Katie walked up to the restaurant thirty minutes after the call, just as she had promised. Brandon was waiting outside for her. “You got here early,” she said as she walked up to him.
“Well, you know how I am when I’m hungry.” He smiled. “Yeah, I know,” she replied then opened the door.
Katie inhaled the enticing aroma of fresh brick oven baked pizza. Shakespeare’s Pizza had been a local favorite among the college crowd for decades. There was many a night when Katie could be found here with her friends, newspaper crew, or both.
Even after graduation she had eaten here at least once a week. “Thanks for meeting me here. I’ve been looking forward to coming since I got on the plane yesterday.”
“Hey, any time. You know I love Shakespeare’s.”
Katie nodded then they made their way to the ordering station. The restaurant was packed as usual. They had to wait in line for several minutes before their order was taken. After that they grabbed their drinks and went in search of a table. There had been a few times where there were no tables empty and they were forced to eat leaning on a ledge somewhere. Most people would consider that a negative, but Katie found that it added to the laid- back atmosphere of the place.
This time, however, they were fortunate to find a small table in the back corner of the restaurant. A couple of minutes after they sat down, their pizza was delivered.
“I know they say that New York Pizza is the best. While it is good, it’s nothing compared to Shakespeare’s. I’ve missed this place so much,” Katie said then took a giant bite out of the pepperoni, onion, and sausage slice.
“Well, I promise we’ll come here several times before you leave.” Brandon smiled.
“Thanks.” But I don’t want to leave, she continued silently.
The thought caught her off guard. She’d been away from New York for less than a day and already she was dreading going back. Something was wrong with her.
“I hope you don’t mind, but my boss wants to ask you some questions after lunch.”
“No, I don’t mind. I figured you’d need to ask me something eventually. For the record though, I have no idea what the notes mean. I have nothing to confess.” Katie had wracked her brain ever since she had received that photo, wondering exactly what the note was referring to. She was an honest person. She had never cheated on a test or paper. She told the truth when it came to work. Truthfully, she had no idea what she had done to inspire such violence and hate in a total stranger.
“I figured you didn’t. But the Chief still wants to talk to you all the same.”
“So, have you found out anything new today?”
Brandon did not answer. Instead he changed the subject. “So, what did you do this morning?”
She was silent. She considered telling him about her visit to the J-School and picking up the application. In the end she decided against it. It was a major decision that she knew she needed to make on her own, without any form of influence, either positive or negative, from him. Still, she didn’t completely need to lie. “I visited the J-School for a bit then went to Memorial Union to get some coffee.”
“Why did you go to the J-School?”
“I thought it would be nice to catch up with a few of my old professors.” She was surprised at how easily the lie came out.
“And how many of them tried to convince you to come back and get your PhD? No doubt at least half of them.” He laughed.
She looked down at her pizza. “Actually, all of them begged me to stay.”
Brandon was silent for a moment. “Would you consider coming back here?”
Do you want me to she wanted to ask, but changed her mind. She was staying with him and she didn’t want things to be more awkward then they already are.
She shrugged then changed the subject. “I also spoke to a reporter from The Denver Post,” she replied.
Brandon looked up from his pizza. “You didn’t tell him anything specific, did you?”
Katie rolled her eyes. “Of course not. I was prodding him for information. You remember that one of the murders took place in Vail, right?”
“Do you know where that is?”
Brandon frowned. “Yes. I’ve skied there before.”
“Okay. Well, anyways, back to the call. So I read his article.
It was pretty straight forward. It reported that a woman had been found at the base of the slopes in Vail. Police suspected it was homicide. The article didn’t give much more information.”
“Katie, I know all this. Can you get to the point?”
“Yeah, sorry. So I asked him if he knew anything else about the case—anything that he hadn’t put in the paper. Well, apparently…” Katie leaned in closer and whispered, “apparently they found a small metal capsule lodged in the girl’s throat. The capsule had a message on it. Danny said the message said had only one word ‘confess.’ It might be a good clue.”
Brandon looked away from her. “I see.”
Katie’s eyes glowed. “You’ve found it, haven’t you?”
“Sorry Katie, but I can’t comment on an ongoing investigation,” he said stoically.
“Please let me help you. I promise to keep anything you tell me confidential.”
“Katie,” he sighed. “I don’t want you involved.” “Brandon, this is my life we’re talking about. I’m involved whether you like it or not. The sooner we get this solved the safer I’ll be. Now tell me, did you find the capsule?”
“Katie, please don’t ask questions you know I can’t answer,” he pleaded.
“Okay,” she whispered then continued to eat her pizza.
Whether he knew it or not, Brandon had given her the answer she sought. Katie took a gulp of her soda then continued to eat.
Katie was seated in the conference room with Brandon and his boss, a woman named Shirley Holmes. When they first arrived she had smiled at the play on words and found herself wondering if her brain matched her namesake. Now, thirty minutes later, Katie was positive that she was an honor to the great Sherlock Holmes.
The questioning had begun very routine. Did she know anyone that had a grudge against her? Any past criminal behavior? Had she noticed anyone following her and so on and so forth.
