Woman Into Wolf

Chapter Two – Cadaver Hunting

Beneath the ice of sleep, the dream world rages lush and powerful. Real life glowed faintly, inviting her from the depths, but Persey turned away. The Bird Lady, dead by the time Persey turned ten, was found only here. In the real world the past had vanished; but in dreams everything continues forever.

In the inky depths below her something shivered, transmitting a humming, like a hive. As she flew above a well she gazed down, and a Thing blinked back at her. She understood it waited to be granted form. Without shape it could never emerge.

Persey never had dreams turn sour. Was this a nightmare, then? The eyes regarded her with peculiar intensity, Digger’s very expression when he tried to plant thoughts into her mind.
The thing soared across the abyss and lapped her with its tongue. Gasping “Don’t let it out!” she opened her eyes.

It was Digger, of course, voyaging all the way to sleep to pull her out. She smiled and rubbed his black and tan head, whispering in his silky ears, “The more I know people, the better I love my Digger.”

If Digger was in the bed that meant Roy was gone, because Digger never dared ascending when the alpha male was around. A hundred dollar bill adorned Roy’s pillow. Fun money. Play money. Probably he returned to the party guaranteed to go all night long. He would help Jarod with both fallout and mop-up; emotional, legal, environmental – you name it.
She was alone in the black and white bedroom lit to brilliance by multiple skylights, a room decorated only with nude photographs of herself. This was a private place and it was bliss to be alone; to spend the day playing, entertaining any idea flitting past, without worrying what others might read on her face.

Waiting for coffee in the rose granite and green marble kitchen, Persey stared out at the silent woods and summoned her unsettled thoughts. That man was at the forefront. That man who had so satisfyingly aroused her last night, now she was angry at him. He probably thought she was a dummy. He had lectured, showing off, while she stood silent. A slow burn suffused her body.
How he had postured, describing the life of a criminal profiler! He knew nothing about her, probably cared less. He’d guessed things about her, hazarding that she couldn’t be married to a cop (that was God’s truth, anyway.) This woman who prided herself on mystery was surprised that he saw wifehood.

After all she adorned her fingers with opals only, that unlucky stone. He couldn’t know that the Bird Lady once told her that which is unlucky for other people would always be lucky for her. The stranger proclaimed aloud his terrible curse:

“Women like you are never free.”

She should have smacked him, she could see now.
Never free! She was the freest creature on the planet. He knew nothing.

Let others drudge in offices; she spent her days playing, she and Digger adventured wherever they chose. She glanced at her watch. It was still too early to call Cinda and Bish to find out how they’d survived the party. She tried to warn them but they’d begged for invites – Jarod’s gatherings being legendary – and because Roy refused to host them this was the only way Persey could return their many kindnesses. She was especially worried about Bish, a poet, an intellectual, with a high voice and a Scottish kilt. Frankly she was afraid they would eat him alive; but maybe he would like that. You never could tell.

With luck, all they would have this morning was ruined clothing and a matching pair of hangovers.
They’re adults, thought Persey, I told them I always leave early and they’d have to look after themselves. But guilt didn’t depart so easily. Maybe Roy was right and “friends” were more trouble than they were worth: “People gettin’ into our business.” But he had Jarod. He didn’t mind Jarod getting into his business; quite the reverse, since in fact, he’d recently made him partner. To Roy this was different – they had been blood-brothers since Special Forces – saved each other’s lives repeatedly to hear them tell it. And the fact that Jarod was a cop smoothed Roy and Persey’s existence in countless ways.

Thinking of Jarod was disgusting and unpleasant and she didn’t have to do it today. Today was a day marked out for adventure. Since she was decently clothed in camisole and flannel shorts she could brave the binoculars of neighbors to carry her coffee out to the cool deck where she settled in an Adirondack chair to examine the county map.

That man! The things she could have told him! He had no idea she was an orienteer in college, for example. Much of what he described – like making a grid search– she had already done or knew how to do. She unfolded the county map and tried to locate the “body dumps” he’d told her about, just off the Green Trail. Both corpses turned out to be prostitutes from Philadelphia, a good hour’s drive away. What were the odds?

She knew he was trying to scare her when he implied a serial killer might have descended on their bucolic neighborhood. There was no crime worth mentioning around here; even Jarod had a hard time scaring up enough drug dealers to constitute a full day’s work. What was that man’s name? Ned McSomething. His own bosses didn’t believe his premise that only a local would know the trails at night. Bodies dumped in plain sight might indicate others, better hidden. The smart thing to do would be to search; but the higher-ups forbade.

