I grumbled under my breath, clutching the phone to my ear. Liam wasn’t answering his cellphone. Weird, since he was never far from it. That was his job—stay connected. Who knew when there’d be another emergency… or a murder?
“Pick up,” I whispered, hitting the button to dial again. “Come on, Liam. Pick up.”
But the phone went to voicemail, and I was too close to Janine’s house to keep trying. I strode down the sidewalk, keeping close to the walls and gates of the houses and avoiding the vignettes of light cast by the lampposts.
It was late. Most of the houses in the street had nothing but their porch lights on.
I stopped two houses down from Janine’s and typed out a quick text.
“It’s Janine. I’m heading to her house right now. Meet me there.” I sent it off.
He would be furious with me for putting myself in danger, but Liam knew that I could handle myself. It was only a pity I didn’t have a gun and badge.
Either way, Liam couldn’t doubt my investigation here—it all made sense. Sure, I didn’t technically have ‘hard’ evidence, but there was so much circumstantial, and it all pointed toward Janine. The stolen costume from Kensington, the break-in’s at Ray’s place, the picture she slipped under the door.
Janine was desperate to be second-in-command. She’d wanted Megan out of the way and Kensington next. Maybe, she’d been afraid that she’d wind up outing herself if she murdered Kensington too.
Then why send the threatening notes? Surely, that’s just as incriminating.
Something didn’t add up.
But no. No, it had to be her. She’d buried Megan’s glasses on Ray’s property because… because I wasn’t sure why. There had to be some reason that made sense.
I shook the thoughts out of my head and continued down the street.
Janine’s house was in darkness, apart from a square of light that shone from a back window and illuminated the breezeway along its right side. I checked the coast was clear then vaulted over the fence—was it technically vaulting if the fence was knee-high?—then slunk along the side of the house.
A thump sounded in the house and I slowed, listening hard.
Muffled voices came next.
There was more than one person in the house. But what were they doing? Was I about to find Janine with her next victim?
The back of the house was illuminated by light from a single window. Lacy curtains blocked the bottom half of the pane and provided me with the perfect cover. I lifted myself out of my crouch and peeked into the room beyond.
It was a kitchen.
Two women were in it. One was tied to a chair while the other stood over. Except there was something very wrong with this picture. The woman tied to the chair was Janine! And it was Kensington in charge.
Perhaps, she’d caught her sneaking into her house and managed to overpower her?
Careful. You don’t know the context yet.
“You won’t get away with this,” Janine spat. “I won’t let you.”
Kensington snorted. She walked over to the kitchen drawer and I ducked out of sight. Rattling ensued, a cupboard slammed, followed by a gasp.
“You can’t,” Janine whimpered. “Get away from me.”
I straightened again, and my spine prickled.
Kensington circled the table, holding a knife, its blade gleaming by the fluorescent light overhead.
“No!” Janine squeaked her chair backward and it teetered on its back legs, threatening to topple over. “Please. Stop. I haven’t done anything.”
“You got in the way,” Kensington said, at last. “You thought I would let you worm your way into her good graces? The Gossip Circle is mine.”
Janine warbled indistinctly.
Realization hit me like a truck.
She faked the theft of her costume. She was dating Ray. She buried the glasses in the garden.
But what about the notes?
“You think I don’t know what you’ve been doing, Janine?”
“You’ve been sneaking around my house. Around Ray’s house. You wanted to make sure I was found out. You should have known better.” Kensington’s laugh was high-pitched. “Idiot.”
“Help! Somebody help me!” Janine screamed. “Help me please!” She scooched her chair back again and it finally toppled over. She hit the tiles with a bang.
My muscles tensed, and I lurched back from the window, turning toward the back door. Locked or not, I would kick it down if I had to.
“Freeze!” Liam’s voice whipped through the air. “Put your hands in the air.” He was in the kitchen, his gun out and directed at Kensington. “Put your hands in the air,” he repeated.
Kensington dropped the knife and it clattered to the tiles. Janine made a small noise in her throat.
“Hands on your head. Turn around.”
Kensington did as she’d been told. She turned and her gaze flickered to the window, panic written across her face. “You can’t do this to me,” she said. “I haven’t… she was the one who broke into my house. This is self-defense.”
I kept back from the window, watching.
“Kensington McCree, you have the right to remain silent…”
Liam read Kensington her rights as he handcuffed her, and I shifted back from the window, my pulse slowing as the sirens of an ambulance drew closer. It was over. Kensington had been caught. And I had almost pinned the murder on the wrong woman. Thank goodness Liam had come here after receiving my text.
Kensington shouted and whined and proclaimed her innocence as she was taken from the kitchen. I circled the house and stayed in the darkness, observing the organized chaos. Kensington was fed into the back of a police car, Janine was taken out on a stretcher, her hand thrown to her forehead like a true damsel in distress.
Liam spotted me and jogged over. “Thanks for the text,” he said. “I was in a meeting with the Captain.”
“You need a statement from me?” I asked.
“Did you witness what happened in there?”
“Then, yes, I do.” He wasn’t angry, by some miracle. “You’ve got to be more careful, Christie,” he said. “I don’t want anything to happen to you.”
I threw my arms around his neck and hugged him tight, the stress releasing at last. “I’m fine,” I said. “I’ll stay fine. You know that.”
“I hope so,” he whispered.