The world shrank around me. Random memories of happy, carefree Cassie collided with memories from our fight. All of that crashed into the brick wall of what to do now. I could’t even form the question to ask Officer Brecky. But I didn’t have to.
“We’ll need you to come back to the station so we can get more information from you,” she told me. I nodded, tears beginning to spill from my eyes.
I was offered water-cooler water in a flimsy paper cup while I sat opposite Officer Brecky at her desk. Dominic sat in the stiff chair to my right, leaning forward, elbows on knees, as if he was ready to jump in front of me if I needed defending. He was offering what he could to support me without giving away our true relationship.
Brecky asked an endless stream of questions about Cassie. They stared off as basic inquiries. What did she look like? Any identifying tattoos or birthmarks? Who were her other friends and family. Where did she work? What was she wearing the last time I saw her? That led us to the events of Saturday night. Each question seemed to lead to three more, and she took fluid notes in thin, slanting cursive as I answered. Her tape recorder sat on the desk in front of me, the little gears behind the plastic turning slowly as we talked.
When the questions turned to Luke, Dominic added his thoughts on who he might be. Luke had given Cassie a business card, but I never saw it. I didn’t know his last name. But I could identify him if I saw a picture.
“If it’s the same guy I’m thinking of, his last name’s Ritter,” Dominic told Brecky. “He’s the advertising editor for the paper.”
Brecky’s pen dipped and spun across her legal pad. “I’m sure I can find some photos of the Luke Ritter for Mrs. Boothe to look at,” she said. She looked up at me, and I noticed for the first time that her eyes were a piercing emerald green. She was striking, really. An exotic beauty with olive skin, highlighted hair styled in a fun Halle Berry-type pixie cut that accented the angular lines of her face.
“Do you remember what Luke was wearing that night, Mrs. Boothe?”
I sighed, and gave her the best description I could. When I was just about finished, I remembered something. I noticed it in passing that night. But now, as I sat there trying to recall every detail of the man, this one little tidbit knocked at the door of my sub-conscience asking to be set free.
I sat up straight and gripped the desk, Brecky’s eyes searching me. “He had a tattoo,” I said. I turned to Dominic and repeated myself, maybe hoping for a response. “He had a tattoo.”
Recognition sparked in his eyes. That was both good and bad.
Brecky’s eyebrows rose. “Can you describe this tattoo?” she asked.
My eyes closed, trying to pull the image to foreground of my mind. But there wasn’t much to go on. “It peaked out form under his collar on the back of his neck. Black ink. Tribal, maybe. I could only see a little bit.” I opened my eyes to see Brecky writing on her pad again.
“Mr. Sterling, can you tell me if the Luke Ritter you referred to earlier has an identifying tattoo like the one Mrs. Boothe described?”
He looked at me out of the corner of his eyes, then faced Officer Brecky. “He has a black, tribal tattoo on his upper left arm. It covers his shoulder and across the bottom of his neck.” When he looked at me again, cold dread flooded my body. Luke Ritter and the Luke from the bar were the same person. And I got the feeling that this went deeper than I knew. Deeper than Officer Brecky probably suspected.
I got home late. Lynnette was sleeping on the sofa, so I covered her with a blanket, turned the volume down on the TV, and headed to bed. Work was going to be rough the next day.