Dowen knocked on the front door to the man who owned the silver car. The car, matching the color, make, and license plate number, sat in the driveway. The two detectives assumed him to be home or at least someone was home and could inform them a little more about the man.
As they waited for someone to answer the door, Witt checked her cell phone. “The victim is still being evaluated. It doesn’t seem like we’ll be able to question her for another hour or so. But she’s awake and conscious at least.”
“Good, that will give us plenty of time to talk to this guy,” Dowen said. “Do they know anything about the victim at least? I assume they’ve gotten her name at least, right?”
Witt sighed. “Well, that’s the bad news. Apparently she doesn’t remember anything.”
Dowen muttered something under his breath. “I guess that would make sense… she’s lucky to be alive.”
Witt was just about to reply when the door opened. A young man with short brown hair, wearing a red pull-over sweater, stood before them.
“Hello, can I help you?”
Witt and Dowen flashed their badges at the same time.
“I’m Detective Dowen and this is my partner,” Dowen jerked his head to his partner, “Detective Witt. We’re investigating an incident that occurred on the bridge this morning. May we come in and speak with you?”
The young man hesitated. “Um, sure. Although I’m not sure I know what any of this has to do with me.” He stepped to the side and allowed the detectives to enter his home.
Dowen allowed Witt to go ahead of him and she did. He whispered in her ear as they entered. “He better not be ignorant or else I might lose my-”
Witt elbowed him and she turned around to face their suspect. “First thing’s first,” she began, “are you Elijah Thomas?”
The man closed the front door and nodded. “Call me Eli, shall we sit?” he pointed to the living room to their left. The two detectives obliged and down down at the leather sofa.
“Can I get you guys anything? Water or coffee?” Eli asked.
“No thanks.” Dowen shook his head. “We just need to ask you a few questions and then we’ll be on our way.”
Eli nodded and he sat down on the leather armchair across from the sofa. “Okay, so you said this is about an incident that happened on the bridge this morning?”
Dowen and Witt nodded.
“So… you’re not here about my car?”
Witt furrowed her brows. “Well, in a way, we are. Are you the owner of that silver car that’s parked in your driveway?”
“Yes,” Eli replied.
“Did you drive it to the bridge this morning?” Dowen asked.
Eli shook his head. “I haven’t driven it anywhere today. My car was stolen from me and then before I knew it, it was back inside my driveway unharmed.”
Dowen and Witt exchanged perplexed expressions.
Eli cracked a nervous smile. “That’s kind of why I thought you guys were here. I called my car in stolen the moment I noticed it was gone. My wife is out of town on a business trip so it’s not like she took it without telling me. I’m home alone for the week. I called it in, the police said they’d send someone out right away but no one arrived. Then, a few hours later, I noticed the car was back inside my driveway. I don’t think I imagined it being stolen, but… if you’re saying you saw it on the bridge this morning, that makes me wonder.”
“First,” Witt began, “I apologize no one arrived when you called your car in. We’ll report back about that and see where the wires got crossed.”
“Next, whoever took your car is looking more and more suspicious. Even if he didn’t have anything to do with the incident, he’s still a thief,” Dowen explained. “We need to figure out who this guy is and catch him.”
“Why would he steal a car and then just happen to go across the bridge when the incident occurred though? I have all the more reason to believe he had something to do with the incident after all. It’s almost as though he knew we’d track the car and it would end up leading us to a red herring,” Witt added her two cents.
“I’m sorry.” Eli raised his hand. “What incident was my car supposedly involved with?”
Dowen turned his attention to their host, admittedly forgetting he was there. “A young girl jumped off the bridge this morning.”
Eli gasped. “Is she okay?”
Witt nodded. “She was found alive and is currently at the hospital being checked over. Her friend was with her and we learned from him there was another witness. That witness had your car. He stopped on the bridge and attempted to talk the girl down. After she jumped, he got back into the car and fled the scene. We have no idea who he is or where he went.”
“We tracked the car here and assumed it was you who was the man,” Dowen added.
Eli leaned back in his chair with a hand over his heart, shocked. “Wow… that’s a lot to take in. No offense to the kids, but I can’t believe someone would steal my car that would basically put me at the scene when I wasn’t actually there. That’s pretty crafty.”
“So, tell us. When did you notice your car was stolen?” Dowen asked.
Eli sat forward again. “Well, I don’t know when exactly it was stolen. I got home from work around 6:00 last night. With it being dark so early, I turned off my outside lights and closed all my blinds. I never looked outside again. I woke up at about 6:00 this morning and still never looked outside. I went about my normal morning routine – I showered, had coffee and breakfast. I didn’t have work today so I took the morning slow and spent a little time reading.
