Clicky

Touch evil and evil touches you back

CHAPTER 1

They’d been very careful not to hit him. Not anywhere that showed. That would spoil things. He’d be pissing blood for a long while yet, but so long as he used the toilet stalls and not the urinals, nobody was likely to know.
It would be their secret.
The man sharing the secret—Newcomb—was leaning against the wall, arms folded across his chest, the pleasant smile of a man who wouldn’t be pissing blood on his face. He always stood like that. Mr Condescending. Caleb was tempted to ask him if he didn’t want to mix it up, try sitting on a chair backwards, movie cop-style, once in a while. A change being as good as a rest.
They were sharing the secret in a small, windowless room painted in a depressing institutional non-color that Caleb assumed scrubbed up well if there were any unfortunate bloodstains to be removed. He had a feeling in the dark, secret oozings of his bowels that there often were. A metal table bolted to the floor and a wooden chair were the only furniture. At least they’d moved on from the bare light bulb with mandatory circling blow fly days. A bank of too-bright fluorescent tubes lit the room, reflecting dully off the shiny baldness of Caleb’s head.
Some more secrets were spread out on the table in front of Caleb. The purpose of their get-together, their little heart-to-heart, was to determine whether those secrets were going to stay that way.
Newcomb pushed himself off the wall, walked over, picked one of the photographs up off the table. If you were forced to choose, you’d say it was the best one. Caleb would definitely agree. Seeing as it was the only one he wasn’t in.
‘Happy days, eh?’ Newcomb sounded like he was looking at Caleb’s vacation snapshots. It would’ve been a strange vacation. But then Caleb was a strange guy.
The photo showed three people—two and a half people if you want to be picky—standing together in front of an ostentatious Range Rover SUV. They were in the trash-strewn parking lot of an abandoned warehouse, stunted weeds growing through the cracked concrete. There was a man on the far left and a good-looking woman on the far right that you wouldn’t want to mess with, not if you had any sense.
They were supporting their friend, a monstrous blob of a man, sagging between them. His head was hanging down and you knew that if he lifted it, three grub-white rolls of fat would pop out on the back of his neck and over his collar. Disgusting. That wasn’t all that was disgusting about him either.
Despite his size, he was the one who only qualified as half a person. That was because most of his head was missing after a high-powered round had just turned it into a red mist. A lot of it was spattered over the woman. Now she looked like you really wouldn’t mess with her, what with the blood and bone and gray brain matter dripping from her face. Although, if you’d been close enough to get a good look, you’d have said that amongst all that gore it was her eyes that produced a sort of wilting feeling in your lower gut.
Scary.
Unless you knew her, of course. Sometimes, even then. Perhaps more so.
Newcomb said some pointless things then. Pointless seeing as they both already knew what he was saying. Maybe he just liked the sound of his own voice. Or perhaps their chat was being recorded and he needed to say it for the tape. Whatever. He pointed at the man on the left first, the one with a complete head.
‘So, we’ve got our mutual friend, Mr Evan Buckley, private investigator extraordinaire . . .’
Caleb hoped—foolishly—that Newcomb would move directly on to the other people in the photograph without having anything more to say about Buckley. He didn’t want to think about Buckley, would rather nail his head to a burning building than have anything to do with him, didn’t even want to hear his name spoken ever again. Their relationship was characterized in equal measure by mutual distrust and ill-concealed animosity. On the few occasions they’d met they’d behaved like a pair of wild dogs circling each other, each man displaying a grudging respect for the other.
The thing was, even though he’d only known Newcomb a short while, already he had the measure of the man, the way he liked to rub salt into any open wounds he came across.
Caleb promised himself that he’d take a pair of pliers to that supercilious smirk one day.
‘Evan Buckley,’ Newcomb sang out. ‘More like pain in the ass extraordinaire. And yet, still your father’s favorite.’ He leaned in, put his mouth to Caleb’s ear as if what was coming was something that wasn’t for the tape. Another secret. Just for the two of them. ‘I bet it keeps you awake at night, wondering why he prefers him to you.’
Caleb ignored him, thought about the pliers.
Newcomb hadn’t been expecting a reaction. But it was fun to push people’s buttons. He pointed at the woman in the photograph with his middle finger.
‘And the delightful Detective Kate Guillory.’
