked. “Where did you find him anyway?”
“In a motel. Just off the highway” Jeremiah said. “It was not easy breaking the news.”
“That his sister was dead? Or that we had an APB out on him?”
“Kinda both.” Jeremiah said.
“Hmm.” Corbin mused. “You know you should stick around. My partner would love to chat with you.”
“Cool.” Jeremiah said. Corbin nodded and opened the door to the interrogation room where John was being stubborn.
“Just tell me were you were on the night of April 10.” James probed.
“I told you I saw Carla with Ben Adrian that night over and over” John said. “It is him you should be talking to.”
“Okay we’ll get to that but first tell me where you went after that”
“I went home, okay?” John said. “I thought Carla would come home but she never showed up. Look this Ben kid probably killed her. Carla framed him for stealing questions. He probably wanted revenge”
“We have already cleared that up. Ben was the one who stole them.” Corbin said. “What I don’t understand is why your buddy outside thinks you didn’t know Carla was dead, when Ben said you came to his house that night and accused him of murder.”
“That’s what he told you huh? That I accused him.”
“Just answer the question.”
“He didn’t know I already knew.” John dismissed it. “And as for Ben I didn’t exactly accuse him outright. I was just pissed.”
“Then why did you accuse him again?”
“Because I am still pissed okay? Someone killed her, he was there, go after him.”
“So we wouldn’t go after you?” James asked.
“You think I’d kill my sister?”
“I don’t know.” James said. “Maybe It is the fact that you disappeared when they found her body, and you were nowhere to be seen when it was stolen.”
“Wait her body was stolen?” John yelled. “And you are talking to me? You know what, this is over. I want a lawyer.”
“Just calm down” Corbin said. “Do you know who’d want to hurt Carla?”
John paused then he stood up. “I can’t do this. Look, charge me or I am out of here.”
* * *
A hand wearing a set of black leather gloves reached into the hole and pulled. A small black duffel bag came through. The hand undid the strings and rifled through it, and then brought out a stack of cash. The outside was a hundred dollar bill. Turning it over and setting it back into the bag along with four others of the same kind, the person whom the hand belonged to zipped it up and slung the bag on their shoulders. Time for one last haul.
* * *
“John is right you know” Corbin said as they rifled through some papers. “We should be looking for Carla’s body.”
“But we have no leads.” James said. “There were no prints, no surveillance tapes and all the data on the autopsy was stolen. It seems the person doing this is really smart”
“How does one person do all that?” Corbin said. “There was surely an accomplice.”
Just then An officer walked towards them.
“Hey Jakes whats up?” Said Corbin.
“We have found a new lead on the Heathway case.” Jakes said. “A white van with a logo on the side was seen fleeing the scene minutes before Gary’s body was found. Street cams caught it on Victory boulevard and Carson street. We have a plate number.”
“Did you run it?” Corbin asked.
“Yeah it belongs to a company called Ditt’s yoghurt . It was reported stolen five days ago.”
“Do we know where it is?” James asked.
“We are sifting through traffic footage now.” Jakes said. “Shouldn’t be long now.”
“Okay. Thanks Jakes.” James said. He stood up. “You coming?” He said to Corbin.
“Where are we going?” Corbin asked.
“Ditt’s Yoghurts.” James said. “Let’s see if we cant find out who stole that van.”
Twenty minutes later they were standing in front of a white building with several white vans parked in front of it.
“Maybe we should come tomorrow.” Corbin said. “It’s closing time”
“I’m sure they could spare a few minutes” James said walking inside. Corbin followed suit. James made a beeline for the receptionist she looked young in her teens or early twenties.
“HPD. We’d like to talk to your manager.” He said showing his badge.
“Hold on let me ring him for you” the girl said nervously. She looked familiar.
“Have we met?” James asked.
“No I don’t think so.” She said. “He will see you in his office now. Its the first door on the left” she pointed at the hallway.
“Thanks” James said. They walked down the hallway, towards the door.
“Do you know her?” Corbin asked.
“She just seems familiar.” James said as he opened the door. There was a man in the room. He stood up.
“Officers, I am Ezra Gerrard.” He said shaking their hands. “What can I do for you?” He asked pointing at the chairs indicating for them to sit.
“Well we are here about your van” James said as he and Corbin sat down.
“Oh, you found it?” Ezra asked?
“Not exactly” James said. “It has been connected to a murder case we are currently working on.”
“The Carla Heathway murder huh?” Ezra said. “It is not everyday something like that happens around here.”
“Yeah it Isn’t.” Corbin said. “Did you know her?”
“Not personally no. Although my niece did. You might have met her. The young girl sitting outside?”
“Oh yeah” James said something in his mind clicking into place. “So tell me how this van went missing?”
“Well someone signed for it with a fake employee number.” Ezra sighed. “We fired the guy in charge. He was supposed to run the number.”
“Don’t you usually have GPS trackers on your vehicles? Corbin asked.
“We did but someone removed it.” Ezra said. “Isn’t all this in the report.”
“We are just verifying the info.” James assured him. “By the way how did your niece know Carla again?”
“Why are you asking me about my niece?” Ezra said.
“Just curious.”
“They went to the same high school.” Ezra said. ” She is a Junior in college now. Her brother is still a freshman.”
“Oh cool. It was nice of you to offer her a Job.” James said.
“Yeah, her parents moved out of town and she obviously cant leave, so I set her up.” Ezra said. “Her brother didn’t want my help.”
“Was her brother friends with Carla too?”
“Oh yeah.” Ezra said. “In fact I think they were dating.”
“Thomas Bridges? Is that your nephew?” James asked.
“Yeah.” Ezra said. “You know him?”
“Something like that.” James replied.
After asking Ezra few more questions about the van, they thanked Ezra for his time and James walked towards the receptionist.
“Ava right?” James said as he got closer. “Ava Bridges?”
“Yeah that’s me” Ava said packing up her desk. “Look I have to get home-”
“We just have a few questions.” James said. “How is your relationship with your brother?”
She stopped packing and put her hands on her hips. “Let me see, he drove our parents out of town, spit in my uncle’s face when he tried to help us and refused to apologize for any of it.” Ava finished
“So not good I guess?” Corbin said
“Not one bit.” Ava said.
“How did he drive your parents out of town?” James asked.
“He was dating Carla.” Ava said. “He got her in trouble, her parents found out, and Carla’s mom got my dad fired from her law firm. He got another Job in San Fransisco so they moved leaving us here.”
“What exactly did he do to get your dad fired?” Corbin asked
“I don’t know, Carla helped him get some important documents from her mom and my Dad was blamed for it. Don’t really know what it was.” She said slinging her bag on her shoulder. “Look I have to get home. Got a big test tomorrow.”
“Yeah thanks for your time.” James said.
When Ava left Corbin turned James. “So what do you think of it?”
“Probably nothing.” James said. “Just more family drama.”
* * *
It was night. A hooded figure carrying a black duffel bag ran across the deserted road towards a white van. Taking out a wrench from the bag, the figure slid it down the window and opened the passenger door. Sliding into the passenger seat, the figure opened the glove compartment and slid a phone in it after turning it on. Then carefully sliding into the driver’s seat, the figure took out some tools from the bag. Carefully hot-wiring the vehicle and putting it in drive the mysterious figure drove into the night.

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