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Chapter no 34 – NATALIE

The Coworker

NO NO NO NO… The police cannot be at my front door…

I freeze about five paces from the front door. I don’t know what to do. I can’t answer the door for a police officer when I have a murder weapon in my laundry hamper. What if they ask to look around? I’ll be so screwed.

But they can’t just come in without asking. I can always say no. Unless they have a warrant…

No. They can’t possibly have a warrant. I haven’t even done anything wrong!

While I am working myself into a panic at the door, the doorbell rings a third time. At this point, I have to answer. Whoever is at the front door probably heard my footsteps. I’m making things worse by not answering.

My hands are shaking so badly, it takes a few tries for me to turn the locks. I throw open the front door and there he is. Detective Santoro. My new freaking best friend.

I wonder if it’s time to get a lawyer. It seems like such a guilty move, and I can’t afford it, but I don’t want to be one of those stupid people who didn’t lawyer up at the right time and then regrets it.

“Miss Farrell.” His face bears that grim smile I’ve come to hate. “Can I have a moment of your time?”

“I’m sort of busy,” I say tightly. “Haven’t we already talked twice now?

I’ve told you everything I know.”

“I just have a few more questions, Miss Farrell. It won’t take long.”

I hug my chest so he can’t see how much my hands are trembling. “I’d rather not. I have nothing else to say.”

“We could talk down at the station if you’d prefer.” Oh God, no. That’s much worse. “Fine. Go ahead.” “Can I come in?”

Am I going to invite a police officer into my house when I have what is almost certainly a murder weapon hidden in my laundry hamper? I think not. “I’d rather you didn’t.”

“It’s just…” He glances over his shoulder. “It’s cold out. I’m letting all the heat out of your house. And also, you look cold.”

“I’m fine.”

“You’re shaking.”

He’s not wrong. But the reason I’m shaking has nothing to do with the cold. And I’m worried he might know that. “What are your questions, Detective?”

But he doesn’t ask them right away. Instead, he looks past me, into my house. He’s craning his neck to see inside. “Is it just you living here?”

“Just me.”

“Wow,” he says. “That’s a big place. Must be expensive.” “It’s not that bad.”

“Oh, yeah? I was trying to get a place in Dorchester, but everything was so pricey. Ended up renting the second floor of a house in Weymouth.”

I take a peek at Santoro’s left hand. No ring. Married to his job, probably. “Maybe you didn’t look hard enough.”

“So what kind of money do you make at Vixed?” “Excuse me?”

“Your boss wouldn’t tell me how much you make. I’m just wondering.” I hug myself tighter, now actually feeling the cold. I do sort of wish we could do this inside, but I don’t dare. “Detective, what does this have to do

with Dawn?”

“I was just thinking…” He scratches at the five o’clock shadow on his chin. “Dawn was the accountant at your company. So if any shenanigans were going on with the payroll, maybe she found out about it. And that would give you a pretty damn good reason for wanting to get rid of her.”

My throat is suddenly dry. “What?

“It’s just a thought…” He blinks innocently. “Did Dawn ever come to you about any concerns like that?”

No.”

“Huh.” He raises his eyebrows. “So you were saying you didn’t meet with Dawn on Monday night about the money she found missing from the Vixed account?”

“Oh my God, no!” I have to grab onto the door frame to keep my legs from collapsing beneath me. “Why would you think that?”

“She sent you an email on Monday afternoon, didn’t she? Asking to meet with you?”

I can’t deny that. I already told him about Dawn’s email, plus I’m sure there’s a record of it if they were able to get into her computer. “Yes…”

“So what did you discuss when you met?”

“Nothing!” My hands are shaking so badly, I have to clutch them to my chest. I’m surprised my legs are even able to hold me up anymore. “I never met with her.”

One of his thick eyebrows arches up. “No?”

“No! I didn’t!” I have to struggle to keep my composure. “I didn’t steal money from my company, Detective. And I certainly never had a conversation with Dawn about it on Monday night! I was with my boyfriend the entire night.”

“Yeah, so you say…”

“It’s the truth. You spoke to Caleb. He told you we were together.” “Yes, that’s what he told me…”

“Do you really think the two of us plotted to kill her together?” “No. I don’t really think that.”

My left eyelid twitches. “So why the hell are you bothering me then?”

Detective Santoro looks like he’s considering my question. He purses his lips, thinking it over. “Here’s the thing, Miss Farrell,’’ he finally says. “In my line of work, people tell me a lot of things. And a lot of those things aren’t true. So I’ve gotten pretty good at knowing when someone is blowing smoke up my ass.”

I just stand there, staring at him.

“If you got your boyfriend to lie to me,” he says, “I’ll figure it out eventually. It’s what I’m good at. It’s what I do.” He pauses. “So it’ll be easier on you if you tell me the truth.”

The truth? I can’t tell him the truth. I can’t tell him that I have no alibi for most of the night Dawn was killed. I can’t tell him that I pressured my boyfriend into lying for me. And I sure as hell can’t tell him about that bloody turtle in my laundry hamper. The only way I’m not walking out of here in handcuffs is if I keep my fool mouth shut.

“I’ve told you the truth,” I say. “I didn’t steal from my company. And I didn’t see Dawn on Monday night.”

He stands on my front porch for about ten more seconds, but it feels like ten hours. The whole time, his black eyes bore into me. A lesser person might have cracked. But I keep my mouth shut.

“Have it your way, Miss Farrell,” he says.

I watch him walk over to his car, get inside and drive away. As his tail lights fade into the distance, I release a breath. I’ve been spared. For now. He’s got nothing on me.

As long as I get rid of that turtle in my laundry hamper.

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