He turned back to find Walter studying him.
“So you’re Ava’s guy. I heard in class that she’d been seeing a cop.”
“Is it that obvious?”
“All over your face. You must have been worried shitless knowing she was in there.”
Mason cleared his throat. “That’s one way of putting it. Let’s get back to you. When he started shooting at the end, did he point the gun back toward the other stalls? Or was he focused solely on you?”
Walter scrunched up his face and thought. Mason sneaked a look at his watch and decided he’d offer to run Ava home after he was done with Walter Borrego. He’d seen Zander Wells stop by and chat with Ava for a moment, and he wondered what’d brought the agent into the hub. Was he just checking on Ava? Or was the Bureau involved already?
He spent ten more minutes fine-tuning Walter’s story, and the man seemed to run out of details. Mason wrapped up the interview and handed him off to an officer. He moved over to Ava’s table. “You guys about done? I can run Ava home and be back in less than an hour.”
She shot a grateful look at him, and her heavy eyelids told him she was more tired than he’d realized. Shaver cleared them to go but told Mason to hurry back.
“I just want to go to bed,” Ava whispered as they left the shop. Her steps were slow, and she leaned heavily on him as he wrapped an arm around her.
“Soon as we get home,” Mason promised. “You can crash and sleep the rest of the day away.”
And I’ll come back and help figure out who shot up the mall. And why.
Zander followed the small group of senior officers. The Washington County sheriff, Bernie North, had hand-selected a few men from each responding division to walk the scene. It was nearly eight P.M. and the mall felt empty and quiet, and the sun was well hidden behind the tall firs to the west. Nighttime was closing in rapidly. The forensic evidence collection had been turned over to the state and the teams worked silently or with low murmurs. Mason Callahan and Ray Lusco represented the Oregon State Police Department’s Major Crimes division. The police chief from Cedar Edge, one of his detectives, and three men from the Washington County Sheriff’s Office made up the rest of the group.
They’d started at the edge of the mall where the first sightings of a man with a gun had been called in. They hadn’t located video footage showing where the shooter had actually entered the mall. Yet. “Calls say the shooter aimed down the main aisle and Misty Helm was the first person hit. He was then seen moving to the aisle in front of the movie theater. He stopped and shot a woman who’d been using the mall for her morning exercise,” North stated, referring to a clipboard.
Zander had encountered mall walkers several times. The indoor malls were popular during the rainy and cold months, and most of them opened their main buildings early to let exercisers walk their daily miles. By the time the retail stores opened, the walkers were done and enjoying coffee at one of the shops. During the summer months, the outdoor malls like Rivertown were popular in the same way. He assumed it was the same routine across the nation.
“Reports say he shot multiple times but only Gabrielle Gower was hit.”
Lousy shot or lucky?
“How many camera angles are there?” asked the Cedar Edge detective.
“Lots,” North said dryly. “We have hundreds of hours of footage to look through. Even though the shooting only lasted about ten minutes, we want to look at the hours before and after. That includes the parking garage and any views from the outside. I want to see every movement of this guy starting the moment he got up this morning until he went down in that bathroom. Hell, maybe even earlier. There’s a team assigned to sift through it all.” North ran a finger along his clipboard to figure out where he had left off. He located the spot and continued. “After the first shots, people got smart and started to leave. Dick Olsen was shot moments later in front of the theater.” He pointed at a team of techs working a bloody area in front of the ticket window, and then he looked straight at Zander, knowing Olsen’s death had pulled the FBI into the case.
“Why was Olsen at the mall this early?” asked Ray.
“We don’t know yet,” said North. “He’s retired, lives alone, and we haven’t reached any family members that have an answer.” He looked at Zander again.
Zander met his gaze and gave a small shake of his head. The FBI wasn’t holding anything back on Olsen. They didn’t know why he’d been at the mall, either. Olsen’s family was scattered across the US and UK. They’d have to find a friend or neighbor who could give some insight into Olsen’s actions.
“What was Olsen wearing?” asked Mason.
North shot a questioning look at one of the Washington County investigators. “Shorts, T-shirt, tennis shoes,” answered the man.
“Possibly one of the walkers?” Mason asked. “We’ll need to ask some of the other mall walking witnesses. He might be a regular.”
Zander eyed the Major Crimes detective. He’d seen Mason leave earlier with Ava. She’d looked ready to collapse. Mason had returned with a determined glint in his eye, and Zander was glad he was part of the joint effort to find out the who and why of the shooting.
The group moved on. “Next the shooter walked down the main artery of the mall several hundred feet. Reports say he stopped and checked some of the doors of the shops and looked in the windows. Until we get the video report, we won’t know for certain if he stepped inside any stores. A few salespeople who were getting their stores ready to open said they saw him or heard him yank on their doors.”