“Secrets Behind A Wedding Cake” Chapter Twenty-Three The Final

Parker Knowles switched off the engine in his new Ford F250 diesel truck and pulled the keys out of the ignition. He sat there thinking as he unconsciously rolled the keys around his fingers. Deep in thought, he remembered the past couple of years and how choices a person makes, or others make, can change your life forever.

Today would have been Hallie’s and his first wedding anniversary. Today there was a deep sadness in Parker that went beyond depression as he thought about the past year. The betrayal left behind by his wife, his friend Victoria Rutledge, and of course, his brother John Knowles cut deeply into his soul.

Parker looked out the side window as he reached for the door handle. As promised, there on the porch stood the only person he still felt he could trust, Glanville Vance, his attorney.

Parker got out of the truck and shoved the keys into the front pocket of his blue jeans. He wore an untucked button-down shirt and a brown leather belt and a beat up pair of old white tennis shoes. His shaggy appearance would give someone the idea Parker was a poor indigent. He had not had a haircut for over nine months. He walked to where Glanville stood with his arms crossed in front of his massive girth. Glanville’s smile showing his white teeth against his black skin.

“Hello Glanville, how are you?” Parker reached the porch and held out his hand. Glanville shook his hand firmly.

“I am fine, but the question is, how are you doing?”

Parker looked down the familiar street as he stood on the porch of his home he had shared with Hallie for those few months.

“I am doing okay some days and other days, well I’m not so good.”

“Are you going to grievance counseling that I setup for you?”

“Yeah, I went a few times, but it really wasn’t helping me that much. I have come to the conclusion I have to just face this head on and work through the darkness one day at a time. It’s getting a little better.”

“I’m glad to hear that Parker. That is the most positive thing I have heard from you in a long time.”

“Well, there is no doubt that the actions of Hallie, Victoria, and even my brother John, will take a while for me to work through.” Parker looked up at Glanville. “One day at a time.” He gave a pained smile

“You asked me to meet you here this morning at 11 O’clock. So why are we here Parker?”

“Well, today is the last day I will ever be here. I have paid the house off and as you are aware I have donated it and everything in it to the local hospital charity. I have one more thing I need out of the house then I will turn the keys over to you to carry out the closing and the donation. I am going in now to get the one thing before it’s all yours, Glanville.”

“That’s fine.”

“I would appreciate it if you could stay outside. I will only be a couple of minutes.” Parker said.

“Sure, I’m right here if you need me,” Glanville said.

Parker unlocked the door and entered the house. He shut the door behind him and stood there looking at the living room and the kitchen. Other than a few things disheveled from the crime scene people going through everything looking for clues. Other than that it was the same as the day he kissed Hallie goodbye before going to work.

Parker walked into the kitchen and opened a drawer. He pulled out a large butcher knife and walked the few steps to the small breakfast table. Pulling out a chair Parker sat down. He laid the knife on the table and folded his hands in his lap. He hung his head, going into a deep dark place inside his mind. The memories, the conversations, and finding out the real truth, flashed through his mind like a silent movie in fast forward. He looked over at the knife, weighing his options. This was going to be a difficult decision.

Parker had sold his business this past year for forty-nine million dollars. He was rich!  But with all that money Parker had absolutely no future plans. He thought about Victoria sitting in county jail waiting for her trial sometime next year. His brother, John, also sitting in jail awaiting his trial. Memories of playing baseball with his brothers, water fights in the summer. Oh yes, and a few fist fights as they tangled with each other. He thought about his parents, and for the first time in a year, things seemed to be in place. All Parker had to do was finish this last thing, and he would finally be at peace.

Parker got up and went to the refrigerator and opened the freezer door. He stood there as the cold air hit him in the face. There on the top shelf, frozen solid, it looked the same as it had when he and Hallie put it there one year ago today. There sat the top tier of their wedding cake–a pale yellow with three bright colored roses made of icing.

He reached in and gently pulled it out of the freezer, closed the door with his elbow and walked the few steps to the table. He sat the cake down on the table. He handled it with such care. He turned and walked to the kitchen cupboard and pulled out a large dinner plate. He sat the cake on the plate and as gently as possible he tore the wrapping away.

