I’d like to thank each person who has followed this moment to the end! You make storytelling so much fun. Now, to announce the winner of the $50 Amazon gift card.
Congratulations, Anne!!! You’re the winner! Thank you for participating!
I’d like to thank each person who has followed this moment to the end! You make storytelling so much fun. Now, to announce the winner of the $50 Amazon gift card.
Congratulations, Anne!!! You’re the winner! Thank you for participating!
This is the last installment of Murder at 30,000 Feet! Hard to believe ten weeks have flown by so quickly (pun completely intended.) Next week I’ll hold the drawing for the $50 Amazon Gift Card. Anyone who leaves a comment on all 10 posts will have a chance to win. 🙂
As the plane begins it’s descent, you grab the seat back to steady yourself. A hollow ding sounds over the speakers, and the ‘fasten seat belt’ light flickers on. You meet Mara’s gaze and her brows raise. She’ll never admit to anything. Durland–if that’s even his real name– doesn’t look too forthcoming either with the firm set to his jaw and the steely determination in his eyes.
Maybe Claire Wilson’s social media page wasn’t taken down after her death. Would there be pictures of Mara? Maybe even her brother, Sam? You open your Banter app and search Claire’s name. Bingo! The page is active.
You scroll past a series of posts left by friends and family who mourned her loss and reminisced over happy times they’d shared. Finally, the photos. You thumb through the gallery and stop. There’s Mara. Her arm draped around Claire’s shoulders as the pair stood in front of what looked like a view of the Rocky Mountains. Family vacation, perhaps?
In the next picture, a familiar face joins the pair. You look up and lock eyes with Mashal Durland, who, according to the photo tag, is Claire’s brother Sam Collison. He looks away. Even if Durland–or Collison, rather–tries to smooth-talk his way out of this predicament, he can’t explain away the fact that he is on the same plane with the corpse of the man who most likely murdered his sister.
“This wasn’t the way to handle it.” You lower your phone, shaking your head. “There are laws to–“
“They failed.” Sam runs splayed fingers through his hair. “That monster killed my sister, and got away with it. There was no justice.”
“But you murdered him, and that wasn’t the answer.” Maybe it felt like Jeff Archer had gotten everything he deserved. But murder was always wrong. Your ears pop as the lights lining the runway come into view through the oblong window to your left.
“It wasn’t me.” Sam shakes his head. “I’ll admit, I’ve been tracking him for months. And I knew he’d be on this flight. He’s been tailing Angie. I had to keep an eye on her. Make sure she didn’t end up like Claire. But I didn’t cut that monster’s throat. I was just as shocked to see that dead body as you were, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t happy about it.”
“Why impersonate an officer?” It doesn’t make sense.
“I’d have killed him. Planned to, but someone already finished the job.” He chews the inside of his lip. “The cop act would have been a cover. A way to get off the plane quickly.” He shrugs. “If I had a killer to return to Australia for extradition, they’d let me through, no questions asked.”
“Why should I believe you didn’t do it?”
“If you knew him like I do, you’d realize that I’m not the only one with a vendetta.”
You cut a glance at Mara, but she’s shaking her head. A smirk plays across her lips. Then she glances to something or someone behind you. You look over your shoulder.
Jessica is standing at the emergency exit, hand on the handle. The passengers who had occupied that row run to the back of the plane, shouting, fear lines their faces. Is she crazy? Opening the emergency exit with the plane still in motion could be dangerous, even if you aren’t at cruising altitude.
“Jessica, don’t. Running will only make things worse.” You take a step toward her. Probably not the best idea, but if someone doesn’t diffuse the situation, there might be consequences.
“He killed my sister.” Her knuckles whiten as she grips the handle. “He can’t get away with it. But I can’t spend the rest of my life in jail.” She swallows hard. “I need to help people. To do some good. And ridding the world of that evil man is just the first step.”
The wheels bounce off the runway. You grasp the seat back beside you. “Did you know he’d be on this flight?”
Jessica’s eyes dart to Sam and Mara. She squares her shoulders and yanks the handle. The emergency door flies open, and passengers’ screams punctuate the air. The sudden rush of humid air sucks at your clothing, pulling you toward the opening.
