Mom and Dad were less than thrilled about my decision to go to Twinbrook all of a sudden, but I think they, at least, appreciated that I wasn’t keeping them in the dark this time around. David, for his part just headed home and got a few necessary items to take with him, since we weren’t planning to be staying in Twinbrook for too long.
We were just there to figure out what was happening with Selma Collier and why she was lying to the police.
The flight to Twinbrook was only three hours long, which the two of us spent watching some silly movie the plane’s television was playing. Discussing the happenings on a plane, full of strangers, was the last thing either of us planned to do.
The first thing David did upon getting of the plane was light up a cigarette. He previously told me that smoking helped him stay calmer when he was feeling too anxious about things. Which only verified that he wasn’t feeling so hot right now.
“How do we go about talking to your mother?” I asked. “Is there some protocol we must pass to get a visit with her?”
“Why would there be?” David responded. “I’ve called Deputy Westen last night and asked him whether I could visit her. He told me there shouldn’t be any issue—I am her son, after all.”
“So, the detective knows we’re here?” After the man’s visit to my house, I was feeling less than trustful of him and his tactics.
“Well, yeah. I mean, he would’ve known anyways, since they have visits on record at the jail Mom’s at,” he explained.
That much was true. It’s not like we could hide anything from the police if we wanted to visit a suspect. Which led me to wonder, how much was Selma willing to tell her son while she was in custody? After all, if she was scared to talk to the police, there had to be a reason for it.
“How soon can we go?” I asked David.
“As soon as we leave our stuff at the hotel. We’ve got reservations ready at the local motel. Ready to go?” he threw away the finished cigarette.
“Yeah, let’s go.”
Despite my protests, David grabbed my bag as well as his own, carrying it to our rented car. But then again, even though I made it a habit to work out these days, he was still the stronger one of us.
“Our rooms are definitely booked, right?” I made sure.
“Sure thing. I just hope I just hope we finish our business here in a week.”
We drove in silence after that, both thinking about the upcoming conversation with Selma. I was wondering whether the police will allow me to talk to her, and whether I even should. After all, David was her child, not me. I was practically a stranger to her. And not even a really friendly one, at that.
I glanced at David, wondering whether he would prefer me in the room with him. This seemed like a conversation that had to happen between him and his mother, in private.
“What’s wrong?” he asked.
“You’re going to talk to your mother alone, right? I don’t think I should go into the room with you. Since she doesn’t even know me,” I explained. “That’s going to be alright with you?”
“Of course. I mean, you don’t have to worry about me here. I know I haven’t taken some recent situations well, but talking to my mother isn’t going to be a problem, really. After all, it was my idea to talk to her.”
“You don’t have to explain yourself, I understand.”
“No, but really. You’ve been looking out for me enough, lately. Don’t think I haven’t noticed how you’re always checking whether I’m fine or not. Thanks, by the way. I really appreciate it,” David smiled.
“You’re welcome. It’s the least I can do.”
“Why though? Shouldn’t you hate my family? And me by default?” David suddenly asked. “Sorry, I shouldn’t have asked that. This question didn’t come out right.”
“It’s ok, I get why you’re asking me this. I’d be curious too, if I were you. I did have ill feelings towards your family, I admit. But can you blame me? Your father did commit the crime we’ve suspected him off, after all. But all my brother and I wanted was to expose him and his illegal activities. Not to have him dead. And now he is and your mother is possibly being framed for his murder? This is not what either of us wanted. If anything, it looks like there is more foul play going on and now someone my mother knew is involved… And no, I definitely do not hate you. You’re my friend and you’re the person who took care of me when I was drunk out of my mind and prevented me from doing some very stupid things. If I had any doubts about your character, your actions that night evaporated them. Besides, if anyone should hate anyone, you shouldn’t be too fond of me – I was, after all spying on your father’s company.”
