Authors: Melinda Parker
“I’m sorry, sir, I didn’t hear you.”
They had stepped out into the light of day again and a large truck passed by in front of them, rumbling loudly. Mark waited for it to pass, still looking over the dedication and then flipping the pages. “The dedication. It’s why Amber was able to remember these names. Look,” he held the book so that Ben could read the names. “It’s got Carrie and Melissa’s last names but not Jackie’s and it’s apparent Tucker was already known by the Joiners and that’s why they knew him already and remembered him.”
“Oh yes sir, I understand.”
“Well, let’s track these folks down, shall we?”
They stepped down to the short pathway that would lead them to their car in the parking lot. “We’ll talk to the ‘best friend forever’ first.”
Cynthia “Cindy” Lockhart, Carrie’s best friend forever, was in complete shock when she found out about the passing of her friend. She greeted the men at the door and allowed them in when they showed their IDs. She was slender, with dark hair that fell softly down her back in waves. She had it held back in a large clip. Her eyes were a deep brown that immediately filled up with tears when they told her the reason for their visit.
“No.” She shook her head and covered her face with her hands. “No, not Carrie. Oh
. I don’t believe it. Why? Who would do such a thing?”
“That’s what we are trying to establish. Can you tell us when was the last time you spoke to her?”
“I talked to her yesterday as she was leaving her publisher’s office.”
“Oh really?” Mark’s voice raised an octave.
“Yes. It was a very short conversation, though, because she said she didn’t want to talk and drive at the same time. She said she…would call me back when she got home. But…she didn’t call.” Cindy broke down crying and the detectives waited for her to calm herself, looking at her sympathetically. “I…I just can’t believe anyone would hurt Carrie. She was a wonderful woman!”
“Yes.” Mark nodded. “Yes, she was. Did she seem in any kind of mood when she was talking to you and before she hung up? Anxious? Upset?”
“Not at all. Why? You don’t think she…tried to hurt herself, do you?”
“I am trying to establish if she felt threatened just before she got off the phone with you.” Mark explained. “As if she was being harassed on the road or something like that.”
Cindy nodded. “I understand. No, she didn’t sound distressed at all. Just said she didn’t like to talk on the phone. Does Amber know? Did anyone tell her and Danny?”
“Yes, they were the ones who found her.”
Cindy gasped. “Oh poor Amber. They were so close. Those were sisters that loved each other, that’s for sure. They were a team, her and Carrie. We were a team, too, but it was nothing like the bond she had with Amber.” She was shaking her head again, her shoulders slumped in defeat. “Poor Amber. Poor Carrie.” She allowed a few more tears to slide down her cheeks. “Come to think of it, they called me last night asking if Carrie was with me. I don’t know if that’s relevant.”
“Anything that has to do with Carrie is relevant at this time, Cindy. What did you do after your conversation with Carrie?”
“My son came home from school. I helped him with his homework and gave him an afterschool snack. We were both here. And my husband was asleep in bed. He works nights.”
“What did you tell Amber and Danny when they called looking for Carrie?”
“I told them she wasn’t with me and they said they were going to go looking for her.”
“What time was that, do you remember?” Ben asked.
“It must have been…about midnight. I was getting ready to go to bed, the late show was on. My husband works the night shift and he wasn’t home. Whenever he isn’t home, it’s difficult for me to sleep so I stay up late. Midnight is kind of early for me to go to sleep.”
“Do you work during the day?”
“Yes, I’m an accountant for Merchant and Blackstock downtown. I’ve worked there for about ten years.”
“Are you Carrie’s accountant?”
She nodded. “Yes, I handle her accounts.”
“Is she wealthy?”
Cindy bit her lip. “I wouldn’t say she was wealthy. I would say she had some money set aside for her retirement and old age. She was no Donald Trump. Before she got with us, she handled her money very poorly and her credit was very bad. It took her years to get out of that bad credit slump. She worked really hard to, though. It was because of her ex-husband that it was like that to begin with.”
“We have it on record that she was never married.”