Tears filled his eyes. The promise of sitting at this table with a bottle of champagne, they would cut the cake and eat it, to celebrate their first year of marriage and their life together. Parker squeezed his eyes together extremely tight, but tears spilled out anyway. He thought of Hallie’s smiling face when they made the promise to each other to love one another forever. Now, death left him here today alone with a cake, a knife and the thought it would be better to end it all.

Parker remembered just a year ago they said they would have a discussion about starting a family as they ate their wedding cake. Now he sits here alone. The cake triggering all kinds of memories. Behind what this cake symbolized in happiness, it also symbolized all the secrets, cunning, and planning that led to Hallie’s death and a brother and a friend in jail.

Parker picked up the knife, this was the defining moment. He had put his affairs in order. This was the day. Now he battled with ending his life too. He held the knife to his left wrist, then over the cake to cut a slice. He did neither. His body shivered from head to toe. Simon and Garfunkel’s song, “A Sound of Silence” played in his head.

Before he started cutting into the cake or his wrists, he sat the knife down. He made his decision at that second. Parker got up quickly and walked over to the sink. Opening the cupboard door under the sink, Parker pulled out the garbage can. Without another thought, he picked up the cake and dropped it into the trash can plate and all. Without looking back, he walked to the front door and stepped outside where Glanville Vance still stood guard.

“You finished up what you needed to do Parker?”

“Yes, I did.”

“So what’s next?” Glanville asked.

“Well, I am officially retired. I bought that new truck and camper. I am going to head out and just see where I end up.”

“So you are going to travel around the Country?”

“Yeah. I may end up in Alaska or Florida. I have no idea, I just need to get away and find myself.”

“Well don’t forget you will need to testify at Victoria and John’s trials,” Glanville said.

“You have my cell phone number, and I will be here when I need to be. But until then I need to get out of here.”

Glanville reached out his hand, and Parker shook it.

“Thanks for everything Glanville, I mean it. You have been a good friend to me.” Parker reached over and dropped the house keys into Glanville’s hand.

“Parker if you need anything you just call, and I will see you at each trial.”

Parker half-smiled, “Thanks, Glanville.” Parker stepped down and headed for his truck and camper. He smiled as he opened the door and slid into the driver’s seat. He put the key in the ignition and looked over. His year-old chocolate Lab puppy wiggled over and nuzzled his nose into Parker’s neck before giving him a big lick on the cheek. Parker laughed, “Well Buddy, are you ready? Let’s go?”

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“Secrets Behind A Wedding Cake” Chapter Twenty-Two

