“They’re not that bad, Marilyn. It’s just that you don’t get over something that traumatic in a few hours. At least I don’t.”
“Of course not. I understand. Take today. Get a grip. I’ll be in touch.”
With that she was gone. No sooner had Holly disconnected than Mrs. Briggs came in carrying a large vase of red roses. “These just came for you.”
Holly opened the small envelope attached. “Greg Sanders,” she said without inflection. “Expressing his concern and sending best wishes.”
Mrs. Briggs snorted her disdain. “Did you see this morning’s paper?”
“Where he advocated tighter courthouse security, and cited all the times he’s made personal appeals to the county commissioners for funding? Yes, I saw that.”
“And the other part?” her assistant asked in a softer tone.
Holly left her desk chair and walked over to the window. “Could yesterday’s tragedy have been spawned by some deep, dark secret in my past?”
“He didn’t come right out and pose the question, but that was the gist of it.”
“He’s too clever to say anything libelous. But the thought has been planted in the general public’s mind.”
“In yours, too, I think.”
Holly continued to stare at nothing out the window. “Until I know better, I’ll continue wondering if I was responsible for it. If I learn I was, it will haunt me forever.”
“Despite what you say, you’re not fine. Please go home. Pull the covers up over your head and—” Mrs. Briggs was interrupted by the telephone on Holly’s desk. She answered on the second ring. “Judge Spencer’s office. Yes, she’s right here.” Extending the receiver toward Holly, she said, “Sergeant Lester.”
Holly returned to her desk and took the receiver. Mrs. Briggs left, pulling the door closed behind her. Holly said, “Hello, Sergeant Lester.”
“I told her it was him so you’d take the call.”
Her stomach dropped. She closed her eyes. But the image persisted of him looking down at her while standing beside the sofa, hastily buttoning up his fly. He’d walked out before taking time even to tuck in his shirttail or buckle his belt. Neither of them had spoken a word.
“I’m hanging up,” she said.
“Never pull another trick like this.”
“Listen to me.”
“There’s nothing to say.”
“Little you know, judge. There’s a lot to say.”
“We’ve got to talk.”
“No, we don’t. We definitely do not . Don’t call me again.”
She hung up before he could say anything else. With a cold and clammy hand, she replaced the receiver on the phone. Then, folding her arms on her desktop, she laid her head on them and tried to control her breathing, which was as difficult to do as it was to block the memory of her and Crawford Hunt tugging at their clothing, clumsily adjusting limbs as they sought purchase on the narrow sofa, of her groaning with frustration, of him swearing with impatience until he was moving deep inside her, when the tenor of their groans and swearing had changed entirely.
After one solid rap on the office door, Mrs. Briggs pushed it open. Holly sprang upright. From the threshold, her assistant looked at her with a mix of puzzlement and concern. But Holly’s expression must have looked like a silent order for her not to pry, not even to inquire what was the matter.
Mrs. Briggs cleared her throat. “I hate to disturb you, Judge Spencer, but you asked for a half hour’s notice before you were due at the morgue.”
C rawford kicked aside an empty paint can as he made his way up the weed-choked path, wondering what had happened to the paint that belonged to the can. It hadn’t been applied to the house, which looked more ramshackle than it had the last time he was here.
As he stepped onto the porch, the rotting planks bowed beneath his weight. Through the screen door, he saw Conrad waving for him to come inside.
“Make sure to pull that screen