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Authors: Amy Tintera

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BOOK: Listen for the Lie
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Sunday evening, Grandma sends me to pick up dinner for the two of us at Plumpton Diner. On my way out, Mom informs me that their salads are disgusting and warns me against ordering one.

“Who orders salad at a diner?” I ask, one foot out the door, the sticky humidity and chilly air-conditioning mixing together in a weird, unpleasant way.

She sniffs. “Well, everything else there is dripping in grease.”

“Sounds delicious.”

I escape before she can invite herself along.

The diner has been around since I was a kid, and it looks exactly the same on the outside. On the inside, the seats have been upgraded from cracked red plastic to a much nicer shade of blue. It's cleaner than I remember.

I walk to the counter and ask the red-haired teenager standing there about our order. Judging from the bored look on his face, he doesn't appear to recognize me.

“It's not ready yet.” He looks down at his phone, scratching at a pimple on his cheek. “You can sit wherever while you wait.”

I slide onto an unsteady stool at the counter, glancing around at the other diners. It's early for dinner—five o'clock—and the place is pretty empty. There's a couple in the corner. A mom with her two kids at a table nearby.

And a dark-haired man by himself in a booth by the window, staring at me.

I recognize him right away. Ben Owens. Smug podcaster.

He lifts one hand. He's waving at me.

I almost laugh.

And then, I imagine getting back in my car and ramming it into the side of the diner. Straight through the window. Ben's body sprawled out on my hood.

Hitting him with your car is bo-ring
,” the voice whispers in my ear. “
Put your hands around his neck until you can feel the life drain out of him. That'd be fun, right? He probably deserves it. They always deserve it. Let's kill—

Shut up
, I tell the voice calmly.

It can't be a good sign that I've started talking back to it again.

Ben doesn't move, but he tilts his head slightly, an expectant look on his face. It's an invitation, maybe.

I imagine that he'll just get up and walk over to me if I decline the invitation.

I slide off my stool and walk across the diner.

Such a lovely throat you have there, sir
,” the voice says. “
It would be a shame if something happened to it

He smiles, flashing his perfect, white teeth. Braces and regular whitening. Those teeth did not happen by accident.

I suspect that nothing about Ben Owens is an accident.

He extends his hand. “Hi. Ben Owens.”

I ignore the hand. “I know who you are.”

He gestures to the seat across from him. There's a half-eaten sandwich on the table next to a laptop, which he closes and pushes aside. He also flips over a small notebook so I can't see what was written there.

“Please, sit.”

I'm still standing next to his booth like an idiot, and I guess I didn't come over just to say hi.

I slide into the seat. He drops his pen on the floor and has to get out of his seat to retrieve it. He's flustered.

I imagined him a lot smoother. Confident. Working a room.

He settles back into his booth. His dark eyes meet mine briefly, and then his gaze is anywhere but at me. I don't know whether he's nervous or embarrassed or just really high-strung.

“I'm speaking to you off the record right now,” I say. “I don't want to have a conversation if any of this is going in the podcast.”

“Do you have something you want to tell me?” He plays with the edges of the notebook paper, like he's itching to turn it over and write something down. His fingers are long, the nails neatly trimmed, and I quickly look away.

“No, nothing in particular. I just wanted to make it clear that this isn't me consenting to an interview.”

“Okay. Off the record.”


“I heard you were in town. How's your mom?”

“She's fine, thanks. I heard you were in town too. Why?”

“Because you're here.”

I cock an eyebrow. At least he's honest.

“Thought I might change my mind about an interview once I saw your charming face in person?”

The edges of his lips twitch. “Maybe.”

“You've already gotten some good ones.”

“You've been listening?”


“What do you think?”


“Thank you.” He apparently didn't notice—or chose to ignore—my sarcasm.

I slouch down in my seat, propping up the soles of my shoes on the booth next to him. “So what's the verdict? Did I do it?”

He rubs the edges of the notebook paper more determinedly, giving me an amused look. “I've heard you're direct.”

“It's one of my many charms.”

“I'm collecting evidence and presenting it, not making judgments.”

“Bullshit, you totally weigh in with your opinions eventually. I've listened to the first season.”

“Thank you for that. And eventually, yes, I'll bring my own opinion into it, but not right now.” He leans forward, both arms on the table. “Let me interview you. No one ever gets your side of things.”

“My side of things is just going to be a fucking disappointment to you, Ben. I still don't remember anything.”

“Not that. I mean, yes, if you suddenly remember what happened that night, by all means, call me right away—”

“You'll be my first call for sure,” I say dryly.

“—but you can give your side of things on so many other issues. Your relationship with Savannah, Matt, what happened at the wedding…”

“I am not putting my relationship with Savvy out there for everyone to judge again. I hated doing it the first time and I'm not doing it a second time.”

I glance over at the counter. The teenager has disappeared.

“I enjoyed your books,” Ben says.

My gaze snaps back to his face. “What?”

“Your books. The Eva Knightley books.”

