Crimes Past(100)

By: Lauren Carr

“Things are never dull at the Spencer Inn,” Mac said.

“To think I actually felt sorry for Joan,” Gina said. “What put you onto her, Mac? I’ve known her since I was a little girl. As I grew older, I realized Troy was a cheat, but I never thought she was a murderer—” With a catch in her voice, she added, ”that she’d ever do something so horrible like kill my mom.”

Seth wrapped an arm around her waist. “What made you suspect her, Mac?”

“Something I said,” Archie said. “Though I’m not sure what it was.”

“Archie told me to remind her not to forget your wedding present,” Mac said. “But before that, she mentioned what a motivating factor guilt can be when you love someone. Now, Underwood confessed to killing your mother, Gina. He claimed his motive was anger because she had ruined his marriage by seducing him into an affair. That alone sounds twisted, but I have had murder cases where one lover kills the other for ruining their marriage. So, that motive worked for me except for the fact that Kassandra said that he was fooling around with Dani Derringer and had even hooked up with her at the wedding reception.”

“If his marriage meant so little to him that he’d cheat with Derringer, then it wasn’t important enough to kill for,” Archie said.

“And if that’s the case, then he didn’t have any motive to kill Brie,” Mac said. “Once I realized he had no motive, then I knew that he really was in the supply closet hooking up with Derringer. There was no murder conspiracy between them.”

“But if Underwood didn’t care enough about the marriage to kill Brie for ruining it, or even stay faithful to Joan, why would he confess to murder to protect her?” Seth asked.

“You haven’t been married long enough to understand, Seth.” Mac chuckled. “This falls under the category of ‘it’s complicated.’ Troy Underwood loved his wife enough to confess to murder to protect her.”

“Otherwise, why would he have kept begging her to take him back after she’d get fed up with his cheating?” Gina said.

“But he was a cheat,” Archie said.

“Deep down, I think Underwood blamed himself for driving Joan mad enough to kill Brie and Trevor,” Mac said. “He admitted last night that he realized what Joan had done years ago. He felt so guilty, especially after Joan killed Clarissa, that he transferred to the Secret Service because he was too ashamed to face Rico.”

“Once you realized Underwood couldn’t have killed them,” Hope asked, “why didn’t you go back to thinking Harrington did it?” Hope asked.

“Because Harrington said he got the bottle of champagne from the hotel wine locker,” Mac said. “The hotel didn’t carry the year left at the crime scene.”

“Which meant the killer had to have brought the champagne to the crime scene with her,” Gina said.

“That’s what Joan went back to the car for,” Archie said.

“Even when I realized it was Joan, the problem was proving it,” Mac said. “So much time had passed. We had no physical evidence. The only possible witness, Clarissa was dead. We needed a confession. So, when I got to the wedding, I took Sanchez aside and asked for his help in getting Joan to admit it to him while he wore a wire. I got Kassandra to come on board, too.”

“Did you know Joan killed Sanchez’s wife?” Gina asked. “Everyone was floored by that. Even Kassandra had no idea.”

“But she said last night that when she did the onscene investigation into Clarissa’s death that she found no evidence to prove how the peanut bits accidentally ended up in her salad,” Hope said.

“Kassandra told me that was absolutely true,” Seth said.

“But she’d known Joan for so many years,” Gina said. “It never occurred to her that she would have done anything to hurt Clarissa. They were best friends.”

“Joan was above suspicion,” Mac said. “Just like Will Harrington had been above suspicion. He’s confessed to killing more than a dozen people who had escaped justice during his time with the police department. I was so close, but since he was above suspicion, I wasn’t able to consider him until someone on the outside looking in made me face it.”