“Miss Rutledge, I am asking you one more time to answer the most important question. With all your planning and all the things you did to people, why would you decide to kill your partner, Hallie?” Sarah asked then looked over at Max. She could feel the heat of anger stewing inside Max. She was ready for whatever came next.
“Listen, Detectives, I have admitted what I have done. I have given you a lot of the background, and I have done all this while being recorded and without a lawyer. So I tell you now that I did not go to Hallie’s house to kill her.”
Max said in a low guttural voice, “I have a question for you Miss Rutledge, so you stated that by two chance meetings with Hallie on the same day, you deducted that she was going to pursue me to get her pregnant.”
“It’s not a deduction Detective Drake. Hallie told me about your conversations both in the morning at Starbucks and later that evening at Donte’s Grill. She was surprised to see you that night. She took it as a sign that maybe you two could strike up a friendship.”
“A friendship? She said a friendship?”
“Max, stop,” Sarah said sternly.
“Just a minute Sarah, this is important; I want an answer. Did Hallie suggest that she and I might build a friendship or did you come up with the idea for her to set me up to get her pregnant.”
“Oh no detective, it was all Hallie’s idea. She said there was a possible opportunity and was pretty sure you were attracted to her. She told me about your personal conversation with her. Your wife dying of cancer a year or so ago I think it was. She said that she also liked you from the start. So that is something, Detective. She liked you so it wasn’t all a ploy.” Victoria said with a half-smile.
“You smug bitch.”
“Max, outside right now.” Sarah got up and walked out.
Max got up slowly not taking his eyes off of Victoria before turning and walking out.
“What the hell are you doing in there Max? You have to get your emotions under control. I do not want to see anything happen to jeopardize our case. Victoria is going down and so is John Knowles. She is playing with you; she is in control in there and guess what, she is working you for a reason. If you lose it in there and do something foolish, that is going to play out in court. So get your shit together or stay out, I’m not giving any defense lawyer a crack in this open and shut case just because you might threaten her or even worse, hop over the table and smack her. This case is solid. We have her. So what’s it going to be a partner, you coming back in and acting like the detective I know or you going to stay out?”
Max ignored Sarah’s question, “She was a beautiful young lady and we had a heartfelt conversation that evening. Yes, I thought she was attractive, and it did cross my mind that maybe, just maybe, there could be something there. I certainly wasn’t ready to take her home and bang her.” Max said.
“Max, why are you so angry over this?” Sarah asked.
Max clenched his teeth, he looked away then turned his head and looked directly at Sarah.
“You really want to know?” Max said with a shaky voice.
“Yes, I do.”
“For the first time in a long time, I felt something inside me besides pain and abandonment. I feel guilty being the survivor. I spend most evenings staring at the walls of my home, I have looked at all the pictures of Susan and me together. I have my daughter, Michelle, and she’s great! She is trying to fill a void in my heart, and I love her for that. What I don’t have is my wife. I miss Susan so much. There is a hole in me that may never heal. I am confused emotionally. Then the shock of finding Hallie murdered; the very person that sort of got to me and grabbed a handful of my pain. I am angry yes. Now I hear that hussy in there say that she and Hallie were no more than con artists. I feel guilty for cheating on Susan by letting someone touch me emotionally, and then to find out it was all a lie. I am more dead inside than ever.”
“Max, I never knew you were feeling this way. Why are you burying your emotions instead of talking about them? I am your partner, you can come to me anytime and talk through what your feeling, that’s what partners do Max.”
“I know you are my partner. It’s hard Sarah, and I thought I was possibly turning a corner when this whole case blew up in my face. I have always tried not to bring my personal issues to work. I don’t want personal shit affecting you or me in doing our job.”
“If you are not healthy emotionally I should know that Max. My safety is in play, and I have to know where you stand, just like you have to feel you can trust me. I’m sorry you are hurting, but we have a job to do, and that is to get her to tell us she killed Hallie so we can arrest her.” Sarah said.
“Okay Sarah, you’re right, I’m okay. Let’s go back in there and finish this.” Max said.
