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Fallen in more ways than one

CHAPTER 1

‘What’s wrong with me tonight?’ Kate Guillory’s voice was incredulous. She pointed at her chest, shook her head. ‘Do something useful and buy me a drink. And stop asking stupid questions.’
Evan did as he was told—he wasn’t stupid, despite what she thought—and got them both a cold beer.
‘You heard about the young woman who jumped out a window in the early hours of this morning?’
‘Uh-huh. Jessica something?’
‘Henderson.’
‘What’s it got to do with you? You’re still suspended.’
Guillory nodded, stared into her drink. She didn’t bother to elaborate.
‘Fifteenth floor. They had to scrape her off the sidewalk. Didn’t put her in a body bag. Used a body bucket instead. Then they hosed down what they’d missed, sluiced it into the gutter, went wide and cleaned up a few dog turds while they were at it and, bingo, sidewalk’s all nice and clean again.’
Evan took a sip of his drink, had the sense to not interrupt. And to think people said he’d never learned when to talk and when to listen.
‘Twenty three years old. It’s her birthday next week. Or would’ve been. Went out the window without a stitch of clothing on.’
She stared at her reflection in the mirror behind the bar, looking through herself, her eyes red-rimmed. God only knew what horrors lurked behind them.
‘Do you have any idea how much mess that makes?’
‘No.’ Short and to the point felt like it was the way to go tonight.
She snorted. ‘I suggest you keep it that way as long as you can.’
He planned to, although Guillory could have told him it’s not always your call.
‘She definitely jumped?’ he said. ‘She wasn’t pushed.’
‘Ryder thinks so.’
‘Okay.’
He kept his eyes front, aware of hers boring into the side of his head, singeing the day-old stubble on his cheek.
‘Don’t say it like that.’
He didn’t bother denying it. Not today. Ryder had been Guillory’s long-term partner until she was suspended. Evan and Ryder’s non-relationship was characterized by a mutual lack of respect. He thought Ryder was incompetent, amongst other things. He didn’t want to know what Ryder thought. And the situation wasn’t helped by the friendship that had developed between Guillory and himself. At times they both wondered where the hell that had sprung from.
‘Okay.’
‘There you go again.’
He held up his hands. ‘Tell me what happened. But you don’t have to if you don’t want to.’
She sighed, rested her elbows on the bar, her head in her hands.
‘There’s not a lot to tell. She got undressed, opened the window and jumped out. Splat. Or maybe she’d just come out the shower. Whatever. She didn’t have any clothes on when she hit the ground.’
‘Did she leave a note?’
‘No, but this isn’t the movies. Only one in five or six do.’
‘What makes Donut so sure it was suicide?’
‘Any idea what that sounds like? When a person hits the sidewalk after falling from that height?’
Evan shuddered, letting her take the conversation where she needed it to go. ‘No, but I don’t suppose it’s very nice.’
‘It isn’t. Believe me.’
She slammed her open palm onto the bar top, made a soft, squishing sort of sound with her lips. Then did it again.
He pretended he hadn’t noticed as his beer slopped onto his pants’ leg. But a couple of guys further down the bar turned to look. They caught her eye—just for the most fleeting of moments—and found something else to look at. Fast. That was what was known as a good call amongst people who liked eating their dinner with their own teeth.
There was still something that puzzled him, but he didn’t want to ask. He’d find out soon enough. Because for the life of him, he couldn’t understand how exactly she knew what it sounded like.
She turned towards him and put her arm around his shoulders, gave him a squeeze. It never ceased to surprise him, the strength in those arms.
‘Well done, Buckley, I’m proud of you.’
He shrugged, no idea what she was talking about.
She suddenly grinned, the first one since about last Tuesday. ‘I can see you’re busting a gut to ask how do I know what it sounds like?
‘Well—’
She leaned her head in closer until they were as good as cheek to cheek, her breath warm on his face, pinched her thumb and index finger together until they were almost touching. ‘Because she missed my head by about this much.’

END OF EXCERPT

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© JAMES HARPER