So he’d found a pretty girl at a party to complain to about his bosses; not uncommon, in Persey’s experience. To a man, every woman was a sounding board.

When she’d mentioned she and Digger often ventured off the Green Trail, because she preferred her dog leashless, he’d actually had the nerve to tell her to stay out of the woods.

One thing Mr. Stay-Out-of-the-Woods hadn’t bothered to find out about her was her appetite for exploration. In the course of it, she’d learned something she bet he didn’t know. Close by the Green Trail was an abandoned utility easement. She and Digger avoided it because it was partially swamp, but it was a great place for four-wheeling. The key to behavioral profiling, McSomething had said, was to think like a criminal. How hard could that be? Killers were just people determined to evade the consequences of their actions; everybody had tried that. Serial killers were the most interesting, he’d said, because they were the smartest. That made them Big Game, the most fun to catch.

Thinking like a guy with a body on his hands, Persey asked herself, who would carry a body if they didn’t have to? That easement must cross the road somewhere; but frankly she had no idea where.

From the top of Tallwood Drive she recalled seeing the pylons. There was a cliff on which the houses teetered, but she welcomed challenge. It would be fun. They were a perfect team; her innate sense of direction and Digger’s inborn affinity for dead things. God bless him, he just loved digging them up.

Draining her caffeine allowed her to fantasize about the pleasure of being proved right, summoning up Ned’s impressed face when she told him; his condescension sparking, however grudgingly, to appreciation. She was thirty- three, coming into what the Bird Lady called her “power time”, her life’s most important gifts should be emerging soon. She had wished lifelong for some kind of talent others would remark on; anything besides her looks. Good looks seemed to be the one thing everyone desired, but Persey had learned from experience what a weak prop they were on which to hang a life.

Taking her coffee upstairs, she changed to sweatshirt and jeans, Ned’s card in one pocket, cell phone in another. This one time it could be a valuable tool instead of Roy’s annoying tracking mechanism. How many cell phones had she “lost” in an effort to dodge surveillance?
She grabbed a water bottle and stopped in the garage for one of Roy’s machetes. When she opened the garage door Digger began dancing in anticipatory excitement. Truth to tell, Persey felt the same way.

Tallwood Drive was a street of McMansions with Frenchified roofs and Palladian windows. Judging by the amount of play equipment in the yards, the neighborhood appealed to parents with very young children, but there seemed to be no one home anywhere, as if a bad fairy had struck everyone invisible the moment they signed the mortgage papers. The children played elsewhere while the parents toiled. Or perhaps they were all in meetings with divorce mediators and social workers quarreling as tight money wove its anhedonic spell. In any case, it was to Persey’s benefit that the place was deserted. She parked at the end of the cul de sac.

Not even the most primitive path to the woods was visible from the street. People with houses like these expect trails to be manicured, but Persey preferred the road less taken. Wasn’t that the point of a life free from deadlines and performance reviews? She had all the time in the world for crazy things like this. Even if she found nothing, what did it matter? What Detective McKick didn’t know couldn’t puff him up with superiority. It would be just another walk for Persey where hers was the only footprint. And there would be plenty of other places left to search.
She escorted Digger boldly through one of the side yards, choosing the garage side where the developer scrimped on windows. If someone challenged her for being on private property, she could say Digger had jumped the leash. She had one in her pocket, just in case. But she must have felt some residual guilt, because she jumped at the sight of a still figure that turned out to be a tarpaulin-shrouded barbecue. On the scale of misdemeanors, walking through

someone’s side yard was nothing to feel especially guilty about. But the Bird Lady used to say that the people who have the most reason to feel guilty never do. They leave that to the rest of us.
A squirt of adrenalin was pleasurable, in fact. Was this what the killer felt as he lugged his smelly prize? Wondering whether this would provoke the final confrontation? She could feel the addiction potential. Easier to focus on that rather than the emotional impact of an actual corpse.
Truth be told, Persey was kind of squeamish about some things. She hated horror movies and preferred polishing silver while Jarod and Roy indulged in a slasher flick. Her frame of reference about death was constructed by the Bird Lady. In childhood they’d presided over so many animal funerals. The dead are part of the landscape, the Bird Lady would say, and we all benefit. Mud to mud, so to speak.

In the woods, the going got rough. Persey tried to use the machete as little as possible, but even so, her arm was getting sore. If only she had four legs, like Digger. The angle downhill was approaching ninety-degrees. Well, she had picked out the hardest path first. Once she got through this, everything else would seem easy by comparison. That made it a good place to start.
Persey told Digger, who believed everything she said, “The only way forward is through.”

