Chapter 25

Once Mario had left, Vince sat down on the edge of the bed and gently placed a hand on Hannah’s shoulder. “Don’t worry, Detective Wakefield knows what he’s doing. He’ll catch whoever did this.”

“Fine. In the meantime, I have to worry some maniac is going to break in and murder me,” she spat back scornfully.  Ashamed by her bitter outburst, or wanting to hide, Hannah buried her face beneath her arm.

Vince didn’t want to agree, but there was a ring of truth in what she had said. What was the point of waiting around for something else bad to happen? “Listen to me,” he said, shaking her until she peered up. “You’re right. Why should you be a victim? It’s time we did something.”

He had her attention now. “Like what?” she asked, looking afraid of what she might hear.

“Turn the tables. Go after whoever did this,” Vince said. “Tell me everything you remember about the night Courtney died.”

Hannah groaned. “I went through all of that before with the police.”

“But not with the person who discovered the body,” Vince confessed.

Hannah blinked in astonishment, absorbing the news. “You found Courtney …?” She couldn’t bring herself to state the grisly outcome.

“During lock-up duty. Don’t you see? You and I can piece together what happened.” The idea seemed to appeal to Hannah, and she sat up. “Tell me what you remember,” Vince coaxed.

Hannah wiped her eyes then began. “Well, Courtney came home from the library around ten. I was here, studying, and we talked for a while. She asked me about my day. She was always very considerate that way,” Hannah professed, smiling at the memory. “I could see something was troubling her, so I asked.” Hannah frowned. “She’d had another fight with her boyfriend, Randy.”

“It’s sounds as though you didn’t like him all that much.”

“He’s a bully and extremely possessive. Whenever Courtney wasn’t home, he’d badger me over where she might be, quiz me about other guys in her life.”

“Were there any?”

“None, as far as I knew.” Hannah changed her mind and added, “Well, some guy named Starr, with two r’s, used to phone a lot, but he wasn’t somebody Randy would have to worry about.”

“Why not?”

Hannah shrugged uncomfortably. “I don’t think he’s interested in girls.”

“Oh. What happened next?” Vince pressed her continue.

“At about 10:15, Courtney decided to go over to Randy’s place, to try and patch things up, so she called him.”

“You heard this?”

“I was sitting right here,” Hannah affirmed, patting the bed. “It was really brief. She told him she was coming over, and then hung up.”

“Where does Randy live?”

“In the Mar Vista apartment complex, on the other side of the woods.”

“If she was walking over, that explains what she was doing in there,” Vince observed. He remembered what Mario had said and asked, “Did she pack up anything for the night? What about her computer?”

“I wasn’t paying much attention. Courtney started to change, and I got back into my book. We said goodbye, and then she left.” Hannah’s eyes narrowed as she remembered something. “I’m pretty sure she was carrying her backpack.”

“Good. And nothing else happened until the police notified you about her death?”

Hannah rolled her eyes. “I wish. A minute after Courtney left, she got a call.”

“Did she leave her cell phone?”

“No. On the phone here.” She indicated to where a cordless telephone unit lay on the floor, tossed from the night table during the ransacking.

Vince was perplexed. Not many people he knew had a land line anymore.

Hannah read his mind. “Courtney’s father insisted. He grumbled that she never picked up her cell when he called. Anyway, it was her friend, Lysandra, another dancer, who called.” Hannah scowled in apparent disapproval. “She said she had to see Courtney right away. She sounded really angry. I told her Courtney had gone over to Randy’s, and she hung up on me. Afterwards, I got ready for bed, and the next thing I knew, the police were at the door.”

“What time was that?”

“Late. Sometime after midnight.”

One thing was puzzling Vince. “Did Courtney own a car?”

“Yeah. A Mazda something-or-other.”

“Did Courtney normally drive over to Randy’s?” Hannah shrugged and Vince remarked, “Ten-thirty seems kind of late to walk anywhere when you can drive.”

“She definitely walked. When the police did their initial search of the room, they found her car keys, and asked me the same question.”

“Hmm.” Vince mulled over possible scenarios. The jealous boyfriend, Randy, could have intercepted Courtney in the woods. Or the dancer, Lysandra, could have caught up with her on this side, and followed her in. But they both would have had to know she planned to walk, which was odd in and of itself. Now, if one of them drove a car that backfired …

“What are you thinking?” Hannah asked.

Vince told her about the noise he’d heard when he’d discovered the body.

“So if Randy or Lysandra drive a car that does that, it places them at the murder scene!” Hannah summarized excitedly.

“Exactly. But if they don’t, it means there’s a third, unidentified suspect out there somewhere.”

“I hadn’t thought of that,” Hannah admitted, shrinking in her skin at the possibility.

Vince slapped his thighs and concluded, “Well, it seems pretty clear. We have to locate that car with the backfiring problem.”

“Okay, but how? There must be a thousand or more cars on campus everyday.”

Vince’s eyes sparkled. “I think I know a way.”

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