“Are you going to read Samantha her rights?” Lincoln asked, leaning back in his chair.
Ramirez tapped the pen off the pad. “I only have a few questions, and unless Miss Franco admits to anything, I don’t see the need for that.”
Hope sparked in my chest.
“Oh, I see. You just wanted her out of the house so it could be searched,” Lincoln said. “Then, if you find something, she’s already here.”
My hope crashed and burned a fiery death.
The detective ignored that, turning his dark, tired eyes on me. I doubted they had a lot of teenage murder suspects around here. It had to be getting to him. “Before I get to some questions that I have, has there been anything that you’ve remembered or discovered since the last time we talked?”
Telling Ramirez that my friends and ex-boyfriend were asshats probably wasn’t what he was looking for. “Nothing,” I said, telling only a half lie. Anything that I’d remembered wasn’t concrete and hardly made any sense. “But I’ve been trying. I’ve gone to Cassie’s house and—”
Lincoln touched my arm. “Samantha, you don’t have to tell him that.”
I sat back and folded my arms.
Ramirez glanced at the lawyer, his nostrils flaring as if he smelled something bad. “Miss Franco, you can finish.”
“I suggest you don’t,” Lincoln said.
Confused, I glanced between the two men. “It’s not a big deal. I went to Cassie’s house once, and I even went to the lake and the cliff.” Lincoln stiffened beside me, but seriously, I hadn’t done anything wrong by going to those places. “I was hoping they’d spark some kind of memory, but they didn’t.”
“Why did you think they would?” Ramirez asked.
“My guidance counselor told me I should surround myself with familiar things, but it hasn’t been working.”
“Interesting,” he murmured. “Did you go there alone?”
I locked up. “I went to the lake by myself.”
“And that’s when you had the car accident?” When I nodded, he scribbled something down. “And the other times? Were you alone?”
The need to lie, to protect Carson, seemed irrational, but I didn’t want to bring his name up. However, Cassie’s grandfather had been there. “My friend went with me to Cassie’s house and back to the cliff.”
“And who was that?”
I chewed on my nail. “Carson Ortiz.”
He nodded, and I couldn’t figure out what that meant. “Anything else you’d like to tell me?”
I glanced at Lincoln, who looked as if he wanted to duct-tape my mouth shut. “No.”
“Okay.” Ramirez’s smile lacked warmth. “There are a couple of things I wanted to know and get your opinion on, and then once my officers get back, you’ll be free to go home, all right?”
Stomach full of nerves, I nodded.
“We got the autopsy report back from the state coroner’s office on Cassie.” He noted my shudder and continued. “The toxicology report showed that she was taking antidepressants and had phentermine in her system.”
“Phentermine?” I asked.
“Diet pills,” Lincoln explained, readjusting the button clasped over his potbelly. “Besides the fact that most teenagers don’t know that term, my client is suffering from dissociative amnesia, as you’re well aware of. I’m not sure what you’re getting at here.”
“I understand that, but I was hoping that maybe some of this rings a bell for her,” Ramirez answered, and something about his tone said he wasn’t entirely convinced about my amnesia. I was right. “I’ve been doing some checking in on this…this disorder. It appears that people can actually fake it—”
My mouth dropped open. “I’m not faking it!”
Lincoln squeezed my arm in warning. “Detective Ramirez, we agreed to come down and answer these questions, but if you’re going to make insinuations regarding Samantha’s medical condition—a condition that can be verified by several doctors—then this interview is over.”
“I wasn’t suggesting that she was faking, but that the condition can be faked,” he said. I called bull on that, but whatever. “Asking those questions can’t hurt,” he went on. “Not when we’re dealing with a girl’s murder.”
I straightened. “So she was definitely murdered? It wasn’t an accident?”
A strange look shot across the detective’s face. He leaned forward, putting on elbow on the table, pen still in his hand. “No. It wasn’t an accident. The autopsy has proved otherwise.”
The room shifted to the left, and I squeezed my eyes shut. Each breath I took hurt. Murdered. No more swaying back and forth on what could’ve happened to her. She had been murdered. “I want to know what happened.” My voice came out tiny, hoarse.
The hand around my arm spasmed. “Samantha, I’m not sure you want to know.”
I opened my eyes, and both men were staring at me. There was a part of me that was squeamish, didn’t want to know, but I pushed it down, all the way down. “I need to know.”
There was a pause. “The autopsy showed that there wasn’t any water in the lungs. She didn’t drown.”
A little bit of relief snaked through me. Drowning was horrific. “Then what happened?”
“Results showed that Cassie most likely died due to blunt force trauma to the skull.” Ramirez started tapping his pen, his gaze analytical and trained on my face. “She was dead before she ended up in that lake.”
“But she could’ve fallen, right?” I glanced at Lincoln. He looked apoplectic, red cheeks and all.
Ramirez’s pen froze. “The crime scene investigation team has been out there. There is no way someone would have cleared the hill and hit the lake below without her jumping, being pushed hard…or thrown. And it is very unlikely that she fell down the hill and somehow rolled off the cliff above the waterfall.”
“That’s what I thought.” My voice rasped. Damn. Who knew being right could suck so bad?
“Samantha,” Lincoln interjected, “I must insist that you don’t speak.”
The detective was on that like a pack of dogs on a three-legged cat. “What do you mean, that’s what you thought?”
Lincoln huffed. “Don’t answer that.”