Between the Lines

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Chapter 32

“Are you freaking kidding me?” Daniel stared at Keeley, a shocked, disbelieving look on his face. “You think I saw my father with his lover, and I killed them?” His voice was rising, and he stopped, getting himself under control with a visible effort.

“No, of course not!” Keeley cried. “I know you didn’t kill anyone. I just had to ask if you were the man Emily saw that night.”

“There’s no point in my denying that it was me. You already think it was, and nothing I say is going change that. Just go ahead and believe whatever it is you want to believe.” Daniel ran his hands through his hair, and then scrubbed at his face, shaking his head in despair. “God, this nightmare just never ends.”

Keeley tried to find words to explain, tried to smooth things over, telling him she did believe what he told her. He refused to listen to what she was saying and stalked angrily out the door, leaving her feeling horribly guilty. She was also feeling confused and conflicted, because she still didn’t know whether or not he had been the person Emily saw. He had not actually denied that he had been there, and it seemed to her that his anger had been out of proportion to the simple fact of being asked a fair question.

She tossed and turned through a mostly sleepless night, and the next morning was no closer to any answers. She participated in Nikki’s morning yoga class, hoping it would bring her some clarity, or at least a sense of calm, but there was no noticeable improvement to her mental state. After the ladies had all left, she poured herself a cup of coffee, and sat at the kitchen table, brooding. Uncharacteristically affectionate, Max jumped into her lap and settled down, butting his head against her arm until she started petting him. It was impossible not the laugh, and she began to feel slightly better.

There was a knock on the door, but before she could get up, it opened and Daniel came in. He gave her a contrite smile, looking uncomfortable.

“Daniel, I’m so sorry,” she began at the same time as he said “I came to apologize for being such a jerk last night.”

They both laughed, and told the other to go ahead. Finally, after a few stops and starts, they each managed to get their different apologies out.

“It was a perfectly logical question for you to ask me,” Daniel said. “You really don’t know me very well, and you certainly didn’t know me thirteen years ago. I hope you can believe me when I tell you I was never at Joyce Williams apartment. I didn’t even know where she lived back then, and I really had no idea my dad was having an affair with her. But if you still have doubts, I don’t blame you.”

Keeley quickly assured him she didn’t have any doubts. She had wondered for a brief while if perhaps he had known about the affair, but she had never for a second doubted his innocence in regard to the murders.

Her faith in him meant a lot, he told her emotionally. He just wanted this whole crazy nightmare to end, even more for his mother's sake than for his own. The speculation and gossip was hard for her to deal with, and it was so frustrating for him to be powerless to do anything about it.

Keeley had stopped in at the police station, and although Detective McDonald had been available, he had not been either happy or grateful to receive the information she had for him. In fact, she had never seen him look so annoyed.

A uniformed officer stuck his head through the open door of the office where Keeley was sitting with the detective. “Sorry to interrupt, Mac, but can I see you for a minute?” He smiled apologetically at Keeley, and she smiled back.

Detective McDonald stood up. “I’ll be right back,” he told her, and walked out of the room. Keeley looked around the utilitarian room. There were no personal touches, no family photographs or knick knacks, and the pictures on the wall had probably been there for years if not decades. There was nothing to indicate the personality of the current occupant. The desk itself was neat and tidy, with an inbox and outbox tray, a stapler, and a container of pens, pencils and highlighters. There was a medium sized file on the desk. Keeley’s eyes widened when she saw the names Freemont and Williams on the outside of the file. She looked around and listened. She could hear the murmur of voices, but they were not close enough to hear distinct words. She hesitantly reached over and opened the cover of the file. She was afraid to stand up and move around the desk to look at it, or to move the file closer to her. Instead, she took her phone out of her pocket and took a picture of the first page in the file. She was just about to turn the page over to photograph the next page, when she heard footsteps. Quickly closing the file, she began to scroll through her phone, trying to look innocent although her heart was beating so quickly that she wondered if she would pass out.

Detective McDonald came in and sat back down in his chair. She put her phone in her pocket and looked up at him, hoping she didn’t have a guilty look on her face.

“Now, where were we? Oh yes, you were about to promise me that you would stay out of police business,” he said unsmilingly.

“I’m only trying to help you!” Keeley said meekly. “But, if you don’t want my help, then I’ll leave.” He looked at her suspiciously. She wasn’t sure whether it was her unexpected acquiescence to his demand, or if he could hear her heart pounding even from across the width of the desk. His eyes narrowed, and he looked at her, and then looked at the file on his desk. Keeley forced herself to meet his gaze calmly, although she thought it was possible that her heart might explode at any minute.

“I don’t need your help. I’m perfectly capable of conducting a murder investigation without assistance from you, as hard as that may be for you to believe.” A muscle beside his mouth was twitching, and his dimple was nowhere in sight. “Listen to me carefully, Nancy Drew.” Detective McDonald’s voice had taken on an edge that made it clear his patience was at an end. “I want you to stop questioning witnesses. Stop looking for clues. Let the police do our job. We’re not the blundering idiots you seem to think we are. We are highly trained in solving crimes. You are not, and besides interfering, you and your friends could be putting yourselves in danger. Stick to teaching yoga. The next time you’re tempted to stick your pretty little nose into this case, lie down and do sivasana. Do I make myself clear?”

Keeley was surprised he knew the sanskrit name for corpse pose. “Do you practice yoga?” she asked, hoping to diffuse his anger. “You should come to a class. On the house.”

His dark eyes narrowed menacingly. “I mean it. Now go home!”

“I’m going,” Keeley retorted, nettled. “Just one more thing, though. Have you talked to Joyce Williams mother?”

