“So what did you want to talk about?” James asked the girls as they sat across him and Corbin.
“There is something we didn’t tell you about the night Carla disappeared.” Hazel began.
“Okay, shoot.” Corbin said.
“When we all got back to the house, after the party we found It in a mess. Like there had been a struggle.” Hazel said. “We were about to call the police when Carla called us.”
“Wait was this before or after she disappeared?” Corbin asked.
Toni shifted uncomfortably. “She never actually disappeared.”
“What do you mean?” James asked.
“Okay, when we got back to the house and found it in a mess, Carla called us.” Hazel said. “She sounded shaken up. Told us she had to go but not to tell anyone.”
“Did she tell you where she was?” James asked.
“No.” Hazel said. “When we asked her, she wouldn’t say. She just said we should tell people she disappeared. Including the Police.”
“But you didn’t know where she was.” James noted.
“Yes at the time.” Hazel said. “Until she came to my house that night.”
“Yes, you told me she needed cash.” James said.
“Well yes but there is something else.” Hazel said. “Something she told us not to tell anyone.”
“Well what is it?” Corbin asked leaning forward.
“The night she left she told us to check the flap underneath her blue bag.” Hazel said. “There was Fifty thousand dollars cash in it.”
James was startled. “Fifty thousand dollars exactly? And you didn’t tell anyone?”
Jasmine spoke up. “Carla told us not to tell.”
“So when she turned up dead you didn’t think this information could be valuable?” James asked indignantly.
“We didn’t know what it was for.” Toni said. “Carla inherited a bunch of money from her grandma. It didn’t seem strange that she would have that much lying around.”
“It didn’t seem strange that she had fifty thousand dollars in cash lying about” Corbin said skeptically.
“Okay, so where is it?” James asked.
Hazel paused. “It’s gone.”
“What do you mean it’s gone?” Corbin asked.
“Well when we got back, I kept the money at my house.” Hazel said. “I locked it in a cupboard in my basement. Two days later it was gone.”
“Who else knew it was there?” James asked.
“Just me.” Hazel said. “They didn’t even know where I hid it.” She pointed to Jasmine and Toni. “They didn’t want to know.”
“So when Carla came looking for you she needed the money she gave you.” James said.
“Yes.” Hazel said. “But when I told her someone had stolen it, she didn’t seem surprised. She just said she knows what she has to do.”
“You didn’t ask her to elaborate?” Corbin asked.
“She said she wold explain everything later.” Hazel said. “But that was the last time I saw her.”
“And neither of you saw the money.” James pointed at Toni and Jasmine.
“Just in Newport.” Jasmine said.
James sighed. “So is there anything else you all left out?” He asked. “Any tiny detail might be important. Like who else was there that night, anyone you saw Carla talking to, any strange phone call she might have made?”
“Well, Carla was talking to a lot of people.” Toni began, “But they were mostly just guys from the beach.”
“Anything else?” Corbin asked.
“We saw some of our friends from school there.” Jasmine said. “We also saw Jeremiah Gates that weekend. But his family has a house up there too.”
“Okay,” James said taking notes “Anything else? Maybe from before you all left?”
They were quiet for a few seconds. “Well, I saw John at the grocery store that day.” Toni said. “My parents didn’t give me permission to go to Newport, so I had Tom-” Her voice broke at this part. “Take my things over to Carla’s house the night before, So they can just pick me up at the store.” She said.
“Okay so what was John Heathway doing there?” James asked.
“Nothing.” Toni said. “He was just walking around like he was waiting for someone, and just before they picked me up, I saw him across the street arguing with Jeremiah.”
“But they are friends right?” Corbin asked.
“Yeah I guess so.” Toni said.
“Okay. Anything else?”
* * *
“Do you think they told the truth.” Corbin asked as he and James were getting ready to leave later that evening.
“Yeah, their story makes sense.” James said. “I mean, how could they have known about the money?”
“Maybe they were in on it.” Corbin said.
“Nah, I doubt it. It seems whatever Carla was doing, She was doing alone.” James replied.
“So what do you think she was doing? Money laundering? Drugs? Blackmail?” Corbin asked.
“I have a pretty good Idea.” James said. “But I am gonna have to shake down Moraine Heathway.”
“Why what does she have to do with this?” Corbin asked.
