Free Falling(27) by Kirsty Moseley

When the police finally did arrive we all sat down in the lounge while I relayed my tale over and over again, everything that had happened recently, from the silent phone calls, right down to the sympathy card that I’d found on my bed.

“So the card was on your bed?” Detective Inspector Neeson, the kind faced police lady asked, scribbling on her notepad.

I nodded, clutching at the Kleenex I had in my hand. “Yeah.”

A frown lined her forehead as she pursed her lips. “When you came home from tutoring you say that the front door was locked, and that you had to unlock the backdoor to go into your yard?”

I thought back, just double checking in my own mind. I’d definitely unlocked both doors, I remembered it fairly clearly. “Yeah, both doors were locked,” I confirmed.

“And you didn’t go into your room at that time,” she clarified.

I shook my head in answer. “I went upstairs, but only into Alex’s room to see if Chester was in there.” From the corner of my eye I saw Alex’s jaw tighten when I mentioned Chester.

She made a few more notes then before speaking, “When you went to the back yard did you leave your front door unlocked?”

I frowned, thinking hard, unsure as why that would even matter. “I guess. But what does that have to do with anything?”

She smiled kindly, her eyes soft and sympathetic. “I’m just trying to ascertain when the card was placed on your bed. There was no forced entry to the house, so it’s possible that someone snuck into the house and placed the card while you to tending to your dog outside,” she suggested.

I swallowed my anger. Did that mean that Sandy had been waiting for me to arrive home so that she could sneak in behind me and put the card there?

Alex leant forward, cocking his head to the side. “But then how did Chester get outside if there was no forced entry? I didn’t open the cat door, and Maisie said that she didn’t either. My parents aren’t here so they couldn’t have unlocked it.”

DI Neeson nodded along, not seeming shocked so she’d obviously already thought along those lines too. “That’s another thing that I was about to ask,” she answered. “Does anyone have access to the house? A spare key with a neighbour or anything?”

I shook my head in answer, pressing myself into Luke’s side, enjoying the solid firmness of his body. Alex answered before I could. “We do leave a spare back door key in the yard for emergencies,” he muttered.

A disapproving look crossed the police lady’s face as she scribbled on her pad again. “Could you go with Officer Tatum and show him where it’s kept?” she asked Alex, before turning to the male cop who had been sitting there silently at her side the whole time. “Greg, bag it up and we can check it for prints,” she ordered, raising an eyebrow knowingly, as if everything now made perfect sense to her.

Suddenly her thinking became clear to me too. She thought someone used the spare key to let Chester out, fed him poisoned meat, left a card on my bed, and then relocked the door again after themselves so it wouldn’t be obvious. When you thought of it that way, it did make sense.

Alex stood up quickly and marched out of the room, followed by the silent cop.

Luke’s arm slipped around my shoulders as the lady turned back to me with inquiring eyes. “Who knows about the key in the back yard?”

I was a little taken aback by her question. I thought about it now and my mind flicked to Sandy. As far as I was aware she had never been to my house before, so how would she know where the key was? “Um, I don’t know. Just a few friends that have been with me or Alex when we’ve forgotten our keys. It’s not common knowledge,” I answered, still wondering how Sandy knew about it. Maybe she’d been watching me and saw me use it last week.

DI Neeson took a deep breath, seeming to be contemplating everything. “We’ll interview your neighbours and see if any of them saw anyone hanging around your house today,” she stated. “Can you think of anyone that may have a grudge against you? Anyone that would want to hurt you?”

Luke stiffened at my side, his arm tightening on me as he shook his head subtly, as if he was unconsciously dismissing my idea all over again.

“I know who it is,” I replied confidently. DI Neeson’s eyebrow rose in question, her pen hovered over her paper. “Sandy Watson.” Luke let his breath out in a slow sigh, his hand stroking the side of my hip.

