Authors: Cindy Bell
"Me?" Sammy gasped out as she finally drew her hands away from the cord. "I didn't do anything! I found her here like this. Please, call for help, may
be we can still save her…"
"Save her?" Katherine spat out as a gaggle of twenty-one year olds began shrieking and gasping from behind her as they peeked in at the scene. "She's dead, girl, can't you see that?" she demanded. "What have you done, and in my house?" she shouted even louder. "I'm calling
the police this instant!" Sammy wasn't sure how to react to Katherine's words. She was in such shock that the accusations simply weren’t sinking in. While Katherine shouted into the phone, demanding that the police get to her home at once, Sammy fumbled for her phone. With trembling fingers she managed to dial the number to the salon.
"Bekki?" she said, her voice shaking so hard that it was hard for her to speak.
"Sammy? Is that you? What's wrong?" Bekki asked quickly. Her first thought was that Sammy had been in an accident. Her friend had been in such a rush when she left the salon, that maybe she had sped too fast and been pulled over, or worse had actually collided with another car. "Are you okay?" she asked swiftly. She could hear another sharp voice in the background.
"Get off that phone! The police are going to be here any second! Don't you even think of trying to run!" the voice warned in a tone so haughty that it could only belong to one person, Katherine Windward.
"Sammy, what is going on?" Bekki demanded loudly, her protective instinct rising up immediately. But Sammy could only cry into the phone in response. Her entire body was shaking, and she could barely get a breath beyond her sobs and gasps. "I'll be right there," Bekki assured her and hung up the phone. The customer she had been working with had her head under the hair dryer.
"I have to go," Bekki said quickly and set a timer on the dryer. "When this beeps get out from under it. Let yourself out, and please lock the door behind you. Consider this and your next style on the house, okay?"
The customer looked concerned but she nodded as Bekki hurried out the door. Bekki hopped into her navy blue Focus and began driving down the long road that led to the hill where the large homes were. She was filled with frustration and fury at the woman she had grown up despising. Katherine Windward would never allow any of the businesses in the town to get too successful. She sat on the board of everything and enacted laws that held the small businesses back. She did this because she didn't want anyone encroaching on her fortune, Bekki was sure of that. There was nothing that made Bekki more angry than injustice. That was the main reason she had studied for her black belt, that and moving to the beautiful but dangerous city, New York. She was glad that she had the knowledge that she had gained now, but she knew that it wouldn't be right to use it on Katherine. Unless of course, she found a reason to.
As she pulled into the large circular drive of the Windward mansion, she heard sirens squealing in behind her. Every police car that H
arroway owned was converging onto the property right behind her. Bekki quickly parked her car, now feeling more frightened than angry as she wondered just what might be going on inside. She recognized one of the detectives who stepped out of the car, as being Nick's partner. She was not that fond of Bekki, and in fact had warned Nick that Bekki's meddling could threaten his badge. Detective Williams walked up to Bekki as she stepped out of her car.
"You have something to do with all of this?"
Detective Williams asked with a frown.
"I'm not sure yet," Bekki replied honestly as she headed toward
s the mansion.
“Bekki!” Detective Williams called out and followed quickly after her.
Bekki was already inside the mansion when Detective Williams caught up with her.
“This is a police investigation, I need you out of here,” Detective Williams said sternly.
“I need to see my friend,” Bekki countered and pushed past a few uniformed police officers who were blocking the entrance to the dressing room. She stepped inside just in time to hear Katherine's shrill voice.
“And that's when I found her, standing over the poor girl, with the cord wrapped around her neck!” she declared with all the drama that one would expect from a woman who made her wealth from terrifying others.
Bekki heard Sammy sob. She was being detained by two police officers who seemed to be rapidly firing questions at her. Bekki could see that Sammy was making the mistake of attempting to answer the questions instead of remaining silent.
“You found her?” Bekki asked in a whisper as she stepped up beside her friend.
