Sergeant Toland was a big, tough detective of the sort Brenda had always imagined from TV and the movies. He took her into the bedroom for questioning.
“I’m trying to get the total picture, Miss Allegro. Suppose you start at the beginning, from when you left work today.”
“I stopped to do some grocery shopping and then had to hurry to catch the last bus home. It was around seven o’clock and the phone was ringing as I came in.” She recounted her two conversations with Mavis.
“You say she rang the buzzer on your door. Isn’t there a lock on the door downstairs?”
“It’s broken. Anyone could get in.”
“Was there a long-standing animosity between you and this woman?”
“I told you–she used to warn me to stay away from her husband. She wrote letters and made phone calls. But she never threatened me physically.”
“She was killed by a stab wound in the back. Did she say anything before she died?”
“Only that she was hurt. There was no one else in the hallway.”
Sergeant Toland nodded. “She could have been stabbed downstairs and lived long enough to reach your door, but we also have to consider the possibility that you might have killed her, Miss Allegro. The two of you might have fought, and you stabbed her as she was leaving.”
Brenda felt a chill of fear. “How can you say such a thing?”
“It’s my job.” He glanced at his notes. “You say she thought her husband had returned to St. Louis. Have you seen him or had any contact with him?”
“Not in nearly a year. She was crazy to think he was with me!”
“Crazy or not, she’s dead.”
Brenda stole a glance through the doorway as they carried the body away. “I had nothing to do with her death,” she stated as emphatically as she could.
Toland sighed. “All right. After we get the autopsy report I’ll want to question you again. Could you come down to headquarters tomorrow afternoon, around two?”
“I suppose so.”
“You may want to have a lawyer present.”
It was after midnight when they finally left, and she knew that sleep would be impossible. She sat at the window for a long time staring out at the deserted street, wondering if an enemy was down there watching her.
She must have been dozing. A sharp sound awakened her with a start. She kept still, trying to place the sound. It was coming from the direction of her bedroom window. Someone was forcing the window, coming in from the fire escape.
Brenda’s first reaction was to run to the telephone. She reached it, hearing the comforting sound of the dial tone in her ear.
“Put it down, Brenda,” a familiar voice from the bedroom said.
She dropped the phone and whirled around to face him, but the face she saw was not immediately familiar. The light was dim, and he had a beard now. He seemed to be wearing some sort of uniform, but this did not fully register at first. She saw only the eyes and nose of the man she’d once loved.
“Never thought I’d come back, did you?” he asked quietly.
“Certainly not tonight! Dave, the most awful thing happened right outside my–” She stopped in mid-sentence, and suddenly the true horror of it was upon her. “My God! You killed Mavis!”