If you missed the first chapter, start here!
Penelope froze, watching the blood drain from Jake’s face across the room.
“Put your hands where I can see them!” the officer growled at her ear.
She lifted her hands to eye level before realizing he was talking to Jake. “Oh, sorry,” she said as the man behind her moved his head to see around her arm.
Jake held his hands out to the side. “Take a deep breath and think about what you’re doing.”
“Why do you always screw up everything?”
“Well, you said to put my hands…” She trailed off as Dolan’s breathing got harsher. “Oh, you mean the other stuff. That was mostly on accident”
“I spent hours making sure that everything about that scene pointed to her husband, and you went and cleaned it up.”
“Put the gun down and we’ll talk,” Jake said, his voice perfectly level.
“In my defense, that was mostly Brutus who messed it up.”
Dolan kept talking, the gun unmoving at her head. “I even made footprints with an old pair of his shoes that she kept for gardening. And then you destroyed it all.”
Penelope took a breath to defend herself and closed her mouth when Jake looked at her. Perhaps it wasn’t the right time to force him to accept her point of view. “You didn’t mean to kill her, though, did you?” she said. At least if he was talking he wasn’t shooting her. “I mean, strangling someone with a leash doesn’t scream premeditation.”
“She laughed at me.”
The whirr of the kitchen fan was the only sound for a few seconds.
Penelope reached up to pat the arm restraining her. “I’m sorry. That must have hurt.”
“I thought she loved me. I did things that would have ruined my career for her. It started out with just fixing a few tickets, and then she wanted me to find out things about people and cases, but that was okay because we were going to go away and start again somewhere else where nobody knew us.” He choked out the last few words.
Penelope tried to read the signs from Jake’s face. Was he encouraging her to continue, or was that a look telling her not to make the guy with the gun start crying? While they’d worked out a signal that they needed to be rescued from a conversation at a party, they’d never worked out a hostage strategy which seemed like a grave oversight at the moment. “What’s your plan now? Too many people know you came over here tonight. Jezza was an accident and a good lawyer will be able to work something out. Why don’t you put down the gun and we’ll talk about it.” The smell of overdone bread wafted out of the kitchen.
His voice took on a dreamy quality. “There’s nothing left for me anymore. Everything’s ruined.”
“Don’t talk like that,” Penelope said, calling on what her son called her “mom tone”. “We’ll get you a lawyer and everyone will sit down and talk and you’ll get a good night’s sleep and things will look better in the morning.”
She could feel him wavering. His arm loosened and the hand with the gun moved slightly away from her head. “Do you really—”
At the sudden blast of sound from the smoke detector above his head, Dolan started and Penelope felt a pain in her forehead as the gun went off.
(Comments, requests, and suggestions all welcome!)