The two partners sat in Detective Dowen’s car in silence. The car was turned on with the heat on full blast, but the two remained in the parking lot at the hospital.
“I’m glad we reunited Elizabeth with her parents.” Witt broke the silence. “She has amnesia so there’s no way of ever knowing what happened to her.”
“Some mysteries weren’t meant to be solved.” Dowen shook his head.
“We can cross a missing person off that list, which is great. However, now we have a body to find.”
Dowen sighed. He shifted gears in the car and pulled out of his parking spot. “We’re not turning in for the night until Alisha is found.”
Witt nodded in agreement. Sure, their shift had ended two hours ago. But they weren’t going to rest until Alisha was found. Even if it was her body.
“Where are we going?” she asked. “Are we going to talk to Ben again or Eli? Or are we going straight back to the bridge?”
Dowen hesitated to reply. “Honestly, I wasn’t sure. I was just driving. Maybe we should talk to Ben though. There’s nothing we can do at the bridge. The police will notified us immediately if they find anything. Ben might have some information on Eli so I don’t want to go breaking the news to him just yet that we know he never reported his car stolen.”
“We’ll go visit Ben then,” Witt confirmed.
It didn’t take too long for them to make it to Ben’s house. When they did, Ben’s parents let the two detectives in immediately and called Ben down from his bedroom. His mother made the detective’s coffee while his father sat in the living room with them talking about how awful it was that Alisha had done what she did. They were happy she was found though.
“Well, we hate to say it, but the girl we found was not actually Alisha. She’s a missing person who just happens to resemble Alisha quite a bit,” Witt explained.
Ben’s father, Owen, sank into his chair. “Oh, no… poor Alisha… I suppose there’s no hope for her now?”
“Bite your tongue!” Ben’s mother, Louise, came back into the room with a tray filled with coffee mugs, cream, and sugar. “Don’t say that, especially when Ben comes down. There’s always hope.”
“I’m sorry.” Owen shook his head. “I can’t imagine this though… Alisha would never do something like this.”
Louise sighed. She looked at the detectives with a sad gaze. “Ben told us what happened and how he encouraged her. Will that reflect on him somehow? I don’t mean to make the situation all about Ben, but…”
Dowen shook his head. “You’re asking a valid question. It’s only right that you should be worried for your own son in this situation. As of right now, it’s hard to say. He was walking on the bridge when they shouldn’t have to begin with, so he’s going to get in trouble for that at the very least. Until we have a better handle on this case, though, I don’t want to say too much else.”
Witt leaned forward and poured herself a cup of coffee in an attempt to busy herself. She knew Dowen avoided telling them that Ben could be charged with involuntary manslaughter. She poured some cream into her coffee and then leaned back against the couch.
“Have you gotten in touch with Alisha’s parents at all?”
Owen shook his head. “We called a couple of times but they never picked up. We figured we’d go over there tomorrow with a fruit basket or something and let them know we’re here for them if there’s anything we can do.”
“A fruit basket?” Louise lightly whacked him on the arm. “I’m going to make them a macaroni and cheese or something. They’re not going to want to cook and they can’t survive on fruit.”
Owen shrugged. “Excuse me, no fruit. A warm, home cooked meal.”
“Thank you.” Louise poured herself a cup of coffee.
Witt looked at Dowen concerned. He returned the gaze. The police still were unable to get in touch with Alisha’s parents as well. If no one could get a hold of them, then something was clearly wrong. Dowen stood excusing himself. Witt assumed he stepped out to send a patrol car to Alisha’s house. Why they hadn’t done that earlier, she didn’t know.
Ben came down from the stairs as if on cue. He sheepishly looked at Detective Witt and held out a cell phone. “I’m so sorry I took this without telling you guys.”
Witt stared at him in confusion. She put her mug down on the coffee table in front of her and asked what it was. As soon as Ben explained it was Alisha’s cell phone, Witt put on a pair of gloves.
“Benjamin! Why on earth would you take that from the crime scene?” his mother scolded.
Ben sighed. “I know, I know… I’m sorry. I thought I’d be able to conduct my own investigation and figure out why Alisha wanted to… well, you know…”
“Where did you even get this?” Witt asked.
“On the ground. I noticed it after she splashed into the river. It must have fallen out of her winter coat pocket when she jumped off the bridge.”
“Her parents can track her cell phone, right?” Owen said. Ben nodded. “Maybe she dropped it on purpose then. She didn’t want to be found?”
Witt didn’t confirm or deny this. It was certainly a possibility Alisha didn’t want to be found. However, anyone who jumped off that bridge didn’t need to worry about not being found. They were as soon as dead and the moment the cell phone hit the icy water the GPS certainly wouldn’t work on it anymore.
The detective tapped the screen and it lit up. A message appeared saying the phone was locked out for another minute and seven seconds. She held it up to Ben.
“I assume you’ve been trying to get into her phone?”
He nodded. “I don’t know her password and keep locking myself out.”
Dowen entered the room again. “What did I miss?”
