When Madison and Hal returned to the Sheriff’s Office, Hal headed back to the security camera monitors to continue looking for Mandy’s attacker. With any luck, they would get a clear picture of the perp and be able to get the information to the community. She wanted to catch him before he committed another murder. Again, she wondered why he was hanging around. And why kill Mandy? It didn’t make any sense.
She went to the conference room and began adding notes to the white board. She added Mandy’s information to the board along with a timeline. The killer had killed Andie between 4:45 and 5:30. He had killed Mandy after ten. Two killings within five hours of each other. They had to be connected. She just had to find the key. She kept returning again and again to the boy. He was the key. She was sure of it. If only they could get him to talk.
Her cell rang. Drake was calling. She hoped nothing was wrong as she answered it.
“Is everything okay?” she asked.
“Hello to you, too,” Drake said. He sounded surprisingly upbeat after everything that had happened. “Yes. Everything is fine. I found out his name.”
“What?” Madison was stunned. Drake had only been with the boy for a few hours.
“His name is Elijah,” Drake said.
Madison wrote down Elijah’s name on the whiteboard. “What’s his last name?”
She started to get excited. Now, they would be able to find out who this kid was and how he was connected to everything.
“Hold on,” Drake said. “One step at a time. I got him to say his name, but that’s all he’ll say. I don’t think we should pressure him. We need to let him get comfortable with us.”
“He’s the only lead I’ve got to solve two murders, Drake. I can’t afford to wait until he feels comfortable. He’s got to talk to us now.”
“Two murders?” Drake went silent.
“We found another body this morning.” She paused. She didn’t want to tell him where the body was found. He already worried enough about her safety when she was on the job, even though they had moved to a small town to get away from the high crime-rate in Denver. The fact that the body was found across the street and that Mandy had been killed minutes after she had left the scene would not sit well with them.
“Madison? What body?”
“The person from Child Protective Services who was assigned the boy’s…Elijah’s case. She was killed last night after we left the station.”
She heard a door slam in the phone. Drake must have moved somewhere in the house and closed the door. His voice was shaking.
“Was it the same person who killed Andie?”
“We don’t know for sure. We think so.”
“He’s after you.”
“We don’t know that for sure. We think the two murders are connected. We just don’t know how.”
“Elijah. It’s Elijah.”
“That’s what we think.”
She could hear Drake take a deep breath on the other end.
“We’re going to have to be careful.”
“Yes. You see why we need to talk to him.”
“Yeah, okay, but I’m not bringing him into the station. He’s not ready for that.”
“I’ll come home.”
Hal was sitting in front of the computer screen reviewing the footage from the security camera.
“Hal, I’m going home. I think the boy is ready to talk.”
Hal turned. “Do you want me to go with you?”
Madison shook her head. “You keep scanning the security footage. Drake only got the boy to say his name. It’s Elijah. I’m going to go home and talk to him and see if I can get anywhere. I’ll be back as soon as I can.”
Hal turned back to the screen and Madison headed home.
Elijah and Drake were sitting on the couch in the living room. She could hear the sounds of race cars. Elijah looked a lot better. He was wearing new jeans and a new read hoodie. She thought that Drake must have trimmed his hair.
Elijah was smiling as his thumbs manipulated the controls of the small video game he held in his hands. Drake was also staring intently at another small video game.
“Hey! You cut me off!” Drake yelled.
Elijah giggled. He seemed like a different boy. His face was alight and he had lost that hunted look in his eyes. She hated to end their peaceful time together, but she needed answers.
“It looks like you two are having fun,” she said as she sat on the easy chair across from the couch.
Elijah’s smile died as he powered off his game, put it aside, and shoved his fists into his pocket. Drake powered off his game as well.
He smiled at Madison. “Are you home for lunch? Elijah and I haven’t eaten yet.”
“No,” Madison said, “I need to talk to Elijah.”
Drake’s smile also died as he looked from Madison to Elijah.
“I thought we talked about that.”
“We did, Drake, but I need to know some things that only Elijah can tell me.”
Madison looked at Elijah, but Elijah wouldn’t look at her. She took out her notebook.
“It’s really good that you told Drake your first name, but I need to know your last name, too. We need to see if we can find your parents or your family.”
Elijah’s head snapped up. His eyes had that fearful hunted look, and he shook his head violently.
“You don’t want us to find your family?”
He shook his head again.
“Will you tell me your last name?”
Elijah again shook his head.
“Elijah, I need to know some things. You need to help me. Look at me.”
Elijah looked at her, but in addition to the fear was anger. He leaped off the couch and ran into his room, slamming the door behind him. Drake was also angry at her.
She looked at him. “What am I supposed to do, Drake? I can’t sit back and wait for answers I have to find them now.”
“Maybe, you should haul him back to the station. You could beat him with a rubber hose until he talks.”
“That’s not fair, Drake. I’m trying to solve a case here. We have to find out what Elijah knows before there are any more murders.”
