Read The Cabin Online

Authors: Carla Neggers

Tags: #Fiction, #General, #Romance, #Adult, #Suspense, #American Light Romantic Fiction, #Fiction - Romance, #Romance: Modern, #Ex-convicts, #revenge, #Romance - Suspense, #Separated people, #Romance - General

The Cabin (6 page)

BOOK: The Cabin
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rugged image he wanted to project. He was a tall man

with neat, gray hair, a square jaw and blue eyes. He

had the broad shoulders and build that had served him

well as a college football player. He and Rachel were

married within weeks of meeting while she was in

Austin on business. She was his second wife. His first

wife, his high school sweetheart, had died of cancer

three years earlier. She was a saint, a hard act to fol-

low. No kids.

“Miss Parker,” Beau McGarrity said in his deep,

twangy accent, “if you don’t leave at once, I’ll call the

police.”

He didn’t like her coming around anymore than Jack

Galway had. “Relax, Mr. Beau, I’m not here for a little

vigilante justice. I have a proposition for you.”

“Miss Parker, there’s nothing you can offer that

would be of any interest to me whatsoever.”

Alice shrugged. She felt tiny and pale next to him,

isolated out here on his precious ranch, but not vulner-

able—not like that night when she’d found Rachel out

here in the dark. She remembered screaming like a

damn fool, crouching behind Rachel’s car, expecting a

The Cabin

47

bullet in her back, before she realized Beau needed her

alive. As Rachel’s murderer.

“Susanna Galway taped you that day you showed up

in her kitchen.”

His eyes narrowed on her, but he said nothing.

“Her daughters had one of those little digital tape

recorders, and Susanna saw it and hit the record but-

ton.” Alice was matter-of-fact. “I’m surprised you

didn’t notice.”

“This is ridiculous. You’re making this up.”

“No, sir, Mr. Beau, I am not making this up. I am tell-

ing you the flat-out truth. It’s not a regular cassette tape.

It’s a digital audiotape, about three inches by three

inches. I’ve listened to it. You know all that sympathy

you’ve been building up this past year? All these people

who’re thinking, oh, poor Mr. Beau, he’s the innocent

victim of police corruption and incompetence—well, let

them hear you threatening a Texas Ranger’s wife.”

“I didn’t threaten her.”

“You were subtle,” Alice said, “but not that subtle.”

“Get off my property. You’re trying to set me up

again. I’ve been under suspicion for months of killing

my own wife—”

“You did kill your own wife, Mr. Beau. You killed her

because you’re paranoid and crazy. Not twenty-four

hours before I found her dead out here, I told you that

if I were her, I’d smother you with a pillow while you

slept, and you killed her—”

“I’m calling the police.” He turned to go back inside.

She held up a hand, breathing hard. “No, wait. I’m

sorry. That’s all over with. Let me finish.”

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Carla Neggers

He said nothing, but he stayed put.

Alice went on. “I happened to show up at the Gal-

way house right after you left—I was hoping to catch

Ranger Jack and plead my case to him. It was just a few

hours before I was arrested, and here’s Mrs. Jack Gal-

way, all pale and scared, telling me how you’d just

walked into her kitchen and she’d taped you. I assumed

she’d give the tape to her husband, but she never did,

probably because everything was such a big mess by

then. Why drag herself into it?”

Beau straightened, recovering a bit from his shock.

“This tape. You believe Mrs. Galway still has it in her

possession?”

This was the tricky part. Alice remembered how Ra-

chel had often warned her against making things too

complicated. But she couldn’t tell Beau that Susanna

Galway had thrust the tape at her that day at her front

door—Susanna obviously had thought Alice was still on

Rachel’s murder investigation and wanted to be rid of

the damn thing. “I don’t know if it’s any good,” she’d

said, “but, please, take it.”

