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Authors: Sierra Kincade

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BOOK: The Confession
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Eight

I
woke back in the hospital bed, to the sound of a muffled cough. When I opened my eyes, light was peeking through the mini blinds over the window on the far wall, and my dad was sitting in the chair where Alec and I had slept.

At least, I thought that was what happened. Now that it was light the whole thing seemed too much like a dream to be true. Alec had a life that didn't involve me. He had the trial. He had a girlfriend.

A cold sensation settled right between my ribs.

“Hey, pretty girl.” My dad was wearing an old flannel shirt over jeans. The buttons were misaligned, and his eyes were red and watery. “Good morning.”

I groaned in response.

“You want something to eat?”

I shook my head.

He tried to hide his worry, but wasn't very effective. He kept clasping and unclasping his hands, an odd nervous habit for a man who always kept his cool.

“You gave us quite a scare,” he said.

I offered a half smile, but it didn't come easily. What had happened wasn't my fault—I knew that—but I still somehow felt responsible for frightening him.

“I'm okay. The doctor said . . .”

“I know,” he finished, so I wouldn't have to. He turned his head into the crook of his elbow and started to cough. I guess at least one thing hadn't changed since I'd been missing.

“Hey,” I said. “This is a germ-free zone. Try not to get the patients sick.”

He smirked. It made me feel a little better.

“Local PD is going to swing by this morning and ask some questions if you're up for it,” he said.

I nodded. “Any idea who did this?”

He looked grim. “Working on it. We'll know soon enough. You remember anything?”

I thought of the dream I'd had—the smooth leather seat of a car against my cheek. It was hard to tell if that had been real, or a figment of my imagination.

“Not really.”

“It's all right,” he said. “If it's going to come, it'll come. You just need to focus on getting some food in that skinny body.”

I sucked in my cheeks.

“What are you talking about? This is all part of my new diet plan.”

“Not funny,” he said.

So much for lightening the mood.

“Dad, did you by any chance see Alec?”

A frown immediately pulled down the corners of my father's mouth. “I caught him on the way out around five a.m. Strange, considering I was told visiting hours were over last night at eight.”

He'd left early. I wondered if he'd slept at all.

I worked on peeling the edge of my fingernail. “He's a real rule-breaker.”

“Yeah. That seems to be the case.”

“Did he say if he'd be back?”

My dad's face warped to pity. I was getting pretty tired of seeing that look on people's faces.

“I didn't ask.” He reached for my hand and gave it a squeeze. “His schedule wasn't exactly my top priority.”

No, I imagined that was true. Still, as I looked down at the chair where I'd spent much of the night, I couldn't help but feel that things weren't over between Alec and me. So what if he'd ducked out early. He'd known I was missing and looked for me. He'd come when I'd called. And he'd held me when I needed it. Those weren't things you did for someone you didn't deeply care for.

*   *   *

My day was slammed with visitors. Amy came back first, with a brown bag of “real food” and a ragged-looking Mike. Their kids were with Mike's mom, Iris, who was staying at Mike's house as a safety precaution.

“They're our baby girls,” Mike had said. “Maybe this thing is linked to Max Stein, maybe not, but I'm not taking any chances. Until this trial's over, anyone Alec has looked at twice is staying close.”

When I looked guilty, he sat on the side of my bed. “So when you get out, you want to come have a slumber party at my place?”

I half-laughed, glancing to Amy, whose eyes darted to the floor. Mike saw the move and grinned. “Amy already said yes.”

“Oh
really
,” I said.

“The girls are going to be there,” my best friend said quickly. As much as I regretted her growing humiliation, I was happy to transfer the focus off of me for a while.

“Does that mean we have to be on good behavior?” Mike teased.

“Just until their bedtime,” she shot back. With all the squirming, it wasn't a great demonstration of her quick wit, but it was enough to make Mike's brows rise.

He pretended to check his watch. “Good to see you, Anna. We've got to go.”

