In The Victim's Shadow

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Chapter 9

Later that evening Katherine lay soaking in a tub full of hot, sudsy water, reflecting back on the day’s events.

A small smile touched her lips, and she immersed herself up to the neck in fragrant suds as candles fluttered beside her, resting on tall pillars designed purely for the task.

She had rescued her old claw-foot tub from an antique auction and had it restored to its original glory. The contractor had followed her design to the mark and had surrounded the porcelain fixture with wooden planks, forming a deck to hold her items of pleasure. She reached for her wine glass and drank from it greedily.

She laid her head back and closed her eyes, allowing the fragrance and music to carry her to another place. Diana Krall’s sultry voice projected from the stereo speakers while Katherine sang along in perfect harmony. In this particular performance, the black crow was flying, and Katherine imagined herself flying along beside it.

The wine made her head swim and relaxed her muscles, which were taut from the day’s activities. Wine and suds were always her instruments of release from a harrowing day.

Without warning, thoughts of John invaded her privacy. She flashed back to the moment of tenderness at the courthouse earlier in the day. There was nothing out of the ordinary about their exchange. John had always treated her with fond affection. Why then did she feel all flushed at the thought of his touching her like that? Certainly, she had mistaken the look of love in his eyes as she pulled away from their parting hug. Furthermore, what was that whole business with the check?

She had loved John for years—but as a friend. A very good friend, she added. A flash of memory raced through her head. She was sitting at her mother’s dressing table while her mother brushed her long, golden strands. “One day you’ll marry your best friend, Katherine.”

Katherine giggled. “Is Daddy your best friend?”

Amber smiled and hugged her daughter fiercely. “The very best friend a woman can have.”

The doorbell rang, shaking her out of her reverie. Katherine stood, grabbed a towel and wrapped it around her. She grabbed another towel and wrapped it turban style around her head. Then she took her terrycloth robe from the hook on the back of the door and slipped into it.

The doorbell rang again, and her heart thumped as she hurried to the door. The buzzer rang a third time, and she looked through the peephole to see who it was.

“What the hell,” she said as she flung open the door.

Chad stood on the other side of the door looking lost.

“Chad?” she said, “How did you get up here?” She looked out the door, glancing both ways as if the answer would come to her that way.

“I guess it’s that elevator again,” he offered. “I pushed the button for my floor, and the elevator brought me all the way up here. Once I realized where I was, well…I couldn’t resist saying hello.” He shrugged his shoulders. “I think you should get that fixed.”

She stared at him with disbelief, unable, or unwilling, to accept his answer. She made a mental note to get the elevator technician out first thing in the morning.

“Hey, since I’m here, how about a drink,” he suggested, as he brushed past her.

She stared at him for a moment, a look of contempt crossing her face. Perhaps if she had a quick drink with him, he might leave without too much fuss. She poured both of them a smidgen of chardonnay and invited him to sit on the couch. He looked at the amount of wine in his glass and frowned.

“Let me just put something else on,” she said.

She started to walk past him, but he grabbed her wrist and pulled her down next to him. “You look perfectly fine to me.”

Miffed, she got up and moved to the loveseat adjacent to him.

She could tell he was upset over her choice of seating, but she didn’t care. She was irritated with him and didn’t like the way he showed up unannounced. It made her feel vulnerable.

“I was just about to watch a movie,” she said. “Do you like old classics?” she asked, hoping he didn’t so he would leave.

She didn’t wait for him to answer. Instead, she rose and went to her video cabinet where she pulled out an old Doris Day movie. Within minutes, it had her laughing, and she felt her mood begin to lift.

Chad, however, hated old movies and fidgeted endlessly on the couch.

“Would you like some popcorn to go with the movie?” she offered. “I could make some. It will only take a moment in the microwave.”

“No thank you,” he snapped. He came and sat beside her. She cringed.

He leaned in close. Instinctively, she pulled back and pulled her robe tighter. He didn’t miss the move. “You smell great. Did I interrupt your bath?”

“No, not really. I was just getting ready to get out. Oh, look.” She pointed at the TV. “This is a funny part.”

They both watched as Doris Day locked herself out of her house and then tried desperately to get back in. “I just love Doris Day, don’t you?”

“Not particularly,” he said. He moved closer. “I’m not a big fan of television.”

She frowned, and moved farther away from him: he was beginning to worry her. It was time for him to leave. “About dinner the other night—”

“Yeah,” he said, cutting her off. “I’m sorry about that. I don’t know what came over me. And there was that big guy horning in on our date…well…I guess I sort of lost it.”

She tried to smile reassuringly, but it came out as a pathetic attempt. “I suppose it happens to all of us at one time or another.”

“Do you think we could try again?”

She hesitated. She didn’t want to encourage him, but telling him no while she was in this vulnerable situation wasn’t the best idea, either. She bit her lower lip and took a deep breath. Maybe she could give him an answer that might pacify him, at least until she found a more appropriate time to let him down. “Maybe sometime.”

She watched his temple throb as he attempted to bring his anger under control. “Look, I think I’ll just go if that’s all right with you.”

She nodded. “I’m kind of tired,” she said. “I need to be at the office early. I probably should go to bed.”

She turned off the TV with the remote, rose and began to walk to the door. Chad, having believed she would take the hint and turn the television off and talk to him, followed her to the door in a foul mood. He leaned over to kiss her goodnight, but she turned her head, and he caught her cheek instead of her lips.

“Well, okay then,” she said. “I guess I’ll see you around.”

He left the apartment, slamming the door behind him. Katherine locked the door and bolted all three of her deadbolts.

She went into the bathroom, to clean up the remnants of her bath. She let out the water, put away all the oils, picked up the bottle of wine and returned it to the refrigerator. She picked up both her and Chad’s untouched wine glasses, dumped the contents out, and washed the glasses.

She returned to the bathroom, picked up her jewelry and carried it to her jewelry cabinet. As she was closing the door to the cabinet, she noticed her garnet cross that usually sparkled when the mirror hit it, was missing. She puzzled over this and began to search the rest of the cabinet. Perhaps she put it in a different location. When she had searched the entire cabinet, she began to search the floor. She crawled on her hands and knees but found nothing.

She began to panic. Her father had presented the cross, which had belonged to her mother, to her on her sixteenth birthday. She had always been so careful with it. Losing it was like losing part of her mother.

When she had searched the entire room, and still found no sign of the cross, she sat down on the bed and wept.

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