The Cost of Betrayal(11)

By: Dee Henderson

He needed maybe sixty hours just to read the materials Ann already had been through in depth. The odds of that happening soon were not promising, but Paul thought they might be able to get a solid four hours in on it tonight. Where the next hours after that could be found was tomorrow’s problem. He’d go through the case, and somewhere during that process he would find the information he needed to make a conclusion of his own.

Paul pulled off damp socks and put on the dry ones he’d taken from his dresser drawer. “I need to see the trial transcript first, then probably the first interview with Tanya. You don’t like her.”

“I viscerally don’t, mostly because of what I’m uncovering. I think Tanya planned this for months in advance. The first step was convincing her best friend and her brother they should date, knowing eventually there’d be a fight or a breakup, something to give her cover to kill her brother, and give the cops an obvious viable suspect in Janelle. Tanya took the person who trusted her most and walked her into a guilty verdict for murder.”

Paul stopped the sock thief with the snap of his fingers. Black dropped the sock and decided to roll on it instead.

Ann smiled. “He can’t help it. Smelly socks are his favorite.”

“He ends up smelling like one too.”

“I’ll face his wrath and give him a bath this week. He’ll need one before our party anyway.”

Paul considered the dog, now upside down with four feet in the air, watching them, tail swishing, obviously hoping to hear his name and the word play. “He’ll be okay for a few days. There’s probably a rule that guys should smell like guys occasionally. At least he hasn’t tangled with a skunk this year.”

Ann laughed at the shared memory. “There is that.”

She dug out the trial transcript and handed it to him. “The fact Tanya gave Janelle the knife, it gets used in a murder, and Tanya has that knife in her possession years later—that’s nearly evidence.”

Paul appreciated the nuance of her using the word nearly—it reflected reality. For all his wife’s passion for digging through the layers toward the truth of a matter, she was still at the heart of it a cop who understood reality. What was true and what was provable were not always the same.

“Let me start reading. We can pick it up again after the party tonight.”

Their lives were a constant refrain of conversations put on hold and picked up again in the next block of time until the topic was satisfactorily covered from all angles. Paul could list a dozen such conversations he and Ann were currently having on topics of various importance and urgency. The pattern worked for them.

The party was not a distant memory, for his mother had sent home a box of the confectionaries, but the work was absorbing them both again. Ann was sitting on the office floor now, case materials piled around her—interviews and the detective’s report—methodically taking him through the record piece by piece.

Paul considered what he was reading, paused, and changed directions on the question he was going to ask. He studied his wife for a long moment. “Argue the other side for me.”

Ann gave him a slight tilt of her head, a hint of a smile, and did just that. “Janelle did it, killed her boyfriend because he broke up with her. Heat of the moment, pure tragedy, she didn’t mean to do it. ‘I was going to stab the tires of his precious sports car and walk myself home. Only he tried to take the knife away from me when I told him that, and I got knocked off-balance, fell into him, and accidentally stabbed him. I didn’t mean for him to stumble back and tumble down the stairs to the beach. I tried to grab him and stop his fall. He crashed down the stairs, and I started down after him, but then I heard voices yelling at the base of the stairs and I panicked. I ran. I rushed home and prayed it would be only a nightmare, that Andrew wouldn’t give me up to the cops as the one who stabbed him. I was certain he had help as soon as he fell. That’s why I left the beach in such a hurry. I didn’t rob him. I wouldn’t do that. Then the cops came to my apartment. . . .’”

Paul nodded as Ann drifted to a stop, not surprised she gave him her strongest theory for Janelle having done the crime. “Well argued. Knifing his car tires—that’s what an angry ex-girlfriend would do. It’s authentic. And it puts the knife in her hand without premeditation.”