The flight attendant jumps onto the inflated slide and slips down. You cling to the seat, watching her descent. With the airplane still taxiing down the paved strip, the slide flails and pivots, sending Jessica flying through the air. She misses the safety of the cushion, and lands on the pavement. with a sickening thud.
How could she survive such a jarring fall?
The plane stops.
You run to the exit and peer outside, praying the scene won’t be as awful as you imagine. Maybe Jessica will brush herself off and run toward wherever to escape the consequences for her actions.
But her body lays in a mangled heap on the pavement. A dark stain spreads beneath her head. You look away, gut twisting.
Melani Hyatt screams then buries her face in her husband’s chest.
Angie Garrett hold her son close, facing him away from the grisly image that would probably scar his mind forever. Tears streak her cheeks.
Mara and Sam sit in their seats. Mouths agape and eyes glassy.
Griz bows his head. Perhaps honoring her with a moment of silence.
Flashing lights and wailing sirens drown the sobs in the fuselage. Medics rush toward Jessica’s form. One kneels beside her, places his hand on her neck, then shakes his head.
The pilot calls for the passengers to disembark. As if in a trance, the men an women pressing against the emergency exit scatter. Overhead bins click open and shut behind you, but you’re frozen in place.
Such a waste. It’s a blessing Jeff Archer can’t hurt anyone else, but you hate yourself for thinking so. You swallow past the dryness in your throat. Did Jessica really plan this alone? Sure she had motive, but it seems like too elaborate a plot for her to construct single-handed.
You turn, scanning the empty seats. Alone. They’re all gone. Back to their business as if nothing happened at all.
You grab your carry-on and walk the jetway into the airport. Men, women, and children bustle around you as if life hasn’t changed. As if Jessica didn’t jump to her death before your eyes. Somehow, everything feels surreal, like you’re floating through a dream.
Angela and Devon stand near the McDonald’s in the terminal. She has an arm draped around him as he licks at an ice cream cone. Griz stands beside her and rests a hand on her shoulder. Something between them feels familiar. How do they know each other? Mara and Sam join them, faces wreathed in smiles.
Sam glances your way. His grin widens, and he lifts his index finger to his lips.
Your heart plummets into your gut. Jessica didn’t act alone, but how can you ever hope to prove it?
I hadn’t planned on such an unsatisfying ending, so I hope you don’t black-ball me for it. As I was writing, the cut and dried ending I had planned just felt too much like cardboard. This is what came to me organically.
This has been a fun and challenging journey for me, and I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did.
Would you like to do another? Is there a particular setting you’d like to see? Drop your ideas below, and I’ll do my best to make them come alive!
As I mentioned above, I’ll draw for the $50 Amazon Gift Card winner next week and post it here. Thanks for keeping with me. I appreciate each on of you!
I’m so excited to have my lovely friend, Shaen here for an interview! She’s one of the sweetest, most encouraging people I know, and her cozy mysteries are amazing! Seriously, check them out. You’ll thank me later. 🙂
After the interview, I’ll give you a few ways to connect with Shaen and purchase her upcoming release. There may or may not be a drawing for one of her mysteries down there too.
We’ve all had funny experiences, and that’s no different for a writer. What’s the funniest thing you’ve ever had happen to you as a writer?
I don’t know if this one is funny, or just a near miss! Last summer, I was asked to take part in a suspense anthology with quite a few well-known authors. I was the new kid on the block and had never written suspense before. Needless to say, I was a little intimidated. I went over my story with a fine tooth comb, yet the day before I was supposed to submit it, I realized that one of the other author’s stories featured a main character with the same name as one of mine. I felt like I needed to change it so there wouldn’t be any overlap, and in my panic to find the right name, I ended up mistakenly changing my villain’s name to my editor’s! Luckily, I caught my slip up right before I was sending the email to my editor and changed it again. I can only imagine he wouldn’t have appreciated me immortalizing him as a killer in my story, after all his hard work beating my manuscript into submission, lol!
