Incriminating Evidence(3)

By: Amanda Stevens

He showed no visible reaction to the question, refused to acknowledge her presence with so much as a glance. He took another drag and then carefully flicked the cigarette butt into a puddle before he turned and walked away.

Catherine didn’t follow him. She watched until he was out of sight before she went back to wait for the light, positioning herself so that she could keep an eye on the sidewalk behind her. She tried to tell herself again that she was imagining things. The man had been minding his own business. If anything, she’d likely scared him away. What had she been thinking, harassing a total stranger?

No one was following her. Get over yourself. The only other person who knew of her discovery was her mother’s sister, and she couldn’t fathom a scenario where Louise Jennings would have her watched. Catherine still had a hard time believing her mother had kept secrets from her all these years, but the proof was in the plastic bag she hugged to her chest. The confirmation had been in her mother’s whispered confession.

It’s all a lie.

* * *

THE HEADLINE IN the local paper had called her the bone doctor, a champion of the forgotten dead. Strange that Catherine March would be in the market for a private detective when Nick LaSalle had been reading about her in the paper. The article had highlighted her profession as a forensic anthropologist in general and, more specifically, her efforts to help identify human remains that had recently been recovered from an abandoned house.

Nick knew the woman slightly from his brief time as a homicide detective. He remembered her as dedicated and meticulous in her work. Quiet and thoughtful in her demeanor. He had forgotten how attractive she was. That part had taken him by surprise when she walked into his office.

He let his gaze drift over her features as he wondered why he’d never gotten around to calling her once he’d closed the case. The spark had been undeniable. He felt it now as he took in the long, dark hair, still glistening with raindrops, and the wide brown eyes that observed him with a hint of suspicion.

She wore a fitted gray top with slim black pants and sneakers soaked from the downpour. The only hint of color in the whole of her presentation was an emerald ring that glowed in the too-bright lighting of his office. He’d turned up the glare in order to chase away the dreariness of a rainy day, but a cozier ambience invited candor. He started to get up and adjust the dimmer, but he didn’t want to interrupt her train of thought. Or his, for that matter.

“When did your mother pass away?” he asked as he pretended to jot notes on a yellow legal pad.

“Just over a week ago.”

“I’m very sorry for your loss,” he said, noting the shadow that flitted across her expression and the telltale sheen in her eyes, which she quickly blinked away.

“Thank you.”

“You’re here because you found some old newspaper clippings among your mother’s possessions?”

“I’m here because I found them hidden beneath the floorboards of my mother’s closet. I hadn’t been by her house since she died. I wanted to gather up a few of her things to take home with me and to try and figure out what to do with the rest. Mostly, I wanted to feel close to her.” She cleared her throat and drew a deep breath as she smoothed her hands down the tops of her thighs. She was nervous. That much was obvious. Uneasy, too. Her eyes kept darting to the doorway and to the corridor beyond as if she expected to find someone listening in on their conversation.

They had the second floor to themselves and the receptionist wouldn’t be able to hear from her post in the lobby, but Nick got up and closed the door anyway. Then he surreptitiously dimmed the lights a notch. Catherine didn’t seem to notice. She picked up the plastic bag at her feet and extracted a shoebox.

“You brought the clippings?” Nick walked back over to his desk and sat down.

She nodded. “I noted a loose floorboard when I went into my mother’s closet. I pried it up and found this box inside.”

“When we spoke on the phone, you said the articles are about a serial killer.”

“Not just any serial killer.” Her gaze lifted. “Orson Lee Finch. The most infamous monster in this city’s history.”

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