Lies & Alibis Chapter One
Andrea Simmons parked her company car, a white Camry, in front of the patient’s house. After she double-checked the instructions on her iPad, she stashed it in her nursing bag.
She hit the button to pop the trunk open and climbed out. As she gathered the supplies, an older man wearing a black trench coat hurried toward a beat-up Nissan. The red finish had faded to orange, but the shiny spinners on the wheels gleamed in the morning sunlight. The man gave her a small wave as he climbed into his beater.
Despite the brisk winter air, she shed her jacket, dropped her keys in her scrub pocket, and dumped the jacket in the trunk before heading into the house. Even though she hadn’t seen Mr. Dodd before, she knew the temperature in his house would be at least eighty. Most of her older patients kept their homes hot.
Andrea passed through the landscaped backyard. A swimming pool with a waterfall at one end sat in the center of the yard. Just behind the crystalline pool, an outdoor kitchen with granite counters invited her to fire up the grill. Did the Dodds have grandchildren? If so, she hoped he could still sit out at the pool and watch them play.
She knocked on the back door and twisted the knob. Unlocked as promised. Andrea pushed it open. “Mr. Dodd? It’s Andrea Simmons, the nurse,” she called out. When she didn’t get a response, she started through the formal dining room. She continued to call to Mr. Dodd until she reached the island that separated the kitchen from the living room.
The gruesome scene before her couldn’t be real. She blinked trying to make sense of it.
Two people lay sprawled on the floor. Both of them covered with blood. Her heart hammered as hard as a snare drum at a rock concert. Fear rooted her in place for several seconds. She grabbed a pair of gloves, dropped her bags, and rushed toward the bodies. If they were still alive, they needed her help.
When she reached the nearest, the man, she leaned forward and pressed her fingertips to his carotid artery. Was this Henry Dodd? Her hands shook, so she took a couple of calming breaths.
Andrea reached out to try again. No pulse. His chest remained motionless. She gulped in a deep breath, moved to the woman, and checked her. No pulse there either.
After she swallowed the bile that rose into her throat, she removed her gloves but left them on the counter. She didn’t want to the throw them away in case the police needed them.
She backed out of the house and eased into a poolside chair before she collapsed.
Why did she go into nursing? In home health, she walked into strangers’ homes every day. Some of the situations she’d encountered had been discomfiting, but nothing like this.
She doused her hands with sanitizer and grabbed her phone, but the tremors in her fingers made it difficult to dial. After a few mistakes, she tapped in the number.
“Ector County 9-1-1. Do you need fire, police, or ambulance?”
“P –police. I found a murdered couple.” Andrea gripped the phone until her hands cramped. “I think it might be Henry and Nadine Dodd. I’m at their house. 2291 East Brighton Court.”
“Are you safe? Can you go into a locked room?” Computer keys clicked away as whatever the dispatcher typed echoed over the line. “I have the police on the way.”
“I don’t know.” She pinched the bridge of her nose between her thumb and forefinger. “I’m in the backyard.”
“Go to your car, but stay on the line with me.”
“Okay.” Andrea jogged to the gate, slid it open a fraction, and peeked out. No one was waiting to kill her, so she opened it and ran for her Camry. Once inside with the doors locked, she said, “I’m in my vehicle now.”
More tapping. “Can you tell me what happened?”
“I’m the home health nurse, and when I went in the house, they were lying on the floor covered in blood.”
“You said they were dead. How do you know?”
Andrea leaned her forehead against the steering wheel. “I checked for a pulse on both of them.”
Sirens wailed in the distance. Soon she could leave this nightmare.
A few minutes later, a man in uniform knocked on the window. “The officer has arrived, so I’m going hang up.”
“Before you do, I need your full name, address, and telephone number.”
Andrea relayed the information to the dispatcher, thumbed her phone off, and opened the door.
“I’m Officer James Dixon. Please step out of the car.”
She nodded and climbed out but leaned against the car because she didn’t trust her legs to hold her. Two officers disappeared through the back gate as Officer Dixon focused on her. She sent up a silent prayer the killer was no longer in the house. The thought of him killing one of the officers as they secured the scene made her nauseous.
Dixon had a bald spot in the center of his head and a potbelly that overlapped his belt. How did he pass his annual physical? She gave herself a mental shake. What was wrong with her? Two people were dead.
“Can you tell me what you were doing here?”
“I’m a nurse with By Your Side Home Health.” She pointed to the logo emblazoned on the side of her Camry. “Mr. Dodd was on my schedule for wound care today. He’s another nurse’s patient, and I’m just filling in for her. They leave the back door unlocked.” She took a deep breath and clasped her hands together, trying to still the shaking. “I called out, and when they didn’t answer, I went in the house. Sometimes patients don’t hear so well. When I found them, I checked their pulse to see if I could help them, but it was too late. I left my bags on the floor by the island and my dirty gloves on the counter.”
“Why leave your gloves?” The man’s eyes bored into hers and a mask of suspicion slipped over his face.
Andrea grimaced. “I watch too many true crime shows on TV and thought if I took them with me, it would be tampering with evidence.”
Officer Dixon raised his eyebrows as he jotted notes on his tablet. Probably telling the investigator to take a closer look at her.
The rest of the team descended on the house. An ambulance, a coroner’s van, several police cars, a silver Charger with no markings, and a mobile crime lab van blocked in her car. It didn’t matter. The police expected her to stay put for now. “Ms. Simmons, I’ll need you to wait until the homicide detective finishes.”
“Can I sit in the backyard by the pool?”
Dixon nodded. “Don’t leave and stay out of the house.”
and made her way back to the wicker chair where she collapsed. After a few seconds, she called her boss and let her know what had happened so she could cover the rest of Andrea’s patients for the day.