Alice had gone out and bought a tape recorder and

listened to the DAT herself. There was nothing on it that

would pull her own hide out of the fire, nothing a pros-

ecutor would bother with as far as Beau went. The Texas

Rangers wouldn’t like it, a murder suspect trying to get

under the skin of the wife of one of their lieutenants.

Jack Galway really wouldn’t like it. But, too bad.

She’d expected Jack to get around to asking her about

it when he’d come to arrest her, but he never did. Alice

didn’t volunteer. Let the Texas Rangers work for every

The Cabin

49

damn thing they got out of her. Her world had crashed

in on her while Beau McGarrity got away with murder,

everything.

She’d put the tape out of her mind. It was worthless.

Irrelevant.

Then, in prison, she’d started dreaming of Australia.

She still had the tape, and she was betting Beau would

want it. It wasn’t enough to nail him for murder, but it was

plenty to ruin his chances of any kind of political come-

back—provided no one realized Alice Parker, corrupt

cop, had had it all this time. If he knew that, Beau would

never pay. He wouldn’t have to. He’d just say she was back

to her old tricks, tampering with another bit of “evidence.”

She shifted away from him, looking out at the

sprawling, shaded lawn. She loved the smells. “I hap-

pen to know Susanna still has the tape. That’s why I’m

here. I can get it for you.”

“Miss Parker, you managed to get yourself thrown in

prison because of your own incompetence and your zeal

to pin my wife’s murder on me. Why should I believe

anything’s changed? Why shouldn’t I believe this is just

a ploy on your part to entrap me, frame me for some-

thing I didn’t do?”

“You can quit professing your innocence, Mr. Beau.

You already got away with murder. There’s nothing I

can do about that—I don’t even care anymore. It’s time

I looked after my own interests.” Alice shifted back to

him, squinting, noting that she wasn’t even slightly ner-

vous. “I want fifty thousand dollars to start a new life.”

He scoffed. “Do you actually think I’d pay you fifty

thousand dollars for
anything?

50

Carla Neggers

“Not just anything. For a tape of you creeping out Su-

sanna Galway in her kitchen.”

“If there’s anything on this tape that should concern

me—if it even exists—why wouldn’t Mrs. Galway have

given it to her husband by now?”

“Probably because you scared her shitless that day.

I don’t know.” Alice paused, shrugging. “Look, Beau, I

know you, and you’re going to chew on this until you

can’t stand it. The idea of that tape being out there, out

of your control, is going to drive you crazy.”

“She could have made copies.”

“Unlikely. I think she just wants to forget it exists.”

“Then why not destroy it?”

“She’s the wife of a Texas Ranger. She’s not going

to destroy potential evidence, even if she doesn’t believe

it’ll amount to anything. If she has, end of story. I only

get the money if I produce the tape and no copies of it

turn up within a reasonable period of time.”

He tilted his head back, staring down at her in that

superior way of his. At first, Rachel had said, she’d

thought it was confidence—she hadn’t seen the truth

until later. Her husband was one cold, arrogant son of

a bitch. He’d put his first wife on a pedestal after she

died, then tried to put Rachel on one, too, but she could

never measure up. She was real. His dead wife was a

mirage.

“Miss Parker—”

It used to be Officer Parker. She remembered that.

She knew everyone in town, and they’d all called her Of-

ficer Parker. “Think about it,” she said. “I’ll call you in

a few days.”

The Cabin

51

“This is extortion. Blackmail. You can’t—”

“I’ll be in touch, Mr. Beau.” She started down the

walk, breathing in the fresh smells of his yard. She’d

grown up in this country. It was home. But she could

get used to Australia. She wanted the chance. She

glanced back at Beau McGarrity, still standing on his

front steps, probably thinking about where he could

bury her out back if he decided to wring her neck. Just

as well he didn’t know she had Susanna’s tape in her

glove compartment. “Now, you aren’t going to tell the

Texas Rangers about our visit, are you?” she called back

over her shoulder.

“Get out.”

She smiled sweetly. “I didn’t think so.”

