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45

Mary sat behind the conference room table like a judge while Paige stood up and told what had happened the night her mother was killed, and by the time she was finished Mary had almost succeeded in visualizing the scene. 'Tell it again,' she said anyway. 'I want to see if there's anything inconsistent, telling to telling.'

'Mary, I'm not making this up. It's the truth, I swear it.'

'I believe you, but something's wrong. You have no bruises on you and you should, if what you're saying is true. Start over. You and Trevor go to your parents' house…'

Paige sighed without further complaint. 'My mother started to fight with me, right off. Told me I looked fat and I shouldn't be eating. She started in on the Bonner shoot. How I looked like I was gaining. How I had to watch what I ate to get over.'

'Get over?'

'You know, make it,' Paige answered, and Mary flashed on the sweating kids under the hot lights, all hopeful but none with The Face. 'I felt like who was she to tell me, I'm not a child, and now I was having a child. I'm going to be a mother, a way better mother than she ever was. So I said, "I'm pregnant, that's why I'm so hungry," and she hit me. I fell off the chair onto the floor.'

Then what happened?'

'I got up from the floor and I started to cry. Then she grabbed me and threw me down and started kicking me in my stomach. At least I thought she did.' Paige paused, her forehead a knot of confusion. 'I remember that happening.

I swear, I remember she was trying to kick the baby out of me. She said so.'

Mary shook her head, confounded. It rang completely true, especially the way Paige recounted it, but it couldn't have been. 'What was Trevor doing?'

'He was trying to pull her off of me, I think. I don't really know.'

'But he was in there, fighting?'

'Yes, I think. She was yelling, "You kill it or I'll kill it!" I hurt, so much, and I rolled away, trying to protect the baby from her. But she kept coming at me, kicking.' Paige looked like she wanted to cry but didn't. 'I was so scared. Trevor said I was just crying and rolling on the ground.'

Mary's ears pricked up. 'Last time you didn't say, "Trevor said."'

'What?'

'Is it Trevor said, or you remember?'

'I remember. I remembered. Later. I mean, I remember crouching and rolling, trying to keep her away from the baby.'

Mary frowned. 'Do you remember really, or did he tell you? And when did he tell you?'

'I do remember, but we discussed it later, over and over. I couldn't get it out of my mind. I needed to talk about it. We talked after it happened, a lot. Until you came over. I was so upset, and he calmed me down.'

'By talking about what happened?'

'Partly.' Paige brushed a strand of hair from her troubled brow. 'I think I remember. I needed to talk about it. Parts of what happened I couldn't remember. It happened so fast and I was so high. So crazy.'

'What do you mean you couldn't remember parts of what happened?' Mary straightened, intrigued. 'You didn't tell me that before.'

'I didn't?' Paige's hand fluttered to her forehead. 'Let me think. There were things I wasn't sure about, I think. Details. It was just so awful, the whole scene.'

'You know it was awful or Trevor told you that?'

'I know that. I remember. It happened. Didn't it?' Paige's eyes flickered with bewilderment, and Mary dug in.

'You were high.'

'Not so high that I don't know what happened to me.'

'But think about it.' Mary stood up, wondering aloud. 'You go to dinner, you take a drug you never took before, and it makes you feel crazy. You and Trevor are together later and you go over what happened when you were high. How do you know what happened and what didn't?'

'I know because I remember.'

'But how can you be sure you remember correctly? Memory isn't always reliable. It's like recovered memory. Those cases with the kids at nursery schools. They question the kids so much they forget what they remember and what they were told. The kids want to please the questioner. They remember what they're told to remember.' Mary leaned forward. 'Consider that there are drugs in this scenario. You were on drugs at the time of the murder and you told me that Trevor gave you a drug to calm you down after, right?'

'Yes. Special K. Ketamine, like a tranquilizer.'

Mary thought about it. 'How do you know it was Special K?'

'It looked like it. A pile of white powder.'

Mary had never taken a drug in her life, except for Midol. 'But aren't lots of drugs white powder?'

'It made me feel relaxed, like K does.'

'I would think lots of drugs do that, too. Maybe it wasn't Ketamine, Paige. Maybe it was some other kind of drug, to make you more suggestible.'

'What?' Paige cocked her head, her hair falling to one skinny shoulder.

'Trevor gives you the crystal, or what he says is crystal, before you go over to your parents' house. By the way, why did you take it, if you had never taken it before? You knew you were going to an important dinner.'

'I knew it would be hard. I didn't think I could go through with it straight.' Paige flushed with regret. 'I know it was stupid, but Trevor said the crystal would make me stronger.'

'So he gives you the crystal, and you feel strong. Your memory is spotty. You feel out of control. You come home and he gives you another drug, then he tells you what happened. You said you two went over and over it.' Mary's excitement grew. 'What if you don't really remember what happened, you just remember what he tells you? In time it becomes the truth, but it's only in your mind.'

Paige looked dumbfounded. 'Is that possible?'

'Of course, given what you're telling me.'

'So what really happened, with my mother?'

'Anything could have happened, but only one thing is the most likely. Trevor killed your mother and made you think you did it.'

'What?' Paige's eyes widened. 'Trevor killed my mother?'

'It makes sense, doesn't it? We have only your word that he didn't. No one else was there.'

'I remember picking up the knife.'

'But do you remember stabbing her, actually stabbing her?'

'I don't know.' Paige raked her hair with her fingers, a gesture of Jack's. 'I don't remember. I don't know what I remember.'

