Short Story Sunday 214: Number One Suspect [Part 4 – Mystery Month]

Short Story: "Number One Suspect" | Flash Fiction | Creative Writing | Mystery | RachelPoli.com
DID YOU READ PARTS ONE, TWO, AND THREE?

            After talking to Noah, Jayden’s former boss, George and Lilah went straight back to the office to brainstorm more ideas. Things were suddenly looking for Steven. While the motive for killing his wife was still prominent, things were looking shady on Jayden’s end as well.

“Whatever she was up to leading up to her death,” George had said, “had dire consequences that I don’t think she saw coming.”

They even visited Steven is his holding cell and asked for his bank information. Sure enough, it matched the number that Lilah had found written on the notepad on Noah’s desk. When Barney had asked what they were doing there, George simply shrugged his shoulders and told him that there was more to the case than met the eye.

It wasn’t until the following day that George and Lilah went back to the police station to finally piece everything together. They had helped throw an innocent man in jail and now they had to get him back out so justice could be served.

Barney sighed when he noticed his brother and Lilah walking towards his desk through the police station.

“What do you guys want now?” he asked standing up. “Did the check not arrive yet?”

“We’re here to solve Jayden Bell’s murder.” Lilah boasted.

Barney raised an eyebrow and glanced at George with suspicion.

George sighed. “Listen, we believe Steven is innocent.”

“You helped arrest him!”

“I know, I know. And it was a terrible mistake. It’s a gut feeling both Lilah and I had the other day when you were questioning him.” George explained.

“Really?” Barney scoffed folding his arms across his chest. “Because when I interrogated him the other day he had nothing useful to say. If he was really innocent, I feel as though he would have tried harder.”

Lilah glared at Barney. “He had nothing to say because he was scared. And he’s grieving the loss of his wife. Plus, there’s a lot more to the puzzle that Steven doesn’t even know.”

Barney’s face relaxed as he listened to Lilah. “What do you mean? What else have you figured out?”

Lilah opened her mouth, but thought better than to answer. She looked up at George figuring that he would be the best to explain it all.

“I think,” George said, “this conversation would be better if Steven were in on it.”

Barney reluctantly agreed. He sent George and Lilah to Interrogation Room A on the other side of the station while he went to go fetch the suspect.

When they had made it to the room, Steven sat on one end of the metal table while George and Lilah sat on the other. Barney stood behind them with his back leaning up against the one-way mirror and his arms crossed. He didn’t look amused by this turn of events, yet he seemed intrigued by it all the same.

“Steven,” George began, “Thank you for talking to us again.”

“Sure… are you going to be my lawyer?” Steven asked.

Barney snickered behind them.

George sighed. “No, Steven. I told you, I’m a private investigator. I’m not a lawyer.”

Steven looked over at Lilah and she shook her head before he could even ask. His shoulders slouched in disappointment and he somberly looked down at the cold table in front of him.

“I wouldn’t worry too much. I don’t think you’re going to need any representation.” George said in an attempt to reassure him. However, it only seemed to confuse him as he looked up at George with furrowed brows.

“Did you know that your wife was planning to divorce you?” George asked bluntly.

Steven’s eyes grew wide. “What…?” his bottom lip puckered out and quivered. “What do you mean Jayden was going to divorce me…?”

“I’m sorry to have to tell you this, especially under these circumstances, but she was seeing another man.” George explained. “She was going to divorce you to be with him.”

“Wait a minute,” Barney piped up. “I see this more of a drive to kill her.”

Steven gasped in fright and Lilah rolled her eyes. She turned around in her seat and looked up at Barney. “Can’t you tell that he had no idea she was planning on divorcing him?”

Barney shrugged. “He could be a great actor, for all you know. Besides, I’m just trying to play devil’s advocate. We have to know absolutely everything and get everyone’s side on things.”

Lilah relaxed back down in her seat. She knew Barney was right, but she wished they could all be a little more sympathetic to Steven. He did just lose his wife… in more ways than one.

“She was definitely in over her head, though. I’m sure whoever she was having an affair with didn’t care for her back in the way she cared for him. However, I don’t think she knew that.” George stated.

“I’m not sure I’m following…” Steven said shaking his head.

“I spoke with Mr. Noah Lang yesterday.” George said. He turned around to look at Barney. “I would suggest you page someone to bring him down here. He’s the owner of Prevalli’s Restaurant, Jayden’s former boss, and so-called lover. And whoever picks him up; tell them to take a look a notepad on his desk. It should have Steven’s bank account number written on it.”

Barney hesitated, but he eventually left the room to make the call.

Steven leaned forward on the table looking George in the eye. “Jayden’s boss? Why would he have my bank account information?”

“Remember when you originally hired us it was because you thought Jayden was doing something with your money? Your money was mysteriously disappearing from your account? Checks were being written?” George asked.