“You don’t even know if he really knows anything. I told you, you need to wait until he feels more comfortable. My God! Did you even see him? He was laughing and smiling. You couldn’t let him be for one day?”
“Drake, my case..”
Drake cut her off. “Yeah, it’s always about the case. You couldn’t call because of the case. You were late because of the case. You can’t talk to me because of the case. You can’t always put life on hold for your cases.”
Drake stomped into his room and slammed the door. Madison sighed, shoved her notebook back into her pocket, and left the house. She might as well head back to work. Maybe, she and Hal could begin canvassing the businesses on Main Street. If she were going to solve this case, she would need to do it with the information she could find herself.
As she drove back to the office, a call came through on her cell. Switching it to the Bluetooth in the SUV, she picked up.
“Sheriff Rhodes speaking.”
“I found the attack on the video surveillance.”
“Hal? Can you see the perpetrator?”
“Yeah. He’s wearing a hoodie, so you can’t see his face, but he fits the description Guthrie gave me.”
“Okay, that’s a start.”
“Also, about an hour after he pulled the vic off the street, he came back into the view of the camera and got into a silver car. I’m assuming that’s the car that belongs to the vic.”
Now, they knew who they were looking for and what he was driving. “Put a bolo out and attach a picture of the subject.”
“Already done, boss. Where do we go from here?”
“I’m just a few minutes away from town. Meet me on Main Street and lets canvas the businesses to see if anyone saw anything.”
“Will do, Steward out.”
Hal always ended his calls like he was on a radio. Probably, a leftover from his military days. She ended the call and headed toward Main Street. She found a spot across from Guthrie’s cafe and pulled in. Hal pulled in a few spots down and met her on the sidewalk. He had some papers in his hand.
Showing her the papers, he said, “I brought a still from the video. I thought it might help.”
Madison smiled at Hal. “Thanks, Hal. I can always count on you.”
“You know it, Sheriff. Should we work on this together or should we split up?”
“Let’s split up and meet at the end of the street. We can head back to the office and compare notes.”
Handing her a copy of the picture, Hal headed into the department store. Since Hal had already talked to Guthrie, Madison began with the next business next to his, Jackson’s Hardware Store. No Ace Hardware or Home Depot on Main Street. All the businesses along Main Street were locally owned. People who wanted to go to the big name stores had to head into Grand Junction.
Frank Andrews, the owner of the store, was behind the counter. He was just finishing checking out a customer, Mrs. Jenkins. She was buying fertilizer for her prize-winning roses. She lived about a half-mile down from Madison’s house.
“Hello, Sheriff Rhodes,” Mrs. Jenkins said. Her eyes were red-rimmed. She had known Andie and her parents as well.
“Hello, Mrs. Jenkins. How are you?”
“As well as can be expected. I’m better than some.”
Madison nodded. Mrs. Jenkins was good friends with the Turners. She seemed a little angry with Madison. Probably, half the town had heard about her mistake with the Turners. She couldn’t worry about that right now. The best thing she could do was to catch the killer and put him away.
“You have a good day, Mrs. Jenkins,” Madison nodded her head at her neighbor and stepped around her.
“Hello, Mr. Andrews. Can I speak with you for a moment?”
After speaking with Mr. Andrews for a few minutes, Madison quickly surmised that he hadn’t seen anything last night. His store closed at five, and he didn’t have any outside displays on the sidewalk yesterday. When Andie was killed, he was back in his office finalizing the day’s receipts.
“You didn’t hear anything?”
Mr. Andrews shook his head. “No, I’m sorry I didn’t. I can’t believe I was back here when that was happening right next door. I wish I had heard something. You can believe me. I would have gone running over there.”
Madison nodded. Frank Andrews was not a large man. She doubted he could have taken on Andie’s assailant, but maybe he could have scared him off. She showed him the picture of from the video, but he didn’t remember seeing anyone like that around.
“I’m sorry, Sheriff. I just didn’t notice anything out of order last night.”
“That’s okay. Call me if you think of anything.”
“I will, Sheriff. You can be sure that I’ll keep my eye out now.”
Madison left the hardware store. The crime scene tape was still blocking off the sidewalk in front of Andie’s store. Madison walked around the tape and went into the store next to Andie’s. Alice’s Bookstore. When she walked in a small bell tinkled, Alice emerged from one of the book shelves towards the back of the store.
Alice was one of Drake’s clients. He had helped her set up a digital inventory for her store and secure her computers.
“Hi, Madison. That’s just horrible about Andie, and then you found another victim this morning?”
“I always thought Fruita was such a safe place. I’m really jumpy today I can tell you. And to think I was in here last night.”
“That’s why I cam in here. I wanted to see if you saw or heard anything yesterday between 4:30 and 5:30.”
Alice nodded. “I didn’t hear anything, but I saw a couple of strangers on the sidewalk at about a quarter to five.”
Madison pulled out her notebook and began taking notes.
“What did you see, Alice?”
“I was rearranging my window display. I looked out the window and saw a huge man with a boy walking next to him.”
“Did you know them?”