Sarah opened the door to the interview room, and both Max and Sarah walked in and sat down.
“You guys okay. I mean you both look like you have been fighting.” Victoria said smugly.
“Enough of the bullshit Miss Rutledge, why did you kill Hallie?” Sarah said.
“Can I get another cup of coffee?” She said with a smile.
“No. Start talking,” Sarah said.
Victoria focused on the cup, slowly spinning it on the table with her fingers. Sarah and Max watched her facial expression; she showed absolutely no emotion.
“I got a call from Hallie in the early afternoon. It’s true she wanted to talk. I finally agreed to meet her at home. She said it was important.”
“So Hallie having sex with Julian and the consequences of that plan and starting the supposedly fight between you two was nothing more than a setup to control Julian and Parker?” Max said.
“Yes, we never had a disagreement. We laughed about how easy it was to pull this off.”
“Go on Miss Rutledge,” Sarah said.
“I went over to Hallie’s place and went into the house. I called her, and she was in the garage. I went out there. Hallie and I started talking. We were making our plans to move forward when Hallie blew me away. She straight out saying she had been thinking a lot about it and wanted to end the whole thing. To my surprise, my partner started to have reservations about getting pregnant to keep the plan going. She said she wanted a fresh start. I mean come on, we were in the World Series of cons here.”
“I told her we could not quit now. It was close to being finished. I pleaded with her to see this to the end, and I promised this would be our last ruse. She said she felt guilty about what she had done to tear down Parker. It was destroying him. I reminded her I was taking care of that emotional mess he was living in. His depression was as thick as mud, but I could control him. He and I had several long conversations in bed.”
“Hallie didn’t care, she wanted out. She wanted to come clean to Parker and Julian. That started an argument that escalated. She wouldn’t back down, and she wouldn’t listen to reasoning. I tried to get her to finish this, and we could talk about no more cons or manipulations. We could just live our lives, and with this final plan coming to fruition, we would be set for life.”
“Hallie wouldn’t hear any more; she raised to hand and said stop talking. I felt backed into a corner. This came out of the blue, and it didn’t appear she was going to even consider having more conversations before blowing up our game. Without thinking I picked up the hammer and hit her on the head. She fell really hard. I was in shock. Blood poured out on the floor. I heard her moan, and I didn’t know what to do. I found the gloves in one of the tool box drawers. I put them on and choked her until the moaning stopped.”
“How long did it take until the moaning stopped,” Sarah said.
At that point, Victoria’s eyes filled with tears, “believe it or not this is really painful for me. I mean I have no idea how we got to a place like that. To answer your question, maybe three minutes. I knew she was dead. Her eyes stared up at me, and I knew she was gone. You may think I am a monster, but I loved Hallie. It just happened. I guess I panicked.”
“So now we know why it happened. How did John get involved?” Sarah asked.
“As you have figured out, I got him to help me clean up the mess. It was not easy, but John is a weak man. A little money and some sex got him to help me. He came over and helped clean up the whole place. We both loaded her body into her car. John came with me and helped dump the body in the dairy country.” Victoria started to cry, “I drove him back, parked Hallie’s car, wiped things down and made sure everything was done. I took the bags of towels and other stuff like Hallie’s purse, the hammer and gloves, and drove them to Parker’s business and dumped them. I hoped it would lead you to think Parker did this. Looks like I almost guessed right except for a couple of lab results and those damn keys in my bag.” With that Victoria got quiet.
“So after all that you and John did that afternoon, why would he show up at the Blue Moon late?” Sarah asked.
“We got our stories straight, then I took him up to my office and gave him five thousand dollars and had sex with him.”
“In your office?” Sarah asked.
“Yes.”
“Miss Rutledge, is there anything else you wanted to add?” Sarah asked.
“No. I’ve said too much; I think I want a lawyer.”
“Miss Rutledge stand up. You are under arrest for the murder of Hallie Cook-Knowles.” Sarah came around the table and cuffed Victoria’s hands behind her.
“You have the right to remain silent,”
“No need detective I know my rights. It’s time for a lawyer.”
Max stood up, “Any regrets?”
Victoria looked at Max for a couple of seconds, she smiled, “No.”

