"WHAT ARE YOU DOING?" Maya Sparks repeated.
"I could ask you the same thing," Sue Chasen replied, tapping the top of Finley's computer. "Withholding evidence is a serious crime."
Her bold repartee had the desired effect. Maya Sparks opened her mouth to speak, then checked herself, tilting her head to one side as if to reconsider.
"I couldn't have people find out certain things," she said finally.
"Like your affair with Finley?"
Maya closed the door behind her, then came and sat down on the corner of the bed.
"So you found the emails?" she asked.
Sue nodded, continuing with her risky gambit. She was in it this far, and to back out now might prove difficult, if not dangerous.
Maya fell silent again. Suddenly looked like she was about to cry.
"You must be devastated by all of this," Sue offered, softening her tone. "Clearly you two really cared for each other."
"Neither one of us wanted a relationship," the younger woman sighed. "When I first married Sheldon, Finley despised me. After all, we were closer in age than Sheldon and me, and I clearly wasn't going to be any kind of mother figure to him. Eventually he accepted me, and we became more like brother and sister. And then, well... You know the rest."
"When did things get intimate?" Sue asked.
"Only recently, over the past few months. We essentially bonded over the fact that both of us were under Sheldon's thumb."
"I can understand how that might happen," Sue replied. "But don't you think you should explain all of this directly to the police? I'm pretty sure they're looking at you as a prime suspect."
"What? That's crazy! Wait, aren't you a police officer?"
Sue shook her head. "I'm just helping them out, as a consultant."
"Oh," Maya said, taking this in. "But why would they think that I killed Finley?"
Sue tilted her head and suppressed a smile. She was starting to like this interrogation game.
"Well, you got together on the night of his death, didn't you?"
"Yes, we met in Harvard Square. I tried to talk him out of the whole bridge-jumping stunt."
"So you weren't with him on the bridge?"
She shook her head. "I wish I was. I might have prevented this whole thing from happening. Instead, I had to deal with a crazy, threatening phone call from my ex."
"You mean Finley's old rowing coach?
Maya nodded. "Ed Masterson."
"What did he want?"
"The usual nonsense. He's basically never accepted the fact that we broke up a few years ago. He's been stalking and harassing me on and off for months."
"Have you reported that to the police?"
Maya shook her head.
"It's complicated. After all, we were engaged to be married."
"Sounds pretty straightforward to me. The guy is a creep."
"Oh, it's much worse than that," Maya said. "I'm pretty sure he's a high functioning psychopath."
"Seriously? Why do you say that?"
"Well, I'm getting my PhD in psych, and I study this sort of thing-although, a lot of good it's done me in choosing men. I actually met Ed when he attended a class I was leading a section in, at Harvard, called Abnormal Psych."
"How ironic," Sue remarked.
Maya nodded in agreement.
"He was super charming at first, and good looking in a rugged sort of way. Plus, he was genuinely smart. I mean, the papers he wrote for class were a little bizarre, but some of them were on the verge of brilliant. Long story short, I got curious about him."
"And you crossed the teacher-student boundary?"
Maya shrugged. "More like, I jumped over it. Still, it's not like he was an undergraduate or anything. He's a few years older than I am."
"Ok, no judgement. I've done that sort of thing myself before. And then?"
"Well, we quickly got wrapped up in each other's lives. It was amazing for about eight months. I mean, I really thought that he was 'the one.' And then, things just started to get weird."
"As soon as we got engaged, things changed. He wanted to know every move I made-right down to where I was going to get my next cup of coffee. He'd text me constantly, asking where I was and what I was doing. I've always been pretty independent, so that sort of thing didn't sit well with me."
"I know the type," Sue agreed, knowing that Sean Delaney was still listening. "Some guys think they own you, just because you share a glass of eggnog with them."
"He was also super manipulative, and not just with me."
"He was obsessed with rowing and winning at all costs, even if it meant compromising the interpersonal integrity of his team. One day he told me that he'd figured out a way to get the guys to row harder, by pitting them against one another psychologically. When I brought up the ethical issues of using this strategy, he just shrugged and claimed that everyone did it."
"What sort of thing are we talking about here?" Sue asked. "I mean, a lot of coaches can be borderline sadistic."
"This was different. It was much more calculated in a way that made him look removed from it all. He used Finley as his mouthpiece, feeding him all sorts of confidential information about his teammates and telling him how to use it against them."
"That does sound pretty twisted."
Maya nodded. "It wasn't until recently that I learned all the details. Finley gradually opened up to me after I began to share my own troubled past with Ed."
"Did Finley feel bad about his role with the team?"
"Of course. Everyone on his crew hated him, and he desperately wanted to come clean. He told his dad, of course, and Sheldon got Masterson fired from Harvard, but he never told his boatmates. I think he was planning to do it on the night we were supposed to meet; the night he-"
Maya stopped talking and fought back a few tears.
"So do you think he jumped?" Sue said, handing her a Kleenex.
"No way. He was pushed, and I'm pretty sure that Masterson did it."
"Why do you say that?"