They didn't, of course, but I could tell both of them were already running through what might happen later that night in their minds.

Amy was going to get lucky. Maybe not tonight, but things definitely looked like they were heading in that direction. I wondered how long it had been since she'd been with someone. For as much interest as she showed in my love life, we barely ever discussed hers.

By lunchtime I was sick of being cooped up in my room, and changed into a T-shirt and pajama pants combo that Amy had brought. An officer from the local police department met me in a quiet corner of the cafeteria to take my statement. After I'd written everything I could, I leaned back to answer his questions, but my eyes were drawn to the news report on the television behind him. They'd been talking about a new sinkhole that had opened up in the central part of the state, but switched to an update from the Maxim Stein trail.

“Bad news for the prosecution, whose key witness, Alec Flynn, came down with food poisoning just after the trial began last week, throwing a wrench in the prosecution's apparent plan to hit the defense hard with evidence of Stein's participation in white-collar crimes.”
The reporter, a Hispanic woman with glossy black hair, folded her hands across the desk.

Alec's face popped up on the corner of the screen. It was the same shot I'd seen in the paper: him in a suit, looking both beautiful and miserable. My fingers began drumming against the table.

Alec didn't have food poisoning. He'd been looking for me, and then stayed with me here, in the hospital. That must have been what he'd told his lawyer, or at least what his lawyer had conveyed to the judge. I wasn't sure if I should feel more guilty or grateful.

“Rumors were already flying that Flynn, Stein's body man of fourteen years, was getting cold feet when he failed to show for a briefing Saturday morning. Not entirely surprising to our confidential sources in the investigation, who have maintained Flynn's own questionable ethics and shaky past.”

“Is there anyone you think might want you harmed, Ms. Rossi?” asked the officer before me. He scratched a hand over the deep dimple in his chin, eyes on the pathetic single paragraph I'd written.

“Shh.” I pointed to the screen.

He gave an annoyed grunt.

“But was Alec Flynn actually ill?”

Uh-oh.

Behind the woman, film began rolling of Alec leaving a quaint pink stucco building wearing a baseball cap and sunglasses. Beside him was a woman in a loose, teal summer dress. When the reporters caught up with them, Alec hunched, and pulled the woman under his arm.

Janelle.

As she turned her head into Alec's chest to hide from the barrage of reporters, I could see her profile more clearly. He lifted a hand to block the flash of the cameras.

“Just after nine o'clock this morning, Flynn was spotted exiting a small bed-and-breakfast outside Orlando with his girlfriend, Janelle Jamison. Ms. Jamison, as many of you may recall, was the FBI's lead investigator in this case until she was asked to step down due to inappropriate conduct.”

His head bowed down to whisper something in her ear. I could see his lips moving as the camera lens zoomed in. My toes curled in my slippers. My fingernails dug into the table.

He'd left me at five, and hopped straight into bed with her. I didn't even have room to be mad. He'd been gentle, comforting. At the most a good friend. Which was why watching him with his arm around Janelle made my heart feel like it was breaking all over again.

“Was Alec Flynn really sick? It doesn't appear so. Which leads us to wonder if this was a deliberate stall by the prosecution, or a notable example of their star witness's inconsistent behavior. All will be revealed in the coming weeks as the trial continues . . . that is, if Flynn and his girlfriend don't suddenly disappear for a weekend cruise.”
The reporter grinned at the camera, probably thinking she was funny.
“And now for what's new with the Rays, I'll hand it over to Jimmy . . .”

I stared at my lap for a full ten seconds, before I looked back up at the cop.

“Who did this to me?” I asked sharply.

He looked down at my statement. “We're still working on that.”

“You don't have any leads?”

He inhaled slowly. “We can't exactly pull fingerprints off your skin. With your examination results clean . . .”

I groaned internally. “Someone drugged me, then dumped me in Orlando. There was a reason this happened.”

“I know it feels like there should be,” he said. “There isn't always. There are a lot of bastards out there who get off on a power trip . . .”

