Close Call
ran down the sides. “Damn.” She shook droplets off her fingers. Connie handed her a paper towel. As she blotted the cup and dried her fingers, she said, “The police are overwhelmed. There’ve been 214 homicides in DC already this year. A quarter of them are still unsolved. I’ve got time on my hands since I turned in my manuscript on the Bingle murders.”
    The mass murder of a five-person family by the fourteen-year-old daughter; the story that had taken Reese to Oklahoma.
    â€œI could poke around—”
    â€œLast time you poked around, it didn’t turn out so well for me,” Sydney said, “so I think I’ll pass.”
    Reese took the blow without batting an eye.
    â€œOh, for heaven’s sake,” Connie huffed. “Your sister’s only trying to—”
    Reese stopped her with an upraised hand and continued to study Sydney with eyes that held more sympathy than Sydney was comfortable with.
    Before either her sister or her mother could say more, Sydney slipped her arms through the carry hoops on the bag. “I need to change.” She was running away from Reese; she didn’t have the energy to overturn the habit of fifteen years. Not today. She left the kitchen, headed for the sanctuary of her old bedroom.

    Home in Barrytown, Pennsylvania, Paul gazed down at his sleeping father, listening to the breaths whistling between his loose lips. William Jones lay on his back under a light sheet, his prominent nose pointing straight up, bold as a ship’s prow. His arms lay outside the sheet, straight along his sides. Spikes of hair poked out of his nostrils and ears, stiff as the fibers on a boar bristle hair brush. Paul had taken to trimming the hairs from his own nose and ears, finding that sign of aging much more abhorrent than wrinkles, age spots, or creaky knees. His thumb and forefinger absently tugged at one earlobe. He breathed shallowly through his mouth, trying to avoid inhaling the sting of camphor from the vaporizer, the singed smell of sheets dried at too high a temperature, and the scent of old man’s body.
    His father coughed, opening eyes with pale blue irises awash in corneas like half-cooked egg whites. Sleep stickies caked the corners. Confusion clouded his face as he stared up at Paul. Finally, he smiled, creasing his sunken cheeks. “Eldon!”
    â€œNo, Pop, it’s me, Paul.” He took his father’s hand in his. It felt too light, as if the bones were hollow. “How’re you doing?”
    â€œYour son.” He bit down on the urge to ask “Remember?” while knowing his father didn’t. “Moira tells me you had a little adventure.”
    Paul had stopped by the Barrytown, Pennsylvania, precinct on his way into town, shot the shit with the few cops he still knew from his time on the job, and dropped a hint that he’d appreciate it if the fellows didn’t roust his father, just took him home.
    â€œSure, Paulie, sure,” his former partner, a polar bear of a Swede named Johanssen, told him. “Landon picked him up. New guy, a rookie. We told him what’s what.” Johanssen shook his ursine head at the thought of the rookie’s many failings.
    â€œI appreciate it, Lars. He needs his dignity, you know?”
    â€œAbsolutely, Paulie. But ya gotta keep him from walking around stark in front of teenage girls.” Johanssen pulled a cruller from the box of donuts Paul had brought and took a large bite. “It’s sad to see him like this, y’know? When he was with the force, he had such presence. Like, you always knew he was in the room, even if he wasn’t saying anything. Now … ” He stuffed the rest of the donut in his mouth and chewed. Swallowing, he said, “Anyways, we’ll look out for him.”
    â€œThanks, Lars. That’s all I ask.”
    â€œHow’s the lingerie business?” A smirk disfigured the

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