'You heard what Walsh said. It takes force to kill somebody that way. Trevor is a big, strong guy. You'd have to remember stabbing your mother, actually bringing a knife down, five times. Do you? What were her reactions and yours? Did she fight you? Rip your clothes? How did you fight her back? Do you remember it?'

'I think -'

'Don't answer so fast.' Mary held up a palm. 'Concentrate. Think about it, every detail. Do you really remember? Can you tell it to me?'

Paige's eyes fluttered closed, then, after a moment, open. 'I can't. I really don't remember what happened between when I grabbed the knife and when I found it in my hand, later, all bloody. I thought I had gone into like a trance or something.' Paige shook her head. 'But I would know if Trevor did it, wouldn't I? I mean, I would have seen him do it.'

'But who knows what you perceived, under the influence of whatever drug he gave you? And who knows what you remember or what you saw?'

Paige blinked. 'But why? Why would he do it?'

'You tell me.' Mary's thoughts raced ahead. 'He had to know your mother had money, didn't he?'

'Yes, and he knew I'd inherit it. Even as pissed as she got at me, she'd never disown me.' Paige's blue eyes lost their focus as her thoughts slipped elsewhere. 'He used to ask me about it, and I told him what I knew about my trust fund and all, and about the Foundation. His parents have money, but not that much.'

'And you said he wanted to marry you.'

'He talked about it all the time. He really wanted us to get engaged, but I wanted to go slower. I wasn't sure. I had just moved out and all. So I said we should wait.'

'What did he say?'

Paige's face darkened. Then we got pregnant.' Her eyes glittered with a revelation, and Mary didn't have to ask what it was.

'You think he got you pregnant, on purpose.'

'I always made him use the condom, for safe sex. I knew he got around before we started dating. The time we got pregnant, he said the condom broke.'

'My God.' Mary leaned back in her chair, recoiling from the knowledge. Trevor's been playing you all along. He gave you drugs before you went over knowing they'd screw up your perceptions, maybe even put you out of it. I don't know enough about drugs, but I bet they have 'em. You may have heard your mother yelling, but it was

him she was kicking. He killed your mother, then he told you that you did it.'

'He planned on my father confessing?'

'I doubt it. Trevor couldn't have known your father would take the rap, but he took advantage of the opportunity. Either way, he gets your money. And if he's the killer, he's got the bruises to prove it. Did you notice any bruises on him later?'

'No, but I wasn't looking. How can we find out? Can we get the police to examine him, like with me?'

'No. You were volunteered, and I doubt very much he'll chirp right up. The cops can examine Trevor if he's under investigation for the crime, but he's not, so far.' Mary kicked herself again. 'I should have thought of it at the FBI, when they were questioning him. I'm sorry.'

'Don't say that, remember?' Paige smiled. 'You didn't suspect him then.'

'I should have.'

'He would have explained the bruises another way, Mary. He's a liar.'

Suddenly the conference room door opened, and Judy walked in carrying a FedEx package. She was a welcome sight, even in a black corduroy jumper, white turtleneck, and red clogs. 'News update, Mare,' she said. 'I ordered you both lo mein for dinner, I told our boss you're too sick to come to work, and most important, I brought you a present.'

'What a woman.'

'I'm more nurturing now that I have a dog.' Judy handed over the FedEx package, and Mary opened it. Out slid a piece of white paper with a Polaroid paper clipped to it.

'Jesus, Mary, and Joseph,' Mary said, amazed. CRIMINAL-ISTICS LABORATORY REPORT, Philadelphia Police Department, read the top. She might have gotten it later, in discovery, but somebody wasn't making her wait. Brinkley. He was trying to help her, even if he wasn't returning her calls. She scanned the report, technical but understandable.

This says the DNA on something, Item B, was from a white male.'

'Yowsa!' Judy squinted at the Polaroid. 'Could this be Item B?'

Mary looked. It was a photo of an earring back against the field of an Oriental rug. What was this about? Where had she seen that rug? 'Paige, isn't that the rug at your parent's house?'

Paige stood up and took the photo from Mary's outstretched hand. 'That's our dining room rug.'

'I thought so.' It was where Honor Newlin had been killed. Mary scrutinized the photo. 'If Brinkley sent this to us, it means it's a police photo. They take photos of the evidence at the crime scene. This must be an earring back they found there. And the lab report is saying it's from a male.'

Paige pointed at the photo. 'I know! I bet this is Trevor's. He didn't have his earring on later.'

'What do you mean, later?' Mary asked.

'Later that night, after my mother was killed. I'd given him a new earring earlier that day, for a present. It was a gold cross with a post back. But when we got back to my place, it wasn't in his ear anymore. Somebody, I guess the police, must have found this back part.'

Mary thought about it. 'Brinkley found it in the dining room.'

That must be right,' Paige said eagerly. Trevor was freaked that he lost it. I thought he was upset because it was eighteen carat, but he must have been worried the police would find it at my parents' house.'

Mary nodded grimly. 'Maybe he lost it fighting with your mother, when he killed her.'

'Does this prove anything?'

The earring back? No. It's a given Trevor has been at your parents' house. He said so to the FBI, remember? That's probably why they asked. If he were confronted with it, he could say he dropped it some other time.'

'No, he couldn't. He has been there before, but he never had that earring before. I gave it to him that day.'

'But they didn't find the earring, they found the back of it. The earring we could identify, but the backs are all alike. It could be an earring back Trevor lost another time, even if it is his DNA on it. It doesn't prove anything except that there are good cops in the world.'

Judy touched Mary's arm. 'Cheer up. You'll think of something else.'

'I will?' Mary said, but to her surprise, she already had.


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