Caleb wasn’t sure what he heard in Newcomb’s voice as he said the name. It hinted at a longer acquaintance between them than Caleb was aware of, one characterized by mutual suspicion and distrust. There was a grudging respect too, a feeling of wariness as when dealing with a dangerous and unpredictable animal that has just spotted the open cage door.
‘I wouldn’t mess with her,’ Newcomb said. There was a lot of heart-felt sincerity in his voice.
Then it was time for another secret, a man-to-man one this time. Instead of leaning in to whisper in Caleb’s ear, Newcomb extended his hands in front of him at hip height like he was in a conga line, then thrust his pelvis in and out.
‘According to my sources, Buckley’s slipping it to her now. Took long enough if you ask me.’ He shook his head suddenly as if a distasteful thought had just crossed his mind. ‘Jeez, can you imagine if they had kids.’
Again, Caleb ignored him. Got a mental picture of passing the pliers across to Guillory’s eager outstretched hand, their eyes meeting. Ladies first. They were going to have a party one day. Oh yes. Might even invite Buckley along.
Then Newcomb moved on to the meat of the matter, jabbing hard at the man between Buckley and Guillory as if he wanted to push his finger through the table itself.
‘And Joseph Liverman. Pedophile. Aberration of nature. Good riddance, that’s what I say.’ He puffed out his cheeks, made a small explosive noise, fingers of his left hand expanding. ‘Whoever pulled the trigger deserves a medal if you ask me. One less deviant on the planet. I wish I’d been there to see it.’
He paused. As if expecting Caleb to say something, give him some insight that only a man who had been there could.
Caleb wasn’t that stupid. Not that it made any difference. Newcomb replaced the photograph on the table, picked up another. This one was a view of the derelict buildings at the far side of the parking lot, the direction from which the shot had come. In it, the sun had peeked through a gap in the clouds, a quick flash of sunlight reflecting off two shiny objects on the building’s roof. It was hard to be sure, but one of them looked like the lens of a rifle scope. The other was a shiny round dome immediately behind it.
Newcomb attempted a moment of intimacy. He rubbed his hand over the top of Caleb’s head like a father tousling his son’s hair, only without the hair.
‘Hard to tell what it is.’ He narrowed his eyes, squinting at the photo. ‘What do you reckon?’
Caleb said nothing. Without warning Newcomb smacked him hard across the back of the head, a resounding slap bouncing off the bare, hard walls.
‘Any ideas? No? Lucky we had it blown up then, isn’t it?’
He threw the photograph on the floor, picked up a close-up shot of the same two shiny objects. Thrust it in Caleb’s face.
‘Looks to me like a rifle scope.’ Newcomb was shouting now, flecks of warm spittle spattering Caleb’s face. ‘And a man’s bald head. Or should that be a bald man’s head?’ He slapped Caleb’s head a second time, harder. ‘I asked you a question. Don’t answer that! It’s your head. Your shiny spam head. You should’ve worn a hat, you dumb prick. Or grown some hair. Buckley’s got lots of hair, maybe he’ll let you have some of his. Your old man might like you more if he did.’
The outburst was over as fast as it had started. Newcomb took a breath, placed the photo back on the table as if nothing had happened. He was calm when he spoke again. Caleb was tempted to ask him to clarify something before they moved on—didn’t it normally require two people to play good cop, bad cop? Or good spook, bad spook, whatever he was? Was it a cost cutting exercise? Instead, he thought about the pliers. Imagined squeezing the handles so tight his knuckles went white.
Newcomb had yet another photograph in his hand by now.
‘You’re right,’ he said as if Caleb had voiced an objection. ‘It’s still difficult to be certain. Lucky we’ve got this one.’
He held it in front of Caleb’s face, not so aggressively this time. As if there’s no need for histrionics when you have conclusive proof in your hand. That calls for smugness. Newcomb obliged. In spades.
The photo showed an easily identifiable Caleb slithering backwards from his firing position on the roof, a sniper’s rifle fitted with a telescopic sight in his right hand. Newcomb put his finger on the rifle, nodded appreciatively.
‘Nice rifle. It’s a Nemesis Arms Vanquish, isn’t it? Fancy yourself as Jason Bourne, do you? That was a good movie. But you need a bit more hair. How about a toupée?’
Caleb bit down hard on his tongue, very pleased Newcomb couldn’t read his mind. Because thoughts of pliers were a thing of the distant past. He was sizing up Newcomb’s head, wondering whether his scalp with its generous covering of sandy-blond hair would be too tight a fit on his own head. It would be fun to find out.
