Chapter 1: Institutional Oversight
Tears trembled at the corners of Angela Gianni’s aching, bloodshot eyes, but she refused to let them fall. This isn’t over yet, she thought, glaring at the tiny mounds and divots in the white cinderblock wall opposite her. The air was thick and stale here, but she kept inhaling it deeply. Her labored breathing was all she could hear in the isolation of her new quarters, where she’d been taken while the investigation intensified.
Strobing images of the lifeless body in her back room and tactile hallucinations of blood on her palms trammeled her thoughts.
There was so much blood . . .
She scrutinized her hands for residual traces.
They’d seemed easy enough to clean at first, but after she left the house she’d more than once noticed dried flecks under her fingernails. Now, at least, her hands looked completely unsoiled. She dropped them to her lap and returned her gaze to the wall.
What the hell happened with Oliver? Someone else had to have been there. That’s the only way it could’ve happened.
She felt the side of her neck for scabs. Nothing there.
Maybe not. But then how . . . ?
She drew her knees to her chest, encircling them in her arms. The rough, gray wool of the blanket scratched her yoga pants as she shifted on the cot.
Samara and Mark were still out there somewhere. Maybe alive. Maybe even together. But nobody was looking for them now. There was no apparent connection between them and Oliver, and Oliver was the sole focus of the investigation, despite the incidents leading up to his visit. None of it made sense.
Angela rested her forehead on her knees and rocked gently back and forth.
Though she’d been moved several times in the last few hours, she knew she’d be allowed to rest here for the night—if she could manage to fall asleep. But with her mind endlessly looping obtrusive memories, straining to extract figments of constructive truth, she knew that was unlikely.
Then there was the question of what would happen tomorrow. And the day after. She couldn’t go back home, not for a while. She knew that as soon as she was escorted away. But what would come next? It was the first time she felt unable to form even a premonition about the future.
She couldn’t talk to anyone again until morning. That much was self-evident. And while she initially welcomed the silence of her newfound solitude, and with it the chance to process all that had happened, the unnatural stillness of the room had a certain maddening effect that she was just starting to appreciate.
Still rocking, she squeezed her legs tighter and lifted her head, exhaling forcefully through pursed lips.
You can do this, she told herself. It’s just a matter of time until the truth comes out . . .