She scrubbed her hands over her face. In the two years she’d been a nurse, a patient’s husband hit on her, a dementia patient accused her of having an affair with her husband, a patient’s husband threatened to kill every nurse on the unit after his wife died, and she’d lost two cystic fibrosis patients. But she’d never seen a massacre and prayed she never would again.
Domino drove the old Nissan to west Odessa and pulled into an empty field. He wiped the makeup off his face and yanked the wig and glasses off before he changed clothing and shoes.
Once he looked respectable, he dumped the bloody garments in a plastic bag. Next, he doused the car, inside and out, with gasoline, lit a match, and let it burn. No need to take any chances.
As flames danced through the vehicle, he jogged down the dirt road until he came to a new doublewide trailer. An older, silver Accord sat in front, and the house looked empty.
He tried the car door, and it popped open. Simple. He started the vehicle, drove halfway to Crane, and turned down a dirt road. Stopping when about two miles from the highway, Domino climbed out, dumped the bag with his disguise in the grass, poured gasoline on it, then dropped a match.
Domino headed back to Odessa. If his luck held, the homeowners wouldn’t report the car missing for a few days. He needed something to drive while he surveilled Andrea Simmons.
Once he got closer to town, he pulled into a convenience store and bought a cup of coffee. Back in the car, he found the number for By Your Side Home Health. When the receptionist answered, he affected an exaggerated drawl and said, “Good afternoon. I’m Detective Richard Jameson, and I’m calling about the young lady who found the murder victims.”
“Andrea Simmons. Poor girl. I thought she was stiwith you at the patient’s house?”
“Yes, ma’am, but I need to verify her story. Can you tell me where she was before she visited Mr. Dodd?”
“Andrea was at the office until almost ten.”
“Very good. Have a nice day now, ya hear.”
He grinned as he thumbed the off button. Perfect. The schedule he’d hacked into listed Andrea as the nurse, and the gal who arrived sure resembled her, but with the thick glasses he used in his disguise, he couldn’t tell for sure.
Hacking into the home health schedule was child’s play. Domino had hacked into far tougher sites many times. In fact, in high school he’d once hacked into the DMV and issued himself a fake ID. That’s when he’d chosen the hacker name of Domino.
Back in his meticulous apartment, Domino pulled up Andrea’s profile on social media sites. She’d never had time for him when they were in school together — not in high school and not in college — but now she’d moved back to Odessa. The stuck-up witch would realize he was the one for her.
She hadn’t locked down any of her social media profiles since the last time he checked. He perused her photographs. Most of them were of her German shepherd puppies, Hansel and Gretel. She had a few of her little sister Addison and one of her with friends at Dos Amigos watching the bull rides.
He read Andrea’s posts. How sweet. The young woman raved how wonderful her little sister was. The sister was in her early teens. Maybe thirteen or fourteen. He could use her to control Andrea. At least until Andrea realized he wanted what was best for her.
Focusing back on her profile, he learned when she graduated from Angelo State two years prior, her parents gifted her a new Dodge Challenger for graduation. How had he missed that post the times he’d checked her profiles?
He’d seen her drive the red RT around town until she went to work for the home health agency. Now she drove her company car most of the time.
As he continued reading her posts, he found one on her father. A hit and run driver hit and killed the man. She’d written, Christmas won’t be the same without Dad.
He hated hurting her by putting her father in his grave, but he would rip away everything and everyone she held dear if necessary.
Women who were careless on social media made it much easier for him. Especially when they “checked-in” to the different places they frequented. Andrea and her mother were both fond of the “check-in” feature and of sharing where they were and what they were doing. In fact, last night Andrea and her mother both checked into the Casa Simmons.
As fond as Andrea and her mother were of documenting their every move, he could follow them all the time.
Domino smiled as he walked to the Accord. A quick run-by to check out Andrea’s house.
He rolled to a stop several houses away from the Simmons’ residence on Wisteria Avenue and surveyed the house for ten minutes. After looking at his watch, he decided the kid sister was still in school, so he slipped through the back gate. A quick pick of the lock, and he had the door open. No alarm. That made his life much simpler.
The puppies yipped from the kitchen, but a baby gate kept them from the rest of the house. Next time, he would silence those yaps. The infernal noise might drive him insane.
He wandered through the living room. Nothing interesting there. So he made his way to the bedrooms. The first, the mother’s room, had a king-size bed and antique dresser. Then he continued until he found Andrea’s.
The lady had her room decorated in black and pink. Very elegant, but uber feminine.
A photograph of Andrea and Addison at a theme park sat on her desk. The younger girl had auburn hair. Much darker than Andrea’s red curls.
He opened her closet. Nothing of any significance there. The more he learned about this woman, the better chance he had of terrifying her. Once he’d broken her, she would turn to him. A pang of regret filled his heart as he fingered a filigree locket hanging across the picture frame. Why couldn’t she see how much he loved her? He didn’t enjoy hurting his princess.
He plucked the locket up and opened it. It contained two pictures. One of child and a man. Andrea and her father? The other side held a wedding picture. He dropped the necklace into his pocket. How long before she missed it?
In the little sister’s room, he took her pearly pink lipstick and wrote across her mirror. I’m watching you. That would scare Andrea. He shook his head. If only she would realize how much she needed him, he wouldn’t need to play these terrifying mind games.
She drove a company car. What were his chances she’d parked her precious Challenger in the garage? He made his way to the kitchen and kicked the bawling puppies away. As he pulled open the door, he was rewarded with a shining red muscle car. Perfect. He retrieved his keys from his pocket and scraped the side of the pristine automobile. He added a few more marks to the shiny paint then checked the time.
Almost time for baby sister to return home, and he didn’t want her to find him in the garage. Not yet, anyway.