The crimson stone – Preview #2

Enjoy another tiny snippet!

***

Paul shrugs, barely sparing me a glance, then calmly closes the folder before moving forward to the next one. “I can’t let the other coworkers think you get a special treatment for being friends with my wife.”

“Oh.” Well, this makes sense and doesn’t make it at the same time. My monosyllabic answer must give away all my perplexity, for Paul finally stares at me, equally confused. I suppose I should have shut up and thanked him.

“But you are free to rewrite the whole piece if it makes you feel better.”

“I think I’ll pass.” Shuddering at the idea, I duck out before my attitude can cause some irreparable damage, then dash to my workstation and jump on the incoming emails at the speed of light. I scroll the senders and subjects, until one catches my attention. It comes from Mark, the dead walker, and for the life of me I have no idea how he got my work email. Taylor, of course… Damn her… But you know the saying? Curiosity killed the cat and, albeit between muttered curses, my pointer finger is already clicking on it. ‘Got tickets for next week’s Red Sox :)’ It’s all the message says and my mind goes inevitably to the exchange I had with Hannah about my hatred for sports. I’m about to decline in the politest way when my phone starts buzzing on the desk, startling me. The number flashing on the screen is unknown, but the area code is not; Boston city. I cast a wary glance around while answering, “Hello?”

“Miss Penelope Cosgrove?” The voice is aloof and definitely unfamiliar.

“Yes, who’s speaking?”

“There’s a collect call for you from the Boston Police Department, Madam. Will you take it?”

The cold shivers assailing me at the mention of that place are icier than the forty inches of snow sitting outside the building. I remember perfectly the last time I got a call from there; it was when Hannah and her ex-boyfriend had been detained. Quickly skimming through the list of people still living in the city, my first thought goes inevitably to Dom. What on earth did he do now? Please, Lord, you can’t have dropped him in another fight with some creditor. “I… Sure, of course.” I’m so upset that my voice barely comes out as a whisper and I’m not sure the person on the phone heard me, until a loud rustle suggests a change of hands. My stomach is already twitching in anxiety as I count the deep exhales on the other end; three before someone finally talks.

The crimson stone – Preview #1

My fingers are already finding their place on the keyboard, resolute, when the sound of barefoot steps catches my attention. Hannah is approaching me, lids still heavy with sleep. “You’re up early.” My daughter has never been a morning person – and neither have I, to be honest – so it’s quite a historical event that we’re both awake before dawn.

“You too,” she observes with a raised brow, moving closer to glance at the screen and at the notes scattered on the desk.

“Working on next week’s issue.”

“Exes fighting over dog’s custody. Wow,” she mutters with her typical vein of sarcasm.

What was she hoping to read? Ever since we moved to Gardner, there hasn’t been anything exciting to consult. “Spare me your irony, please, this stuff pays your study,” I reproach her, while she’s already leaving my side. The idyll didn’t last long.

She sinks heavily onto the sofa and looks outside. “I don’t understand why dad can’t contribute.”

“Because I decided so.” My voice doesn’t grow of a decibel, but my tone is firm.

Dominique and I divorced four years ago, officially for incompatibility, after his gambling habits left us stone broke. It was my choice to never tell Hannah her father was a compulsive gambler – in the end he’s always been a decent father, why ruin that? – but as she grows and gets demanding, it becomes harder to explain why she can’t rely on her father’s financial support.

“Whatever floats your boat,” she grumbles.