Next morning, I headed over to the Indalia DailyNews and spent the morning there going overold issues of the newspaper. Of course, the paper hadmore than a few articles about Cindy’s death and theensuing investigation. I made copies of the stories butwas aware they might contain inaccuracies. Also Iwas sure Don hadn’t released all the facts of the caseto the reporters.
I logged on to my information agency’s Web siteand typed in requests for data I needed. Details of asuspect’s personal life frequently came in handy.
Next I called the Seabolds to set up an appointmentwith them to discuss Cindy. It wouldn’t be pleasant.Betty Seabold was still understandably emotionalabout her daughter’s death. However, I needed toknow what made Cindy tick—what her life had beenlike.
I decided to tuck my insulin pump inside my braand, instead, to wear a tape recorder on my waistbandfor the interview. The recorder was about the samesize as my pump and would go unnoticed by theSeabolds. Some people clammed up when they knewthey were being taped. I didn’t want that problemto occur with Betty and Clint.I also wanted to capture thenuances of their voices as theyanswered my questions.
The Seabolds lived in abungalow in a lower middle classsection of the city. A concretecurb bordered the small frontlawn, and some flowerbeds werescattered around the house. Thefew blooms present struggled forspace between the encroachingweeds.
Betty answered when I rangthe bell. Stringy brown hairstreaked with gray framed herhaggard face. She looked like she’d probably lost weight; her body appeared to hangloose inside her housedress.
“Miss Burton, come in.” She gestured towardthe front room. It was a clutter of dirty dishes,newspapers, and mail. “Sorry, I haven’t had time toclean up.”
“No problem,” I replied. “Please, call me Claire.”
Clint was sitting in an easy chair watchingtelevision. He pushed a button on the remote controlto turn the set off when I came into the room. He wasa hard man to read. His face had been expressionlessevery time I’d seen him. Just those cold gray eyeslooking at me. He heaved his stocky body out of thechair and offered his hand.
We shook hands; then I sat on the couch and tooka notepad and pen from my purse. I knew the notepadwould be a further diversion from the tape recorder.“Mind if I take notes while we talk?” They assured menote-taking was okay.
“Can I show you a picture of Cindy before westart?” Betty asked.
“That would be great. I was going to ask you if youhad a picture of her anyway.”
Betty went to the bookcase and picked up a silverframedeight-by-ten photograph. She handed it to me.A girl in a cheerleading outfitsmiled at me from the picture.She was slim with blond hairand hazel eyes. “Perky” wouldhave been a good word todescribe her. What a waste.Cindy had gone from being apopular girl at her high schoolto a pale corpse floating in acanal. I was determined to findher killer.
“She’s beautiful,” I said.
“Yes, she was.” Betty chokedout the words. Clint reached fora tissue from the box sitting onthe coffee table. His responsewas so automatic, I realized hemust have handed Betty lots of tissues over the pastmonths.
I waited for her to compose herself, thencontinued the interview.
“What was your life like with Cindy before youmarried Clint?”
“It was tough after Bart passed away. He died inan accident at work, so I did get some money to tideus over. Cindy and I hung in there together.” Bettysmiled, evidently thinking about the old days withher daughter. “Eventually, though, I had to get sometraining to get a decent job. I went back to school andbecame a medical office assistant. Cindy was upset atfirst that I was working and couldn’t spend as muchtime with her, but she came to understand that I hadto pull in some income.”
“Did she become a wild kid then?”
“No, she acted up a little bit, but she was in juniorhigh then, too. You know how kids that age are.”
I smiled. “Can’t say that I do personally, but I’veheard stories from my friends.”
“She settled down after a few months and seemedfine. Here’s all the records I could find about Cindy.You can see for yourself what activities she was inand what a good student she was.”
Betty pushed a basketful of papers and albumstoward me. The albums contained pictures of Cindyfrom babyhood on. There were photos of her in gradeschool, at birthday parties, Brownie troop activities,in junior high, and part of high school. Her grades forthe most part gave her a solid B average. I could seea dip in junior high, then her grades improved. Highschool was a different story. She started offwell, butsuddenly in her junior year, her grades plummeted.There was no record of a senioryear.
“What happened here?”I pointed to Cindy’s fallinggrades.
Betty sighed. “That’s theyear everything came apart.I need to backtrack a littlebit so you understand whathappened. Please let me get ussome coffee first, though. I’veforgotten my manners.” Shewent to the kitchen.
Clint and I sat in silence fora moment, then he spoke. “Ihope you can put an end to thisthing. I’m afraid Betty’s goingto have a heart attack or a stroke over it.”
“I can certainly understand. Losing a child has tobe the worst thing that can happen to a parent.”
“That’s true, all right, but let me tell you, thatCindy was a handful. She . . .” He stopped speaking asBetty entered the room. She shifted some books andset a tray with a coffeepot and the rest of the fixingson the coffee table. We each poured a cup, then Bettybegan speaking again.