It’s My Turn!

For that past several weeks the characters in my story, “Secrets Behind A Wedding Cake” have visited with you and hinted at where they thought the story was going. Now that we are nearing the end I wanted to thank you, my readers, for taking the time to read my story and other ramblings on by blog site. It has been a lot of fun for me working on the story and breathing life into several characters that I adore. I will be releasing chapter 22 this weekend and then the final chapter hopefully the weekend after that. After the conclusion of “Secrets Behind A Wedding Cake,” I have an idea that might be interesting, that you might enjoy. I will talk about that later after I convince myself that it will work.

“Secrets Behind A Wedding Cake” Chapter Twenty-One

Sarah McFadden and Max Drake stood in the hallway outside of interview rooms 2 and 3. They compared notes on everything that John Knowles and Victoria Rutledge said, each one blaming the another.
“Let’s let them sit in there for a while and stew, give them a little time to think about the enormity of what they did. We have the murderer and the person that helped clean it up. Let’s get the case files on my desk, sit down and verify the cell phone records, then we can see who is lying.” Max said.
“Agreed,” Sarah said, as they both headed back into the detective room and sat down. Sarah opened Victoria’s phone records as well as John’s.
“Okay, I can confirm that Victoria Rutledge’s cell phone pinged on the cell tower less than a mile from Parker and Hallie’s home. There were no phone calls except the one she made to John Knowles at 5:12 p.m. from that same cell tower.” Sarah looked up at Max.
“We got her Sarah. The other thing we have not talked about, and Miss Rutledge has convienently neglected to mention, is that Hallie was strangled and those gloves can be matched to the marks on her neck.” Max said as he got up from his chair.
“Let’s go talk with a murderer,” Sarah said.
Both Max and Sarah entered interview room 2 where Victoria had been sitting quietly by herself with her thoughts. When Max and Sarah sat down, Victoria looked like a wet dog. Her hair stuck to the sides of her face from sweat. Her shoulders slumped forward, and her head and eyes looked down. She did raise her head up when they walked in. She knew.
“Miss Rutledge, we have heard your side of the story and you swear you only helped clean up and load Hallie’s body in the Honda is that correct?” Max asked.
“That’s what I said, and I stand by that.”
“Okay, let me ask you this question. Why did your cell phone ping off the tower on Oak Street less than a mile from the Knowles home? Can you explain why you made a phone call at 5:12 from that same tower to John Knowles phone. Can you explain that here were no phone calls from John Knowles for the past month to you before that 5:12 call on Wednesday?
Victoria did not say anything. She shook her head back and forth.
“Miss Rutledge, you admit wearing those leather gloves explaining why your DNA was found inside of them. You said you opened a couple of drawers in the tool box and found them. One thing more Miss Rutledge, the tests came back and Hallie Cook-Knowles was strangled with those same gloves. They match the marks on her neck and we found her DNA on the fingers and palms of those same gloves.” Sarah added.
“She was strangled? Those gloves were used?” Victoria said in a whisper.
“Miss Rutledge it’s now time to admit what you did, take the pressure off of trying to cover up what happened and clear your conscience,” Max added.
Sarah could feel Victoria Rutledge was ready to confess, the front of her blouse was spotting with sweat. She reached for a box of Kleenex and blew her nose and then grabbed two more and wiped her forehead.
“I did it. I killed Hallie.” She began to cry, first sobbing then she broke down and tears ran through her fingers as her hands covered her face.
Max and Sarah let her cry for a full two minutes.
“Okay, Miss Knowles tell us what happened?” Sarah said.
Sobbing she managed to squeak out, “I didn’t mean to do it. Hallie and I have been friends for many years. We met in college and have been best friends since then.”
“Okay I get that, but how did you get to the place where you killed your best friend.”
“It’s complicated detectives. I mean there is a whole story behind why and I have to start at the beginning for you to understand.”
“Well before we get started would you like a cup of coffee or something?” Sarah asked.
“A coffee right now sounds excellent, but if you have something stronger I would prefer that.”
Within in a minute, Sarah came back with a cup of coffee. “Sorry I don’t have any cream or anything, black is what we have.”
Victoria took a sip. “It tastes okay, not as good as I make at the Blue Moon late at night but for cop coffee not bad.”
“Okay Miss Rutledge, why did you murder your best friend, Hallie Cook-Knowles?” Max asked.
“As I stated, we met in college and it didn’t take Hallie and I long to figure out if we dressed just right and flirted with college guys, we could get them to buy us drinks; we could get them to take us out to dinner. Sometimes one of them might get lucky with one of us. That kept them paying for things we wanted.
We had long discussions about how much fun it was to control those young guys. After a while, we decided to move past the college guys. We figured there were a lot of guys out there that had discretionary funds and fancy cars.”
“So I’m getting what you are saying, but how did this get to today?” Max asked.