Cindy shook her head. “It was very hush-hush. Hardly anyone knew about it. You would have had to dig through marriage licenses to find out. She didn’t make it public when she got famous.”
Ben and Mark looked at each other with wide, interested eyes.
“And what is
name?” Ben asked curiously.
“His name was Andrew Dean. But he isn’t alive anymore. He died of cancer five years ago.”
“Oh.” Ben looked let down. “Who stands to inherit her money?”
“I haven’t seen her will.” Cindy said. “You would have to talk to her lawyer about that. But knowing Carrie, she left the majority of her money to her sister and maybe a little to me and to our circle of friends.”
“Speaking of your circle,” Mark said. “We have the names of Melissa, Jackie and Tucker as the other people in your group. Is there any more to add?”
“You must have read the dedication.” Cindy smiled. “There’s no one else we hang out with on a regular basis. The five of us would get together for drinks every two weeks or so and discuss what was going on in our lives at the time. Carrie and I had daily communication. I am not sure how often she kept up with the others. You might get some information from Tucker.”
Ben and Mark shared a look. “Oh?” Ben asked. “What might he know?”
Cindy looked down, kneading her hands together. “Well…they didn’t seem to be getting along well last time we had drinks. At least…that’s what I thought.”
“What made you think that?”
Cindy was avoiding looking at them, which made Mark very suspicious. He licked his lips and leaned toward her. “If you know something, you need to tell us.”
Cindy glanced at him. “It’s just…a feeling. They have never been terribly close but…it seemed like he was irritated about something and she was having nothing of it. I don’t remember them having said more than a few words to each other that day.”
“All right.” Ben closed his notebook and looked at Mark, who nodded. “I don’t have any other questions for now. Do you, sir?”
“Yes, I do.” Mark replied. “Cindy, do you have any idea what Carrie did other than write? Did she have a business of some kind on the side?”
Cindy blinked at him. “I, uh…I don’t think so. What kind of business?”
Mark raised his eyebrows. “That’s what we’re trying to establish.”
Cindy paused and then shook her head. “I…don’t think she was involved in any kind of business other than writing.”
Mark nodded and looked around the room. “You have a lovely home, Mrs. Lockhart.”
The detectives stood up. “If you can think of anything else we need to know, please give us a ring.”
“I will, thank you.” She took the card he offered to her and looked at it. “Thank you, Inspector Bullard, Sargent Keyes. I do hope you find out who killed Carrie. She was such an awesome human being. It’s a real shame to have her gone from us. I know she’s happier now. But for the rest of us left here, it’s not so peaceful.”
Once they were in the car, Ben looked at Mark. “She was lying, wasn’t she, sir? About Carrie being involved in some kind of business.”
Mark nodded. “I’m afraid I think so, Ben. We need to find out what it was that Carrie was doing. Maybe that will lead us to her killer.”
Melissa Gilmore lived in a house two streets over from Carrie. Ben apologized for not noticing that when they had been at Carrie’s house to begin with.
“It’s all right, Keyes.” Mark said, reaching up to knock on the large green front door. “I didn’t notice, either, did I?”
The door was opened by a short, round woman with equally short hair that curled all over her head. She was extremely pleasant and had a wide smile on her pudgy face. “Hello there!” She said. “How can I help you today?”
They held up their IDs and introduced themselves. Without losing her smile, which seemed to be natural, Melissa tilted her head to the side and looked at them through worried eyes. “Oh what has happened?”
“May we come in?”
“Yes, yes.” She stepped back and allowed them in, closing the door behind them. “Please sit.” She said, moving around them to go into the den. She sat in one of the recliners, perched on the edge of it so she could tuck her short legs under her. She folded her hands in her lap.
“I’m sorry to inform you that your friend, Carrie Wellington, has died.” Mark said in a low voice.
“Oh!” Melissa gasped and her hand flew to cover her mouth. “Oh!” She couldn’t seem to say much more. “Are you sure? Are you sure it’s her?”
“Oh that’s terrible. That’s terrible. Poor Amber. Poor Cindy.”
“How well did you know Carrie?”