His eyes narrowed even further, and he started to slowly stand up. Deciding retreat would be prudent, Keeley turned around and walked quickly out the door.

A short time later, Keeley stared at her reflection in the mirror as she was getting ready to meet her friends at the pub. What an arrogant jerk he can be, she thought in annoyance. She turned her head one way and then the other, looking at her profile. Actually, though, her nose wasn’t bad.

She was the first one to arrive at the pub that evening, so she sat at the bar talking to Joe while she waited for the others. It was always an ego boost to be the object of his attention, even though you knew he said exactly the same things to every other woman he talked to. But it was fun and harmless, so why not enjoy the attention? When the other three arrived, she moved from the bar to their table.

“It’s not enough for you that you have Daniel and that dashing detective dangling after you, now you want Joe on the hook as well.” Claire said to her, the words teasing but with an undercurrent at the same time. Keeley couldn't be sure if she was joking or not. Claire had a biting wit, and Keeley didn’t always know how to take her sense of humour.

As usual, it wasn’t long before the conversation turned to the murder investigation. Claire and Lily did not know anything about Joyce Williams family, or if her mother still lived in Ashton. A google search was unsuccessful, and questioning Joe equally so. Kira knew Keeley had gone to the police station to let Detective McDonald know about their encounter with Bryan Ferguson, and she asked if the detective had revealed any new information about the case.

“No. If he knows anything, he’s not sharing it with me,” said Keeley gloomily, deciding not to mention that she’d been told once again to stay out of the case. “The only thing Detective Delicious will tell me is that they’re following up on leads, and will make an announcement when they have something concrete.”

“Detective Delicious? I knew it!” Kira crowed, a smug smile covering her face. “I knew you liked him!”

Lily immediately started clamoring for details, while Claire for once was silent.

Keeley flushed. “I was just using your description,” she said to Kira, but Kira laughingly shook her head.

“No, I called him dreamy, Claire called him dashing, but you’re the one who thinks he’s delicious. You can’t deny it now.” Although she tried to change the subject numerous times, Kira and Lily amused themselves at Keeley’s expense for the remainder of the evening. She did not think he was delicious, dashing or dreamy. She thought he was a royal pain in the butt! And she was pretty sure that feeling was entirely reciprocated.

None of them could come up with any new ideas, and the general mood was gloomy.

“We seem to run into one dead end after another,” Keeley complained. “We must be missing something.”

“Yeah, Kinsey Milhone never has to work this hard for a clue,” Lily chimed in, making a face.

“Who?”

“Haven’t you read the Kinsey Milhone series by Sue Grafton? It’s my favorite mystery series. The plots are so interesting. The titles go up the alphabet, starting with A. There’s only a couple more letters left. I hope the series doesn’t end when she gets to Z.”

None of the others had read the series, or wanted to discuss fictional mystery stories, so Lily subsided into a sulky silence.

Claire excused herself early, saying she had a lot to do the next day, and needed to get a good nights rest. Keeley watched her leave, noting that she did not say goodnight to Joe as was her usual custom. “Is something going on with Claire?” she asked. “She seemed a little distracted tonight.”

Lily shrugged. “She’s had feelings for Joe for a long time. Him and his ex broke up a couple of years ago, and I think Claire’s getting frustrated with waiting for him to be ready for another relationship. And she’s probably worried that when he is ready, he might be interested in someone else, like you for instance.”

“Me!” Keeley gasped. “Why would he be interested in me?”

Kira and Lily looked at each other, and rolled their eyes simultaneously. The conversation lagged after that, each of them lost in their own thoughts, so they decided they would all make it an early night, and left soon after.

“Do you think I should cut my hair?” Keeley asked Kira as they walked through the park towards their respective homes.

Kira looked at her, but did not answer for a moment. “That depends,” she said finally.

“On what?”

“It depends on why you’re thinking of doing it,” Kira responded. “If it’s because you think that Joe will be less likely to flirt with you, and therefore make Claire feel better, then no. But if it’s something you want to do for yourself because you want to change things up, then I say go for it.”

“It has nothing to do with Joe, or Claire,” Keeley said firmly, then she stopped and thought for a moment. “Mark was always adamant that I not cut my hair short, so I never did. I look at your adorable cut, and Claire and Lily both have cute, short hair cuts, and I think my long hair is ….I don’t know, kind of boring. Basically, it’s the same style I’ve had since I was a teenager. I want to get it cut, but I’m afraid to. I know that doesn’t make any sense,” she finished in frustration.

“Well, if you do decide to cut it, and it turns out you wish you hadn’t, at least you know it will always grow back!”

Keeley hadn’t confessed to the others that she had tried to snoop in the police file on the murders. She wasn’t sure if she had managed to get any useful information. She hadn’t had time to do more than take a quick look at the picture on the phone before she had to leave to meet them at the pub. She realized that she would need to transfer the image to her laptop to be able to see if there was any useful information. She poured herself a glass of wine, and sat down, hoping but not really expecting to see anything of value. First of all, she had to turn the image around, since the photograph had been taken upside down. It was a little blurry, no doubt the consequence of her shaking in fear of getting caught, but some parts were readable. She worked on getting the image as clear as possible, and then studied the screen. There were a few cryptic notes that she didn’t understand, obviously some sort of shorthand only the writer would be able to decipher. It looked like she had almost given herself a heart attack for no reason. Near the bottom of the page was the name Corinne Williams and a local address. That had to be Joyce’s mother. Torn between a feeling of smugness at having discovered the information and guilt at the method she had used, Keeley wrote down the name and address in the murder book.

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