“Child, keep out of gravestone shadows.” Wendy gave Aiden’s hand a slight tug, dragging him farther from an elongated shadow in the grass.
“I don’t want to die.”
“No one dies in here. Just don’t step in any shadows. The sun’s getting higher. See. The shadows are already disappearing.”
“Will they follow us then?” Aiden stumbled on a root hidden in the uncut weeds.
“They found the body in the alley at the bottom of the fire escape.”
“The one outside my bedroom?” Henry rolled his wide eyes at his cousin. “You’re full of it.”
“All the witnesses said he jumped for the ladder three times before they caught him. He died still reaching up grabbing at anything that came in reach.”
A couch pillow hit Laveral hard enough to snap his head back and stop his story. Henry smiled at his mother. She didn’t notice. She glared at Laveral. He had all her attention.
“You won’t burn my wedding pictures.” I extended my hand, demanding the memory stick back.
“Naiomi, you plugged this into your work computer?” Carter ground his teeth while taking a deep breath, following it with a sigh. “I’ll have to run a full scan to see what kind of virus you’ve given it. You know the security policies. Your memory stick is now company property. You signed the same NDA we all signed. I’m throwing this memory stick into the incinerator.”
“They’re the only copy of my wedding pictures, and I need to get them off that stick.” I tossed my single, long, blond braid over my shoulder for effect. I doubted tossing my braid looked terrifying. Perhaps if I swung my head around and whipped him across the face with it.
“Nothing says good morning, Monday, like a cup of boiling hot cocoa with crunchy marshmallows.” Joshua spoke between gentle slurps. He sat on an ice-cold concrete bench wrapped in layers of coats and sweaters, accessorized by a scarf and tie.
Lucy examined Joshua’s perpetual scowl for any hint of humor. Steam drifted off the cup warming his hands. She rewrapped her scarf for the hundredth time and resumed pacing in an attempt to keep warm.
“Joshua, I never know when you’re being serious.”
He sipped his cocoa audibly crunching down on a marshmallow and almost managed a smile, but reverted back to pure scowl as his gaze fell on the concrete chess tables across the park. The tables started filling this time of the morning, and stayed somewhat full most daylight hours.
“Our murderer is here.”
He leaned in, intruding on her personal space in a familiar way she only allowed her mentor. Lucy felt his words as heated breath on one ear more than she heard them.
His lips and breath withdrew, leaving her questioning his intensions. They stood on an empty tube platform. No cars. Above, concrete and countless feet of dirt. Below, rails in a six-foot deep pit.
She put a hand on her stomach to settle it.
Gary ducked into the pressure suit locker pulling it shut behind him. The stench of sweat and disinfectant pushed him back against the locker door. He shoved himself into the claustrophobic space at the back of the locker’s rack where a third suit normally hung.
His rapid heart beat made him shake. If any of the officers saw him, he’d be scrubbing urinals with his tooth brush, or worse. He just couldn’t do the drills today. Not today. They were dropping tomorrow and he needed alone time.
Gary slumped down in the dark as much as the cramped locker allowed. His back pressed against one wall with his knees painfully jamming the locker wall in front of him.
“It won’t be that bad when they shut off grav,” Gary reminded himself in a mutter.
Andy sat on the edge of his bed, hands cuffed behind him. Uniformed police finished carrying the last folders out of Andy’s apartment. His computer, all the contents of his filing cabinet, and even his checkbook left with the last of the uniformed officers.
A suit-clad detective made one last sweep of the apartment. He spotted the phone sitting in its cradle by Andy’s bed.
“Almost forgot your phone.” He grinned at Andy. “Not that we need it after what we found on your computer.”
“Dad, I’m feeding the skeleton in the closet.”
My seven-year-old daughter stated this. She wasn’t asking permission.I had to sit up in my arm chair and set down my Kindle.
“Yes. He likes donuts.”
Julie knocked, balancing a warm crock pot on one knee. Lance answered, holding a textbook in one hand. Julie smiled. That was his idea of light reading, but she planned to marry him anyway.
“Come on in.”
“Whoa!” Julie stopped mid-step, nearly dropping her pot. “I thought it was just me.”
Lance escorted her gently through the door so that he could close it.
“It’s just the two of us.”
“The layover was only two years.”
Hazel let out a breath and crinkled her already wrinkled forehead. “He told me about it.”
Keira bounced her newborn child, more to calm herself than to calm the baby. “We’re newlyweds. How could he die? Was there a malfunction in stasis?”