Witt held the phone up to Dowen who took it. “Ben found Alisha’s phone on the ground after she jumped. It has a password and Ben doesn’t know what it is so we’re locked out of it at the moment.”
“Maybe one of the tech guys at the station can get into it,” Dowen said, staring at the phone.
“Ben,” Witt said, “why are you trying to get into Alisha’s phone? Do you think there might be something on there that explains what happened today?”
“She keeps getting text messages from the same phone number,” Ben explained. “There’s no name on the message, just the number, which means this isn’t someone who’s a contact in her phone. I don’t know if she was in some sort of trouble or what.”
Louise gasped and Owen put a hand on her shoulder.
“Has Alisha been acting strangely at all within the past few days, weeks, or even months?” Dowen asked. He put the cell phone in a plastic bag and pocketed it.
“Honestly, no. I didn’t notice anything strange about her. We were hanging out as usual. She was going to school and getting her homework done. I don’t know what came over her,” Ben replied.
Witt nodded her head. It seemed safe to say that Ben wasn’t lying. She didn’t think he had any part in whatever sort of plan Alisha had cooked up. He was merely used as a witness and that was it. The question was why. Why did Alisha jump off that bridge and why did she need a witness?
“Speaking of school,” Dowen spoke again. “You have Elijah Thomas as a teacher, right?”
Ben nodded. “Yeah, he’s a great teacher. Both Alisha and I really like him.”
“Was he at the scene of the crime today?”
Ben furrowed his brows. “Uh, not that I know of? Maybe he drove by on the bridge, but I never saw him.”
“The man who got out of that silver car to talk Alisha down before she jumped,” Witt said, “that wasn’t him?”
“No.” Ben shook his head. “I know I was freaking out and in shock, but I would have recognized him. I would have asked him for more help then what he did. In fact, he probably would have stayed to help Alisha and then me after she had jumped.”
Owen growled under his breath. “Who would someone do something like that? Watch a child jump off a bridge, her friend left in a panic, and then they just get back into their car and leave?”
“Some people are so sick,” Louise whispered.
“Do you know what your teacher’s car looks like?” Witt asked.
“Wait a minute,” Owen stood up, “You’re not suggesting Mr. Thomas had something to do with Alisha jumping, do you?”
Ben answered before the detectives could answer his father. He shook his head. “I have no idea what car Mr. Thomas has.”
“Okay, fair enough,” Dowen said. He turned his attention to Owen. “We need to rule him out as a suspect. The car that man was driving when he pulled over on the bridge to talk Alisha down, that was Mr. Thomas’s car, but he wasn’t the one driving it.”
Ben looked over at his parents and then back to the two detectives. “I don’t get it.”
“Unfortunately, neither do we. We spoke with Mr. Thomas this afternoon and he claimed his car was stolen from his driveway for approximately two hours. He said he called the police and reported it but when we checked, no such call came into the station at all today or yesterday,” Witt explained.
Louise covered a hand over her mouth. “Do you think Mr. Thomas is covering for someone?”
Witt shrugged her shoulders. “It’s a possibility. We don’t know why anyone would encourage Alisha to jump off that bridge.”
Ben gasped. “The phone! I need the cell phone.” He reached out his hands to Detective Dowen, who took a step back.
“No way, this is evidence and you already withheld it from us once before.”
“Do you remember the password?” Witt asked standing from the couch.
Ben nodded to her. He looked at Dowen. “Please, I’ll give it right back. Or you can put the code in yourself. Try one-two-three-one.”
Dowen took the phone out of his jacket pocket. He stared at Ben skeptically but did as he suggested. His eyes popped open.
“Wow, that actually worked.” He took out his notepad and wrote the password down to ensure no one would forget it.
“What’s the significance to that string of numbers?” Owen asked.
Ben shrugged. “It’s today’s date. December 31st.”
Witt and Dowen stared at each other. Maybe it was only a coincidence, but it didn’t seem likely. The two detectives wondered now more than ever that this was planned ahead of time. Alisha must have used it as her password to remind herself but also because there’s no way no one else would possibly guess that.
“Good for you, Ben.” Witt smiled at him. “We’ll figure this out, don’t you worry.”
Dowen scrolled through some of the contents on the phone. He turned it off and put it back in his pocket. “This is excellent information. We’ll have to bring this back to the station and go through it. We’ll keep you posted as best we can about the situation.”
“Thank you so much and if we can be of any further assistance, please let us know,” Owen said. His wife nodded in agreement beside him.
Witt pulled her card out of her pocket and handed it to Ben. “If any of you think of something new, please call me right away. Also, if you hear from Alisha’s parents, please call me right away.”
“Of course,” Louise answered.
Without another word, Witt and Dowen saw themselves out. They had more investigating to do. They needed to look over Alisha’s text messages, figure out who’s number those messages belonged to, talk to Eli about his car, and do their best to get a hold of Alisha’s parents.
If they could find any remnants of Alisha in the process, that was a bonus.