I drop my feet from the booth and straighten. He looks smug again.

“How did you even?” A pit begins to form at the bottom of my stomach.

“Let's kill, let's kill, let's kill—”

“My PI is very good.” Smug, smug, smug.

“Listen, those books…” I clasp my hands together, cracking my knuckles. “I can't write under my own name. I mean, no one wants
to read romance novels from the girl who allegedly bashed her best friend's head in.”

He looks startled by that.

“And I've managed to keep that name a secret so far, and I would really appreciate it if you—”

“Relax, Lucy, I'm not going to tell anyone.” He smiles. Smugly.

I hesitate. “If I give you an interview?”

“What? No. Jesus, Lucy, I'm not
you. I really did like the books.”

“You read romance novels?”

“Well, no, these were my first, but maybe I should read more, because they were very exciting. I liked the one with the couple that pretended to be married best.”


“Apparently I enjoy a good fake-marriage trope. This is something I've just discovered about myself recently.”

I barely resist the urge to laugh, but my lips twitch. Fuck. “No, why did you read my books?”

“I was interested. And I did consider putting it on the podcast, honestly. Read some passages. But I can't really see how it's relevant. Paige—my assistant—said that putting it on there would just be a dick move, and I have to agree.”

“I like your assistant.”

“She's smarter than me.”

“Ma'am?” The teenage boy at the counter has reappeared, and he's talking to me, holding a large plastic bag full of takeout containers. I know that everyone calls women
here, no matter their age, but it still makes my eye twitch. I've been in Los Angeles too long.

I start to slide out of the booth.

“Just one question.” Ben reaches forward like he's going to touch me. He doesn't. He presses both palms flat to the table. “Off the record.”

“You can ask, but I may not answer.”

“How well did you know Colin Dunn?”

I sigh. Colin Fucking Dunn.

“You think Savvy's boyfriend did it. How original. Why didn't anyone else think of that?” I deadpan.

Literally everyone has thought of that. It's always the boyfriend or the husband.

Except, in this case, it wasn't.

“How well did you know him?” he asks again.

“Not well.” Colin's face flashes through my mind—he had a great face. A strong jaw, and a slightly crooked smile. Savvy loved his smile.

“You really think Colin went straight home that night? Why'd you guys leave him and Matt at the wedding?”

I slide out of the booth. “This is more than one question, Ben.”

“I never was a rule follower.”

God, he's the worst.

He grabs my hand and presses a card into it. “Call me if you want to talk about Colin after tomorrow's episode.”


“Grandma, what the fuck?”

I drop the takeout containers on the table and turn to face my grandmother, who is sprawled out on the couch in the center of her tiny house, watching one of the

She blinks at me with wide-eyed innocence. “What?”

“You sent me to the diner because you knew that podcaster bastard was there.”

“Well … yes.”

“Please…” I pause, closing my eyes briefly as I gather myself. “Please tell me that you didn't plan this entire party just to get me here to talk to that podcaster.”

“I don't know why you're asking. It's pretty obvious that's exactly what I did.”

“Oh my god.” I drop into a chair and put a hand on my forehead. “Why would … what in …

She stands, adjusting the bun that's wobbling on the top of her head. She walks over to the table and pulls the food out of the bag. “Have you

“You sold me out to a podcaster because he's

“He's not just cute. My god. He even looks better than that—that guy, who is that?”

I drop my hand from my forehead to see her pointing at the
television. “Chris Evans.” I roll my eyes. “He is not cuter than Chris Evans.”

“Well, agree to disagree.” She puts my burger and fries down in front of me. “But, no. I did not sell you out because he's cute. I'm just saying that it might have helped when he showed up at my door with that smile.”

“Smug smile,” I mutter.

“Oh yes, very smug. That boy is extremely impressed with himself.” She laughs and walks to her minifridge. Her loose green dress swishes around her calves. “Do you want a beer?”

“No, thank you.”

She cracks one open for herself and then sits down at the table. She pops a fry into her mouth. “I think that he's your best shot.”

“Best shot at what?”

“At figuring out who killed Savannah. We spoke for a long time, and he was very straightforward with me. He wants to find out the truth, not just hang you out to dry like everyone else.”

I take a bite of my burger to avoid having to reply to that. I don't want to tell her that the idea of Ben finding the truth terrifies me.

She points at me. Her fingernails are bright pink, the color chipped at the ends like she's been picking at it. “Don't get that look.”

“What look?”

“Like you've decided you're guilty and have something to hide.”

Let's kill—

I take another bite of my burger.

“I told him I'd convince you to let him interview you,” she says.

“Bold of you to think you could actually do that.”

“Lucy, let's not pretend that you're not going to do this for me.” She pats my hand.


“You need him,” she continues.

“I do not need that idiot.”

“Yes, you do. People believe men. Especially men who look like that. If he says you didn't do it—if he even casts enough doubt—people will actually believe him. Look at that Ronan Farrow fellow. No one believed that movie man assaulted all those girls until he said it was true.”

