Read Book of Shadows Online

Authors: Alexandra Sokoloff

Tags: #Fiction, #General, #Mystery & Detective, #Suspense, #Mystery fiction, #Horror, #Murder, #Police Procedural, #Murder - Investigation, #Massachusetts, #Ghost, #Police, #Crime, #Investigation, #Boston, #Police - Massachusetts - Boston, #Occult crime

Book of Shadows (9 page)

BOOK: Book of Shadows
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The partners stopped briefly at the crime-scene lab to order a team with a van to meet them up at Amherst to process Jason’s and
Erin’s rooms. In the elevator going down, both detectives slumped against the wall; Landauer closed his eyes. Garrett spoke aloud. “It
the equinox. Friday night.”

Land didn’t open his eyes. “I know, G. It was in the paper on Friday, on the Calendar page. That New Age shit always is. She coulda gotten it from there. She coulda gotten the details about the head and carving from the news, already—fuck knows what’s been reported. We had three dozen dump workers tellin’ their wives all about it last night. Everyone’s out to make a buck.”

Garrett was silent and Landauer finally opened his eyes. “You really want to go back up there and tell Malloy we just got a hot tip from Stevie Nicks?” He didn’t have to describe the scenario. Garrett could picture it just fine on his own. “We got a live suspect in custody, bro, so let’s never mind the spooky shit. We work the case—we nail this fucker.”

The media was in full force outside the building: television vans with their microwave dishes and camera crews unloading equipment on the sidewalk while Armani-suited reporters and their scruffier print and radio colleagues hurried up the stairs, en route to the press conference. Garrett and Landauer took a quick left toward the back entrance of the building. At least they weren’t required at the briefing. The chief himself was sitting in on this one, with Malloy. Garrett wondered for a second if Malloy’s order to stay away from the press was partly to keep Garrett himself out of the limelight, and immediately thought, with some shame, that he himself would scathe any other detective unmercifully for that kind of self-serving arrogance. Land was right: work the case.

They swung the Cavalier by the courthouse to pick up the warrants at the lobby desk, and then got back on 90 West toward Amherst. Thankfully the wooded road was nearly deserted on Sunday morning. They’d agreed to split the drive in two in order to get a nap apiece; at this point even forty-five minutes would be saving. Garrett won the coin toss and fell into a black hole of unconsciousness within seconds; he’d always been able to sleep in a moving vehicle. The motion was lulling, and he thought he did not dream,
until he bolted out of sleep with the image of Jason’s stretched-taut face grinning at him from the dark.

Landauer glanced at him from the driver’s seat. “Yeah,” he said. The radio was on; he was listening to a local news station.
“Police spokesmen would not confirm the presence of satanic elements in the brutal slaying of Erin Carmody, daughter of the CEO of W. P. Carmody and Company. The headless body of the eighteen-year-old Amherst sophomore was found at a city landfill yesterday morning—”

Garrett rubbed his stubbled face, trying to wake up. Land turned down the radio. “So far looks like no one’s spilled about the carvings. But they are on this satanic shit like white on rice.”

Garrett licked his dry lips; his mouth and brain felt stuffed with cobwebs. “You want to pull over? I’ll drive.”

Landauer gestured toward a road sign with an unlit cigarette and Garrett saw the turnoff to Amherst was only a few miles away. “You should’ve stopped,” he said, guilty.

“Nah, you looked so pretty sleeping there, Rhett.” Landauer grinned at him. “Don’t sweat it, you won’t be thanking me on the drive home.”

They drove through the stone gates of campus and stopped at the unmanned information kiosk. Garrett jumped out to grab a campus map, which they studied on the dashboard, locating the campus police building. Malloy had made the calls to the chancellor’s office to ask for cooperation and assistance from the campus police force. Of course with Carmody being a celebrity alumnus and a major donor, the school could not have been more obliging.