Oh, my goodness! Keeping fictional characters names from being offensive to a friend or acquaintance can get a bit hairy sometimes. Do you have any quirky writing habits?
Kind of? This is just something I’ve started doing recently, but painted fingernails help me be more productive! Seriously, I know you’re laughing, but for me, it’s the equivalent of Jo (from Little Women) and her askew writing cap. I can look down and see my hands on the keyboard and just feel more professional and put together.
Maybe my chipped nail polish explains my writer’s block. Need to paint my nails tonight. In the Bible, do you have a “life verse” that’s significant to you? Do you find yourself exploring this theme often in your work?
I do! Like a lot of authors, I write about what I’m trying to learn myself, and a verse I often explore, over and over again, from different angles, is Romans 8:28… “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose.”
In Waves of Doubt, Priscilla has to learn to trust God’s plans and stop doubting His prompting. In A Slowly Developing Story, as a mystery falls together at a frustratingly slow pace, Elizabeth learns to rest in God’s provision. In Bird’s Eye View (my most recent cozy mystery release from Guideposts), Martha discovers her impatience and desire to control her situation don’t serve her well. It’s only when she lets go and submits to God’s overarching plan for her life that the mystery falls into place. I hope everyone who reads my books can take comfort in that truth: God is good and in control, even when things look like they’re falling apart.
In the times we’re in, it’s a comfort to know that God’s in control. That’s one of my favorite themes to read, for sure. Which part of the book creation process do you like best– brainstorming, writing, editing, marketing?
This is going to sound bad coming from a writer, but I actually enjoy the marketing part most! Is that a shocker? Let me clarify by saying that, of course, I enjoy the other parts of the process, too– I wouldn’t be a writer if I didn’t like writing! But crafting the actual book is often an arduous process for me. I’m super detail oriented and have to fight tooth and nail with my tendency to over-work a document. Marketing doesn’t have the same pressure associated with it… I guess it’s like birthing a baby versus sending out birth announcements!
Interesting! But it makes sense. How do you think your writing style has changed over the years?
Hmm, this is an interesting question… I think I’ve found my unique writing voice more as I’ve gotten older, probably because I’ve gotten to know my own self better. My natural voice (which I sometimes adapt based on the genre in which I’m writing) is very focused on crafting beautiful language– a holdover from my days writing poetry in college. When I was younger, I didn’t cultivate this part of my style as much, but now, it’s the part of writing that brings me the most joy 😊
Thank you so much for taking the time to answer these questions and giving us a peek into your process!
Here is the blurb for Shaen’s upcoming release.
Shaen’s Author Bio:
I’m a USA Today Bestselling author who writes inspirational cozy mystery from my home in the Midwest, where I live with my artist husband, Danny, and our two rambunctious, but adorable, little boys. Trained as a literary novelist and with a decade of librarianship under my belt, I love discussing all things bookish with my readers on my website and on social media.
I want to give one of you lucky duckies a copy of A Slowly Developing Story. It’s a fabulous cozy mystery that I’m sure you’ll love! Comment below to be entered in the drawing. I’ll contact the winner on September 10th.
“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?
The marshal takes a step back. “What do you mean, I’m not on the manifest?” His brow furrows. Either there’s simple explanation, or he should get an Oscar for the innocent act he’s playing.
“Your name’s not listed.” You cut a glance at his prisoner, Mara, who keeps her eyes trained on the floor. “She is, but you’re not.” You scan the list once more. “The marshal who’s listed in the seat next to her is Toby Scott.”
Marshal Durland’s shoulders relax. He steps toward you, and you swallow the building lump in your throat. “Toby asked me to trade assignments with him at the last minute.”
But why wouldn’t they have updated the manifest? The weight in your gut says all is not well in Whoville.
“Let’s see your credentials.” Griz steps beside you, arms crossed. Thank goodness, you’re not the only one who finds this fishy as the day is long.
The marshal fumbles, then pulls out a leather wallet-looking thing. He lifts the flap. The ID looks legit enough, but as well-thought out as the murder appeared, you guess a good deal of planning went into it. If Marshal Durland–or whoever this person was–had set this scheme in motion days ago, he would’ve had time to get a phony badge made. Fourteen year-olds got fake IDs all the time, for crying out loud.
