Murder by Perfection(6)

By: Lauren Carr

“Don’t tell me the details,” Jessica said. “I’m tired and I want to go home to my husband—who isn’t sleeping with my study group leader’s adolescent roommate.”

“She wasn’t an adolescent.”

“Goodnight, Brett.” Jessica pressed the button to start her purple Ferrari.

“Okay, so I won’t give you the details. But can I at least get a ride? It’s late… dark, chilly… His townhouse is only a few blocks from the Rosslyn metro…” His voice trailed off.

“Hop in.” She gestured at her purple Ferrari. “How long have you and Ashleigh been together?” she dared to ask once she had maneuvered the downtown Friday night traffic to cross the Potomac River.

“A couple of years. How’s your sailor handling you being in med school?”

“Murphy’s an officer—not a sailor.” She swallowed. “We’re still adjusting to our busy schedules. He gets sent out on temporary assignments overseas fairly often. Then when he is home, I’m studying. Is that what you and Ashleigh were dealing with? A clash of schedules?”

“And the stress,” he said. “Med school is expensive and stressful. We thought we were committed enough to make it work. I guess we were wrong.” He glanced over at her profile in the dim light of the sports car. “Guess we didn’t love each other enough to make it for the long haul.”

The news of Brett’s break-up weighed on Jessica’s mind on her way to the Faraday-Thornton home in Great Falls. They’d been together two years. Longer than Murphy and I have even known each other. Granted, Brett and Ashleigh weren’t committed enough to get married, but still…

Jessica tried to lift her mood by switching radio stations to find a catchy upbeat song—a dangerous process on the tight curves of the two-lane road connecting the Capital Beltway to and the suburbs west of the Washington Metropolitan area.

As luck would have it, she found a bouncy tune just as she passed through the security gate to enter the Faraday-Thornton estate, which they had named Thorny Rose Manor.

She rolled the Ferrari into her slot of their seven-car detached garage and pressed the button to turned off the engine. The combination of mental exhaustion and her mood took their toll to make her utter a deep sigh and slump.

 She dreaded facing Murphy. Not only did she fail to go to the store, but she’d sent him to pick up two pizzas for dinner and then stood him up.

It wasn’t fear that held her back. It’d be easier if Murphy was one to lose his temper and yell at her. Then she could yell back—even though it was her fault. How do you argue with someone who doesn’t fight back? How do you fight someone who instead locks himself in the fitness room and beats up a punching bag for an hour or so? It’s not fair. That’s it. Murphy just plain doesn’t fight fair.

Nigel lit the pathway leading from the garage to the front door for her. Once she was inside, he turned them off. Their blue merle Shetland sheepdog, Spencer bounced up the stairs, yapping every step of the way, from the lower level to jump into Jessica’s arms and lick her face.

“I love you, too.” Jessica fought to put down her valise while peeling the squirming twenty-five-pound dog from her head and shoulders.

“Nigel, where’s Murphy?”

The IA’s deep throaty voice projected from the sound system’s speakers, which were strategically located throughout the house. “He is on the lower level watching a movie in the game room.”

Jessica followed the shelty down the curved stairs to the game room.

Resembling a crusty old rock mixed in with jewels, an old recliner rested among the chic furniture purchased for the new home less than a year earlier. The chair was as worn as the oversized Bassett hound occupying it. A forty-five pound canine couch potato, Newman laid in his chair—his usual spot.

This night, something was different. Instead of facing the wide screen television, he lay with his back to the screen. When Jessica entered the room, he regarded her with a steely glare and let out a breath filled with contempt.

It took a full moment for her to discover the reason for the dog’s displeasure.