Katie gave the same answer to all the questions: no. In all honesty, she was beginning to feel utterly useless. She wondered if her showing up was more of a hindrance than a help. Throughout the questioning, Chief Holmes had been taking meticulous notes. Katie didn’t understand why, she hadn’t said anything of substance.
“I’m truly sorry I can’t be of more help, Chief Holmes, but as I told Brandon earlier, I have no idea why someone would hold a grudge against me. I’ve never committed a crime. Hell, I’ve never cheated on a paper or test.”
“Well, we’ve established that, at least in your public life, there is no motive for this hatred. Now, let’s talk about your private life,” the woman stated.
Katie got nervous. She rarely discussed her private life with strangers. Of course she and Brandon had talked about their families and even past relationships. They had only skimmed over their past sex lives once. Honestly, past partners was something neither one of them wanted to know about. Just the thought of
Brandon with another woman made her uncomfortable. She imagined he felt the same way. “Okay,” Katie agreed reluctantly.
“Thank you, Katie.” Shirley smiled then turned to Brandon. “You don’t have to stay for this if it makes you uncomfortable.”
“Don’t worry Brandon, we’ll be fine. You can go.” She smiled. In all honesty, she wasn’t ready for him to hear the personal details she was about to tell. She knew she’d have to tell him eventually, but she wanted that conversation to be private.
“Are you sure?”
“Yes. I’m sure this won’t take long.”
“Okay. Well, I’ll be at my desk if you need me.”
Shirley watched as the door shut. Frankly she was glad Brandon wouldn’t be here for this part of the interview. Brandon was one of the best and most objective detectives she had. But this case was personal for him. She knew how much he cared for Katie. She knew he’d try to be objective with Katie’s case, but he was only human. She’d considered taking him off the case, but dismissed the idea. Even if she officially removed him from the investigation he would still poke around on his own and that could cause even more trouble.
“Thank you for excusing him,” Katie said. “I’m sure you’re going to want details that I haven’t shared with him.”
“You’re welcome. And yes, this will be a pretty in depth discussion, but we can take as many breaks as you need,” Shirley assured her.
“Thanks, but I’d like to just get it done with, if you don’t mind.”
“Of course. Let’s begin.” Shirley shifted her weight in her seat and prepared for a long conversation.
“Okay,” Katie sighed and waited for the first question. “So, Katie, could you tell me about any intimate relationships you’ve had?”
“All of them? Even Brandon?”
“Yes, all of them.” She answered, looking Katie straight in the eye.
“Well…” Katie gulped “Will this stay between us?” “Anything that is not relevant to the investigation will stay private. You have my word.” Shirley could understand her anxiety.
She would be nervous too if she were about to share details about her entire emotional and sexual life.
“Thank you,” Katie said then began. “Well, high school is pretty much a wash out. I didn’t date much because I was focusing on school. I went to prom with a friend that I occasionally talk to on Facebook. It’s safe to say that he’s not a suspect. He lives in London now.”
“Okay. I’ll still need his name, if you don’t mind.” “Of course. It’s Matthew Anderson.”
“Okay, thank you,” she said as she jotted some notes on her pad. “Now, what about college?”
Katie took a deep breath. Shirley could sense something beyond discomfort. In fact, Katie looked downright scared. She knew, whatever Katie said, it was going to be big. “Katie,” Shirley urged.
“Yes. Sorry. My freshman year here I started dating a guy named Hunter Green. We went out for about six months then broke up.”
“Okay,” Shirley said. She felt there was more to this relationship than Katie was letting on. “What kind of relationship was it? Were you ever intimate? Who ended the relationship?”
Katie sucked in a breath. “It was a rocky relationship. Hunter officially ended it, but in all honesty, the breakup was mutual. He just said the words first.”
Shirley nodded. “So in that sense there were no hard feelings between the two of you?”
“When it came to the breakup, there were no hard feelings.”
“What about intimacy? Did you have sex with him?”
Katie nodded. “Yes, we were intimate a few times. He was my first.”
“Oh, I see.” Shirley still felt like Katie was leaving something out. As confirmation of her suspicions, she watched as a single tear fell down Katie’s face. Katie appeared not to notice. “Katie, was there anything wrong or uncomfortable about your relationship?”
Once again, Katie nodded. “Yes,” she whispered. “Can you tell me about it?”
Katie shook her head. “You’ll judge me. I can’t handle that.” “Katie, I promise I will not judge you. You have nothing to fear in here.”
Once again, Katie sucked in a breath. “I know you mean that when you say it, but judging others is a part of human nature,” she muttered.
Shirley sighed. She had a good guess as to what Katie was going to say. She had heard it plenty of times in her career as a police officer. She certainly could understand her fear. “Katie, I understand your fear, but I promise you, I will not view you any differently than I do now.”
Katie nodded then gathered her courage. “Please don’t tell Brandon before I do.”
“Okay. Thank you,” Katie whispered. “Yes, there was something wrong with our intimate relationship. Hunter raped me,” she blurted. “I never told anyone. I was afraid they wouldn’t believe me. I mean, it wasn’t the first time we had sex. And I let him come over that night. I was wearing a pair of short boxers and t-shirt. I know how things work with rape. The questions that are asked, the blame placed on the victim. So, instead of reporting it, I decided to just try and convince myself to forget it ever happened.”