You glance at Griz. He seems level-headed, but his eyes narrow, mirroring your own suspicion. “Take a seat next to the convict, marshal.” Distrust drips from every word.
“What do you plan to do?” Durland brushes back his jacket, revealing a pistol in his shoulder holster.
The passengers let out a collective gasp.
“You threatenin’ me?” Griz takes a step forward, clearly unintimidated. The way that network of scars crisscrosses his face, he’s probably seen worse than an air marshal with a 9mm.
“Please don’t flash your weapon.” Jessica steps behind the marshal, using her most soothing flight attendant’s voice. “You’re frightening the passengers.
Durland lets his coat drop and conceal the hand gun. “I’m just doing my job. Don’t interfere.” The marshal stuffs his badge into this pocket. When he pulls his hand out, a scrap of paper flutters from his pocket to the floor. He quickly moves his foot to cover it, but Jessica beats hims to it.
She unfolds the paper, and her eyes widen.
You extend a hand, and she slips you the sheet. It’s a handwritten blueprint of the airport in LA. You tilt the map for Griz’s inspection.
The old cowboy puffs out a breath. “Looks like you’ve got a lot of explaining to do, Durland.”
Clue #7- Marshal Durland has a map of the LA airport.
Well, the end is in sight! Thank you all for sticking with me. If you haven’t had a chance, comment on the older Murder at 30,000 Feet posts to be entered in the $50 Amazon gift card drawling at the end of the mystery. 🙂
As much as I love me some Criminal Minds, there are a few other television shows with detectives I love. Some a little more comical than the straight-faced Aaron Hotchner, but still a blast to watch. Hey, we can’t all be simultaneously stone-faced and amazing. And P.S. the male main character in my trilogy was definitely patterned after Hotch. Here’s my personal list of favorite television detectives.
3. Patrick Jane- The Mentalist
This man can sniff out a lie a thousand miles away, and it’s a treat to watch him in action. “Being sorry is a far worse punishment than being dead. Everybody dies. Very few people ever feel truly sorry for the bad things they’ve done.” -Patrick Jane
2. Columbo- Columbo
He’s literally the most frumpy, unassuming detective of all time. But he notices things that the garden variety detective misses. It’s safe to say he annoys suspects into confessing. “Just one more thing.” -Columbo
Not only is Adrian Monk obsessive in the extreme, he has a tragic backstory that made me want to give him a hug (which he would have hated, by the way) and root for him as he sought justice for his wife’s murder. He’s the perfect blend of aggravating and lovable. “It’s a gift, and a curse.” -Adrian Monk
There are so many other television detectives out there that I’m sure I missed your favorite. Drop your top picks in the comments below!
You step into the aisle with the marshal. He clears his throat. Passengers chatter back and forth, not seeming to notice that Durland has something to say. He raises a hand and tries again to command the crowd’s attention.
When you glance to your right at Mara who sits in wrist shackles beside Griz. The old cowboy catches your eye and raises his brows. You shrug. If the group won’t kill the noise for a law officer, no chance they’ll listen to you.
Griz stands, sticks two fingers in his mouth, and lets out a shrill whistle. The commotion dies. Marshal Durland casts a sheepish grin to Griz.
With all eyes on him, the marshal speaks. “Is there a Sam Collison here? We think he might have information on the crime and would like to speak with him. If he saw something, he could be a huge help.”
You bite your lip to mask a smile. Smooth move, Marshal. If Sam is looked at as a helper instead of a suspect, there would be less likelihood of panic, and he might be less on edge and more prone to come forward. You scan the faces in their seats. Heads shake. Passengers glance at one another with lowered brows. They seem genuinely confused. No one steps forward. Sam might be a really good actor. Or maybe he isn’t the killer at all. But what are the odds two people were out to kill the same man?
Jessica, the flight attendant steps up behind you and hands Griz a Dixie cup of something dark and fizzy.
You grip her arm. “Do you have access to the passenger manifest?”
“Sure.” She shrugs. “How else am I supposed to do my job?”
