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Authors: Cassidy Salem

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BOOK: Think Murder
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Chapter 32
 

The next morning, the IMs started to fly earlier than usual. The first message reached me while I was on the Metro. Michelle had been browsing the local news on the bus ride downtown. She messaged me the URL of an article in the Washington Gazette, urging me to check it out.

The headline of the article read “West Virginia Congressman Mitchell Redmond suspected of accepting bribes and complicity in local murder.” The article outlined his involvement in obtaining approval for commercial development on lands designated for preservation in return for campaign funding. It summed up with a brief mention of Hilary’s murder:

“On a related note, police have divulged that Leonard Martinelli, a known associate and supporter of Redmond, has been implicated in the murder of Hilary Sterling earlier this month in a Georgetown pub. Police suspect Ms. Sterling’s death was tied to this same zoning scandal, however they have yet to determine whether the Congressman was involved or even cognizant of the crime.”

I was busy reading when my phone chimed with multiple IM message notifications. Jada had seen the newspaper, too, and let everyone in our IM group know about it. My other colleagues were quick to respond. Surprisingly enough, Amber was the first to make the connection between the zoning scandal and Hilary’s work at the DIPPeR. Michelle is part of the same IM group, however she didn’t participate in the discussion. I, too, opted to keep quiet.

When I got to work, Jada didn’t waste time on polite greetings. “Adina, did you see the news?”

I nodded. She continued, “Shocking, isn’t it? Was Hilary really killed because of Dr. Stickler’s project?”

“I’m not sure,” I fibbed. “Excuse me, but I really need to get to work. Talk to you later.”

In the kitchen, everyone – and I mean everyone – was talking about Hilary’s murder and the zoning scandal. In a scene reminiscent of an ambush by the press, I was soon surrounded by my colleagues and bombarded with questions. All that was missing were the cameras and microphones. I got away with answering in broad terms until Rick entered the kitchen, his eyes riveted to his smartphone.

“Wow. This last post mentions an attempted kidnapping that yielded evidence that helped police crack the case.” Rick knew about the threat and jumped to the obvious conclusion. “Adina, what happened?”

A wave of shock rippled through the crowd. All eyes were on me.

I closed my eyes while I considered how to respond. “Yes, Hilary’s death was related to her work on the Land Use Survey. She asked the wrong questions and almost stumbled onto the zoning scandal. And, yes, I was almost kidnapped earlier this week – for the same reason – but, as you can see, I’m fine. The police have things under control now. And I don’t feel like talking about it.”

Standing alone by the coffeemaker, Carol rolled her eyes. The crowd began to disperse, people talking quietly among themselves. I left the kitchen without bothering to make myself that cup of tea.

A few minutes later Michelle brought me a cup of tea. “You left the kitchen empty-handed.”

I smiled, “Thank you. Let’s talk later over lunch.” She nodded.

The only actionable item in my Inbox was a message from Matt suggesting that I familiarize myself with some documents in preparation for the hard work ahead. He was attending a conference in Delaware and wouldn’t be coming in that day. I was looking forward to digging in and doing something constructive, although I doubted I’d retain much of anything I read that day.

Exercising uncharacteristic restraint, I resolved to refrain from surfing the internet for updates on the zoning scandal and arrests. No doubt any new developments would be promptly reported on our IM group.

After trying to concentrate on the documents for more than hour, I gave in. I googled various combinations of ‘Martinelli’, ‘zoning scandal,’ ‘Hilary Sterling,’ and ‘Redmond’ to find the latest updates on the Internet. Almost an afterthought, I searched for my name and was relieved to see no hits related to the case.

Duncan and Rick joined Michelle and me for lunch. They were eager to discuss the arrests, the zoning scandal, and how the Land Use Survey fit in to the big picture. I started by explaining that Martinelli and Whitmore had both been backing Redmond in exchange for his vote in favor of the repurposing of land in West Virginia.

“That much I understood from the articles on the internet,” Rick said. “But why kill Hilary or threaten you?”

“Dr. Stickler’s Land Use Survey focuses on the preservation of lands designated for conservation. Hilary saw a spike in the repurposing of land in Morningstone and started asking questions. Martinelli got worried and had Fenner keeping an eye on her. Then, in what was purely a coincidence, Hilary took a picture of Martinelli meeting with Whitmore and Redmond on one of our weekend outings. Fenner was there and saw us. Martinelli panicked and had Fenner kill Hilary.”

