“I don’t have to explain anything.” The marshal crosses his arms and sinks into his seat beside Mara. “You’re looking for someone to blame. No matter what I say, you’re ready to believe I’m guilty.”
He’s right. Suspicion has clouded your vision. Best to keep looking for Sam Collison, since Archer implicated him. You pull out your phone. There must be some way to learn the identity of Sam Collison. After opening your Banter app, you type ‘Sam Collison’ into the search bar. Three pages of search results populate. How will you ever narrow that down?
An idea picks at your brain like buzzards on a fresh carcass. Claire Wilson and Jessica’s sister Tawny were married to the same man, now both are dead. There has to be a deeper connection there. It was too circumstantial these two women should be on the same plane.
You turn to the flight attendant. “Jessica. Was your sister’s husband ever charged with her murder? Did the case go to trial?”
“There was a bail hearing.” Her jaw hardened. “But the DA dropped the charges when he found out the evidence was obtained by unlawful seizure. Without being able to use the evidence against Rick, there was no chance at a conviction anyway.”
And Claire Wilson’s killer was still free, no evidence linked anyone to her crime scene. But Angie had witnessed an argument between her husband and Claire. How did that compute? What if the man who had been married to both Tawny and Claire was involved with Angie as well?
“Angie.” You glance over your shoulder. The dark-haired woman steps into the aisle and moves toward you, Devon close behind her. She meets Mara’s gaze, bites her lip, and looks at the floor. “What did your husband do for a living?”
“He was in sales.” Her answer is clipped.
“Did he travel for work?”
What are the odds all these domestic violence cases are tied to the man lying dead on the restroom floor? But the women tied to these abusive relationships were all married to men with different names. How could–
You scan the flight manifest until your gaze snags on the name ‘Jeff Archer.’ His seat is J3. When you find the his assigned seat number, you pop open the overhead bin. You pull out a black backpack. “Does this belong to anyone here?”
A teenage boy claims it.
Next, you drag out a gray duffel. When you ask who it belongs to, the passengers in row J shake their heads. You pull the zipper. Just a bunch of socks, a few pair of underwear, and–it can’t be. A stack of passports are shoved in and inside pocket. You flip through them. Some contain unfamiliar names, others names you recognize. But the photo is the same in each, and all the pictures match the face of the dead man in the bathroom. You stack the known names into a pile. Jeff Archer, Rick Brandt, Frank Wilson had to be Claire Wilson’s husband, and Roger Garrett must be Angie’s.
The victim had at least five identities besides these. Did each come with a different wife? A fresh story of abuse? Your skin crawls. As much harm as this man has caused, maybe he got what he deserved. The justice system clearly wasn’t adequate to stop his hidden lives, to protect the women and children he was hurting.
You pull out your phone to search the names you don’t recognize. With so much commonality among the passengers, surely there must be a way to narrow down the suspects. Jeff Archer–or whoever he was–had murdered Clair Wilson and Jessica Carmichael’s sister. He had beaten both Angie Garrett and her son. Mara had mentioned killing a man after something she’d witnessed him do. You meet the convicts gaze across the aisle. She lifts her chin and raises a brow. Didn’t all that happen before the flight? Why else would she be in shackles, awaiting trial in Australia?
Unless, it was all a lie. What if Durland wasn’t a real marshal? What if the law officer/criminal relationship between him and Mara was just a ruse to keep them from being implicated in Archer’s murder?
When you open your Safari tab, your last search for Claire Wilson comes up. Her obituary sits at the top of the list. You click it and scan the text for the names of her next of kin.
“…she is survived by her mother, Mara Lynch and her brother, Sam Collison.”
Clue #8 Jeff Archer has many identities. He was married to Claire Wilson, Jessica’s sister Tawny, and Angie Garrett.
Clue #9 The convict, Mara Lynch, is Claire Wilson’s mother.
Next week all the secrets will come to light. Who do you think killed the man in the airplane bathroom?