“I’m getting there. We dated a few guys, some married and others single. We stayed conservative in our relationships not wanting to get a reputation as sluts or con artists. I met Julian Hewitt first. Julian is very wealthy, and we started dating. I introduced him to Hallie. Julian introduced Parker Knowles to Hallie and both Hallie, and I cultivated our relationships with Julian and Parker. We four became great friends and traveled together and built a healthy relationship.” Victoria chuckled, “Hallie and I used to joke, that we hit the motherlode with those two.”
Hallie and I had a talk and decided that it would be good for her to manipulate Parker into marriage. Which as you are aware they did marry.”
“Why would she do that?” Max asked.
“That was the beginning of our plan. We worked it out that Hallie would claim to be pregnant by Julian. Knowing his personality, he would pay her, and he would run. As you are aware, that is precisely what he did. Hallie started receiving money from him right away.”
“So it was planned for her to have sex with Julian to set this all up,” Sarah asked.
“Yes.”
“What happened next?” Max asked.
“Now that Hallie and Parker were married it was time for Hallie to confess she was pregnant. We knew Parker would be heartbroken and go into a deep depression. He would want out of the marriage. I gently nudged him into doing just that. He set up the divorce and was going to give her the house and a couple of hundred grand.”
“So that sent Parker into your arms, why?” Sarah asked.
“Come on detective, Parker moved in dejected, sick and depressed. He had a propensity for depression. I manipulated him, encouraged him, moved him into my spare bedroom until I could get him to sleep with me. It worked like magic.” Victoria said.
“Magic?” Max asked.
“Magic for him. I worked him mentally, pleased him sexually to the place where we started talking marriage after the divorce was final.”
“So you both end up making money off of Julian Hewitt and Parker Knowles. The problem is Hallie wasn’t really pregnant. How was that scam to work without a baby? Julian would never keep paying once he found out.” Sarah added.
“True, we were hunting for another guy for Hallie, and she would immediately get pregnant by him. That child would produce the pictures, and proof Julian needed to keep paying. Meanwhile, Hallie would scam the baby daddy for money.”
“Yes, but a newborn baby would not match the timeline of Hallie’s so-called pregnancy,” Sarah said.
“True, but any pictures at all would scare Julian, and he would keep paying, trust me on that one.”
“Why didn’t Julian get a DNA test to make sure?” Sarah asked.
“Yes, well, we had his DNA. Something we collected over several months. The day that Julian drove Hallie to the lab for the DNA test, which would have proved she wasn’t pregnant Hallie started an argument. She made Julian pull over, and she got out of the car and walked away. That ended the DNA testing at that time. Julian freaked out and started paying without the test. We anticipated he would demand a test eventually. Several months before that I met a guy, Steven Gordon, he was married, and we had a very intense affair, even though he was married–he owned a lab. I ‘convinced him’ to do the DNA test and write up the baby was, in fact, Julian’s child. This kept Steven in check so I didn’t have to go to his wife and tell her about our affair. He has two small children, a business, and loving wife what would have been devastated.”
“Miss Rutledge, this makes you and Hallie sound like monsters praying on people to benefit your own carnal needs,” Sarah said in a low voice.
“It took from college to now to grow into what we became. I’m not proud of what we have done to some people, but hey, other times it has been great. The one thing that drove us, we were setting ourselves up for life.” Victoria said.
“Yeah, but at what cost to so many other people,” Max said.
“At times we both felt guilty. Then we would talk it through and convince ourselves we were in charge of our future, and we could do anything we wanted.”
“So this new guy that you were ‘hunting for’ to get Hallie pregnant. Where was that plan going?” Sarah asked.
Victoria Rutledge didn’t say anything for a few seconds. It was silent in the interview room. She sipped her coffee then stared directly at Max. “Hallie met a nice guy named Max by chance twice in one day, once at her morning job and once in her night job. After talking with him that evening and kind of flirting, Hallie knew he was hurting and would be open to starting a relationship. Hallie told me she was sure she could get him to sleep with her and hopefully soon she would be pregnant. Max was one of three men that she felt would fulfill our need for the baby. Remember, all we needed was a baby to keep Julian on the hook and then bleed the baby daddy too.” Victoria smiled at Max.
Max stood up, “I don’t believe you. You are a liar and an evil person that enjoys hurting everyone you come in contact with.”
Sarah reached up and grabbed Max’s arm in case he decided to jump over the table at Victoria. Max glared at her. He looked down at Sarah then spun around and left the interview room.
Sarah got up and walked out of the room without saying a word. Max was leaning against the wall outside the interview room.
“Max get yourself together, the next question is the most important and you need to be in there.”
After a couple of minutes and a few deep breaths, Max and Sarah went back in the interview room. Victoria sat there with a non-emotional smug look. “Miss Rutledge so with all this planning, and everything working the way you two planned it out. Why did you kill Hallie?”

