A little after seven a.m. they sat around the big dining table for breakfast, trying to figure out what happened a few hours go, only a couple of miles away. Sheriff Watkins had made it clear that they would work with the county, and were well equipped to take care of the situation.
It seemed like there was nothing out of the ordinary in the rooms of Hogan’s cabin, yet Ellie had left with the nagging feeling that they’d overlooked something. Those blood smears were haunting her. And that chair in the attic.
“We can all come up with the wildest theories,” Valerie Esposito remarked. “That doesn’t make them true. People do strange things in a traumatic situation. The chair might have been there for a long time. On the other hand, people do terrible things to one another.”
“I think he dragged her back inside. That doesn’t mean he meant to kill her…but it’s odd. If it wasn’t him…was someone else there?”
She saw Derek and Jordan exchange a look she wasn’t sure how to interpret.
“The sheriff and his deputy gave me strange looks when they said where you called from. Why is that? That bar, what did it look like?”
Another one of those looks passed between the partners, doing nothing to reassure Ellie.
“All right. Anything you aren’t telling me?”
“This is not our job,” Derek said. “It’s puzzling, yes, and it certainly messed with our vacation, but they will take care of it.”
Ellie glared at him, surprised that it did have any effect.
“Biker hangout,” he added. “Not the friendly kind either, but once they knew we were cops, they refrained to verbal BS.”
“Jesus, and you’re telling me this now?”
“We made the call, we came back here. There was nothing to tell.”
“I can’t believe you.” Ellie shook her head, then got up and served herself from the coffee pot. “Sorry, I need some caffeine. This is…I don’t even know what to say.”
“Well, we didn’t know it was that bad, and it was the only place to get to a landline. Relax,” Jordan implored. “It’s over.”
“Yeah. I guess.”
“Anyone still wants to go fishing?” Casey asked dryly.
Ellie took a deep breath and sat back down. She might have overreacted, but she was still disturbed by the image of the woman who had died on that couch, all alone—and the idea that Derek and Jordan had gone inside that place knowing it could be dangerous.
She had to admit that she could understand Jordan much better now for acting in a way she had at times found overprotective, bordering on overbearing. But things were different. She knew Jordan was a tad bored on light duty, but she didn’t have to jump at an occasion like this, did she?
“I think we’re going to drive home after lunch,” Valerie said. “It might be outside our jurisdiction, but I’m going to have a hard time relaxing, under the circumstances.”
Kate looked sad. Ellie couldn’t come up with anything to reassure her friend.
“Yeah, I know what you mean.”
* * * *
“You know I would never do anything to harm her,” Jordan said when they were on their way home, and Ellie had barely spoken in half an hour. “It was just about making that call. Driving around for a few minutes, it wasn’t bad for the baby.”
“It’s out of our hands now.”
“But?” Jordan prompted.
“I’m not sure,” Ellie admitted. “I might be getting a little paranoid. You’re the one who’s pregnant, but it seems like my emotions are all over the place, and I don’t know why. You’ve done so great.”
Jordan seemed just as startled as she was to realize she was close to tears.
“Well, the toughest part is yet to come. Besides, you’ve been great too, working a full time job and being there for me every step of the way. I’m not taking that for granted. I’ll never take you for granted.”
“I know that. I’m sorry. Wow.” Ellie took a deep breath. So much for her decision not to share any of her own fears. “That was so unexpected. If it was an accident like he said, he just lost the love of his life. If he intended it…was she in an abusive relationship, or did he trick her into coming up here somehow? No matter how you look at it, it’s a terrible story.”
“Yeah, I get you. The fact that there are so many unanswered questions doesn’t make it any easier. Damn, what a world. Makes me wonder if we should home-school our daughter and while we’re at it, never let her out until she’s thirty or so.”
Jordan cracked up laughing at Ellie’s expression.
“I guess we’ll find other ways, then.”
“I’m sure she’d prefer that.”
“Yeah. We haven’t even settled on a name yet.”
“The subject came up briefly while you were playing pool,” Jordan remembered. “We thought about this before, naming her after our moms? Meredith Pauline?”
“You’d be okay with that?”
At this moment, Ellie was certain she was experiencing sympathetic pregnancy syndrome. Whatever the reason for her being this emotional, she was glad not to be driving.
“Of course. Meredith Pauline Carpenter Harding.” Jordan chuckled. “Is she going to hate us?”
“How about we shorten it to Meri? And I won’t feel left out if it’s just Carpenter. You’re doing the hard part.”
At the next red light, Jordan took her hand, and just like that, they had a plan. Ellie could breathe a lot easier.
Some bridges have to be built…Others have to be burned.
Jordan and Ellie’s weekend getaway with friends is harshly interrupted when a desperate man asks for help after his girlfriend is hurt. He soon gives them reason to doubt his story, leaving them to question whether the woman’s death is really a tragic accident or the result of a crime. Working with the local sheriff, they try to unravel the events.
Meanwhile, Ellie and Derek team up to investigate the murder of an exotic dancer. What they uncover could have detrimental consequences for one of their own…
Jordan and Ellie get ready to welcome an addition to their family.
More about author Barbara Winkes:
Barbara Winkes writes suspense and romance with lesbian characters at the center. She has always loved stories in which women persevere and lift each other up. Expect high drama and happy endings. Women loving women always take the lead.