Home > The Last Move(4)

The Last Move(4)
Author: Mary Burton

“I let Officer Calhoun fingerprint me.”

“Good. I appreciate that. We’re going to be collecting a lot of forensic data from that car, and it would be nice to have your DNA and exclude you quickly.”

“What kind of DNA?”

“A cheek swab. Takes just a second, and then we’re done. Will save you time later. You won’t have to come down to the station.” Again the no-big-deal, let-me-be-your-pal tone.

Sanchez jutted his chin out as he looked at Mazur. “I didn’t hurt my wife. I came out here to help her.”

Insistence reverberated from the man’s words, but Mazur didn’t have a good enough read on him to determine if he was telling the truth or just a damn good liar. “Once you are eliminated as a suspect, we can get to the business of solving the case.”

“I should call my lawyer.”

“You can do that. Will just give the killer more time to get away.” When Sanchez hesitated, he added, “This is all very routine. I do it in every homicide case.”

The man shook his head. “Sure. Take my DNA. Do whatever you need to do.”

Mazur motioned Officer Calhoun over, who set aside her camera on a temporary worktable. When he explained what he needed, she pulled a DNA kit from her forensic van and carefully swabbed the inside of Sanchez’s cheek.

“I didn’t kill her,” he said. “I came to help her.”

At least a third of murdered women died at the hands of a husband, boyfriend, or lover. “I’m going to do everything I can to catch her killer.”

A sigh shuddered from Sanchez. “What will happen to her? Who will come for my wife? Where will they take her?”

“We’ll send her to the medical examiner,” Calhoun said. “Once medical professionals have examined her body, they’ll call you and you can make arrangements with a funeral home.” The technician secured the cotton swab in a glass vial, labeled it, and stored it in her van.

“Funeral home. Jesus. I was talking to her just a few hours ago.”

Mazur studied the man’s body language closely. Sanchez was wringing his hands and making eye contact with him, both signs of grief and truth telling. “When she called you, did she give you any idea that she was in trouble or that she was being followed?”

“No. She sounded annoyed. Pissed off. Gloria has been short tempered lately, and the flat tire made her furious.”

“Why was she short tempered?”

“I asked her several times, but she said it was nothing. She’s lost some weight, so I figured it was one of her crazy diets.” He ran a hand through his hair. “This is a bad dream.”

The sound of a cell phone dinging had Mazur checking his own and realizing quickly it wasn’t his, but the victim’s burner that Calhoun had bagged in plastic. She held up the bag. The display read BLOCKED.

Calhoun carefully opened the bag and then the phone. “It’s a text with a video attachment.”

Mazur turned to Sanchez. “I’m going to have an officer escort you home. We are also going to need your shirt for testing.”

“My shirt?” Sanchez glanced down and saw the blood. More tears filled his eyes. “Yes, of course.” The older man’s shoulders slumped forward as the weight of his wife’s death sank in. “You’ll take care of my wife?”

“Yes, sir.”

Again, Sanchez looked pale, upset, devastated. He was hitting all the right emotional high notes. But killers also felt regret. In the aftermath of a murder, especially of a loved one, many sincerely mourned the loss of the very person they had just killed.

When a uniformed officer escorted Sanchez to a different patrol car, the detective turned back to Calhoun and read the text. Dr. Kate Hayden, you did not catch me.

“Kate Hayden,” Mazur said, trying to recall the person.

When he couldn’t make a connection, he hit the icon for the video attachment. In this remote area, cellular service was spotty and slow, and it took nearly thirty seconds for the attachment to load. When it did, he saw the freeze-frame of Sanchez’s car. He pressed “Play.”

The camera images showed someone moving from the back of Gloria Sanchez’s disabled car to the driver’s side window. Gloria Sanchez startled as she looked up from her phone into the camera.

“Are you all right?” a man asked. “Looks like a flat.”

Her gaze warmed and she smiled. “I’m safe in my car and can wait until help arrives.” The closed window muffled her response as she gripped her phone.

“Want me to change the tire?”

“What? No.” She looked up, blinked. “You shouldn’t have to do that.” She glowered at her cell phone and punched the numbers. “I always have bars on this stretch of road.”

“I can check mine and call the cops or a tow truck.”

Her smile widened. “That would be great.”

A gloved hand grazed the edge of the camera as he raised a cell. Seconds passed. “I’ve got nothing either.”

“You don’t have to stay,” she said. “Really, I’m fine.”

“You have no cell service and your tire is flat. Leaving you like this would be wrong. I can drive you ahead to the next gas station and ask them to send a tow truck.”

“Really?” She cracked her window a fraction.

“Sure. It’s going to take about half an hour to get there and send someone back. Do you have a flare? Easy to get sideswiped when you’re on the shoulder.”

She glanced toward the darkness. “I hate this stretch of I-35.”

“I’m not crazy about it either,” he said.

“I should have been in Laredo by now. Work ran late.”

“I’m in the same boat. Extra shift at the hospital. I’m buzzing on an extra-large coffee and a bag of vending machine cookies.”

“Jesus, this is the last thing I needed.” She reached for her phone, punched in more numbers, and cursed.

“Pop the trunk. Let me have a look at the spare.”

“You know cars?”


Some of her tension visibly eased. “If by some miracle you can fix that flat, I’d be in your debt.”

“Not necessary. Let me see what I can do.”

As he moved toward the trunk, the camera caught the image of a blue van. The plates were blurred by the darkness.

The trunk popped open, and he ran a gloved hand over a full spare tire. His breathing was steady as he returned to her. “Spare’s flat.”

“What? That’s bull.”

“Have a look for yourself.”

This time she rolled down her window. “I don’t mean to be rude. I’m just really stressed.”

“Just trying to be a Good Samaritan.”

“Oh, you are.”

And then the barrel of a gun appeared.

She braced. “What the hell?”

The muzzle flashed, and the bullet struck her square in the chest. She recoiled back as crimson droplets splashed her face, the steering wheel, and the dash. Blood soaked her shirt, skirt, and the seat.

“You’re not alone. I’m here for you.”

“Shit,” Calhoun said. “He filmed the killing.”

“Why the hell does he want us to see this?” Mazur asked, more to himself.

“Maybe he’s bragging. Maybe he’s proud.”

He watched the video again, studying it closely. The killer gently wiped the hair from Gloria Sanchez’s face.

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