I sigh, because she's right.

Of course, that also means that if Ben decides I did it, I'm extra fucked.

“He solved a cold case on the first season of the podcast,” Grandma says. “He's going to figure this out, and you're going to help him.”

“The Harpers hired three different PIs and came up empty. How is Ben going to suddenly solve this?”

“He said he was going to find information that no one else had.”

I grab a fry. “How exactly is he going to do that?”

“Well, for one, you're going to help him. And two, he already has.”

I stop with my mouth half-open, ready to take a bite. “What?”

“Colin didn't go straight home from the wedding.”

Listen for the Lie Podcast with Ben Owens


Colin Dunn had been dating Savannah for a few months when she was killed. I'll let him introduce himself, in his own words.

            I was a real shithead. [
] Yeah, man, I was just not into that whole small-town life. I hated every second of it, and I hated myself for not being brave enough to just hop a bus out of there. I sort of took that out on Savvy a lot.

               Took it out on her? How?

            I wasn't that nice to her. I know I probably shouldn't admit that, or I should, like, try to make myself look good, but, whatever, man. I just feel like I should be honest about it.

               Take me back a bit. How'd you guys meet?

            At the bar where she worked. I wasn't old enough to drink but I had a fake ID—yo, can I say that? Am I like admitting to a crime?

               You're fine.

            Yeah, so I was nineteen or twenty or whatever, and I had a fake ID. I don't think Savvy knew it was fake. No, she definitely didn't know. I always felt like I was a bad influence on her. She was just the nicest, sweetest girl, and I was
the nicest guy. I think if I had met her a few years later, I could have been a better guy for her, but … well, she got murdered. Which is a bummer.

               It is indeed a bummer.

            Anyways, we met at the bar, and hit it off right away.

               This was when?

            That was early in the year, like January. So, like four months before she died.

               And you dated up until she was killed?

            I mean … I don't know if
was the word. We weren't … uh, yeah, you know, let's just say we dated. Yeah. Savvy was a nice girl. Nicer than me, that's for sure.

               Did you know her friends?

            Uh, sort of? Some of them?

               Did you know Lucy? Had you met her before the wedding?

            Yeah, I'd met her once or twice. She was in the bar once, and she'd been over at Savvy's place once when I dropped by. So, I knew who she was, but like … we weren't buddies.

               Did you have any particular impression of her?

            Uh … she was hot?

               Anything else?

            Not really.

               Did you know Matt?

            Not until the wedding.

               And you hung out with him and Lucy at the wedding?

            Yeah. We were at the same table.

               What did you think of them?

            Lucy didn't really talk to me. Not in a rude way, just in a “we have nothing in common” way. Matt and I talked about basketball some—it was during the NBA finals. Matt was a good time. He came to have fun at that wedding. Well, you've heard.

               And you saw that?

            Oh yeah. He was definitely wasted.

               How was he acting? Was he a happy drunk, was he angry…?

            Pretty happy drunk, from what I remember. He was dancing a lot, laughing … completely ignoring Lucy, who seemed pissed about something.

               At him?

            I don't know, man. I asked Savvy about it and she said Lucy was fine. “Don't worry about it,” she said. Like it was none of my business. And it wasn't. I didn't really care.

               Savvy drove you to the wedding, but she left without you. What happened there?

            Lucy and Matt had a fight, I think. I don't know what it was about. But Savvy seemed upset about it, and she asked her brother—Keaton—to take me home. I didn't go with him, though. I didn't live far, so I just walked.

               You walked straight home?


               By yourself?

            I … yeah.

               A guest at that wedding says she saw you getting into a car with a woman.

            What guest?

               Just someone who wishes they'd spoke up earlier. Did you get in anyone's car that night?

            I … um … look. I sort of … started talking to someone after Savvy left and one thing led to another …

               And you left with her?


               So, your alibi, that you told the police. That you went home and were there all night. That wasn't true?

            I mean … I was home by like three a.m.

               The coroner put Savvy's death somewhere between midnight and three a.m. So you were actually out and about during the time she was killed.

            It sounds bad when you put it like that. I wasn't
out and about
. I was with this woman, and then I went home.

               She could vouch for you?

            Not … I mean, she wouldn't.

               Why not?

            She wasn't exactly … single.

               She was in a relationship.


               You went to her house?

            No …

               Where'd you go?

            Just her car. She drove it a little bit down the road and we just … I don't think anyone at the wedding even noticed we were gone. They definitely didn't notice
was gone, anyway. If her husband was suspicious, I don't know.

               And then she drove you home?

            No, I walked. She had to get home.

               You walked home, alone, at what? One a.m.? Two? In the rain?

            It's a safe town, man.

               I'm just trying to clarify the timeline here. You were out, alone, during the time Savvy was killed. But you lied to the police and said you walked home right after she left.

            I didn't kill her.

               But this is the correct timeline now?

            I didn't kill her.

Yo, can we start again? I feel like I messed this up.

BOOK: Listen for the Lie
12.82Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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