Agent Chavez turned his car into the neighborhood where the victim of the attack, Douglas Wright, lived.
As soon as Chavez had started looking into the Wright case, it had became obvious that there was actually something weird going on – and clear why the local cops had passed it off. Wright had been terrified when Chavez had interviewed him at the hospital, barely coherent; he was neither composed enough nor smart enough to lie. The reports of the neighbors had been no help. Every single one of them claimed that they slept through the event, even though Wright had not been gagged and must have made an almighty racket.
And the woman at the lab, Breckenridge, was hiding something, he was certain. But he could find no evidence that Larkin had flown into any regional airport, rented a car, taken a train, or even used a credit card west of the Mississippi. He could conceivably have driven across the country using cash, but the victim’s description of the crime didn’t sound like one with that degree of premeditation. Bizarre, yes, but not premeditated... someone who took that degree of care to hide his activities wouldn’t normally leave the victim able to identify him.
Now it looked like the wife might have been lying about Wright being drunk. The ER docs had ordered a tox screen, as was typical where the victim had a history of alcoholism and might have self-inflicted injuries. It had come back negative -- no alcohol, no narcotics in Wright’s system.
Chavez turned onto Wright’s street. Elizabeth Wright had claimed to have been asleep, and not to have witnessed the incident. Now he wondered what exactly she had seen.
The house was dark when he arrived, and there was no car in the driveway. Probably at the hospital, he thought. He had considered calling ahead, but had decided against it. A surprise visit was often more effective when a witness was having problems with the truth.
Just in case, however, he walked up to the front door of the house and knocked. There was no reply; but as he turned to walk back to his car, a voice called out to him, “She’s gone.”
He turned, and saw an older woman sticking her head out from behind the screen door of the next house over. “So I see. Thank you, ma’am,” he replied.
“No, no, I mean she’s gone, left. Went back east to see her family or something. Good for her too.”
Chavez stopped. Elizabeth Wright’s parents were both deceased. The only family was her brother. “When did she leave, ma’am?” he asked.
“This morning. Packed up her car and went. You a cop? You talk like a cop.” She squinted at him, and nodded in the direction of the Wright home. “That dirtbag gonna pull through?”
Chavez was flipping through his notebook. “Mrs... Ruiz, isn’t it? What did Mrs. Wright say to you about why she was leaving?”
“Oh, she said that she needed to make sure her little brother was okay, or something. You ask me, she was just getting out while the getting was good, hey? Nice girl, but you know the bastard used to slap her around something awful.” Chavez had seen the photos of Elizabeth Wright, taken at the hospital after earlier incidents with her husband. Awful was a pale term.
He jotted down what she said and put his notebook away. “Thank you, ma’am, you’ve been very helpful.”
“You should arrest him,” she said, nodding to the house next door again. “Give us all some peace round here. Nice and quiet since he's been gone.”
“Goodnight, ma’am,” he said, walking back to his car.
Pulling away from the curb, Chavez tried to put the pieces together. A woman like Elizabeth wouldn’t just leave her husband, especially not when he was in the hospital. According to the prior incident reports, like so many women in long-term abusive relationships, she had been afraid to defy Wright even when she was surrounded by police and he was unable to reach her. If she suddenly left to see her brother, it could only be because she was even more frightened for Larkin than she was for herself.
Chavez found himself trying to calculate when Elizabeth would arrive in Connecticut if she left this morning, and whether he could get there first if he caught a red-eye that evening.
* * *
[Go to Chapter 8.2]