“Yeah, well, I was spying on him too, so I can’t be angry about that. And you’ve been a rock for me, these last few weeks. Thanks.” David smiled and was about to focus back on the road when he grinned at me “And hey! Don’t think I forgot how you tried to pick me up that night at the bar. So, I’m hot and a total catch, right?”
“Oh boy! I’m really not going to live this one down, am I?” Truthfully, my drunken pickup attempts were absolutely horrible and sounded completely off to my sober self. Although, drunk me did have a good eye for guys, since in my opinion, David was both of those things.
Luckily, he was now really looking at the road and couldn’t see me blush. And luckily, he chose the drive to our motel wasn’t too long.
The motel, Blue Moon Lodge, was located not far from town center, a fact convenient for travelers who preferred to not be cooped up in their rooms for the duration of their stay. Our bookings came right through and we were able to check into our suites soon.
As soon as we checked in and dropped the luggage in our rooms, David and I headed out to the police station. Even though David called the detective previously, we still didn’t know if there was extra paperwork to fill out for his visit to Selma. As it turned out, we were right, and David was the only one allowed in to see her.
“I’ll wait out here, ok?” I promised to David.
He nodded. “Alright. I’ll see if Mom can clear this whole thing up for us.”
After he went in to see Selma, I sat down on one of the sofas in the police waiting room and allowed my mind to go over the events of the last few days. Who would’ve imagined this turn of events?
Fact1: Selma was in jail under suspicion of murder and reluctant to talk about her reasons for being here, under a fake name.
Fact 2: The server was leaked from someplace here, in Twinbrook.
Fact 3: Someone very good with computers is involved in all of this. Someone, who is possibly still present in Twinbrook.
Fact 4: It’s not certain that Selma will tell her son anything she hasn’t already told the police. She probably has good reasons for hiding things and people like the older Colliers tend to hold on to their secrets.
Fact 5: Someone put a lot of effort into destroying the Colliers and this is someone, about whom neither my brother nor his professional hacker friend knew anything. Even though they’ve been scouring the internet for information related to Collier Enterprises for years.
Thinking about all these things was beginning to give me a headache, but I knew they all had to be related somehow. If only we knew who made the spyware on Selma’s computer, we’d have had something to go on with.
As if on cue, my cellphone rang. To avoid the dissatisfied glares from the tired-looking police workers in the waiting room, I headed outside to answer.
It was Roman. “Irene! Hey! I’m not calling at a bad time, am I?”
“Not at all. Why? Is there anything new?”
“Maybe.” The sound of clicking and rustling papers followed. “I think Gerald and I may have tracked down Aileen Johnson. I’m not guaranteeing that this is the right place, but it sounds likely – it’s a retirement home, and you know, she’s definitely old enough to be living in one, at this point. If anything, I’m rather surprised she’s still around. Anyways, here’s the address – it’s in Twinbrook, so you and David can check the place out when you have some free time. If you’re up to it, that is.”
“She’s here? In Twinbrook? Wow, this is kind of unexpected. I never thought she’d settle somewhere so… marshy. But thanks for the information, Roman. I’m sorry our mystery is distracting you from spending time with Tia and Clyde!” I apologized.
“Oh! Never mind that, Irene! At this point, I’m myself very curious to find out what’s going on with David’s family. And you know how we scientific people get when we want to know something – we don’t stop until we know the answers. So, I’m happy to be of any assistance. Now, you two take care out there. Just in case.” With these words, Roman hung up and I was left with Aileen Johnson’s current address.
I was eager to check out the place as soon as possible, but the day was already nearing evening and I didn’t know whether it was a good idea to go to a retirement home later in the day. Technically, these places weren’t supposed to have laws regarding visitation times, but considering that I was planning to pay a visit to a person who had a bad history with my family and didn’t even know me, it was a task better undertaken earlier in the day.
Also, I really had no idea how to approach that situation. Yes, according to Roman, Aileen had the computer skill necessary to create the spyware present on Selma’s computer and that made her either a source of information or a potential suspect in all of this, considering that she lived in the city the leak came from. But how would I even talk her into communicating with me?
