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Authors: William Casey Moreton

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The Stranger Beside You

BOOK: The Stranger Beside You
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The Stranger Beside You
William Casey Moreton
Maroon Road Books (2011)
Rating:
★★★★☆
Tags:
Mystery, Suspense, Thriller
Mysteryttt Suspensettt Thrillerttt

How well do you really know the person in bed beside you?

Brynn Nelson is living the American dream. She has a nice home in the suburbs, a husband working on Wall Street, and two fabulous kids. But when the FBI rings the doorbell at midnight, storming her home and arresting her husband Tom for murder, her peaceful world is shattered.

When Tom is killed under mysterious circumstances within hours of his arrest,
Brynn finds herself following a trail of cryptic clues planted by Tom himself. Soon it's clear that her husband was leading a secret life, and now those same secrets threaten to kill her next.

WILLIAM CASEY MORETON grew up in the South and graduated college in 1993 with a degree in Religious Studies. He is the author of seven novels, including NEVER BACK DOWN, THE SEARCH, and 72 HOURS. Moreton is a member of International Thriller Writers and lives in the Midwest where he is at work on his next book. He can be contacted at [email protected]

 

THE STRANGER

BESIDE YOU

 

A Thriller

 

WILLIAM CASEY

MORETON

 

 

Copyright 2011, William Casey Moreton All rights reserved, including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form.  

 

THE STRANGER BESIDE YOU is a work of fiction.  Any references to historical events, real people, or real locales are used fictitiously.  Other names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination, and any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

 

 

TABLE OF CONTENTS

 

Copyright

Chapter 1

 

 

 

1

 

The doorbell rang at midnight, when the house was filled with a dead-of-night stillness where every sound was amplified.  Everyone was asleep, including me, so the bell was loud like a canon shot booming down the hall to our bedroom.  I didn’t hear the first chime because I was out cold.  Or maybe I did, but if I did, I thought I’d dreamed it.  On the second chime I opened my eyes and stared at the back of Tom’s head.  The sound of the bell didn’t wake him.  He could sleep through a hurricane, but I’m a mom, and moms don’t have the luxury of being heavy sleepers.

I twisted around and sat up.  The big red digital numbers on the alarm clock displayed straight up twelve o’clock.  The room was dark except for a seam of exterior light slanting through the blinds.  I threw back the sheets and walked across the room to the window.  I glanced back at Tom, but he was still dead to the world.

Maybe I’m wrong, but I would venture to guess that few good things have ever resulted from a doorbell ringing at midnight.  I mean, neighbors don’t ask to borrow a cup of sugar at that hour, and kids from down the block aren’t going to be coming over to play.  It’s almost always going to be bad news, so my motherly nerves were instantly on alert.

I was twisting the stick that opens the blinds when the bell chimed a third time.  The wooden slats slowly leveled out flat, letting dim moonlight stream in.  The pale outside light made the carpeting at my feet a washed-out shade of gray. 

Our upstairs bedroom overlooks the driveway.  It’s a big paved semicircle, so cars enter one end and exit the other.  A floodlight mounted over the garage shines out over the pavement.  I stood on my tiptoes and peered down.  That’s when I saw the caravan of dark vehicles lined up around the curve of the driveway.  There were three of them.  Sleek black SUV’s with dark glass.  I’ve never been a car nut, so makes and models are more or less interchangeable.  Tom, on the other hand, could take one glance and tell you every detail about the car, including horsepower and the size of the engine block and how it rated in
Motor Trend
.  But I wasn’t worried whether those were Ford’s or Chevy’s or whatever.  What I cared about was the group of men in dark suits standing in the glow of the floodlight. 

“Tom,” I said, my voice low and cautious as if the men outside might be able to hear.

My husband didn’t stir.


Tom!
” 

This time he made some sort of barely audible grumble, half his face stuffed against his pillow.  He didn’t budge.

“Tom, there are people outside,” I said in a tone slightly above a whisper.

 “Who is it?” he asked, rolling onto his back.

“I don’t know.”

“I didn’t hear anything, babe.”

“There are cars in the driveway.”

He sighed the way he does when he thinks I’m overreacting.  He rose up on one elbow, his bare chest dappled in moonlight.  He was lumbering toward the window when the doorbell chimed a fourth time, followed by a heavy pounding on the door that we could hear even upstairs.

Tom stopped in his tracks.

We made eye contact. 

He came over to the window and stood beside me.  “Weird,” he said.  “Very weird.”

“Should we call the police?”

“Not yet.”  Tom put on a T-shirt and a pair of sweatpants.

I saw the safe in the corner of the closet where he keeps his gun.  He didn’t open it or so much as glance at it.

“Where are you going?” I asked.

“Well, I’m going to answer the door.”

“That worries me.  I’m calling 911.”

“Not yet.  Just keep the phone ready.  If these people were breaking in, they wouldn’t be at the front door ringing the bell.  Just chill a minute and let me find out what they want.”

I wasn’t pleased.  911 is a girl’s best friend.  I grabbed a robe from my closet, snatched the cordless phone from the charger on Tom’s nightstand, hurried from the bedroom to the hallway and spotted Tom’s silhouette at the landing at the bottom of the stairs.

“Be
careful
,” I whispered as loudly as I could.

There was another heavy pounding at the door, followed by “FBI!”

My heart sank.

Tom stood six paces from the door.  He paused and glanced over his shoulder at me.  He turned on a lamp by the door.

For the first time I thought about the kids.  Josh and Ashton had been asleep down the hall.  I heard the whisper of a door sweeping open over the carpet and Josh appeared in the hall in his PJ bottoms.

