Charred

Free Charred by Kate Watterson

Book: Charred by Kate Watterson Read Free Book Online
Authors: Kate Watterson
Tags: Mystery
can find him.”
    Six simple words. It diffused her argumentative stance, set her back on her heels in a figurative sense and brought it all to a halt. “How do you know that?”
    “You have something.”
    “Oh, that’s specific.”
    “You have what I think is a pretty glaring clue that Tobias didn’t do it.”
    It was impossible not to stare at him. In general Bryce was good to look at anyway, so it wasn’t much of a chore. With a hint of a dark morning beard he resembled a pirate in a romance novel, bare-chested and surprisingly muscular for a man she knew didn’t work out more than playing the occasional round of golf. Good genes were hard to beat. “I’m all ears,” she told him, getting up to refill her cup. When she turned back around she caught him still faintly smiling and demanded, “What?”
    “You love this … for the lack of a better phrase, the hunt.”
    “If you mean to imply that I like that there are people out there—”
    “I don’t,” Bryce interrupted. “I mean that when something like this happens, you are exactly the right person who wants to find out who could have possibly done it. We need you, and I admire it.”
    Said that way, she wasn’t sure how to respond. Maybe he had a point. Having a relationship with a woman like her had to be pretty interesting and she worried on a daily basis that he was going to get tired of her schedule, her constant abstraction … her. He didn’t flatter himself that she’d taken the job with MPD solely just to be near him, she knew that … it had been a promotion and a chance to do more of what she was really good at, which was solving crimes like the one they were discussing at the moment.
    This case was just what she needed to convince her she’d made the right move.
    She said mildly, “There’s no doubt that Tobias could be the one who torched his house, but I can’t see it. Why do you doubt it?” Her eyes were narrowed over the rim of her cup, her back propped against the counter.
    He set his elbows on the table and frowned. “It was clearly planned. The body was put there, the fire set … and if I were the one who had gone to all that trouble, I really would have left a note explaining myself if I’d decided to end it all. The sequence of the events seems to me his death is more a cause and effect. The insurance, as you said, will pay the mortgage off, but he and his wife lost whatever equity they might have had because they don’t actually hold the mortgage. A blow like that is pretty brutal.”
    “But not enough to kill yourself over.”
    His smile was brief. “Not someone like you. Not even someone like me. But not everyone is resilient. If he thought it was the end of the world, then it was. You don’t live in his reality. Didn’t you say he’d moved from job to job?”
    “Yes.” She chewed briefly on her lower lip. “All right, I buy that well enough and overlook the implied inference that you are somehow more sensitive than I am because it might be true. I’m still not seeing your glaring clue.”
    “The suicide was impulsive. Your arsonist on the other hand is pretty damned methodical.”
    “I hate to break it to you, Dr. Grantham, but that is not a clue. It is a conclusion. For the record, we are not allowed to draw conclusions.”
    “But you do. You just call them hunches, or intuition.”
    It took her a moment, but she acquiesced. “True enough. If we only operated on facts we wouldn’t ever get anywhere. The system is cumbersome enough as it is.”
    Outside the sky was a brilliant blue, cloudless, almost metallic. No doubt his last electric bill had been ridiculous, but this month promised to be worse. The air hadn’t shut off in days. He crossed his ankles. “So what next?”
    “We couldn’t talk to his wife yesterday.”
    “She couldn’t talk to homicide detectives?”
    “Sedated, or so we were told. I suppose, given everything that happened, that makes sense. She was more than a little shook up

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