“Let’s see. Where was I? Oh, yes. After Cindy gotused to me working, everything went fine for a fewyears. I even found a new romance.” She smiled atClint.
“How did you two meet?”
“He came into the doctor’s office where I workedone day. We hit it offand began dating. One thingled to another, and we got married.” She took Clint’shand.
“Is that when Cindy started acting up?”
“No, that’s the strange thing. You’d think shewould, since she had to share me with Clint, butshe didn’t right away. She was happy that I’d foundsomeone. Besides she had her own beau. That BobbySpears.” Betty sneered. “She understood what I wasfeeling. It wasn’t until about six months after Clintand I married that she seemed to unravel. I neverfigured out why.”
I looked up from my notes. “She didn’t confide inyou at all? You seemed to be a very close mother anddaughter.”
“That’s another strange thing. She always talkedto me about her problems, but I couldn’t get a wordout of her at that point. She shut me out.”
“No mention of boyfriend or school problems?Any problems with one of herfriends?”
“No, she just wouldn’ttalk to me anymore. Startedstaying away from home a lot;then went wild for awhile. Shestayed with Bobby some of thetime. He finally got fed up withher. That’s when she lived onthe street for a few months.”She shivered. “I think she gotthe message then.”
“What do you mean?”
“She found out howdangerous it could be anddecided she’d better cleanup her act. She showed up atthe house one day after Clint went to work. Said shewanted to be close to me again.”
“Did she move back in then?”
“No,” Betty shook her head. “She said she wantedto live on her own. She was looking for a job and wasplanning on sharing an apartment with some oldgirlfriends.”
I continued making notes. “I’ll need their names.”
“Of course. Anyway, we started seeing each otherseveral times a week.”
“Did you go out as a family?” I gestured to includeClint with Betty.
“Not too often. We had an occasional dinner outtogether, but Cindy said she wanted time alone withme. She didn’t want to share me with anyone elsewhen we were together.”
I raised an eyebrow. “That’s quite a change fromwhen you first married Clint, isn’t it?”
“Yes, but I figured she was trying to catch up onmother-daughter time.”
“What happened then?”
“We continued to see each other; then about thetime of our family reunion. . .” Betty’s voice beganto shake. Clint’s reflexes kicked in as he handed heranother tissue. I turned to him.
“What were you doing at that time?”
Clint shifted in his chair. “It was Betty’s family’sreunion. We decided to have a big blowout. We weregoing to meet in Parkersburg and do some thingsover there, then come over here for an afternoon ofboating on the canal.”
“Sounds like a big affair. What did you have to doto prepare?”
“We spent a few days in Parkersburg making surethe hotel rooms were adequate, and the restaurantswere all set up. Then we waitedfor all the folks to come in andhelped them get settled.”
“How many people did youhave to accommodate?”
Clint thought for a moment.“About seventy-five, I think.”
“And you were together thewhole time?”
“Uh, yes, of course. It tookthe two of us to pull all thistogether.”
Betty looked at Clint for aquick second, then teared up.“Cindy was so looking forwardto . . .” She buried her face in thetissue again.
Clint’s face softened for the first time. “What she’strying to say is Cindy was looking forward to seeingher relatives again. She wanted to be part of thereunion.”
“So she was helping you with the activities?”
Betty was under control again. “No, she had towork, but she was looking forward to taking part ineverything. That’s why we knew something wasn’tright when we didn’t hear from her right before thereunion.”
Clint nodded in agreement. “We decided to go toher apartment to see if anything was wrong.”
“Anything else you think is important for me toknow?”
Betty furrowed her brow. “I—I can’t think ofanything. I do have a question. Did you figureanything out about that paper we gave you?”
“Not yet, but I have something to check on inconnection with some of the initials. By the way, doyou have another picture of Cindy I could have?
“Sure. Just a minute.” Betty rummaged aroundin a desk drawer, then handed me a wallet-sizedcheerleader picture.
I rose to go. “You have my card. If you think ofanything else you feel is important, don’t hesitate tocall me.”
Betty saw me to the door. “Thanks so much foryour help. I feel you care.”
I gave her a quick hug. “I haven’t done anythingyet. I’ll need that list of friends Claire was stayingwith. Also, could you give me the names of some ofthe people who were at the reunion?”
“Yes, but I don’t see how they could help you.”
“Just covering all the bases. I’d appreciate it if youcould drop the names by my office tomorrow.”
Questions swirled throughmy mind as I drove home.Would Cindy’s friends knowanything important? Wouldthe boyfriend be able to helpin any way? Why did Bettylook at Clint when he saidthey’d been together at thereunion the whole time? Andwould Don be able to help mewith some of the initials onthat piece of paper?
I sighed. Lots of bits andpieces to string together, buthaving too many leads was farbetter than having none at all.
To be continued