Newcomb had a very disapproving look on his face now. It reminded Caleb of his father. If he’d been in the Jerusalem Tavern with Buckley—which is where he had been immediately before Newcomb’s men abducted him—the two of them could’ve had a long conversation about disapproving looks they’d been on the wrong end of.
‘Tell me,’ Newcomb said. ‘Didn’t your mother—sorry to hear about the Alzheimer’s by the way—ever tell you not to drop litter?’
Caleb knew what was coming. Newcomb pointed at the final photograph on the table, didn’t bother to pick it up. It showed the crumpled body of a young woman, her throat cut, sightless eyes staring at the sky above. Newcomb was shaking his head, what a terrible waste of a young life.
‘Lydia Strange, poor thing. That was her rifle, wasn’t it? But you needed it, and you’re bigger than she was, so it’s bye-bye Lydia.’ He jabbed Caleb on the shoulder with a strong, rigid finger. ‘You want to try picking on someone your own size once in a while.’
Caleb gave him a look. Name the time. That made Newcomb smile.
‘Only kidding. We know what you’re capable of. You want some coffee?’
He didn’t wait for an answer, rapped on the door with his knuckles. When it opened, he slipped out, left Caleb alone with his thoughts. It wasn’t rocket science. Part one was squared away—this is what we’ve got on you. Part two would begin when he got back with the coffees—this is what we want from you. He wasn’t away long, just long enough to get to the coffee machine and back again, no leaving him to stew for an hour or any stupid shit like that. They were both professionals with a job to do.
Newcomb carried the coffees in himself, put one down in front of Caleb. Then took up his position leaning against the wall. This time Caleb did ask him what was on his mind.
‘How are you going to cross your arms and drink your coffee at the same time?’
Newcomb laughed, genuine amusement in the sound. Still didn’t change anything. Except something was different. Caleb sensed it. Earlier, Newcomb’s smugness had seemed forced at times. Like it was an act, to get under Caleb’s skin. Same as the provocative and insensitive remarks. Now Caleb sensed an excitement radiating off him, filling the small, airless room. He’d saved his best card until last. And it was something Caleb wasn’t expecting, something far worse than he could have imagined.
For the first time, Caleb felt a hard knot in his stomach. Because Newcomb was wrong. He did know what was coming.
‘I want to skip ahead for a moment,’ Newcomb said, took a sip of his coffee. ‘You’re not stupid, you know we want something from you. Don’t worry, we’ll get to that soon enough. Before that, I want to talk about what happens if you decide to tell us to go fuck ourselves, which is a distinct possibility when you hear what we want you to do.’
Caleb took a mouthful of his own coffee, the constriction in his stomach tightening. Newcomb retrieved the photograph he’d thrown on the floor, placed it on the table with all the others. Arranged them into a nice tidy line. Adjusted them OCD-style. Dragging it out. As if that made a difference. Satisfied, he cleared his throat, launched into his pitch.
‘The police would be—’
‘How did you get them? How did you know where to go?’
Newcomb looked a little surprised at the interruption, recovered quickly.
‘We followed you. We’ve been aware of you for some time. And your father. His associates, too.’
Newcomb paused then to let his words sink in. Because he knew that Caleb had guessed what was coming.
‘So. I was saying. The police would give their eye teeth to get hold of these. The world may well be a better place after you removed that sick pervert Liverman from it. All right-minded people would call you a hero, buy you a beer. Doesn’t mean they’re going to let you walk around killing people at will. And as for poor, sweet Lydia Strange, a young girl with her whole life ahead of her . . . well, they’d very much like to get their hands on the sadistic killer who ripped out her throat.’
He stopped talking. Stood back, considered Caleb like he was a dog he couldn’t teach to beg. Gave a sorry shake of the head, that same look of disappointment on his face. Except it was disappointment at himself.
‘It’s not cutting the mustard is it? You’re not worried by my threats. You’re thinking, up yours, I’ll take my chances. Go to jail, be out again in fifteen years. I’d be thinking the same. Especially seeing as I know what we want you to do. But that’s not it, is it?’
All Caleb wanted to do was scream at him—just get to it!
‘No,’ Newcomb said. ‘That’s not it at all. You’re not worried about the police or prison. Because you’re not an idiot. You know what’s coming. And that’s something that does scare you, gets that butt-hole quivering. You know what I’ve got up my sleeve.’ He forced a laugh, silly me. ‘In my pocket, I mean.’
