Here is the Link to the Prologue, Chapter 1, Chapter 2, Chapter 3, Chapter 4, Chapter 5, Chapter 6, and Chapter 7.
Nothing creates a faster bond than working together for a common goal and as Daisy’s brother drifted off into sleep Hanson and this couple felt a strong connection and friendship even though they had hardly spoken.
It was the man who spoke first, “Before you ask your questions, we both want to thank you.”
“You are welcome,” Hanson replied before going into the first question, which he believed he knew the answer to. “Are you two Daisy’s parents?”
“We are, but can I ask a question? How did you know we needed your help?”
“I didn’t. I came here to speak to you two and if you don’t mind, I would very much like to do that.” They all took a chair in the small kitchen and sat down.
“Mr. and Mrs. …?”
“Worthlin, but you can call us Stilton and Barbara.” They interrupted.
“Thank you, I’m detective Hanson, as you may recall from this morning. I’m investigating the death of your son-in-law Caden Mason.”
“We heard they called it a suicide.”
“Some felt that might be the case, but we think it’s likely a homicide. You two left a substantial amount of money to your daughter upon your death, correct?”
“Yes,” They agreed.
“After the sale of the home, perhaps $2.5 million.”
“You had two sons as well.”
“True, but only Tom is still alive.”
“How did you find out about Ryan’s death?” Hanson asked.
“When Tom was in a sober stretch, he told us Ryan had died of an overdose when they were doing a drug run between Mexico and San Diego. That’s when we brought him back to up north to get away from that crowd, but he found it again once he got back. It was two years after he died that we heard about it.” Stilton was the voice for this, while Barbara cried quietly, it was clearly not easy for them to talk about. “We were never able to verify if he really died, once we came here we found relatives and others but we never found him.” This last part was the most crushing and Hanson knew he needed to change the subject to keep the conversation going.
“I’m sorry, was the $2.5 million your entire estate?”
“Most of it.”
“Did you leave anything to Tom?”
Stilton and Barabra looked at each other uncomfortably. “As you can see, he’s not in a state to responsibly use that much money, and we didn’t want to worsen the situation. Not to mention, any money tied to him, given the type of people around him, could have put him in real danger.”
“I’m not here to judge what you did with your money, I just need to know the facts.” Hanson stated.
“We put $350K in a trust that Daisy is the executor of. She is supposed to give Tom $50K every year he remains sober for 5 years. The last $100K is for Riley’s education.”
“Just to be clear, he gets $150K over 5 years, and Daisy got $2.5 million.”
“I know how it sounds, but we debated over those numbers more than anything else in the last years of our life. Sometimes $150K seemed like far too little and sometimes, especially when he wasn’t sober, anything felt like too much.”
“Were you worried he would act out rashly, like he has in the past?”
“Now, don’t get the wrong idea. I have never seen Tom act violent, even when in the middle of his worst states. He didn’t kill Caden, he couldn’t. We are not blind to the fact that when on drugs he steals and lies. He regularly stole small amounts from us, and lied about being clean. But he has been sober for years. We are by his side almost 24/7 and he hasn’t slipped up, not once.”
“He was in jail recently. Is that correct?”
As soon as Hanson mentioned this Barbara broke and her quiet sobs increased.
“I’m sorry detective,” Stilton apologized. “There are things that are not easy for a parent to talk about, and he was serving time when we died.”
“I understand, but I need to know about these things so I appreciate your cooperation.” Stilton nodded in understanding. “So, why was he in jail?”
Hanson perked up, he had read so much about Daisy and Caden he hadn’t yet looked into the brother. Caden had said it was a drug charge, manslaughter changed everything.
“A young girl, barely 20. It was a horrible time. It tore the family apart.” Hanson allowed for a silent pause, knowing if he waited, the pertinent points would surface. Sometimes silence is the best tool a detective has.
“Thomas had been clean since the birth of his little girl, Riley, he had a job and a relationship with Riley’s Mother, we thought things couldn’t be better, then Riley’s Mother ran out, leaving him cold. Even though he’d been clean for a year he still didn’t have a license, but wanted to find her. He convinced Daisy to lend him her car so he could chase her. He found her in some cheap motel with another man. Furious, rather than kill the man he found his dealer and got high. It was a miracle he didn’t overdose. He came to and realized he had to get back to his daughter, so he hopped in Daisy’s car. The girl was coming home from a late night at work. He slammed into her when he ran a red light at over 40 miles per hour. He pled guilty to avoid a harsher charge. They gave him 7 years, but was let out on parole after only 5, because he was a model inmate.”
“What happened to Riley?”
Barbara spoke for the first time. “We took her in at first, as long as my health allowed but we were getting older and couldn’t really care for her, so she ended up in foster care. She was there until he was out and able to get work. Once he had a job he was able to take back custody. That was only recently.”
“Why didn’t Daisy and Caden take her?”
They looked at each other. Clearly the reason was not one they wanted to express.
“I will find out eventually, telling me now will help me get to the truth faster.” Hanson jumped in encouragingly.
