Sugar Free Page 25

Devious, and my palms immediately started sweating.

He saunters up to me, not even bothering with pretending this is a chance meeting by going first to order some coffee. “Miss Halstead…imagine running into you here,” he says with an affable smile.

“Yeah, imagine that,” I say dryly.

“Just came in for my routine caffeine fix,” he says as he turns toward the counter. “Can I get you anything?”

“I’m good,” I say with a nod down at my tea.

“Be right back,” he says with that same cheerful smile.

I watch as he puts his order in and patiently waits for them to make it, hands tucked casually into his dress pants and rocking back and forth on the balls of his feet. When he has coffee in hand, he turns back my way and sits down at my table without invitation.

“Studying?” he asks as he looks down at my textbook before taking a sip of his coffee.

“Just scanning,” I say pleasantly, forcing myself not to look and sound like a guilty-as-fuck murderer. “Have a class starting soon for spring semester.”

“What are you studying?”

“I’m getting my master’s in counseling psychology.”

“Interesting,” he says as he sits back comfortably in the small café chair. “My daughter had considered a degree in psychology but eventually went with social sciences.”

“She can pursue a lot of noble careers with that,” I say so we can hopefully keep this small talk going and avoid the harder questions I know are coming.

“So, I’m not going to bullshit you,” he says, getting down to business. “I know Mr. North is at the station now talking to my partner, and I knew you were in here. Thought I’d knock out a quick interview. We were going to request a formal one of you anyway.”

“Appreciate the straight shooting,” I say, and I truly mean that.

“You know you have the right to an attorney to be here if you want,” he offers.

I wait for him to go on, but he remains silent…watching me.

“I thought my list of rights were much longer,” I mutter.

He laughs and it’s genuine. He’s totally the good cop. “I only read you your Miranda rights if I arrest you. I’ve got no intentions of doing that right now unless you want to confess to Mr. Townsend’s murder.”

My tea almost explodes violently out of my gut but I manage to give what I hope is an amused chuckle. “Yeah…I most certainly won’t be doing that because it wouldn’t be true.”

“So you’re good talking then with me right now?” he presses.

“Sure,” I say, but I want to pick up my textbook, conk him over the head with it, and run.

To Mexico.

Beck can find me later.

“Well, we’re obviously taking this information about his gambling debt very seriously. We’ve received the records from Marin General and there’s no doubt he had the snot beaten out of him. We also verified that Mr. North came to pick him up, so we think that’s credible evidence that Mr. North wasn’t involved in that.”

You think?

“But we’re running low on finding anything else,” he says, and then just waits for me to say something.

I try to wait him out, but the silence is too unbearable so I say, “Well, I don’t know anything about it. Only what Beck told me after he came home that night after JT got beat up.”

DeLatemer nods. “I’m sure Detective Denning will cover that more with Mr. North. And I’m sorry, but I have to ask, can you account for your whereabouts on January fourth from noon to five P.M.?”

I nod confidently. “I was at school and classes got out around twelve thirty. I went to the condo to study. Beck got there about two P.M.”

“Gotcha,” he says like we’re buddies having a beer together. “So, you had roughly an hour and a half that your whereabouts can’t be verified, correct?”

I give an amused laugh. “Well, the doorman at my condo can verify what time I got back from class, I’m sure. But Detective, if you think I had time to get to Sausalito, kill JT, and get back before Beck arrived, good luck in trying to figure out the logistics on that one.”

He laughs along with me and gives a carefree shrug. “Hey…you know I have to ask these things, right?”

“Of course,” I say kindly, and try to look at him with open honesty as he proceeds to ask me all my darkest secrets.

“So…tell me about JT and Beck’s relationship. I understand they were friends for most of their lives, and then of course, hey…what a success with The Sugar Bowl, right?”

“Incredible,” I agree with a smile. “But I’m afraid I don’t know much. Beck and I haven’t been together that long, and frankly, I’ve only been around him and JT together a few times.”

“But has Beck said anything to you about strained relations?”

“I think every business partnership probably has that, right?” I say vaguely. “But nothing comes to mind as being troublesome.”

“And you said, you’ve only been around them both a few times,” he says as he picks up his coffee. He takes a sip, sets it back down. “Tell me those instances.”

“Let’s see…I met JT briefly at a Sugar Bowl Mixer, same night I met Beck. Then another time in Beck’s office, both of those times only for a few minutes. Then Beck and I had dinner with him one night at a restaurant and he brought a date. And then the last time was at Beck’s parents’ Christmas party. Again, that was only for a few words.”

“Any other times?”

“Nope. That’s it.”

DeLatemer nods. “And what did you think of Mr. Townsend?”

And here, I cannot lie. I just can’t.

“I didn’t care much for him,” I tell the detective. “I found him arrogant and a misogynist. But I was polite to him because I didn’t want to come between him and Beck.”

“Did Beck know how you felt about his partner?”

“Probably not,” I lie to his face. “I kept that stuff to myself. Didn’t want to be that nagging girlfriend, you know?”

“Are you saying Beck had no clue of your feelings? I mean, he seems like a pretty nice guy. And if Mr. Townsend is as much of a jerk as you say he is, surely that’s not news to Beck, right?”

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