Chapter no 14

The Coworker

“MISS FARRELL, how close were you with Miss Schiff?”

Detective Santoro’s eyes are trained on me as he asks me the question. His eyes are really dark. So dark, you can’t tell the iris from the pupil. It somehow gives me the illusion that he can see into my soul. And if I were to lie, he would know it.

“Not very close,” I admit. “No?”

I shrug. “She works in the cubicle next to mine. We talk sometimes and we’re friendly, but I wouldn’t say we’re great friends.”

“Sure.” The detective nods like he gets that. “You can’t be friends with everyone, right?”

“Yes, exactly.”

“But you did know where she lives.”

I squirm in my conference chair. “I drove her home once, so I remembered her address. As I said, I have a good memory.”

“And why did you go over to her house again?”

A muscle in my jaw twitches. “I told you this. She didn’t show up for work this morning, and I got that phone call…”

“Right. You said there was a phone call to Dawn’s line at the office, and you heard her voice.”

“That’s right. Did you trace the calls that came to her number yesterday morning?”

“I did,” he confirms. “And every single one of them was internal.” “Internal?”

“They all came from this office building.”

Santoro looks unimpressed by this revelation, but it’s enough to give me a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. Dawn called here yesterday, begging for help. And the call came from inside the office.

Oh God.

For a moment, I’m too terrified to even speak. But Santoro doesn’t seem at all concerned. That’s because he didn’t hear the way Dawn’s voice sounded.

“So had you ever been to Miss Schiff’s house before?” he asks.

“No. I just dropped her off that one time. I’ve never been inside.” I wipe my sweaty palms on my skirt. “Why are you asking me all this? Why is it important?”

“Well, Miss Farrell, I’m just trying to understand some of the things we found in Miss Schiff’s house.”

“I… I don’t follow.”

Detective Santoro leans forward like he’s about to tell me a secret. “So the thing is, we found your fingerprints on a knife at Miss Schiff’s house.”

I freeze. My fingerprints? “How do you have my fingerprints?” “They were on the business card you gave me.”

I feel violated. I offered him that business card of my own free will, and he used it to get my fingerprints.

But anyway, it’s for nothing. The fingerprints are very easy to explain. “I grabbed a knife from the kitchen because I was scared there was an intruder. Then when I saw the blood, I dropped it on the floor. I told this to one of the police officers.”

“Right.” He nods. “We already knew that. But we found your fingerprints on another knife. One that was still in the knife block.”

For a moment, I’m speechless. My fingerprints were on two knives? But it does make sense. “I didn’t grab the first knife in the block. I think I checked a few of them to find one the right size.”

I did, didn’t I? I must have. Because how else could my fingerprints be on a second knife?

“Okay, that explains that.” One corner of his lips curls up in a lopsided smile. “But how did your fingerprints get on the wine glass sitting on the counter in the kitchen?”

The question takes my breath away. My fingerprints were on that wine glass in the kitchen? How could that be?

I remember seeing the wine glass on the counter. And then the broken one on the floor. But I don’t remember touching them. I grabbed the knife, maybe even touched a few of the knife handles, but I never touched the wine glass.

Did I?

I don’t remember doing it, but if they found my fingerprints on the glass, I must have. It’s the only explanation. And now that I think of it…

Yes, I definitely must have touched that glass.

“I touched the glass when I was in the kitchen,” I say. “I moved it to the side. It… it looked like it might fall like the other one. I’m sorry. I didn’t realize at the time that it was a crime scene.”

Detective Santoro leans back in his chair again, considering my explanation. “So you never shared a glass of wine with Miss Schiff?”

“No.” I lick my lips. “Look, Dawn was a nice person, but we weren’t good friends.”

“Why not?”

“She was… strange. It’s hard to explain it exactly, but she was just a very strange person. If you met her, you would know what I mean.”

“Yeah.” He seems to be considering this. “You know, it’s interesting…” “What’s interesting?”

“The way you keep referring to Miss Schiff in the past tense.”

My mouth falls open. He’s looking at me intently, obviously trying to get a reaction out of me. “I have an alibi for two nights ago,” I remind him.

“An alibi,” he repeats.

I should never have used that word. It makes me sound guilty. Innocent people don’t need alibis. “I mean, I was with somebody.”

“Right. You were with your boyfriend. I remember.”

Except I wasn’t really with Caleb. I’m counting on him to come through for me—I think he will. At the time, it seemed ridiculous to make up an alibi. But now I’m glad I did.

“So I got another question for you, Miss Farrell.” Santoro reaches into his jacket pocket, and I flinch, expecting him to pull out a pair of handcuffs. Of course, that’s ridiculous. Why would he arrest me? Sure enough, he pulls out a photograph. “Could you take a look at this?”

He slides the photo across the conference table. I pick it up and stare at the familiar image. It’s the bookcase at Dawn’s house—the one that was filled with turtle figurines. Just the sight of it sends a shiver down my spine.

“Do you recognize this?” he asks me.

I cringe. “Yes. It was in Dawn’s living room.” “Notice anything strange about it?”

He’s got to be pulling my leg. Do I notice anything strange about a bookcase filled with statues of turtles? Is there anything not strange about it? “Um…”

The detective taps on the center of the photo. “Right there. There’s something missing.”

He’s pointing at the gap I remember seeing in the bookcase when I was at Dawn’s house. The bookcase was so full, but there was that empty space right in the middle. I had assumed it was a decorating choice.

“It was like that when I got there,” I say. “You think there was something there?”

“The pattern of dust made it look like something was removed recently.”

I shake my head. “I’m sorry, I can’t help you.” “You sure?”

He levels his dark, dark eyes at me. My hands are sweaty again, even though I’ve wiped them on my skirt two times since I’ve been in here. “I’m sure.”

He doesn’t drop his eyes. He keeps staring at me like he’s waiting for me to break and tell him everything. But I have told him everything.

“One more thing,” he says in a low, almost conspiratorial voice. “We found an email Dawn sent to you two days ago asking to meet about something important.” He pauses in a meaningful way. “What did she want to meet about?”

“I don’t know. We never had a chance to talk.” “No? You sure about that?”

I never genuinely believed that Santoro truly thought I could be a suspect until this moment. But when my eyes finally meet his gaze, I realize he knows something. Something damning.

“I wish we had talked.” I fight to keep my voice steady. “Maybe it would have kept her alive.”

He doesn’t have an answer for that. I keep my hands under the table because I don’t want him to see how much they’re shaking.

I glance over at the door to the conference room. “So are we done here?”

“Yes.” The detective’s eyes never leave mine. “We’re done. For now.”

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