Home > Little Lies(11)

Little Lies(11)
Heather Gudenkauf

I open my Facebook account and search for Jonah’s profile. Unsurprisingly, like so many young people, Jonah has no protections on his account. With just a few clicks I’m able to search through his friends list. All nine hundred and four. I decide to check to see if Marissa has a Facebook page and am relieved to see that she only has two hundred and seventy-nine friends. Most of her contacts are other young adults around her age. There is a Nicholas, a Nick and a Ryan Nichols. I jot down each name on a piece of scratch paper. I also notice the photos of three older men. What had Joe said? Maybe it was someone who had something against bad mothers? The murderer, if he had killed Nell, Marissa and perhaps even Devin, would have to be at least in his thirties. I write the names of the three men and try to click into their profiles. Two are locked, but I’m able to open the third. Robert Camire, forty-one years old, who lists his profession as a drug and alcohol counselor. I put a star next to his name.

My phone buzzes and I snatch it from the tabletop, hoping that it might be Joe with news about Jonah or, at the very least, Christina from Sioux City. I check the caller ID. It’s Joe. “Hello,” I say anxiously.

“Ellen.” Joe’s voice is terse.

“You found him?” Surprisingly, I feel relief. I know that at least Jonah is safe in custody of the police.

“No, there’s no sign of Jonah. It’s about Marissa. We found her coat and winter boots.”

“What do you mean?” I ask. “I thought she wasn’t wearing them.”

“She was definitely wearing them. They were found in a Dumpster behind the Kmart just a few blocks from the park.”

“How do you know they belonged to Marissa? Are they the black boots that Mason mentioned?”

“No, these were gray with a herringbone pattern. From C.C. Watson, that expensive outdoor gear store. The boots were wrapped up in the coat and the hood of the coat was filled with dried blood. The DNA will be tested, but we’re pretty certain they belong to her. We found some photos in her apartment where she was wearing the same type of boots and coat, but we’ll have her mother take a look at them and see if she can tell us they belonged to Marissa.”

“What does that mean? What do you think happened?”

“Initially we thought she was killed indoors and transported to the park and carried to the spot in front of the statue, but now it looks more and more like she was killed outside. Maybe even in the park.”

“That makes sense with what Mason said about his mom leaving the apartment the night she died and with what Jonah said about seeing her in the park,” I add.

“The autopsy didn’t say anything about a sexual assault?” I scan my memory trying to recall the details of the medical examiner’s report.

“No, just the blow to the back of the head. I’m thinking that whoever did this wanted us to think that Marissa was killed somewhere else and dumped in the park.”

“It just keeps getting stranger and stranger,” I murmur. “Thanks for calling. You’ll still let me know when you find Jonah, right?”

“Of course,” Joe assures me. “I’ll touch base with you in the morning.”

We say our goodbyes and, try as I might to stay awake until Adam returns home, I fall asleep on the couch, my cell phone clutched in my hand.

* * *

When I wake in the morning I’m covered with a down blanket and the smell of coffee fills the air. I sit up with a start, realizing that I hadn’t heard Avery cry once during the night. “It’s okay, she’s sleeping,” Adam says, handing me a cup of coffee. “I fed her a bottle when I got home last night. You were completely zonked out and I didn’t have the heart to wake you up.”

“Thanks, you’re the best,” I say, taking a sip from the mug. “You must be about ready to drop, too. Did we win? What time did you get home?”

“We lost by five and got home around midnight. I’m okay. It’s basketball season—I’m used to exhaustion.” Adam helps me rouse the kids and get them ready for the day.

Adam leaves to drop Leah and Lucas off at school and Avery at the babysitter’s house and I head to work. It’s blissfully quiet at the office. I spend the morning working on paperwork and waiting for Joe to call me with word about Jonah. He doesn’t. Finally, around noon I decide I can’t sit around anymore. I pull on my coat and gloves and step outside. Large flakes are softly falling, covering the dirty old snow with a soft new layer, giving the city streets a clean, hopeful countenance. I brush the snow from my van windows and drive the five short blocks to Singer Park. Stepping carefully from the van, I shuffle over the icy path to the statue of Leto. A thin veil of snow covers her solemn face and inexplicably, I want to brush the flakes from her eyes. What did she see that night? If her children at her feet, carved from stone, could speak, what would they say? What could they tell me? It seems so clear to me now: the answer lies with children and what they saw. Not Artemis and Apollo, Leto’s children, but Jonah and Mason.

I need to talk to both Jonah and Mason again. It isn’t that Mason doesn’t know what happened to his mother. I just don’t think I asked him the right questions. The night his mother died, he saw more than he probably even realizes he did. Marissa’s apartment is only a few blocks from the park and I decide to take the chance that Judith and Mason are there packing away Marissa’s things. Despite the snow, it’s a relatively mild day for January, so I decide to walk to her apartment, an old row house that has been refurbished into two apartments, each with a separate entrance.

As I walk, my cell phone vibrates and I’m glad to see it’s Christina from the Department of Human Services in Sioux City. After exchanging pleasantries and inquiries about children, husbands and work, I get down to business.

“You heard about the murder?” I ask.

“Yeah, it’s been in the papers here. We all feel terrible about it. We knew the Newkirk family very well a few years ago. Marissa was hell on wheels when she was in high school. She became part of our caseload after she had Mason.”

“Do you remember anyone from back then who might have had a grudge against Marissa? An old boyfriend, maybe?”

“I don’t recall anyone specific, but I think there were probably a lot of old boyfriends. She very nearly lost that little boy forever, but she got her act together and by all accounts was doing a great job. Last I’d heard, Marissa was going to school to become a respiratory therapist.”

“What was the turning point? What made her finally turn it around?” I ask.

“Her mother made her turn it around. Threatened to take Mason away from her if she didn’t stop the partying, the drinking, the drugs. There was even a custody hearing set up. During the hearing the two sides came to an agreement and Marissa promised to get help for substance abuse and go back to school. That’s all her mother ever wanted, for Marissa to pull her life together, make a future for herself and Mason. I really thought this was going to be a case that actually had a happy ending.”

“Thanks for the info—I really appreciate it,” I tell her and prepare to hang up when Christina stops me.

“You know, now that I think about it, I do remember a boyfriend, if you could call him that. Marissa had some real trouble with him. Police reports and restraining orders.”

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