Sierra stepped into the hallway and motioned for Detective Kincaid, who stood at the end of the hall chatting quietly with Deputy Jones. Sierra could hear Luke moving around in his room and gave a little wave to Jordan, who was leaning in the doorway of Luke's room. Jordan raised an eyebrow at her, making her heart flutter. Looking past the detective, Sierra noticed Deputy Jones looking at her curiously. Concerned about Teddy's earlier statement that the deputy had been near Liberty Heights at the time of Susan's - Sarah's? - death, she waited until Detective Kincaid got closer and kept her voice even.
"Is everything okay?" Detective Kincaid asked.
"Oh yes - Hannah's just wondering if she would be able to take her mom's pillow with her. We figured we'd better clear it with you," Sierra explained. Deputy Jones nodded, a sad, understanding look on his face, and started picking at a hangnail as Detective Kincaid entered Hannah's room.
"Hmm," she said. "I can't think of any reason you couldn't, kiddo - but I'll go in there with you just to make things all official."
Hannah smiled and thanked her, then looked from Sierra to her desk. The detective noticed the look and asked softly, "Was there something else?"
Sierra and the girl nodded. "No disrespect to Deputy Jones, Detective. But Hannah had some of her mom's work documents in her desk, and we thought it best to give them directly to you. She had asked Hannah to tuck them away last night."
Detective Kincaid pulled a set of gloves from her back pocket and took the manila envelope. Seeing the cover sheet and staple with the paper corner in it, she asked, "How did this happen?"
Hannah explained she'd pulled her journal out and the paper had stuck when she closed the drawer again. Sierra nodded and added, "Just so you're aware, I did handle that cover sheet; I was able to work the crumpled section out of the drawer slide. My prints are already on file with the county from my CWP application if you need to compare them."
Kincaid smiled slightly and affected an Irish accent. "Well, sure'n it sounds like I've got good backup in here today then!"
Looking between the two women, Hannah asked, "Is a CHL the same as a CWP? It means you can have a gun, Miss Sierra?"
"They're very similar," Detective Kincaid answered. "The names vary from state to state; 'CHL' means concealed handgun license, while 'CWP' means concealed weapons permit. In some cases it might not mean only a handgun, but that you can carry other things for self-defense; it depends on that state's law. In our state, you don't have to have a permit to 'have' a gun though - we police just ask that people get some training before they carry their gun where we can't see it. The CWP is proof that they got that training."
Sierra's parenting radar had her on high alert - there had to be a reason for Hannah's question. Casually, she said, "By the way, Hannah, that's a great question - a lot of people get confused by those terms!"
Hannah, proud of herself, replied, "Thanks! It seemed like they must be the same thing, because my mom and Aunt Sarah were talking about 'getting a CHL' for a while, and we went to the gun store. They got really mad when one guy kept trying to sell them a pink one, so they said they'd go someplace else instead. It was kinda funny, actually. Aunt Sarah's favorite color is purple and my mom HATES pink! Oh! I should go get my toothbrush and stuff!"
As Hannah trotted out to the bathroom, Sierra and the detective stared at each other.
"'Out of the mouths of babes', huh?" Detective Kincaid said. "I didn't dare tell her I've got a pink rifle at home. In my defense, it was a gift when I was about her age."
"Oh my!" Sierra chuckled. "It does get tiresome to deal with counter guys like that though. 'Hello, little lady! Try out this hot pink .22 revolver - it's about all most gals can handle.' UGH! I wish I'd had more time to get to know her mom though. Sounds like something was going on around here. Right before you got here, Luke said some strange things were going on between the Smiths. I assume you'll need to talk to the kids more in-depth soon?"
Detective Kincaid nodded in agreement. "Definitely. What the kids don't know is that Bob Smith is actually in a cell right now - that's why he couldn't come home and pick them up from you. His story is - well, we have reasons to keep him," she said, stopping herself from divulging too much on the case. "I still can't believe he called and told them to come back to the house and stay here alone though. Why not call YOU and ask you to keep them longer?"
As Sierra was about to respond, Hannah walked back in with a toiletries bag and put it in her suitcase. "Can we get Mom's pillow now, please? Miss Sierra, do you want us to bring food? We can bring stuff for dinner and stuff. Mom always said Luke would eat us out of house and home."
Sierra told her they could bring whatever their favorite snacks were, just to be more comfortable for the weekend, as they walked into the master suite. Since Jordan had mentioned chatting with Susie at the gym, Sierra was not surprised to see an elliptical machine in one corner of the expansive bedroom. More interesting to her was the large bookcase practically overflowing with books. She couldn't resist walking over and looking at some of the titles, careful not to touch anything. Seeing an entire shelf about organic gardening and raising livestock naturally, Sierra turned to Hannah and asked, "Hannah, did your mom have plans to start a garden?"
"Oh, yes!" the girl replied as she grabbed a fluffy down pillow from quilt-covered bed. "That was the best part of moving here! Mom was so excited for spring. She said the stuff she dealt with at work made her want to quit work and grow our own food. She said it's like we're just wearing and eating chemicals and we need to stop. We already signed up for the Foxwood CSA and we picked out seeds for our favorite vegetables. Except spinach - that's not my favorite. Only Mom's. Ew."
Sierra saw Detective Kincaid reading over the cover letter she had in hand with the manila envelope. Multiple emotions swiftly crossed her face, then she turned the sheet over, face down on the sealed envelope. Taking a deep breath and blowing it out slowly, she turned to Hannah and asked, "Okay, kiddo - is that the pillow you'd like to take with you? I'm afraid I can't let you take anything else from your mom's room for right now. We should probably go check on your brother and see about getting you those snacks, then call it a day."
"You read my mind," Deputy Brown said from the doorway. "Luke's actually about done too. He and Jordan are waiting in the kitchen for you ladies. We overheard your food discussion and took the liberty of bagging up a few snacks. Luke says he got all your favorites, Hannah."
"Awesome," Sierra said. "It's about time Jordan and I got these two back to our house and made sure our own kids haven't gone amok." Turning from the bookcase, Sierra went to follow Hannah and the detective out the door. Suddenly, a slight shimmer caught her eye by the dresser. Turning to look at it, Sierra noticed a picture of two blond women on the dresser, set back behind several other family photos and pictures of the children at various ages.
"Hannah, is one of these ladies your mom? They are both so pretty!" she said.
Hannah glanced over at the photo. "Oh yes - that's Mom and Aunt Sarah. Mom's the one on the left."
Deputy Brown and Detective Kincaid walked into the room. The detective stared at the photo and said, "Wow, they look like they could be twins!"
Hannah nodded and said, "Yeah, they are. They used to play tricks on people and switch places. Even Dad couldn't tell them apart lately - they were really messing with him. But Luke and I could always tell." She giggled, then added, "They smelled like different shampoo!"
As Sierra's face blanched, Detective Kincaid reached for her arm and asked, "Are you alright? You look like you've seen a ghost."
Sierra turned to her and whispered, "I have!"
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
(Special thanks to my son, who came up with those last two lines - with my apologies for not using Deputy Brown quite the way he suggested.)