Seconds Away Page 55

Hello.

I couldn\'t help it. I moved over to take a closer look. It was a ’’State Champions’’ photograph of the Kasselton High School basketball team from twenty-five years ago. There, in the front row holding a basketball, were the team cocaptains, Eddie Taylor and Myron Bolitar. Yep, Uncle Myron. The two now-nemeses looked chummy in the picture, and I wondered what went wrong.

But that wasn\'t my concern right now.

I sat at Chief Taylor\'s desk and worried for another second or two about fingerprints. No time. I saw a basket full of files. As I reached for one, I heard Rachel\'s voice from the other room say, ’’Troy, don\'t do that.’’

There was a quick flash of rage. I got ready to stand up and go out there, but then I stopped. What was I going to do, bust in on them? Besides, Rachel seemed pretty much in control. If she needed me, she\'d call for help, right?

I didn\'t like it, but this had been part of her plan. If I went out there now, she\'d probably kill me. Time to get back to the task at hand.

The first folder I grabbed was fairly light. I checked the right tab. There were only three words written on it: nora caldwell homicide.

Bingo. I considered finding the file so easily a stroke of luck, but then again, the Caldwell murder was far and away the biggest case in the town. Why shouldn\'t it be front and center?

Ema looked in on me. I gave her a big thumbs-up and opened the file. Paper files talk about old-school.

The top sheet of paper read: BALLISTICS TEST REPORT. It was dated today.

There were three columns, one for Gun A (the one that had shot Spoon), one for Gun B (the one being carried by Scarface), and one for Gun C (the one used to shoot both Mrs. Caldwell and Rachel). There was a lot of scientific mumbo jumbo, terms like sample type, shot sequence, weapon type, projectile weight, cartridge/projectile type, impact velocity, impact energy, you get the idea. None of this would do me any good, so I skipped down to the finding: neither gun a nor gun b is a match for gun c.

Whoa. If I was reading this right and the conclusion did not seem all that difficult to understand neither gun was a match for the murder of Mrs. Caldwell.

This was huge.

Or was it?

While it would have been excellent physical evidence against Sunglasses and Scarface, it certainly did not prove that they were innocent. Unless you\'ve never watched a television show in your life, you\'d know that if you committed a crime with a gun, it would be best to get rid of it. Wasn\'t that the most logical conclusion? Sunglasses or Scarface had simply replaced the murder weapon with a new one.

Except, of course, that Chief Taylor hadn\'t mentioned this finding in that press conference. In fact, he made it sound just the opposite. They had, he\'d said, the physical evidence to lock these guys away for the murder of Nora Caldwell.

But if it wasn\'t a match on the bullets, well, what other ’’physical evidence’’ could there be? Or was he lying? And this report wasn\'t a copy. It was the original. Why would it be in Chief Taylor\'s private office?

From the den, I heard Troy say, ’’Let me get us something to drink.’’

I froze.

Rachel said, ’’That\'s okay. I\'m not thirsty.’’

I could hear a creak from the couch, as if Troy was getting up. ’’I\'ll only be a second, babe.’’

Babe?

’’Troy?’’ Rachel\'s voice sounded coquettish, and I\'m not even sure what coquettish means.

’’Yeah?’’

’’Please don\'t leave me right now.’’

Oh man. I had to hurry.

I paged through the next sheets until I reached one titled MEDICAL EXAMINER REPORT. The name on the top was NORA CALDWELL. There were two sketches of the human body front and back. I skimmed it over, trying again to ignore the scientific mumbo jumbo. According to the findings, the death was due to massive injuries sustained by a bullet wound to the head. I already knew that. The medical examiner could tell by the ’’burn patterns’’ that it was a ’’contact shot’’ that is, the barrel of the gun had been pressed against the victim\'s head. Rachel had told me that too, and something about that still bothered me.

But what?

I tried to run through the murder scenario in my head. The gunman slips into the Caldwell den. He places the barrel of the gun against Mrs. Caldwell\'s head and shoots her execution style. Hearing that sound, Rachel comes running into the room. The gunman raises his gun and aims it at her. . . .

Wait. Now I saw the problem.

Rachel hadn\'t told me that she heard a gun blast. She told me that she heard loud voices. That was what had made her come downstairs and check out the den. Not a gunshot. Voices.

I heard a noise outside and looked out the window. A police car had just pulled into the driveway.

Oh no.

I looked over at Ema. She was gesturing for me to hurry. I waved for her to head out. She nodded and vanished. I glanced out the window again. Chief Taylor was already out of the car and starting up the front walk. He looked upset.

I heard Troy say, ’’Dang. My old man is home.’’

As I quickly stood, I took one last look at the file. That was when I saw the words hand powder residue highlighted in yellow. Whoa. I risked one more glance out the window, and as I did, Chief Taylor veered off the front walk and started for . . .

. . . for the back door!

Oh man, I was trapped.

I looked for a place in his office to hide, but there was nowhere. I kept low and looked out the window. Chief Taylor was nearly rounding the back. There\'d be no chance of getting out of here. Maybe I could roll out the window as he entered. I tried to open it, but it was stuck.

I\'d have to bolt. What else could I do?

With all hope lost, the front door of house opened. ’’Chief Taylor?’’

It was Rachel.

’’Chief Taylor? Hi, it\'s me.’’

Rachel did the tee-hee again. The noise was ridiculously grating. But Chief Taylor stopped and turned toward her. ’’Hi, Rachel.’’

’’Can I, uh, talk to you for a second?’’

She stepped out into the front yard. Taylor looked unsure. He glanced toward the walk to the back, sighed, and then started toward her.

’’What is it?’’ Taylor asked.

I didn\'t wait.

I turned and hurried through the kitchen and out the back door. I ran hard toward the woods in the yard. Ema had planned a meeting place. She was there waiting for me.

I was just upon her when I realized two things.

One, I now knew who killed Mrs. Caldwell and shot Rachel.

Two, I left the murder file open on Chief Taylor\'s desk.


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