“It was about 8:30 this morning when I decided to go out and run some errands. I went outside and there was no car in the driveway. I don’t know when it was stolen or how long they had it. I immediately took out my cell phone and called the police. They said they’d send someone right over but as I said before, they never showed up. I was going to call them again but when I looked back outside my kitchen window – it overlooks the driveway and front yard – my car was back in my driveway. That was at about 10:30,” Eli explained.
Dowen wrote all this information down in his notepad. He shook his head as Eli explained the times.
“So, we’re thinking the car could have been stolen from anytime between six-pm last night and 8:30 am this morning. That’s a 14 and a half hour window,” Witt explained.
“I know,” Dowen scratched the top of his head. “I think this whole thing was somehow planned before it happened, but if the car was taken late last night, then that means this has been in the works for quite some time.”
Eli nodded in agreement as though he were another detective in the case. “And why me?” he added. “Why my car? I haven’t heard of the incident, maybe that’s why? They didn’t think I’d have any inkling?”
Witt narrowed her eyes. “Do you know Benjamin Lame and Alisha Davis?”
Eli stared back at her blankly. “I have them in my English class at the local community college.”
Dowen wrote that down and Witt sighed turning to her partner. There were still more pieces of the puzzle to put together, but some of the image was becoming a bit clear.
Eli held up a finger. “Wait, Ben and Alisha weren’t the kids on the bridge… were they?”
“I’m afraid so,” Witt said.
Eli put a hand over his mouth. He leaned back in his chair gazing at the ground. “But they weren’t the ones who stole my car, right? You said another man did it? At least, that’s who was caught on camera?”
Dowen and Witt glanced at each other other before Dowen shook his head at the college professor. “It wasn’t the kids who took the car.”
“That’s a relief. I’m sorry something shady is going on with them, but I’m glad they didn’t steal a car. They’re good kids, you know. I wouldn’t expect this from either of them,” Eli explained.
Dowen nodded. Witt’s cell phone vibrated. She looked at the screen and there was a message from an officer who was stationed at the hospital. Witt put her phone back inside her pocket and looked at her partner.
“Finally,” Dowen said. He stood up from the sofa, buttoning the bottom of his jacket. “Thank you for your time, Eli. I ask that you do not go anywhere or leave town. I’m sure we’re going to have to ask you more questions about your car.”
Eli nodded as he stood. “Of course.”
Witt bowed her head to the witness and she lead the way out of the house with Dowen close behind. The two walked to the car in silence, Witt wanting to look over her shoulder but she didn’t. When she made it to the passenger side of the car, she turned around to look past Dowen but hoped it seemed as though she was looking at her partner.
Dowen, with his back still to the house, looked at Witt. “He’s watching us through the window, isn’t he?”
Witt hummed in confirmation. She turned away and got into the car with Dowen as he got into the driver’s side. Neither of them spoke until they pulled away from the house.
“Something was off with him. I didn’t think so at first but then he slipped up,” Witt said, breaking the ice.
“I’m glad you caught onto that too. We never told him how we saw his car or the man who was driving it. He shouldn’t have known about us catching it on camera,” Dowen agreed.
“On the other hand, everyone knows there are cameras set up on that bridge for various reasons. So, if we wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt…”
“I’m not giving him the benefit of anything. Even his story about calling his car missing is fishy to me. We never heard anything on the radio that there was a stolen car reported. There is no reason no one at the station would show up and question him about his car.”
Witt rested her head against the back of her seat. “I know… I was trying to be optimistic.”
“You can hope for the best all you want, but you still have to expect the worst,” Dowen said.
His partner nodded in agreement. “Where do we go from here? We have quite a laundry list to take care of.”
“We need to check and see if his car was ever truly reported stolen. If it was, then someone definitely wasn’t doing their job and we need to deal with that. We should also take a look at the footage again and see if we can somewhat match Eli and the guy driving the car together,” Dowen counted.
“That will hard since we only saw the back of his head.” Witt shook her head.
“It’s still worth looking at. We also need to talk to Ben. He said never specified whether he knew the man who stopped or not. I would assume he’d mention if his college professor stopped to talk to them. Finally, we need to have a chat with Alisha… or whoever that girl is.”
“My vote is on going to the hospital. We’ve been waiting around for this moment and I want to catch her while she’s awake and feeling fresh. I know they said she doesn’t seem to remember what happened, but I think right away is our best option.”
“Agreed,” Dowen said. He turned the steering wheel taking a hard right and headed in the direction of the nearest hospital.