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I blow out a frustrated breath, mutter a “sorry,” and then look to Detective DeLatemer with what I hope are bleak and guilt-filled eyes. “He asked me for the money and I didn’t give it to him. If they killed him, then it’s my fault for not bailing him out, right?”

The detective hunches over and writes more notes. I wait for another question, but nothing comes. I turn to look at Sela, and although my back is now to Denning, I still make sure to look at Sela with the same angst and guilt I just gave to the cops. “If I’d just given him the money…”

“Don’t,” Sela says urgently. “You can’t think like that.”

More silence while DeLatemer scribbles. I keep my mouth shut because I don’t want to overdo it. Sela’s hand falls from my shoulder and she grabs my hand. I smile at her and she squeezes me reflexively. We appear to be broken.

I think.

“I find it interesting you haven’t even asked what happened to your partner,” Detective Denning asks, and I turn in my chair slightly to look at her.

I go for a hesitant but confused look. “What do you mean?”

Her brown, almond-shaped eyes could be considered soft looking. But now they hold reserved belief mixed with focused curiosity. “I mean I think most people would be curious as to how he was killed. I mean…it was one of the first things his parents asked when we went to see them.”

I curse internally for the oversight, but before I can defend my completely manufactured actions, Sela says, “What does it matter to Beck how JT died? Why would he even want those gory details when he’s clearly blaming himself for it even happening in the first place?”

I want to turn to Sela and kiss her, but instead I let my shoulders sag with the weight of my guilt, and I don’t even bother to answer Detective Denning’s question. I let her think that I’ve got enough troubling my soul without needing to compound it.

She startles me though when she stands from the table, pushing the heavy end chair away with the backs of her legs. DeLatemer jots down one more thing and then stands up, cutting a curt smile down at me. Sela and I also stand up, on edge and waiting to see what happens next.

“Mr. North…I’d like you to come down to the station and give a formal statement,” Detective Denning tells me.

My mind races, and while I thought this was a small possibility from the start, I’m suddenly torn as to what to do. The stress of our charade is heavy, but we’ve maintained what I believe to be an easily believable story. But they’ll want to dig more and they’ll want alibis.

That’s not in doubt.

“Actually,” I say with an apologetic smile but command in my voice—the voice of a man with an advanced degree who runs a multimillion-dollar company. “I’d be more than happy to come and give you a formal statement. But not tonight, and you’ll have to arrange it with my attorney.”

“And why do you feel like you need an attorney?” Detective DeLatemer asks, and I’m surprised by the challenge in his voice. I thought of him as the good cop in this duo.

“I don’t,” I reply smoothly without losing eye contact with him. “But right now, you’ve told me my childhood friend and business partner is dead. The only place I’m going to be tonight is at his parents’ house, offering them comfort and taking it back from them. It’s what family and friends do in times such as these.”

“But you want your attorney there?” DeLatemer presses, and while I refuse to take my eyes off him and look at Denning, I can feel her smirking.

I flash a grimace at him and make no secret of my disgust. “Detective DeLatemer…I get you want to solve JT’s murder, and there’s nothing more I want to do than help you achieve that goal. But whether I talk to you tonight or tomorrow, with or without an attorney, it’s not going to change the fact that I have more important things to do tonight. I’m sure you understand.”

He gives me a knowing smile, but I see a hint of triumph in his eyes because I evaded his question and we both know it. He tucks his pad of paper and pen back into his pocket and doesn’t respond to me. Rather, he walks around the dining room table and heads to the front door. Detective Denning turns to follow behind him.

Sela and I watch as they open the door, and I feel like I won’t be able to properly breathe until it shuts behind them. DeLatemer steps through and Denning follows, but she pauses just before she reaches for the knob to pull it closed behind them.

“We’ll be in touch,” she says as she stares at me expectantly.

I nod back at her.

“Very interesting,” she says, almost as an afterthought.

“What’s that?” I ask her, knowing I have to ask but dreading the answer.

“We never said JT was murdered,” she says and I see suspicion sizzling deep in her eyes. “Just that he was dead. You used the word murder just now.”

Sela steps forward, and before I can stop her, she sputters, “Well…that was just a common sense assumption when you show up at the door—”

I grab her by her upper arm and squeeze gently. “Honey…Detective Denning’s just doing her job. She wants to find the truth and she’s trained to pick up on those things and press them to her advantage.”

Sela doesn’t say anything else.

Denning inclines her head at me, almost as if she’s silently saying touché, but as she pulls the door closed behind her, I know without a doubt that she didn’t buy the load of crap we were just feeding her.

Beck slips his key into the lock of the condo door and silently opens it. He pushes it open all the way and motions me in ahead of him. It’s almost one A.M. and both of us are exhausted from stress, lies, and a lack of sleep.

We’ve been at JT’s parents’ house in Sausalito, just two miles from their son. Neither Beck nor I wanted to go there, but we felt it was what innocent people should do. We both knew the police had us in their sights, and while they might also be following the theory that JT was killed by a Vegas bookie, they were not going to leave us alone.

The time we spent at Candace and Colin Townsend’s home was dreadful. We arrived to find Beck’s parents were already there, because of course they were going to call their closest friends first with the awful news. JT’s mom was wailing in the arms of her husband, who eventually gave her a Xanax to calm her down. It wasn’t until she polished off a vodka tonic that she finally slipped into sort of a silently numb state of shock where she sat on a velvet couch while Beck’s mom patted her hand in an awkward show of comfort.

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