If I Run, page 11
Casey speaks up again. “Who says that?”
“They said it,” the guy says. “Just they.”
The group cracks up.
“I want to see that study,” Casey says. “It’s a crock. Brittany is not stupid, and Rick is not all that smart. That’s my point. You’re not yourselves when you’re sloppy drunk. But it’s okay. I’ll drive you all home and make sure you don’t get into trouble.”
“Can’t be fun for you.”
Casey just laughs.
“I don’t think Casey would be a sloppy drunk,” Brittany says. “I think she’d be a neat drunk, and what fun is that?”
I can’t imagine why Brittany would have posted this video on her own page. I guess she thinks it’s funny that her speech is slurred and her thinking is hindered. She probably thinks the conversation is somehow profound.
I go back to Casey’s page. She didn’t post anything that day. She didn’t even tag that video so it would show up on her page, even though it makes her look good.
I try to imagine that girl on the screen who’s nonjudgmental about her friends and amused at their stupidity, brutally murdering one of them. It doesn’t compute.
I almost like the girl I’ve seen. She’s cute and seems sweet, and I don’t sense any cynicism or undertone of anger. I wonder if her aversion to losing control is because of past consequences when drunk. Maybe she knows it changes her personality. Makes her snap. But there’s no evidence anywhere of that.
PTSD still reigns heavy in my mind as a possible contributor. She could have encountered some trigger that made her react and kill Brent accidentally. But his murder seemed so vicious, so planned. His injuries were in lethal places . . . his carotid artery, his spleen . . . as if she knew exactly where to cut him to bleed him out faster.
But she wouldn’t have taken off if she had nothing to hide. She must be the killer.
Since I have no leads on where Casey might be, and the Pace family insists I keep looking for her, I go talk to her older sister, Hannah. As I drive up, she’s out in her small front yard playing with her baby, who’s sitting in a tiny plastic pool full of floating toys, splashing water. Hannah’s clothes are wet, but she sits on the concrete beside the pool. She looks at me suspiciously as I pull into her driveway and get out of the car. Her hand goes out to steady her child.
“Hi,” I say. “My name’s Dylan Roberts. I’m working for the Pace family. I was wondering if I could ask you a few questions.”
Hannah doesn’t move from her crouch. “You have any ID?” she asks.
I show her my credentials. She glances at my name, then says, “I’ve told the police everything I know. I don’t know where my sister is.”
“Can we still talk?” I ask. “I’m just trying to get a clear picture of what happened with Brent Pace.” I squat down next to the pool. “See, Brent was a good friend of mine. We grew up together. I’m just trying to make some sense out of it.”
Hannah pulls the baby out of the pool, throws a towel around her. “I’m sorry about your friend,” she says grudgingly as she dries her. “I met Brent several times. He was a nice guy. A really good friend to Casey.” She gets up with her baby. “I have to go. Have to get her dressed.”
I smile at the baby, who’s kicking to get down and grinning at me like she knows me. “How old is she?” I ask.
Hannah looks at me as though she doesn’t know whether to answer. “She’s six months old. Why?”
“Just curious,” I say. “It’s been a long time since I’ve been around a baby. It’s hard to judge age.” I hold out my hand and the little girl grabs my finger. “She’s really cute,” I say. “Looks just like you.”
Hannah softens the slightest bit. “Look, I really don’t have anything to talk to you about.”
“Please. I wanted to ask you some things about your father.”
“My father.” I half expect her to turn and run, but that perks her up, and finally she says, “Okay, come in.”
Inside, she throws a T-shirt over the little girl’s bathing suit and settles her on the floor with her toys. “I’m only letting you in because I want you to understand,” she says. “I don’t talk about my father. His suicide was upsetting and I don’t like dredging it up.”
“Your mother thinks it was homicide.”
Hannah stares at me. “My mother has issues.”
I’ve investigated suicides several times in my career in the military. In every single case, their close friends and family members didn’t want to believe it unless there was a note or something they couldn’t deny. Hannah’s break from that pattern throws me. “I’m really sorry for his death,” I say. “I’m sure it was hard on the family.”
“It was hardest on Casey,” Hannah says.
I’ve heard that before, so I’m not surprised. “I just want to know, did it change her?”
That turns Hannah’s face red. “Not in the way you want to hear me say. She didn’t become a psychopathic killer, if that’s what you mean.”
“I’m not suggesting anything like that. I’m just wondering . . . did she have depression, anxiety, anything like that as a result?”
She shakes her head. “We were all depressed for a couple years after that. We were all anxious. Waiting for the other shoe to drop.”
The other shoe? I tilt my head. “What do you mean by that?”
She’s bending over her baby, but her head snaps up. “Nothing. I just mean that it was a bad time in our lives.”
I’m quiet for a minute, processing.
“Listen, my sister didn’t do what they’re saying. Casey is the bravest, most decent person I know.”
I watch her as she picks up her baby and heads to the adjoining kitchen. She gets a teething ring from the fridge and gives it to her.
“Have you heard from Casey?” I ask.