“It's so horrible, Bekki,” Sammy managed to gasp out. Bekki followed her line of sight to the body on the floor. It was surrounded by police officers and the medical examiner, but she could see enough of the body to know that the victim was female and quite young.
, all I did was walk in…” Sammy started to explain.
“Shh,” Bekki insisted. “Don't say too much. It's all going to be fine, okay? You have to try to calm down,” she said in the gentlest tone that she could muster. That was when one of the officers pulled out a set of handcuffs.
“Oh no, oh no,” Sammy was nearly hyperventilating. “Don't put those on me, please!” she begged and tried to wriggle out of the officer's grasp. Bekki had never seen her friend so panicked.
“Sammy,” she said sternly. “Don't fight them,” she war
ily watched the two officers who were being patient with Sammy, but Bekki knew that if Sammy kept pulling away from them she was going to end up on her stomach on the floor.
“You need to leave, now,” Detective Wil
liams growled from behind Bekki, “or I'll see you in handcuffs too,” she warned, her expression making it clear that she meant it.
“Okay, okay,” Bekki held up her hands slightly, her heart still racing. She glanced back at Sammy. “Just take deep breaths sweetie. It's all going to be okay,” Bekki promised her. She heard the clasp of the handcuffs as they encircled Sammy's wrists, followed by the hopeless whimper of someone Bekki was absolutely certain was innocent of any crime. As Bekki watched Sammy being led out of the dressing room in handcuffs, her heart sank. She knew this was a memory that Sammy would never forget.
“Out,” Detective Williams said and pointed to the door again as she glowered at Bekki. “If you come anywhere near this investigation I will make sure that you are arrested for obstruction,” she paused and lowered her voice as she stepped closer to Bekki, her eyes narrowed. “Nick isn't here to protect you, so watch your step.”
Bekki had the urge to tell the woman exactly what she thought of her, but she knew better. As much respect as she had for the work that the police did, she had a bit of a problem with authority, and the assumption of guilt. In the city she had been friends with many people who had once committed crimes, and then transformed their lives
. This had opened her eyes a bit. When she was falsely accused of a crime herself, she got to know just how terrifying it could be to have your freedom stolen from you all because of a misunderstanding. She was certain that was how Sammy was feeling right then, and she couldn't be of any help to her if she ended up in jail with her.
She called Nick, but got no answer. She called him again as she walked out of the mansion, with uniformed cops stalking her to make sure she made it all the way to her car. As she started her car she called him again. She knew it was hopeless, but she didn't know what else to do. She had to do something to help Sammy, the thought of her being scared and alone, made her sick to her stomach. Bekki was feeling incredibly desperate. She had been the one to tell Nick not to turn his phone on while he was in the co
untry, but she couldn't help feel irritated with him for not answering her calls. She guessed he might be angry with her for declining to go on the trip with him. With a frustrated growl she hung up the phone after it went to voicemail for the thousandth time.
Without Nick's help she would have no way of getting any inside information about what was happening with Sammy while she was in jail or speaking with detectives. She felt as if he was her only chance to help her best friend. She parked her car and took a moment to brea
the deeply. She had to keep level-headed and figure out a solution. As she was walking down the sidewalk back to the salon, she recalled being in a similar situation. Only it wasn't Sammy who had been in trouble, it was her. At that time she had turned to the only person she thought she could, a person a part of her still held affection and admiration for, despite how deeply he had hurt her. Trevor. If she called him and asked for help, she was certain that he would come. He had made it clear in the past that it was not her he was not interested in, just the life she anticipated, filled with marriage, children, and way too much holiday decorating.
Still, she hated to have to call him. They had spoke
n on and off since the last time she saw him, forming a tentative after break-up friendship, but she had kept her distance. Now, with no one else to turn to, she felt like she was being forced to face him again. With hesitation she dialed his number and ducked inside the salon. He answered on the second ring.
"Hey, how are you?" he asked quickly. Bekki noted that he
sounded a little different to what she was used to.