“Can I see it?” If Sam Collison is on this plane, you need to find him sooner rather than later.
“Give me a minute.” Jessica steps behind the curtain into her workspace. A minute later she returns and hands you a sheet.
A quick scan of the list yields no Sam Collison. Darting glances between the list and the people in their seats, you mentally check names off the list.
Everyone accounted for.
Someone’s missing. Your heart and stomach switch places.
You glance at Marshal Durland.
He raises a brow. “What’s that look for?”
“Your name’s not on the manifest.”
Clue #6- Marshal Durland isn’t listed on the passenger manifest.
Hmmm. What do you think that means? Does the marshal have a link to Jeff Archer?
You step into the restroom. The sight of the body on the floor turns your stomach. What could you possibly find that Marshal Durland didn’t notice. He’s the professional, after all.
The marshal hands you a pair of latex gloves, and you stretch them on. Carefully, so as not to contaminate the scene, you check the breast pocket of Archer’s suit coat. The gash on his neck has stained the material, but you shove that nasty detail into a mental box for later processing.
Nothing in the pocket. You check his pants. At first his pockets feel empty, but a folded slip of paper grazes your fingers. You pull it out and smooth the creases.
You scan the sheet. What on earth?
“It’s his will.” You glance up at the marshal then read Archer’s final wishes aloud.
“If you’re reading this, my lies have finally caught up with me, and he decided to hold me accountable. I’d like my assets to be divided evenly between my children. Their names and addresses are locked in the safe at my house in Bakersfield. Each of my wives can have the houses where they currently live.
All I ask of the person who finds my body is to have the police check into Sam Collison. He’s threatened me many times, and I wouldn’t put it past him to make good on his threats.”
Jeff had signed and dated at the bottom of the page. According to the date, he’d penned these requests just last week.
“Is there a passenger on the plane named Sam Collison?” You hand the document to the marshal.
A line forms between his brows. “Not sure. But we haven’t talked to everyone yet.”
“I think Sam’s the man we should be looking for.”
Clue #5 Jeff Archer’s will implicates Sam Collison.
Thank you all for joining me for week six! Do you think they’ll find Sam on the plane?
“Well, that got us nowhere.” Marshal Ken cracks his neck.
“It couldn’t be Angie.” You shrug. “I was sitting in the row ahead of her since we boarded, and she never left her seat. Neither did Devon.” You have a knot in your lower back to prove that point.
Jessica, the flight attendant passes into the room housing the rolling refrigerators. The marshal clears his throat and cranes his neck in her direction.
“Do you have a minute to answer some questions, Miss?” He flips to a fresh page in his notebook.
Her brow puckers and her tongue skims her bottom lip. “What would you like to know?”
“Would you give me your full name, please?”
“Jessica Carmichael.” She taps her fingers against her navy skirt.
“How long have you worked for the airline?” The marshal scribbles something in his notebook. Does he notice her nervous body language, too? Of course, he does. He’s the professional, not you. Still, if he doesn’t mention it, you will.
“It would be five years in January.” Her voice softens.
“Would be?” Marshal Ken’s eyes narrow. “You plan on quitting?”
Jessica’s gaze shifts to the stained blue carpet. “This is my last flight.” She meets the marshal’s eye, then cuts a glance your way. “I’ve enjoyed this job.” She gestures to a window with her hand. Lightning rims the bruised clouds in the distance. “Who wouldn’t want to travel the world?” Her shoulders slump. “But what good am I doing here? So many women need my help, and me working on a flying tin can, handing sweaty people pretzels and peanuts isn’t what I should be doing.”
“So you want to help women?” You lift a brow. Such specific goals usually sprang from specific stressors.
Tears glitter in Jessica’s eyes. She blinks repeatedly, as if trying to erase a distressing memory along with the moisture. “My sister.” She shakes her head. A tear whispers down her cheek. “Tawny. She never told us what was happening.”
“What was happening?” The marshal lowers his notebook.
Jessica bites her lip and glances at the ceiling. “Her husband.” Her jaw hardens. “He’d convinced her she couldn’t do any better than him. But if she’d have married a catfish off the internet, he’d have treated her better.”
