Home > Little Lies(7)

Little Lies(7)
Heather Gudenkauf

“Down on Laurel Street, last I knew.” Martha peeks in the window of the conference room. “Do you mind if I go and say goodbye to Mason? Sweet little guy.”

“Go right ahead,” I tell her. “Thanks again for helping out in a pinch. You’re the best.”

When Martha steps back into the conference room I turn on Joe. “What was that all about?”

Joe falters before speaking. “Jonah Sharpe lives right next door to Marissa Newkirk’s apartment and just three blocks from Singer Park.”

I am rattled by this news. Not that I believe that Jonah has anything to do with Marissa’s death, but that he would, under the circumstances, knowingly choose to live just a few blocks from where his mother’s body was discovered. “That doesn’t prove he was involved,” I sputter angrily. While I can’t say that I know Jonah well anymore, there was a time when we spoke a few times a week when I was his case manager. “He’s had some problems, but Jonah isn’t a bad kid. If your mother were murdered and you were left an orphan you’d probably have some anger issues, too.”

Joe holds up a placating hand. “I’m not saying that he killed anyone, Ellen. I’m just saying we have to be thorough.”

“Ahh, your hunch,” I say, remembering the favor he has reserved for me for giving me a ride to my van yesterday. “What do you want me to do?”

“What I don’t want is to scare Jonah off. All I want to do is talk to him.”

“And you want me to set that meeting up.” Joe looks at me expectantly. “No way.” I fold my arms across my chest defiantly. “Jonah has been dumped on his entire life. I’m not going to violate his trust by setting up a meeting with the cops under false pretenses.”

“Whoa,” Joe says indignantly, “I’m not asking you to mislead him or lie.”

“I won’t do it, Joe,” I say. “I won’t.”

“Okay, okay, I get it,” Joe says, throwing up his hands in defeat. “Will you still talk to Mason before his grandmother takes him back to Sioux City?”

“Of course,” I say in a low voice. I know Joe is just trying to do his job. Trying to find out who killed Mason’s mother.

When we enter the conference room, Martha is saying her final goodbyes and patting Mason on the head. “You take care, kiddo.”

After she leaves, I turn to Judith. “With your permission, I’d like to ask Mason a few questions about the other night.”

“Do you think that’s a good idea?” She glances down with concern at Mason, who is sitting on the floor sifting through a bin of toys we keep expressly for these purposes, Cujo close at his side.

“It could be very helpful in finding out who did this to Marissa,” Joe says.

“He’s just a little boy, I can’t imagine that he’d be able to tell you anything, but if you think it might help,” Judith says uncertainly, “I guess it’s okay.”

I lower myself to the floor next to Mason. “Hi,” I say. “Can I play with you?”

Immersed in his play, Mason continues to run the wheels of the bright red sports car he is holding across the carpet. I reach into the bin and pull out a small toy ambulance. “Mason, remember the other night when we rode in the ambulance together?” He pauses in his play for a second, then moves his car in the opposite direction, making soft engine noises, turning his back to me. I stay where I am, keeping my voice soothing and low. “Do you remember what you had for supper that night? Before you were at the park?”

Mason stops and turns to look at me. “Mac and cheese and Kool-Aid.”

Mrs. Newkirk makes a clucking noise. “I swear those two eat junk food every night.” I think back to the frozen fish sticks I threw into the oven last night for my family and inwardly cringe.

“So you had mac and cheese and Kool-Aid. Then what did you do?”

Mason stops and thinks. “Then it was time for bed.”

“Okay.” I gradually scoot a little closer to him. “You ate mac and cheese, then you got ready for bed. Then what happened?”

A shadow crosses Mason’s face. “I think that might be enough,” Mrs. Newkirk begins to interrupt, but then Mason speaks.

“I heard my mommy crying, so I got out of bed.” Mason’s lower lip quivers. “It was dark.”

“Was someone making your mommy cry?” I ask.

“I really think...” Mrs. Newkirk says, but Joe holds up a finger to silence her.

Mason nods. “Did you see who it was?” I ask breathlessly. Mason shakes his head no. “Did the person hurt your mommy?” Mason looks confused. “Did you see the person hurt your mommy?”

He shakes his head in the negative. “Medicine.”

“Medicine?” Now it’s my turn to be confounded. “Were you sick, Mason?”

“Gave me medicine and told me to go back to bed.”

“Who gave you the medicine, Mason?” I ask. “Did your mommy give you the medicine?”

He nods. “Then she left and I got sleepy.”

“Your mommy and the person who was making her cry left together?” Again, Mason shakes his head no.

I turn to Joe. “Maybe Marissa was talking on the phone to someone.” I return my attention to Mason and ask, “Do you remember who put your hat and coat on you? Do you remember who took you to the park?” No response. “Mason, at the park, do you remember someone hurting your mom? Do you remember seeing anything?” Mason squinches his face in concentration, trying to remember.

“Black boots,” he finally says. “Furry.”

“The person was wearing black boots with fur on them?” Mason nods.

“With a belt,” he adds.

“A belt?” I repeat. “Like the one I’m wearing?” I point to the belt wrapped around my waist. Mason shakes his head no. Understanding dawns on me. “Did the boots have a buckle on them? Can you show me where?” Mason points to his ankle. “Did you see anything else? Did you see their face?”

Mason shakes his head and begins to sift through the toy bin again, determined not to answer any more questions and make the interrogation end.

I shrug my shoulders in defeat. “I’m sorry, Joe. I don’t know how helpful I’ve been.”

“Every bit of information is helpful.” Joe pats me on the shoulder reassuringly.

“Are we free to leave? Are we finished here?” Mrs. Newkirk asks.

Joe looks to me and I nod. “As far as DHS is concerned, you’re Mason’s next of kin and have custody of him.”

“We may have some follow-up questions for you. I have your number—we’ll be sure to keep you up-to-date on the investigation.”

Mrs. Newkirk rubs at her eyes. “I still need to clean out Marissa’s apartment, pack up her things.”

“I’ll double-check with the crime scene techs,” Joe says kindly. “Since, as next of kin, you gave them permission to enter the apartment, they’ll be able to get in, gather what they need in a matter of a few hours and get out. As long as there is no evidence that the crime was committed in the apartment you should be able to get in as soon as tomorrow.”

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