Authors: Randi Hart
Like a Woman Scorned
© 2013 by AndrewKaschPublishing.com
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, religious bodies, corporate or governmental entities, organizations, places, events, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any means, including scanning, photocopying, or otherwise without the prior written consent of the author.
Table of Contents
“Heaven has no rage like love to hatred turned, nor hell a fury like a woman scorned.”
The Mourning Bride
Her fingerprints needed to be gone. All of them. Carley worked her way around the office, checking and double checking, one wall at a time, each piece of furniture, making sure everything was wiped clean. It was important to do a thorough job, so she forced herself not to rush. Carley couldn’t afford to make a mistake born of complacency now. She inspected all the surfaces, the shelves in every book case, going over them twice until she was certain she left no trace.
Next, she opened drawers and cabinets, reconfirming that nothing had been placed in any of them. The procedure began to have a chilling effect on her. It was finally really happening. The important thing now was to avoid any stupid oversights. Don’t make a mistake. Don’t make a mistake. It’s the little things that usually trip up criminals, so Carley paid close attention to all the details. Not that she was a criminal by any reasonable standard of justice. Rick had this coming.
Satisfied, she did a final walkthrough. Everything appeared to be in order. The keyboard on her desk had been replaced with exactly the same model. She had never used his computer—or anything else in his office, for that matter. Carley had been extremely careful with those kinds of details. She never touched any of the law books. All the legal research he needed from her had been done on her computer.
And her computer led to nowhere. No personal search records, no trails or links to her life outside of that office. They would get nothing on her out of that PC, try as they might.
Any hairs found would be blonde, but she wouldn’t be blonde for much longer. Besides, the cleaning crew was so darn good, whatever traces of her remained wouldn’t be there more than a few days at best. It was unlikely anyone would be making that technical of a search for her, anyway. This wasn’t going to be a murder investigation, and lawyers are ultimately held responsible for whatever happens in their office.
Carley wanted to be remembered as the tall, thin, blue-eyed blonde secretary who worked for him for about a year. She would no doubt be on video tapes from the lobby, and perhaps even up here on the 12th floor. But you couldn’t see all that much of a person from those tapes—and even if you could, what would be the point? They weren’t going to find someone who had simply ceased to exist.
He was away so much he never noticed how little involvement she had with most things in the office. There hadn’t been much need for that. She rarely touched anything in the small kitchen space, and always brought in her own coffee and bottled water. No need to wipe the kitchen down.
As her last act, Carley cleaned her phone with antiseptic wipes.
Boy, Rick really blew it. He should have realized what a good team the two of them made. Instead, he haplessly clung to his helter-skelter family life, taking futile stabs at alleviating some of the guilt wherever he could. Nobody was fooled, and as a result Rick never felt grounded. There was a time when Carley almost felt sorry for him and wanted to step in and fix things, but she caught herself early and nipped those feelings of sympathy in the bud. All she had to do was remember the pain, the anguish, and no one there to help her through it—certainly not the man who caused it all. The anger she felt over his betrayal had not subsided. Nothing was going to change that.
She broke her train of thought with a shiver, removed the surgical gloves, and put them in her purse. It was almost over. It had been a long time in coming, but that made it all the more fulfilling.
Goodbye, Richard Waterman.
Alison could feel someone watching her. The hairs on the back of her neck were doing that little dance. It was a sensation she first learned to tune into back when she was a teenager. There were at least fifteen people in the room, most of them actively engaged in conversations, but she knew at least one of them was studying her.
Brenda never bothered to describe the man she was supposed to meet, so Alison had no way of knowing who he was as she walked the perimeter of the large living room. She recognized some of the guests, many of whom were balancing a drink in one hand with food in the other, the rest chattering away and oblivious to her.
Alison turned toward the dining room and suddenly found herself sucked into the vortex of dark green eyes, eyes belonging to the most handsome man she’d seen in a long time. Movie star handsome. She instantly knew he was the one, and felt herself go flush.
He was well over six feet, with an obvious gym-hewn physique being suppressed under a blue velour shirt that was open at the neck. His eyes were intense and his haircut expensive. She knew beyond any doubt this was the man she was supposed to meet—but also knew somewhere in the back of her mind that he had trouble written all over his lightly-tanned skin.
“You must be Alison. Hi, I’m Rick.” He extended his hand to hers and held it tight. “Brenda told me to look for a stunning redhead and I don’t see any others, not in this house, or even on this planet anymore. You’re beautiful and I’m already in love with you.”
Alison laughed, but not in a way to embarrass him. The way he talked, his polite mannerism and soft, firm voice, had allowed him to pull it off. Not everyone could have gotten away with that opening line.
