Claire was making one last pass through the upstairs, double-checking the locks when she heard the phone. It broke her beloved silence with its shrill electronic ring.
She raced to the dining room and grabbed her cellphone, “Hello?” and checked the time. It was nearly eleven. Why would David be calling at this hour?
“Did I wake you?” Her ex-husband asked but didn’t sound concerned.
“I’m on my way to bed. What do you want?”
Their relationship was backward: chaotic and strained throughout their relatively short marriage, but since the divorce (that David swore he never wanted) they’d been getting along really well.
“Just… haven’t heard from you in a few weeks. Thought we should touch base.”
“Oh.” Claire shut the last light off and took the phone with her into the downstairs, a former basement turned mother-in-law quarters. It was half-subterranean and designed to be a second residence within the same house. “Is something wrong?” She wondered, he rarely called after the cubs were in bed.
David sighed, “Not really. Well, sort of.”
Claire peeked into the master bedroom. Edward and Jacob were sound asleep. She closed the door, then planted herself on a fluffy white loveseat in the small living room. “David, can you please get to the point. I’ve got a lot on my mind and I’m exhausted.”
“I’m taking a trip. Signing a new client.”
“He’s located in Bellvue.”
Claire’s heart picked up speed. “That’s 30 minutes from us.”
“Hence, the phone call.” He sounded so smug, Claire grinned. “It’s a last-minute deal. I just booked the flight, so I’ll be at Sea-Tac tomorrow morning and head straight to the meeting. But after, I’d like to visit the boys.”
“They will love that.” She could already feel their joy.
“Me, too. I knew it would be okay, but I didn’t want to surprise you.”
“I appreciate that.”
“Onto the second reason for this phone call,” David cleared his throat. “I want to know if it’s alright for me to spend the night?”
She half-giggled, “That’s a loaded question.”
“It always is, with you. You know that.” Now he sounded concerned. Vulnerable even.She smiled wide. “Of course you can.”
They talked for a few more minutes, covering minor details, like transportation (a rental car) and time-frame (around noon) before hanging up.Claire stared at the phone. Finally, something good is happening.
Her mind flashed to a wide-brimmed Sheriff’s hat still sitting in her dining room. Her smile faded because it reminded her of all the bad.Claire had always intended to tell David what happened. But the guilt … the wracking guilt. What kind of mother misses that threat? Doesn’t see that attack? She’d made the monster pay for it, but the damage had already been done. Mama Bear had failed her Cubs in the most basic sense.
Now, she had to tell their father. Claire wasn’t sure she could handle David’s judgment.***
Sheriff Chen was staring at a large computer screen.After talking to Morgan Greene a second time, he’d only had to wait an hour for the video footage from the doorbell camera. When he got back to the station the download link was waiting in his Inbox.
The video was for the entire day. Choppy footage because the HD camera only recorded movement. Lucky for Chen, it had rained pretty heavily that day. Most of the day was recorded because of the wind. Unlucky for Chen, the view of the victim’s property was minimal, located across the top of the screen, and cut-off half-way up the housefront.There was no footage of the murder itself or the killer’s face. Not that he needed that.
Chen was staring at an SUV on the driveway next door. Clarabel Enriquez was standing beside the vehicle. Her face was small and blurred by the rain, but not much. The SUV was registered to her, the mother of the two minors Chen had identified from the disgusting photos uncovered at the crime scene.Mr. Lester was no innocent victim, but the Sheriff was sworn to uphold and follow the letter of the law. Chen would have to meet with Clarabel Enriquez, again. Ask a few more questions before he made his move.
Claire made no mention of her movements on the day of the murder, except to say that she’d been at home. But the video was clear, even if the shot was wide. At the side of the vehicle, he could see her full body. She was holding the younger boy, letting the older one crawl into the backseat before setting the younger inside the SUV.Chen zoomed-in closer and followed her movements.
Claire didn’t get into the car right away. She walked back to the very top of the screen, becoming just a pair of legs. Chen hit pause, checked his notes about the color and type of shoes and pants, then clicked commands to roll frame-by-frame. He watched the legs disappear around the backside of the detached garage.She could have entered the garage. At first, that was what Chen assumed. But then, those same shoes appeared on Mr. Lester’s property. Chen watched the legs move onto the porch and stop in front of the victim’s door. Exactly thirty seconds pass, then the door opens. A little at first, then all the way. The feet walked inside. The front door closed.
He didn’t have the murder on video, but he had the killer.Sheriff Chen reached for the prescription bottle of antacid in his desk and marveled at the audacity of Clarabel Enriquez: unassuming mother of two small children. He knew her children had been violated by the murder victim. Did she know that, too?
Chen had stood in her house, listening as she confessed to hating the victim. To being wary of his intentions toward her children. Why would she be at his front door? If it was an innocent encounter, why not mention it?
Claire neglected to mention that she had walked into Mr. Lester’s house. Even if she walked out less than a minute later, it was worth mentioning.
Chen kept watching the video. Approximately two minutes later, the front door re-opened. The feet of Clarabel Enriquez walked out onto the porch, then turned back to the door. The door appeared to jerk, then closed. In those two seconds, the Sheriff knew Mr. Lester had been fatally stabbed.
The unassuming mother of two took the same path behind the garage, reappearing a second later on the other side. She got into the SUV and backed out of the driveway.
It was more than enough for the Warrant.