CHAPTER ONE HUNDRED and TWENTY-FOUR
Aden held the plastic bag containting the necklace up to the light. He moved the chain back and forth.
“What is it?” Seth asked.
“I have this same pendant,” Aden said.
It seemed as if all the oxygen had been sucked out of the room. Aden gasped for a breath. The children stared at him. Sandy’s eyebrows furrowed with concern. The man who never liked him, his only in-law, looked as if he was going to arrest him.
“What do you mean?” Seth’s voice was cop-trick neutral to cover his interest.
“I have this same pendant,” Aden repeated. “I wore it every day. Never took it off. I used to say it was why I survived everything.”
“Jeffy used to say the same thing,” Charlie said.
“Is this your pendant?” Seth asked in the same eerie voice.
“I don’t know how,” Aden said. “I saw the boy the one time at the Castle. I was in meetings all day when he worked for us. He stopped by my office for his wages. I checked in with accounting to see how he did then paid him. I saw him like… one minute. Two maximum.”
“Jeffy wore that necklace since I first met him,” Charlie said.
“Where is your necklace?” Seth asked.
“I don’t have any idea. Our stuff is everywhere,” Aden said. “I sold the house while I was incarcerated in case the kids or Sandy needed the money. Sandy moved everything into storage. It must be there.”
Turning to Sandy, Seth asked, “Do you remember this necklace?”
Sandy took the package from him. She turned it over in her hand, played with the chain and held it away from her.
“He used to wear something on a chain around his neck,” Sandy said. “I would see it when we worked out. I was never close enough to it to see what it was. The chain looks the same and the medallion is about the same size as what he wore.”
“I stopped wearing it when Sandy and I started dating,” Aden said. “I took it off after seeing her at the hospital. You know, when Jake was in there. I figured if I was going to have a chance at having Sandy in my life, I wasn’t such a lost cause any more. Or something like that. Jake said something about it… told me to take it off or something. And… I took it off. I put it in the box Nash and Noelle made for me. It has my pocket watches and…”
“That box is at the Castle,” Sandy said. “Downstairs, in the storage room. We tried to put all the personal items somewhere we’d be able to find them. Sorry, I forgot to tell you. Noelle and Nash know where it is. They told me the whole story of making the box for you.”
“We can go get it right now.” Nervous, Aden jumped to his feet.
“That’s all right, Aden.” Seth tried to assure him with a smile. “We can go when you’re done here. I don’t mean to break up the party.”
“Blane’s coming at seven,” Sandy said. “The nurse will be in to shoo everyone out.”
Seth smiled to reassure Sandy.
“I’m not hauling your husband off to prison,” Seth said.
She lay back against the pillows. Her hands plucked at the blanket with worry.
“I guess I’m wondering, Aden,” Seth said. “Where did you get it?”
Aden opened his mouth then closed it. He shook his head slightly.
“What happened?” Nash asked.
“I don’t remember,” Aden said. “But you’re right. That’s the question isn’t it? Where did I get it? I…”
His eyes drifted to the ceiling tiles. He jerked, shook his head and looked around. Everyone in the room was looking at him. The nurse stuck her head in.
“Time to go,” the nurse said.
“Come on, kids,” Aden said. “I’ll take you back.”
“But Dad,” Noelle said. “We want to see the necklace.”
“You remember my necklace,” Aden said to Noelle. “You used to chew on the chain when you were a baby.”
“I remember it. You always had it. All my life,” Nash said.
“This is… big.” Noelle’s eyes were round with interest. “We have a clue to a murder investigation!”
“It’s a mystery,” Teddy said.
“We want to help,” Sissy said.
“Why don’t you take the gang to the Castle?” Sandy asked. “I’m sure Seth will want the necklace for forensics or whatever. You can take them back after that.”
“You’ll be all right?” Aden asked.
“I’d like to see Rachel before we sleep,” Sandy said. “You and I can go when you get back.”
“We’ll drop by the nursery on our way,” Charlie said. “I think she’d like that.”
“You’re talking for Rachel now?” Sissy asked.
“Yeah, she likes me,” Charlie said.
“She loves me,” Noelle said.
The children began arguing all at once. Looking over their heads, Aden raised an eyebrow at Seth. He would tell him when they were alone. Seth nodded in understanding.
“Let’s go,” Aden said. “Kiss Sandy good-bye.”