Caleb watched Newcomb’s hand as it disappeared inside his jacket. Like it was in slow motion. He felt the jaws of some huge vise closing around him, squeezing him until he couldn’t breathe, couldn’t think, couldn’t anything.
Then everything speeded up. Newcomb whipped his hand out again, too fast to see, slapped something down on the table top so hard the table shook. Voilà. Another photograph. Well, what a surprise, who’d have thought it? Except it wasn’t an incriminating photograph, didn’t show Caleb in the act of squeezing the trigger or slicing the blade of his knife through the flesh of Lydia Strange’s throat, or any of the other murderous acts that he’d committed in his life.
No. It was a picture of an old man. Climbing out of the back of a car, smiling. That in itself was unusual. He wasn’t one to smile often.
‘You know who that is?’ Newcomb said, like he was showing a stupid foreigner a picture of the President.
‘Uh-huh.’
‘Tell me.’
‘You already know.’
‘Tell me anyway. I need to hear you say it.’
So Caleb told him. And the room seemed smaller as a result, the hot stale air in the tight space somehow less fresh even than before as they both stared at the image of a smiling old man with his teeth filed to points.
‘Avery Pentecost.’
Newcomb nodded, exactly.
‘Good friend and associate of your own dear father, Elwood Crow.’
Caleb didn’t miss the emphasis Newcomb put on the word associate or the way his mouth turned down. As if the mention of the word brought to mind stories he had heard whispered, stories that made him wish at times that he worked in a bank or a grocery store and the worst thing he ever had to listen to was a customer complaining about excessive interest charges or a rotten peach full of maggots.
‘I’m going to tell you what I think happened,’ Newcomb said, tapping his chest with his finger and then pushing it into Caleb’s shoulder. ‘And you are going to listen without saying anything or correcting me. Because at the end of the day, it doesn’t make any difference to what you’re going to do for me. Ready?’
Caleb told him to go ahead.
‘A while back, the deviant Liverman abducted the delightful Detective Guillory and arranged for her to be executed. She escaped, but it was too late, the psychological damage was done. She became obsessed with Liverman and very probably suicidal. Along comes a knight in shining armor, aka that idiot Buckley, looking to get into her panties. You can’t blame him. He enters into a pact with the devil, aka your father Elwood Crow, and arranges through his associate Pentecost to do everyone a favor and kill Liverman. You are tasked with the assignment by Pentecost, one of many such assignments you have undertaken for him and his shadowy organization. You complete that assignment in your normal efficient manner.’
He paused for a brief moment then thrust his face into Caleb’s, screamed at him.
‘Except you got caught this time, didn’t you? Now I own you. If you don’t do what I want I’m not going to waste my time leaking these photos’—he picked up a handful of them, shoved them under Caleb’s nose—‘to the police. I’m going to mail them to Avery Pentecost. And I’m sure I don’t need to tell you what happens to people who let that monster Pentecost down. People who jeopardize his whole organization by being so dumb that they get caught on film carrying out the assignment he tasked them with. Is there anything I’ve said that isn’t absolutely clear?’
Caleb said he’d got it. Clear as a bell.
‘What do you want me to do?’
Newcomb looked at him as if it was the stupidest thing he’d heard all day. Maybe all year, his whole life.
‘What do you think, you retard?’ Then, slapping the back of Caleb’s shiny head to punctuate each word, ‘Kill Evan Buckley!’

***

They dumped him in the same place as they’d picked him up, about a hundred yards down the street from the Jerusalem Tavern. The car slowed as the guy sitting next to him pulled the hood off his head, leaned across and opened the door, shoved him out. Caleb curled himself into a ball as he hit the pavement, bounced, rolled into the gutter as the car surged away. He didn’t bother memorizing the license plate. They might as well have had a vanity plate—Spook 1—for all the good trying to trace it would do him.
He got up, dusted himself down. Thought about walking down to the Jerusalem, easing the dryness in his mouth with a cold beer or two. He dismissed the idea. He wasn’t much of a drinker. Besides, that was Buckley’s favorite watering hole. The guy virtually lived there. He might be in there now. Caleb had a lot of thinking to do before he saw Buckley again. He turned in the opposite direction and headed towards home as if the past few days had never happened.
Newcomb had given him some souvenirs of his short stay with them—copies of the incriminating photographs. It felt as if he had a couple of bricks in his pocket weighing him down, not a few pieces of glossy paper. He replayed the rest of the conversation with Newcomb in his mind as he walked.
