Monday morning at 10:30 a.m. Victoria locked her Subaru dropped her keys into her purse and walked up the steps to the police station. She received a call from Sarah McFadden on Sunday afternoon while at the Blue Moon Restaurant. She’d asked her to come in for a follow-up interview.
Victoria felt perturbed, but confident, having to go through another round of questions regarding Hallie’s murder. She already passed a lie detector test, so this seemed like another waste of her time.
She walked up to the front desk, “Hi, I am Victoria Rutledge. I’m here to see Detectives Drake and McFadden.”
“One second,” the desk sergeant held up one finger while picking up the phone.
“Detective, I have a Victoria Rutledge here to see you.” He hung up the phone.
“Third floor, elevators right around the corner.” He said.
“Thank you, I know the way,” Victoria said.
A minute later, she shook hands with both McFadden and Drake.
“Miss Rutledge thanks for taking time out of your busy schedule to come down and assist us in our investigation,” Max smiled.
“Anything I can do to help.” Her smile was genuine.
“Interview room 2, right this way,” Max said.
Victoria took her seat on the folding metal chair while Max sat down. Sarah came in.
“Can I get you a coffee, soda or water Miss Rutledge?” Sarah asked.
“No, I’m fine, thanks.”
Sarah sat down next to Max and directly across the table from Victoria.
“Miss Rutledge, we are recording this interview. You have a right to a lawyer if you so choose.” Max said.
“I do not need a lawyer.” She smiled again.
“Miss Rutledge let’s go back to last Wednesday. We want to go over your previous statement. On Wednesday afternoon did you leave The Blue Moon Restaurant at all?”
“Are you sure?” Max asked.
“Yes, ask my employees, I was there until after we closed at 2 a.m.”
“Did you have a phone call from Hallie that afternoon?” Max asked.
Victoria’s eyes darted first right than left. She looked down for a split second, then back at Sarah and Max, “Not that I recall.”
Max knew she was lying. He opened a folder and took out Hallie’s phone call records and slid it across the table in front of her. “Is this your phone number?”
“At 1:30 p.m. Hallie’s phone called you. Can you recall that conversation?”
Victoria looked down at the table, her blank stare made it evident she was surprised at the question. Sitting quietly staring at the cell records meant she did not know what to say next.
“Hallie called me and told me we needed to talk. She wanted to try and restart our friendship. I told her that I was busy and that maybe later on in the week we could talk.”
“Was there any argument at that 1:30 p.m. call?” Sarah asked.
“No, it was uncomfortable, and I felt she was begging to have that talk. I mean we have been friends a very long time.” Victoria added.
“Can you tell us about a phone call you made around 4:00 p.m. that upset you,” Max asked.
“I did receive a call from a vendor we had a disagreement over a couple of invoices, why?”
“What is this vendors name?” Sarah asked.
“I don’t recall right now detectives; I have a lot of business going on. I would have to go back on my records to find that out. I don’t see what this has to do with anything about Hallie and why I’m sitting here right now.”
“Let me make it easier for you Miss Rutledge, your 4 o’clock phone call was not to a vendor but in fact to Hallie’s cell phone. You argued with her about something, but whatever it was it upset you enough to slam the phone receiver back on the phone. Shortly after that, you left the Blue Moon.” Max added.
It got quiet, very quiet and Victoria sat back in her chair and folded her arms across her chest. She was being cornered, and she knew it. Victoria could not know what else was coming her way.
“Excuse me.” Sarah stood up and left the interview room. She walked next door to interview room 3 and walked in with a folder tucked under her arm.
“Mr. Knowles, thank you for coming in this morning.” Sarah sat down.
John Knowles, forty-two years old, sat in the folding chair which was backed into the corner of the small interview room since Max and Sarah turned the table the opposite direction making the room appear narrower. John was six-feet tall. His hair was turning gray on the sides. He wore wire-rimmed glasses and a short goatee. He smiled at Sarah exposing perfect white teeth. His blue eyes sparkled, but there was a nervous energy surrounding John that Sarah picked up on.
“Anything I can do to help our finest solve this horrible death of my sister in law, Hallie.”
“We appreciate that Mr. Knowles.”
“Call me John.” He smiled.
“Okay, John,” Sarah smiled, “we are recording this interview. Also, at any time you can retain the services of a lawyer.”
“I do not need a lawyer,” John smiled again.
“Tell me about your relationship with your brother Parker and also with Hallie.”