A Final Message From Max Drake

My name is Max Drake; I am a charter in a story. I have to tell you I’ve worked my craft for many years. I have never solved a problem this fast. If you want to find out about what I’m talking about, go to the story, “Secrets Behind A Wedding Cake.” My profession is something I chose a long time ago and this is what I do. I am pleased to introduce you to my partner, Sarah McFadden. This story is coming to a definite yet dark conclusion. Sarah McFadden and I have been working together for the past four years, she told me, “I have never seen someone like this before.” So if you want to discover what I’m talking about read, “Story Behind A Wedding Cake.” All chapters 1 -20 are available. You better get caught up because you will not believe where this story is going. I talked with our author, Willard Ceccarelli, and he tells us there are three chapters left. He has written all but the last chapter, and we will be surprised how it all comes together. So My advice to you our faithful readers, I look forward to answering all your questions. The story will come to a conclusion. I am sad about that fact. I only live within the story, so I feel alive until the end, then what happens to me?

Your friend,

Max Drake

Word of the Day-Desert

The hands of time with fingers of wind mold the desert sand. As I walk across the barren ground carpeted with sand, I am reminded that each step we take in life is only temporary. That our past steps are washed away by the winds of time.

“Secrets Behind A Wedding Cake” Chapter Twenty

Max never blinked nor did Victoria Rutledge. Her eyes fixated on the set of Honda car keys that Max pulled over to his side of the table. It was evident to Max that Victoria was past needing a cigarette.
Victoria’s eyes darted back and forth. Processing Max’s question of where did she get the keys made her outwardly nervous but more importantly, what was going to be her answer.
“So Miss Rutledge, again I ask you why do you have a set of Honda keys in your purse?”
“I have no idea how they got in my bag. You can see this bag is huge, somebody put the keys in there—it’s the only way they could be in there.”
“Any idea who those keys belong to?” Max asked.
Victoria shook her head back and forth, and her lips tightened, “no, I drive a Subaru not a Honda.”
“Who does drive a Honda then?”
“Well, Parker and Hallie recently bought a new Honda. If these are the keys, I have no idea how they ended up in my purse.”
“Okay, let’s back up and ask one of my other questions again while you try to remember how those keys got into your purse. My question a few minutes ago, how do you explain that your skin cells were found inside Parker’s leather gloves?” Max said forcefully.
“I believe your lab must have made a mistake. I never even knew Parker owned a pair of gloves.”
“You are just playing around here Miss Rutledge? It is time to start telling the truth and clearing your conscience,” Max said.

*****

John Knowles sat there staring at Detective McFadden. He answered her question why on Wednesday night late he had a long conversation with Victoria. Now he sat there without saying another word.
“John, we have your phone records for the past month there are no calls to Victoria’s cell phone or her restaurant from you. What we have is a call to your cell phone at 5:12 p.m. from Victoria’s phone. Guess what? It was Wednesday afternoon. The afternoon your ‘sister in law’ happened to be murdered. We also know that her cell phone pinged off of a cell tower within a mile of Parker and Hallie’s home. So, let’s cut through all the bullshit here and why don’t you tell me what actually happened?” Sarah glared at John.
John nervously snickered, he let out a breath of air and then sat his elbows on the table and removed his glasses. He then rubbed his face for a few seconds. “Detective, what do you want to know?”

*****

“I might know a little more than I have told you, Detective Drake. I did meet Hallie Wednesday afternoon. I did meet her in a Target parking lot just like I said. We talked for a few minutes, and I left, changed my clothes and went back to work. That is all true. The car keys I am assuming, perhaps Parker put them there. I mean how else could they get there?”
“Miss Rutledge, this is the last opportunity for you to tell me what actually happened. You are lying, we have the evidence, and you cannot slip out of the web of science that says you in fact did meet Hallie Knowles, but at her home. Maybe you didn’t kill her out of anger, maybe it was an accident. The truth is what needs to be told here, not ‘I have no idea’.”
It was silent in the interview room. Max was sure he could hear Victoria’s brain grinding on her next lie and her heart about to blow out of her chest. Her entire outward mannerisms expressed extreme stress.
“I told you the truth, I didn’t kill my friend. I never met Hallie at her home on Wednesday. I even passed your stupid lie detector test.” She said waving her finger at Max.
“Cell towers do not lie, and neither does DNA. You can say whatever you want to steer this interview another direction Miss Rutledge. I have you in a vice here, and you have nowhere to go, so tell the fucking truth!” Max slammed his fist on the metal table causing Victoria to jump.

