Picture of Guilt

Picture of Guilt

by Helen Haddad

Paperback

$14.50

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781592799756
Publisher: Amber Quill Press, LLC
Publication date: 01/28/2003
Pages: 230
Product dimensions: 5.25(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.58(d)

Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER 1

Maureen Lowe wasn't sure which interviews were harder to handle.

Victims or witnesses.

Victims were often struck dumb by what they'd endured. They were like zombies. The living dead. She had to draw them out, to carefully wring every bit of painful information from them like they were so much dirty laundry.

Witnesses could go one way or another. They could be as leaden as victims, or they could be hyper, adrenaline charged, spewing out more details than were necessary, or even, at times, bearable. With them, Maureen served as a filter, catching what was important, and letting the rest drain away.

With both she was attentive, sympathetic. Kept her voice low and encouraging, so as not to spook one of them at the wrong moment. And all the while, like cops and emergency room personnel everywhere, maintaining that necessary wall, that objective distance between herself and them.

Otherwise, years ago, she would have drowned in all the tears and blood. And sooner or later, if she were patient, they almost all got around to one version or another of that all too familiar refrain. The one that had begun to echo through Maureen's dreams.

He didn't look like a murderer, a rapist, a...whatever.

That was Maureen's signal to pick up her pencil and go to work.

She took a deep breath, and forced herself to focus on the woman who had just flung herself into a chair on the other side of the table. Dreams weren't Lisa Adams' problem. Reality was. Her nightmares were still ahead of her.

Lisa shuddered and the manic energy that had driven her around the room went out of her like a sigh. "He doesn't look like a murderer," sherepeated dully. Minus the panic her voice was like the rest of her. Pinched and undernourished.

Maureen reached across the table and put her hand on the other woman's arm. "It would be great if criminals had capital C's tattooed on their foreheads, Lisa. But they don't. That's why we're here. To turn your memories into something concrete. Something that'll help the police catch the man who killed your friend."

Lisa tugged on a strand of "Cinnamon Red" hair. She darted a glance at Maureen's face, then looked quickly away. "Lieutenant Stanton said you're a foren--a foren--?"

"A forensic artist." Maureen frowned. "That's just an uptown way of saying police sketch artist."

"Yeah, forensic artist. That was it. He said your drawings have led to lots of arrests."

"Witness descriptions led to the arrests. I'm just a tool. Think of me as your hands, Lisa. Together, you and I are going to make this man pay for what he did. If you can describe him, I can draw him. If I can draw him, the police can catch him. Then you and everybody else in Granite Run will be safe. That's what you want, isn't it?"

Lisa fingered the blank pad on the table between them. "I thought you would have books full of noses and eyes to show me, and then I would pick out the ones that looked most like...him."

Maureen groaned. Cop shows! Television had produced more law enforcement experts than police academies had. "Some departments rely on identification kits or computers to crank out composite images. Others believe the sketch method produces more realistic results. Why don't we give it a try? You describe him as best you can, and I'll do the rest. Okay?"

"Yeah, well, I already told you he was good lookin'. Had this interestin' voice too. When we first sat down I heard him order a drink and..." Lisa's voice trailed off. Her hands dropped into her lap and the tension in her face eased. Maureen was willing to bet Lisa was no longer in a police interview room. She was in a dimly lit bar, and there was a man sitting across from her.

"His voice was kinda husky," Lisa said softly. "Like sandpaper. Kinda sexy."

Maureen hardly dared breathe. She hadn't seen this sort of trance-like, self-hypnotized recall often, but it happened, and when it did it was much more valuable than hysteria and often produced dramatic results.

Unfortunately, she couldn't draw a voice.

"Lisa, when you first noticed him, what was your general impression? Was he a big man? Thin or heavyset?"

Lisa squinted, and for a moment, Maureen felt as if she were right there with the other woman, trying to see through a smoky haze.

"Hmmm. Taller than six feet, I guess. And thin, but hard lookin'. Like he pumps iron or somethin'."

"Are you sure? Fear often makes the person you're afraid of seem larger than he or she really is."

"Afraid?" Lisa's head jerked and suddenly it was a police interview room again. "I told you I was afraid, hidin' in that closet." She choked on a sob. "I know I shouldda tried to help Jeannie. I know..."

Damn! "Fear" wasn't a productive word. Using it had just thrown Lisa back into the middle of the murder scene. Back into that closet. Which was not where Maureen wanted her to be. They'd been there once tonight, and the memory of what Lisa had described came rushing back at Maureen, in all its coarse, chilling clarity.

She leaned forward, talking low and fast, almost as much to herself as to the other woman. "Listen, Lisa. Take it easy. No one blames you for hiding. Your staying alive is what will lead to his arrest. But right now, I need you to forget the murder itself and concentrate on the man who so impressed you at the Crocodile Grill."

Copyright © 2002 by Helen Haddad

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