Steven nodded.

“I don’t know why, but Jayden was giving all that to Noah. I think he seduced her into believing they had a loving relationship and therefore somehow tricked her into giving her your account information so he could steal money from you.”

Steven leaned back in his chair with a disgusted look on his face. “And Jayden was going to leave me for him?”

Lilah narrowed her eyes. That was what he was taking out of this story? He was concerned that Jayden was going to leave him more so than that she was stealing his money and giving it to someone else for them to use?

When Barney came back into the room, George explained one more time what his suspicions were.

“I don’t know what Noah was using the money for, but I do believe he’s the culprit in stealing from their account.” Georg explained.

“Well, it’s not technically stealing if Jayden was giving him permission to take the money out. It was her account as well.” Barney shrugged his shoulders.

Steven’s jaw dropped. “So that money technically isn’t stolen? I can’t get it back?”

Barney nodded his head. “Well, we’ll see what we can do about that. It’s just not going to be easy.”

Steven slouched back down in his chair.

“The charges for the money might not stick, but I’m pretty sure you’ll find that Noah is also the man who killed Jayden.” George continued.

Steven gasped and Barney shook his head. “And what, may I ask, makes you say that?”

“Noah was using Jayden. She had a lot of money and she was attracted to him. So, he played along to get what he wanted, to get what he needed. There are a lot of theories, but my guess is that he killed her.” George explained. “She either figured out what he was doing and confronted him about it, therefore him getting angry and scared. Maybe she told him that she was going to divorce Steven so they could be together and Noah didn’t want that. He panicked. Or, maybe Noah was done using her and attempted to break up with her. Then maybe she threatened to cut him off completely or asked for her money back and… well, he panicked again.”

Barney pinched the bridge of his nose. “Why did this case have to end up this way…? It was so easy before.”

“Hey!” Steven protested. “You’re talking about my life on the line here.”

“Sorry,” Barney shrugged.

It wasn’t too much longer when a few officers came in announcing that they had brought Noah to the station. George, Lilah, and Barney left Steven in Interrogation Room A and went to go talk to Noah in Interrogation Room B.

“You two again? I thought you said you were Private-Eyes, no police work?” Noah scoffed as soon as he saw George and Lilah.

“Don’t worry about them,” Barney said harshly. He sat down at the table across from him. “Jayden Bell was murdered by several stab wounds all over her body. What exactly can you tell us about that? What can you tell us about anything that has to do with Jayden?”

Noah narrowed his eyes at Barney. He looked around at each and every one of the. “Wait,” he held up a finger, “are you suggesting that I had anything to do with Jayden’s death?”

“Yes,” Barney said bluntly.

Noah banged his fists on the table and stood up from his chair. “You have no right to accuse me of such a thing!”

“We have every right to believe you and Jayden were a lot closer than mere boss and employee.” George piped up. He side-stepped towards the door blocking it. Lilah took a step back wondering if George was worried that Noah would try to run. If that was going to be the case, she didn’t want to get squashed.

Noah’s jaw dropped. Lilah had a feeling he wanted to protest, but no excuses were popping into his head at the moment.

“I want a lawyer!” he finally demanded. “You have no right to bring me to the station and interrogate me like this.”

“This is just a routine follow-up.” Barney said calmly. He leaned back in his chair as though there was no chance of Noah leaping over the table and strangling him.

“I think not!”

“Noah, we can get you a lawyer,” George said politely, “but that will just make us believe you have something to hide.”

“We can easily take this thing to court if you don’t cooperate.” Barney said nonchalantly.

“Huh?” Noah said nearly out of breath. He whipped his head back and forth between looking at Barney and George. They were confusing him and Lilah figured that Noah was trying to calculating which was the best option to get himself out of this as soon as possible.

“If you ask for a lawyer, we can give you one. But just know we’re going to assume you have something to hide. Why would you need a lawyer present otherwise?” Barney asked.

“If you’re completely innocent in everything, like you claim you are, then you shouldn’t need a lawyer. As long as you tell the truth then you won’t be in any trouble.” George added.

Noah’s chest heaved in and out quickly as his breathing grew heavier. He finally sat down with his fists balled on the surface of the table. “Fine,” he said through gritted teeth.

“Perfect,” Barney smiled. “Now, were you and Jayden having an affair?”

Noah remained silent.

“You told us she was planning on divorcing Steven because she was seeing another guy. You also told us that you had no idea who this guy was.” George added, “But then we noticed that you had Jayden’s bank account number written on a notepad.”

“You went through my office?” Noah demanded standing back up. “I didn’t see any search warrant!”

Barney too stood up. He towered over Noah and his angry face burned into Noah’s. “Sit down, Lang! This isn’t your territory.”

