Detective Josh Carpenter sat across the table from Calvin and Audrey Connolly and the three of them tried to look inconspicuous. The only time that Josh could interview the couple together was during their lunch breaks. Audrey Connolly, of course, worked at the coroner’s office. Calvin Connolly was a high school math teacher and since the beginning of a new school year was looming, he was busy prepping. Josh had considered interviewing them separately, but decided to interview them as a couple first. He wanted to gauge how they interacted during questioning knowing what he knew. So, the meeting at the McDonald’s during the lunch rush on Monday was the best way to go. Well, not the best, but the option Josh decided was best out of the limited, not-so-great options. Thankfully, most of the folks in Munsterville that bothered to get out of their cars to come inside the fast food joint were just grabbing their lunch to-go.
“I did have a date with Starla,” Calvin Connolly said and practically flinched at the sound of the woman’s name coming out of his mouth. Next to him, Audrey Connolly sat stone-faced, a good gap of physical distance between them in the booth. “’For the night she was…was murdered.” He added quickly, emphatically, “But I cancelled it. Days before. I cancelled it.”
“Why did you cancel it?” Josh asked, making a note in his notebook. He’d already known that Calvin Connolly was the cancelled date thanks to Merry Miller’s code key. It was the why that currently eluded him. Starla James made no note of that.
“Because…” Mr. Connolly sighed heavily, “because Audrey found out about it.”
“And how long had you been seeing Miss James?” Josh asked, watching the husband squirm and the wife imitate a statue.
“Only a few months,” he said. “We’d only had sex a couple of times. Honest.”
“I see,” Josh said, making a note of the duration of the affair, but not of the number of times Mr. Connolly claimed to have had sex with the victim. That was clearly meant for his wife to hear. “And when did Mrs. Connolly find out about the affair?”
Now, Audrey Connolly did move, a slight flinch at her name and the word “affair” in the same sentence.
“Last week. Monday or Tuesday, I think. Days before I was supposed to see Starla. She found a text from her on my phone and confronted me. I cancelled my date with Starla right then.,” Mr. Connolly said, sounding sullen and remorseful. Josh wondered if it was because he’d hurt his wife by having an affair or because she found out. “That’s why we were out of town this past weekend. We were trying to work on our marriage.”
Mrs. Connolly made a little noise as if to suggest that the weekend hadn’t been all that successful.
“And when did you leave for this weekend retreat of yours?” Josh asked.
“Friday evening,” Mr. Connolly said hurriedly. He looked at his wife for confirmation of that. “Right? Right after you got off of work. You had to work late so we left late. Right?”
“Yes,” Mrs. Connolly said, sounding reluctant to speak at all. “We left Friday after I got off of work. It was around seven-thirty.”
“And you work at the coroner’s office, correct?” Josh asked.
“I work for the coroner’s administration,” Audrey Connolly corrected. “Yes. I work upstairs. I’m their public relations consultant.”
“I see,” Josh said and he made a show of flipping through his notebook as though he were looking for a piece of information that wasn’t already cued up in his head. “So, you would have been at work when Starla James was discovered and brought in for examination and autopsy.”
Audrey Connolly shifted her weight in the booth a little.
“Yes. Like I said. I work upstairs.”
“Why were you working overtime that day?”
“What does that have to do with anything?” Mrs. Connolly snapped.
Josh stared at her hard. She managed to stare back with equal intensity for a few seconds before she shifted in her seat again, nervous. That might work on her husband, but Josh was immune to it. Except from his own husband.
“Mrs. Connolly, I’m investigating a homicide,” Josh said, business-like and professional with just a touch of no-nonsense. “I would appreciate your cooperation in answering my questions. Why were you working overtime that day?”
Mrs. Connolly glanced at her husband. “I had to stay late due to a late-breaking development that needed to be addressed.”
Josh nodded at her. “From my understanding, it was due to the results of Miss James’s autopsy.”
Mr. Connolly looked at his wife with wide eyes. She never took her eyes from Josh, her look hardening.