The college was roughly divided into thirds: the academic and residential buildings, the athletic fields and facilities, and a plot of open land that housed a wildlife sanctuary and a forest. In the daytime the Victorian creepiness had retreated; the lush green knolls were dotted with large trees just starting to come into their autumn brilliance. The detectives motored the Cavalier past the Campus Center, a sprawling building with outdoor terraces, a campus store, and a coffeehouse. Farther on, original nineteenth-century red-brick
buildings were interspersed with everything from a pale yellow octagonal structure to the latest garishly modern dorm. There were few students out yet, on Sunday morning; it was still just past eleven.

The campus police building was a low brick structure across the lot from the back of the Campus Center.

Not the head of the campus cops, but clearly his man in charge, Sergeant Jeffs, was there to meet the detectives and had obviously been instructed to bend over backward to accommodate the investigation. Jeffs was young, fit, and alert, which Garrett immediately appreciated; they’d be able to trust him with the secondary interviewing of potential witnesses. He ushered them into a meeting room in the bright and orderly six-room campus security building.

Jeffs already had a file out on the table that turned out to be the answer to Garrett’s first question: “Did Jason Moncrief have any record of behavioral problems, any incidents?”

The young sergeant passed them the file. “We had an anonymous tip two weeks ago that he was dealing drugs. We entered and did a search of his room.”

Garrett quickly scanned the file. “No warrant?” he asked.

“Not required for dorm rooms. According to campus policy the students’ rooms are school property and we only need permission from the dean’s office to search, not from the individual students. It’s part of the student housing contract.”

“Sweet,” Landauer murmured.

“It’s common for university campuses,” Jeffs explained. “The school is in loco parentis. We didn’t find anything illegal, so no action taken . . .” A shadow passed over the sergeant’s face. “But this kid is no boy next door. He’s got a weird way about him.”

“Got that right,” Land said fervently. Garrett nodded without speaking, and there was an uneasy silence in the small room. Garrett finally broke it.

“You didn’t find any weapons in the search?” He was thinking of a dagger, the murder weapon.

Jeffs tensed. “No. That would be automatic grounds for expulsion.”

Garrett closed the file and sat back. “He’s a sophomore—no problems last year?”

“Nothing that ever got reported. He was totally off our radar. And I checked the hospital, too, to see if there was anything medical or psychiatric we should know about.” Jeffs shrugged briefly, and there was frustration in the gesture. “Nothing. But after we talked to him we flagged his file. I have to say I’ve just been waiting for something ever since. You know, after Virginia Tech . . .” The sergeant’s face was troubled. “But I never in a million years thought it would be something like this.”

Garrett met the young sergeant’s eyes with what he hoped was reassurance. “How could you?”

Responding to Malloy’s request, Jeffs and the campus cops had sealed Erin’s room for processing as a crime scene, and Jason’s as well. Garrett asked Jeffs to take whatever men he had on duty and clear all students from the floors of the dorm where Erin’s and Jason’s rooms were located so the CSU could start on the rooms as soon as they arrived. The students would be held in the lounge and questioned individually.

“And try not to let them bring any laptops or cell phones with them,” Garrett instructed as they got back in their car to follow Jeffs over to Morris Pratt Hall.

In the car, Landauer glanced at the list on his legal pad and turned to Garrett. “Who’s it gonna be, Kemosabe?”

They had a choice now: question Erin’s boyfriend, who lived in campus-owned housing a few blocks from the school; question Erin’s roommate, Shelley Forbes; or search Jason’s and Erin’s rooms. Garrett was itching to get into Jason’s room, but it wasn’t going anywhere and their witnesses might, and the crime-scene van was still en route.

“The roommate,” he decided. “I want to see if she has anything to say about Erin and Moncrief before we talk to the boyfriend.”

While Jeffs and his officers rousted students out of their rooms and secured them in the downstairs lounge of the dorm, Garrett and Landauer met Erin’s roommate, Shelley, in a downstairs suite of Morris Pratt, where she’d been moved when the campus police sealed off the girls’ room. The wide window had a view of the oddly
churchless steeple. Shelley Forbes was preppily pretty, but nowhere near Erin’s league, despite some obvious surgical enhancements: a nose job and breast job, at least, Garrett thought, on top of expensive corrective orthodontia. That kind of early plastic surgery was always unnerving to him.
Braces, sure, but what kind of parent buys their teenage kid a boob job?