One at a time, the children hugged and kissed Sandy. Uncomfortable, Teddy went last. He gave her a quick hug and she kissed his cheek. Still arguing over who Rachel loved the most, the kids made their noisy way out of the room. Aden kissed Sandy and followed them.
“Well…” Seth said.
“Seth, there’s no way he’s involved in these murders,” Sandy said. “He’s been in prison or working or…”
“I know,” Seth said. “But it’s a lead. My gut says Aden’s going to help crack this case.”
“You may have to get Delphie to get it out of him,” Sandy said. “He’s deeply ashamed of that time of his life. Doesn’t talk about it at all. Ever.”
“I’ve had plenty of years like that,” Seth nodded.
Blane stuck his head in Sandy’s room to see if it was clear. Seth waved him in.
“I’ll see you, Sandy,” Seth hugged Sandy and kissed her cheek.
“Love you Seth,” Sandy
Blushing, he smiled, gave a little wave and left the room. He stuffed his hands in his pockets and walked down the hall.
For the first time, he felt like he had a real chance at solving this thing. The thought made him smile. He dropped by the cafeteria to pick up his forensics technician, Ava. She hugged him hello.
“The cookies were a big hit,” Seth said. “Thanks for making them.”
“You bet,” Ava said. “Rachel is adorable. Tiny.”
“Thanks for waiting for me,” Seth smiled. “I’m not ashamed of you, it’s just… new.”
“I understand,” Ava said.
Putting his arm over her shoulder, they walked out of the hospital.
“You seem oddly happy,” Ava said. “Are we…?”
His phone rang.
“O’Malley,” Seth said. “I’ll meet you at the station, Norsen. Yes, call me when you’re on your way.”
He clicked off his phone.
“We’re working,” she said.
“Got a lead?”
“Can I come?”
“Sure,” Seth said. “But you’ll want to work too.”
“Why?” Ava asked.
“We have another pendant,” Seth said.
“Ooohh, I like that!” She gave him a big smile. “With a chain?”
Seth nodded and Ava clapped her hands like an excited child.
“I have an interview,” Seth said.
“I have a pendant,” Ava said. “When we’re done?”
“I really like this!” Ava smiled.
“Thought you would,” he said.
Smiling, they walked to his car.
Sunday evening — 8:15 P.M.
Seth turned the corner to find the elderly man whose presence called him to the front of the downtown Denver Police station. The man’s deep chocolate colored skin contrasted with his cream colored cardigan sweater. He was tall, fit, and had the look of someone who was well cared for. Seth spied a weathered gold band on the man’s left hand.
“Can I help you?” Seth asked the man.
“I’m looking for Aden Norsen,” the man said.
“Why would that name mean anything to me?” Close to the man, Seth looked into his face. “Have we met before?”
“I used to be a probation officer,” the man held his hand out for Seth to shake. “Bob Proctor. We met a few times when you were a street cop. You were always with your partner… What was his name?”
“I remember now.” Nodding, Seth shook Bob’s hand. “What do you want with this Norsen person?”
“I’m his sponsor,” Bob said.
“AA?” Seth’s eyebrows went up with surprise.
“Norsen’s not here yet,” Seth said. “He’s on his way from the hospital. He stopped off to see his daughter before helping his wife to bed. Norsen’s a good man?”
“He’s a very good man,” Bob said.
“How did you…?”
“I was his probation officer,” Bob said. “I’ve been his sponsor for almost twenty years. I’ve known him since he was fifteen or sixteen.”
“Well, you may as well come back,” Seth said. “Would you like some coffee? Tea?”
“No thank you.”
“Sir?” The desk Sergeant yelled after them.
Seth turned around to look at him.
“Aden Norsen, sir.”
Seth walked with Bob back to the front to get Aden. He stood back to watch the men greet each other. Bob hugged Aden. Each man spoke a few words into the other’s ear as they embraced. When they broke apart, Seth thought he saw a father and son bond between them. Just a flash. Then it was gone. Seth held the door open and walked them through the police station to his office.
“Do you have the necklace with you?” Seth asked Aden.
Aden flushed, nodded and pulled it from his pocket. Seth took an evidence bag from his desk and held it open. Aden set the chain and pendant into the bag. Seth sealed the bag. He took a Sharpie from his pocket and filled out the evidence label. He walked into the main room where Ava signed for the envelope. She looked at the chain and pendant through the plastic envelope.
“Give me an hour, maybe more,” she said. “Then we wait for DNA.”
“Is this the same pendant?” Seth asked.