“What happened?” Funny that Jessica’s sister and Angie share similar story threads. But then, abuse is more prevalent than people like to think.
“You’ve seen Snapped.” Jessica straightens her shoulders. “I used to think those women who stayed with men that beat them and belittled them were crazy. I mean, why not leave when your husband can’t treat you like a human being? Only weak women stay when they know it can’t possibly get better, right?”
Marshal Ken tilts his head, mouth in a grim line.
“But Tawny, she wasn’t like that–not before. She was so strong. You should have seen her when–” Jessica sighs. “It doesn’t matter now. He changed her. But he wasn’t only mistreating her. Tawny found out he had a second family in Miami. He worked in sales and traveled a lot. It almost killed my sister when she found out that her husband had a wife and kids. ‘That other woman.’ That’s what Tawny called her. Until my sister found out that she was the other woman.”
You take a step closer to Jessica. “I couldn’t help but notice that you referred to your sister in the past tense. Did something happen to her?”
Jessica’s chin quivered. “She found out she was pregnant. She couldn’t bear the thought of bringing a child into such a messed up home. Planned to leave Rick–her husband. She didn’t make it out the front door. He killed her–and the baby. She wasn’t very far along, but still, it was a human life.”
You chew the inside of your cheek. What can you say? Nothing will make Jessica’s ache go away.
“My other sister and I are going to start a women’s shelter next month.” Jessica’s lips tremble. “We’re naming it after Tawny.” She pulls in a jagged breath. “No other woman should have to go through what my sister did. And on my watch, I’ll make sure they won’t.”
“That’s very admirable.” Such weak words, but they’re the best you’ve got.
“Where is your brother-in-law incarcerated?” Marshal Ken reaches into his pocket.
Jessica scoffs. “He’s not. Got off on a technicality. There’s been no justice for my sister.” She grinds the words through clenched teeth.
You catch the marshal’s eye. The look on the flight attendant’s face screams for revenge. Could the man in the restroom be tied somehow to her sister’s murder?
“Do you know a man named Jeff Archer?” Marshal Ken asks.
“Never heard of him.” Jessica lifts her chin.
The marshal extends the photograph of Claire Wilson for the flight attendant’s inspection. “Do you know this woman?”
Jessica shakes her head, not bothering a glance at the picture. She has to know something. Why act so cagey otherwise?
“Please, take a look.”
With a sigh, Jessica’s gaze falls on the photo. She purses her lips, recognition sparks in her eye. “I don’t know her name, but I know who she is. When Tawny thought her husband was cheating, she had a private investigator follow him. That’s Rick’s real wife.”
Thoughts churn through your brain. If the woman in the photo, Claire Wilson, was Rick’s wife, who was Jeff Archer, and how did he play into their story?
Clue #3- Claire Wilson was married to Jessica’s brother-in-law.
Thank you all so much for following the story another week! Let me know in the comments if you’d like the Word doc I created to keep the story straight. Who would you like to interview next? Any ideas on who the killer is, or how the passengers might be connected?
The Investigation Begins
You follow Marshal Ken Durland with your mind scattering a hundred directions. Who killed Jeff Archer. And why? As you pass each row, passengers turn to stare. When you walked to the restroom earlier, none of the faces looked anything but innocent–except maybe the prisoner and that degenerate little boy, Devon, sitting behind you. You rub the ache in your lower back.
The marshal stops and motions to a passenger, and Devon’s mother steps into the aisle. She grips Devon’s hand and the four of you find privacy with the rolling refrigerators in the crowded flight attendant’s space.
“We have to ask you a couple questions.” Durland pulls a notepad and pen from his pocket. “What’s your name, ma’am?”
“Angie Garrett.” Her gaze drops to the floor. Is that a touch of an Australian accent? Maybe she’s going home. If that’s the case, she can’t have anything to do with Jeff Archer’s murder. At least you’ll be able to trust someone on this airplane.
Devon starts making clicking noises with his tongue.
“Stop it! Things are bad enough without constant noise.” Angie rubs her temples.
His eyes grow wide, and the obnoxious sounds die in his throat. Had his mother ever spoken harshly to him?