The crazy thing was she thought exactly the same thing about him, but of course didn’t want to let him know that too quickly. The worst thing for any relationship is for the woman to drop the rest of her life for a man she’s known five minutes. Alison wasn’t going to be doing that again.
“Yes, that’s me,” Alison said. “Nice to meet you.”
They beheld each other for a long moment, almost to the point of becoming awkward, but not quite. Rick then guided her toward the bar, asked what she’d like to drink, and instructed her not to move while he visited the bartender. Only then did he let go of her hand.
There was no way Alison was going to move from that spot. She couldn’t. She was frozen in place and consumed with a schoolgirl infatuation she couldn’t remember ever having experienced before. Standing there, she allowed herself to muse whether her life might be on the verge of radically changing for the better.
To think she initially declined Brenda’s invitation. Having been to these holiday parties of hers before, Alison knew too many guests would have too many drinks. There was nothing more annoying than being around people who drank excessively and then proceeded to make fools of themselves, as people who drank excessively would inevitably do. Brenda begged her to change her mind, rambling on about a new guy in town she wanted Alison to meet, “a real keeper.” Alison smiled as she remembered Brenda’s exact words.
“Listen, he’s tall and very good looking, great smile, and a lawyer from Boston. I know you’ll like him. Come on, girl, you know you can’t resist that. I wouldn’t ask you if I didn’t know you would enjoy meeting him. And I’ve told him about you. My boss and he were fraternity brothers in college and Steve thinks the world of him.”
Those kinds of promises were usually exaggerated when a person was being set up. But then, Brenda did have a point. The possibility—even a remote one—of putting a glorious end to the lonely nights was ultimately a call every attractive single woman must answer. Alison couldn’t let all this good stuff she had going on be wasted forever. Plus, Brenda already knew how high her standards were. So, Alison agreed with feigned reluctance to attend, but with a stern warning that she would simply vanish if the guy fell miserably short of his advance billing, or if the party started getting out of control.
Brenda kept pumping the guy up even after Alison promised to come, however, obviously wanting to make sure she actually showed. He was apparently some kind of hotshot trial lawyer with his own private firm. Not only that, he was in the middle of a huge trial with millions of dollars at stake. Just icing on the cake, now that Alison actually met him. He could be a struggling salesman for all she cared at this point—she was pretty sure.
That conversation with Brenda took place on the phone yesterday. Today was the Saturday after Thanksgiving. Alison always treasured this weekend, the beginning of the holidays. She never went near the department stores on Thanksgiving weekend, but she always got excited at the way San Francisco looked this time of year—the lights aglow from one end of the city to the other, the smell of fireplace logs mixed with pine trees and fog. Brenda’s house was already decorated nicely.
Brenda waved at her from across the living room, with a coy smile on her face. Alison waved back and rolled her eyes. She could tell Brenda was getting ready to go out and have a cigarette. At least she took her disgusting habit outside. That could have been another deal-breaker, people smoking in her house. Thankfully, folks in California didn’t just light up indoors anymore. The laws here had bred new habits among smokers. If you didn’t see ashtrays with ashes in them, you took it outside. No one was willing to be the first to test an unknown smoking policy indoors anymore, thank God.
Alison hoped this guy was not a smoker. She forgot to ask Brenda about that. It was one issue she had no tolerance for. Okay, one of many, truth be told, but smoke really bothered her sinuses, and she had been close to three people who died from smoking. One of them was her best friend, Louise, whose suffering before her death was something horrifying to witness. All because of a stupid habit she refused to quit, even when the doctors warned her that her life was at stake.
Funny, Alison hadn’t thought about Louise in years, but here she was thinking about her again, for the second time in two days, and at such an odd time. Yesterday, after hanging up the phone with Brenda, she thought about Louise during her run. Louise loved San Francisco the way Alison did. There was perhaps no better way to enjoy the city than running from Alison’s house on Telegraph Hill down along the route on Columbus Street toward the Embarcadero. Alison’s daily run was five miles, a different direction each time, knowing each week she’d eventually take in a view of the entire city, all eleven square miles. She never tired of doing that. San Francisco was always charming, and always new. Most people probably didn’t notice all the little changes the way Alison did. She was enthralled with the city, each of the neighborhood sections, of which there were many, and the lives those who found themselves subsisting in them.
Of course, running during the holidays was also a further reminder of her loneliness, a condition she would never admit to anyone but herself. The aroma of home-cooked meals coming from all the houses she passed; the sights and sounds of families rejoicing together. If she hadn’t been sure about showing up at Brenda’s party beforehand, she was sure after the run. When she arrived back home, she looked through her closet to decide on an outfit for the party the next night.