Chapter Twenty Five – House Arrest

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Alice sat on the bed in “her” bedroom, and looked out the window. She had tried to get some sleep on the bed, knowing she would need all the rest she could get, but images of the dead kept flashing across her vision every time she closed her eyes, and she finally accepted that sleep wasn’t going to come when she wanted it. So now she sat, looking at the stark white out the window and repeatedly checking the phone for new messages, though she knew none were coming.

The phone had stopped buzzing after the last message, “cops” had come through. And Alice knew better than to send anything back and give the police a reason to go through Esther’s phone right away. As things stood, they were probably working on getting a warrant to go through the Lucas house right now, and Alice was going to have to prepare to either leave when they arrived, or hide out inside the house while it was searched, and neither of those options sounded particularly good to her.

Once she became a person of interest to the police, Alice was certain to be linked to blood in Macy’s car. And once that happened, she was going to become suspect number one for the killing. Her being found in Esther’s house, who was already in custody, and already suspected of being involved, plus being in possession of a phone with pictures of the murdered girl on it was just going to make the cops think she was an even better fit for their killer. Alice sighed.

It wasn’t snowing anymore, and out the window was a glaring white off the tops of the houses and the snow on the frozen pond. She could see what she thought was the edge of the rental office where Janice was killed from here. Alice shivered and looked back down at Bruce’s phone. She had found a charger in one of the bedrooms and once she was confident she wasn’t going to run the battery dry, she had started looking up the local news to find out what was going on.

Esther was in custody again. The police were being tight-lipped about anything going on, but once the news got wind there was a second body found in a parking garage in south Boston, they descended on it like flies. Because of the contained nature of the scene, all of the coverage was of one reporter or another standing in front of a flat concrete wall. Nobody had gotten in to get a good shot of anything yet.

But they did have a clip of Esther Lucas riding in the back of a squad car, her head bowed, shot through the window of the vehicle, about 15 seconds long, before the angle between the camera and the car changed enough that Esther could no longer be seen. It was inevitably followed by a repeat of the story of how she had been arrested after the first murder, and how this murder occurred immediately after her release.

There was no sign of Bruce. No one had mentioned a man being present at the scene, which was no guarantee that he hadn’t been mentioned, or been caught and arrested. Hell, the police may have even shot him with how he tended to handle confrontation. No witnesses had been identified by the police, and no one else had come out of the parking garage, at least not anyone caught on film by the press.

In what seemed a tremendous concession to understatement, the news continued to report on the status of the weather and the roads. It seemed that the snow had stopped falling shortly after Alice had gotten back to the Lucas house that morning. The plows had been at work all day, and downtown was mostly cleared out, with some businesses starting to open up. The Mayor and Governor both were urging people to stay home if they could, as more snow was expected to start falling in the afternoon.

Now that she was back on the internet, she had been checking the voice mail line she kept for incoming calls. She started keeping it a while back once she realized she couldn’t count on keeping her phone in one piece, or on being able to keep it tied to the same number. There had already been too much opportunity for her to need to disappear on short notice. Having something she could check in on from anywhere made that prospect a little easier. She didn’t have any messages, though, which meant that Chip hadn’t finished developing the photos. Or he just hadn’t called her yet.

There was always the possibility that he’d been contacted by the police, maybe arrested, already. Alice had given his address to the ridesharing service when she’d called for the car. She was kicking herself for not having given a different address, something nearby. It wouldn’t take the police long to figure out why Macy was out driving and to try to track down her last fare, which would put them in the lobby where Alice had bled all over the floor and then ditched her phone in the trash. Alice shook her head. From this side of things, she really hated how thorough the police tended to be.

She hadn’t tried calling Chip yet. She was waiting to hear something on the news about how the police had already gone to the address. She didn’t want to call him while they were in the room with him. She had considered calling Travis to see if he could tell her when the warrant would come down to search the Lucas house, but she figured the last thing his career needed was for his number to come up in the phone records of someone at the house.

Alice needed to get out of here, but she needed to stay. She didn’t have enough information to make the call on which was the least worse option, so she was stuck, thinking through all of the possible ways she was going to wind up arrested and convicted of murders she didn’t commit.

She had spent the time as well as she could. She snooped around the house, trying to find out a little more about her employer and her… Alice really didn’t know what Bruce was to Esther. Butler? Colleague? Lover? He didn’t seem like the type to help out with housework. For that matter, he didn’t seem like much of a romantic companion, either. Just thinking about that made her shiver.

She hadn’t been able to find Esther’s bedroom, which seemed odd. The master suite was clearly occupied by Bruce, which was odder still. It was a mess. The room stank of sweat and alcohol. The bedsheets were crumpled and looked like they hadn’t been washed in maybe ever. There was a damp towel draped over the bathroom door, and Alice elected not to go in there. Other than the dresser and pile of crumpled clothes, there wasn’t much in the room by way of personal effects. Six empty tumblers sat on the bedside table, with a seventh on its side on the hardwood by the bed. Alice found herself getting depressed just being in there, and as soon as she located his phone charger, she left Bruce’s room, shutting the door behind her.

There were two other rooms upstairs, both sparely appointed and clearly un-lived-in. And there was no other indication of where Esther slept or kept her things. Wherever Esther’s bedroom was apparently hidden well enough to avoid any detection whatsoever, which would come in handy if the police searched the house. But if Alice could find it, so could police, so it wasn’t all that useful to her.Alice smiled grimly to herself for identifying the catch-22 and looked back down at the phone.

Chip was her lawyer, so she could call him. Even if the cops were right there when she did, they weren’t allowed to listen in, right? She didn’t know, but she needed information. She couldn’t just sit all day like this, and she needed to make the call. So, she made the call.

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