Lisa turned off the monitor, taking him in her arms. “If it’s any consolation, I don’t think he did it, either. And Vanessa will come to that conclusion, too. We just wait this out. Have you had lunch?”
“No, and I puked up my breakfast when Vanessa read the letter.”
She told one of the officers to go for pizza and talked with Aiden in her office. Food arrived a few minutes later, and Lisa picked up the conversation as if there hadn’t been a break.
“You had no idea about the baby?”
“None. I tried to reach her after she left, but she either cut off her phone, or changed her number. I didn’t have an address. It damn near killed me. I barely even remember that summer.”
“Can you think of anyone else who would want to hurt Wendy?” Captain Stavros asked gently.
“Honestly, Captain, the Wendy I knew didn’t have an enemy in the world. She was beautiful, kind, loving. The only dark spot was Troy. But I can’t believe he did it. I hate him, and I want him to burn, but he didn’t kill her. I do think he knows more than he’s saying. And I think he beat her up. At least now, you have his DNA to compare.”
He explained about his jacket.
“Clever boy! You ever thought of being a cop?”
“Until now, no. But it’s starting to look like a vocation.”
The interrogation of Troy Intriago wasn’t going as well as Vanessa had hoped. She’d rattled him with the baby picture, more than she’d anticipated. He was so hung up on that, for a while, he couldn’t do anything but deny the truth. Doing her best to get him on track, Vanessa kept hammering him with questions.
“When did Wendy live with you?”
“That kid? Dammit! I knew I shoulda nut checked him.”
“When was Wendy living in your grandmother’s home?”
“I dunno. Her last year maybe? Her foster mom was a nosy bitch. Up in her business, so she left.”
Though she tried to rope him back in, he didn’t cooperate. When she pressed, he got abusive. Unwilling to hear him insult her, she had him led back to his cell.
Vanessa walked into Stavos’ office a few minutes later. Sitting heavily, she put her feet up on another chair. “He didn’t do it. I believe he contributed to the bruising, and I think he may be the one who assaulted her.” She wouldn’t look at Aiden when she said that. “But murder? No. I really wanted him for this.”
“Alibi?” Stavros asked.
“Soft. He claims he was home with his grandmother. She confirmed that he was there, but she fell asleep in her recliner at eight o’clock. She can’t account for anything else until yesterday morning. He wasn’t there when she got up at seven. She figured he hadn’t spent the night, because he always makes a pot of coffee for her when he gets up for work. There was no coffee that morning. She was pretty pissed about that.”
“I don’t suppose she could have done it?” Stavros asked.
Vanessa snorted. “No. She could stink someone to death, but she’s had stroke damage. No way she could strangle a healthy young woman.”
“How do you know?” Aiden asked.
“Her face shows signs of it. She has a very uneven gait that isn’t just from alcohol, and she slurs her speech—again, not just booze. I was pre-med before I became a cop,” she explained to the curious teen. “I wish we could have helped Wendy….” The pain of her own past nearly blindsided her. The survivor of an abusive relationship, she understood the younger woman’s pain and shame.
“You didn’t even know her,” Aiden said. “I’m the one who should have.”
“You’re a kid,” Stavros said, not unkindly. “I hate to say it, but chances are good, the police wouldn’t even have listened. If she wasn’t willing to press charges, there would be little we could do. Did he ever hit her in front of you?”
“If he had, we wouldn’t be sitting here, I’d probably be in jail,” Aiden said in a calm, deadly voice. “I’m not a kid, even if I’m young. I can handle myself, and I don’t take shit from anyone. I also won’t watch a man beat up on a woman. My mother was the victim of an abusive father, she taught us to control our anger, but we learned how to defend ourselves, so we won’t ever be a victim. I never have started a fight, but if someone starts it with me….” He shrugged. “Guys bigger and meaner than Troy are scared of me.” He cut his eyes at the police officers. “After a few fights, and a six inch growth spurt, I don’t have much trouble with bullies.”
© 2018 Dellani Oakes
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