“Mrs. Garrett. Where are you from?” Marshal Ken asks.
“It’s Miss Garrett.” Her jaw hardens and she swallows hard. “I’m originally from New Castle in Australia.”
“Were you in the US on vacation?” The marshal jots something in his notebook.
She shakes her head. Concern clouds her eyes. Devon grips her hand and nestles close to her. Maybe the little shyster has a sweet streak beneath all the aggravation.
“Why were you in Los Angeles?”
“I-I was married to an American. We lived in Bakersfield.” Angie wraps an arm around her son.
“So your trip to Australia is a vacation. Do you plan to visit family?”
Angie chews her upper lip. “We’re moving in with my parents-well, with my dad. Things didn’t turn out for us in America.”
You study Angie’s face. Though she’s young, stress lines her face. The shadows under her eyes tell a story that is far from pleasant. How did you not notice earlier? Had her husband abused her? It would hardly be a question you could ask with her son around. You glance at Devon. Had he been mistreated? Bruises pepper his arms. Were they the result of the normal wear and tear boys his age endured, or had his father–or would it have been his stepfather–inflicted them?
Despite the sore muscles in your back, your heart softens toward the boy. Yes, he’s still impossible, but who knows what the poor kid has been through.
“It was a rocky marriage, I take it.” The marshal leaned against a rolling refrigerator.
Angie nodded slowly. “We had to leave. We’ll be safe with Dad.” She glanced down at her son and smiled. “Isn’t that right, Dev?”
The boy nodded. “Yep. He’s gonna take me to see kangaroos!”
“Just a couple more things, then I’ll let you get back to your seat.” Marshal Durland slid what looked like the mangled photograph out of his pocket. “Do you know anyone by the name of Jeff Archer?”
Angie’s lips formed a line, and she raised her brows. “Never heard of him.”
“And do you recognize the woman in this picture?” He held it up.
Her eyes widened slightly, lightened by recognition.
“You know her, don’t you?” You lean forward. What was the connection between the two women?
“Not personally.” Angie’s brow puckered. “A few months ago, when I came home from Walmart, that woman was in my house. She was in a heated argument with my husband. I didn’t catch what they were fighting about. But Craig, my husband, sent her away. She was so angry. When she stomped out of the house she used some words I’d rather not repeat in front of Devon. And the way she looked at me.” Angie clasped a hand to her throat.
“Any idea what her name is?” the marshal asked.
“I only heard bits and pieces of the end of the fight, but my husband called her Claire.” She shrugged. “That’s all I heard.”
Claire. The name fit in your disjointed memory. You’d seen the woman before too. Maybe not in real life as Angie had, but in an article.
Claire . . . oh, what is her last name? Harris? No. It started with a W. Or did it? Sometimes when you’re certain about the first letter of a name, you find you were very wrong when the truth comes out.But W fits somehow. Williams? Wilton? Wilson?
You whip your phone from your pocket as Marshal Durland sends Angie and Devon back to their seats.
“You look like you’re onto something.” He takes a step closer and peers over your shoulder at your phone.
“The woman in the picture is Claire Wilson. I’m almost positive a friend of mine wrote an article about her. I just have to find it.” You type ‘Claire Wilson’ into a search engine, but there are too many results. Such a common name. So you add ‘Bakersfield’ to the criteria.
An obituary pops up along with a picture. Your mouth goes suddenly dry, and you consider grabbing a Coke out of one of these fridges. But you wanted a whole can, not a flight attendant’s tiny swallow. “Here she is.” You angle the phone so Durland can get a better look.
“She died last month.” He studies the screen. “It doesn’t give much information, and that’s never a good sign.”
You scroll down the list of search results, and an article with your friend’s name beside it snags your attention. Bingo! When you bring up the article, your stomach turns. Crime scene photos. Claire Wilson was murdered. And her killer is still at large.
Clue #2 The woman in the photo is Claire Wilson
Thank you for joining me for week three! If you’d like me to send you a Word doc listing the characters along with some of their information, let me know in the comments! Who would you and Marshal Durland like to interview next? I’m taking suggestions 🙂