After Shanna’s outburst, Danny had packed the two women into his car and informed them they were going to Geni’s house to talk about the new development. Shanna argued the entire drive, saying all she wanted to do was close the case and not pursue the culprit anymore. Lex could understand not wanting to press charges against a family member, but Lex had done some research on the Burtons after the Essential for Life break-in, and in all the records she’d found on Shanna Burton, none of them mentioned a brother. Not that it meant Shanna didn’t actually have a brother, sometimes records were incorrect, but it seemed fishy somehow.
“Dadda.” Curly haired Olivia wobbled into the living room from the kitchen as the front door shut behind them.
“Hey, Pumpkin.” Danny picked her up and swung her around. “How’s my little princess?”
Geni followed Olivia, holding Brandy on one hip. “She’s been great since we got here, and Tasha said she was a sweetheart at playday. Please, sit. Can I get you anything to drink?”
“Water would be great,” The lemon and honey tea had run out, and Lex’s throat was getting dry and sore again. Danny and Shanna nodded agreement.
Geni handed Brandy to Lex then quickly took her back, “I forgot, you’re sick. Sorry, Lex.”
Shanna held her arms out. “I’ll take the pretty girl.”
Lex slumped into the lazy boy in the corner of the room. She didn’t want to contaminate anyone else with her germs. Why’d they ask her to participate in this case when they knew she was sick? No, she didn’t want to get Brandy sick, but having her cold thrown in her face over and over again was getting pretty old. She just wanted to go home and sleep forever. It didn’t help that she knew how crappy she looked while her ex-fiance was immaculate in his off duty jeans and black t-shirt. Life wasn’t fair.
Geni returned carrying a tray with a pitcher of ice water and four glasses. She asked, while she set it on the coffee table, “Why would your brother mug you, Shanna?”
Shanna busied herself with pouring water into the four glasses, handing them to everyone and then she made a big deal about drinking most of her glass. Lex watched her over the rim of her own cup through slitted eyes. Something had been off with Shanna since the alleyway when she randomly declared that it was her brother who’d mugged her. Shanna was hiding something. Something other than what had been taken in the mugging.
“I’m not sure, dear.”
Lex said, “But you said you knew why he had chrysozizan tattooed on his wrist and why he mugged you. Then you made the announcement that it had been your brother who did the mugging.”
“I know what I said, Lex Stevens,” Shanna snapped. “I just, oh detective, can’t we just walk away from this case?” She pleaded with Danny.
“Why, Shanna?” He bounced Olivia on his knee. “You asked us to help you and now you want us to quit. Why?”
“I wanted you to help me find out who mugged me, well, now I know who did that and--”
“Do you?” Lex cut in. “I find it coincidental that you suddenly realized the mugger was your own brother after Detective Wolfe mentioned the underground essential oil group.”
The color drained from Shanna’s face, but she raised her chin and said, “I don’t know what you’re talking about. I’ve never heard of such a group until Detective Wolfe mentioned it today. I just don’t think we need to waste more time on my mugging when I know who did it. It was my brother and I don’t want to press charges against him.”
“What’s your brother’s name?” Lex asked.
“Uh. Um. Er,” Shanna stuttered.
Lex raised an eyebrow at her, Geni set her cup down and shook her head, and Danny ran a hand through his hair.
“You lied to us, didn’t you, Shanna?” he said.
Danny had always been a great detective.
Shanna looked at the three unsmiling faces and burst into tears.
Lex rolled her eyes. Crying was a great female trick to get out of a situation they didn’t want to be in, or in this case, answer touchy questions. Lex had used it herself a time or two.
“I didn’t mean to lie, but I didn’t know what else to do.”
Danny said, “And telling the truth wasn’t an option?”
“It’s not just me I’m protecting here, detective,” she sniffled out. “There are people depending on my silence to survive.”
“Lex, stop it,” Geni used the “mom” voice and glared at her till Lex looked down. Lex knew she was being rude--Danny’s presence was putting her on edge and on top of that, she wasn’t Shanna Burton’s biggest fan. Geni continued, “Shanna, we want to help you, you’re our friend.” She shot Lex a sharp glance. “And no matter what, you need to be honest with us. Yes, that includes Detective Wolfe,” Geni said when Shanna looked at him with concern. “We’re all in this together.”
Shanna nodded, took a deep breath and pulled a handkerchief from her handbag and wiped her eyes and blew her nose. Lex gagged when Shanna returned the handkerchief back to her bag. Why do people keep used tissues like that? Just throw it away!
“I am part of a group called Chrysozizan--”
“You’ve known the meaning of that word all along?” Lex burst out.
Shanna twisted her fingers together and said, “Yes. I’m so sorry. I didn’t want Chrysozizan to be dragged into this and I honestly don’t know who the man was that mugged me. He isn’t part of our group. We don’t tattoo our name on our wrists, see.” She held her wrists out for inspection. “I just thought it was a coincidence, but now, I’m not so sure. You see, we did a study just within New Haven, similar to Dr. Friedmann’s, a few years ago on the effects of Vetiver on young adults, not just kids, but there was one patient who we had to expel from the study because he, well, he went crazy. There are no known side effects of Vetiver, but I’m going to say that this young man had side effects. He became obsessed with the oil, all his symptoms mirrored those of someone addicted to drugs. He became paranoid, aggressive, started hallucinating after a session, and as the study went on, he became depressed, agitated, and always needed more and more of the oil.”
Danny said, “How did you administer the oil?”
“At first we used inhalation devices at night, but when he started showing those symptoms we changed to a diffuser with an inhaler during the day. We eventually took the inhaler away and only used the diffuser. But in the end, we had to release him from the study. He was harming himself and others. We did send him to a rehab center, and paid for it for 6 months--we felt terrible for what happened to him. No other participant had effects like that, in fact, every other case was positive.”
Lex rubbed her nose then pulled out the baggie with the oil tissues and took one of the tissues out, holding it to her nose and breathing deeply. She wasn’t too surprised to find that it worked--Shanna had proven her skill in essential oil cold remedies.
Lex said, “How do you know he wasn’t taking drugs on the side?”
“Not after the screening process we put each participant through, and then the constant monitoring day and night by staff and camera. There’s no way he could have been doing drugs without someone catching him.”
“And you think this guy is the one who mugged you?” Geni said.
“It’s possible. Especially,” she sighed, “especially since the thing that was taken was a box of ten bottles of vetiver.”
Written by Linsay Ernst