“I let Officer Calhoun fingerprint me.”
“Good. I appreciate that. We’re going to be collecting a lot of forensic data from that car, and it would be nice to have your DNA and exclude you quickly.”
“What kind of DNA?”
“A cheek swab. Takes just a second, and then we’re done. Will save you time later. You won’t have to come down to the station.” Again the no-big-deal, let-me-be-your-pal tone.
Sanchez jutted his chin out as he looked at Mazur. “I didn’t hurt my wife. I came out here to help her.”
Insistence reverberated from the man’s words, but Mazur didn’t have a good enough read on him to determine if he was telling the truth or just a damn good liar. “Once you are eliminated as a suspect, we can get to the business of solving the case.”
“I should call my lawyer.”
“You can do that. Will just give the killer more time to get away.” When Sanchez hesitated, he added, “This is all very routine. I do it in every homicide case.”
The man shook his head. “Sure. Take my DNA. Do whatever you need to do.”
Mazur motioned Officer Calhoun over, who set aside her camera on a temporary worktable. When he explained what he needed, she pulled a DNA kit from her forensic van and carefully swabbed the inside of Sanchez’s cheek.
“I didn’t kill her,” he said. “I came to help her.”
At least a third of murdered women died at the hands of a husband, boyfriend, or lover. “I’m going to do everything I can to catch her killer.”
A sigh shuddered from Sanchez. “What will happen to her? Who will come for my wife? Where will they take her?”
“We’ll send her to the medical examiner,” Calhoun said. “Once medical professionals have examined her body, they’ll call you and you can make arrangements with a funeral home.” The technician secured the cotton swab in a glass vial, labeled it, and stored it in her van.
“Funeral home. Jesus. I was talking to her just a few hours ago.”
Mazur studied the man’s body language closely. Sanchez was wringing his hands and making eye contact with him, both signs of grief and truth telling. “When she called you, did she give you any idea that she was in trouble or that she was being followed?”
“No. She sounded annoyed. Pissed off. Gloria has been short tempered lately, and the flat tire made her furious.”
“Why was she short tempered?”
“I asked her several times, but she said it was nothing. She’s lost some weight, so I figured it was one of her crazy diets.” He ran a hand through his hair. “This is a bad dream.”
The sound of a cell phone dinging had Mazur checking his own and realizing quickly it wasn’t his, but the victim’s burner that Calhoun had bagged in plastic. She held up the bag. The display read BLOCKED.
Calhoun carefully opened the bag and then the phone. “It’s a text with a video attachment.”
Mazur turned to Sanchez. “I’m going to have an officer escort you home. We are also going to need your shirt for testing.”
“My shirt?” Sanchez glanced down and saw the blood. More tears filled his eyes. “Yes, of course.” The older man’s shoulders slumped forward as the weight of his wife’s death sank in. “You’ll take care of my wife?”
Again, Sanchez looked pale, upset, devastated. He was hitting all the right emotional high notes. But killers also felt regret. In the aftermath of a murder, especially of a loved one, many sincerely mourned the loss of the very person they had just killed.
When a uniformed officer escorted Sanchez to a different patrol car, the detective turned back to Calhoun and read the text. Dr. Kate Hayden, you did not catch me.
“Kate Hayden,” Mazur said, trying to recall the person.
When he couldn’t make a connection, he hit the icon for the video attachment. In this remote area, cellular service was spotty and slow, and it took nearly thirty seconds for the attachment to load. When it did, he saw the freeze-frame of Sanchez’s car. He pressed “Play.”
The camera images showed someone moving from the back of Gloria Sanchez’s disabled car to the driver’s side window. Gloria Sanchez startled as she looked up from her phone into the camera.
“Are you all right?” a man asked. “Looks like a flat.”
Her gaze warmed and she smiled. “I’m safe in my car and can wait until help arrives.” The closed window muffled her response as she gripped her phone.
“Want me to change the tire?”
“What? No.” She looked up, blinked. “You shouldn’t have to do that.” She glowered at her cell phone and punched the numbers. “I always have bars on this stretch of road.”