Title: Guilty Knowledge
Author: Linda Griffin
Genre: Mystery/Romantic Suspense
Detective Jesse Aaron has no leads in the murder of Rosa Logan when pretty blonde Sariah Brennan claims to have seen the killer--in a vision. It would be easy to dismiss her, but she knows a crucial detail that was never revealed to the public. How does she know? Sariah is an unsophisticated small-town girl, but her background and her motives are mysterious, and she seems to be hiding something. Jesse is increasingly convinced she has guilty knowledge of the crime, even as he finds himself more and more attracted to her. Can he unravel the web of secrets before the killer strikes again?
The rain pattered frantically against the third-floor windows of Carroll City Police Headquarters, distracting Jesse from his review of the Thurston case file. Sitting at his desk, he had an unobstructed view of the elevator through the glass wall of the small office, and he saw a young woman emerge. She was damp and flustered, struggling to fasten the strap on her dripping umbrella. Pretty girl, he thought and seconds later couldn’t think why. She was white, fairly tall, and slender, with a plain, honest face. Her dark blonde hair fell below her shoulders, and her eyes were wide and dark and slightly slanted. A young Helen Hunt or someone further back, an old-fashioned look. Her clothes were simple: a skirt and sweater and sensible shoes.
She spoke to Michelle at the reception desk, and Michelle, looking bored and critical, pointed to the umbrella stand and then to the open door of the office. The young woman came in but hesitated before she approached his desk. “Detective Aaron?”
“That’s right,” he said. “Jesse Aaron.” He stood up and held out his hand. She shook it briefly, her fingers slim and cool in his. “How can I help you?”
“I have some information about a crime,” she said.
“Okay. Have a seat.” He indicated the chair across from him, and she sat primly, knees together, small handbag clutched in her lap. He sat down, pulled a notebook and pen toward him, and began with the obvious: “Your name?”
She took a deep breath and said what sounded like, “Suh-ry-ah Brennan.”
She seemed to need prompting. “You have some information, Ms. Brennan?” She wasn’t as eager to spill her secret as most informants—did she have a reason to hold back?
“About a murder. They said you were investigating it. Rosa Logan.” Her voice was soft and unhurried.
“Yes?” He kept his tone even. If she expected a reaction, she would be disappointed. A hundred telephone tips had come in on the case before the blood was dry at the crime scene, but to have someone sent upstairs to speak to him was unusual. Rosa Logan had been twenty-three, attractive, blonde, and pink-cheeked. Now she was dead, her skull caved in, her throat slashed. He hadn’t been able to shake the image of her staring eyes and her bright hair darkened with blood. It was a nasty case with no easy answers.
“I know who did it,” Sariah Brennan said.
“Uh-huh. Who’s that?” He had heard this before. The last one had been certain her dentist committed the murder. Most tips were a waste of time, but checking them out was a necessary part of the job.
“I don’t know his full name, but he’s called Casey. A big, dark man with a scar on his neck.”
Yes, wasn’t it always a big, dark man? “Dark-skinned?”
“Dark hair, dark clothes. His complexion…about as dark as you, but not African-American.”
“Latino, Middle Eastern…?”
“I don’t think so. Maybe Slavic or Eastern European.”
“And you know this how?” Jesse jotted the keywords in his notebook and didn’t realize immediately that she hadn’t answered. He looked up. “Ms. Brennan?” Her reluctance to explain was unusual, and his experience-honed instincts told him she was hiding something or knew more than she should.
“I saw him…in my head, like in a vision.”
“I see.” One of those, although she didn’t seem the type. He put down his pen. Department policy was to check out even this kind of tip if it was specific enough, but he had never seen one lead anywhere. She was a little flushed now, but her gaze remained steady, her chin up. He tried to keep the skepticism out of his voice as he asked, “So you’re a psychic? You get these visions all the time?”
“No,” she said. “Only one other time, when I was fourteen. My brother fell in a well, and I knew what happened and brought help, even though I was too far away to hear him calling. My grandmother said I had a gift, but I should keep quiet about it.”
“And did you?”
“Until today.” She gave him a direct, challenging look. “I know this man Casey killed Rosa Logan.”
“Did you know her?”
“But it came to you that she was killed by a man with a scar on his neck?” He still had a nagging feeling that she knew something, but surely this wasn’t how.
“Yes. I know how it sounds, but I had to tell you, because there’s another one. If you don’t stop him, he’ll kill her too.”
“Who? Is it you?” She gave a short, surprised laugh. “If it is, we can protect you. You don’t have to be afraid.”
“What are you going to do—to find him?”
He gave her the standard answer: “We’re following up a lot of leads,” and added, “I’ll run this description through the local and NCIC databases and ask her associates if they recognize it.” He picked up his pen again. “Can you describe the scar?”
“A red mark about an inch high.” She touched the left side of her neck. “Here. It was like a C, a backwards C.”
Jesse wrote that down. “Okay. Thanks.” He handed her a card from the holder on the desk. “If you think of anything else, you can call me.” He meant it as a dismissal, but she didn’t leave.
“He…He took one of her fingers in his mouth. After she was dead.”
The hair on the back of his neck prickled, but he remained expressionless.
“In his mouth? Which finger?”
“I’m not sure. I think it was her left hand.”
“Were you there?” She must have been. Unless she had a source inside the investigation, in which case someone should be fired, she was an eyewitness. How else could she have known Rosa Logan’s ring finger had teeth marks on it?