“Well, it’s widely known that Parker does not want me or my other brother, Kenneth to have any say or part in our family business. Hallie, I thought Parker was really lucky to find a beautiful woman like Hallie. I believed that marriage would help him. He is a lonely man without someone in his life. Parker has a tendency to go into a deep depression now and then. I was hoping Hallie would help lift him up. She was so right for him.” John sat back in the chair.
“Did you attend Parker and Hallie’s wedding?” Sarah asked.
“No Parker did not want Kenneth or me there. It was a small wedding and as I said we are not on good terms.”
“What do you do for a living Mr. Knowles?” Sarah stared at him already knowing the answer.
“I receive a stipend every month from the business as well as Kenneth. Why?”
“Just getting a baseline on our conversation. Do you feel you are owed more money or that you should be a part of the business?”
“Not anymore, I’ve tried several times to get Parker to let me help and contribute, but so far he has utterly refused.”
“Does that upset you?”
“No. I’ve worked through that part of my life, so I live with my stipend and look for opportunities where I can contribute to society,” John smiled, but his eyes said that was a lie. Sarah let it go.
“What is your relationship with Victoria Rutledge?”
“Victoria, well I know who she is. I mean I’ve seen her around and met her a couple of times. I know she owns the Blue Moon Restaurant.”
“Have you been to her restaurant before?” Sarah asked.
“Not that I recall, or at least not in a long time,” John smiled.
“Well, then can you explain to me why you were there last Wednesday late evening having a few drinks with Victoria?” Sarah said.
Okay, this is what I recall about last Wednesday. I did get another call from Hallie maybe around 4 p.m.” Victoria said.
“Miss Rutledge, you called Hallie. We have the records.” Max said
“Alright, so I might have called Hallie. I started thinking about what she had said about getting back together and I kind of thought maybe it would be worth talking it through.”
“So you left the Blue Moon and went where?”
“I met Hallie in the Target parking lot. Look it was a very busy time, but it was bothering me so I decided to take a few minutes and meet Hallie face to face. If that went well, we could maybe set up a time to come together and actually discuss this whole thing.”
“You are saying you met in a Target parking lot.”
“Why there at Target?”
“It is close to my restaurant.”
“You did not go to Hallie’s home, but a Target parking lot.”
“Yes, why do you keep asking me about that. I told you we met in the parking lot. We talked for about 30 minutes, and I left. I went home and changed my clothes. I went back to the Blue Moon and got ready for the busy evening.” Victoria said.
John snapped his fingers, “That’s right. Yes, I was at the Blue Moon that night. We talked about several things. I had called her earlier in the week before and asked her if she was interested in investing in another restaurant opportunity and to work with me as a business partner.”
“You are lying Mr. Knowles,” Sarah said.
John leaned back in his chair. He seemed surprised. His eyes widened.
“Why don’t you ask Victoria if that was what our conversation was about,” John said turning from all smiles to glaring at Sarah.
“Can you tell me about what your conversation with John Knowles was about late Wednesday evening or early Thursday morning. You two had a very long heart to heart talk.” Max said.
“Yes, we were talking about purchasing a restaurant on Main Street and becoming partners.”
“Miss Rutledge, you are saying officially you never went to Hallie’s home last Wednesday.”
“That is correct.”
“One last question for now. Can you explain why your DNA is found inside the work gloves recovered at the dumpster behind Knowles Imports?” Max asked.
“DNA? What DNA are you talking about?”
“Your DNA was found inside of the gloves that strangled Hallie in her home.”
Victoria sat there not saying anything for a long time. Max knew she was looking for a backdoor answer. Max knew her mind had to be racing for a reason to be at Hallie’s home.
“Do you mind if I smoke?”
“This is a non-smoking facility, but I don’t care as long as you tell me the truth, Miss Rutledge.”
Victoria picked up her sizable leather purse and sat it on the table. She opened it and dug around inside. She pulled out a cigarette pack and her wallet. Then she said, “I need a smaller one of these I am tired of this huge thing, I cannot find my lighter.” Her eyes darted up and looked at Max with a nervous smile. Next, she pulled out a set of car keys and continued to dig.
Max watched as she pulled a few more personal things out when he noticed the keys.
“Miss Rutledge what kind of car do you drive?”
“A Subaru why?”
Max reached over with a pen and pulled the set of keys across the table without touching them. “Then Miss Rutledge why do you have a set of Honda keys in your purse?”