photo Jonnie Jacobs
[space] about books Group Discussion Questions Advice for Writers Contact Mailing List Home

COLD JUSTICE

[cover]Excerpt from Cold Justice (abbreviated and edited)

Kali pressed a knuckle to her mouth as she examined the face on the morgue monitor. "It's her."

"You're sure about that?" It was the younger cop who spoke. Bryce Keating.

She nodded, not trusting her voice. Breathe deeply. Don't think about Anne right now.

It didn't work. Grief slapped her in the face and brought tears to her eyes. Anne, with an open heart and a whimsical sense of humor. A woman who bubbled with enthusiasm for life. How could Anne be dead?

"What happened?" Kali asked finally. She wouldn't have been sitting here in a cramped room at the morgue in the company of two homicide detectives if there hadn't been foul play. Beyond that, she hadn't a clue.

"That's what we're trying to determine," replied Fortune, the older of the two cops. "It would be helpful if you could give us some background on her. You feeling up to it?"

Kali could feel tears stinging her eyes. "I don't know," she answered truthfully.

"How about we try?"

She nodded, took another breath and worked on shelving her grief for later.

Fortune took out a notebook. "Tell us about your friend. Where she lived, what kind of work she did, husband or boyfriend..."

Kali took a deep breath, pushed away the mental image of Anne's face on the monitor. "She was an attorney. We both worked at the DA's office right out of law school." It wasn't an important fact but Kali didn't know where to start. They'd worked together under Owen Nelson on the Bayside Strangler trial, finally putting away the killer who sent each of his victims a yellow rose after her death. Now Owen was running for governor and Anne was dead.

Kali licked her lips and began again. "Anne had her own practice. She handled mostly family matters, trusts and estates, divorces, that sort of thing."

"Married?"

Kali nodded. "She and her husband separated about two months ago, but they were trying to work things out."

She saw a flicker of something in the cops' eyes as Fortune wrote down Jerry's name and address.

"Was she dating other men?"

"No. She wanted to make her marriage work."

Keating and Fortune took Kali through her last conversation with Anne, roughly thirty-six hours earlier. They'd spoken Friday morning, confirming their plans for that night and agreeing on a time. She'd gotten the impression that Anne would be coming straight from work, but she didn't know for sure. Yes, Anne would have been driving, and no, she wasn't the type to offer a ride to a stranger. Kali tried only to think about the questions and her answers, not the fact they were discussing a dear friend who'd been murdered.

"She do drugs?" This was Keating again.

"No. She wasn't even much of a drinker."

"She hang out with a bad crowd?"

"Not unless you include lawyers."

Neither cop cracked a smile.

"You'll notify her husband?" Kali asked. She knew she'd call herself and offer solace, but she didn't want to be the one to tell him about Anne's death.

"Right away."

Talking had kept Kali focused, but the minute she stepped into the cavernous hallway, she felt tears again prick at her eyes. Finally, in the relative privacy of her own car, she pressed her forehead against the steering wheel and let her grief flow.

* * * *

Sunday morning Kali woke to grey skies but no rain. Loretta had padded into the bedroom at the first light of morning and nudged the bed with her muzzle. Kali could feel her waiting expectantly for any sign of human activity. Finally, Kali opened an eye and the dog leapt to life with the throaty whimpers and soft barks of her morning greeting.

"Okay, girl. I'm getting up." Although she might not have without the dog's insistence. She'd slept fretfully during the night, experiencing a flood of sorrow anew every time she woke. Now that morning had arrived, all she wanted to do was bury herself again in sleep.

Kali fixed coffee and a bagel. She wondered how and when to offer her condolences to Anne's husband, and found herself feeling grateful that it was too early in the morning to think of calling.

Under normal circumstances, Kali would have taken a long walk or forced herself to workout at the gym. But this morning she felt as though her body were made of lead. She opted instead for a short walk with Loretta—enough to let the dog sniff and squat—and then returned home where she wandered aimlessly from room to room.

