Her Last Word

Page 11


Quinn sat across from them. He and Quinn hadn’t interviewed as a team yet. Normally partners fell into a rhythm. Call it good cop/bad cop roles or whatever, but having a balance of adversarial versus supportive interview skills worked. Most people had seen enough TV cop shows to spot the technique, but real-life situations brought a ton of adrenaline and stress. It was only natural to gravitate to the guy throwing you a lifeline, which in this case would be Adler.
“Do you have any idea who might have done this?” Quinn asked.
“Kill Jennifer? Shit. I can’t believe I’m even having this conversation. No. I don’t know anyone like that. She was well liked by all her colleagues. A good person.”
“Someone didn’t see it that way,” Quinn said.
“How was Ms. Ralston’s performance on the job?” Adler asked.
“She was great. She was one of our most productive managers. Her attention to detail was annoyingly amazing.”
“Did you notice a difference in the last couple of months?” Adler asked.
“I could tell she was a little distracted. In late February, she was not quite on her game and missed a few details. I called her into my office. She swore she was fine, but I could see something was bothering her.”
“Did she tell you what it was?” Quinn asked as she studied an architectural drawing on the wall behind Keller.
“Did her distraction have to do with the personal relationship she shared with you?” Quinn asked.
“What?” Jeremy’s face reddened. “Jennifer and I weren’t really in a relationship.”
“What would you call it?” Adler asked.
“Friends.” He paused. “With benefits.”
Quinn nodded. “I see. Was she more into you than you were into her?”
Jeremy stammered. “You’re making it sound like I might have hurt her.”
“Not at all,” Adler offered. “We’re trying to figure out who killed her.” He leaned forward a fraction. “When did you two end your relationship?”
“About six months ago. There were no bad feelings on either side,” Jeremy insisted. “I’m dating again, and I know she dated other men. She told me about a guy last week.”
“How’d you feel about that?” Quinn said. “Did it bother you a little?”
“No.” He shoved his hands into his pockets.
“Did she mention his name?” Adler asked.
“Why were you at her house a few weeks ago?” Adler asked.
“I was dropping off papers she’d left at the office. She didn’t answer the door, so I left.”
“Did she ever mention having a stalker?” Adler asked.
“A stalker? No. A couple of times Jennifer was late to work. Once she said her tire had been slashed. I thought it sounded like an excuse. She got so mad she slammed the receipts from the tire repair shop on my desk.”
“How long did she act stressed?”
“A few weeks. I asked her about the troubles, and she said they’d stopped. I almost made a quip about her imaginary friend but thought better. She was wound pretty tight.”
“Wise move,” Adler commented. “Did you or her coworkers ever see anyone lingering around?”
“No. No one ever brought anything to my attention.”
“Have you ever heard the name Gina Mason?” Adler asked.
“What about Kaitlin Roe?”
Jeremy nodded sheepishly. “Jennifer wrote the name on her blotter and circled it several times.”
“You notice doodles and scribbles for all your employees?” Quinn asked.
“Jennifer had suddenly canceled a business meeting with me back in late February. It wasn’t like her, and it made me curious.”
“So you searched her office?” Quinn pressed.
“You’ve got it wrong. I looked around,” Jeremy said.
“You didn’t want her, but didn’t want anyone else to have her?” Quinn was deliberately provoking him to gauge his reaction.
He held up his hand. “You’re twisting my words.”
Adler dialed back the dialogue. “We’re trying to fit all the pieces together, Mr. Keller, so we can leave here and find her killer.”
“I feel like I should have an attorney.”
“Again, we’re simply gathering information. Can you tell me a little more about what you do here?”
“We’re civil engineers. Site work. Environmental assessments.”
“Environmental work,” Adler said. “What does that entail?”
Keller shook his head. “I’m not sure why it matters.”
“It may.”
“Gas and oil spills. Wetlands.”
“Sounds like messy work. Does it require a protective suit?” Quinn asked.
“Sometimes. Why?”
Quinn deflected the question. “Did Jennifer do any environmental work?”
“Sure. She was solid in the field.”
“So she’d have worn one of those suits?” Adler asked.
“Sure. Why do you care about the suits?” Jeremy asked.
“Sorry. It was a tangent.” Adler repeated several of Quinn’s questions, again to see if Jeremy’s responses remained consistent. Finally, after fifteen minutes of questions and answers, the detectives stood. Adler handed Jeremy his card.
Jeremy took the card but didn’t meet his gaze. He absently rubbed his forearm. “Thank you for telling me about Jennifer.”
“Your arm okay?” Adler asked. “I noticed earlier it seemed to bother you.”
“Racquetball injury.”
“Sucks getting older,” Adler said.
“Can we see your arm?” Quinn asked.
“Why?” Jeremy asked.
“I want to strike you off the list,” Adler said.
“What list?”
“Suspect,” Quinn said.
“I didn’t hurt Jennifer.”
“The sooner we can exclude you, the sooner we can find the person who killed your friend.”
Jeremy hesitated and then unfastened his cuff and rolled up his sleeve. A deep-red scratch snaked up over his forearm to his elbow.
Quinn pulled out her phone and snapped a picture.
When it came to questioning a suspect, the most critical hours were the earliest in an investigation. The longer people had to think, the more pat their answers became. Right now, Jeremy was a little off guard, and the detectives knew it.
Quinn snapped several more photos. “Thanks for your cooperation.”
“Sure, I guess,” Jeremy said.
As Jeremy rolled down his sleeve, he furrowed his brow. “I didn’t take her seriously. I thought Jennifer was jerking me around after we stopped seeing each other.”
“May I take a quick cheek swab?” Quinn asked as she pulled out a Q-tip encased in a vial.
Adler offered a warm grin. “DNA. I want to clear you of this investigation as soon as possible.”
Jeremy looked relieved. “Sure, I guess.”
Quinn quickly snapped open the seal on the vial and removed the Q-tip. “Open.” She swabbed the insides of his mouth before replacing the Q-tip in the vial without saying a word.
Jeremy rubbed his hands through his hair. “Jesus, I can’t believe this is happening.”
“Can you point to anything else that was bothering Jennifer?” Adler asked.