N Is For Noose Page 75


’’This is someone I've met, a woman named Margaret who works for the sheriff's department as a clerk. I'm going to have to go back up there and talk to her again, but I can't go without knowing what I'm up against.’’

’’Why call me? I can't help.’’

’’Yes, you can...’’

’’Kinsey, I don't know anything about this and frankly, I'm annoyed you keep pressing the point.’’

’’Well, frankly, I guess I'll just have to risk your irritation. What's the matter with you, Colleen?’’

’’Does it ever occur to you that I might find this painful? I mean, I'm sorry as hell for Selma, but she's not the only one who's suffered a loss. I was in love with him, too, and I don't appreciate your constantly picking at the wound.’’

’’Oh, really. Well, it's interesting that you should say so because you want to know what I think is going on? I think it pisses you off that you never had any power or any control in that relationship. Tom may have taken the moral high ground, acting from his lofty-sounding principles, but the fact is he left you with nothing and this is your payback.’’

’’That's not true.’’

’’Try again,’’ I said.

’’What's to pay back? He never did anything to me.’’

’’Tom was a tease. He was willing to flirt, but he was quick to draw lines you couldn't cross. He could afford to enjoy your attention because it didn't cost him a thing. He accepted the tribute without taking any risks, which meant he got to feel virtuous while you were left like a kid with your nose pressed to the glass. You could see what you wanted, but you weren't allowed to touch. And now you're thinking that's the best you'll ever have, which is really bullshit because you didn't have anything. All this talk about pain is an attempt to sanctify a big, fat, emotional zero.’’ I knew I was only ragging on her because Selma had ragged on me, but it felt good nonetheless. Later, I'd feel guilty for being such a bitch, but for now it seemed like the only way to get what I wanted.

She was silent for a moment. I could hear the intake of cigarette smoke, followed by the exhale of her breath. ’’Maybe.’’

’’Maybe, my ass. It's the truth,’’ I said. ’’Everybody sees him as noble, but I think he was supremely egotistical. How honorable was he when he never had the courage to tell his wife?’’

’’Tell her what?’’

’’That he was tempted to be unfaithful because of his attraction to you. He didn't act on his feelings, but it's no bloody wonder she ended up feeling insecure. And what did it net you? You're still hung up on him and you may never get yourself off the hook.’’

’’Look, you really don't know what you're talking about so let's skip all the homegrown psychology: Tell me what you want and get it over with.’’

’’You have to level with me.’’


’’Because my life may depend on it,’’ I snapped. ’’Come on, Colleen. You're a professional. You know better. You sit there doling out little tidbits of information, hanging on to the crumbs because it's all you have. This is serious damn shit. If Tom were in your position, do you think he'd withhold information in a situation like this?’’

She inhaled again. ’’Probably not.’’ Grudgingly.

’’Then let's get on with it. If you know what's going on, for god's sake, let's have it.’’

She seemed to hesitate. ’’Tom was facing a moral crisis. I was the easy part, but I wasn't all of it.’’

’’What do you mean, you were the easy part?’’

’’I'm not sure how to explain. I think he could do the right thing with me and it was a comfort to him. That situation made sense while the other problem he was facing was more complicated.’’

’’You're just guessing at this or do you know for a fact?’’

’’Well, Tom never came out and said so, but he did allude to the issue. Something about not knowing how to reconcile his head and his gut.’’

’’In regard to what?’’

’’He felt responsible for Toth's murder.’’

’’He felt responsible? How come?’’

’’A breach of confidentiality.’’

’’As in what? I don't get it.’’

’’Toth's whereabouts,’’ she said. ’’I gave him the address and phone number of the Gramercy. Tom thought someone used the information to track Toth down and kill him. It was driving him crazy to think the man might have died because of his carelessness.’’

I felt myself blinking at the phone, trying to make sense of what she'd said. ’’But Selma tells me Tom was always tight-lipped. That was one of her complaints. He never talked about anything, especially when it came to his work.’’

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