“Oh come on.” James said. “Carla was looking at a list of names in a document at her mother’s firm. She received a large sum of money from an unknown source and then withdrew all of it. Cash. Next week, Thomas Bridges is meeting with her mother.”
“But Bridges was meeting Eric Stuart.” Corbin cautioned.
“Did you watch the whole video?” James asked. “Because I did. Eric and Maria Stuart were the guest of honor. There is no way Eric Stuart had time for Tom. He was meeting Moraine Heathway.”
“Okay why do you think he was meeting her.”
“I haven’t figured that out yet, But do you remember that girl in the coffee shop? She said, a dark-haired man was eyeballing Tom as he sat there. Now I don’t know who that is but what do you think he was doing at a coffee shop for over three hours?”
“Drinking Coffee?” Corbin said weakly.
James sighed in frustration. “What do Coffee shops usually have apart from coffee?”
“I don’t know, free WiFi? Corbin said.”
“Exactly.” James said. “Why would he use WiFi there? He has his at home.”
“Hacking?” Corbin said. “That’s what you think he was doing?”
“I looked into it this afternoon.” James said. “There was a data breach that was reported on Thursday at Heathway and Prescott’s law office. Still think Moraine Heathway has nothing to do with this?”
“Yeah but that doesn’t mean it is Thomas.” Corbin said. “What file was accessed?”
“They didn’t include it in the report. But I am betting if we find that file, we find our killer”
“Well then.” Corbin said picking up his bag. “Guess we better get that file.”
“Yes but let’s get all our facts.” James said. “It’s gonna take more than idle speculation to compel her to hand it over.”
“Let’s talk about this tomorrow.” Corbin said. “I wanna get some sleep. You going to mass tomorrow?”
“Nice try Corbin.” James said. “Besides the funeral is tomorrow.”
“Yes but it begins at nine. Mass begins at six.” Corbin said.
“Still no.” James said. “See you tomorrow.”
* * *
It was dark outside. a figure paced across the room looking out the window. They had taken a big risk today. Allowing those girls to testify could have brought everything down on them. Luckily only one of them had to go down for it. Finally an alert came in. Looking at the message tit read. ‘I am done with the last of it. Our deal is over.’ Laughing the mysterious figure texted out a reply. ‘Our deal is not nearly over. You still owe me.’
The person at the other end of the phone saw the message that had just been sent. He sighed in frustration. This was not how he envisioned it would be. Pulling out a pocket-book, he looked at his schedule. Tomorrow was the funeral. Zas would be there. He knew that for sure. Time to unmask the monster.
* * *
It was a beautiful service. James thought. People had very nice things to say about Carla. Almost the whole town showed up. He saw Carla friends, Hazel, Toni and Jasmine. Ben Adrian was there too. John Heathway was seating with his parents looking like he’s rather be anywhere else. Jeremiah Gates was seating behind him. The Stuarts, Peters and Jasmine’s family were present too. The Ava Bridges and her uncle Ezra was present. Her parents weren’t there though. Everyone had come to say goodbye to Carla Heathway.
He watched as each of her friends gave their speech. But one of them stood out. After Hazel and Toni gave their speech Jasmine came up. She seemed really nervous.
“I the first time I met Carla I was twelve.” She began. “She was in my social studies class. We were paired together in an assignment. I don’t know if any of you know this but Carla liked to be in control of things. I was kind of the same. We got into some fights over details, but a the end of that class we had become friends. As i knew her better I realized Carla was thee strongest person I knew. She didn’t let anything bring her down. She was not only strong for herself but for those around her” Tears streamed down Jasmine’s face. “When I lost my dad, Carla was there for me. I don’t know what I would have done without Carla. She made you want to be a better person.” Jasmine said smiling while tears were on her face. “No matter what horrible thing you had done, she could look you right in the eyes and say, ‘I forgive you.'” As Jasmine continued talking, Corbin sat down next to James.
“We just did a sweep again.” Corbin said. “All is clear.”
“Okay that’s good.” James said not looking at him
Corbin looked oddly at James. “Is that a tear I see in your eyes?”
James quickly wiped his eyes. “No.”
“Yeah, she really is nailing it right?” Corbin said turning his attention to Jasmine who was still speaking.
“It is not that.” James said. “She reminds me of someone.”
“Oh.” Corbin said nothing. Out of the corner of his eyes he saw Jeremiah Gates stand up and take a phone call. He shook it off.