"Not good," she replied quickly. "My best friend has been accused of murder, and I need your help."
"Bekki," Trevor groaned into the phone. "You know that I'm not that kind of lawyer."
"You'll do just fine," Bekki insisted. "You're far more of a lawyer than
a beautician could be."
l right, all right," he reluctantly agreed. "I'll be there in a few hours. Okay?"
, Trevor," Bekki replied with a sigh of relief. Just having someone else to discuss the case with would be a big weight off of her shoulders. She decided it was time to hear the whole story from Sammy herself. She didn't want to overlook anything.
as soon as Bekki arrived at the police station, Detective Williams was there to try to stop her from seeing Sammy.
“I told you to stay out of this,” she warned sharply when she saw Bekki walk in through the double glass doors. Bekki settled her blue eyes on the woman and studied her with barely disguised loathing.
“I'm just here to visit my friend,” she insisted. “Is that really so much to ask?”
Detective Williams hesitated as if she might not allow Bekki to see Sammy, but at the last minute she nodded a little.
“Fine, but no investigating,” she said sternly. Bekki nodded in return. She was led to an interrogation room with a small table inside of it. A few minutes later Sammy was brought in as well.
, Bekki!” she cried out and reached to hug her, but the police officer who escorted her forced her down into a chair.
“No hugs, no
touching, no funny business,” he said gruffly. “This room is monitored.” With that he stepped outside and closed the door behind him. Once the two were alone, Bekki sat across the table from Sammy. It was hard to see her in the orange jail uniform, with her cuffed hands laying in front of her on the table.
"How did this happen?" Sammy asked, her eyes distant and dazed as she stared across the table at Bekki.
"It was a mistake," Bekki said firmly, though she was beginning to wonder if it really was. Was it possible that someone had intentionally framed Sammy? It sure seemed so, considering all of the evidence against her. "Now, I need you to think about what was happening at the mansion that day. Anything that you might have noticed that seemed off to you," Bekki pushed, her voice as gentle as it could be while still trying to stress the importance of the situation.
"It was so crazy there," Sammy confessed as she tried to recall anything strange. "All of the girls were so excited, and Katherine was in a rotten mood.
When I came back with the mascara, the maid was nervously walking down the corridor. She was probably trying to avoid Katherine. I also saw Katherine snapping at Lucy earlier in the day, and figured it was over the sandwiches not being cut correctly or something as simple and silly as that."
"But you saw Katherine arguing with Lucy?" Bekki asked, and made a note in her notebook about it.
"It wasn't exactly arguing. Lucy was just standing there, and Katherine was jabbing her finger in her face letting her have it," Sammy shrugged. "It didn't seem that out of the ordinary for someone like Katherine."
"What about anyo
ne else who was at the mansion?” Bekki asked. "Any of the other staff, or maybe one of the girls, who seemed to be paying attention to Lucy?"
my shook her head slowly. "Well, actually there was one thing," Sammy suddenly recalled. "I noticed that Katherine’s husband, Phillip, was acting oddly. He kept following one of the girls from the caterer around."
"Lucy?" Bekki prompted, her pen poised above her notepad.
"No," Sammy said firmly. "It was one of the waitresses, about the same age though. I think it was embarrassing Annabelle. In fact,” Sammy bit into her bottom lip lightly, “maybe that was what Katherine and Lucy were arguing about. What made me really notice their conversation was that Katherine took a bag of garbage out after that.”
“That was strange?” Bekki asked with slight confusion.
“Of course it was. I mean she has servants to do everything, why would she take her own garbage out?” Sammy pointed out.
“Ah I see what you're saying,” Bekki nodded a little, but it still didn't seem too odd to her.
“If you think of anything else, remember it, I'll be back to see you. Trevor is on his way, and he's going to act as your lawyer,” Bekki explained quickly.
