Authors: Polly Iyer
Dana had wrapped a blanket around herself to cover her nakedness. “Get out of my house.” She couldn’t believe it was her voice screaming. “Get. Out.”
“Sorry, Dana,” Mickey said. “This has nothing to do with you.”
“It has everything to do with me. You have no right to barge in here like storm troopers.”
“I’m afraid we do,” he said, waving the warrant. “A young woman has been murdered not twenty miles from here, and we have a witness that places Daughtry with her. If I were you, I’d be glad my head is still attached to my body. Hers is almost clear off.”
“Sound familiar, Daughtry?” one of the cops said, slamming the hard toe of his shoe into Reece’s ribs.
Dana couldn’t believe what she was hearing, but she knew the man on the floor being shackled like a wild dog couldn’t have done what they were saying. Not the man who had moments before touched her body, who had been inside her and loved her. She tried to calm her raging heartbeat, tried to clear her mind of the ugly thoughts of a woman’s severed head and the comment that connected Reece to the crime.
“It’s not true, Dana. Call Jeraldine De Bolt. She’s an attorney in Boston.” The cop pulled him out of the room, shirtless, barefoot, and with his pants barely fastened. “Tell her I’m in trouble,” he managed to say over his shoulder before they dragged him from the room.
“Sorry, Dana,” Mickey said. “Just doing my job.” He turned to leave, then turned back, keeping his eyes off her. “You’d better put some clothes on.”
She glanced down and saw the blanket puddled at her feet.
ana left a panicked message with Jeraldine De Bolt’s secretary. The lawyer called her back within a few minutes and listened while Dana explained what had happened. De Bolt lost it.
“Goddamn, Ms. Minette. I’ll catch the first available flight down there. I shouldn’t have any problem acting as Reece’s attorney, unless the dead woman’s the judge’s daughter.”
“I don’t know anything right now, Ms. De Bolt. Only that Reece asked for you.”
“Call me Jeraldine, honey. Ms. De Bolt is my mother. No matter that Reece’s twenty-one-year old murder case has been dropped, there’ll always be people who think he did it. From what you’ve told me, the M.O. of this murder is similar to the murder of Karen
“Tell me what to do.”
The pause on the line seemed interminable before Jeraldine asked, “How involved are you with Reece?”
Dana didn’t hesitate. “Very.”
“Okay, then. That tells me something. First, Reece has stepped back into the world of the living. I gotta tell you. I didn’t think it would happen, so you must be something special. Next, do you know if he has an alibi?”
“No. I mean, I don’t know, because I don’t know exactly when the murder happened. The police dragged him out of my house with no warning. He left here last night after eight, so I doubt he does, but I can’t be sure. I don’t know where he went after.”
“So you two were together before that?”
“You need to find out the facts so you can fill me in when I arrive. Won’t be before morning. In the meantime, I’ll have my partner see what he can find out. If there’s no evidence, and the cops are holding Reece’s history against him, that’s not a case, it’s fucking harassment.”
“Please get down here.”
“Where’s the closest airport?”
“I’m bringing my investigator. He’s been looking into the first murder on the side. But I’ll tell you one thing, Reece will not be railroaded this time. Can you meet us?”
“I’ll call you back when I know our arrival time.”
Dana disconnected and called Harris, hoping she’d find him sober. “You heard?”
“I heard. Trouble follows that man, doesn’t it?” His voice sounded steady.
“He didn’t do it, Harris.”
“You sure? It’s the same M.O. Woman’s head half off, just like the case in Boston.”
Dana’s stomach took an ugly turn. How could this be happening? “I know it looks bad, but he couldn’t kill anyone. I know him.”
“Awfully fast, isn’t it, Dana? How well can you know a man in a few weeks?”
“Well enough to know he couldn’t have done this.”
“What do you want me to do? I’m a newspaperman. This is a big story. I have to cover it the way I see fit.”
“Don’t try him in the paper. Find out what they have against him before you write anything. I’ve never asked you for anything in all the years we’ve known each other. I’m asking you now.”
“How can you say that? You blackmailed me into giving you Daughtry’s address. Seems like I should have stuck to my guns and said no.”
“That was different. Will they let me see him?”
“He said he wouldn’t talk to anyone until his lawyer arrived. Those were his words, not the sheriff’s.” Harris hesitated. “Don’t tell me you’ve fallen for this guy. There are too many unanswered questions. He could be a murderer.”
A longer hesitation. “Okay, but it seems like you’re jumping from the frying pan into the fire.
, and I’m not sure which one is worse. But I’ll see what they have. I was going to anyway. That’s what good reporters do. I just wanted to hear you beg.”
* * * * *
ana had heard people claim they hadn’t slept a wink, but supposedly that wasn’t true. It was for her. She watched the clock tick away, hour after hour, minute after minute. She pictured Reece slumped in the county jail cell, and anger built inside like steam in a pressure cooker until she couldn’t breathe. At five, she abandoned any idea of sleep, showered, dressed, and waited for the time to leave to meet Jeraldine De Bolt at nine in Asheville.
She drank her coffee in her great room, studying the unfinished fireplace wall. Reece had bordered the opening with flat rectangular stones and built around them, fitting the rocks into one another seamlessly. It reminded her of the different puzzle-like shapes she drew as a child. For her, the doodles had been mindless. Reece’s composition was art.
When she felt smothered in her own house, she went outside. The sun had already made its appearance over the mountain, bathing the valley in golden light. Birds sang their morning music, a warm breeze rustled the trees. How could life go on the same, look exactly like it did the day before, when her whole world was coming apart?
eece lay on the hard slab that passed for a bed in the Regal Falls jail. If he had closed his eyes at all, it was because they burned from keeping them open, not because he succumbed to sleep. This couldn’t be happening again. He swallowed his rage because letting it out would only hurt his case.