“No,” I said, feeling a strange, vicious anger build inside of me. I could still feel Alec's arms around me. I could still feel a blank space in the center of my brain. Questions needed answering, and I was tired of sitting in the dark.

“There have to be fingerprints on the glasses at the bar. Or security cameras. Or witnesses—a bartender, or someone else I sat near. Someone had to see me leave.” My dad was upstairs in my room. I hadn't wanted him to be a part of this, even though he already knew what would be said, but I couldn't help but want him here with me now. He wouldn't have stood for this lackadaisical detective work.

The officer snorted.

“The bar you were seen at doesn't have a security camera.”

“I've been targeted in the past,” I said. “Or did you even do your homework before you showed up?”

It was rude, but I was past caring. Maybe the drugs were finally out of my system, because things were now crystal clear and sharp as a knife.

“Your affiliation with Alec Flynn is off the table.”

“Off the table,” I repeated.

His mouth tightened. “The FBI has made it clear we can't run an investigation with anything related to him or Stein's trial.”

“Well what good is that?” I threw my hands up. “Why am I even talking to you?”

The cop gave an exasperated shrug. “You sure there isn't anyone else who might have wanted to teach you a lesson? An ex-boyfriend, maybe?”

“What are you insinuating?” I asked, shoving back. “That I need to be
taught a lesson
?”

“Good lord,” said the officer. “I'm not the one who did it, lady.”

“Her dad's a cop.” A voice from behind me drew my attention, and I turned to see Marcos, back in his blue Tampa PD uniform, holding the purse I'd taken to the fund-raiser.

“That explains the interrogation,” grumbled the officer.

Marcos sat beside me, unwilling to look in my direction. He tossed my purse onto the table.

“You two know each other?” I asked.

“We spoke earlier,” said Marcos. “When I gave my statement. You know, about Friday night after the CASA dinner, when I walked you to the door of your apartment because you told me you were sick and going to bed.”

My temper diffused a little.

His brows stayed flat, but a muscle in his neck was jumping.

“You found my purse.”

“Bartender called when your dad reported you missing.”

I opened it, checked my cell phone. The battery was dead. “Any prints on any of this?”

“Just the bartender's,” said Marcos. “And yes, he made you a Long Island ice tea and saw you with a guy about twenty-five, dark hair, nondescript features. Unless you've got some idea, I'm going to call him John Doe.”

“Did he kidnap me?”

“The bartender doesn't remember seeing you leave, but he doesn't recall anyone being carried out kicking and screaming.”

I scowled, trying to remember. “The last thing I remember is getting in my car after you dropped me off.”

I couldn't remember putting my keys in the ignition. I couldn't remember driving to the bar. I didn't even remember if I'd ordered something.

“Well, I guess I've got everything I need,” said the Orlando officer. “We'll be in touch if anything comes up.”

He sounded doubtful.

“You've got my number,” said Marcos.

I withered in my slick wooden chair. Marcos sat beside me, staring straight ahead at the television, now showing a local car commercial. I shouldn't have been so hard on that cop. This wasn't his fault. I didn't know what came over me.

“I'm sorry.” My voice was barely a whisper.

Marcos shook his head. He pulled something out of his pocket—a small piece of folded paper—and placed it onto the table. Tentatively, I reached for it, and opened the picture of Alec I'd taken from craft night at the Children's Museum.

“He's the one who called to tell me you were gone,” said Marcos. “Your dad and Detective Benitez had been trying to get me. I was . . . off duty.”

Otherwise known as
with my boyfriend
.

“Okay,” I said.

“He thought you and me were a thing.”

“Oh.” I tried to shrug off the image of Janelle and Alec on the news report. “Who cares what he thinks?”

Marcos turned to face me. “You, for starters.”

I refolded Alec's newspaper picture.

“It's the second time he's called me. The first was just after the bridge, when he asked me to look out for you.”

I looked down.

“I told him I would, but not for him.”

BOOK: The Confession
13.05Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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