Mathew wasn’t certain whether or not to trust giving the information he’d gathered to his lawyer. Still, Teri Cartwright had done what was right for him in the end. Without her, he wouldn’t have gotten the mistrial that freed him to investigate on his own. Ultimately, he decided to trust her.
“How did you gather all of this information?” The pretty brunette was impressed with Mathew’s resourcefulness.
“That’s the thing. It wasn’t difficult if one asked the right questions. The police didn’t bother to do that.”
“I don’t understand. Why wouldn’t they want to know the truth?” Teri looked confused.
“Because they were protecting one of their own,” Mathew stated with emphasis. “I’m sure you’ve heard about the ‘blue line’. This case was an example of that in action.”
“So you know who murdered your wife?” Teri’s eyes grew incredulous.
“I believe I do,” Mathew answered. “I think it was the man with whom Sheila was having an affair.”
“And you know who that is?” His attorney began to get excited.
“I do but I’d rather you discover it for yourself. Otherwise you’re unlikely to believe me. The motel owner and the jeweler are willing to talk to you. I think it’s best if you hear it straight from them.”
“All right, then I’ll set up the appointments right away.” With that Teri left Mathew alone with his thoughts. It took everything he had to keep from going to the police station to confront Dan Mercer. However, he planned to be careful this time around. If he wasn’t, he might end up back in jail.
The next day, Teri arrived early to speak with him again. She looked odd, which worried him greatly.
“It’s quite a story,” the brunette whistled. “I can’t believe that Dan Mercer is capable of such a thing,” she finished. “Still, the evidence is there. We just have to figure out what to do with it. Otherwise, it will get buried and we’ll be left holding the bag once again.”
“Is Mercer divorced?” Mathew had been dying to ask the question. At last he had the chance.
“No, he and Gina are separated. Everyone always assumed they’d be getting back together. Maybe your wife put a dent in that plan.”
“Could she have been pregnant when she died?” Mathew wasn’t sure where his questioning was going, but he allowed his thoughts to reach their natural conclusion.
“It wasn’t on the autopsy report,” Teri responded.
“Could Mercer have arranged to leave it off?” Mathew’s eyes bored into his attorney’s.
“I suppose it is possible. After all, the two offices are connected.” Standing and pacing for a few moments, Teri finally spoke again. “We need an independent autopsy done.”
“Won’t they try and stop that?” Mathew looked confused.
“They might but as her husband, you have the right to ask for one nonetheless.” Rifling through her briefcase, she pulled out a piece of paper. “This is a request for exhumation of your wife’s body. Sign it and I promise you that I’ll get a judge to approve it.”
Without hesitation, Mathew signed the paper. Then he began another long process of waiting. It took three days before he heard from Teri again. When the phone finally rang, Mathew rushed to answer it.
“She was pregnant. She was about eight weeks along,” Teri confirmed. “Perhaps that child put a monkey wrench in Dan’s intent to reunite with his wife.”
“Or maybe his wife found out and took matters into her own hands,” Mathew offered. “Either way, it would be something the police would want to cover up.”
“I can’t believe Gina is capable of murder,” Teri whispered.
“Well someone is. Now we have to figure out who it is,” Mathew pushed.
“How are we going to do that?”
“I’m going to hire a private detective. It won’t be one from here, though. The police would catch on too quickly. I’ll give you a call once I’ve found someone.”
“Be careful,” the worried woman suggested. “If the police catch wind of what we are doing, it could get ugly.”
“I agree. I need you to move on with other cases. It needs to appear as if you have abandoned me. Do you understand?” Mathew was careful in stressing his point.
“Why? I don’t understand,” Teri emphasized.
“I want to keep you safe. If they think you are poking and prodding too much, they’ll be on you like gravy on potatoes.”
The woman laughed. “That’s a colorful comparison,” she giggled.
“Promise me. The redone autopsy is enough to wave a white flag. Tell everyone you know that it didn’t pan out so you’re giving up on the case. I want you to stay safe,” Mathew continued.
“All right, but how will we contact one another?”
“Meet me at Chez Louis Friday night. If the detective has anything, I’ll share it with you then. Wear a disguise.”
“This is all very cloak and dagger,” Teri objected.
“Look, if you want out, I will understand,” Mathew said quietly.
“No, I’m in all the way. I won’t let you down a second time. I’ll be there. You have my word.”
The following day, Mathew met with a PI several towns over. The man worked quickly, coming back with the information Mathew needed with a couple of days.
“The Mercers were separated,” the PI confirmed. “Gina found out about her husband’s affair. She gave him time to decide what he wanted – his mistress or his wife and their new baby.”
“New baby?” Mathew’s ears perked up. “So she was pregnant too.”
“About four months. She should be showing by now. Anyway, she and Dan have reunited. It looks like your wife would have been left out in the cold.”
“Maybe that wasn’t enough for Gina,” Mathew posited. “Maybe she threatened to make waves if Dan didn’t get rid of her and his illegitimate child.”
“If you want my best guess, I’d say Gina Mercer killed your wife.” The private investigator stared at Mathew before speaking again. “She’s had some serious mental issues in the past. She was hospitalized a couple of years ago for trying to kill her husband.”
“What?” Mathew’s eyes grew dark.
“Her husband was cheating on her then too,” the PI announced flatly.
“Then he knew it was a pattern with her. He knew she might go after Sheila.” Mathew’s words were more to himself than to the PI.
“Proving that he knew it is the problem. I wish you’d called me sooner, while the case was fresh. The trail is cold now. Not being able to go to the police for help puts a serious kink in my investigation.”
Mathew nodded. He fully understood what the man was saying. Then something else struck him.
“You say he’s cheated before. Do you think we can find out who it was with? Maybe she can shed some light on everything.”
The PI nodded. “I can try. I have a few clues. Let me work on it and get back to you.”
“Thanks,” Matthew said as he held out his hand. “You’ve done a lot already. I look forward to hearing from you.”
He didn’t have to wait long. The PI called the very next morning.
“Her name was Sally Andrews. She used to be Mercer’s secretary. She’s willing to talk to you. In fact, she seems eager to do so.”
He handed Matthew the secretary’s phone number written on a piece of paper.
“Thanks again,” Mathew offered as he hung up the phone. His next call was to Sally Andrews.
“I’ve been waiting to hear from you,” she admitted. “I have something you might want to know. My son, Dylan, is Dan’s child. He promised to marry me when the boy was born. He didn’t of course.” There was a moment of hesitation before Sally continued.
“Gina found out about us. She came to confront me. She told me to leave town or she’d kill me. I believed her so I left town. I wouldn’t be surprised if she’s the one who killed your wife.”
“Would you testify to that in court?” Mathew held his breath.
“I can’t do that,” Sally returned. “My son doesn’t know about his father but my lawyer says I can make a deposition. He says he can arrange for my name to be withheld in open court. I’ll be happy to do that.”
“Thank you,” Mathew responded with gratitude. Once he hung up the phone, he headed to Chez Louis to meet Teri. There was only one problem. She wasn’t there.