A nor’easter was blowing up the coast, promising to

dump up to a foot of snow in Boston. Susanna noticed

the first fat, wet flakes as she walked back to Gran’s from

her subway stop. With a full schedule of client meetings,

she’d avoided taking her car into the city. It had been a

good day. Helping people sort out their finances and set

up goals was one of the real pleasures of her work. It

wasn’t just about money, numbers, calculations—it was

about people and their lives. She had clients saving for

their kids’ college, a first home, a year off to volunteer

for something like Doctors Without Borders. One client

was digging herself out of debt after a cancer scare and

a deep depression that had nearly caused her to pull the

plug on her life. Now she was excited, eager to knock

off one credit card debt after another.

Susanna wasn’t as good at following her own advice.

52

Carla Neggers

She always told couples to talk about money. What did

it mean to them? What positives and negatives did they

associate with money from their childhoods? What did

they want it to do for them, individually, as a couple?

She and Jack had stopped talking about money be-

yond the absolute basics. If the bills were paid and they

had walking-around money, Jack didn’t care about the

rest. “Accumulating wealth” fell somewhere after

“watching gum surgery” on his list of things he was ex-

cited about in his life.

Some days Susanna thought he wouldn’t care that

she’d invested her money and a chunk of his money,

and, now, together, they had a net worth of ten million.

Some days she thought he’d care a lot. And wouldn’t

like it. That he especially wouldn’t like that she hadn’t

told him. Not that he’d asked. Not that he’d shown any

interest whatsoever.

In the months before she’d headed north to join Mag-

gie and Ellen, he’d talked very little about his own work.

Things hadn’t been right between them even before

Beau McGarrity had walked into her kitchen.

The wind picked up, slapping her in the face as if to

get her attention. Maggie and Ellen had been back five

days, still filled with tales of friends, vintage clothing

scores, Jane Austen, and Dad this and Dad that. Susanna

was pleased they’d enjoyed their visit home, and they’d

had the grace to say they’d missed her. She wondered

if they’d be happy about the snow.

She turned up Gran’s narrow street of mostly big,

multifamily homes built in the late nineteenth and early

twentieth century. Iris Dunning had managed to buy

The Cabin

53

one of the few single-family houses on the street, an

1896 two-story stucco with a glassed-in front porch, an

open back porch and a detached one-car garage, not that

common in crowded Somerville. She’d planted flower-

ing trees and perennial gardens, battling skunks, cats,

raccoons and the occasional neighborhood miscreant.

Susanna kicked off her boots in the front hall and

found her daughters doing their homework in the din-

ing room. Gran was already off to Jim’s Place for clam

chowder. She never missed chowder night.

“Dad called,” Maggie said. She was wrapped in a

1950s shawl she’d found in Gran’s attic and had on fin-

gerless Bob Cratchit gloves. Drama, Susanna thought.

Gran liked to keep the house cool, but not that cool. “He

wants you to call him back. He said to call him on his

cell phone.”

Ellen looked up from her laptop. “We told him about

the snow. Mom, can you believe less than a week ago

we were in south Texas and now it’s
snowing?
I hope

they cancel school.”

Susanna smiled. “Be careful what you wish for.

Gran’ll put you to work shoveling.”

She grabbed the portable phone off the clunky din-

ing room table and sat in a chair badly in need of refin-

ishing. It was a comfortable, lived-in room with its dark

woodwork and flowered wallpaper. Her parents liked to

tease Gran about coming in and redoing the place, strip-

ping the wallpaper, tearing up the rugs, getting rid of all

her tacky artwork, but she paid no attention. She was

happy with her house just the way it was. As long as the

roof didn’t leak, she didn’t plan to change a thing.

54

Carla Neggers

Susanna dialed Jack’s number, and he answered on

the first ring. “I’m on the patio,” he said, laying on his

slow, deep Texas drawl. “It’s a beautiful night.”

BOOK: The Cabin
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