“So you and Debra were sleeping together?”
Lloyd glared at him. “It was more than that. I loved her. Proposed to the stubborn woman three times. She said she was too old to get married, but—”
His voice cracked and a thread of guilt twined its way through Braden. The man was mourning and couldn’t even show it because he didn’t want to hurt Debra’s reputation. “How’d you get into her place?”
Lloyd’s gaze strayed toward Braden’s left. “I have a key.”
Braden looked toward the key rack. There was a cluster of keys on one silver ring, then a separate key dangling from a key ring with a miniature martini glass at the end. Not exactly something the fisherman would have bought himself. “What about the alarm?”
Lloyd wrung his gnarled, shaking hands in front of him and shrugged. “I got confused and punched in the wrong code. When it went off, I panicked.”
Braden was a pretty good judge of character and his instinct told him Lloyd was telling the truth. It was obvious Lloyd had arthritis and there was no way he could lift and transport bodies. Not to mention he’d been living in Hudson Bay his entire life and there wasn’t one possible thing he could have against Braden or Lilly. Braden barely knew the man.
“Do you know Lilly Carmichael?” He watched for some kind of reaction.
Lloyd shook his head, but his expression was otherwise neutral as he answered. “I don’t know her personally, but Debbie sure was proud of her. Had pictures of her all over the house.”
Debbie. The way the fisherman’s voice softened when he said Debra’s name cinched it for Braden. “Do you need to go to the hospital?”
“No. I’m sore but I’ll live.”
“Well, you’ll need to make a statement, but I can pick you up from the station in an hour or so. I’ll be heading over to Debra’s place for the wake then. You can ride with me if you want.”
His pale eyes flared with hope. “You don’t think her niece or anyone else would mind?”
“Hundreds of people are going to be in and out today. I’ll explain to Lilly about your relationship, but no one else will think twice about you being there. One of the deputies can escort you to the station now.”
“Let me grab my jacket.”
While Lloyd retreated to his room, Braden ascended the stairs to the back deck. “Lloyd’s not involved but I’m sending him down to the station to make a statement. Do you have a crime kit in your car?” He directed the question to Vanessa. He noticed she’d driven her personal car, not a squad car.
She glanced sharply at Perry, causing her red ponytail to bob, before returning Braden’s gaze. “Yes.”
Braden briefly wondered what was going on between the two of them, but brushed it away. “I doubt he left anything behind but I want both of you to comb Lloyd’s place. Once you’re done, I want you to join me in canvassing the surrounding boats. Maybe someone saw something. Most of these are empty, but I saw Mitch Byrne earlier. I’m going to send Officer Jordan out to some of the motels to see if anyone has seen the Allbright girl, but we’re going to set up a search party as soon as we’re through here.”
They both nodded as Lloyd stepped onto the back deck. The older man handed the key ring to Debra’s house to him so Braden shoved it in his pocket. Then he handed his boat keys to Perry. “Would you lock up when you’re done?”
As Braden stepped onto the dock, he resisted the urge to help Lloyd. Something told him it would make the older man feel weak, especially after what happened.
“So, what did this guy want from me?” Lloyd finally asked while they walked toward the parking lot.
Braden weighed his options before answering. Even though they’d released Murphy’s picture to the media, so far the general public didn’t know the details of the killings. With the exception of the last victim, the first three didn’t have close family so there hadn’t been any locals privy to the methods of the murders. “All I can tell you is that he’s dangerous and you’re very lucky to be alive.” He wasn’t sure why the killer hadn’t just murdered the old man and maybe they’d never know. Braden was glad they didn’t have another victim on their hands.
“This have anything to do with the picture of Greg Murphy I saw on the news?” he asked as they reached the parking lot.
Braden paused as they stopped next to one of the deputies’ cars. “It’s possible, but don’t repeat that to anyone.”
Lloyd snorted. “Don’t worry about me. I don’t talk to most folks in town anyway.”
After sending Lloyd back to the station with one of his guys, Braden headed to the farthest row of slips and began knocking on the doors of each one. He wanted to put his fist through a wall for how he felt. They’d been so close to finally catching this guy and the fact that he was so damn short on manpower was their biggest disadvantage.
The only thing that made him feel a little better was the fact that they’d caught the killer by surprise. Braden had seen it in every line of the man’s body. Maybe he’d finally screw up now. If he got rattled enough, he’d make a mistake. When he did, they’d be waiting for him.