“It looks identical,” she said. “But looks can deceive.”
Seth nodded. She smiled and walked away from him. He turned toward his office then stopped.
“I’m sorry but we’ll need to go into an interview room,” Seth said. “It’s not warm or friendly. But I need this recorded for evidence.”
Aden nodded. The men walked out into the hall toward the interview room.
“I’ve arranged for you to get immunity from any crime you bring up, mention or otherwise disclose with the exception of murder,” Seth said. “I have that in writing.”
He held an envelope out to Aden. Aden opened it, read the letter and stuffed it into his pocket.
“When is Ms. Hargreaves coming to join us?” Seth asked.
“She’s right behind you,” Samantha Hargreaves said. She thanked the Sergeant who escorted her back. “May I see that?”
Aden gave Samantha the letter. She read it then nodded.
“I must protest your interview with my client,” Samantha said.
“I agree, Ms. Hargreaves,” Seth said. “Aden, I can’t interview you. I’m too close to you and this is too big of a case to make any mistakes. I have two very capable Sergeants waiting to speak with you. I will be behind the glass the entire time. If you get into any trouble, I’ll interrupt the interview. I’m willing to allow you to have Bob with you during the interview if that helps.”
“Ms. Hargreaves?” Seth asked.
“That will be fine,” Samantha said.
Seth opened an interview room where two police detectives waited for them. The younger detective was blonde and seemed unsure of himself. The older detective had a muscular body and the tan skin and sharp nose of the Cheyenne. Nervous, Aden looked at Seth, then into the room.
“Come on,” Bob said. “Let’s get this over with.”
Aden followed Bob into the room. The police detectives stood to introduce themselves.
“I’ll be right there,” Samantha said. She closed the door to the interview room. “What do you hope to get from him?”
“Answers,” Seth said. “We need someone who was there twenty years ago. Thirty would be better but we don’t have that.”
“He’s a good man, Seth,” Samantha said. “He’s had a hell of a year. With the baby and Sandy, he’s…”
“I’m hoping that good man will be able to help me find the trail of a monster,” Seth said. “We have nothing, Samantha, nothing to identify this guy. Anything Norsen says or knows will be one hundred percent more than we know right now.”
Samantha nodded. She opened the door and went into the room. Seth went around to the other side of the glass. He wasn’t surprised to find the head of CBI, the Chief of Police, and his Captain waiting for him there.
“You’re sure,” the Chief of Police said.
Seth nodded. They settled in for what was bound to be a long night.
Sunday evening — 8:20 P.M.
“Sir, we have your detailed background check done by Detective O’Malley last year,” the young blonde detective said. “The background goes back to 1987 and stops.”
“Detective O’Malley found no record of you prior to 1987,” the older detective said. “Why is that?”
“I took the name Aden Norsen in 1987,” Aden said.
“What is your birth name?” the blonde detective asked.
“Gary Gilmore, Jr.”
The detectives flinched.
“Gary Gilmore? As in the Gary Gilmore?” the older detective said. “Utah. Firing Squad.”
“Gary Gilmore was my father’s favorite cousin,” Aden said. “He was executed in 1977. January. I was five.”
“How…?” the young detective started. The older man cleared his throat.
“Maybe you should tell us your story,” the older detective leaned back in his chair as if he was waiting for a long story. “We have time. Start at the beginning. We’ll interrupt if we need to.”
Aden looked at Bob then at Samantha. She smiled at him. He looked back at Bob who nodded.
“I don’t really know where I was born,” Aden started. He swallowed hard.
“We’ve looked but we’ve never been able to find a birth certificate for him,” Bob said.
“After Gary’s… trouble, my parents changed their name every six months or so,” Aden said. “I was enrolled in school under a lot of different names. The last one was Mark Smith. We moved all over the West. I wasn’t their oldest or the youngest child. I was somewhere in the middle but I’m not really sure where.”
“Your parents had a lot of kids?” the older detective said.
“I guess so,” Aden said. “They had adult kids and little kids like me. Or something like that. I never knew if some of them were their kids or cousins or just around. There were a lot of people around all the time.”
“Ok, go on,” the older detective said.
“I tell people that I came home from school one day and my family had moved,” Aden said. “That’s not exactly true.”
“What is true?” the young detective asked. The older man gave him a stern look and he shrugged.
“I was released from juvie.”
“Breaking and entering. Robbery. Bob was my probation officer,” Aden said. “Bob was going downtown so he agreed to take me to my parent’s apartment. They were gone.”
