“Shae Lockwood, you’re under arrest for the death of Allen Lockwood. You have the right to remain silent…”
This couldn’t be happening.
It had to be a dream. A nightmare.
Except I could still hear Detective Rheingard reading me my rights, and I could feel his hand on my elbow as he led me through the station over to what I could only assume was processing. Still, everything had that surreal quality I associated with dreams and nightmares. The way the faces around me blurred, how time moved in fits and starts, the heaviness in my limbs that made me feel like I was moving through mud.
I followed the directions I was given. Offered my hands for fingerprint scans. Turned to be photographed. I handed over my purse and jewelry, emptied my pockets. It wasn’t until I was sitting in a small, windowless room that I realized they’d taken my engagement and wedding rings too. And that was when I realized I’d still been wearing them. Even though I’d been widowed in June, and it was now almost Thanksgiving, I hadn’t thought to take off my rings. Not even when I’d started sleeping with Jasper or after he’d moved in. And he’d never once suggested I remove them.
His name was like a punch in the stomach. I’d come to the police station because I’d found information that could possibly have implicated Jasper in the death of his best friend, my late husband. At the very least, it indicated negligence of some kind. I wasn’t entirely sure what the legal ramifications were for having lied to a patient about having a terminal illness, resulting in that patient committing suicide, but there had to be something.
I’d come in on my own, brought Allen’s medical records, as well as an email from Jasper to Allen suggesting a larger life insurance policy, and a letter I’d received from Allen a few months after his death. A letter that said he’d committed suicide due to the disease he’d been diagnosed with. A disease that Jasper had told Allen he had, but that the medical records I’d found proved a lie.
Instead of answering questions about this new evidence, however, I found myself being arrested for Allen’s death.
The only sound in the room was my finger tapping on the top of the table as I waited. I was usually a fairly patient person – to be a second grade teacher, it was pretty much a requirement – but the detectives who’d been assigned to look into Allen’s death were definitely testing me.
I’d known they’d been suspicious of me from the first moment we’d met. At least, Detective Reed had been. When it had become clear that Jasper and I had been spending a lot of time together, that suspicion had grown. I’d told myself they’d only been doing their job. After all, when someone died under mysterious circumstances, the spouse was always the first suspect. And Allen having died while the two of us were sky-diving definitely fit under the “mysterious” category.
Everyone had assumed it had been an accident, that Allen’s chute simply hadn’t opened. I’d thought the same thing until I’d gotten his letter and he’d revealed that it had been intentional. He’d done it because he’d known that an insurance policy wouldn’t pay out for suicide, and he hadn’t wanted to live through the end his disease would’ve put him through.
Or, at least, I’d thought everyone else had assumed it was an accident. Now, I saw the detectives thought Allen’s death had been intentional. I just couldn’t figure out what sort of evidence they possibly could’ve had to convince them I was a murderer.
“Mrs. Lockwood.” Detective Reed came in first, followed by the slightly older Detective Rheingard. The latter carried a stack of files.
I didn’t return the greeting. In the fifteen minutes I’d been left in here alone, my shock had turned into anger. They could’ve just asked me whatever questions they had. I would’ve cooperated. They hadn’t needed to arrest me, especially not in the middle of their squad room with everyone in the police department watching. It’d be all over St. Helena before lunch.
“I’m sorry about all of that,” Rheingard said as he sat in the chair across from me. “Procedure, you understand.”
In my head, I’d always considered Rheingard the good cop to Reed’s bad cop. Now I was beginning to think neither of them had been the good cop to begin with. I bit back my sharp retort and didn’t say anything. I did, after all, have the right to remain silent.
“What are these?” Reed pulled the files Rheingard had been carrying over to him. “A letter, an email and some medical records? You just ‘happened’ to find them and brought them in out of the goodness of your heart.”
I struggled to keep my voice even as I explained, “I received the letter from Allen at the beginning of October. The mailman who brought it to my door apologized and said that it had been lost in the mail for months. I believe Allen meant for me to get it shortly after he died.”
“But it’s typed,” Reed said. “How do you know it’s from your late husband?”
“He signed it.”
“He typed his name,” Reed countered.
“What would be the point in someone else sending me a letter like this?” I asked, curbing the annoyance in my voice. “Four months after he died, and someone’s going to make up a story like that? Why? To mess with me?”
“You have had a bit of bad luck when it comes to people lately,” Rheingard interjected. “Legal battles with your in-laws, a woman claiming to have had a child with Mr. Lockwood, a fire at the vineyard.”
