Maggie wasn’t sure how much time passed as she waited, tears pouring ceaselessly down her face. It felt like hours. She lingered on the sidelines of the car accident in the dark, cold night, watching police and then the EMTs show up and take over the situation. They had to slip in on the passenger-side door to get Joel out, his body heavy and limp in their arms.
When his blood-soaked face flopped to one side, his fixed eyes rolling over her, she bent over and dry-heaved for another painful minute. An EMT walked her over to her car and wrapped a blanket around her, speaking in soothing tones and making sure she was okay.
Her fingers grew cold and tight with the phone clutched in her hand, and the knees of her pants were icy stiff from her kneel on the damp ground. It was quite possibly the worst night she’d experienced since her sister’s disappearance.
And poor Joel . . . he was dead, his secrets going to the grave with him. Her heart lurched in guilt.
The responding officer, a trim man in his middle forties with salt-and-pepper black hair, came over to her. “Ma’am, did you witness the event? Is this a hit-skip?”
She swallowed. “I suspect it’s worse than that.” For the next twenty minutes she explained the entire situation to the officer, from the inheritance, to her phone call with Joel, to driving past his car and seeing it in the ditch. He interrupted the story with questions of his own, scrawling down information the whole time she was talking. “So given the circumstances,” she concluded, running a hand over her hair in a nervous gesture to smooth it down, “I think it’s not random. That’s far too much of a coincidence.”
The officer’s face was drawn in a frown. He flipped through the notes he’d written and reread them. “I’ll call the precinct in Bay Village and get case information from them. If these two are related, we’ll note that. An officer will probably be calling you later with more questions. But for now, please give me all your contact information, and I’ll need to see your license.”
She dug her license out of her purse and gave it to him. “You can talk to Officer David Burke at the Bay Village station—he’s an old high school friend of mine. I haven’t explained to him the actual reason I was investigating my sister’s disappearance, but I’m sure he’d be happy to help you with this case. And with my sister’s,” she added. Perhaps this would nudge the police into focusing some manpower onto Cassandra as well.
He scrawled down information from her license, then handed it back. “Okay, ma’am. I think we have all we need here tonight. Go home and get some rest.”
Maggie walked woodenly to her car and sat down. She dialed David’s number and left him a voice mail, briefly explaining the situation and asking if they could talk tomorrow. Then she dumped her phone in her purse and drove away.
What now? This was getting out of control. Someone was dead—a tragic event far, far worse than her stuff being stolen and destroyed. Her breath came in small pants as she clenched the steering wheel, hot tears stinging her eyes. She blinked them away furiously and kept her focus on the road as best as she could.
Who had murdered Joel? What was he going to tell her that had been worth the price of his life?
She should quit this stupid inheritance contest. Just up and leave, tonight. The money wasn’t worth it, and she knew her sister would be devastated that someone had died because of it.
But leaving meant her sister might possibly never get her resolution. And that was why Maggie was hanging around . . . and would continue to do so, despite these increasing threats. Maggie was making someone nervous. Someone who had a lot to lose if she uncovered what had happened to Cassandra.
Quitting meant those truths might be buried for good.
Maggie huffed out a sigh and pulled into a nearby grocery parking lot, thunking her forehead against the steering wheel. Her chest felt impossibly tight and heavy, like an elephant was sitting on her. She wanted to scream—how had this turned so complicated and deadly so fast?
She needed to focus, to calm down before getting back on the road, but her hands wouldn’t stop trembling. The full impact of what just happened to Joel hit her once again, and she gasped in a shaky breath.
Before she realized what was happening, Maggie dug into her purse and flipped through the business cards stuck in a front pocket. She stopped when she saw Andrew’s. It was late, well after eleven now. Would he still be awake?
She dialed his number and waited, her heart trapped in her throat as the phone rang.
“Hello?” he said in his deep, husky voice. She could hear soft jazz playing in the background.
“I . . . I need to talk,” she managed.
Instantly his tone changed. “Are you okay? What’s wrong?”
She sucked in a ragged breath. “Can I come over?” For whatever reason, whether foolish sentimentality over their shared past or their current tentative partnership, Maggie needed to see him right now.
“Absolutely.” He gave her the address, and she plugged it into her GPS. Luckily he didn’t push her more to talk—perhaps he sensed she needed to discuss this in person.
She remained quietly on the line, phone pressed between her ear and shoulder as she navigated her way to his place in Avon. Only the next town over, which kept him close to his relatives, who were still in Bay Village. While she drove, Andrew sat patiently on the line, saying little. But the sporadic silence wasn’t uncomfortable. It actually made her feel a bit less stressed, knowing he was right there.
“I’m at the gate,” she said when she pulled into the driveway leading up to his condo complex. Her heart rate picked up a bit.
“My condo is just a few up from the entrance. I’ll buzz you in.”
The pain in her chest eased up a little more. She could sit down and talk to Andrew about what had happened, maybe try to drive the horrific image of Joel’s lifeless face out of her mind. Even if just for a little bit.