She won’t look at me. “I told the police already that I don’t know where she is.”
“But have you talked to her?” I repeat.
“No!” Hannah says finally. “You’re barking up the wrong tree. If Brent were here he would tell you. She would never hurt anyone, much less a good friend.”
“Did your sister have any drug problems? Alcohol?”
“Not at all,” she says. “She doesn’t drink or use drugs. She’s never liked losing control.”
That’s pretty much what I’d gleaned from the video. I step toward the kitchen counter. “I asked your mother this. Do you have a theory about who killed Brent?”
Hannah lets out a bitter laugh, but then she seems to catch herself. “I’ve said all I’m gonna say. I have nothing else to add. I have to ask you to leave.”
As I’m walking out, I see an empty box on the floor by the wall. I glance at the FedEx label—it came from Seattle. Was it from Casey? What could have been in it? “If I could just ask you a few more questions—”
“Sorry,” she says, coming around the counter and opening the door for me. “I need you to go.”
I don’t like overstaying my welcome, even when I’m doing a job. I can be tough when I have to, but this is not the time, so I let her show me out. I linger in the doorway and look back at the box long enough to read the address label: Hannah Boon, c/o Sam and Cheryl Boon. The company that shipped it is Jack’s Sporting Goods in Seattle, handwritten. I try to see the address when Hannah blocks my view. I bend down to pick it up, but Hannah sees what I’m doing and jerks it away.
As she closes the door behind me, I stand on her porch for a moment, staring down at the little pool. Sam and Cheryl Boon. FedEx. If I were Casey and needed to get something to my sister, I might send it to a relative. Someone who would get the box to her without being suspicious.
I go to my car and open my laptop, link to my phone’s personal hotspot, then check out the Boons. They’re Hannah’s husband’s parents. Intent on getting the information from FedEx about where the package originated, I start my car and pull away.
Is Casey s
The girl at FedEx has a flirty smile, and when I tell her that I’m working with the police on a case, she seems even more interested in me. I play along, grinning back and leaning toward her on the counter like I’m about to ask for her number.
“Do y’all know who killed that guy?” she asks, eyes big. “They’re saying it was a girl.”
I give her a coy look. “You know I’d love to tell you, but then I’d have to kill you.”
She laughs like she’s never heard that before, and I sort of hate myself for using such an overdone joke. “Seriously, I need to trace a package. Can you help me with that?”
“Depends,” she says.
I know this game. It’s the one where she dangles the information carrot, and I offer to take her for coffee. She can’t tell by looking at me that I’m a nightmare in relationships, that I start out strong, then drift so far into myself that no one can reach me.
My shrink tells me I have insight into my mental state, that it’s a good indicator of an eventual recovery. Tell that to the women I’ve hurt. Though I long for an end to the loneliness, I don’t want to take anyone else down on the way.
She seems like a nice girl; I change my body language so I won’t lead her on. I get to the point and ask her to do a search for packages sent to Hannah Boon in the last month.
She pretty quickly comes up with the package sent to her via her in-laws. It was the box I saw from Seattle. I’ve already checked to see if there really is a Seattle company called Jack’s Sporting Goods. I found nothing. “Where did the package originate from?” I ask. “I mean, not what was on the Sender line, but the FedEx office it was shipped from.”
She does a little looking, then sucks in a breath. “Oh my gosh. It’s not from Seattle. This was sent from one of our Atlanta stores.” She looks at me like she’s just saved the day. “Do you think that’s where that killer is?”
I give her a look that reminds her I can’t say, but I know she interprets it as more flirting. “Can you do a search of any packages sent from Hannah Boon in the last month?”
Eager to help more, she clicks away. Finally, she turns her screen where I can see it. “Yes, she sent a package just a few days ago to someone named Liz Harris in New York. Do you think the killer’s in New York?”
I ignore the question this time. “Can you look up that recipient and see her history? Has she shipped or received packages before?”
She looks excited, as if I’ve just thought of a genius plan.
“Yes! Liz Harris has been getting packages at that address for three years. Before that, she had a Shreveport address. Is this the killer?”
“No,” I say firmly, hoping she doesn’t consider this grist for the gossip mill. I think for a moment.
So Hannah’s package—the cardboard box I saw—could have come from Casey. Why else would it have a fake Sender address? But that doesn’t mean Hannah’s shipment went to Casey. If Liz is a real person with a history at that address, the package probably had nothing to do with Casey.
Still . . . the timing of Hannah’s package going to Liz Harris could be important—just a couple of days after she received the Jack’s Sporting Goods box. “Do me a favor,” I say, glancing at her name tag. “Linda, could you give me printouts of the packages sent immediately before and after the one Hannah Boon sent to New York?”
She gets right on it. “You’re really good,” she says as she types. “I would never think of all this.”
“That’s why they pay me the big bucks,” I tease.
“Here they are.” She prints them out and hands them to me. “Anything?”
They’re both from different people.
“Were either of these paid for with the same credit card Hannah used on the Liz Harris package?”
