Thicker than Water
Mass Market Paperback
Publisher: Pinnacle Books
He stood at the window, looking down at the dark street below. In the orange glow of the streetlight, he could see the black tops of the trees waving in the wind. It was late and a storm was blowing in from the gulf. There was no one out tonight. He didn't even see the homeless man who usually slept on the bus bench across the street.
The wind gusted, catching a wad of newspaper. He watched it as it swirled and twisted in the orange spotlight, like a madman performing a desperate dance to the demon music in his head.
He turned away and pressed his palms into his eyes.
Jesus...He was so tired.
He looked at his desk, at the files and papers covering it. His head was telling him to go home, get some sleep. But there was so much to do yet, so many things he hadn't taken care of. And sleep, the real sleep that made you whole again, was something he had given up on years ago.
Going back behind the desk, he sat down in the old leather chair. The corned beef on rye and cream soda was still there, untouched. He sat there, hands heavy on the armrests, eyes unfocused.
What was he worried about?
Cade wouldn't do anything. Even if he took his threat seriously, the man wasn't stupid enough to try something. Except sue. He could still do that. The statute of limitations had run out, but with a good lawyer and a sympathetic judge, Cade could still make his life a hell.
But what did he care? It was over anyway. He was tired of keeping the lies to himself, tired of carrying the whole thing around for the last twenty years.
He didn't care what would happen to him if it all came out. He'd be disgraced, disbarred for sure. He'd lose a fortune. But he just didn't care anymore.
His wife, she would care. And his partner, he would, too. But he didn't care about them either. Or about anyone anymore.
He shut his eyes.
That wasn't true. There was still one person he loved one person who loved him.
He opened his eyes. They focused on the far wall, on an arrangement of framed photographs. No people, no children, just sepia-toned street scenes of old Fort Myers as it looked in the forties, and one picture of a pale yellow Victorian cottage on a sugar-white beach against a cloudless blue sky. Remembering how nice the world can be...
Not anymore. It was over now. Twenty years...gone.
One decision, one moment, and his whole life had gone down a different road.
He felt his throat constrict. He could make it right though. He could still do right by Cade, try to make up for what he had done. But first, he had to tell someone. He wanted some peace, some absolution, and there was only one person who would give it to him. He glanced at his watch. Nine-thirty.
He picked up the phone.
A sound out in the dark hallway made him look up. He saw a figure coming toward him. The person stopped in the open doorway.
He put the receiver back in the cradle.
"You came back," he said. "Why?"
There was no answer.
"It doesn't matter. We have to talk anyway."
The figure in the doorway slowly put up a hand.
He saw the gun.
He tried to stand.
He heard the shot.
The bullet shattered his right temple, propelling him back against the leather chair.
He felt nothing, but he saw a blaze of light, like an exploding sun. Then he fell onto the desk, twisting as his body slumped forward.
He lay there, his head cocked at an angle. The blood seeped slowly out of his head, onto the yellow legal pad and onto the purple blotter, a slow river of red spreading outward, settling into the dents and cracks of the old cherry desk.
His eyes were still open, fixed on the picture of the yellow beach cottage on the far wall.
© P.J. Parrish