What happens if I do what you want? Do I get the originals?
Newcomb had laughed at that.
Of course not. Man like you, we might need your help again.
He hadn’t bothered saying anything else, what was the point? But Newcomb had a few more things to say.
We’re not going to stop trying ourselves.
If we get to him first, the photos go to Pentecost.
The thought made his blood run cold. Newcomb had been right. He didn’t need telling what Pentecost’s reaction would be. The fact that Pentecost and his father, good ol’ Elwood, went back fifty years, back to the jungles of Vietnam where they’d run wild like a pair of feral dogs, wouldn’t count for jack shit. Maybe it would be quick, a passing nod to their long friendship.
And to think that he’d had Buckley in his sights after he rid the world of Liverman, the cross hairs of his scope centered between his eyes. But much as he hated the guy, he’d found that he couldn’t follow through, his finger frozen on the trigger like a raw recruit paralyzed by fear in his first firefight. It would’ve brought a shitstorm down on his head like no other if he’d killed good ol’ Elwood’s protégé.
Now his own life was at risk. And vulgar self-interest prevails over blind obedience every time.

CHAPTER 2

‘Right here,’ Evan said.
He was standing in the middle of the street, a hundred yards down from the Jerusalem. Normally they’d meet inside, but Guillory wanted to see where it had happened. She turned to look back up the street towards the bar.
‘And you were doing what at the time?’
He ignored the tone of voice for now, the implied criticism, the suggestion that he’d had his head up his ass when something important was going down.
‘I’d just received a text I had to answer. And seeing as I’m not a woman and can’t multi-task, I stopped walking to reply. Caleb was striding out like it was a race. I couldn’t keep up and text at the same time. I kept glancing up and there he was, going in and out of the streetlights. And then suddenly he wasn’t.’
‘And you heard a shot?’
He scrunched up his face, rocked his head from side to side.
‘I’m not so sure now. It might have been a car backfiring—’
‘Except you said there were no cars around.’
He shrugged, beats me.
‘But there was no blood either. And if they’d shot him, they’d just leave him lying in the street, get the hell out of there.’
‘You’re sure it was right here?’ She pointed at the next streetlight. ‘It couldn’t have been that one? Or the next one?’
‘Does it matter?’
She did the translation: We’d had a few beers, it could’ve been.
She set off towards the streetlight she’d pointed at, further away from the Jerusalem. He fell into step beside her, his face creased unhappily.
‘We’re going the wrong way.’
She stopped walking for a moment, gave him a look. One that he knew well.
‘You’re right. Let’s get a beer, forget what happened to Caleb.’
She pretended to start towards the bar. He let her go. She stopped again, did an about turn, headed away again.
‘Let me know if you need me to hold your arm,’ he said. ‘You’ll be getting dizzy.’
‘You get the beers lined up if you want. I’m going to take a look around.’
Tempting though it was, it wasn’t a genuine offer. The price to pay if he were to do as she said would be high. Besides, he wasn’t that thirsty. Not yet. He fell in beside her again.
‘You’re right. Gotta find Caleb before Crow does something drastic.’
As it turned out, she was right. About the streetlight, that is. Because right next to it an alley ran between the street they were on and the one parallel to it.
‘You’re not doing very well,’ he said.
She raised an eyebrow—I found the alley, didn’t I?
‘At keeping the told you so look off your face.’
That got him a weary headshake, something muttered under her breath that he didn’t catch.
They spent five pointless minutes walking up and down the alley. They were only going through the motions. She pointed to a spot where it looked like there might have been a scuffle, the trash that was piled up strewn across the ground. Or it could’ve been a stray dog. Or a wino. He pointed all of these things out. She nodded thoughtfully like she was listening. All they could agree on was that it was the most likely location—given that there was no other way a man could have disappeared off the street short of an alien spaceship beaming him up.
‘All streetlights look the same,’ he said as they came back out of the alley. ‘It’s not like they’re all different colors. Or numbered.’
He knew what was coming as soon as the words were out of his mouth.
‘That wouldn’t help, not if there were more than five of them.’
He let her laugh, then suggested what he figured had most likely happened.
‘They were waiting here. I reckon they stepped out in front of him and tasered him, dragged him back into the alley. It’d take about a second and a half, max.’