DI Neeson scribbled down the name on the paper as she spoke, “And what makes you sure that it is Sandy Watson?” she questioned, studying me carefully. I sighed deeply and launched into telling her everything – Luke cheating, me calling Sandy a dirty tramp at the party, us arguing in the school hallway, her wanting Luke for herself and her admitting that us breaking up wasn’t nearly enough for her. Throughout the whole thing the inspector looked from me to Luke. She didn’t look overly convinced, and I grew more frustrated with every passing second. It seemed that no one was going to take my suspicions seriously.

“So you didn’t see her write on your locker or post the note through?” she asked. I shook my head in answer. “And when you confronted her about the note, she didn’t confirm that it was her that sent it?”

I frowned. “Well no, but she’s the only one that has an obvious problem with me. You asked if anyone has a grudge against me and she’s the only one,” I countered defensively. Somehow I felt now that she was thinking I had some sort of grudge against Sandy instead and was trying to get her into trouble. I hated that no one was taking it seriously just because she was a silly teenage girl. Yes, it did seem a little farfetched that the head cheerleader would be starting this hate campaign against me, but there was no one else, so it had to be her.

DI Neeson nodded thoughtfully, seeming to be choosing her words. “We’ll look into it. At this stage there is nothing but guessing involved so we have to tread carefully. I’ll look into everything, you can rest assured on that.” She motioned to the box and contents that sat at her side having already been placed in clear plastic bags when they arrived. “We’re going to take the notes, box, card and flowers in for evidence. I’d like you to have a think about who may have touched the items. We’ll have to take fingerprints from anyone that has come into contact with the items so we can rule them out of any evidence we collect from the box.” She stood up and ripped out a piece of paper from her notebook, holding it out to me with a pen. “I’m going to bag the rest up and also take prints from the front and back door handles, and also your bedroom. While I’m doing that I’d appreciate it if you could compile the list of names that have had contact with each item.”

“Okay.” I looked down at the paper, my mind a blank as to where to start.

Luke was obviously more on the ball than I was because he took the pen and paper off of me, immediately sectioning it off into columns and then looking up at me expectantly. “So, other than me and you, who touched the box? You said that Alex signed for it, so obviously he touched the outer wrapper. Did you show the box to anyone else?”

I smiled gratefully because, yet again, he was being my rock and making everything easier for me. I sat back against the soft cushions of the sofa, and together we drew up a list of anyone that had touched any of the offending items.

Alex came back with the male cop a few minutes later, announcing that the spare key was actually missing. The perpetrator had obviously used it and then kept it after. That knowledge made a little shiver tickle down my spine. Sandy was obviously unhinged at the moment to have taken it this far, who knows how far she would take this and what else she would do. Her having the key meant that she could come back at any time. Maybe this time she’d hurt my brother, parents, or me. I’d never felt so vulnerable and exposed as I did when that thought occurred to me.

When the police lady was told about the key being missing she immediately put in a call to have the locks in our house changed. After they finished dusting the doors for prints and bagging everything up in clear plastic bags, Alex, Luke and I had our fingerprints done to rule them out of whatever they found on the items.

Finally, after almost an hour of going over everything, I was physically and emotionally exhausted.

DI Neeson smiled softly, raising one eyebrow. “Is there somewhere else you two could stay tonight? The locksmith can’t come until morning. Maybe it’s best if you make alternative arrangements.” She finally clicked the lid of her pen so I knew that they had everything they needed. “Stay with relatives perhaps?” she continued.

Luke smiled at me sadly, squeezing my hand gently. “They can both stay at mine.”

Alex seemed to stiffen at Luke’s words, a frown covered his forehead as he grunted what I assumed was an agreement.

I let out a deep sigh as a wave of gratitude and love crashed over me for Luke. “Thanks,” I mumbled, stroking his knuckle with my thumb.

The police lady stood up and shoved her notebook into her pocket. “I’ll put in a call to the veterinary clinic and put a rush on the toxicology report for your dog.” She shifted on her feet as Alex stood up, holding out a hand for her to shake. “I’ll be in touch tomorrow. If you or your parents have any concerns then call me. You have my number. Call me any time if you think of anything else.”