When she reached the bottom of the hill, she was so exhausted she was trembling and Digger was covered with burrs. Ahead of them was the swamp, where the massive electric pylons danced in a line, buzzing faintly just like the Thing in her dream. She’d got that right, anyway. This ready-made path was something only a local would know. From this angle could see it must cross Bread and Milk Road somewhere. Even if she found nothing, she would locate the entrance and tomorrow search from the other end.

She began laboriously tracking back and forth across the swamp in a zigzag, jumping from burdock to burdock muddying her sneakers up to the ankle. As in dreams, time became meaningless. Alpha waves, the Bird Lady used to say, told you your calling. Time disappeared and you and the task became one. It was like sex, really.

No sign anyone had been through here recently, electric company personnel included; the path was overgrown. Digger was enjoying himself enormously. Fur that had once been tan and brown was now all brown. His whiskers drooped with mud. He looked more like a chocolate lab than an Airedale.

The smell alerted her. At first she thought it might be swamp stink: decaying vegetation. But as she closed in she knew exactly what it was, and her hunter’s heart sped up. At long-ago summer camp, the counselors used a decaying sheep’s head soaked in poison to attract and assassinate bugs. Called “The Big Stinky,” the smell was powerful enough to repel humans. Just thinking about

that odor could turn you inside out. But the bugs loved it, flocking joyously to their deaths.
And the bugs loved this. With the stench came motion, a whirling yellowed boil of maggots. It seemed the flesh was melting as she watched.

Persey blanched, but Digger rushed forward to join the carnival of worms. Persey barked “Stay!” and Digger halted, searching her face guiltily.
The only human part she could see was a hand, a hand so bizarrely normal, it was just like a person taking a nap under a blizzard of worms. Chipped red nail polish and one wrist encased in dangling white plastic. Around what should have been the face a seething mass of maggots reveled furiously; the mouth gagged open to reveal one gold tooth. Was this the buzzing hive that stalked Persey’s dreams?

Sudden fear knocked the wind out of her; it was easier to collapse than think such thoughts. She put her head between her legs and saw even the grass beneath her flecked with red. She panicked; fearing radiating lines of death rushing from the corpse to infect her, but looking closer she saw the red was not blood, but tiny scarlet cone-shaped mushrooms, sprung up to drink the dew. Until this moment it had been a game, a way for her to flaunt her secret expertise. Roy – and more importantly his mother, Babe – were always awaiting the pregnancy announcement. They were horrified merely by the effort of an ordinary run; imagine what they’d think of this.

She gagged back vomit, thinking of the baby she would never have. Those two blew past all her objections. She had no right to like her life just the way it was. But her secret weapon was Roy, she knew him better than his mother did. Two unhappy childhoods were enough, and he couldn’t stand competition. The baby idea was just to pacify Babe. When the fertility doctor failed to find her IUD and passed her as fertile, she’d realized the heavens sided with her; even unworthy prayers are sometimes answered.

When her stomach returned to normal she pulled out Ned’s card and tried the number marked “cell”. But of course there was no signal. There never is when you really want one.

She eyed the nearest pylon speculatively. How far could you climb one of those things before you got electrocuted? Well, she was about to find out. She could feel the humming right through the metal. Digger crouched distractedly at the base, barking. When she reached the middle crossbar she slung her arm over the support and tried the phone again. His voice said “Yeah?” on the first ring, as if resuming an interrupted conversation. It was a very bad connection.
She felt a little teen-prank thrill of superiority; she knew all about him, but he knew nothing about her.

She heard the smile in her voice as she said; “You might remember me from the party last night. We had a conversation about two corpses found on the Green Trail. You thought there might be others, deeper in the woods. Well, I found one.”
“Is this a joke? You’re who?”

She felt annoyance now. God, he was slow on the uptake. “Honestly, it’s not a joke. This is a bad connection, and it could cut out on us any minute. I’m trying to tell you, I located another body. A dead person. Obviously a victim of your serial killer. Do you know where Bread and Milk Lane is?”
“Who is this really?” His voice was skeptical, but there was still lots of raw charm in that gravelly burr. Was that what piqued her about him? That voice and that scar suggestively furrowing his neck; a scar so deep it looked as if his head, once detached, had been sewn back on.

She couldn’t conceal her exasperation. She didn’t care to be treated like a desperate housewife. “This is Persey Royall and we met last night. You gave me your card. I found a body. A dead one. I thought this was your business. Or would you rather I dialed 911?”

