Just One Look

Chapter 28


Grace said, "Josh is lying."
They were back on Main Street. Clouds threatened, but for now humidity ruled the day. Scott Duncan gestured a few stores up with his chin. "I could use a Starbucks," he said.
"Wait. You don't think he's lying?"
"He's nervous. There's a difference."
Scott Duncan pulled open the glass door. Grace entered. There was a line at Starbucks. There always seemed to be a line at Starbucks. The sound system played something old from a female warbly blues singer, a Billie Holiday or Dinah Washington or Nina Simone. The song ended and a girl-with-acoustic-guitar came on, Jewel or Aimee Mann or Lucinda Williams.
"What about his inconsistencies?" she asked.
Scott Duncan frowned.
"Does our friend Josh look like the type who willingly cooperates with authority?"
"So what would you expect him to say?"
"His boss said that he had a family emergency. He told us he was sick."
"It is an inconsistency," he agreed.
Scott Duncan gave an exaggerated shrug, mimicking Josh. "I've worked a lot of cases. You know what I've learned about inconsistencies?"
She shook her head. In the background the milk did that froth thing, the machine making a noise like a car-wash vacuum.
"They exist. I'd be more suspicious if there weren't a few. The truth is always fuzzy. If his story had been clean, I'd be more concerned. I'd wonder if he rehearsed it. Keeping a lie consistent isn't that difficult, but in this guy's case, if you asked him what he ate for breakfast twice he'd mess it up."
They moved forward in line. The barista asked for a drink order. Duncan looked at Grace. She ordered a venti iced Americano, no water. He nodded and said, "Make that two." He paid using one of those Starbucks debit cards. They waited for the drinks at the bar.
"So you think he was being truthful?" Grace asked.
"I don't know. But nothing he said raised much of a red flag."
Grace wasn't so sure. "It had to be him."
"There was no one else."
They picked up their drinks and found a table near the window. "Run it through for me," he said.
"Run what?"
"Go back. You picked up the pictures. Josh handed them to you. Did you look at them right away?"
Grace's eyes went up and to the right. She tried to remember the details. "No."
"Okay, so you took the packet. Did you stick it in your purse or something?"
"I held it."
"And then what?"
"I got in my car."
"The packet was still with you?"
"On the console. Between the two front seats."
"Where did you go?"
"To pick up Max from school."
"Did you stop on the way?"
"Were the pictures in your possession the whole time?"
Grace smiled in spite of herself. "You sound like I'm checking in for a flight."
"They don't ask that anymore."
"It's been a while since I flew anywhere." She smiled stupidly and realized why she had taken this inane detour in their conversation. He did too. She had spotted something-something she really didn't want to pursue.
"What?" he asked.
She shook her head.
"I might not have been able to tell if Josh was hiding something. You, however, make for an easier interrogation. What is it?"
"Come on, Grace."
"The pictures were never out of my possession."
"Look, this is a waste of time. I know it was Josh. It had to be."
She took a deep breath. "I'm just going to say this once, so we can dismiss it and get on with our lives."
Duncan nodded.
"There was one person who may-I stress the word may-have had access."
"I was sitting in the car waiting for Max. I opened the envelope and looked at the first few pictures. Then my friend Cora got in."
"Got in your car?"
"The passenger seat."
"And the pictures were on the console next to it?"
"No, not anymore." Her voice cracked now with annoyance. She was not enjoying this. "I just told you. I was looking at them."
"But you put them down?"
"Eventually, yeah, I guess."
"On the console?"
"I guess. I don't remember."
"So she had access."
"No. I was there the whole time."
"Who got out first?"
"We both got out at the same time, I think."
"You limp."
She looked at him. "So?"
"So getting out must be something of an effort."
"I do fine."
"But come on, Grace, work with me here. It's possible-I'm not saying likely, I'm saying possible-that while you were stepping out, your friend could have slipped that picture into the envelope."
"Possible, sure. But she didn't."
"No way?"
"No way."
"You trust her that much?"
"Yes. But even if I didn't, I mean, think about it. What was she doing-carrying around this picture in the hopes I'd have a packet of developed photos in my car?"
"Not necessarily. Maybe her plan was to plant it in your pocketbook. Or in the glove compartment. Or under the seat, I don't know. Then maybe she saw the roll of film and-"
"No." Grace held up a hand. "We're not going there. It's not Cora. It's a waste to even start down this road."
"What's her last name?"
"It's not important."
"Tell me that and I'll drop it."
"Lindley. Cora Lindley."
"Okay," he said. "I'll drop it." But he was jotting on a small pad.
"Now what?" Grace asked.
Duncan checked his watch. "I have to go back to work."
"What should I do?"
"Search your house. If your husband was hiding something, maybe you'll get lucky."
"Your suggestion is to spy on my husband?"
"Shake the cages, Grace." He started for the car. "Sit tight. I'll be back to you soon, promise."