Chapter 14

December 4, 2011 at 9:06 pm (The Truth)

Trudy Freeland lived a few doors down from the Klein Ebersole’s, in a house that looked to be slightly smaller and not as nicely kept. Though still a gorgeous piece of property, it had an air of falling on hard times. The guardhouse was unattended and the gates were left open. The grass was trimmed but the edges were starting to creep over onto the cement driveway.

Up at the house, Mack noticed that the paint was peeling on the upper floor window frames and some of the shingles on the roof were starting to curl. Mack and Pike had only managed to get a very basic amount of information on the Freeland’s. Mr. Freeland was in finance, currently under investigation for fraud in his overseas clients’ accounts. Mrs. Freeland didn’t work outside of the home.

Mrs. Freeland came to the top of the front stoop when Pike parked the car. Climbing the stairs, Mack and Pike each showed their badges as Pike explained the reason for their visit. Mrs. Freeland escorted them into the living room which was decidedly more welcoming than the Ebersole’s had been. Facing the front of the house, the windows allowed for an unobstructed view of the property from end to end. A steaming cup of tea next to a book on the couch explained how Mrs. Freeland had known that she had company.

Mack took the spot at the far end of the couch while Pike opted for the chair closest to Mrs. Freeland. With Pike running the questioning, Mack sat back and opened his mind to see what Mrs. Freeland wasn’t saying. She had a grating voice, which made it difficult for Mack to concentrate, but he managed to get a few pieces here and there.

“Mrs. Freeland,” Pike began, “we’re interested in the party you attended the night that Carlton Ebersole was killed.”

“Yes, the fundraiser for the Premiere,” Trudy chimed in. “It was a wonderful event and my husband gave a very generous donation to the Premiere’s cause.”

Lie, Mack thought and shook his head slightly, staring at Pike. Trudy was giving off a very distinct whiff of anger just thinking about the premiere. Mack wondered if the man wanted to distance himself from Mr. Freeland’s current difficulties.

“We’re interested in the doings of the Ebersole’s,” Pike continued. Before he could form a specific question, Trudy jumped in with an abundance of voluntary information.

“Payton likes to tell people that she and her husband have the perfect marriage. I guess they do, if you consider having lovers as the key to perfection. Payton tends to choose men who are significantly younger than she is, but then so does her husband.”

Mack got an unexpected visual of Mrs. Freeland in bed with a man, he assumed, wasn’t her husband. Unless Mr. Freeland was a good fifteen years younger than she was, Mack decided that what was good for Payton Ebersole was equally as good for Trudy Freeland.

“Mrs. Freeland, can you tell us what time Payton Ebersole left the party?” Pike was getting a little uncomfortable with the way Mrs. Freeland was looking at him. He was used to women staring at him, mostly because of his size. He was also used to women being intimidated by him, which made his dating life a little difficult. Trudy Freeland looked as though she wanted to strap him down to her bed and see just how much rough loving he could take.

“Payton was there much later than her husband. They don’t often go home together. She didn’t leave until well after midnight.” Trudy leaned forward and placed her hand on Pike’s knee, giving it a sharp squeeze.

Mack raised an eyebrow, smirking at Pike behind Mrs. Freeland’s back. Even with Pike’s tendency to hit on almost every woman he met, he still kept the age range close to his own. Mack estimated that Mrs. Freeland was fifteen years older, on the conservative side. Her thoughts were quite clear and Mack made a mental note to tell Pike about every single one of them once they got back to the car.

“Do you know if the Ebersole’s are struggling, financially?” Pike asked. Shifting in his seat, he carefully dislodged the hand from his knee. Adjusting the angle of his legs kept his knees out of reach.

“The Ebersole’s are quite snooty about their finances,” Trudy said. “They didn’t want to take advantage of my husband’s expertise in overseas markets. Said they had their own personal investor and were quite happy with him. I wouldn’t be surprised to hear they were in financial disrepair and didn’t want anyone to know about it.”

Mack thought that if they hadn’t been in financial disrepair when they’d turned down Mr. Freeland’s expertise, they would have been soon if they’d decided to go with him. What little he’d gleaned regarding the investigation against Mr. Freeland suggested heavy embezzlement of funds. Trudy’s anger at the premiere was nothing compared to the anger she felt for her husband. The fraud investigation was bound to come out and then she’d have to worry about how she could hold her head up in the community.

“Klein Ebersole works as a real estate agent in the area. Did you purchase your house from him?” Pike asked.

“Oh no, this house has been in my family for over twenty years. Klein tried to convince my husband to sell it when the market was reaching those crazy heights, right before everything fell apart. I had many fights with my husband about that.” She sat back and took a sip of her tea. As though just remembering he was there, Trudy turned to Mack. “You’ve been so quiet, Detective.”

“I tend to leave the questioning to my partner. He’s far more thorough than I am.” Mack could see her attention shifting to him. Hoping to head her off, he tossed out a question. “Did you see who Klein left the party with?”

“Of course. Everyone knew she was only there because Klein was. She wouldn’t have been invited. She doesn’t associate with our circle.”

When she turned her attention back to Pike, he picked up the ball that Mack had tossed out. “And who was she?”

“That tacky reporter who works for the Sun. Adriana Sutton,” Trudy said.