“No, no, no.” Had he remembered who she was? Or did she flatter herself? “You’re where, again?”

“Do you know where the electric pylons cross Bread and Milk Lane?”

“It’s probably on the utilities map. I can find it.”

“Better use an old map. It’s where I’ll be in twenty minutes. Then I’ll have to walk you in…it’s a bit of a hike.”

“I can’t believe this.” He swore.
“Believe it,” she said. She decided not to explain that she was hanging twenty feet up a humming pylon.

“Twenty minutes,” he said. “I’ll be there.”
As she climbed down she remembered how he’d complained just last night that his superiors didn’t take him seriously. Now he wasn’t treating her seriously. Digger, distressed by exclusion, began to howl.

It took longer than twenty minutes to find the road, but the going was easier and at least the terrain was relatively flat. She should have come in this way; she wouldn’t have needed the machete. Ned was nowhere to be seen, but since the pylons were visible above the trees, Persey felt certain she had the right spot.

She sat down exhausted on the grass verge and began pulling prickers out of her hair and clothes. Her head was swimming and she still felt a little sick. Of course she’d always had a fragile gut – couldn’t get her weight over 100 no matter what she ate. It didn’t take much to turn her stomach into a clenched fist.

She had never seen a dead body in her whole life, not even relatives. At this safe distance from The Thing, she questioned what she had actually seen. She better not be making a fool of herself. It had looked to her like a person, but could she really tell? Maybe she was making a fool of herself. If her vehicle had been nearby she might have tried to sneak away. Let him take it from here. Maybe he didn’t remember her name; she hadn’t given him a card. He hadn’t

inquired who her husband was. He could find her through Jarod: “platinum blonde, 95 pound female who left the party early” didn’t match anyone else that Persey knew. She stretched out on her back and felt her muscles melt to water. Hot tub would feel good after this.

Ned drove up alone in an unmarked police car. He wore a Kentucky University sweatshirt, a red ballcap and sweatpants boasting a design of oily handprints. His face was dotted gray with stubble and his eyes looked tired. She gazed up at him, bemused. There he was, the man from her fantasy, complete with curly iron-gray sheepswool hair and scarred throat. She’d been almost ready to think he couldn’t be real. Would he blush to know he had been the subject of a sexual fantasy? She would if he knew. Thank God he didn’t.

“I was at the gym,” he said. “What gives?”

She closed her eyes. That was the police for you. She knew them well, if only through Jarod. Their prime technique was to make you tell the same story over and over until you spit up on yourself.
“Hey.” Now his voice was concerned. He tried hoisting her to her feet. “Jesus,” he said, “So you’re a cadaver diver. I remember you now. You’re either the bravest person I’ve ever met or the craziest.

You look awful. What are you playing at?”

“Feel the fear and let it go. “ That’s what the Bird Lady said.

“I found your damn body. You said it was there to find. Remember how I told you I hike every day? Well, I just varied my path a little today and…there it was.” It was almost true. Why flatter him by confessing how specifically she’d tried to please him? It was never a good idea to let a man know he’s had an effect on you.

He was still looking at her like he wanted to drive her to the nearest psych ward and have her screws re-threaded. Just a stroll in the woods, huh? She knew her sweatshirt and pants were ripped, her arms scratched bloody and her hair still full of brambles. The humor of it hit her and she fell backwards and started laughing till the tears came.

Digger was jumping up against McKick, licking him and barking.
McKick looked down at her, frowning with his hands on his hips. “I recognize hysteria,” he said. “Typical reaction to a fresh kill, so I’m inclined to believe you.”

“Fresh?” She couldn’t stop laughing. “Hardly. It was way past its due date.”
He couldn’t seem to get over his aggravation. Some people just don’t want assistance.

“Sorry,” he said. “I’ve been up all night. Explain to me how the hell you did this again?”
She wiped her eyes with her sleeve. “Seems I have a gift,” she said. She stood up slowly. Stifled the final laugh.

His response was short, “Well, you’ll admit it’s a very strange thing to do.” He wasn’t like his party self at all. Was it because she was fully clothed this time and last night her nipples had been practically hanging out? She began to feel annoyed. Betrayed, even.

“You told me there were more bodies to find and no one would look so I looked!”
“I also told you to stay out of the woods, as I recall,” he said, attempting ineffectually to brush her off. Digger eyed them like a nervous umpire, ready to rule on inappropriate touching.
So he recalled their conversation! Maybe better than she did.

