Murder by Perfection(4)

By: Lauren Carr

Murphy cocked his head. “I don’t understand.”

Ross looked at him with an arched eyebrow.

“I guess I missed something,” Murphy said. “You’ve been married how many years. Three great kids.”

“Just walked my baby girl down the aisle this past autumn,” Ross said with a wide grin. “Huge wedding with even bigger bills. You didn’t know?”

“Know what?”

“Your last year at the academy.” Ross shrugged his shoulders. “I guess you were so busy trying to keep your spot at the top of the class that you didn’t pay any attention to the dramas and scandals brewing.”

“I’ve learned that the best way to stay on top is to block out drama,” Murphy said.

“I transferred out of Annapolis after your last year. My family…” Ross’s voice trailed off before he cleared his throat.

“You left Annapolis and transferred to Washington to save your marriage,” Murphy said.

“I made a conscious decision to put my family first,” Ross said. “Once I did that, everything else was easy.” He held up the bouquet. “As hard as things are now, these hard times will only make your marriage stronger when you come out together on the other side.”

“That’s what my dad keeps saying,” Murphy muttered.

“How is Captain Thornton?” Ross grinned.

“You heard about his promotion?”

“The military is like a family. Dysfunctional, but still family.” He looked down at the ribbons on Murphy’s chest. “You already got yourself a Bronze Star. But you’re not a SEAL. I’d heard the SEALS wanted you really bad—”

“I got a better offer,” Murphy said. “Right now, I’m military liaison for NCIS.”

Ross’s eyes lit up the reference to the navy’s criminal investigation unit. “Are you an investigator with them?”

“I have done some criminal investigation, yes. Why? Is there something you think we should look into?”

Ross’s good-natured attitude gave way to nervousness. He glanced around at the patrons crowded in the small takeout shop. “A friend of mine came to me about something suspicious happening at a private clinic. If it’s what I think—I just can’t believe that’d be going on here. Anyway, I called the department of health and human resources. I’m supposed to meet an investigator tomorrow.” He let out a deep breath and frowned.

The clerk behind the counter called his name. “Caldwell!”

Ross stepped toward the counter, but then turned back to Murphy. “Hey, are you still running?”

“Almost every day.”

“How about if we get together tomorrow morning to go running through the park? Seven o’clock? Bright and early when the park opens.” Ross grabbed the pizza box and jogged outside.

Murphy took out his phone to put the running appointment on his calendar. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw a bright red Nissan convertible pull up in front of the pizza place. The driver was hard to miss with her long blond hair under a red hat secured with a scarf and dark jeweled sun glasses. As it rolled to a stop in front of him, Ross looked around before bending over to talk to the driver. His expression was serious. Then, with another quick glance to make sure no one was watching, Ross climbed into the passenger seat. The blond driver sped away before Ross had time to secure his seat belt.

Murphy cocked his head. Mm, I wonder if that was his wife.

Chapter Two

 Jessica Faraday’s mind was swimming with doctors’ names, symptoms, diagnoses, and psychiatric case studies. With a heavy sigh, she shoved her laptop into its case.

“We have enough coffee left for one more cup.” With a broad grin, Carol, the study group’s host, stood in the kitchen doorway and waved the carafe.

The medical students paused in gathering their materials scattered around the living room to make jokes.

“One more cup of coffee and I’ll be swimming home,” Jessica told Carol while reaching for her laptop case. When her fingers brushed across the back of a man’s hand, she let out a shriek that drew the attention of her friends. She jerked around to find Brett Wagner holding out the case to her.