My coworkers talk of Mariah’s death for the rest of the day. Obsessively. They are so consumed with it, they don’t realize that I’m not contributing anything to the conversations. I have several reasons for this. One, I still don’t want people to know my connection with the murders. Two, I’m disgusted with the avarice in their eyes as they babble about it. Three, I want to find out as much as I can which is better accomplished by listening than by talking. Four, it’s depressing. I also harbor a faint hope that by me not talking about it, others will follow my example. Fat chance. It’s all I hear about when I pass people huddled in conversation. Some of my coworkers are uncomfortable talking about it around me because of my past experiences with murder, but most pay me scant mind as they dish the dirt. Nothing will do but for them to dissect the latest murder from every angle until I’m ready to smack them all in the mouths.
Even the kids are talking about it and how whack it is to kill a shorty like that. They keep saying how someone that young couldn’t have dissed anybody bad enough to warrant death. It disturbs me that many of them believe death is a perfectly logical retaliation for disrespect, but it’s not my place to preach at them. They like me because I joke with them and give them a jovial hard time, but I don’t discipline them. I’m like the crazy aunt who brings cool presents from exotic places, but who disappears before the family can get too sick of her. The kids also like to try to wheedle treats out of me on the days I bring candy to the office. I usually let them; it’s why I bring the candy in the first place. No, the kids won’t be the reason I leave this job when I finally go.
“She was shot whereas her mother was strangled. I think that’s significant.” Alicia is talking in her solemn, counselor voice to Derek, one of the other counselors, in the hallway by her office. Alicia is one of those grandmotherly-looking woman, comfortably plump with gray hair worn up in a bun. The kids love being mothered by her so much, they keep returning even after they graduate. Not my idea of successful counseling, but nobody is paying me to have an opinion. Her office is down the hall approximately ten feet behind my desk, and she doesn’t bother to lower her voice. I’m an inanimate object to her; she sees no reason to dissimulate. “It denotes a great amount of rage towards the mother, thus the hands-on killing, whereas the daughter was more of a clinical kill.” I roll my eyes, hoping she doesn’t catch me. “He enjoyed killing the mother; he had to kill the daughter.” I pause. As much as I want to dismiss what she’s saying, she has a point. The contrast between the mother’s death and the daughter’s indicates differing motives for each. Rosie, strangled and dump in a dumpster like trash. Mariah, laid out respectfully with a rosary in her hand. Night and day.
“What about the first murder?” Derek asks skeptically. “How does that fit in your theory?” Derek has pushed for a significant raise every year he’s worked at the agency, legend has it. He’s been turned down every time, leaving him slightly bitter. Who can blame him? He’s been faithful to the agency for ten years and has had to watch the director pad his bank account while Derek’s has been depleted.
“I think it’s something completely different,” Alicia says pompously. “The police want the two deaths to be connected because it makes it easier for them. The latest death proves they’re not.” I don’t agree that it would be easier for the cops if the first two deaths are connected, but it’s possible there is no link between Ashley’s death and Rosie’s. Just because they’re in the same therapy group doesn’t mean the same person killed them both. It’s hard to believe, though, that this isn’t the case. The links between Rosie and Ashley run deeper than just group, and given Rosie’s emerging reputation, it makes perfect sense that she knew something about Ashley’s murder and instead of going to the police like she should have, she tried to blackmail the person in question.
“I wonder who’ll be next?” Alicia muses out loud. I can’t see Derek, but I assume he’s bored out of his mind. I am, and I’m only half-listening to Alicia.
“Can’t tell you. It better not be me, though.”
“Why would it be you?”
“I dated Rosie for a bit,” Derek confesses, lowering his voice. Fortunately, I have excellent hearing so I am able to catch every word. “What if it’s some maniac killing people who knew her?”