“I’m guess I’m just not used to having this effect on people,” he went on. “Usually nobody listens to me. My wives don’t listen to me, my kids don’t listen to me, my superiors certainly don’t listen to me.”

“You’re married?” She asked too fast and could have kicked herself.

“Divorced.” He didn’t seem to think it was a peculiar question. “Twice. Listen, it’s not you I’m angry at. I’m angry at myself. If there’s really a body there, I’m in a peck of trouble.” He couldn’t resist pulling a briar carefully from her hair. But not carefully enough. Glittery pale hairs still stuck to it. He shook it as if loath to throw this talisman away.

“It’s really there.” She blinked at him. If she decided to hallucinate something, it wouldn’t be a city of maggots. “Why would you be in trouble?”

“Let’s cross that bridge when we come to it. I’m ardently hoping you just found a deer carcass.”
She snorted. “I know what a deer carcass looks like.” She and the Bird Lady had buried them, a time or two.

“Don’t be offended if I don’t call the forensics van just yet. I’m going in. Is there any special…?”
“Follow the pylons. You’ll smell it.” She shuddered. “Take Digger.”
“I think we’ll keep the dog away from the scene,” he said. “Let him stay here with you.”
He opened the front seat passenger door. “Please don’t answer the radio or play with the controls.”
She was beyond insulted. Again she felt like smacking him. Did he think she was five? “Now why would I do anything like that?”

“I really don’t know what you would or wouldn’t do.” He went to the trunk and pulled out a scratchy army blanket. He opened a rear door for Digger, just managing to get the blanket in under the filthy paws.

“Sorry,” she apologized.

“Don’t worry,” he told her shortly. “It’s seen worse.”
She could imagine. Maybe that was the genesis of this whole thing, her
superb imagination.

It was hot in the car. Deliciously hot. She fell asleep singing the childhood ditty: “The worms crawl in, the worms crawl out…”

Nature red of tooth and claw. The Bird Lady wouldn’t have been shocked by any of it. One of the tales she’d shared with a six-year-old Persey was the story of a man who cut out his sister-in-law’s tongue so she couldn’t tell on him. Then the sister became a nightingale and flew away…
When she awoke, he was leaning in the window looking at her, machete in one hand and a can of Red Bull in the other. He was panting. She opened the door, but slowly. Because in truth he was a little scary looking, the urban legend man accosting a car. She defused the moment as best she could for both of them.

“Quite a sight, wasn’t it?”

“It was lively,” he agreed. “Maggots love injury sites. They prefer their dinner pre-chewed, just like the rest of us.” He brandished the machete. “This yours? Looks recent.”
“It is,” she told him. This crime stuff was hard. You had to think of everything! “Guess I forgot it. Sorry.”

“You can see why we really can’t have newbies crowding around. You altered a crime scene.”
She was stung. Newbies! “I found the crime scene!”
“Correction,” he said. “You found two body dumps. It’s part of the picture but only part. We need to find the crime scene and triangulate between that and the body dumps to find his lair. Where he lives. This whole area is a jeopardy surface. ”
She clamped her lips mutinously. She hated being lectured, and she loathed jargon.
He pattered blithely on, a natural pedagogue. “There’s a very old skull nearby. Totally skeletonized. I’d say it’s been there at least three years. If we’re lucky he’s beginning to repeat himself. We catch them if they start to get sloppy…” He sipped his Red Bull. “You know, this stuff isn’t bad warm. Want one?”

Yuck. She ignored him. “Maybe there are two killers?” She sat up in an effort to clear her head.
“Dare we hope?” he asked sardonically. “No. It’s the same guy. Plastic handcuff ligature creates a pattern injury. Bad news/good news. Too many corpses means he’s revisiting dumpsites. Revisiting dumpsites makes him predictable. Predictability makes him easier to catch.” He tossed the empty can and the machete on the floor of the back seat and climbed into the driver’s side.
“So where’s your car?” he asked. “Please don’t tell me you took a cab.”
This was the thanks she got? Not what she’d envisioned at all. Last night he’d as good as told her she was a useless but cute little gal and today she’d found something he couldn’t.
“But I proved you right,” she said. “Aren’t you going to call the crime guys?”

Once again he made that insulting noise in his throat, looking at her as if she suffered from a bad case of television.

