Southern Suspects – Chapter Three
I knew I had to take the coroner’s word for the cause of death- at least for now. Though it didn’t make total sense to me, you don’t just doubt the coroner. Why would you stab someone if they were already dead from asphyxiation? Or why would you strangle someone after stabbing them?
By the end of his conclusion, several other officers had shown up to escort the Warsaws back to the station. I finally reached silence in the car- that was until Chief Barnstable turned up the radio. He was trying to get me excited and not so gloomy, but I wouldn’t budge.
“C’mon, you can get hyped- this is your first big case!”
“It’s a murder, Ron. Murder doesn’t call for excitement.”
“So? Yeah it’s sad, but it ain’t gonna be hard to crack- it’s a small island. We only get a case like this once a century.”
“You think a murderer is gonna make this easy for us?”
“We’re opening a tip line tonight- we’ll have a few leads by the morning.”
“By morning? We need to get going now!”
“You’ve got a lot to learn, Sam. You need to take your time with this.”
“We don’t have time.”
“If you rush to conclusions, you can settle for the wrong one.”
I needed to get a grip- I leaned in the stream of the air conditioning, trying to wake myself up. In my eyes, we didn’t have time. This murderer could be halfway to Texas by now, or he could be right in our backyard. Having no leads at this stage in the case is dangerous.
When we returned to the station, the press was swarming the front of the building- I had never seen that before. Officer Stevens was at the door to escort the Warsaws, and eventually, he had to come back around to escort me.
I knew the press would be all up in my face, but I never knew how aggressive they could be- especially in such a small area as ours. Chief Barnstable knew how to walk right by them, but I was struggling to make it.
“Do you know the killer, Detective Davies?” and “is the killer still on our island, Ms. Davies?” whirled in my head. I didn’t really “wake up” until Officer Stevens pulled at my arm.
“You all right, Sam?” He linked his arm around mine and kept me walking. I nodded that I was okay and he signaled I should take a deep breath.
We had about 20 minutes to make our plan for the interview. Scatterbrained, I scrawled down a list of all the questions I wanted answers for. I needed leads on his friends, teammates, mentors, and his life- I only hoped they could answer those for me. As I was about to enter the room to meet the Warsaws, Blake and Sanderson blocked me from the door.
“So, who’s asking the questions?” Blake asked in a sneering tone.
“What about us? What are we going to do?” Sanderson started walking toward me, pushing me to the back wall.
“Watch. Listen. Y’know, that’s all I can trust you with.”
“Don’t start a fight, Davies. You can’t take us.”
“I’m your boss- listen to me, will you?”
I tried to walk ahead of them, but they wouldn’t let me.
“What about Bradley? Bet you’d let him in there.”
“Yeah, because he’s not as invested as you two might be.”
“How do you know?” Blake added.
“You have teenage kids, Blake. And Sanderson… well, you hang around middle-aged moms a bit too close for comfort.”
“Are you alleging that I cheat on my wife?”
I kept walking to the room, not daring to look behind me since I knew I would crack under their stare. They didn’t block me from entry any longer- they just left our conversation on “you better watch your back, Davies.”
Bradley was in the room, priming the family for our discussion. I allowed him to stay in the corner and help if he wanted. He set up the camera for our interview.
“Mr. and Mrs. Warsaw, thank you for coming to meet with us today. I express my deepest condolences for you and your family at this time, and I know this discussion will highly aid the investigation.”
“Thanks for taking this so seriously.” Harry started. “There’s really nothing scarier than losing a child like this, you know?
“I know. Now to get into our questions. First- what was your son like at home? Can you describe his personality to me?”
Jane twiddled her thumbs. “He was nice, sweet, and could make you laugh if he wanted. Never seemed quite satisfied with his life, though- don’t know why. He was popular, smart… “
“How do you know he wasn’t quite satisfied?”
“He always wanted more. It sounds worse than it is, though… he just was always into something new, wanted new opportunities.”
“I see…” I paused, writing down the important points of what she said. I wanted to hear from both parents. “Anything to add, Harry?”
“I… what she said.” He kind of shook in his seat, like he was afraid a cover would be blown. In my eyes, it was- Harry had no idea what was going on with his son in the time up to his death, and Jane only saw what she wanted to see. The way Jane described Daniel was how most people would describe him- I thought she would know better. Maybe Daniel was all of those things, but that must have been only scratching the surface.
“Who was your son closest to? Who were his friends and peers?”
Harry looked to Jane even more nervously, forcing her to answer the question.
“Well, he has his two good friends- Nick and Thomas Rosario. They’ve been friends since they were little, and they played football together. I know their parents- they’re good kids.”
Harry actually spoke up. “Had a girlfriend, too, right honey?”
“Y-yeah, we had only met her once- Ally… Ally Whitehouse, I believe. Very nice girl. She came to the last football game and he introduced us.”
“So, do you know her well?”
“We don’t know much at all, sadly. Daniel was always very private about his relationships. She moved to Jezebel like a year ago, I think he said.”
“How long were they together?”
“Five months. For four of them, he didn’t say a word about it.”
That was a red flag right there. Why would someone hide a serious relationship from their parents for so long? It seemed like they were relatively relaxed parents, and they were okay with them being together- maybe I would figure it out by talking to the girl.
“Interesting… Do you think she would speak to us?”
“Of course, she should know this is important.”
“Okay. Do you feel like anyone would have been “out to get” your son?”
Jane shook her head. “Not in this way. I think some of his football teammates were unhappy that he got all the attention, but they wouldn’t do that- they’re kids. They couldn’t, right?”
“Not to scare you, Mrs. Warsaw,” Bradley interrupted. “But kids are capable of a lot more than we know. It is completely possible that your son was murdered by someone in his own circle.”
Harry finally looked up from his lap. “It could have been Ripley.”
“Honey, that’s ridiculous…” Jane trailed.
“Ripley?” I asked.
“Ripley is my opponent in the mayoral race.”
“Ripley wouldn’t go that far… this town isn’t worth that much, honey.”
“He’s out to get me, to get us. He’s gonna pay for this-” Harry stood but Bradley stood in response and he was intimidated, so he sat once again.
“We can fully investigate that claim, but, as your wife has stated, I agree with the sentiment that he would not go so far as to assassinate your son in the name of a race for local government.”
Harry seemed pissed off at my reply, but it was true- Jezebel Island was really small and not too competitive. The polls have shown Ripley is leading by a dozen points- it would be a waste of his time to focus on the competition. I cleared my throat, trying to break the awkward silence that had formed.
“Did Daniel have any friends that you didn’t approve of?”
Jane furrowed her brow in thought. “I don’t think so… he really didn’t have many friends, Ms. Davies.”
“It could have been that football bastard… What was his name? Chris?”
“Maybe… they weren’t really good friends, but sometimes he’d give him a ride home. He lives on the west side in one of those crummy apartments.”
“Did they get along well?”
“Mostly. Chris could be a bit competitive- he was the linebacker, always kind of second place to Daniel. I could see the motive there…” Harry started.
“He was a gentle giant kind of guy though- couldn’t hurt a fly.” Jane continued. Interesting… I could see their bias coming through.
“This is my last question for the moment- Was Daniel the kind to start a fight? Could this all have stemmed from a conflict?”
“He wasn’t into fighting. It could have been because of a conflict, but he never gave us any trouble. He just went to school, to practice, then home to bed”
After a few moments, they departed the room and one of the officers escorted them home. I walked out into the hallway, where Sanderson and Blake were waiting. I really didn’t need their ridicule at that moment, but I knew it was unavoidable.
“Good job, Davies, an hour and you got precisely… nothing!”