“She was a good friend.” Melissa said. “I’m sure you got my name from her book. We were the five friends, we really were. But I think Carrie is the one who held us all together. She was the glue. She was friendly and kind and helped everyone. I can’t believe it.”
“Will you please tell us where you were between 2 o’clock yesterday and 4?”
Melissa’s eyes opened wide. “Do you think…did someone
Mark frowned. “I’m afraid so.”
“What?!” Melissa had by now completely lost her smile. “That’s not…I can’t…” She didn’t finish. “How?” She asked breathlessly. “How was she…murdered?”
“Some of the information about this case must be kept secure, Ms. Gilmore.” Mark said. “I’m sorry but at this time everyone is a suspect. May I ask where you were between 2 and 4 yesterday?”
“I was at the gym. I’m in a workout session between 2:30 and 3:30. I may not look like it…” she flushed. “But I used to be very slender. And I’m trying to get back into shape.” She lowered her head. “Carrie and I were going to run a marathon together later this year. She was helping me out with it, encouraging me to join the gym and get back to running like when we were young.”
“It’s good to be physically fit.” Ben nodded, giving her a sympathetic look. “It can make you mentally healthy at the same time.”
Melissa looked at him. “That’s what people have been telling me. I hope so. I’m not the…most positive person in the world. Carrie was always there to boost me up. She was so encouraging and nice…to everyone. I can’t believe this.”
“Can you think of anyone who you think would harm Carrie?”
“No I really can’t.” Melissa shook her head. “If she had any enemies, I wouldn’t know who they were.”
“She didn’t have a boyfriend of any kind?” Mark asked.
“I didn’t think she was seeing anyone in particular, no.”
“She wasn’t talking to anyone on social media?”
Again Melissa shook her head. “No. I really don’t think so. Cindy might know but I think that’s something Carrie would have told us all about when we met for drinks. That’s what we’d do to keep up with each other. Meet for drinks and catch up.”
“Do you know what Carrie did other than her writing? Was she in a side-business of some kind?”
Melissa answered immediately. “Not that I know of. Her books were so successful. I wouldn’t think she’d need to be involved in any other kind of business. I do know that she supported several other people in their business ventures, though.”
“How do you mean?”
“She invested in small businesses to help them get off the ground.”
Ben nodded. He looked up when Mark stood up.
“Well, we won’t trouble you any more right now, Ms. Gilmore. If you think of anything else, please let us know.”
Melissa took the card and looked at it. “You know, I don’t know if it’s of any relevance…” She hesitated and Mark raised his eyebrows at her to prompt her to continue. “Well, it’s just that there was someone at the bar we meet at that I recognized last time we were there. I thought he talked to Carrie before we left. I can’t be sure though. He may just have been another fan.”
“Did she look uncomfortable around him?” Mark asked.
Melissa shook her head. “Carrie was never uncomfortable around anyone. She had a smile for every person who talked to her. She had fans come up to her all the time and she was very gracious to them.”
Mark nodded. “Do you have a name for the person you thought you recognized?”
Melissa was quiet as she thought. “No.”
“See that you call us if it does. Or should I say when?”
Melissa smiled. “It’s always good to think positive.”
“Cindy mentioned that Carrie and Tucker didn’t seem to be talking much at your last meeting. Did you notice that, also?” Mark asked.
Melissa looked suddenly reluctant to speak. “I did, actually.”
“You didn’t mention it.”
She dropped her eyes. “I…I don’t think Tucker would do something like this. He’s…not the type.”
“All right, thank you, Ms. Gilmore.”
She walked them to the door.
“Let’s visit Tucker first.” Mark said when they were back in the car. “What’s his last name, Keyes? And plug in his address to the GPS please.”
“He’s probably at work now, wouldn’t you think, sir?” Ben asked.
“Yes, I think you’re probably right. Let’s go there instead. Good thinking, Keyes.”
“Thank you, sir.” As he looked up Tucker’s place of work, he said. “His last name is Campbell. He’s a…get this…he’s a physical trainer at the gym. Probably the same one that Melissa goes to. It’s at the mall.”