Their mother had been seventy-two when she died. Fury bubbled in Mason’s chest.
Who beats a woman that age?
Why didn’t she report him?
He put the questions behind him. The deaths had happened five years ago, and there was nothing he could do about it now. He concentrated on the details of the report. Olive Braswell had been found in her bed in her nightgown with a single gunshot wound to the head.
Shot in her sleep.
Tim Braswell had still been alive when the first responders found him. He had been on the floor in his living room, shot in the chest. Mason frowned and reread the line. Most suicides chose a head shot. A better chance of death. As Tim had done with Olive. Mason flipped to the autopsy report and read that Tim had nicked a major artery. He’d bled heavily but held on to die in the hospital the next day.
Tim deserved to die on the floor.
But the father didn’t die on the floor, because he had called 911, stating he’d shot his wife and was shooting himself next.
Coward. Wanted help for himself but not for his wife.
He flipped to Olive’s autopsy, and his brows shot up. Olive had been dead for more than twenty-four hours when the medical examiner arrived at the scene.
Tim had waited a full day after shooting her before he decided to end his own life.
Or it took that long to work up the courage.
That fact that Tim had shot himself in the chest continued to nag at Mason.
Mason read the rest of the report. Tim had had heavy stippling at the bullet’s entry; the handgun had been close to his chest, if not up against it. His hand had tested positive for gunshot residue.
But he’d shot his wife the day before.
GSR was hard to get rid of and easily created cross contamination. If a responding officer had previously been at the shooting range and come in contact with Tim’s hand, it would test positive. Mason searched for a particle count on the GSR evidence, hoping to see high numbers that would indicate that the weapon had been in Tim’s hand. No one had taken a particle count. The GSR test had been deemed sufficient.
But the fact that Tim had shot his wife could have given him high numbers even if the test had been done.
Is it possible someone else shot him?
One of his sons? Angry about their mother’s death?
Mason grimaced. To the Coeur d’Alene police, it had been a pretty open-and-shut case. They had the 911 call saying that Tim was about to commit suicide. They’d arrived and found he had attempted to. He’d killed his wife, as he’d admitted on the phone . . .
Or did he?
Could someone else have made that 911 call?
Mason blew out a deep breath. Why was he picking apart the Braswell deaths? He tossed the report aside. If they ever caught up with Shawn Braswell, he’d look into it then. Right now the parents’ deaths were moot.
He banished the murder-suicide to the back of his brain, but he knew he wouldn’t forget.
Sighing, he checked the time. He’d called Gillian Wood, Reuben’s neighbor and . . . love interest? They were to meet at eleven, and he’d been burning time in his vehicle in front of her house until the hour arrived. He got out and went to knock on her door.
As he waited on her porch, he glanced at Kaden Schroeder’s home, noticing that the red pickup was in the driveway again. Remembering the young man’s fluster when Mason had mentioned Gillian Wood, Mason tried to think if he had any more questions for him. Kaden had been the only one who’d stated he’d seen a silver Mustang at Reuben’s home.
I wonder if Gillian knows of his interest.
Mason doubted it. He’d thought Kaden was a high schooler and doubted that Gillian saw him as anything more.
Gillian opened the door. She smiled, but her eyes were still haunted. Mason didn’t know how it was possible, but she seemed thinner than before. She hesitated after his greeting, and he got the impression she didn’t want to invite him into her home.
“Let’s sit out here.” Mason indicated her front porch. Identical to the porch at Reuben’s home. All the houses on the street were cookie cutter. Only the colors and different landscaping differentiated them.
Relief flashed on her face, and they sat. Mason noticed there were no cigarettes in sight.
“Where’s the other guy?” Gillian asked.
A wave of pain hit Mason, and he was unable to tell the truth. He wasn’t ready to discuss it. “He couldn’t make it today.”
She blinked and shifted in her seat. Nervousness hovered around her, but she didn’t seem ready to bolt.
An improvement over last time.
