The Cost of Betrayal(4)

By: Dee Henderson


Ann blinked twice, her face registering her surprise. Then she handed him the coffee and collapsed back, pulling one of the pillows over her face. “I just wanted an interesting collection of dresser things to paint.”

He set the mug on the side table with a smile and rubbed her arm. “It raises an interesting question. How did the sister of the dead man come to have the pink pocketknife in her possession? And why doesn’t she say anything about it while her friend is on trial for murder and they are talking about the fact they can’t locate that very pocketknife?”

Ann sighed as she lowered the pillow. “You figure out if it’s the murder weapon. I’ll figure out where that box came from—if it’s Janelle’s belongings or it’s actually Tanya’s things.”

He leaned over and kissed her. “Enjoy your puzzle.”

“You’re heading somewhere? I saw the bag by the door.”

“I sincerely hope not, but if so I’ll make it a lightning trip.”

“Take a good book for the flight.”

“I will. Go back to sleep.”

She nodded and rolled over to hug his pillow. He shut off the side table light. The dog was still snoring, resting on his back, feet in the air, guarding the bathroom door. Paul gave him a belly rub and whispered, “Take good care of her today.” Black’s tail swished back and forth. Paul collected his luggage, stopped in their shared office to pick up the pocketknife now in an evidence bag, and headed downstairs to the waiting car.

“Miss me?”

The dog darted away to bring back a mangled fuzzy bear that growled when he bit down on it hard enough. Paul set down his luggage, gave the bear a solid tug to confirm its special place as the favorite toy, and rubbed Black’s head. “Where is she?”

The dog turned his head and looked toward the office rather than the stairs to the studio. “Thanks.”

It had been a long two days. A federal judge was taking bribes to sway his rulings, and not much of a case was left that could prove it, given how tainted the investigation had become. The Chicago office would be taking over the matter from the New York office, which meant he had to figure out who he could give up for the next six weeks from among the best of his investigators. Probably Sam and Rita, as he trusted them to get it right, but it was going to mean that what they were managing now would land back on his desk.

Paul paused in the doorway of their home office. “I’d ask if you missed me, but I recognize the look that says you’re not even sure what day it is.”

His wife turned from the whiteboard, now a case board, set down the marker she held, and walked into his hug. “Welcome home,” she said with a satisfied sigh.

“You’ve been busy.”

“Don’t want to talk about it,” she mumbled against his chest. “I want spaghetti and a movie and your feet up on the coffee table beside mine.”

He rubbed her back and chuckled. “That sounds perfect. Are you fixing that meal or am I?”

“We’ll call your sister and ask for a delivery from the restaurant. You can choose the movie so long as it’s not one of the X-men ones.”

“Deal.”

They ate dinner at the kitchen counter, tabbing through the family messages and photos of the last couple of days to share updates before retreating to the living room to enjoy a movie and decompress together from what life had already tossed at them this month.

Their month would only get busier. Paul didn’t want to think about how many holiday parties were stacked on their social calendar for the next few weeks. His extended family would start arriving to town. And between Christmas and New Year’s they were hosting a gathering here that the governor was likely to attend. Ann would handle it, but every year at this time he regretted that they couldn’t make December about half as complex as it inevitably turned out to be.

He idly twisted a strand of her hair around his finger, glad for at least one evening in their week to reconnect. They still functioned best as us, and he wanted more than anything to protect that. Not for the first time he thought about retirement, mulling over his working assumption it was more than five years and less than ten years away. He could feel himself getting closer to the day when he would say more than two but less than five years.