I nodded in agreement and Alex showed them out, leaving me with Luke in the lounge. I sighed. My eyes were already getting heavy. The emotions of the day were weighing down on my and all I wanted to do was sleep.

“You want to pack a bag to bring to mine?” Luke asked softly.

I forced a smile and nodded, but in reality I didn’t want to. Packing a bag meant going into my room, and I didn’t really want to do that. Knowing that someone had been in there was a little unnerving and I didn’t really want to have to face that again. I knew I was just being silly, I knew that no one was in the house because Luke and the police had searched every nook and cranny of it, but just the knowledge that someone had been in my room kind of made the space seem a little sinister to me.

I gulped, hoping Luke wouldn’t think I was being stupid. “Will you come with me? I don’t really want to go in there on my own,” I mumbled, glancing towards the stairs as dread settled into the pit of my stomach.

Luke didn’t say anything, just stood up and took my hand, pulling me gently to my feet. Sighing deeply, I let him lead me out of the room. Alex was just closing the front door as we stepped into the hallway. “We’re gonna go pack an overnight bag of Maisie’s stuff; maybe you could do the same with your things?” Luke suggested.

Alex nodded, his shoulders stiff, obviously not liking the fact that he had to accept help from my cheating ex-boyfriend. I had a feeling that if there were any other choice that Alex would insist we take it so that he didn’t have to play nice with Luke.

As my weary legs carried me up the stairs, I purposefully kept my mind preoccupied with what I would need to pack so that I wouldn’t think about the sound that Chester’s dog tag had made when it slid out of the card and hit the floor, or the fact that the intruder had kept the key – possibly with the sole purpose of coming back at a later date.

When I stepped in my room my eyes darted to my bed as if I was expecting the card to still be there or something. My breathing faltered as my heart seemed to stutter in my chest. It was all a little overwhelming. The emotions and fear were all bubbling up to the point where I wasn’t sure if I wanted to smash my room into pieces out of anger, or curl into a ball and cry until I had no tears left.

I gulped, my eyes prickling again as my chin wobbled. Luke’s hand tightened on mine as his other hand slipped under my chin, pulling gently and forcing my face round to meet his. His soft brown eyes were kind and caring as he looked at me. “Everything will be fine, baby. Let’s just grab your things and leave. You’ll feel better once you’ve had some sleep, you’re exhausted,” he cooed, bending and planting a soft, tender kiss on my forehead.

I closed my eyes and nodded, knowing he was right. I was dead on my feet and just longed for this day to be over with. I forced myself into action, grabbing my pyjamas and a change of clothes for the following day, while Luke went into my bathroom and collected my wash things. We were done within a couple of minutes. Alex was done a little while after, and so we locked the house and headed to Luke’s house for the night with Alex following behind in his own car.

As the automatic wrought iron gates of Luke’s house rolled open, I hugged myself against the cold night. “Your parents home?” I asked, frowning up at the dark house, not seeing any signs of life there.

He shook his head. “Nope. They’re in Germany. They won’t be back for another two weeks.” He shrugged, not seeming bothered by the fact that he spent weeks and weeks alone with only his housekeeper to keep him company.

He pulled his car up in front of the expansive house and cut the engine. Alex’s car rolled up behind us and stopped too. My body was so tired that I didn’t really want to move, but I had to. I forced myself out of the car, smiling at Alex’s awed expression. He had never been to Luke’s house before and was clearly impressed at the sheer size of it.

“This is where you live?” Alex asked as we made our way up to the front door.

“Yeah. It’s a little small, huh?” Luke joked, pulling out his keys and letting us into his house.

Alex chuckled quietly. “Not small, more… poky,” Alex replied. His eyes went wide as we stepped into the house and he caught his first glimpse of the high ceilings, the expensive wood floors, and the original art on the walls. No doubt I’d had the same shocked and awed expression when I first stepped in here a couple of years ago too. At first this house impressed me, but the more I came here, seeing it empty and devoid of any life and loving memories, the more it felt like just bricks and mortar. I could easily understand why Luke preferred to spend time at my house that was always filled with people, chatter and laughter.