“You said you had more questions for me?” she asked, tentatively making eye contact. “I could’ve answered them on the phone.”
“I needed to come out here anyway,” he hedged. He didn’t have plans to go in the Braswell home again. Not yet, anyway. “I wondered if Reuben mentioned his brother, Shawn Braswell, in any conversations lately.”
“Is that his name? If he told me his brother’s name, I don’t remember it. He wouldn’t talk about his family at all. Reuben didn’t like personal questions.”
“But the two of you were . . . an item?”
Her lips quirked at the word, and he was keenly aware of how out of touch he was with certain popular terms. “I wouldn’t call it that. Yes, we had a physical relationship, but he was an expert at putting up walls. Anytime I asked personal questions, he cut me off, telling me to keep it light.” She snorted lightly. “Who doesn’t discuss their feelings? I mean, we’d been sleeping together for more than a month, and I simply wanted to know where his head was at. He wouldn’t answer. He never wanted to know what I was feeling either.”
He’s just not that into you.
Mason didn’t say it out loud. Gillian wasn’t in need of relationship advice—not that Mason was any expert, but if a man was interested in a woman, he talked to her. “Strong, silent type, huh?”
“Definitely.” Pain flashed in her eyes.
She liked the guy.
“I learned to hold back any questions about personal stuff. One time I asked what his tattoos meant to him, and he clammed up.” She traced a circle on her right bicep and touched her shoulder. “Isn’t that one of the points of tattoos? To show off things that are important to you and have meaning? Everyone expects questions about them.”
Mason wouldn’t know.
She turned and lifted her hair so he could see the small round tattoo on the back of her neck. “It’s a yin and yang. I’m fascinated with the idea that opposites can be complementary.” She turned back to him, tossing her hair over a shoulder. “I showed it to him, and all he said was, ‘It’s nice.’”
“He wasn’t one to ask questions either?”
“Nope. I honestly think it’s simply how he was. It was one of the more frustrating relationships I’ve ever had. My grocery checker is more interactive.”
The natural follow-up question would be why she stayed. But Mason wasn’t interested in that can of worms. “He ever show signs of a temper? What would set him off?”
“I never saw him get angry,” Gillian said. “Sure, he was annoyed by things. He’d talk about things like store customers and politics. I think I’d told you before, I’d just listen. He needed to rant sometimes.”
“Did you ever worry he would hurt you?”
She drew back, distaste on her face. “God, no. Why would you ask that?” Her confusion appeared genuine.
“Heard he could get physical if pushed.”
“I never felt that. Even when he told me I asked too many questions.” She looked expectantly at him, clearly finished with the topic.
“Did you see a silver Mustang in his driveway recently?”
Her forehead wrinkled. “No. Why?”
“What about any other unfamiliar vehicles?”
“None. Only his truck.”
Mason glanced at his notebook. He was out of questions. Frustration filled him.
“I think I saw a silver car across the street last night. There’s been so many vehicles coming and going since . . . you know. I assumed it was part of the investigation.”
His frustration evaporated. “A Mustang?”
“Where was it?”
“In front of the Schroeders’ house.”
“How well do you know them?” he asked.
“Not that well. I say hi to Kaden when we’re both outside—he’s the teenage son. Not sure of the dad’s name.”
Mason wasn’t the only one who thought the twenty-two-year-old man looked very young. “What time did you see the car?”
Gillian gazed across the street at the home as she thought. “Don’t know the time. It was dark, though, so maybe close to ten?” She nodded as if confirming her thoughts. “I was locking up before bed.” She met Mason’s gaze, uncertainty in her eyes. “I double-check every lock before bed now. Windows too.” Her voice lowered. “I’ve asked to break my lease. I can’t live here anymore.”
“I don’t blame you.” He stood and offered his hand. “Good luck, Gillian.”
He strode across the street to the Schroeder home. He was certain no one related to the investigation had been in the neighborhood at 10:00 p.m. The crime scene team had wrapped up, and Nora drove a black SUV.