She checks. “No. Both were paid for with cash.”
I study the addresses. The package sent before the one to New York was a return to Pottery Barn. The one sent immediately after was to Grace Newland at an Atlanta hotel.
Pay dirt. The sender is listed as John Smith. Hannah isn’t very creative.
Grace Newland. Could that be the name Casey is going by?
“Linda, you’ve been amazing. Just what I needed.”
She beams. “Anytime. Seriously. If you need anything else, just call.” She jots down her cell number and I take it.
“Listen, don’t talk about this, okay? We don’t want anyone tipped off.”
“I never would,” Linda says, but I doubt she can contain it.
“I mean it,” I tell her. “You could be charged with obstruction of justice.”
Her smile fades. “Oh. Wow. I won’t say a thing.”
When I leave FedEx, I head to the police department and go up to the Major Crimes Unit, where Gordon Keegan sits at his desk talking on the phone. I lift my hand in a wave, and he takes his feet off his desk and motions for me to come over. I take a seat on a folding chair in his cubicle and wait for him to get off.
Finally, he hangs up and shakes my hand. “Please tell me you’ve found her.”
“I might have,” I say. “I have an address in Atlanta where she may have received a package.”
For some reason I can’t quite name, I decide not to tell him about the name Grace Newland. It may be a false lead, but that’s not really why I hesitate to share it. Maybe it’s a pride thing. I want to find her before he does.
“I need to go there and see if she’s at that hotel. I checked the schedule and the next flight to Atlanta is in two hours. Can you let the Atlanta police know I’ll be coming? I may need them to help me make an arrest.”
“Absolutely,” he says.
“One other thing. I still need the file on her father’s death.”
“Whose father’s death?”
“Casey’s. The suicide?”
He stares at me blankly for a moment. “Oh, right.”
“I’d especially like to see any video of Casey’s interview after finding her dad. That could tell me something about her mind, her emotions. Like why she might have snapped and murdered a friend.”
He scratches his eyebrow with the back of his thumb. “Okay. Yeah. Might take some time. I’m kind of up to my eyeballs.”
Not satisfied, I try again. “It’s just that I talked to her mother, who insists Andy Cox didn’t kill himself. That it was murder.”
“The mother’s a mental case,” he says. “Probably why he offed himself.”
His callous sentiment strikes me.
“Look, just go to Atlanta,” he says. “If you find her, the file won’t matter. If you don’t, I’ll shoot it to you.”
I was hoping to study the file on the plane, but I can see that he isn’t budging on that, so I head to the airport.
The flight is only an hour and a half, and when I arrive and turn my phone back on, I see that I have a text from Keegan, telling me the name of my contact at the Atlanta PD in case someone needs to verify my credentials. I rent a car and head to the hotel where the package was received.
After explaining who I am, I show Casey’s picture to the woman at the front desk, and she narrows her eyes. “Yeah, I think I’ve seen her. I recognize those eyes.”
“She may be going by the name Grace Newland. Is she still here?”
She types something into the computer, then shakes her head. “No, she checked out the day before yesterday.”
“What else does it show? Did she have a vehicle? A tag number? Did she receive any other packages?”
She looks at her file, then shrugs. “She wrote that she was driving a white Kia. I didn’t get a model or tag. That’s all we ask for. And she received one package, which she picked up right before she checked out.”
“She paid cash,” she says.
Disappointed, I look around at the ceiling corners. “Do y
“Yes,” she says.
“I’ll need to see the video of those days.” Maybe I can see her tag number, or any changes she’s made to her appearance.
The girl checks in the back, and I hear her talking on the phone. Finally, she comes back. “I’m sorry, but it’s on a two-day cycle. After a couple of days it’s recorded over. We don’t have that day.”
I can’t believe it. “Why have a security camera if you do that?”
“Because most of the crimes in the hotel are reported within twenty-four hours. We keep the video long enough for that. I’m really sorry.”
Unbelievable. I ask her if Casey asked for directions or a map, or said anything about where she was going. She says she doesn’t remember talking to her.
I find the business center. Maybe she left a trail on the computer. Nothing significant comes up in its history. Maybe she didn’t use it. By now she probably bought a computer of her own. She seems to have cash. I wonder where she got it. Is someone helping her?
I can’t believe I’ve come to another dead end. How can this keep happening?
She could have gone anywhere—north or south, farther east, back west. She doesn’t have family or friends in Georgia that I’ve been able to trace. But that might be precisely why she ended up here.
Before going back to the airport, I check with the bus and train stations. Another dead end.
Casey Cox is smarter than the average fugitive. She might be smarter than me.
There’s a woman who sits out in the courtyard of Gran’s Porch, rocking in a chair that squeaks with every forward thrust. She seems lost, as if she woke up this morning and found herself in a strange place and can’t find her way home.
I can’t stand to see people lonely, so I walk outside my little cottage room and approach her.
“Hi,” I say, slipping my hair behind my ears, something I always do when I’m nervous. “I’m Grace. Mind if I sit down?”
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