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Chapter 12

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Chapter 12

Police swarmed the West Central neighborhood. Stevie had never seen so many officers in one place at one time. And she was at the center of it all.

It made her uncomfortable; she was scared. Finding the purse gave credence to cat lady's warning. Could the killer be nearby?

The detective interviewing Stevie was an older officer. His salt-and-pepper hair poked out from underneath his hat. He was taking notes on how Stevie managed to locate the purse. He didn't really say much. Just random questions here and there. "And how did you know where to look?" he asked.

Stevie had to admit that she had gotten her information from a woman who dresses cats up in baby clothes and wheels them around. And that she really didn't tell me where to look, only that it was along the riverbank. "Luck?" Stevie said sheepishly.

He continued to concentrate on his notes. She knew all this sounded insane. She wondered what he was thinking. Does he think I'm involved?

"Do you think the killer tossed the purse near here?" Stevie asked.

"Nah," the detective said, briefly stopping his writing so he could scratch his nose, "the river's up and chances are it was thrown in the river where the body was dumped. It just happened to find its way here."

He then looked up at Stevie. "And luckily you just happened to find it here." Well, now I know what he's thinking.

As the detective continued to take notes, Stevie looked around at the other officers searching the area. It was then that she saw Jason. He was walking down the road toward a bunch of officers. Stevie noticed that he didn't have his camera equipment with him. He probably left it in his car.

She was surprised at how relieved she felt at the sight of him. He appeared so cool and confident. It was the same confidence he had shown at her apartment last night and even on the first night she met him.

Jason looked toward Stevie and the detective. She waved. Jason turned the other way and began talking with officers. Stevie was stunned.

"You know him?" the detective asked, closing his notebook.

Startled, Stevie squeaked out a "Who?"

"Him," the detective said, pointing to Jason.

"You mean your photographer? Yeah, I know him."

The detective snorted. "Yeah, right. Now, how can I find this cat lady person?"

Stevie looked back at Jason. She was confused by the detective's comment. "I'm not sure how to find her. She's just always ... around," she said in sort of a daze.

"We're gonna need to get your fingerprints," the detective said.

Again, Stevie was caught off guard. "Why?"

"To make sure you're not the killer," he said in a snorting laughter.

Stevie watched the detective walk away, still laughing at his witty remark. She then made her way to where Jason was standing.

"Hi." Jason turned and looked at Stevie. "I saw you come earlier. Pretty weird, huh? Who would've thought a piece of the murder scene would be here? Are you not taking pictures today?"

Jason looked down at his hands with a look of realization that he had forgotten something – something important. He grabbed Stevie's arm and led her away from the other officers. He looked angry. "What are you doing?" he said, his jaw muscles tightening.

Stevie jerked her arm from his grasp. "What do you mean?"

"Are you crazy coming down here by yourself? Why didn't you tell somebody?"

Stevie could feel her face turn red, only this time she wasn't blushing. "I didn't know the purse was down here. And I did tell somebody. I told you. You obviously weren't paying attention. And for the record, don't ever grab my arm again."

She turned and stormed away. Jason called after her, but she kept walking, making her way back to her apartment.

How dare he. She paced back and forth in her living room, running the entire scene over and over in her mind. She tried to tell herself that Jason was just being protective. But why was he so angry? Well, he can't be as angry as I am now. "At least I found the purse," she screamed.

It was then that Stevie noticed a trail of mud leading from her door through the living room. She looked down at her feet. She had forgotten about the mud from the riverbank.

She collapsed on the floor and began to sob. Everything from the last few weeks – the murders, her job, Jason – spilled out.

Her life was turning into one big jigsaw puzzle. Only she couldn't figure out where the pieces were supposed to go. All she knew was she needed to get it together and Jason Mullen wasn't helping.

By Terri Richardson, assistant managing editor for features.