Finally, because she had to do something, she tackled the stack of ironing that had been building for weeks. She was down to the last pair of khakis when the phone rang.

"Hi, Kali. It's Jerry Bailey."

She'd been uncomfortable, wondering whether or not to call him, and now he'd beat her to it. She felt a pang of guilt. "Jerry, I've been thinking about you. I'm so sorry about Anne."

"I still can't believe it. I'm in shock, I guess."

"If there's anything I can do..."

"Actually, there is." He hesitated, but only briefly. "I'm at the house, and... I could use some company, I guess.. I was wondering if you wouldn't mind coming over."

"Of course not."

"The cops said you were supposed to have dinner with her Friday night."

"Right."

"I just want to talk to someone who, you know, maybe knew what was going on."

"I don't know anything more, but I'd be happy to come by."

Kali had made enough condolence visits to feel awkward about arriving empty-handed. On the other hand, bringing Jerry a casserole struck her as ludicrous. She opted for deli sandwiches and a bag of chips.

Jerry answered the door on the first ring. Strain showed on his face and his eyes were bloodshot. "Thanks for coming." He ushered her inside.

Anne's house, without Anne. It felt strangely quiet and stale. Kali caught sight of a lithograph Anne had purchased years ago with her first paycheck. She remembered Anne's excitement the day she'd returned from lunch having found "just the thing" for her apartment wall. Now, Anne's eyes would never gaze on those lovely snow-capped mountains.

"You want some coffee or something?" Jerry asked.

The man was clearly feeling unsettled. His arms crossed at his chest, then dropped to his sides. He shuffled from foot to foot.

"Sure," Kali answered. Making coffee would give him something to focus on. "I brought sandwiches," she added. "I wasn't sure if you were up to thinking about food."

"Thanks. I'm not really. Hungry that is."

They moved into the kitchen and Jerry filled the coffee maker with grounds, then flipped the switch.

"I guess you know that Anne and I were separated," he said.

"She told me."

"We were fighting a lot." He shrugged. "I'm not sure about what. But we were working it out. The separation was temporary."

"Anne said the same thing."

The water in the machine gurgled and Jerry stared at it. "When did you last see her?"

Kali thought it over. "Probably a week ago. We had lunch. But we talked on phone other times. I talked to her Friday morning, in fact."

Jerry ignored the coffee and instead paced back and forth. Finally, he leaned against the counter and crossed his arms. "Who is he?"

"Who is who?"

"The guy she was seeing."

Kali shook head. "She wasn't seeing anyone."

"Don't give me that bullshit."

The change in tone was so abrupt, it caught Kali by surprise. "I don't—"

"She must have talked about him. Women talk. They can't keep anything secret. Anne especially."

"She never—"

"I want to know who he is, dammit!"

Jerry's eyes flashed with anger. Misdirected grief, Kali wondered, or something else? Whatever it was, it made her uncomfortable. "What makes you think she was seeing someone?"

"Our separation, her coolness towards me..." Jerry pressed his palm to his forehead. "There had to be someone else."

"Not necessarily. Maybe it was just that your marriage needed a little work." Listen to her, the woman who couldn't keep a relationship going for the life of her, giving advice.

But Jerry wasn't listening anyway. "And then, today..." He shoved a florist's box at Kali. "This was on the doorstep."

She opened it. A single long-stemmed yellow rose.

"Read the card," he said, his voice tight with emotion.

Kali lifted it from the box. It was a standard florist's card. "Anne, you've made me so happy. I will love you forever." There was no signature.

Jerry's face was red with anger. His eyes had narrowed. "Just give me the truth."

Kali slipped the card back into its envelope, careful to touch only the outer edge. There was no way she could tell him the truth, even if she was sure what it was.

But she knew she had to call Owen Nelson immediately.

 

© Jonnie Jacobs. Web site by interbridge.