She had wanted him to find her, Carlan was sure of it. Signing in with her own name. Had she suspected there was something wrong? Was it a cry for help?
"You knew her?" One of the techs asked. It was quiet in the motel room, the shuffling sound of the plastic sleeves they wore on their feet, the occasional squeak of plastic gloves.
She was open to the world, naked. There was little blood, she looked pale and lovely. Peaceful. Peaceful at last.
"She was like this when you found her?"
"We untangled her from the bedspread. We're thinking whoever killed her knew her, because they carefully covered her up. They crossed her arms across her chest."
Carlan shook his head. She didn't know anyone in Portland. Why had she come here? What was she doing in a seedy motel? Why had she left him? He'd taken care of her for years -- she had wanted for nothing. That last time, he'd even offered to marry her.
Damn her and her obstinacy. What had gotten into her?
He wanted to lie down beside her, lay his head on her chest. He struggled for a moment to contain his impulse, turning away from the tech.
Someone opened the curtains and the room flooded with light. Everyone in the room seemed to flinch. Carlan put his hand up, and turned away. He was looking down on Jamie again, her eyes seemed to be staring at him. Accusing him. It was his fault she was here. His fault she was dead.
She looked tiny, deflated. He always called her "Short Stuff," but she had been a dynamo in a small package. Now she looked like she'd been soaked in bleach -- the color drained from her.
"Close the damn curtains." The voice was commanding, and as soon as the room dimmed again, Carlan saw a very large fat man in the doorway. The guy had a huge bald head, and small narrowed eyes which surveyed the motel room, landing on Carlan.
"Who are you?"'
"Richard Carlan. Bend Police."
"What's your interest in her?"
"I dated her for a while. I was asked by her family to find her."
"How long you been in town?"
"I drove over the pass this morning..."
The big cop stared at him. They both knew that the boyfriend or husband was always the primary suspect. Finally, a big beefy hand was extended, "Detective Brosterhouse."
Carlan shook the hand. His eyes went back to Jamie.
"Why is there no blood?"
"Yeah, well, you're not going to believe this." The old cop leaned over and gently turned Jamie's head, revealing two deep punctures in her neck.
"So you're thinking?"
"I'm not thinking anything, Mr. Carlan. I'd say she was probably killed and drained somewhere else, but the lab guys tell me every other indicator is that she was killed here. So I don't know what to think."
Carlan was trying to act professional, like it was any other crime scene, any other murder he'd seen. But...it was Jamie. His Jamie.
She looked utterly defenseless on the floor, her nakedness ... he closed his eyes.
"Can't..." he faltered. "Can't you cover her up?"
Brosterhouse nodded to the tech, who flipped one of the wings of the blanket over her.
Just like that, she was gone. Forever.
He'd find the person who did this and kill him. She was his -- no one else's. She'd run away from him, but it was all a misunderstanding. Things had gotten messy, complicated. He'd struck out, but he hadn't meant any of it.
She hadn't given him a chance to explain, to apologize, to make up.
Brosterhouse was watching him. He struggled to keep his face impassive.
"The only real mystery here," the Portland cop said, “is where's the blood? Other than that -- it's obvious she was a working girl."
Carlan's face flushed, and his jaw clenched. He couldn't help it. Brosterhouse nodded his head as if confirming something to himself.
"I'm willing to let you help us," Brosterhouse said. "But you need to check with me before you do anything, got it? Meanwhile, give me the number to your station in Bend."
Carlan rattled off the number. They were going to check on him, he knew. They'd find that she had a restraining order on him. That would've once been embarrassing, but with Jamie dead, he didn't care.
He hadn't left Bend until 6:00 A.M., but he’d have to find proof of that. Forensics had already announced she had died somewhere between midnight and dawn.
With or without the help of the Portland cops, he was going to find whoever did this. He was going to make the murderer pay. His heart was gone, his anger at Jamie gone. He wanted whoever had done this to feel the same thing.
Whoever had murdered Jamie must have family, friends. He'd find the murderer. But more, he'd find who the murderer loved most and...
"We're ready to move her now," the forensics guy said to Brosterhouse.
The big cop waved Carlan out of the room. They stood to one side of the door on the landing as the body was loaded onto the gurney and wheeled from the motel room.
“What is it?” Brosterhouse asked. There was a tone there that suggested he was expecting Carlan to confess or something.
“Let me see her again.”
“She’s gone, pal. I don’t think that’s a good idea.”
“No…I need to see something.”
Brosterhouse hesitated. Then went over to the gurney and unzipped the body bag. Carlan leaned over. He tried not to look at her face, but stared at her mangled neck.
“She’s missing a necklace, a silver crucifix. Her mother gave it to her.” Unbidden and unwanted the image came to him of the last time he’d seen her -- her battered face, her bloody fingers holding the crucifix as if it would protect her from his blows. He felt a moment of doubt, then his hunger for revenge returned.
“Whoever killed her took it.”