When Jasmine was done talking. James stood up. “I gotta go take a piss” He went out of the church building. He didn’t want to be here. He wanted to be somewhere faraway. Just then he heard a noise coming from the side of the church.
“Dude seriously it is over. Move on.” The voice said. It was a male, probably young. He walked to the side of the building and saw Jeremiah Gates on the phone. He hung up when he saw James.
“You okay?” James asked.
“Yeah,” Jeremiah said putting his phone in his pocket. “Just some guy who is royally pissing me off.” He looked at James. “What are you doing outside?”
“Ah, I am just taking in some fresh air.” James said.
“Yeah I hear you man.” Jeremiah said. “It is depressing as hell in there. John looks like he wants to run away.”
“I wouldn’t blame him.” James said.
“Neither would I. Hearing so many people talk about your sister and what a great person she was” Jeremiah scoffed.
“You don’t think Carla was nice?” James asked.
“Oh I do.” Jeremiah said. “She was very nice, but not as nice as people think She was human after all..”
“Why do you say that?” James asked.
“Well I’ve known her for long-longer than her friends, even Hazel. ” Jeremiah said. “Carla could be mean if she wanted to. She once got me in trouble with my parents when we were little.”
“What happened.” James asked.
“Basic kid stuff. One does something like say crash their dad’s car while driving it. She blamed it on me. I got grounded.” Jeremiah laughed. “She was always mean to me when we were kids.”
“But she changed right?” James asked.
“Sure.” Jeremiah said. “But she still had a little bit of it in her.” He looked at his watch.” I should probably get inside. Nice talking to you man.” He said.
“Right back at you” James murmured as Jeremiah walked inside.
* * *
“You know I feel kind of weird being here.” Hazel said as they walked around the Heathway mansion. “It just doesn’t feel right without-”
“Carla.” Toni said agreeing. “God I hope they catch the bastard who did it.”
“Yeah,” Jasmine said absent-mindedly. Hazel and Toni looked at her.
“Hello? Earth to Jaz.” Hazel said swinging her arms in front of her.
“Sorry.” Jasmine said snapping out of it. “Just thinking about the last time I was here.”
“Yeah, when we left for Newport.” Hazel said.
“Yeah, crazy afternoon huh?” Jasmine said smiling slightly.
“You should talk to Ben.” Hazel said. “Take a page from Carla’s book and forgive.”
“`Carla didn’t always forgive.” Jasmine said. “She never forgave me for spoiling the ending of Game of thrones season five for her.”
“Yeah well I don’t see how anyone could forgive that”.Toni laughed.
“Maybe we should go back inside.” Hazel suggested. “I am dying for something to eat.
“You just want to stalk Jeremiah again” Toni accused.
“No.” Hazel said blushing fiercely. “I am seriously hungry.” As if on Cue her stomach rumbled. “See?”
“You guys go on ahead.” Jasmine said. “I think I am going to go home.”
“You sure?” Hazel asked. “I mean I think I saw Chicken in there.
“No that’s fine. I just want to rest.” Jasmine said. “Maybe I’ll call you later.”
“Okay. Bye.” The girls said.”
* * *
It had been a hectic day. James had spent the day making pleasantries with everyone. Asking them about Carla. But he was secretly digging for any information that might be useful. So far he had come up empty. It was getting dark. He parked his car and took a look across the building. He contemplated with the decision for a while. Then he just got down from his Car and walked across the street. Something about that church just drew him n. And he knew why.
The church was darkly lit. The flames from the candles at the altar danced back and forth casting shadows on the room. The pews were empty except for one in the front where a figure sat head bent as if in prayer. As he walked closer and he’s eyes adjusted to the light, it became apparent it was a woman. He’s shoes made tapping noises on the floor causing the woman to turn around. It was Jasmine Green. As the candle light fell on her face He could see her eyes were wet, and tears streaked down her face. When she saw him, she quickly wiped her eyes with her hand.
“Detective Ashwood,” She said. “I didn’t hear you come in.”
“Yeah the door was wide open.” He said. “I guess that is a recurring theme for church. Do you mind if I sit down.”
“Suit yourself.” She said, her voice breaking.
James quietly took a seat and pulled out a handkerchief from his pocket. He handed it to her. She took it from him and wiped her eyes.
