4. The Old Salt House

Detective Luke McGrath gives Bailey a couple of days to get in touch with him, but when she still hasn’t returned his call after three days, he takes matters into his own hands and seeks her out.

The Wilders’ penthouse is in the Business District of San Myshuno. It’s a polar opposite of the Spice District. This side of town is all about old money, class and elegance. The air smells cleaner too.

Mrs. Gregory, the housekeeper, ushers him inside and offers him a cup of tea as soon as he sits down. Luke politely declines, it’s not a social call. He desperately wants to see Bailey and he’s a little disappointed when Mrs. Gregory informs him Bailey doesn’t live there anymore, she hasn’t for some time, she’s renting a place in the Spice District. She scribbles Bailey’s address on a floral piece of stationery and merrily sends him on his way.

Luke drives to Bailey’s new address and he’s taken aback when the GPS leads him to the Old Salt House, an old warehouse overlooking the Myshuno Bridge and the docks. Years ago, the building was home to a thriving distillery, but company politics and a little embezzlement had run the place to the ground. Now, some clever real estate mogul had turned the place into a trendy loft. Sure, the place looks decent, but this side of town is not exactly the safest, and he’s surprised the Wilders would allow their only daughter to move here.

Luke parks the car and makes his way to the front door, marveling at the brick facade and high windows. He isn’t much of an architect, but he appreciates a good, solid structure when he sees one, thanks to his father’s line of work, the old man’s passion for construction had rubbed off on him.

Luke rings the doorbell a few times, but it goes unanswered. Obviously, no one’s home, so he returns to his car and waits.

He looks at the clock on the dash. It’s just after 5pm; he can stick around and wait for Ms. Wilder or rush home for dinner and avoid Anne’s wrath. He decides to hang ten; Anne will understand it’s his job.

He’s about to call his wife to let her know he’ll be home late when a dark red sedan pulls up in front of the house. Ms. Wilder, dressed in blue scrubs and a messenger bag flung carelessly over her shoulder, slides out of the back seat. She laughs at something the driver says before she shuts the car door and turns to the house.

Luke remains seated in his car and watches her scratch through her bag, frantically searching for something. A second later her hands emerge victorious with a set of house keys and she promptly unlocks the door. The driver of the sedan speeds off as soon as she’s inside.

In a flash, Luke is at her doorstep, ringing the bell once more.

The door flies open and he finds himself staring into the bluest eyes he’s ever seen. She looks exactly like the photographs he’s seen of her. Eight years have gone by but she hasn’t aged a day, she still looks like her seventeen-year old self.

“Can I help you?” Bailey frowns at him as she pushes up her glasses absent mindedly.

“Detective McGrath,” Luke flashes his badge.

“You found me,” She says, her eyes darting about anxiously.

“You gave me no choice,” Luke smiles at her, hoping he comes across as non-threatening. He really needs to speak with her. “Can I come in?”

“Look, Detective. I’m tired. I’ve just finished a twelve-hour shift at the hospital. The last thing I want is to talk.”

“I understand, and I’m sorry to budge in on you like this. But it’s important and since your parents are out of town, I think you should hear this.” Luke presses and thanks his lucky stars when her shoulders sag in defeat. She steps aside to let him in and closes the door behind them.

“I need to change out of these; I won’t be long,” she tells him tersely before she turns towards the stairs, leaving Luke to his own devices.

The inside of her house, a stark contrast to the exterior, is beautifully decorated, reminiscent of her parents’ penthouse across town.

Luke notices little things about her, snippets of her personality scattered everywhere as he moves through the open space.

Her home office, to the left of the entrance hall, is bleak and dark, but neater than the rest of the house. Luke figures this is where she spends the least amount of time.

The dining area is a different story, it feels very much lived in. The messenger bag she’d been carrying earlier hangs haphazardly on one of the dining chairs. A glass of red wine and a half empty carton of Chinese takeout, along with the unopened mail, books, newspapers and manila folders line every inch of available space on the dining table. Luke is unfazed by the mess though, it reminds him of his work station back at the precinct. Organized chaos. That’s what he calls it.

He wanders over to the collage of photographs on the wall opposite the dining table and stares at the beaming faces. They all seem so happy, and Eva looks very much alive.

“What happened to you, sweet girl? You look so happy here,” he says to the photograph of the eldest Wilder girl.

“It was a long time ago,” Bailey says softly behind him.