Shelley was presently red-eyed, shaken, and crying copiously in the way that only teenage girls seem to be able to cry. Garrett’s micro-recorder was rolling on the coffee table in front of her. They were going to have to do a lot of fast-forwarding later.

“It’s s-so h-horrible,” she sobbed. It was, in fact, horrible, but Garrett could see Landauer straining to keep a semi-compassionate look on his face.

“Shelley, when Detective Landauer talked to you on the phone, you told him Erin had gone to the Cauldron club on Friday night. How did you know that? Did she tell you specifically?”

“She had a flyer for some party she left on her desk,” she sniffled.

An equinox party,
Garrett thought.
And Samhain is next,
his mind continued, unbidden.

Shelley’s face crumpled. “It was him, wasn’t it? He killed her. That freak Jason.”

Garrett kept his voice neutral. “Why would you say that?”

“They said on TV it was satanic. He’s into all that.”

The damn media. It’s going to be hard to get any kind of uncorrupted version of the story.

Now that Shelley was wound up, she kept going. “And he was always hanging around. Following her. Texting her.”

The partners exchanged a glance.
Nothing about that in the campus security file.

“Did she report this to the hall coordinator, or school officials?”

Shelley shook her head, sniffling. “I told her to. Erin never wanted to make waves, you know? That’s just not how she w-was . . .”

“Can you tell us what any of those messages said?”

She shook her head again. Garrett made a mental note to comb through Erin’s and Jason’s e-mail, not that he wouldn’t have.

“Shelley, did Erin say she was going with Jason on Friday, or did you see them leave together?”

“No, but why else would she go to a Goth club like that?” The partners looked at each other, not following. Garrett raised an eyebrow, and waited. Shelley’s voice rose, defensive. “That’s where his freak band plays.”

Garrett was trying to reconcile a massive logical contradiction. “But—if he was stalking her, why would she go at all?”

Shelley’s voice rose. “It was like—a spell. She was upset after she broke up with Kevin, and he just moved in on her, that’s all.”

Now Garrett was completely confused. He latched on to the most obvious point. “Erin broke up with Kevin?” Kevin Teague was the boyfriend.

“It was crazy. She wasn’t acting like herself at all.” Shelley un-crumpled an already soggy Kleenex, blew her nose.

“When was this?”

Shelley shrugged listlessly. “A couple weeks ago, I guess.”

“And did Erin start seeing Jason before or after the breakup?”

Now the girl flared up. “She wasn’t
him. He was hanging around, okay?”

Garrett increasingly felt lost in a miasma. “Did she tell you she felt threatened? Did she seem afraid?”

“Well, of course she was afraid. He’s a
” She dissolved into sobs. “ I told her he was bad news . . .”

“I understand, Shelley,” Garrett said soothingly, tamping down his impatience. “We just need to know what actually happened. Did Erin go to Cauldron often?”

Never.” She folded her arms on her chest for emphasis.

“But you think she went with Jason on Friday night.”

“I could tell she was because she wouldn’t talk about it. She knows I can’t stand him.”

Garrett’s strong sense was that there was something more voluntary going on between Jason and Erin than Shelley wanted to admit. He sat back, trying to process, and looked at Landauer, who raised his hands and shot him back a look that clearly said,
This one’s yours.

Garrett remembered his passing thought about fetish wear. “Was
Erin dressed up when she went out to the club? Anything unusual?” He could see Landauer frowning his puzzlement on this one.

Shelley frowned, too. “Unusual?” Her voice registered disdain. “You mean Goth? That wasn’t Erin.”

Garrett wasn’t thinking Goth so much as leathers, fishnets, corsets. Despite what they already had on Jason Moncrief, he was fighting to keep his mind open to all possibilities. If Erin had been dressed like other patrons of the Cauldron club, it would have been easy to mistake her for a prostitute, and that could have made her a prime target for a trolling sex killer.

“How was she dressed, then?” he tried.

“I didn’t see her before she went out.”

Garrett thought for a moment, and suddenly threw a curve ball. “Did you know she was doing drugs?”

BOOK: Book of Shadows
11.45Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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