"Somehow Ed had figured out that Finley and I were having an affair. He got me to admit it that night. Then he started yelling over the phone and told me he was going to doing something about it."
"What? Maya, this is crazy. You have to tell the police!"
Suddenly the bedroom door flew wide open.
"Tell them what?" Sheldon Sparks boomed.
Sean Delaney didn't need the night vision binoculars to observe Sue Chasen through the studio window on the second floor. His long-range vision was excellent, and there was enough light in the room to see her clearly. But when the silhouette of another woman had entered the room, he reached over to take the glasses from Marsh, who'd been using them to randomly scan the woods around the property.
"Wait, I think I saw something," Marsh whispered.
"Where?" Delaney asked.
"Over there, near the woodpile. It looked pretty big."
"Probably just a deer," Delaney said. "The woods out here are loaded with them."
"Technically speaking, deer aren't nocturnal," Marsh retorted. "They are crepuscular."
"Whatever. Just give me the damn glasses," Delaney said. "And pay more attention to what's happening inside the house. Have you been listening to this conversation? Sue's amazing."
"Yes, Chasen is doing pretty well, I guess."
"Pretty well? She's knocking it out of the park, Marsh. I hope you're recording all of this."
"I am, but I'm not sure why. After all, none of it will be admissible in court."
"I don't care, it's still worth having."
The two kept listening to the conversation.
"Now that was a low blow," Delaney remarked when Sue made the comment about eggnog.
"How so?" Marsh said.
"Never mind," Delaney replied. "I can't believe that we got taken in by Masterson."
"Confirmation bias," Marsh quipped.
"It's when you interpret evidence based on a preconceived notion of what happened-"
"I know what confirmation bias is, Marsh," Delaney groaned. "Besides, at that point we never suspected Maya Sparks was so involved."
"No, but we were willing to believe Masterson's story that she was a sex-crazed drug addict and a gold digger to boot."
Delaney said nothing. Marsh had a point.
"Hey, boss, there it is again!" Marsh said. "Look!"
Marsh pointed toward the woodpile that lay on far side of the driveway, just beyond the reach of the outdoor flood lights. Delaney didn't need night vision glasses to see the tall bulky figure stand up and scurry toward the back yard, dressed in a lumberjack coat.
"Call it in on the radio, now!" he barked at Marsh. "I'll find a way to warn the chief and Sue. Who knows what this guy is up to, but he looks suspicious."
"Do you think it might be one of the catering guys? Marsh said. "Out having a smoke?"
"I doubt it," Delaney said. By the way, have you ever used your service revolver?"
"I was the top cadet at the firing range."
"This isn't the firing range, Marsh, and we're not hunting deer. You take the front entrance; I'll take the back."
The two detectives piled out of the van and ran toward the house.
Sheldon Sparks stood in the doorway, beer bottle in hand, waiting for an answer to his question.
"Oh hi, Sheldy. We're just having a little chat," Maya said.
"I can see that, but what do you have to tell the police?" he said.
Maya sighed. "Oh, it's just that jerk, Ed Masterson. I was just telling Sue that he'd been bothering me again, and she advised me to go to the police."
"You never told me that!" Sheldon barked. "How long has this been going on?"
"Sorry to interrupt," Sue said, holding up her hand as she listened to Delaney through her Bluetooth. "But I think you may have a prowler on the premises."
"What?" Sheldon Sparks said, becoming even more confused and agitated. "What the hell is going on here?"
Sue stood up and made for the doorway. "Sorry, but right now I need to go downstairs. Sergeant Delaney will be here any moment, and I'm sure he'll explain everything to you."
She sure hoped he could. Otherwise, they might all be in a bit of a tight spot.
Delaney and Marsh had already circled the house twice with flashlights, when Chief Martinoli came out the front door. Sheldon Sparks was right behind him.
"What's the situation?" the chief said.
"Someone called in a possible breaking and entering," Delaney lied.
"Did you try the outbuilding?" Sparks suggested. "He's probably after my motorcycle collection!"
"Let's go, Marsh," Delaney said. "Mr. Sparks, I would advise you to stay in the house with your party guests and make sure all the doors and windows are locked."
"No way. Besides, you'll need the access code."
"Marsh, you stay with the guests," Martinoli instructed. "Delaney, lead the way."
As they approached the outbuilding, the trio could barely make out a small light turned on in the studio apartment.
"That's Finley's old room," Sheldon whispered. "What's he doing in there?"
"More importantly," Delaney said. "How did he get in, and not set off the alarm?"
"There's only one way in, and one way out," Sheldon said, punching in the access code.
"What's the plan, boss?" Delaney said to the chief.
"It's quite simple. Go in there and check it out."
Several minutes later, Delaney emerged, leading a handcuffed man in front of him. As they walked past the police chief and Sheldon Sparks, the detective stopped, briefly, and shone the flashlight up into his prisoner's face. The man closed his eyes and averted his gaze from the light, but he was clearly recognizable.
"Ed Masterson!" Sheldon Sparks growled. "Well, I hope you lock him up for good this time!"
Masterson just shook his head silently, as Delaney led him away.