“Wow. Unbelievable.” Michelle shook her head. “What a waste.”

Both Rick and I glanced over at Duncan, who listened in silence, picking distractedly at his food.

“Then you went and asked the same questions. The attempted kidnapping… What happened?” Rick asked.

Duncan already knew the details of the kidnapping attempt, but Rick and Michelle were aghast to realize the extent of the danger I had faced. I looked at Duncan and was again reminded that I had gotten off easy, compared to Hilary’s fate.

After I returned from lunch, Jonathan called to confirm our date for that evening. The documents Matt had suggested I read were open on my screen, however my thoughts were elsewhere. I alternated between poking around on the internet for updates on the scandal and/or murder, thinking about my upcoming date, and trying to read the documents.

Panic set in when I realized I had no idea what I was going to wear that night. I flipped haphazardly through the clothes stuffed into my tiny closet wishing I had gone shopping. No obvious candidates came to mind so I put off the decision until after a leisurely shower.

I had just stepped out of the shower when my phone chirped. The phone number looked familiar.

“Adina, how are you?” Bruce asked. He had seen the news and recognized Hilary’s name from our conversation at the yogurt shop.

After I had filled in a few of the blanks for him, my curiosity got the better of me. “Bruce, are you by any chance from West Virginia?”

“No. I was born in Chicago, and my family moved to North Carolina when I was 10.” I guess that explained the almost southern accent.

“I know this is going to sound silly. Why does your car have West Virginia plates?”

“The Explorer? I bought it a couple of weeks ago, second-hand. I haven’t had time to transfer the registration and put new plates on it.” He paused. “Oh… you thought…”

I interrupted him mid-sentence. “No. Not really. It’s been such a stressful week. I hope you can forgive me.”

“No problem. Are you coming to Cutie Pie tomorrow?”

“I plan to, unless something comes up.” With the prospect of seeing Bruce again, there wasn’t much that would keep me away.

“Great. See you then.”

Life was looking up. Or so it seemed. I couldn’t help wondering if my attraction to Bruce was mutual. After I got the threatening note, he had called the next day. Three days had passed since the attempted kidnapping before he had called. Maybe I was reading too much into his kind actions and pleasant demeanor.

At least I knew that Jonathan was interested – after all, he’d actually asked me out. Nonetheless, I had yet to experience that giddy feeling that comes with flirting with someone you really like. Maybe that’s just because of how we met.

Honestly, Bruce is my dream type. Tall, handsome, and sexy. Whenever I’m around Bruce, my senses go on alert – intoxicating aftershave or animal magnetism – I couldn’t deny the chemistry even if it might have been heightened by circumstances, what with his being there when I needed him. My hero.

For now, I had to push fantasies of Bruce out of my mind and concentrate on getting ready for my date with Jonathan. I wasn’t sure how much we would have in common now that the case was closed, but I was going to give it a chance. Besides, when I went home next week, I could tell my mother I had gone out on a date with a nice Jewish boy. Maybe that would keep her matchmaking efforts in check.

Jonathan had said he would pick me up at 8 p.m. and asked if I would be interested in checking out a combination steak house/pub in Chevy Chase. I had never heard of the place, but I agreed without hesitation.

It had taken forever to find something to wear – not too dressy, not too casual. And still flattering. In the end I settled on an emerald green and navy knit dress with a matching sweater jacket, and navy slingbacks. By then, almost everything I owned was thrown across my bed. Hair blown dry and makeup in place, I dashed around hoping to restore some semblance of order before my date arrived.

On my way home, I had popped into a photo store to have a 5 x 7” print made of the picture of Hilary and me. Mounted in a plain walnut frame, I set it on my desk as a reminder of our good times together.

Jonathan knocked on my door at exactly 8 p.m. Looking impressive in dark blue pants and a pale green Oxford shirt, he surprised me with a quick kiss on the cheek. Yes, without a doubt, life was looking up.

With a parting glance at Hilary’s photo and butterflies in my stomach, I headed out the door, eager to discover what the future would hold.

About the Author

Cassidy Salem has always been an avid reader. She is especially fond of mysteries and historical fiction. “Think Murder” is her first foray into the world of fiction writing.

When she’s not reading, Cassidy enjoys music and spending time with family and friends, and travels with her husband and son whenever possible.

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BOOK: Think Murder
13.35Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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