*****

“Okay Detective McFadden, I will tell you what I know. But I am going to ask for leniency.”
“Depending on what you’re about to tell me will determine any leniency. If you can convince me, I will take it to the DA for their sign off. First, you have to tell me the truth.” Sarah leaned forward on the table and folded her hands. She looked directly into John’s eyes and did not blink.
John let out a breath and shook his head back and forth slightly. “Look, I am not guilty of any murder. I only helped clean it up.”
“For Victoria Rutledge?”
“Yes,” John said, and tears filled his eyes and ran down his cheeks.
“Victoria called me a little after 5 p.m. She was shouting and mumbling something I couldn’t understand. It took me a couple of minutes to calm her down enough to find out what was going on. Victoria said she was at Parker and Hallie’s home and that she and Hallie had a fight. They were in the garage and Hallie picked up a hammer. Victoria said they wrestled, and she took it away from her. She said she might have hit Hallie but doesn’t remember.”
“So Miss Rutledge stated she hit Hallie with the hammer,” Sarah said.
“Yes. I asked her if she called 911. She said no. I asked her if Hallie was breathing she told me she didn’t think so.”
“What happened next.”
“She started to panic, and I calmed her back down. She asked me to come over and help her. I said no, she should call 911 right now. She started screaming and then begged me to come over. I finally agreed.” John said.
“Did she bribe you? Why would you go over to a potential murder scene?”
John looked down again at his feet through his extended arms which were still resting on the table.
“Victoria and I started seeing each other in the past few weeks. One thing led to another, and we had sex.”
“Wait, she has Parker living in her home, and she was sleeping with him, now she also is sleeping with you,” Sarah said.
“Yes, I know that sounds appalling, but she and I have hooked up several times over the past couple of years. It was always casual, but I mean, how was I to turn her down if she wanted to have sex with me.”
“What about your brother?”
“I feel sorry about that but like I said, we do not talk.”
“So what happened next?” Sarah asked.

*****

“Miss Rutledge, we are closing in on you as our prime suspect. When I ask you questions how your DNA happens to be inside of Parker’s work gloves. You do not have an answer. When I ask you if you left the Blue Moon Restaurant last Wednesday, you denied it. I ask you about phone calls on Wednesday to Hallie you say you did not make any. So let’s both take a deep breath and start all over and don’t bullshit me. I can read you like a book. You are backed into a corner, and there is no way out except the truth.” Max said while pulling his chair around the table to Victoria’s side. He moved close enough to where his knees were a couple inches from touching hers. Max leaned forward. Psychologically he was pinning her in a corner.
Victoria’s shoulders and her whole body had been slumping forward. When Max pulled up and really got into her personal space, she pulled back and sat up straight before saying, “Okay, damn it! Here is the truth. I did not meet Hallie at Target. You probably are checking for video anyway. I did receive a call from Hallie, and she told me she was going to try and get Parker to reconcile with his brothers. Sometime after that, I got a call from John that he was at Hallie’s home, and he killed her. They had some kind of argument and he hit her with something that later on I found out was a hammer. He asked me to come over and help him clean up.”
“So you left work, drove to Parker and Hallie’s home to help someone you hardly know clean up a murder scene. Is that what you are saying?” Max said.
“It’s complicated detective.”
“Well complicated or not you need to tell me.”
“I know John more than I have let on. We have slept together a few times and even though we are not close we use each other when one of us is in the need of uncomplicated sex.”
“So what happened next?” Max said.
“I went over to Hallie’s home, she was on the floor, and there was blood everywhere. John and I had a discussion about what had happened. He asked me to help him load her up in the back of the Honda. He needed to get rid of all the evidence. I opened a couple of the drawers on Parker’s tool box and found the gloves. I put them on then we picked up Hallie’s body.”
“Did you pickup Hallie by her shoulders or her feet?” Max asked.
“What difference does it make?” She said.
“I need to understand exactly what happened.”
“I picked up Hallie’s feet, and we put her in the car. We spent over an hour cleaning the place up. We bagged up all the evidence including the bloody towels, her purse, everything. I guess he took all of the evidence you found and put them in the dumpster behind Parker’s business. I went home changed my clothes and went back to work. I guess later when He stopped by the Blue Moon, he dropped the keys in my purse somehow.” Victoria looked up from staring at her legs.
“Stay here.” Max got up and stepped out of room 2. He opened the door to interview room 3. “Sarah you got a minute?”
She got up, and they stepped in the hallway. Comparing notes, they went over what was being said.
“So we can place them both at the murder scene, and they both say the other one did it. Which one do we believe?” Sarah asked Max.

A Message from Victoria Rutledge

Hello, fellow readers of Willard Ceccarelli’s story, “Secrets Behind A Wedding Cake.” I am one of the main characters in that story. I regret some of my choices and where those choices have led me. You know what I mean, we all make mistakes. I am not happy about the accusations that some readers think I’m guilty of things I never could do. I’m hoping in Chapter 20 I can prove that to you. You might want to re-read this story. I suggest reading all 19 Chapters to remember how we got to this place. The author has told me that Chapter 20 will be released this weekend.