He turns around, and there they are again, those blue eyes, and Luke doesn’t know what to do. For a blinding moment he’s paralyzed by the pain he sees there. He should say something, tell her how sorry he is for her loss and how he wishes he didn’t have to rip her heart out again, but he can’t formulate the words. Nothing new there. He could never express his feelings clearly. Give him a puzzle to solve, a piece of evidence to analyze, he’ll happily do it. But feelings… He never knows what to do with feelings. One of the reasons Anne thinks they need to see someone.

“I-uh-I-” he starts to say, but Bailey shakes her head, she doesn’t want or need his sympathy.

“What can I do for you?” She asks briskly, redirecting their attention elsewhere as she walks back to the living room. She waves her hand at the sofa for him, and takes a seat in the armchair closer to the fireplace.

“Ms. Wilder,” he begins as he sits down, but she cuts him off.

“It’s Dr. Wilder. But you can call me Bailey,” she corrects him, holding his gaze. Luke stares back, fascinated by the different shades of gold in her hair against the weak light streaming through the window behind her and he’s struck anew by her uncanny resemblance to Eva.

The staring contest proves a bit much for Bailey; she clears her throat and looks away, a hot flush creeping up her neck. Luke feels bad for making her uncomfortable.

“I’m sorry for making you uncomfortable,” he says meekly and focuses his attention on the medical journals on the coffee table. “It’s just that you look so much like her.”

“She’s my sister.”

“I know. Dr. Wilder-”

“Bailey.”

“Yes, of course. Bailey.” He clears his throat and gets to the heart of his visit.  “There’s a new development in your sister’s case.”

“What kind of development?” Bailey asks. Her voice is still low. Measured. But, Luke sees the subtle change in her movements as she crosses her legs, her back ramrod straight.

“We found another body,” he tells her, bracing himself for an onslaught of questions and demands.

Surprisingly Bailey doesn’t say anything. Instead, she curls herself up into a tight ball, and stares at the glowing embers in the fireplace, a faraway look in her eyes.

Luke holds his breath and waits, giving her all the time in the world to process and make sense of her new reality.

Somewhere in the backyard, a dog barks loudly, and Luke turns to the sound.

“It’s Pepper.” Bailey explains. “She’s staying with me while my folks are away.”

Luke nods, wondering what breed it is. He loves dogs. Anne too. They wanted at least two. But they’d both agreed an apartment is no place for dogs. Maybe someday when they have their own place. But for now, Anne just has to be content with Boots, their landlady’s cat.

“Was it another girl?” Bailey finally addresses the elephant in the room.

“No.” Luke tells her, happy to pick up their conversation; the silence was starting to get to him. “The victim is male. He was found in Myshuno Meadows, and the preliminary report suggests he has the same injuries as Eva.”

“You think it’s the same person?”

“We are not ruling anything out yet, but the possibility is there.”

“What does this mean? What does it mean for Eva?” Bailey cries shrilly as she shoots out of her chair and starts pacing, her lithe body taut with pent-up emotion.

“It means we are reopening the investigation into your sister’s death. I wanted to let you know, and to also prepare you. The reporters don’t know about the latest victim. But it won’t be long before they find out and make the connection to Eva.”

“What are you saying?” Bailey asks. She’s now resting in front of the window overlooking the spice market. She seems captivated with the human statue performing in the fading light.

“The next few weeks will be tough on you and your family, but I assure you, Dr. Wilder, we are doing-.” Luke doesn’t get to offer his assurances.

Bailey whips around and snaps at him, her eyes hard as rocks. “Tough on everyone? Seriously? ‘Tough’ doesn’t even begin to cover it, Detective. You have no idea. No clue what those damn vultures did to my family. For weeks we couldn’t leave the house, couldn’t turn on the TV or the radio, let alone be on the internet. Do you know at some point we were accused of being part of a satanic cult because it was the only way people could make sense of the condition Eva’s body was in when she was found?”

“I’m sorry,” Luke says and he means it, the last thing he wanted was to open her up to her grief again.

“Don’t be sorry, Detective. Find the person who did this. Give that poor man’s family closure. You couldn’t do it for mine.”

With that Bailey walks to the front door and holds it open for Luke, the interview is clearly over.

Luke wants to say something, anything to salvage the situation and restore her trust in his department. He wants to promise her the closure she so desperately wants and assure her he’ll work all the overtime in the world to catch the killer and give her the peace she needs. But he knows, unless they are backed by actions, words are meaningless…

“Good night, Dr. Wilder.” He nods at her, and as he brushes past her, he catches a whiff of lilac, or lavender maybe.  Whatever it is, it’s soft and delicate, and Luke can’t help but think how deceiving the scent is. There’s nothing soft or delicate about Bailey Wilder. The last eight years had made sure of it.