“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.
“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?”

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