“No. Nothing was taken, nothing disturbed. She’s not really sure when the mask was left in her bag. It was a piece of luggage she hadn’t used for a while, or so she claims. The only reason she thinks it was left when she was in California this last time was because not only did she find it when she started packing up, but somehow the neighbor’s cat had gotten in and was trapped in her place and scared the hell out of her.”
“Whoa, whoa. Wait a second. Start over. Tell me the chain of events, I want to get this straight.” Nash pushed the remains of her sandwich aside and grabbed her pencil again before turning over a new page on her tablet. As Double T explained everything he’d heard about Cassie Kramer supposedly finding a mask in her luggage that sounded just like the ones left at the crime scenes, Nash took notes. It didn’t make any sense. If Cassie were the killer, why would she come up with a mask herself? To throw the police off? As yet, information about the masks being left on the victims hadn’t been leaked to the press. The few people who had seen the bodies, witnesses and cops, had so far held their tongues. So how the hell had Cassie Kramer come up with one?
“This really connects her,” Nash thought aloud.
“Or makes her a victim?”
“You mean makes her look like a victim.” Nash was playing devil’s advocate, as Double T’s doubts echoed her own, but she didn’t want to ignore the obvious just on principle or gut feelings.
“You don’t think she’s a vic?”
“I don’t know.”
“So you’re second-guessing yourself, too.”
“Just looking at the big picture,” she said, but still had the niggling feeling that something was off. She set her pencil down and rotated the computer monitor so that it was more visible to her partner. “Look who was out cruising late last night and got caught pulling a U-ey.”
Double T let out a long, low whistle as he stared at the snapshot of Cassie Kramer behind the wheel of a Honda. “Nail-in-the-coffin time. All we need now is a murder weapon with her fingerprints on it.”
“Or a confession.” She started in on what was left of her sandwich again, but she barely tasted it as her mind was reeling ahead to the interview with Cassie Kramer, the questions she would ask. “This afternoon should be interesting.”
“Hopefully she doesn’t lawyer up.” He wadded up the waxy paper in which his sandwich had been wrapped and tossed it toward the wastebasket near her desk. Banking off the wall of her file cabinet, he hit the shot. “Two points.” He flashed her a smile. “See, the day’s getting better already.”
“Just wait until we talk to Cassie Kramer,” Double T said as his cell phone jangled and he answered, walking out of her cubicle.
“I can’t,” Nash said, and it was the truth. She couldn’t wait. And she was a little worried that she’d made a major mistake in not driving out to Falls Crossing and interviewing Cassie immediately. Cassie did have a history of mental issues and probably didn’t want to speak to the cops. Nash didn’t blame her on that one; she was the prime suspect in their case. However, Shane Carter had promised she’d show, so Nash was staking her job on the fact that the ex-lawman would be as good as his word, even if his stepdaughter fought him.
She drained the rest of her drink and cleaned up the corner of her desk they’d used as a table, then turned back to work. For the moment, her headache was at bay and she was energized again.
Until Kowalski strolled by. “How’s it goin’?” he asked, poking his head around the corner, the scent of a recent cigarette following him.
“Heard you caught another one. Dead person linked to the movie, found wearing a fuckin’ mask. Weird shit.”
“Weird,” she agreed.
“Forensics find anything?”
“No report yet.”
“Prints on the mask?”
“None that mean anything.”
“Weird shit,” he said again, and made his way to his desk. He settled behind it and turned to his computer, but his wife’s glamour shot was still staring at her from the corner of his desk. Oh, what she would have done for a door to shut off the sultry pout captured on Marcia Kowalski’s face nearly thirty years earlier. Marcia’s near-blond hair floated all around her face in permed curls, jewelry sparkled under the camera’s lights, and her shoulders were bare as she cast a sultry look over her shoulder. The photograph was fading with the passage of time, Marcia Kowalski was twice the age she’d been in the shot, but still Kowalski kept it framed on his desk. Probably would until he retired. So Marcia would stare at Nash for at least five more years.
Her cell phone chirped. Whitney Stone’s number appeared. For the fourth time today. Did the woman never rest?
Without a second thought Nash let the call go to voice mail.
Another mask? Cassie stared in horror at the mask of her mother that lay faceup on the table in the interview room at the police department. She physically recoiled from the hideous image. “Oh, God,” she whispered, hand to her mouth, eyes wide. Her stomach felt as if she might heave and yet she couldn’t tear her gaze away from the mask. Jenna’s beautiful face appeared to be melting, her mouth open as if in a silent, terror-riddled scream.
For a second Cassie couldn’t focus, couldn’t process. The room spun and she held onto the table for support. How could there be more than one of the gut-wrenching, horrid masks?