Lilah pressed her lips together. Barney and Noah seemed to be locked in a staring contest and she wondered if they were going to brawl. After a moment or two, Noah sat back down. She let out a sigh of relief. And he had seemed like such a nice guy when they had met him the day before.

Barney remained standing still glaring at Noah as George continued speaking.

“There was a notepad sitting out on the surface of your desk. The bank account number was written on the first page and we could easily read what the numbers were. Since Steven Bell had hired us to figure out where all his money was going, we naturally recognized the number.”

Lilah knew that wasn’t the case. Sure, the number seemed familiar, but they still had to check on it. Then again, Noah didn’t need to know that.

“Jayden gave you her bank account information, didn’t she? And then you were using the money for yourself.” George stated.

“For the restaurant,” Noah replied harshly.

Lilah looked over at George. She couldn’t tell whether or not he believed Noah. She wasn’t sure if she believed Noah.

“Jayden was a hard worker. She loved the restaurant and she loved me. So, she wanted to help out and invest in the business. I didn’t ask her for the account information, she gave it to me.” Noah turned from Barney to look at George and sneered. “Is that a crime?”

“We’re trying to figure that one out. It was nice of Jayden to give you her information, but she didn’t talk about it with her husband. So, yes, you were stealing from the lead account holder.” Barney explained.

Noah rolled his eyes. “Fine, I’ll give the money back. Can I go now?”

“What we want to know now is,” George piped up again, “did you care for Jayden liked she cared for you?”

Noah narrowed his eyes and Lilah could see his blood boiling again. “What are you talking about now?”

“You just told us that Jayden loved the restaurant and she loved you.” George stated.

Lilah saw Noah’s eye twitch as George continued speaking.

“Did you love her back?”

“Yes,” Noah said with his teeth gritted. “That’s not a crime, though. I’m sorry she was already married, but when you love someone, you love someone, alright?”

Barney shrugged. “Hey, she was going to divorce Steven to make herself and you happy. Not to mention the restaurant was going to be in great shape financially. It’s a win-win for everyone… Well, except for Steven.”

“Yeah, he somehow got the short end of the stick on that one…” Lilah muttered.

“Listen,” Noah continued, “It doesn’t matter anyway. She’s dead.”

“Because you killed her?” Barney asked.

Noah was about to answer, but stopped himself. He glared at Barney, who kept a neutral expression. Lilah could have sworn that Noah was just about to agree.

“Right before Jayden had died, I was at her house. She and I were having a talk about the restaurant and that was when she told me that she was going to divorce Steven so we could be together. I couldn’t have been happier. When I left, Steven was just getting home. So I snuck out the back door. The next thing I knew I heard Jayden was murdered. I assumed she told Steven she wanted a divorce and he killed her because of it.” Noah explained.

“You went out the back door, huh?” Barney asked. “What size shoe are you?”

“I don’t know… 10?” Noah shrugged.

Barney smirked. “Mr. Noah Lang, you’re under arrest as a suspect in the murder of Jayden Bell.”

“On what grounds?” Noah demanded standing back up.

“On the grounds that there was a bloodied footprint leaving the scene of the crime through the back door,” Barney said calmly.

“But the butcher’s knife had Steven’s fingerprints all over it! You guys found him holding it over her body!” Noah protested.

“You’re right,” Barney nodded, “except it’s not public knowledge that the murder weapon was a butcher’s knife.”

“Whatever, it was a knife…” Noah muttered.

“Nice try,” Barney sighed.

Just then a couple of police officers came into the room and hauled Noah away. George, Lilah, and Barney were left in the room together. Neither one of them said anything to each other for a few moments. But then George piped up.

“You never told me about the footprint.”

Barney snickered. “I also didn’t tell you that I thought Steven was innocent this entire time as well. But when you have a job to do and you have no other leads… Well, you know how it is. You can’t let a good lead go. Just in case,”

“But everyone is innocent until proven guilty.” Lilah stated.

Barney chuckled. “Yeah, you’re right. Still, sometimes your job doesn’t always allow that. You have to think both ways. What if he is innocent, but what if he is guilty?”

“I’m sure Steven is going to be more than happy to hear the news.” Lilah smiled.

“Well, this is just the beginning for him.” George sighed. “The poor guy has a funeral to plan as well as fighting with the bank and insurance companies to try to get his money back.”

“How much money was taken out of his account, anyway?” Lilah asked.

“A couple hundred grand,” Barney replied.

“What?!”

“Yeah, I know. Wouldn’t it be nice to have that kind of money?” Barney sighed.

“What does Steven even do for work?” Lilah asked appalled.

“He’s a private detective, that’s for sure…” George muttered.

“And he by no means is a police officer.” Barney chuckled. “Anyway,” he opened the door leading George and Lilah out of the interrogation room. “I guess I’ll head next door and tell Mr. Steven Bell that he’s free to go.”

George nodded his head. “And good luck to him.”

Words: 2,940

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