“Had that happened before?” the older man asked.
“Sure,” Aden said. “But I always knew where to catch up with them. I didn’t this time. Or maybe I didn’t want to. That last time in juvie, I… got interested in other things. I read Tom Sawyer and The Hobbit. I had some therapy. I had the sense that life could be… different than the way we lived. I… let myself drift away from my family.”
“We arrived at their last residence and they weren’t there,” Bob said. “I let him stay on my couch that night and then set him up at a halfway house.”
“I changed my name to Aden Norsen,” he said. “Aden means fire. I wanted to burn up the past, my past. Norsen… well it seemed to fit.”
“Since there were no records, it was pretty easy to enter him into the system as Aden Norsen,” Bob said. “His last conviction was under the name Mark Smith. Mark Smith was listed as an alias for Aden.”
“It’s not here now,” the young detective said.
“I have a copy of the file at home if you need it.”
“We may,” the young detective said. “Please continue Mr. Gilmore.”
“Please,” Aden said. “My name is Aden Norsen.”
There was a tap on the glass of the window and the Sergeants looked to the glass.
“Norsen, sorry,” the young man said.
“Now you know who he is,” Samantha said. “Why don’t you cut to the chase? It’s late and the man has a lot of other things on his mind.”
“Where did you get the pendant and necklace?” the older detective asked.
“After I stayed with Bob, I was placed in foster care,” Aden said. “I didn’t like my first house, so I left. I had enough experience being homeless as a kid that it wasn’t that big of a deal. I stayed out a couple years until one January.”
“One January?” the older detective said.
“I don’t remember the year. I had a bunch of friends,” Aden said. “We stayed under the Speer Bridge mostly. Did drugs, drank, begged for change, stuff like that. It wasn’t bad until January, maybe two or three years after I’d been out.”
“What happened?” the older detective asked.
“One of the guys got really drunk and froze to death,” Aden said. “We were all picked up and locked up for a while. I saw Bob again. He reminded me about the new life I’d said I wanted. And he was right. I got a new placement and a job at a grocery store. I stayed there until I got my GED.”
“How does this relate to the pendant?” the younger detective asked.
“When we were under the Speer Bridge, a guy would come and bring us food,” Aden said. “He’d bring pots of soup, sandwiches, stuff like that. Sometimes, when the guys weren’t doing well, he’d take one of us with him.”
“Did they make it back?” the older detective asked.
“The guy had regulars, favorites,” Aden said. “They never talked about what happened while they were with him. They just said he was weird, but gave them money and drugs. Sometimes we’d pressure a guy to go with him so we could have more drugs.”
Flushing, Aden dropped his head in his hand. Bob put a hand on his back for support.
“It wasn’t my finest moment,” Aden said.
“Did you ever go with the guy?” the older detective asked.
“No,” Aden said. “He seemed to know I was a Gilmore. He called me Gilmore, in fact. He was terrified of my family. Rightly so. I was terrified of my family.”
“How did you get the necklace?” the older detective asked.
“The guy who froze to death?” Aden asked. “He was my best friend. I met him in juvie. I took the pendant from him after he died.”
“Why?” the younger detective asked.
“I wanted to remember my friend,” Aden said. “He was the only family I’d really ever had.”
“This friend. Did he have a name?” the younger detective asked.
“I called him ‘Daf’ because he did a great Daffy the Duck impression,” Aden said. “He was one of Bob’s too.”
He looked at Bob.
“His name was Wilson Zacarian,” Bob said. “He was found dead in January, 1990. Froze outside on one of those record cold days. The police rousted all the bridges to get the homeless out of the cold. They picked up about ten homeless boys. They were high and drunk so they put them in lock-up.”
“Family?” the young detective asked.
“His family picked up his body,” Bob said.
“Did they ask about the pendant?” the older detective asked.
“The necklaces were given out by the creepy guy,” Aden said. “All of his favorites had one. If the necklaces were gone, the guys got in trouble. Bad. Daf lost his one time and we looked for it for days. We finally found it under a rock or something. He’d put it there when he was high.”
“Did this guy know you had one?”
“No, I don’t think the guy ever knew I had a pendant.”
“Does the creepy guy have a name?” the older detective asked.
“Not that I remember,” Aden shook his head.
“You boys didn’t call him anything?” the young detective asked.
“Jude,” Aden said. “We called him St. Jude.”
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