She nodded, you’re probably right. It was actually obvious given what had happened to him some months back. He’d taken her to dinner and the exact same thing had happened as he left the restaurant and she was in the ladies’ room. He’d been tasered as he stepped outside and bundled into the back of a car, then interrogated by Newcomb, the same man who they assumed was behind Caleb’s disappearance.
‘Caleb’s got nothing on you,’ she said as they arrived breathless at the Jerusalem after he very nearly broke into a run. ‘If you’d moved this fast when he was abducted you could’ve caught them before they got back into the alley.’
He took her arm, led her into the bar like you’d help an old lady across the road. She shook it off and they got settled into their usual seats up at the bar, the elephant squeezed in between them. Because there was something they weren’t saying. And it wasn’t because of the blistering pace he’d set preventing them from talking as they walked down the street. It was more to do with knowing that once they got started it was going to be difficult to stop. And neither of them was keen to go where it would lead.
The talk of tasers had done it. It was too much of a stretch to think that the exact same modus operandi did not imply the same people behind both abductions. The only difference was that Evan had been released and Caleb had not.
‘Looks like it’s Newcomb,’ he said as soon as the first cold beer had slipped down his throat, loosening and lubricating his vocal cords.
‘Gotta be.’
They were telling each other what they both already knew. Like a couple of old men sitting on a park bench boring each other with their reminiscences because it was better than saying nothing at all. He had his own view on that. Silence was a much-underrated commodity in his opinion. He didn’t expect her, a woman, to agree. She didn’t let it last long.
‘I suppose you’re going down to the house in Laredo.’
It came out as more of an accusation than she’d intended. That’s hard to avoid when you start a sentence with, I suppose.
‘Don’t say it like that. I haven’t got any choice.’
She held up her hands, didn’t want to get into an argument over it. It wouldn’t make any difference if she did, he’d do what he wanted anyway. She took a slow swallow of beer, stared off into the distance somewhere behind the backbar mirror, a thousand thoughts crashing through her mind, none of them good. And one that outshone the rest of them.
Don’t poke the bear.
Bears didn’t come much more bad-tempered than Newcomb and the people he represented, either.
He stared at the side of her head a long moment, not sure how the atmosphere had changed so fast, resisted the temptation to touch her. He might need that hand in the future. Tried a different tack instead.
‘You want to come?’
‘Nope.’
‘Want to think about that?’
‘Nope.’
‘Want to say anything other than nope?’
‘Nope.’
‘Fancy a quick one in the ladies’ room?’
Timed to perfection. She’d taken a mouthful of beer after the third nope. Her cheeks bulged, eyes too. Ever the lady, she kept it in. He slapped her on the back as she started to cough.
‘What’s wrong with the men’s room?’ she said when she’d recovered, gave him a gotcha smile. Or at least she showed him her teeth. They looked sharp.
He let her have that one. The conversation could only go one way if they continued.
‘Looks like I’m going on my own, then.’
The original plan had been that Caleb and Evan would go together. A number of things had recently happened that made backup—something Evan didn’t normally believe in and reckoned should properly be called babysitting—seem like a good idea. Then Caleb had disappeared.
‘Or wait until Caleb turns up,’ she said.
‘And if he doesn’t? Or he does, but not for a few weeks. Or even months.’
She wanted to argue. It was reckless to go alone. But she knew how much the prospect of what waited for him in Laredo was eating him. The not knowing is always the worst part. The mind—especially a fertile and sometimes random one like his—conjures up scenarios far worse than what it finally turns out to be. Most of the time.
She had a bad feeling that this might be one of the exceptions.
Despite that, she wasn’t going to go with him. Part of the decision was selfishness on her part. She didn’t want to go down and poke around in a house where her meddling had gotten a man killed.
That wasn’t all.
She believed he would learn things from the papers that waited for him in Laredo that would rock him to his core. Things that would make him ask questions to which there was no good answer. In time she would be there to provide comfort. But he had to find out for himself, work through it on his own. Specifically, without a person he was now emotionally involved with standing beside him, holding him back.
A sudden wave of anger surged into her throat, an uncharacteristic bitterness behind it. If he would put his damn beer down for one minute and ask her, she’d tell him to call the realtor and sell the house, call the attorney and tell him to burn the papers. But if he insisted on going down there and picking at open sores until they bled, he could damn well do it on his own.
Even though he was unaware of her toxic thoughts, she felt ashamed of them. She was spared further self-reproach by the ringing of his phone. He answered, nodded a couple times, ended the call.
‘We’ve been summoned.’

END OF EXCERPT

© JAMES HARPER