“When can I get out of here?” Sammy pleaded, her eyes filling with tears. “Do you think I'll be in here forever
“No,” Bekki said sternly. “You're going to be out of here very soon. Just do your best to stay
calm sweetie, I know it's hard.”
“I'll try,” Sammy sniffled. Watching her be
ing walked out of the room by the police officer was one of the hardest things that Bekki had ever seen.
As she left the police station she placed another call to Nick. It had become almost therapeutic to her to at least dial his phone number. However, when he still didn't answer, it was rather dangerous for her phone, which she was tempted to slam into the ground. After taking a deep breath she headed for the salon to
properly close it for the night and to give herself some time to think.
Once she was at the salon, Bekki began puttering around nervously. Her phone was now ringing off the hook, but none of the calls were from Nick. There were a few from her parents to check in on what was happening and a few from mutual friends of hers and Sammy's. Clients were calling the salon phone as well and leaving messages of support, even though Bekki was fairly certain they were calling just to get the real dirt. She let the phones ring, other than her parents’ call, which she answered and assured them she was doing everything she could for Sammy. Bekki kept herself as busy as possible. Even though on the surface it looked as if she was performing tasks like cleaning counters and spritzing mirrors, underneath her mind was racing, carefully piecing together the clues she knew so far.
Sammy had said that Philip was acting strangely,
as was the maid. Maybe there was some kind of connection between the two of them. Perhaps Lucy had caught them indisposed? Phillip Windward did not exactly have a squeaky clean reputation. In fact he was often rumored to be out on the town chasing women. Katherine of course squashed all of those rumors, as well as anyone who was responsible for spreading them. But why would Phillip go so far as to kill Lucy to hide his affair? He had plenty of money to pay the girl off.
No, Bekki was certain that this was personal. Someone was angry with Lucy, and they took the opportunity to attempt to frame Sammy for it. That meant that whoever killed Lucy knew that Sammy would be there, knew that she had left for just a few minutes. Whoever had killed Lucy, was inside the mansion, and Bekki suspected it was a member of the Windward family. Of course suspicion and a pack of gum will get you a pack of gum. She had no proof, no evidence to go on. All because Detective Williams had thrown her out of the mansion before
she had the chance to see anything.
As she was wiping a cloth across Sammy's station she realized her large makeup kit was missing. She had taken a ton of supplies to the mansion with her, and those supplies belonged to the salon. It was a perfect excuse to get Bekki back inside the mansion. But she had to act quickly before the supplies were brought to her instead. She tossed down her rag and headed out the door of the salon. She hopped back in her car, and called Nick again, hoping he just might have thought to check his phone. Of course it went straight to voicemail again. As she pulled into the driveway at the mansion, she noticed that there were fewer police cars. In fact of the two that were in the driveway one was pulling out as she was pulling in. Morris, a rookie cop that had yet to outgrow his awkward stage, was standing besides the other car. Bekki sighed with relief. She was sure that she could get Morris to look the other way.
“Hey Morris,” she called out as she parked her car. By the time she stepped out of it Morris was looking in her direction with a dark frown. “Are you okay?” she asked as she walked up to him.
“You're going to get me fired, aren't you?” he asked with a defeated sigh, as if the card had already been played.
“What?” Bekki smiled innocently. “Of course not. I'm just here to pick up the supplies that were left behind. They belong to the beauty salon, and if they're not part of the investigation then I'd like to get them back. All of this will be taken care of soon, and Sammy will want her things when she gets back to work.”
Morris groaned and wiped his hand across his bulbous forehead. He looked a bit more like a football player than a police officer with his buzzed hair and square jaw. He wasn't unattractive, but everything about his demeanor screamed young and inexperienced.
“Bekki, you know that Detective Williams will kill me if she finds out I let you inside the mansion,” he sighed with a slow shake of his head.
Bekki touched his shoulder gently until he looked up at her. When she met his eyes, he looked as if he might just melt right there into the ground.
