CHAPTER 41

The gravedigger was not the man Boldt expected. Others had interviewed him the first time around, and so his slight frame, his aged gaunt face and hollow, ice-blue eyes came as a surprise. Boldt had envisioned a thick, burly man with dirt under his nails and a cold distance in his eyes. The one major requirement of the job, as it turned out, was to operate a backhoe.

Boldt stood on the far side of the observation glass, hoping that this man might connect them to whoever had buried Jane Doe. Melissa’s mention of the graveyard and Boldt’s subsequent visit to Hilltop had sparked a thought: they had been intentionally misled. It was LaMoia’s interrogation. Friday afternoon. Everyone wanted to get home.

The detective kicked his two-thousand-dollar boots up onto the Formica table and leaned his head back. ‘‘You know why you’re here?’’

‘‘More questions.’’ His voice was as thin as he was.

‘‘You’re right about that.’’ LaMoia waited a moment. ‘‘What do you think we want to ask you about?’’

‘‘That girl?’’

‘‘Which one?’’

‘‘The one I found. That Chinese girl.’’

‘‘That’s something we need to clear up,’’ LaMoia informed him. ‘‘That’s a good place to start.’’

‘‘What’s that?’’

‘‘We’re thinking it wasn’t you who found her.’’

‘‘Of course it was. I called the police. You people must have recorded-’’

‘‘Yeah, you called the police. And you played it out real well. But someone else found that body. Isn’t that right, Mr. Caldwell? Someone visiting Hilltop early that morning. An old lady maybe? An old man? This person reported it to you, and you made the call to us. I mean if you make the call, why should we look at you very hard? And of course that’s what happened.’’

Caldwell blinked rapidly, jutted out his jaw and said, ‘‘That’s not true.’’

‘‘Which part isn’t true?’’ LaMoia asked. ‘‘And I should warn you that you want to be careful here. This is an incredibly important moment for you, Mr. Caldwell. You cooperate with me, and I can see the possibility of your walking out of this building a free man. But if you try blowing smoke up my ass, you’re going to be wearing denim courtesy of the state for a few years. Got it? So I’d think my answers through if I was you, and I wouldn’t go making nothing up, on account you don’t know what I know and that puts you at a distinct disadvantage.’’

The man furrowed his brow and blinked some more.

‘‘So let’s try it again,’’ LaMoia said. ‘‘You knew that body was there all along.’’

The old man shook his head faintly. ‘‘I knew something was in there.’’

LaMoia glanced over his shoulder at the one-way glass and Boldt on the other side. It was a gesture meant to compliment Boldt on his suspicions.

‘‘Did you bury that woman?’’

‘‘No!’’ he barked sharply.

‘‘But you knew there was a body there because you’d done this before. A little side money to help with the rent. Cash, I imagine.’’ He waited. ‘‘Now is not a good time to be inventing the truth.’’

‘‘A Mexican. Big guy. Offered me five hundred bucks if I’d dig the graves the night before instead of the morning of, like I usually do.’’ Melissa’s video had showed a big guy on the bus. Mexican, maybe. LaMoia compartmentalized this.

‘‘You called him? Paged him? What?’’

‘‘No, nothing like that. I only seen him that once. The first time. After that I start digging at night. That’s all. A couple times, there’s an envelope in the tool box the next morning. That’s all.’’

‘‘How many times?’’

‘‘A couple.’’

‘‘How many?’’

‘‘Twice. That’s all.’’

‘‘A thousand bucks all together.’’

‘‘Right,’’ the old man said.

‘‘This Mexican? Can you describe him?’’

He shook his thin head again. ‘‘It was raining. Didn’t get a very good look at him. He was wearing this. .’’ the man stroked his chest, ‘‘apron, sort of thing. Rubber. Black rubber.’’

‘‘Like a fisherman?’’

‘‘I don’t know no fisherman. A big son-of-a-bitch. That’s all I re-member about him. Mean-looking, you know? Like that.’’

‘‘Who found the body?’’ LaMoia asked.

‘‘An old lady. A dingy old bird. Said someone had stolen a casket and left the body. She didn’t get it. I told her I’d handle it.’’ He looked up at LaMoia. ‘‘I called you guys ’cause I wasn’t sure what she’d do about it.’’ He added, ‘‘And maybe ’cause I wasn’t feeling so right about it anyway.’’

‘‘Don’t try to sell me the good citizen thing,’’ LaMoia cautioned. ‘‘Quit while you’re ahead.’’

‘‘I’m telling you: I wasn’t feeling right about it.’’

‘‘We want you to look at some photographs for us.’’

‘‘Mug shots?’’

‘‘Like that, yeah. You’ll do that for us?’’

‘‘Do I need me a lawyer?’’

LaMoia glanced over his shoulder again toward the glass. He hesitated a moment and said, ‘‘No. You’re gonna walk out of here today. But we’re gonna want you to stick around. And no more night graves.’’

‘‘Someplace I can take a piss?’’

‘‘Down the hall. I’ll get the photos ready.’’

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