Groundswell: Chapter twenty-two

“Have you found anything yet?”

Chance Miller’s sister Lacy seemed like a sweet woman. He hated to disappoint her.

“Nothing concrete, but I think I might be on to something. I’m on top of it, I assure you. I’m about to follow up on a new development right now, as a matter of fact.”

“Oh. Okay. Well, good. Because you know what I heard you were on top of? That whore he was fucking when he died. You ought to be investigating her husband.”

Not as sweet as I thought. He sighed, wishing he’d have let the call go to voice mail. “I’m looking into her, yes. And her husband. Nothing inappropriate has happened between us, I promise you that.”

Hadn’t it, though? He wasn’t so sure. The feelings he was developing her seemed wrong, but he couldn’t help having them.

“Dale saw her go into your room at the Econolodge. Said she didn’t come out ’til the butt crack of dawn.”

Logan shook his head. He hated being yelled at while he was driving, so he pulled over and parked in front of a drugstore on Main Street, which was perfect, because he had a headache, anyway. He needed a clear head before he went over to Candy’s to check out the damage.

“I’m getting a lot of useful info out of her,” he said, exiting his car with his phone cradled between his ear and shoulder. He didn’t even believe himself.

He went inside, the dinging door chime prompting the clerk behind the desk to look up from the Wired magazine he was reading.

“Where’s the ibuprofen?”

“What?”

“I wasn’t talking to you,” Logan snapped. “Look, I don’t have time for this. I’m at the drugstore buying some Tylenol for my headache, which you’re making worse.”

“Third row, middle shelf.”

“Thanks.”

“Oh, I’m sorry, are you busy? Am I bothering you? Better pick up some condoms to if you’re gonna mess around with that slut. You hear me? I’m not paying you to–“

Logan ended the call and grabbed a bottle of Advil. He paid cash and was about to take his change and leave when he spotted two white vans rolling past the window.

Major red flag.

“Keep the change,” he said, stuffing the pills into his jacket pocket. He dashed out the door just in time to see the vans turn and disappear down an alleyway.

He jumped in his car and took off after them without bothering to fasten his seatbelt.

Walking along the sidewalk was the same man who’d seen him bringing Candy into his motel room. Dale. He want to talk to him, but this wasn’t the time.

He turned down the alley but saw no sign of the vans. He circled the block several times. He drove all over town, until he finally gave up and went to Candy’s house.

The door swung open as soon as he set foot on the front porch, and before he could stop her, Candy’s arms were around him, her face pressed against his neck. She’d been crying, and there was a strong smell of alcohol on her breath.

“Do you always wear that suit and hat?”

“When I’m on the job, yes.”

“Why?”

“Well, because things like that used to be important. And I’m a traditional kind of guy.”

“Ah,” she said. “And I wouldn’t understand because I’m not a traditional kind of gal. But I mean, it’s hot here, dude. You’re not in Chicago anymore.”

“Never said I was. There are other towns and cities in Illinois besides Chicago, you know. Just like there are other places in New York besides New York City. Are you going to let me in?”

She rolled her eyes, turned around and walked to the living room. Even with the house a complete shambles, He couldn’t help checking out her ass. She was wearing those shorts again.

Stop it. Lacy’s right. Get ahold of yourself, already.

“You know a guy named Dale? Knows Chance Miller’s family? His sister said his name like she assumed I’d know who he was.”

“His stupid brother-in-law. I’ve never met him, but Chance talks–talked--about him. Couldn’t stand him. Drunk, loser, can’t keep a job. His sister always saves his ass, though. She canceled a cruise they were planning for like, a year. Had to bail his stupid ass out of jail for a DUI.”

Logan sat down, rubbing his head and wondering when the ibuprofen was going to kick in. “His little sister gets cheated on, gets her heart broken, he gets mad, gets drunk, cuts him up and feeds him to pigs.”

He looked at her. “How’s that for a theory?”

She shrugged. “I dunno, maybe. Why did she bring him up, anyway? Does she think he did it?”

“No, no. Not at all. They think Blake did it and that I’m so under your spell that I can’t see it.”

She seemed amused by this. “And you? What do you think?”

“I haven’t ruled your husband out yet, but this Dale is my number one suspect at the moment.”

“No, I mean are you under my spell?

He hesitated. “Look, he saw us going into the motel the other night. Called her and told her, I guess.”

The halfhearted, tipsy smile she’d been wearing fell from her lips and faded away. “That was him. Out in the parking lot.”

“Bingo. Saw him downtown today, too. Awfully big coincidence.”

She looked at the wall.

Die bitch whore ur next

Her face went white. “He’s following me. He wants to do the same thing to me he did to Chance.”

He got up and grabbed her arm; looked into her eyes. “I promise you, I won’t let that happen.”

To his surprise, she shoved him away, her eyes blazing. “He was in my house!” she shouted. “In my fucking house, the only place I feel safe! Everyone out there either looks at me like a piece of shit or a piece of meat! Somebody’s always fucking with me. But not in my house, not until now.” She picked up a half-empty Smirnoff bottle and hurled it at the writing on the wall. It shattered, soaking the “ur” with vodka.

He starred at the letters as they ran down the wall. He moved closer, pulling a latex glove out of his pocket and tracing a finger along one of the streaks. He then raised it to his nose and sniffed it; examined it. “No way.”

“What? What is it?”

He turned towards her. “This isn’t paint,” he said. “It’s blood.”

“Shit!” She buried her face in her hands and paced the room like a mental patient in a rubber cell. “Shit shit shit. Oh shit. Shit.

Logan changed gloves and put the bloody one in a plastic bag. He took a look around, lifting random bits of debris off of the floor to peek underneath of them. He crouched down next to the sofa and reached down between it and the side table.

He rummaged around blindly for a moment and froze, hoping he wasn’t touching what he thought he was touching. He closed his eyes, grabbed the cold, wet, rubbery thing and pulled it into view.

Candy screamed.

It was a human hand, and it was wearing a wedding band. He slipped the ring off its white, bony finger, oblivious to Candy’s continued screams.

There was something engraved on the inside of the band. He held it closer to his eye and squinted.

Chance & Amanda Miller, always And forever.

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