“No, I’ve never seen them before. I felt kind of sorry for the little boy. He looked at me as he walked by. I smiled at him but he seemed almost afraid. I could tell he hadn’t had a good meal in a long time. He looked so skinny and his face had that pinched look that kids get when they haven’t been fed.”
Madison nodded and continued to write quickly.
“Can you describe the man?”
“He was tall. About as big as Hal and he was muscley, kind of like Hal.”
“Did you see his face?”
“No. I wish I had, but he had one of those hooded sweatshirts on and the hood was pulled over his head. I couldn’t see his face. The boy had his hood on, too. The only reason I saw the boy’s face was that he looked right at me.”
Madison pulled the picture out of her pocket and showed it to Alice. “Is this the man you saw?”
Alice frowned as she looked at the picture. “It’s hard to be sure, but he reminds me of the man I saw and the hoodie looks similar.”
It wouldn’t hold up in court, but, for Madison, it confirmed that the same man had killed both Andie and Mandy. Now, they just had to find enough evidence to prove it.
“You said there was a boy with him, and that you saw his face.”
“Yes, like I said, he looked right at me.”
“Can you describe him?”
“He looked to be about 11 or 12, but he was real scrawny like he hadn’t been eating too good. He had dark eyes. I remember that.”
“What about his hair?”
Alice shook her head. “His hood was up so I couldn’t see his hair. I don’t really remember anything else about him. His hoodie was kind of dark and I think he was wearing jeans.”
If Alice was right about what she saw, then Elijah had been travelling with the murderer. She thought he was just a witness, but it appeared that he was something more. He definitely knew the killer, but was he travelling with him voluntarily? Why had the killer left him at the scene? Was he involved in Andie’s murder somehow?
She had a little more information, but with each bit of information, she came up with more questions. She left the bookstore and continued down the street. No one else on her side of the street reported seeing the man and the boy. She hoped that Hal had had more luck.
When she left the last store, she crossed the street and met Hal coming out of the pub, the last business on that side of the block.
“Any luck?” he asked her.
She told him what Alice had seen. Two men who had been out smoking a cigarette in front of the pub had also seen the man and the boy, but they had gone back inside the pub and hadn’t seen the man with Andie.
“Do you still think that boy is innocent?” Hal asked her quietly. His blue eyes piercing her.
“I don’t know, Hal. You heard the coroner. Someone with large hands killed Andie.”
“But we know that the boy was travelling with the perp.”
“I know, Hal. The boy knows who the killer is.”
“He still won’t talk?”
Madison sighed. “No. He feels comfortable with Drake, but as soon as I come into the picture, he shuts down. I can’t get anything out of him.”
They began walking up the street, back to their vehicles. Hal walked Madison to her SUV and then began crossing the street.
“Where are you going?” she called to Hal.
“I’m going to talk to Guthrie again. I want a list of the people who were in his cafe last night. I’ll meet you back at the station.”
Madison waved and climbed back into her SUV. Her stomach rumbled and she realized she hadn’t eaten much since last night. She should have told Hal to pick up some food while he was over there.
Back at the station, she added the information she had collected to the whiteboard. She also taped the picture Hal had given her to the whiteboard. As she finished organizing the information, her mouth began to water as she caught the aroma of a succulent cheeseburger. Hal walked into the conference room carrying a large take-out bag from Guthrie’s.
“I forgot to eat today. How about you?”
She sat down next to him as he began to unpack the food. He handed her a large drink and a cheeseburger. She moaned a little as she bit down into the juicy hamburger. She often forgot to eat during a case and then, suddenly, she would be ravenous. After eating a few mouthfuls, she said, “Thanks, Hal. I was wishing that I had asked you to bring back something from Guthrie.”
Hal smiled. “It’s that psychic connection we have.”
“I guess so,” Madison said and took a sip of her coke.
They ate in silence for a few minutes. They had both sat down with their backs to the board. Sometimes, it was easier to focus on your own needs when you weren’t staring at the case constantly. Hal took a drink from his soda and wiped his mouth.
“I was thinking,” he said, “What if you took that boy…”
“Elijah,” she interrupted.
“Okay, Elijah. What if you took him to see a doctor?”
“Yeah, like a shrink or something. Maybe, someone who was trained to deal with troubled children could get him to talk.”
“I hadn’t thought about that, Hal. That might work.”
She hadn’t thought about Elijah except as he fit into the case. She hadn’t really thought about what he might need to help him talk. He probably needed to see a medical doctor as well. Mandy had said something about that right before Madison had left the station last night. After she and Hal finished eating, they updated the board with the rest of the information. None of the deputies had reported in with any sightings.
“I don’t think there is anything else we can do here, Hal,” Madison said when they were finished. It was after 6:30 and it was beginning to get dark.
“Why don’t you go home and get some rest, Sheriff?”
“I could ask you the same thing, Hal.”
“I will, but I don’t have a family like you do. I’m going to hang out for a while longer and then I’ll head home.”
“All right, Hal. You need to get some rest, too.”