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.