“What’s going on, mom?” he asked.

“Nothing, sweetie, go back to bed.”

“What’s with the doorbell?”

“Daddy’s taking care of it.”

“Anything wrong?”

“Of course not.  Close your door and go back to sleep.”

He squinted at me through the dark and rubbed his eyes, then reluctantly retreated back into his room and I heard the door click shut.  From the top of the stairs I could see through the gloom to the kitchen.  Something caught my eye, just a flash of movement, and then I spotted a pinpoint of light in the kitchen window.  Someone with a flashlight was climbing through the bushes.  The beam of light made a pattern on the kitchen wall.  My stomach tightened.

Tom was standing at the front door.

“Tom, there’s someone at the back of the house!”

He had his hand on the doorknob and glanced out through one of the sidelight windows that frame the entry. 

“What’s happening?” I asked with a tremor in my voice.

He didn’t answer.

Then I heard commotion at the back of the house.  More flashlights.  I scurried halfway down the stairs and then froze as I gripped the rail with both hands.  Lights were shining in, moving, shifting.  The light made shadow shapes on the walls and between the legs of furniture.  I saw shadowy figures touching the glass.

“Tom, I’m calling the police.”

“No.  Brynn, just stay where you’re at,” he said. 

“FBI!  Open up!”

Tom turned the lock. 

“Don’t open the door!” I insisted.

Tom ignored me and opened the door.  I held my breath.  There were several men in dark suits standing at the door, backlit by the headlights of the SUV’s.

“Tom Nelson?” the tall one in front asked.  He had short dark hair with a crisp part.  

Tom nodded.  “That’s right.”

The man produced a badge.  “Special Agent Leonard Chapman, Federal Bureau of Investigation.”

Tom gave the badge a quick glance.  “What’s this about?”

The three men flanking Chapman flashed their badges and held them out in similar fashion for inspection.  “These are agents Price, Welsh, and Byron.  Mr. Nelson, we’d like to have a word with you.”

“It’s the middle of the night.  Whatever is going on, can’t this wait?”

“Actually, no.”

Tom scratched at the back of his ear.  He glanced at each agent in turn, then peered around Chapman at the line of vehicles idling in the driveway.

“I’m confused here,” Tom said, shrugging.  “Why is the FBI knocking on my door at midnight?  Is there a manhunt going on?  Was there a prison break or something?”

“Mr. Nelson, we have a warrant for your arrest.”

I was certain I hadn’t heard correctly.  I took a single step forward, turning my ear to hear them better. 

“Excuse me?” Tom said.

“May we step inside please?” Chapman said, already directing Tom with his body language.

Tom had one hand on the door, and he used it to partially block them out.  One of the agents pulled out his black handgun.  It was Special Agent Byron.

“Please, Mr. Nelson,” Chapman said.  “Let’s take this inside.”

I couldn’t see everything that was happening, but I could hear a distinct shift in Tom’s tone.  My husband is the coolest man I’ve ever met.  Sometimes I’m convinced he has ice water in his veins.  No one deals with stress or stressful situations better than he does.  This characteristic makes him perfectly suited for his high-pressure career on Wall Street, especially in this day and age.  I don’t know where he got it, but he always oozes cool and calm.  He’s my rock, so when I noticed the nearly imperceptible tremor in his voice, I felt my knees go weak.

The federal agents surrounded him.

Chapman took out a walkie-talkie and said, “Stand down, we have him.”

Price hit a light switch on the wall and then let his fellow agents in through the patio door in back.  We were suddenly surrounded.  There was one female agent, dressed in black jeans and a sport coat, her red hair cut short and spiky.  She was very attractive but every bit as ominous looking as her male counterparts.

I came forward to stand by my husband, holding my robe together with one hand.  “What are you talking about?” I asked.

“Mrs. Nelson?” Chapman said.

I nodded.

“I have a warrant for the arrest of your husband for the murder of a federal agent.”

It was like having the wind knocked out of me.  I stood stunned and speechless, and I saw the blood drain from Tom’s face.

“You’re kidding, right?” Tom managed to say.

“Absolutely not.”

Special Agent Price hurried forward with handcuffs.  Chapman proceeded to read Tom his Miranda rights.  The female agent glared at us with a look that could melt iron.  She had dazzling green eyes.  

“This is a mistake,” I said.

They ignored me.

“You’re accusing him of murder?  My husband has never harmed anyone in his life.  This is crazy!”

Tom stood with his hands cuffed behind his back.  He looked at me with eyes that were suddenly full of fear.  It was a look I’d never seen in all the years I’d known him, making this easily the most unsettling moment of my entire adult life.

“Tom?  What’s going on?”

He was pale.  He took a deep breath.  “I don’t know,” he said.

“Why are they doing this?”

“We’ll get this straightened out.  Don’t worry about me, okay?”

I reached out to touch him, to hold him, but the federal agents formed a barrier around him, shielding him from me.  The house was suddenly buzzing with the sounds of cell phones, radio chatter and general chaos.

I felt the chill of motherly instincts and turned to see the kids standing together at the top of the stairs.  Josh, our eight-year-old, and Ashton, our four-year-old.  Ashton was standing behind his older brother, his blanket clutched in one tiny hand. 

“Josh,” I said, “Don’t let him see this!  Take your brother to your bed.  I’ll be up in a minute!”

Josh hesitated, hypnotized by the sights and sounds of his father being taken into custody by these strangers with guns.

I raised my voice, “Did you hear me?”

Finally he nodded.  He took his brother by the hand and they disappeared behind his closed door.

Tom was being ushered out of the house.

BOOK: The Stranger Beside You
12.64Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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