Shirley sighed. Unfortunately, Katie was right when it came to rape investigations. The victim’s personal life was analyzed and invaded from every angle the moment the crime was reported. This took place on both sides of the aisle. The defense were not the only people that questioned the victim’s reputation. She had heard plenty of police officers make cruel remarks about rape victims.
Truthfully the whole thing made her sick.
“You have to understand, I was not the same person then that I am today,” Katie explained, interrupting Shirley’s thoughts. “I was so insecure back then. I had never dated anyone before. As far as physical acts, the most I had ever done was kiss my prom date the year before. I was also picked on a lot in high school. I was kind of a late bloomer when it came to social skills.”
“Katie, you don’t have to defend yourself. I’m sorry for what happened to you,” Shirley said then slid a box of tissues towards her. “You have nothing to apologize for.”
“But I failed to report a crime,” Katie sobbed. Up until that moment she had not realized she was crying.
“Katie, you did nothing wrong. The wrong was done to you.”
Katie nodded. “I should probably tell you what happened afterwards.”
“We can take a break if you need to.”
“No, let’s just get this done with. I really want to go home and drink a glass of wine.”
“Okay, I understand. Please proceed.”
Katie nodded then began telling her dark tale, beginning with what she did immediately after the rape up until the moment she met Brandon. She told her about the shame and defeat she felt when she crawled into bed with her sleeping rapist and how she cried herself to sleep. She told her about her initial reticence with intimacy afterwards. She told her about her friend’s reaction to her change in behavior. She told her about the double life she lived: the academic overachiever by day and the insecure ‘slut,’ as she called herself, that she became on the weekends. Personally, Shirley did not agree with that assessment, but she remained quiet while Katie continued speaking. She told her about the string of men that came later; most of whom she could not remember their names or faces.
They were just ships passing in the wind, only there to build her self-esteem—at least that was what she had told herself. She realized now that was not at all true. By the time Katie was done, the tissue box was nearly empty and her face was streaked red.
“Brandon doesn’t know this, but he saved me. He was the first person to see me for me, not as someone that could do something for him. I know this sounds cliché, but if I hadn’t met him I would probably be in a far different place right now. Sure, I’d probably still be professionally successful, but I would be an empty, cynical person inside.”
“Thank you for sharing that with me, Katie.” “Are we done now?”
“Yes, we’re done. You’re free to go.” Shirley gave Katie’s hand a reassuring pat. “Would you like me to get Brandon?”
“No. I’ll talk to him later. Right now I just want to be alone.” Katie stood from her chair.
Shirley watched as she walked out of the conference room and down the hall. She watched her leave the station without giving a second glance towards Brandon, who was waiting patiently by the front desk. Shirley’s heart broke for the successful and strong young woman. She only hoped that things would not get any worse for her. Her gut told her that Katie would not be that lucky.
Brandon was concerned the moment he left the conference room. He knew he should have stayed, but the idea of hearing the details of Katie’s love life prior to him made him uneasy. It wasn’t that he cared that she had been with other men, but he had no desire to think of her with those men. He only wanted to think of Katie with him.
He realized that was a juvenile idea. They were both adults and they both had baggage. Baggage was just a part of growing up. But instead of staying with Katie and comforting her through the difficult questions, he had taken the coward’s way out and ran away. At this moment, his boss probably knew more about Katie than he did.
He was about to go back into the conference room when a tearful Katie barreled down the hallway and out the door. He turned to chase after her, but Shirley interceded.
“Let her go, Brandon,” she said calmly.
“What did she say? Why was she crying?”
“She’s going to talk to you later. Right now she needs some time alone.”
“She’s hurting. I should be with her.”
“And you will be, but later. Right now she needs to spend some time alone.”
“Will she be okay?” Brandon asked desperately. From the looks of things, he figured the answer was no, at least not emotionally. Right now he was more concerned about her physical well-being. “She won’t hurt herself, will she?”
“Brandon, she’s not okay. But no, she won’t hurt herself.
Just give her an hour then you can go,” Shirley assured him. “Okay,” he reluctantly agreed. “But only an hour, then I’m
out of here.”
“I understand. Why don’t you take this time to review your notes?”
“Yes, ma’am,” he replied then turned towards his desk.
Brandon returned to his desk and forced himself to focus on the case. There was no point dreading what Katie would tell him when he got home. It would come soon enough. Instead he pulled out his notes and the ViCAP report. One interesting thing he noted was that, up until this latest murder, all of the victims had been prostitutes. That explained why they weren’t investigated thoroughly to begin with. Alaina Watson was different though. She had been an outstanding student majoring in Literature. She was set to graduate in just a couple of months. Her parents had even revealed that she’d been accepted to graduate school in New York.
Yes, Alaina was definitely different from the others. The only thing she had in common with the other victims was the fact that she looked like Katie Quinn. With that final thought, Brandon checked his watch. It had been forty-five minutes since Katie left. That was close enough. With a sigh, he gathered his things and left the station.