It was with some regret that Ellie extracted herself from Jordan’s embrace only a few hours later. She wanted to get to the station early. With a little luck, she could find something to present to the lieutenant that convinced him it was worth talking to the A.D.A.
Despite the interrupted sleep, she felt like she had a lot more energy than in recent days. After having to deal with Natalie, assessing and coping with the damage she’d done, Ellie welcomed the opportunity to focus on more important matters.
The baby plan, first and foremost.
Maybe, she’d have the opportunity to clear an innocent man’s name.
The officer working in Records regarded her with wide eyes when she made her request.
“Wow. That was a long time ago. What you need might not even be in this building.”
“Could you take a look?”
“Yes, of course. Give me a minute.”
The woman typed something on her keyboard. She looked up at Ellie, giving her an apologetic smile. “You might want to sit down for a moment. First, we’ll have to check if the file was already digitalized.”
Ellie had to admit that she hadn’t even considered these possible obstacles, but it made the case all the more intriguing.
“That’s okay.” She hadn’t snuck out of bed at 5:30 for nothing. Ellie hid a yawn behind her hand.
“Okay, there’s a file here. I can get it for you, but for the rest, you’ll have to go to the Archives. They open at eight.”
“Thank you, that’s very helpful.”
The officer disappeared behind a door, and Ellie was left alone. Ten minutes later, she had to sit up straighter in her chair to make sure she wouldn’t fall asleep. Another five minutes later, the officer reappeared.
“I’m sorry about that,” she said. “Can I get you anything else?”
“No, thanks. This is great. I’ll go to the Archives later.”
Ellie found Maria Doss at her desk. Her night seemed to have been fairly uneventful.
“Good morning. I take it you didn’t have to notify the lieutenant about anything.”
“Why are you here already? What’s wrong with you?”
Ellie laughed. “I was just about to get myself a coffee. I take it you’d like one?”
“I shouldn’t, as I’m going to a brunch later, but yes, please.”
A few minutes later, Ellie was back, enjoying her coffee as she went over the specifics of the Wilder case.
These forms had been filled out on a typewriter. She noticed the names of the investigators, who would be long retired by now—or dead. She hoped she’d be able to find the retired ones and talk to them.
George Wilder was a twenty-year-old college student, accused of and convicted for killing his girlfriend Stella Brown after a party. He claimed he was innocent, but the evidence was damning: The murder weapon wrapped in a bloody shirt, hidden in the closet of his dorm room. There was the mention of a witness who had seen him go into Stella’s room the night of the murder. Where was the motive? Some of their classmates suggested that jealousy might have been a reason, but if Stella had been seeing someone else, no one knew about it. It remained unclear whether this theory was valid.
Ellie assumed that she might find more information at the courthouse. Something about Wilder had made the jurors think that he had committed the atrocious crime. He had admitted that both he and Stella had been drinking, but that he’d said goodbye to her at the door to her dorm room and left. He appeared devastated over her death, and never confessed.
Ellie tried to imagine the scene, a young couple enjoying a night out together, going home to their respective dorms, then…what? Someone had stolen into Stella’s room with an axe? That was a big risk. She might wake up, try to defend herself, scream…unless there had been more in her blood than alcohol.
She needed more of a background on both the victim and convicted suspect. She started to jot down notes—Archives, Investigators, Family, Prison, Newspapers—when a soft kiss to her neck alerted her to the fact that Jordan had finally made it to work. The gesture was tender and quick, but of course Maria had noticed.
“You two are so adorable, it’s annoying,” she said. “I’m out of here. Thanks for the coffee, Ellie, and good luck.”
“So did you find anything?” Jordan was in a much better mood than she had been when Allen approached them about the case. Of course she had slept longer and taken the time for breakfast. Ellie also prided herself in having to do something with Jordan’s much improved spirits, including their conversation about the future and subsequent activities the previous night.
“It’s too early to say, but for one, the motive is still unclear to me from what I’ve seen. I have a list of places to go.”
“It will be tough to find most of the people involved at the time.”
“Yeah, but we already have Doreen Byrd. She might be able to tell me where to find some of those people. And I want to talk to the prison employees. I’ll take it up with the lieutenant when he comes in, and he’ll hopefully agree that we talk to Valerie.”
Jordan looked doubtful. Ellie thought that unfortunately, she had a reason—A.D.A. Esposito wouldn’t follow along on a vague hunch, but Ellie needed her on her side.
“I can’t help it,” she said. “I keep thinking about what Jill said—what if it was someone we cared about? We can’t just forget about it because it happened sixty years ago. There might be a murderer out there who’s been enjoying his freedom while this man spent his life in prison.”
“It’s a shame if that’s what happened. The system isn’t perfect.”
“Such dark thoughts on a beautiful morning,” Valerie Esposito joked.
Ellie jumped to her feet.
“You’re here! Could I talk to you for a second?”
“Actually, I was here to speak to your boss for a second, and then I have a working brunch later. If you could come to my office this afternoon?”
“Perhaps I could join you in the lieutenant’s office? I swear this won’t take long.”
Lieutenant Carroll was already in the room, observing the scene with amusement.
“You see, Counselor, it’s almost impossible to say no to Detective Harding. Five minutes.”
“That’s all I need for now. Thank you so much.”
She sent a triumphant smile to Jordan before joining Carroll and Esposito.
Ellie usually got what she wanted. If there was anything new to find about this case, she’d find it.
Did George Wilder die in prison serving a life sentence for a crime he didn’t commit? A reporter asks Ellie on behalf of Wilder’s family to look into the decades old murder. When initial inquiries raise doubts about Wilder’s guilt, Ellie thinks that the real killer might have gone unpunished, but she doesn’t have much time to prove her theory.
Jordan gets more than she bargains for when she accepts a tip from a detective with another precinct. The murder of a local store owner turns out to have international implications.
Together, Jordan and Ellie work on the most important project of their lives…
More about author, Barbara Winkes:
Barbara Winkes writes suspense and romance with lesbian characters at the center. She has always loved stories in which women persevere and lift each other up. Expect high drama and happy endings. Women loving women always take the lead.