Brute Strength

Brute Strength by Susan Conant

Book: Brute Strength by Susan Conant Read Free Book Online
Authors: Susan Conant
that it doesn’t pack a lot of punch.
    Steve walked in. ‘Sent you what?’
    I handed him the sheet of plain white paper with the single word ‘bitch’ spelled out in glued-on letters that had been cut from a newspaper.
    â€˜Where’d this come from?’ he asked.
    â€˜Mixed in with the mail. The envelope has a stamp, but there’s no postmark and no return address.’
    â€˜I didn’t notice.’
    Because this was my house before Steve and I got married, the bulk of our mail is mine, so Steve usually just scans for his own name, puts glaringly obvious junk with the recycling, and leaves everything else for me.
    â€˜There’s no reason you would have.’
    â€˜Let me see the envelope.’
    As Steve examined it, I took a second look and once again found nothing remarkable. It was the kind of cheap business-size white envelope sold by the million at office-supply stores, supermarkets, drugstores, and discount department stores. The flap was the kind that you have to moisten, not the pull-and-seal type that’s becoming increasingly popular. My name and address were neatly and evenly printed on the front in blue ink. The printing was in the style that everyone is supposed to learn in first grade. The stamp showed the Liberty Bell.
    â€˜That’s a Forever stamp,’ I said. ‘It’s good even if the postage goes up.’
    â€˜Looks like a teacher’s printing.’
    â€˜Why would a teacher have something against me? But you’re right. There’s nothing sloppy about any of it. The stamp is in the exact corner, and the printing is perfect. The lines are straight. The letters are evenly spaced. That’s true about the glued-on letters, too. So, a neat person thinks I’m a bitch. You know what? I think I should forget about it. Let’s feed the dogs and get going.’
    And that’s what we did. Because we both took showers and because Gabrielle called as we were about to leave, it was seven before we were settled in a cozy booth at Legal, where we ordered drinks, heard about the specials, studied the menu, and began to catch up with each other.
    â€˜I’m tempted to order lobster,’ I said, ‘so you won’t think I’m a cheap date, but I think I’m going to have fried oysters and fried clams. Or maybe fish and chips. And you’re having cherrystones and . . .?’
    He shook his head. ‘No, I’m having clam chowder and that scallop special. You know, I’ve been thinking about that letter.’
    â€˜It’s hardly a letter.’
    â€˜Hate mail.’
    â€˜It isn’t even that. Steve, it’s not worth thinking about. If it were, I’d show it to Kevin. But if I do, he’ll either tell me that it’s not threatening—’
    â€˜True enough.’
    â€˜Or he’ll overreact and deliver his usual cop lecture about the need to be on red alert about everything. He’s hardly going to turn it into an official police matter. You’ve heard Kevin on the subject of people who watch crime-scene shows on TV and then expect the Cambridge police to do DNA tests for every trivial little—’
    â€˜He probably didn’t lick the envelope, anyway. But that reminds me. I was thinking—’
    The server appeared and took our orders. When he’d left, I said, ‘You were thinking?’
    â€˜If you were going to send . . . or especially if, let’s say, Leah wanted to send an anonymous message, not that either of you would, but if you did, how would you go about it?’
    â€˜Email? Except that I’d have to figure out how to stay anonymous. But yes, a lot of people our age or younger would use a computer, at least to address the envelope and print the word “bitch”. Those glued-on letters from the newspaper are old , aren’t they? You and I get most of our news online and from NPR, but a lot of people Leah’s

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