What case, and what witness? This time he wasn’t unconscious. He’d gone straight home from Dana’s and never left.
There were things he hadn’t gotten around to telling her. One of them was his paralyzing fear of being locked up, confined in a small space. He’d endured fifteen years in a pen, and the day he walked out of prison, he promised himself he’d never again be enclosed by four walls and bars and a locked door.
He’d constructed skylights in every room of his house so he could see the clouds and stars to know the universe existed, and all he had to do to free himself was open a door and walk through. He’d wake soaked in sweat from those nightmares where he was trapped in a dungeon for eternity like Edmond Dantès. Only, unlike the story in his dream, Reece found no escape, and each day intensified the madness until he was quite insane. Yet, here he was in real life, locked in a cell once more, terrified he’d never get out.
He thought of Dana and what she must have felt when they hauled him out of her house, half naked. She couldn’t see him this way, because then she’d see the tightrope he walked between sanity and madness. Jeraldine knew. If it weren’t for her, he’d still be inside, rotting away. Maybe he’d have been paroled when he was old and gray—he forced a smile, he was half gray now—or maybe not. He wouldn’t have given himself much of a chance. Heinous crime, that was what they said. Yes, it was. No one knew better than he did.
ana would have known Jeraldine De Bolt from Reece’s description if the woman had appeared amid the throng at La Guardia. It was a no-brainer in Asheville. Apparently, Dana must have stood out to her too.
“Hi ya, honey,” Jeraldine said, walking directly to her. “I’d know you anywhere.” She flung her big arms around Dana and pulled her to her very substantial bosom.
Flustered, Dana asked, “How?”
Jeraldine looked around. “You see the women here? If my boy Reece hadn’t picked you out of this crowd of earth mothers, then he’s in more trouble than I thought.”
Jeraldine was a big woman. Not fat, just a large-sized woman who used her stature to command the space. Her face was flat-out beautiful. Huge, brown, liquid eyes and full, brightly-glossed lips in skin the color of milk chocolate. She wore a deep purple pantsuit with a cherry-colored silk blouse that matched her lipstick. Dana felt small and plain next to her.
“This is Clarence Wright,” Jeraldine said, introducing the unassuming man next to her, “which he is, almost one hundred percent of the time. And he’s the best goddamn investigator in the Northern Hemisphere. So, now that we’re all friends, let’s get down to business.”
Clarence had a shit-eating grin on his face, along with an expression of adoration. No doubt he had the same reverence toward Jeraldine that Reece had. He offered his hand, and said, “You ain’t seen nothing yet. Pleased to meet you, Dana.”
By the time Dana turned around, Jeraldine was rattling off questions into the phone clamped to her ear. “Fuck what?…Who’s that?…I’m coming.”
She turned to Dana. “It’s Sunday, and Reece is stuck until tomorrow, at least. The judge won’t set bail until after he looks over the facts.
he sets bail.”
“What―what do you mean, if? You mean Reece could stay in jail?”
“I’ll find out, honey. Don’t get upset until we know. Believe me, I don’t want Reece in jail a second longer than right this minute, but some things take time.”
Jeraldine wasn’t telling her everything. The lawyer wrapped her arm around Dana’s shoulder, but that didn’t alleviate the sinking feeling in her stomach.
“We have a car with GPS reserved, but we’ll follow you into town, and I’ll see what’s going on. Booked a couple of rooms at a B&B in downtown Regal Falls, which I’m guessing is near the station.”
“Pine House,” Dana said. “It’s the only one, and you’re right. It’s within walking distance of the police station. So is everything else. Regal Falls isn’t very big.”
“That was what the Internet said. Lovely walking town.”
“I thought you’d stay with me,” Dana said. “I have space, a little messy at the moment, but you’re welcome.”
“I don’t want to tie you down, and we’ll be free to see what the fuck is going on here.”
“Can’t I go with you? To see Reece, I mean.”
Jeraldine flicked a glance at Clarence. “I doubt they’ll let anyone see him but his attorney. He won’t be in any mood for company even if they did.” She looked at Dana a long time. “Trust me on this, okay?”
“What are you saying?”
The way Jeraldine said those two words didn’t invite further comment.
“I need to talk to the police chief or the sheriff or anyone who can fill us in. Maybe I can talk to the DA. Clarence will find out about the crime Reece is accused of. My guess is they have shit connecting him to this murder. I’ll call you when I know something.” She waved a small notebook. “Wrote your number right here.”
Dana’s stomach felt like a vise had grabbed hold and tightened. The prosecuting attorney for the district, including Harold County, was none other than Robert Minette.
* * * * *
ana sat in her great room waiting. Two hours. Three. When she thought she couldn’t stand it another minute, the phone rang.
“Can’t get him out today,” Jeraldine said. “The judge wants to study the case. There’s another problem. Clarence is going to—where is it, Clarence? Right, Corley. That’s where the girl lived and where the murder took place. I’ll call you later. Let’s have dinner. The Pine House dining room looks good.”
“It is. What’s the problem?”
“I’ll tell you at dinner.”
“How is he? Can I see him?”
The silence on the line lasted uncomfortably long. “He’s…he’s not ready for company. Not while he’s inside.”
“Why? Why won’t he see me?”
“We’ll talk tonight, okay? Honey?”
“I know you want to go to him, but don’t. He won’t see you. Trust me on that, okay? Promise me?”
Dana didn’t want to promise, but she did.