The room was silent. Cassie felt the pain of Laura’s words. It was tragic. Whether any of the victims had planned to sober up didn’t matter. They were human beings. They’d deserved to live. They’d deserved a chance.
Cassie was the first one to break the silence. “What about the final victim?”
David walked over to the pile of letters written between Shapiro and victim number twelve. “These letters feel more sinister to me. More pointed.”
David shook his head. “I can’t put my finger on it. The way Shapiro writes in this one is less empathetic, less consoling.”
“Less like a friend? That could be significant.”
“Still like a friend, but less like a confidant. More like a… conspirator.” David looked down at the letter with a furrowed brow. “At one point the victim seems remorseful. He wants to get clean. But Shapiro steers him in the opposite direction. Encourages him to be bitter. It’s subtle, but it’s there.”
“That is interesting.” Laura held out her hand and David handed the stack of letters to her. “There are more letters here than the others.”
“Like I said, it’s subtle. He spent a lot longer communicating with this one. And from what I can tell, most of the other letters overlapped in one way or another. He was writing to a few at a time. Not this one. Victim twelve was a solo act. Shapiro’s entire focus was on him.”
“That’s significant.” Cassie eyed the stack of papers. She hadn’t looked through them yet. Would they reveal anything to her? “Do we know who the victim is?”
“Still waiting on more information.” There was a light knock at the door. “Speak of the devil.”
Officer Paulson stuck his head through the door. He was young, with big brown eyes and short-cropped hair. He was tall and scrawny, and Cassie wondered how he ever expected to be a cop with more skin and bones than muscle on his body. But he was quiet and polite and looked up to David. Cassie liked him.
“Sorry to interrupt, sir, but we got a hit on the search you had me do of reports potentially connected to the original searches.”
David gestured for Paulson to enter the room. “What’d you find?”
“In 1992, we have a record of a man named Carl Graham, filed a report after being assaulted. His knee was shattered, but he attracted the attention of a bicyclist who chased off the assailant.”
“I assume they never caught the guy?”
Paulson shook his head. “It was dark, and neither of them saw who had attacked Graham.” Paulson licked his lips as his gaze skittered around the room. “There’s something else, too.”
“Well, spit it out. We don’t have all day.”
“At the time, Carl Graham had just gotten out of prison.”
“What was he in for?”
“Breaking and entering.” Paulson let the silence build for a few seconds. “And possession.”
David slapped him on the back, and the force almost sent the young officer tumbling to his knees. “Excellent work, Paulson. Let me know if you find anything else.”
After the door closed, David turned back to the sisters. “He has a slight flair for the dramatic, but he’s a good kid.”
“Kind of cute, too,” Laura added.
Cassie rolled her eyes. “Focus.” She turned back to David. “So, what’s this mean?”
“This means Laura needs to hold down the fort for a couple hours.” When she nodded, David smiled and turned to Cassie. “It also means you and I are going on a field trip. Carl Graham just became our prime suspect in the murder of Robert Shapiro.”
David pulled up to a small warehouse off West Gwinnet Street. They’d stopped at Carl Graham’s house first, but no one was home. His workplace was their next choice: Malcolm Manufacturing, a distribution center for industrial supplies. He’d been working there for the last five years. He had a colorful record, but it seemed he’d cleaned up his act over the last decade.
“We have a plan?” Cassie had one finger already hooked around the car’s doorhandle. “Or are we just winging it?”