Chapter no 25

The Coworker

AFTER I TAKE a few deep breaths, I head back to the break room to grab some coffee. Kim has arrived as well, cupping a mug of coffee in her hand while she scrolls through the screen on her phone with her other hand. She usually spends the first hour of the workday in the break room. And she also goes in there three or four more times during the day. I’d estimate in a given week, Kim only does maybe one or two hours of real work.

I’ve tried to give Kim some tips to improve her sales, but she’s not that interested. Honestly, sometimes I think she’s trying to get fired. It will give her an excuse to stay home and let her rich husband pamper her.

“Hey, Nat!” Her eyes flick up at me. I notice the skin on her forehead is starting to peel a bit from the sunburn she got on her honeymoon. “Did you hear they found Dawn? Or at least, what’s left of her…”

I grimace at her remark. It’s not quite a joke, but it feels very inappropriate. “I heard.”

Kim blinks up at me. “Who could have done that to her? I mean, we all sort of wanted to strangle her sometimes, but who would actually do something like that? It’s so awful.”

“Yeah…” I slide into the seat next to hers. “Listen, Kim, did you talk to that detective yesterday?”

“Oh right.” She takes a sip of coffee. “He was kind of hot, wasn’t he?”

I crinkle my nose. If I ever might have found Santoro attractive, I certainly don’t anymore. “Not really.”

“He seems like he knows what he’s doing.” She opens another little cup of cream and dumps it into her coffee. Kim likes her coffee light brown. “I

bet he’ll catch whoever did this. Make sure they spend the rest of their life in prison.”

For some reason, her remark makes me very uneasy. “Right…” “God, who do you think could have done it?”

I was reading this morning about what generally happens when a young woman is murdered the way Dawn was. In cases like this, the husband or boyfriend is often the culprit. But Dawn didn’t have any significant others in her life. Unless her turtle murdered her.

“Maybe it was a burglar,” I say.

But that doesn’t feel quite right. Aside from whatever was in that gap in her bookcase, it sounds like nothing was missing from Dawn’s house. And if she startled a burglar and he killed her, why would he hide the body? It doesn’t make any sense.

Nothing about this makes any sense.

“So.” I clear my throat. “What did you talk to the detective about yesterday?”

She shrugs and looks down at something on her phone. “I don’t know.

He had a bunch of questions about her.”

“Did you tell the detective I was bullying her?”

I used to always know when Kim was lying because her face would turn pink. Unfortunately, her new suntan has made that difficult. “I don’t know. Why?”

I want to shake her. “Kim, did you tell him I was bullying Dawn?” Finally, she sighs. “I mean, you kind of were.”

“No, I wasn’t!”

She gives me a look. “It’s not like I blame you. Dawn was so strange. She was obsessed with those turtles. Who is obsessed with turtles? Turtles are so boring. You know what would be better than turtles? Anything.”

I can’t help but think about the turtle I found on my desk the last three days. Or that live one I found crawling around the tank in Dawn’s house. Or the bookcase brimming with turtles. She has no idea how creepy turtles can be.

“I wasn’t bullying her,” I insist. “I would never do that.”

“You said that thing about how she lost her virginity to a turtle.”

“Oh my God, that was a joke.” I cringe. “It wasn’t a big deal. Everyone made jokes like that about her. If I was bullying her, so were the rest of you.”

“Whatever, Nat.”

“Listen to me, Kim,” I say through my teeth, “you need to stop lying about me to the detective, okay? Because this looks really bad for me.”

“I just told him what really happened.”

“Oh, is that what you did?” I raise my eyebrows. “Well, maybe I should tell your new husband what really happened the night of your bachelorette party. About that guy at the bar who you—”

“Natalie!” Kim reaches out and grasps my hand across the table with lightning speed. “You promised you wouldn’t tell anyone—”

“And I won’t.” I level my eyes at her. “But you need to stop making me look bad. Okay? This is a murder investigation now. It’s no joke.”

For a moment, Kim looks like she’s about to burst into tears. “Okay, I’m sorry. I didn’t think it was a big deal. So you messed with Dawn a little bit. We all did.”

“Right,” I say, “we all did.”

I give Kim one last long look. I feel confident that she’s going to keep her mouth shut—she does not want her husband to know what she did that night. Lucky for me, I had the foresight to take a lot of photos the night of the bachelorette party.

Unfortunately, I have worse problems than Kim.

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