In either case, I wasn’t going to visit her before talking it over with David. He seemed to have a pretty reasonable outlook on the situation, once he got over the initial shock of the events.
When the officer called on me to enter the room, I wasn’t sure how I’d feel upon seeing my mother. She and I never had a close mother-son relationship and over the last few months we’ve only drifted further apart. The fact that she barely ever talked about Emily was something that created a rift between us that I imagined could never be bridged at this point.
Yet, when I heard that she was arrested, I just knew I had to see her. I knew that if I never came to visit her at this moment, I would regret it for the rest of my life. It wasn’t much of a choice.
To my relief, while she looked uncomfortable due to being under arrest, my mother didn’t show any signs of any serious distress. But she did look highly surprised to see me here.
“David?! What are you doing here?” Selma exclaimed.
“Mom, hi. How are you holding up?” was all I managed to get out before she huffed and retorted:
“As well as possible, considering that these people arrested me for something I didn’t do. You know I didn’t kill your father, right?”
“Yes, I’m pretty sure you didn’t. But that doesn’t change the fact that there is evidence pointing to you as the culprit and your silence on the subject is not doing you any favors. Come on, mom. Work with the police. You don’t want them to actually try you for Dad’s murder, do you?”
“You don’t understand, David. I don’t have an alibi, to speak of. They made sure of it.”
“They?” I was stumped. Who was my mother talking about?
“I got played, son,” Selma sighed. “A couple of weeks ago, your father visited his lawyer regarding our marriage contract. You know as well as I do what that means – he was thinking of divorcing me. Knowing how your father…worked, I had no doubt that he’ll manage to leave me virtually penniless. All these years that I’ve spent with him, and he was going to replace me.”
“You think there was another woman that he was serious about?” I asked, instantly regretting my choice of wording. But then again, did she really not know about the other women? I knew it wouldn’t have been the first time his father had an affair, but the man never thought to divorce and remarry before.
“You don’t have to cover for him, David. I know your father didn’t care much for me aside from the part of the trophy wife that I played for him for all these years. I knew he had affairs, but my position as Mrs. Collier was never at stake. I know you don’t care much to hear this, but I was ok with that. Yes, I married Lionel mostly for the money.” Selma looked down at her hands with a sad smile. “I’ve been real poor once, David. It’s not something I ever want to go back to. Had you grown up the way I had, maybe you would have understood.”
I nodded. “I’m not here to judge you. Not for this anyway. I just came here to figure out why they think you’ve poisoned Dad.”
“Ah, yes. That. Well, as soon as I found out about your father’s divorce plans, I knew I had to act fast if I wanted to keep some of the Collier money. For that, I needed to catch your father in the act of cheating on me. According to our marriage contract, that would have given me at least a third of Lionel’s assets. So, I hired an investigator to tail your father for a bit. I needed some hard evidence of his affair to present to the judge.”
“Did you get it? The evidence? Did you catch him with the woman before the whole thing happened? And how does the poison come into all of this?” My brain was slowly putting all the pieces together, but some things didn’t make sense. “If you had an investigator on the job, why come here in person?”
My mother smiled sadly with a gesture that showed exasperation. “About a week ago, the investigator I hired emailed me some interesting information: your father had plans to be meeting up with his mistress while on this trip. And the detective thought it best for me to be present and catch him in the act myself. Of course, I couldn’t turn down the opportunity of seeing your father’s face at the moment he knew he’s been caught. So, I came here, checked into that cheap motel under a fake name, and sat there waiting for another message or call from the detective. But the call never came – instead, your father ends up dead and they think I did it. And funny enough, when I opened up my email to show the local police my communication with the investigator, none of those emails were there! So, I explained to them what happened, but obviously, without the emails to give me any sort of an alibi, I’m screwed. Who’s going to believe me?”
“Wait, you told them what happened? But the detective who came to question me about your whereabouts said that you refused to talk to the police.”
“Of course I told them what happened, I’m not an idiot! Wait, why did a detective come to visit you?” she inquired.
