Incriminating Evidence(4)

By: Amanda Stevens


“But not the most prolific,” Nick felt compelled to point out. “Delmar Gainey now holds that distinction.”

“Yes, I know. I’m working on the remains that were recovered from his property.”

“I’ve been keeping up with the case. I saw the article about you in the paper. How’s it going?” he asked with genuine curiosity.

She tucked back damp tendrils and seemed to relax. “We’re lucky in that most of the skeletons were found intact, with only a few missing bones. We also have all the skulls. I don’t have to tell you how helpful that is. It allows us to check dental records and, if necessary, reconstruct facial features.” She paused thoughtfully as if something had suddenly occurred to her.

He leaned in. “What is it?”

She said in surprise, “I’m sorry?”

“You look as if something just came to you.”

“I was thinking about one of the victims. There’s a rather puzzling inconsistency.”

She had a way of making everything sound dreamy and mysterious. A conversation about human remains and serial killers should have evoked gruesome imagery, but instead her melodic voice mingling with the sound of raindrops against the windows mesmerized Nick. If he wasn’t careful, he might find himself drowning in the unfathomable darkness of her eyes. “What kind of inconsistency?”

She seemed to catch herself then, shaking her head slightly as she clutched the box with both hands. “That’s a discussion for the police. It has nothing to do with why I’m here.”

Nick leaned back in his chair feeling oddly thwarted. “Back to Orson Lee Finch, then. The Twilight Killer.” He took a moment to pretend to read his notes. He felt a little rattled and he didn’t know why. For all his shortcomings—and he had more than a few—a lack of confidence in his cognitive abilities had never been one of them. Yet he couldn’t seem to get a read on Catherine March. Beneath that ethereal demeanor, something dark and unsettling simmered. “When you called this morning, you mentioned a photograph.”

She glanced down at the box. “It ran in the local paper at the time of Finch’s arrest. The image is grainy, but it appears to be Finch. He’s holding the hand of a little girl who looks to be about two. According to the accompanying article, the photo was sent to the paper anonymously and is the only known shot of that child. It was speculated at the time that she was Finch’s daughter, but no one could ever locate her. Finch would never confirm or deny the rumor. Detective LaSalle... I mean... Sorry...” She faltered uncomfortably, realizing she’d addressed him by his former title. He wondered if she knew the circumstances of his departure from the police department. If so, he could only assume she’d reconciled the rumors to her satisfaction or she wouldn’t be here.

“Call me Nick,” he said.

She looked relieved. “There’s no easy way to say this. I’ve reason to believe that I’m the child in that photograph. If true, then there is a very good chance that Orson Lee Finch is my biological father.”

She’d shocked him, but he tried not to show it. “That’s quite a leap from one old photograph. Do you have more substantial evidence?”

“No,” she admitted. “Only that my mother saved every newspaper article written about Finch and she told me before she died that it had all been a lie.”

“Meaning?”

“She didn’t elaborate. Couldn’t elaborate. It was near the end and she was in and out of consciousness, but she seemed lucid in that moment. Still, I might have chalked it up to delirium if not for the clippings and the fact that she took such pains to hide them from me.”

“So, to be clear, you think Orson Lee Finch and your mother—”

“No!” Her voice rose. She took a moment to collect herself. “I was adopted when I was two. Laura March was the only mother I ever knew. The woman who gave birth to me had a relationship with Finch.” She glanced away with a shudder. “At least, that’s the assumption.”

“How long have you known you were adopted?”

“For as long as I can remember. My mother and I spoke openly about it since I was a small child. She told me that my biological parents were very young. My father joined the military right out of high school. He died in a helicopter crash before they could marry, leaving my mother—my biological mother—alone and destitute. She tried to make a go of it, but she was too young and poor with no formal education and no job prospects. She gave me up so that I could have a better life.”

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