“Morris, she's not going to find out,” Bekki promised and batted her lashes just enough to give him a close look at her blue eyes. She was not above flaunting her beauty for the sake of
“Fine,” he groaned and leaned back against the car. “But just get the supplies, no searching the house, no interviewing the family or staff, none of that,” he demanded sharply.
“Of course not,” Bekki smiled as innocently as she could. Then she hurried off into the house before he could change his mind.
Bekki headed straight for the dressing room, just in case as she suspected Morris was watching her every move. When she stepped into the room she noticed a few things that she thought were a little strange. The window to the dressing room was open. In a mansion with central air conditioning she doubted that there would be an
y reason to leave a window in the dressing room open while the air conditioning was on. Sammy never would have stood for it because any light breeze or dust blowing in through the window could have ruined the hair styles, or makeup that she was creating.
The next thing that struck her as odd was an area on the floor of the dressing
room that had been circled in a chalk outline and had an evidence card beside it. She noticed the tiniest sliver of porcelain, and that the carpet was damp. When she looked above the spot on the carpet she could see that there was a vase of flowers. The vase was not the white porcelain that she saw on the floor however. Perhaps there had been another vase of flowers there? If so, had they been knocked over in the struggle? She frowned as she picked up Sammy's makeup kit and slung her bag of hairdressing supplies, minus a hair dryer of course, over her shoulder. It reminded her that this was not just a mystery to solve. A young girl was robbed of her future, and Sammy could be robbed of hers as well. As she was starting to walk out of the dressing room she heard a voice in the hallway.
"I just don't know if I should tell them the truth," a woman was saying, her words coated with a thick Russian accent.
"Of course you should," another voice demanded, it sounded young. When Bekki peeked through the crack in the door, she saw that it was Annabelle. "Someone needs to pay for what happened here. No one's going to care that you broke a vase," she insisted as she stalked off towards the front door, presumably to tell Morris about the broken vase. Bekki took her chance and stepped out of the dressing room just in time to catch the woman who was walking past.
"Oh dear," the woman gasped with surprise when Bekki
suddenly stepped out of the room.
"Sorry to startle you," Bekki said quickly. "I couldn't help but overhear what you said about the broken vase. Did you break it in here?"
"Yes, yes," the woman, who Bekki presumed was the maid Sammy mentioned, said with a sigh. "I was so clumsy. The florist delivered these beautiful arrangements, and I was putting them in the dressing room while the girls were watching television in the living room. But I was in such a hurry that I knocked one of the vases over. I picked up all of the pieces and put them in a bag. I didn't think I had a lot of time, and Mrs. Windward was already so angry with the hairstylist that I was sure she would fire me if she found out. So I went to toss out the bag through the window, and then pick it up later and put it in the garbage. But when I opened the window…" she halted her words suddenly.
"When you opened the window, what?" Bekki pressed her for more information.
"I heard voices," the maid admitted and lowered her eyes.
"Whose voices?" Bekki asked and stepped closer to the woman, determined to get an answer.
"I try not to see things I shouldn't, or hear things I shouldn't," the maid attempted to explain.
"You can tell me," Bekki said quietly. "I'm not a police officer, and I'm not going to tell your boss. Whose voices did you hear outside the window?"
"It was Mr. Windward," the maid finally admitted. "He was talking to someone outside the window. I hurried out of the room before I heard too much."
Bekki's frown deepened as she thought of Phillip being involved in the young woman's murder. Sure he was not the most honest man around but
she would never have expected him to be involved in something as sinister as this. But what was he doing outside by the window?
“I don't want to get into trouble,” the maid added with a nervous frown.
“It's okay,” Bekki assured her. “The only person who is going to get into trouble is the person who did this horrible thing,” Bekki insisted and patted the maid's shoulder gently. “Did you hear anything else, or see anything strange that day?”
“Just,” she shook her
head slightly. “Mrs. Windward seemed angrier than usual. Even before the hairstylist arrived.”
, really?” Bekki asked as casually as she could. “Any reason why?”