“Thanks,” She said. “I must seem like a mess to you right?”
“No, it understandable” James said. “You come here often?”
“When I was a kid. Not so much anymore. How about you?” She asked.
“Nah, I’ve never really been much of a church person. But I did go to a bible camp when I was a teenager.” He said. “A punishment from my parents.” He replied when Jasmine looked at him in response.
“Guess we all go through a phase in life.” Jasmine said. “So what are you doing here then?”
“Thought I’d see what the big deal my foster-father was always ranting about.”
“You were in a foster home?” She asked.
“I was actually bounced around a few. Most of them were crappy. Never spent more than four months in them except for one. I lasted for almost a year.”
“What happened?” Jasmine asked.
“Me.” James said simply. “I had gotten so used to being treated like dirt that when I finally found a decent home I did
\everything I could do to sabotage it.”
“Guess they were the ones who sent you to camp.” Jasmine said.
“Yeah, I was real trouble they thought one week of bible camp would set me straight.”
“So did it?” she asked
“Hell no, I was kicked out of the house the next month.” James laughed. “I was caught vandalizing town property. Again. They decided I was too much trouble to keep around.”
“Guess you were kind of a bad boy” Jasmine said with a hint of a smile.
“Yeah, I guess that’s why I became a cop. So I could keep kids like me from making the same mistake I did.”
“So you are here to lecture me huh? About what we did.” Jasmine said wiping her eyes.
“No, nothing like that.” James said So you said you came here when you were a kid?”
“Yeah I used to come with my dad.” She said. “I was like twelve the last time we went together. We’d come here every Sunday and he’d teach all sorts of things in the bible.”
“So what made you stop coming?”
“I grew up I guess.” Jasmine said. “He was always away for a long time, so I stopped going.” She looked at James. “He died last year.”
“I am sorry to hear that.” James said.
“Yeah, me too. You know he taught a particular passage to me repeatedly” She said.
“Which one.” Jasmine said.
“Proverbs six verse twenty to twenty-two” She said. “It says ‘Keep your father’s command and your mother’s teaching’-”
“Bind them on your heart always, fasten them around your neck.” James continued. “I know that one. My foster-father drilled it to me.”
“Yeah, anyway it says ‘While you walk, they will guide you, While you sleep, they will watch over you, While you are awake, they will speak to you.’ It was his favorite.”
“While you are awake.” James mused. “Guess that’s when you wake up.”
“Yeah something like that.” Jasmine said. “He always said that last part was three stages. The first one ‘While you walk’, means during the day when you make choices it guides you. The second ‘While you sleep’ is when you are sleeping and dreaming it keeps on playing in your subconscious you don’t forget.” She said.
“And the third.” James prompted.
“While you are awake, It speaks to you.” Jasmine mused. “Guess when you wake up. It speaks to you all over again, and the cycle continues.”
“Yeah I guess it does.” James said.
“Not exactly,” Jasmine said. “I don’t hear it anymore. I don’t hear the sound of his voice speaking to me when I wake up. Carla was the one who got me through it, but now she is gone. I don’t know when I will stop hearing her too.”
“I don’t think you ever will” James said. “I think people still remain a part of you even when they are gone. You still hear them. And you still do hear your father even though you don’t realize it.”
“I do?” Jasmine asked as she wiped her eyes.
“Of course you do.” James said. “That verse you just quoted, he taught it to you didn’t he?”
“Yeah.” Jasmine sniffling. “Like I said it was his favorite.”
“There you have it.” James said. “Guess you heard it again while you were awake. It’s the memories that stay when people go.”
“Seems like you are talking from experience.” Jasmine said.
“Yeah I am.” James said standing up. “But that is a story for another time. I should drop you off at home. It’s not safe for you to walk home this time of night.”
“No that’s okay, Hazel is coming to pick me up.” Jasmine said. She extended the handkerchief to him
“No you can keep that. You need it more than I do.” James said.
“Guess you don’t want it back after I blubbered all over it huh?” She smiled slightly.
James chuckled. “Take care Jasmine. Never knew teenagers could be so deep.”
“I guess people can surprise you.” Jasmine said.
“Yeah I guess.” James said. She started walking when she called him again.
James turned around. “Yeah?”
“Thanks.” She said. “It was actually nice talking to you.”
James smiled. “Same here.”