“Daisy wanted to but Caden wouldn’t have it. He thought we needed to accept the fact that Tommy would never be able to take her and we should help her get adopted to a family that,” Barbara paused and held back a tear, “that wanted her. Those were his words. He wanted nothing to do with Tom and having his kid would have defeated that goal. He worried that if he kept Riley then it would lead to Daisy allowing Tom to live with them once he got out. We begged him, she begged him, but he held firm.”
“How did Tom feel about that?” Hanson asked.
“Honestly, he was more understanding than we were. He accepted that the situation was his fault and didn’t blame Caden for not wanting to deal with the bad situations he had left behind. My Tommy had his share of weaknesses but blaming others for his problems was not one of them.”
“What about your death? You both died on the same day. How was that?”
Stilton spoke up, “Some might call it poetic justice, a week before our son gets out of jail for killing someone while under the influence, a drunk driver hit us straight on, killing us both.”
“Who was it?”
“I don’t even recall his name, Billy Crane, or something like that.”
Hanson was struck by this. Whether you call it poetic justice, irony, or uncanny, they all amounted to the same thing to Hanson - things he didn’t believe in, but he would have to chase that later.
“What happened tonight?”
“You saved the day, that’s what happened.”
Hanson hated compliments, they wasted time, “Thanks, what happened?”
“Tom has had a rough go since he got out almost a year ago. They gave him work through an inmate program, but that only lasted a few months, if he didn’t find more work then he’d lose Riley. Getting work as an ex convict is not easy, but two days before he would have lost her a miracle happened.” Hanson listened in closely, miracles were another thing he didn’t believe in. “That guy from Daisy’s dog charity offered him work as a carpenter. The snag was the new building was going up near Daisy’s place and being out that far violated his parole. But willing to help they listed his job as if he worked here but he actually worked on their new building near Daisy’s.”
“Where did he stay?”
“He tried commuting for a while, but it's a 2 hour commute. The worst part was the only one who would watch Riley is that nasty neighbor Alisha. She’s always on drugs and has an awful temper. Daisy would try to come watch her from time to time but much of the time she was with the crazy woman. Well anyway, he tried to make the commute work but they kept having him work later and later until in order to make it work he had to stay some nights with Daisy.”
“How did Caden feel about that?” Hanson asked.
“I don’t think she ever told him. We were often there when he stayed and Daisy would arrange for him to come late, after Caden would fall asleep, and then he’d sneak out early.”
“How would he get in? Caden had an alarm system.”
“Daisy never could figure out the alarm system, so she made him crawl through the doggie door in Caden’s office.”
“Was he there on the night of the murder?”
“No, I heard him talking to his boss, they asked him to work that night.”
“Did you see him?”
“Yes, well not at work. We saw him during the day, when he’d usually work but since he was supposed to work at night, he stayed home and went to lunch with Riley and picked her up from school and then headed to work at night, we stayed here to spend time with Riley until we heard about Caden and then we went there, arrived about 5 minutes before you did.”
“So again, what happened tonight?”
“It’s been a hard day, he was fired from Canine Hope, Daisy is torn on whether the police should know about Tom staying at her home, and if it is discovered he was there he will have violated his parole and will likely go back to prison and Riley will go back to foster care. And with all that on his mind his neighbor, the witch woman comes by and offers him some drugs. She has before but this time he accepted.
I’m worried about what tomorrow brings, he has no job and Daisy, his one trusted supporter needs support of her own. Why aren't we there?” She said turning to Stilton. He held her as she continued to cry.
Hanson had asked all the questions that he needed to ask and he only had a few hours until he was supposed to meet Trout and Caden to see Jim. As he thought of the evening he realized he had more new leads to follow than he’d ever have time for with or without sleep.
He needed to look more into Canine Hope, more into Tom, more into the drug dealing neighbor, and more into the 20 year-old that Tom killed. And each of these would have their leads. Drugs ran people into such circles and situations that their lives became surrounded by the dark and devious. This is why so many drug related cases went unsolved. Even Hanson, the best detective in enforcement, had several unsolved drug cases. Drug cases too often resembled Agatha Christie novels, a victim surrounded by lying people all with motives to kill. Hanson’s problem was, he always found himself stuck with someone like Captain Driggs not Hercule Periot. But while the web and Hanson's doubts were growing there was some clarity starting to take form.
But while he had one hundred things he wanted to do before he officially started his day, there was one thing he knew he should do right now, even if it wasn’t related to the case. Like many things he did that took the use of his official position to do, he knew he’d likely get in trouble for it, nevertheless he rarely let that stop him.
The love that the Worthlin’s showed for their children touched Hanson. The wedding vows often state, in sickness and in health and while it was often spoken, Hanson saw first hand that it was too rarely followed. The Worthlin’s extending it to their children made his decision final.
“Stilton and Barbara, I’d like to take you somewhere. He placed his hand on their shoulders and all three ported to a desolate desert landscape, outside an abandoned mine. “There is someone inside you should meet.” He ported back to his office. He had much to get done.
Here is the link to Chapter 9