“Here’s what happens if we play it your way,” he sighed. “I get suspension for shooting my mouth off about an ongoing confidential investigation to a girl I just met – which, frankly, they won’t even believe. They’ll assume we had to have been having some sort of relationship because I’ve never been that sort of idiot before. You get to see the inside of a police station because it will take you months – literally months – to convince them that you just happened to find two bodies your first crack out of the box. You may never convince them. You’ll call your husband and if he has any sense at all, he’ll get you a lawyer, the more expensive the better. The lawyer won’t believe you either and he’ll tell you not to talk. I hate to admit this about my agent-of-the-state compatriots but they like their dinner pre-chewed as well. They have a fatal weakness for a bird in hand, as opposed to say, staging a massive hunt for a bird in the bush.

That’s been the trouble all along. The fact that you won’t talk means they have to open an investigation on your life. And your husband’s life. And the lives of your family, friends, what the hell, throw in the Mexican maid and the Japanese gardener. I don’t know what I was thinking. I must have been high, and since I don’t drink, maybe I was high on beauty.”

“I don’t have a Mexican maid or a Japanese gardener,” she said, struggling with mixed emotions. Once again he’d accused her of being nothing but a trophy wife. On the other hand, he’d complimented her looks. Nice.

“Or,” he said, “We can play it my way, which unfortunately involves a little modest subterfuge, but, trust me, in the service of the greater good.”

“Don’t you dare suggest we give the guy a pass.” Persey’s anger ignited.
“Never. I say I found it. I admit it’s altering evidence, but it wouldn’t be the first time necessity mothered invention. You, once again, don’t say anything. Because they never find out about you. And because I’m me, no polygraph, no hot seat. Hopefully we find the guy because of this evidence and case closed, community protected.”

“So you want the credit for my find?”
He showed her his phone. “Or we call the lawyer now. Pick one. I’ve brushed up against the best.”
As if in sensitivity to her clamoring thoughts, he turned off the two-way. She unwound slowly in the resulting silence. Silence was her natural music.
“You don’t need to stay in touch?”
“I’m off duty,” he said. ”Worked all night. I only keep it on because I’m used to it.”

“Background music,” she agreed, understanding. Like those white noise machines the fertility therapists use. Trying to trick you into speaking your most secret thoughts…
She needed time to think. Men always pulled these stunts. How could she agree to a deal that subverted her cleverness and enterprise? On the other hand, Roy hated lawyers. What would Roy say when he found out about all this? What would his mother say?
“Is it too late to take you up on that drink offer?” she asked wearily.

“Never too late,” he joked in his gentlemanly manner. “I hate drinking alone.”
They sipped companionably for a moment. Red Bull wasn’t bad warm.
He said, “So, seen any good movies lately?” and she laughed. The unexpected pleasure of last night, when two strangers at a party had a little conversation about criminal profilers and serial killers, was mysteriously re-created. It was a little too intimate, if anything. They were steaming up the windows. What was it about this guy that made her feel so comfortable? He just seemed so at home in his skin he allowed her to feel at home in hers. Not the reaction she was used to getting from men, which was probably why Bish, who had been sprinkled with more fairy dust than testosterone, was her best male friend.

Jarod, on the other hand, made her want to evaporate the way he looked at her. Like he wanted to drag her through his teeth. And because he was Roy’s best friend Roy was all smiles. Didn’t punch him out the way he deserved.
Red Bull packed a jolt, which was what Persey needed right now. Imagine telling Roy she needed a lawyer! Just mentioning the word would trigger a diatribe. And Babe would have conniptions. It would be horrible if she ever succeeded in her quest to keep Persey between the mall and home. She chose to believe too much exercise and too little food was responsible for the empty nursery .
Persey sipped. “I accept. On one condition,” she said.
He shifted the car into drive. “And that would be?”
“Don’t leave me out. Tell me how the investigation’s going.”
He was driving now. She couldn’t stop him; impossible to prolong the
moment. Time to return to their lives.

“I guess I can do that,” he said, but he looked straight ahead. She heard
reservation in his voice. He was lying to her. According to Jarod, cops lie to witnesses all the time. They have to. They need to be the only ones who know what’s going on.
”Four bodies,” she prompted him. “They’ll have to listen to you now.”
“They will for a fact,” he agreed. “Now it becomes a tango with the Feds, and in any dance with the Feds, we have to play the girl.”

Men! She turned her head away and looked out the window. Always looking for the next hill. Making everything a contest.
“So where’d you say you left your vehicle?” he asked again.
She hadn’t said. “Top of Tallwood Drive.”
He was mysterious again, confident, a man who used words like “vehicle.” “I can find it.”
As he drove, she reflected on this new link between them. Some people say
deception is more intimate than a kiss.

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