Previously: “Paisley, rosemary, and time.”
Several brand-new fashion dolls lay scattered around the corner of the hotel room. Paisley had undressed and dressed the dolls for an hour. She sat in a pool of sunlight spilling through a sliding glass door that led to a green lawn. Beyond the boundary of the grass, a swimming pool sparkled invitingly.
The Paisley’s grandmother watched her while trying to not appear to be. The glass door was locked and a security rod was snugly in place. The Paisley’s grandfather sat in one of a pair of stuffed chairs by the door. He hadn’t moved since June Chapel, a social worker assigned to Paisley, arrived to interview the girl. A loaded 9mm Beretta Centerfire pistol was within easy reach, wedged beside the padded chair arm and his thigh.
“Can you tell us anything?” Sandra Kellen looked like she hadn’t slept in weeks. “Selene is… was our only child. We need some answers.”
“I assure you Det. Webster is doing everything he can to find out what happened and who is responsible,” June said. “To that end, Paisley may know something that can help.”
“No,” Kenneth Kellen pushed his hand into the cushion gap, taking hold of the pistol grip.”She’s been through enough.”
“I understand, Mr. Kellen,” June began.
“I don’t think you do,” Kenneth said, checking himself and lowering his voice. “I won’t allow it.”
“Mr. Kellen, at this point, you can’t stop me,” June said. “It’s your choice whether I do the interview here, with you and Mrs. Kellen, where she feels safe. Or…”
“Or what?” Kenneth leaned forward, his eyes narrowing. “You’ll arrest her?”
“Mr. Kellen, due to my profession, I have interviewed children in these sort of circumstances before,” June held up her hand when Kenneth tried to interject. “While you and your wife see your daughter’s death as unique and especially heinous, it, unfortunately, is not the worst crime I’ve counseled on.”
“She’s just a baby,” Sandra looked at her husband while pleading with June.
“You are welcome to stay here while I talk with Paisley,” June said. “I will be as gentle with her as I can.”
June slid to the floor to sit with Paisley, Sandra took the other chair by the patio door.
Paisley wordlessly handed June a doll and they played in silence for a while. June’s long black hair was pulled back into a thick braid that fell over one shoulder. Paisley reached up and touched the neatly tied plait.
“Would you like for me to braid your hair?” June said.
“My mommy used to fix my hair like this,” Paisley said.
Sandra ran to her suitcase, bringing back June a brush and a hair tie.
While June brushed and slowly twisted the girl’s hair, she talked with her about her dolls.
The two sat and played for another hour. The sunlight coming through the windows shifted, casting long shadows across the floor. Kenneth and Sandra sat mesmerized by the exchange between the social worker and their granddaughter, too horrified to interrupt.
After June helped Paisley pick up her dolls and their many clothing outfits, Sandra took the girl to get ready for dinner.
“I had no idea,” Kenneth said. “Does she even know the significance of what she just told you?”
“Not now, but she is eager to talk and wants to help,” June said. “She remembered enough for me to give Det. Webster several good leads.”
“Do you really think someone they knew did this, killed them?” Kenneth looked back at his wife and granddaughter, making sure they were out of earshot.
“I didn’t get the sense it was someone they knew well, but I do think whoever it was they met since coming to St. Carabelle and were on friendly terms with,” June gathered her satchel and jacket. “I have a good description of him from what Paisley said, that will be a great help.”
“I have to apologize for earlier,” Kenneth said.
“Nothing to apologize for, Mr. Kellen,” June said. “I’ve seen the mayhem violent crimes leave behind for the survivors. Your distrust and anger are normal and understandable.”
“Is Paisley in danger?” Sandra Kellen joined them while Paisley dressed in another room.
“Plainclothes officers are nearby,” June assured them. “She is safe here with you both for now.”
Leaving the Kellens’ hotel suite, June nodded to the housekeeper outside the door and the maintenance man down the hall working on the ice machine. In her car, she called Det. Sean Webster.
“I’ve spoken with Paisley Fleming,” she said without prelude. “I have a description of a possible suspect. I can be there in 10 minutes.”
A dark sedan with heavily tinted windows followed June’s car from the resort parking lot, and continued down the highway when she turned into the Metro Police complex.