Lilly ripped open a packet of cobalt blue paper napkins and laid them next to a plate of brownies. Technically the wake wasn’t supposed to start for a while, but people had been showing up all morning. When Alma Donnelly and her friends had arrived at eight, Lilly had been taken aback until she realized they planned to set everything up for her.
She hadn’t even had to make coffee or tea. They’d rushed in like gangbusters and taken over. She’d forgotten how thoughtful people were in small towns. Even though she craved space, being surrounded by all these caring people made her want to cry.
She resisted the urge, however. If she started crying, she’d likely never stop. Her aunt was dead and she knew there was nothing she could do about it. Still, getting through this day had turned out harder than she’d expected.
“You’re staring at those napkins like they hold the answer to all life’s questions,” Braden’s deep voice murmured close to her ear, causing her to spin around and stumble right into his chest.
“I didn’t even hear you come in,” she murmured.
“Sorry, didn’t mean to scare you. How are you holding up?” He placed a protective hand on her hip.
“Fine. Did you find out anything at the marina?”
He shook his head and glanced over his shoulder. “No, but Lloyd Redford is here. Turns out he and your aunt had a thing. It was real hush-hush, but he wanted to pay his respects.”
“What about the missing girl?”
“That’s what I wanted to talk to you about. We’re setting up a search party for Barbara so I’m going to have to leave you alone for a couple hours.” Braden didn’t meet her gaze but looked at a spot over her head as he spoke.
“Don’t worry about that, I’ll be fine…What aren’t you telling me?” She wasn’t exactly surprised her aunt had been seeing someone. Her Aunt Debra had dropped enough hints over the past six months but Lilly could tell she hadn’t been ready to tell her who she was seeing so Lilly hadn’t pushed. Something else was bothering Braden though. There was something about his rigid stance that told her he was holding something back.
“Nothing. Listen, as I drove up I saw the reverend arrive so I know he’ll want to speak to you. I’ve really got to go though.”
“I’ll walk you out.” Lilly wrapped up a couple brownies for Braden in a napkin so he’d have something to eat then grabbed a small one for herself. She devoured it before making her way to the other room. She hadn’t had a chance to eat all morning and the hollow feeling in her stomach was making her nauseous.
As she passed through the foyer, she frowned at the sight of the bright flowers on the table. Bursts of yellow, pink, white and purple Peruvian lilies overflowed from a clear vase on the foyer table. Since practically everyone she knew had already sent their condolences, she couldn’t imagine who these were from.
She plucked the white card from its holder and opened it up. Maybe I’ll send these to your funeral.
Bile burned the back of her throat. She clutched onto the table as a flash of cold assaulted her. Instead of fear, raw anger burned through her. She walked the few steps to the living room and stepped into the entryway.
“Lilly? What is it?” Braden murmured low enough for only her to hear.
Wordlessly she handed him the card then scanned the people in the living room. There were about thirty somber looking people scattered about, all dressed in black. Lilly’s gaze landed on Alma. When the older woman saw her, Lilly waved her over. She didn’t want to make a scene, but she wasn’t going to play the victim.
“Do you know where these flowers came from?”
Alma smoothed a hand over her black dress as her eyebrows furrowed. “I think they came from Delaney’s Flowers and Gifts…Yes, they did because I remember the delivery man’s hat.”
“Thanks. Will you tell the reverend I’ll be in there in a second? I need a minute.”
“Of course. Take your time.”
Lilly waited until Alma had disappeared into the other room before turning to Braden. People normally ordered flowers online and that meant they had to pay with a credit card.
“He probably used a credit card unless he ordered them in person,” Braden said, practically reading her mind. He pulled out his phone and punched in a number. Lilly’s heart raced as she waited for Braden.
“Hey, is Perry or Vanessa there yet?…Fine, I need you to follow up on something.” He placed a hand over the receiver and spoke to her. “What kind of flowers were they?”
“Peruvian lilies. A huge bouquet like that would cost close to a hundred dollars.”
“Go down to Delaney’s Florist and find out who sent the Peruvian lilies to Debra Carmichael’s wake…I don’t care if she’s your ex-girlfriend…Damn it, find out who bought those flowers and find out if they paid in cash or with a credit card.”
***P/S: Copyright -->Novel12__Com