Mack felt the name land like a lead ball in the pit of his stomach. He’d never probed too deeply into Adriana’s brain, afraid of what he’d see about himself in there. Now he realized how egotistical that sounded. Was she in love with Klein and, if so, would she aid him in the murder of his brother? It never ceased to amaze him how many people in or on the periphery of the business thought that they were smart enough to get away with murder. Adriana Sutton’s familiarity with homicide cases didn’t make her an expert, but she had the ego to decide that it did.

Pike wrapped up the questioning and managed to escape the house without getting his ass pinched. Once he’d navigated the driveway and started back for the office, he brought up the Adriana revelation.

“You have any idea Adriana was screwing Klein?”

“None,” Mack said. “It looks like we’ll have to have a chat with her about that.” Mack leaned his head back against the headrest and closed his eyes. He had too many thoughts clanging around in his head. With two major cases on his plate and a handful of smaller ones, he was beginning to feel stretched thin. If he didn’t stay on top of things he’d end up making a mistake. He knew that Eric was just waiting for the opportunity to plant a seed of doubt in the inspector’s mind.

Using a technique he’d learned from his father, Mack allowed all of the thoughts clamoring inside him to fade away. Once the field was cleared, he could pull out a thought and analyze it singly, or pair it up with others to see how it played out. Instead, Mack decided to leave his thoughts untouched, to calm his mind.

The image flashed across his brain, unbidden. The final image of the flipbook that had woken him out of a dead sleep burned into his brain. He could see the trunk of a car, gaping wide, as a body was placed inside. He couldn’t see the person who held the body. Mack knew that the body belonged to his mother. The car was dark and he thought it might be a smaller car, but he couldn’t determine the make.

The killer blocked part of the license plate, but Mack was able to make out the last three digits: JGH. He could see words on the edge of the trunk lid, but the angle made it difficult to read. Mack wrote what he could remember into his book. He punched the partial plate into the computer and came back with a long list of plates matching those three digits. Refining his search to eliminate larger cars and any lighter coloured cars, he found he still had a list with over eighty cars on it.

Mack explained to Pike that he’d had a few brief visions about the killer and his mother. Pike didn’t seem surprised by the news. “I’ll have to pass the plates to one of the uniforms. We don’t have time to chase down all of those plates.”

“How long have you been having these visions?” Pike asked.

Mack smiled at Pike’s use of his ‘psychiatrist voice’. “I had the first one while I was standing over my mother’s body, when Kovel showed me the Roman numeral on her back.”

“You might want to keep these visions between us. God knows Fishman would run with it, if he learned of it. He’d not only have you off the case, he’d probably have you off the force.”

Mack had assumed the same thing. Eric Fishman was a good cop, but he was also a very determined one. He wanted to show his father that he didn’t need any outside influence to make his way up the ladder. Mack hadn’t probed there, but he wondered if Fishman wanted to excel because he was dedicated to providing justice, or because he wanted to shove it in his father’s face. Either way, he knew that Pike was right. If Eric could sell him down the river to advance his own agenda, he would do it in a flash.

“Can you drop me at the hospital? I want to be there for Amy Cronin’s autopsy.”

Pike put on his turning signal to head down 12th, toward VGH. “Are you hoping that Amy’s ghost will tell you whodunit?” he grinned.

Mack gave a half laugh. “You never know.”

***

Mack returned to the station three hours later. Pike was at his desk, beating up his keyboard. Both Fishman’s were also present. Mack nodded to Eric, ignored Danny and sat in the chair next to Pike’s desk. There was enough noise in the room to cover what he was saying, but Mack still kept his voice muted.

“I saw Amy when she was alive.” Mack hadn’t been entirely surprised to have another vision. He had been pleased that this one formed so quickly and wasn’t blurred out. “I believe she was approached by her killer and she didn’t seem afraid of him at first.”

“So we check people she knew,” Pike said. “Coworkers, friends, and relatives.” He pounded a few more keys before leaning in and squinting at the screen. “I’ve thought about this list of cars. How do we tell the members of the task force how you came about the partial?”

Mack leaned back in his chair a moment. There was no good way to introduce the information he had to the task force. He couldn’t fabricate a witness to the crime. If he tried to take one member into his confidence and that member blabbed, it would undermine the rest of the investigation, as well as Mack’s leadership.

He’d have to tell them all, including the inspector. The information was too valuable for him to risk not investigating it further. If people started to look at him like he was a freak, so be it. Once he’d gained Pike’s agreement, Mack made an appointment with a police sketch artist. He wanted an image to back up what he was about to tell everyone.

Mack’s appointment with the sketch artist took longer than he’d expected. He’d never given a description for an artist before and the questions she’d asked had pulled more from him than he’d remembered on his own. She’d suggested hypnosis, to pull more of the image out, but Mack vetoed that. He would consider revisiting the idea another time, or if more images appeared to him.

Mack didn’t feel an artist’s rendering of the Amy Cronin vision was necessary. She had filled most of his mind and her killer had been off camera. Likewise, he didn’t feel they needed a rendering of the killer raping his mother. If anything were to push his inspector over the edge, it would be to know that Mack had visions of his mother being raped by their serial killer.

His sketch artist said she needed time to clean up the drawing. It was already late in the day, so she promised to have it ready for him first thing in the morning. Mack decided to call a meeting for nine the next day, to present the information to the task force.

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