He was right on all of those counts. Allen’s family had been coming after me for inheriting Allen’s trust and all of his property, but the judge had already ruled that the vineyard was mine. The trust was still being contested. The paternity issue had already been taken care of too. The man who was actually Jenny Vargas’s father had the test results to prove it, and he’d filed for custody of the little girl while charges were being brought against Aime Vargas for extortion, among other things. As for the fire, well, I knew the Lockwoods had been involved in that, even if there hadn’t been any charges filed yet.
“I don’t see what a letter from Allen has to do with any of that.” I crossed my arms over my chest, grateful I wasn’t handcuffed and could fidget.
“If it’s real, it would mean that you’ll lose that million dollar insurance policy,” Rheingard said.
“Maybe that’s why you didn’t bring it in to begin with,” Reed put in. “You wanted to cash in that million dollars, and you knew that suicide would void the payout.”
“Jasper Whitehall was Allen’s doctor. I confronted him with the letter, and he admitted that Allen had been sick.” My stomach churned when I said Jasper’s name, but I was able to keep my face blank.
“Then what’s this?” Reed pointed to the top file on the pile. “Allen’s medical records show that he wasn’t sick at all.”
“Which is why I brought this stuff to you,” I said. If they would’ve let me explain all of this before arresting me, it would’ve made things so much easier. “I was looking through a box and found Allen’s medical records. After I read through them, I began to suspect that Jasper had been lying to me and to Allen about Allen being sick. I remembered that I still had Allen’s laptop, so I went on it and found that email from Jasper to Allen talking about the life insurance policy, and Jasper telling Allen that he’d find the money to start his clinic somewhere. After Allen’s death, I found out that he’d left Jasper a million dollars from his trust.”
Detective Rheingard leaned back in his seat and gave me a scrutinizing look. “How did you happen to be looking through a box of medical files? I’m assuming your new boyfriend didn’t have them lying around.”
Heat flooded my face, but I refused to look down. I hadn’t done anything wrong. “Jasper left his father’s practice and is starting a clinic. He brought home several boxes of things and put them in the study. I was helping unpack, and found the box by accident. I saw Allen’s name and read the file.”
“Home?” Detective Reed’s eyes took on a light I didn’t particularly like.
“Jasper is living with me at the vineyard,” I said, lifting my chin. “Or at least he was until I confronted him with the file and the email. When he said he didn’t know about either one, I kicked him out.”
“So you’re saying that the day we planned on coming to arrest you, you just so happen to bring us information to implicate your lover in the death of your husband?” Reed smirked at me. “Pardon me if I don’t believe you.”
“What reason do I have to lie?” I asked.
“To throw suspicion onto someone other than yourself,” Rheingard countered.
“What happened, Mrs. Lockwood?” Reed leaned forward again, putting his elbows on the table. “One year of matrimonial bliss and you were already tired of your husband?”
I could smell his cologne from where I was sitting, and it made me want to gag almost as much as his questions did.
“Did he beat you?” Rheingard asked.
“No!” I stared at the detective, shocked he would even ask such a question. “Allen was a kind, compassionate man. He never raised his hand to me or anyone else.”
“If he didn’t hit you, what was it? Did he have an affair? Maybe one of those cute little workers at the vineyard?” Reed asked. “Did you catch them going at it in the office? Maybe right out in the open? Was that why you set fire to that row? Was that where they’d done it?”
My mouth was hanging open, but I couldn’t seem to find the willpower to shut it. I couldn’t believe they were asking this.
Reed kept going. “You’d only been married a year, but you’d been together for, what, eight years? That’s a long time to only be getting it from one place.”
“You’re a pig,” I snapped, face flaming. “Allen and I were happy together. He never cheated on me. We were going to start a family.”
I waited for that last statement to hurt, but it didn’t. Maybe I was moving on. Or maybe I couldn’t feel anything but anger and shock at what was happening.
“If you were happy together, then why’d you kill him?” Reed asked. “Or, maybe you were the one sleeping around, and he caught you. Was that it?”
“I didn’t kill my husband,” I said. My nails dug into my palms and I concentrated on the pain to keep myself from slapping him. “It was either an accident or suicide, but that’s your job to figure out. I just came in here to give you some information that might help with your investigation.”
“If it was an accident or suicide, Mrs. Lockwood, then we should only have found Allen’s prints on his parachute pack, right? After all, he’s the one who packed it. That’s what you said.” Rheingard leaned forward now, folding his hands in front of him. “But we didn’t only find Allen’s prints. We found another set.” He paused for a moment, smoky blue eyes studying me. “We found your prints as well. Would you care to explain that?”