“Because he wanted to verify that your alibi of being with me the evening of the murder was legit. Although he already knew it wasn’t,” David admitted.
“I never said I was with you on the night of the murder. Why would they tell you that? Whoever paid you a visit anyway?” my mother was confused.
“Um, deputy Westen. Why? He’s the one working on your case,” I explained.
My mother furrowed her brow, “That name doesn’t ring any bells, David. What does he even look like?”
“Tall, skinny, reddish-brown hair, some scruff, eyes that look like he hasn’t slept for a while. Do you recognize this description?” I inquired.
My mother shook her head. “Not in the least, David. And you know I have a good memory for appearances. I don’t think there was any person with that name or appearance here in this precinct, that I’ve had the opportunity to see.”
I leaned back in my chair, the pieces falling into place in my head. Whoever Deputy Westen was, he had no official connection to my mother’s case, it seemed. So, why did he come to visit me all the way in Hidden Springs? To get you to come here, an inner voice replied to me. It was starting to look like my mother was not the only one who got played. Another thought occurred to me.
“Hey, Mom? What does the investigator you’ve hired to tail dad look like?” I asked.
“Detective Beau Henderson? Medium height, blondish, a bit chubby…” my mother began to answer, stopping abruptly. “Wait, that’s what he looked like in his website picture. To be honest, our communication took place over the phone or email, entirely. I haven’t actually met him face to face, so I can’t guarantee that his profile picture was honestly him. In fact, I’m now quite sure that it wasn’t,” she finished sheepishly.
“I see.” It seemed that my mother was in quite a pickle now. But perhaps, now that I was here, I could figure out a bit of what was going on.
“Time’s up!” an officer entered the meeting room. “You can come back tomorrow, if you want, but that’s it for today.”
“Alright, then. Take care, Mom.” I hesitantly pulled her into a hug. Despite everything, she was still my mother. And now I knew for a fact that she was innocent of Dad’s murder.
“You too, David. And David?” She pulled away to look me in the eyes. “I really am sorry about Emily. I know we don’t talk about it, but I am. If I’d known sending her away to that school was going to end that way, I never would’ve allowed it. She wasn’t benefitting from your father’s company, so I just thought, since it worked out for you, it would’ve been a good idea for her as well. But, I am sorry.”
“I think I needed to hear this, Mom. But what’s done is done. Hang in there now. I’m going to try to get you out of here.”
As soon as I was out of the meeting room, I headed to front desk. I had a couple of questions to ask the people working at the precinct.
“Excuse me, Officer Hurst, can you help me with something?” I addressed the officer drinking a cup of coffee at the computer.
“Sure, what is it?” the officer lifted his eyes to face me.
“When can I see Deputy Westen?” I inquired, half-expecting the answer I received.
“Deputy Westen? Do you mean, Deputy Rosswell? ‘Cause he’s our current deputy at this precinct,” the officer scratched his head.
“Are you sure there isn’t someone by the name of Westen here?” I questioned the man.
“Um, not as far as I know. I mean, I am kind of a recent worker here, so maybe you can ask the others. But here is Deputy Rosswell, if you want to talk to him,” he pointed me to a man with graying hair, who has just entered the building. “Deputy, this young man here was asking about a Deputy Westen. Do you know of anyone by that name?”
“Westen? Of course I know of him! He retired a couple of years before you came to work here, Hurst. But you need to see him, young man? Is it a personal matter or a police matter? If it is the later, I’m sure I can help you out, since I currently hold his previous position. If it’s personal though, I’m afraid I’m not supposed to discuss those matters without him present. And Mr. Westen is currently out of town,” the older man explained.
“Oh it’s a police matter. But wait, did you say he is retired? Isn’t he a little young to retire? And how come he is still working on police matters if he is retired?” I was stumped. The man who came to visit us in Hidden Springs said nothing about being retired.
“Working on police matters? Of course, he isn’t! And I wouldn’t call 70 years of age ‘young’, really. If anything, Mr. Westen gave many more years to the service than most policemen ever do. He earned his retirement package and more,” the current Deputy smiled fondly, recalling his former superior.
His words made me understand that whoever came to visit us was definitely a fake. They had to be informed.
“I’m afraid I haven’t introduced myself. I’m David Collier. My mother is under arrest here in this precinct. And I’m afraid, someone is seriously out for my family – I asked about Deputy Westen because a man who introduced himself by that name came to question me and my coworker in Hidden Springs. But according to what you’ve just told me, I’ve been questioned by an impostor who seems to know a little too much about the proceedings here.”
“Is that so, Mr. Collier?” the Deputy asked. Both officers present exchanged a concerned look. “What can you tell us about this impostor? His appearance, behavior, age? In fact, can you help us create an identikit? If you have time, that is?”
“I can do that. Also, did my mother tell you that she has been in contact with a private investigator to tail my father?”
“She has, but she can’t provide any proof of it,” Rosswell noted.
“Of course she can’t. You probably don’t believe me, but whoever is out for my family, is very good with computers.” I didn’t want to mention Roman Blakely’s involvement in this and his discovery of the spyware on Mom’s computer for fear of implicating him. “It is likely that my mother’s computer has been hacked. I’ve heard of certain viruses deleting emails and data, while implanting false one. And like I said, whoever visited me knew a little too much about your precinct’s work. And he was able to convince the Hidden Springs police department that he was, in fact, Deputy Westen. Anyways, my mother was here because the investigator, Beau Henderson, asked her to come to Twinbrook. But the thing is she has never seen him in person. Can you take a look at his website while we’re making the identikit?”
“We can certainly do that, Mr. Collier. We want to get to the bottom of this, just as much as you. Especially if someone has been impersonating our officers.”
It was at this moment that Irene came back into the room. She looked like she had something to tell me, but didn’t want to mention it in front of the officers.
“There you are! How did it go? Did she talk to you? Did she tell you anything she hasn’t told them?” Irene inquired.
“Nope. Because, apparently, Mom told them everything – she was here because of a private investigator. It looks like, whoever the man who came to visit us is, he is not Deputy Westen. And Mom never claimed me as her alibi.”
“What?! But he had Captain Vanderburg fooled! Hidden Springs PD thought he was really from this precinct!” Irene was shocked.
“This is a very disconcerting fact indeed, young lady. We’ve already promised your companion to look into this issue. Perhaps you would like to join him in creating an identikit for your visitor?” Deputy Rosswell offered.
“Yes, of course!” Irene readily agreed.
And so, we’ve spent the rest of our time at the police department recreating the fake Deputy Westen’s appearance to the best of our memory. The final result looked as similar to the guy as possible and the concerned officers promised that they’ll be sending that picture to Hidden Springs PD immediately.
It was almost 9 pm when David and I were finally done at the police station. Even though the helpful officers have done their best to calm us down about the impostor, the whole situation was still very disturbing.
Also, at this point, we were just tired out. Luckily, the motel had a buffet. What could be better than food to recharge some energy?
“So, you looked like you wanted to tell me something back at the station?” David asked between mouthfuls of food.
“Yes. Roman called – he has Aileen’s address. She lives here, in a retirement facility.”
“Oh! We should go, right?” he asked.
“I think so. I just don’t know how to introduce myself. She doesn’t exactly like my family.”
“Then don’t. Just say you’re someone else. Don’t tell her you’re Celeste’s daughter. It’s not like she’s ever seen you, right?” David offered.
“Well, she probably saw my kid pictures. But not any recent ones, true. That’s a good idea, actually. I can tell her I’m from a pharmacy and making a survey of our customers, or something. Not exactly a lie.” David made this sound much simpler than I was making it out to be.
“Sounds good. We can go tomorrow, as soon as we’re up,” he proposed.
“It’s a plan, then,” I agreed.
With that in mind, we headed off to sleep. Tomorrow promised to be an interesting day.