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Authors: Amy Tintera

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BOOK: Listen for the Lie
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CHAPTER FOURTEEN
LUCY

I roll down the window, like an idiot.

Matt leans into the car, casually resting both forearms against the bottom of the window, his hands hanging over the passenger's seat.

He has great hands. Long fingers, and nails that he keeps perfectly trimmed. I have a thing about hands. I once ghosted a guy after one date because his nails were long. That was it. He was really nice, and cute, and we had a great time. But I wanted to hurl every time I thought about those fingernails.

He's wearing his dark hair much shorter these days. I wonder whether he's starting to lose it. The petty part of me hopes so.

His eyes were the first thing I noticed about him—blue and bright—and they're hard to look away from, even now.

“Hi, Luce,” he says.

This is a real shit stain of a situation I've gotten myself into here, so I say nothing.

I imagine closing the window, trapping his neck, hitting the gas, and dragging him down the street.

“Let's kill—”

“Were you going to knock, or just sit out here all night?” he asks.

I sigh. “I was just driving by.”

“You're parked.”

“I was curious to see how the house looked.”

He glances back at it, and then at me. “Since you're here, do you want to come in?”

I give him a truly baffled look. “I don't think your wife would appreciate that.”

“We're getting divorced. She moved back to Houston.”

I try not to smile. I swear to god, I try not to be the asshole that I am, but I utterly fail.

If he sees the twitch of my lips, he pretends not to.

“Come in,” he says. “Have a drink.” He's got that glint in his eye, the one that means he's already debating whether to have sex in his bed or on the kitchen table. He loved having sex on the kitchen table. We picked out a very sturdy one specifically for that purpose. I wonder whether he still has it.

No. Shit. No. I am not doing this again.

I look out the front window. “You sure you want to be alone with me?”

“Lucy.” He sighs heavily. It's his “Lucy is being ridiculous again” sigh.


Lucy, just go to your parents'. Please? Just for a few days. I need to think
.” He stood near the front door as he said those words to me, nervously cracking his knuckles. I remember thinking he was poised to make a quick escape.

He'd looked terrified. Of me. I'd been home from the hospital for less than twenty-four hours. The police hadn't started seriously questioning me. The media hadn't even turned on me yet.

But Matt? Matt was sure I was guilty. My husband was too scared to be in the same house with me.

“Maybe some other time.” I put the car in drive, and he steps back onto the sidewalk.

I don't look in the rearview mirror as I drive away.

CHAPTER FIFTEEN
LUCY

I spot Ben as soon as I walk into the diner, sitting at the same table as last time, typing on a laptop.

He looks up and smiles at me. Grandma was right about one thing—he's got the smile of a superhero. No need to panic, ma'am, this extremely handsome gentleman is here to help. That's Ben's energy.

The friendliness has to be an act, his way of trying to get me to do an interview, but it's a good act. I'll give him that. He actually looks pleased to see me.

I walk to the booth and slide in across from him. The sticky plastic squeaks against my bare legs.

“I didn't actually think you'd reach out,” he says.

I shrug. I'd emailed him last night asking to meet this morning. “Is this our official meeting place now?”

“Well, I'm here most days, so it's my official meeting place, yes.”

“You come here and work? Don't you have a hotel room or something?”

“I do. But I like working in coffee shops or diners. And Vince said he didn't care because I don't come during busy times. Plus, I order lots of food.” He grabs his menu and holds it out to me. “Do you want something? The burger is good. The pesto chicken sandwich is really good. I don't recommend the tuna melt.”

“I'm fine.”

“Are you sure? It's on me. They also serve breakfast all day and the French toast is great.”

I hesitate. I haven't actually eaten much today, except for a banana after my run. And it smells like grease and syrup in here. My stomach rumbles.

“You totally want that French toast, don't you? Good choice.” He straightens, looking in the direction of the kitchen, where I can see the top of a head. “Hey, Vince! Add a French toast to my order!”


Bacon?”
a voice responds. Ben looks at me and I nod.

“Yeah!”

“You got it!”

“Thanks.”

“Sure.” He closes his laptop. “How are things going with the birthday party?”

“My mom told you about that?”

“Your grandma did.”

“They're fine, I guess.”

“You guess?”

“Do you actually want to talk about my grandma's birthday party?”

A piece of dark hair falls across his forehead, and he shakes it back. “No. I was being polite. Making small talk.”

“I'm not good at small talk.”

“I noticed.”

“Some people think that means I'm just an asshole.”

“Not being good at small talk makes you an asshole?”

“Apparently. That's what some people say.” My mom is always subtle about it, though. “
Polite people chat with each other, Lucy! They ask how your day is going
.”

“Are you an asshole?” he asks.

“Kind of.”

“Well, that's honest.”

“I try.”

He drums his fingers on the top of his computer, and I try not to watch. He's amused. By me, I suppose.

“I see we're moving to the ‘cheating whore' section of the podcast,” I say.

He blinks, clearly taken aback. “I…”

“It's fine. I'm used to it. Not exactly new information, though, and contrary to popular belief, I do actually want you to solve this, Ben.”

“Melting flesh smells like barbecue, and then there's no body. Win-win!”

I clench my jaw, willing the voice away.

“Let's kill—”

“Why don't we work together?” Ben asks.

“I'm really not interested in getting into the podcast game.”

“I don't mean with the podcast. Not directly, anyway. I'm not going to pay you.”

“This offer sounds irresistible already.”

“Work with me to figure out who murdered Savannah.”

“Besides me, you mean.”

“Or you. Full disclosure, if you did it, I'm going to tell everyone.”

There's that fucking superhero smile again. He's one of the annoying ones. The type complaining that they can't have a girlfriend because they care about her too much. Too tortured for a girlfriend. He's that superhero.

“That's fair,” I say.

“Let me interview you. And work with me on background.”

“What do you think I'm going to tell you?”

“You knew Savannah better than anyone. And in all this information, I barely have anything directly from you. Tell me your side. Tell me your theories. I have theories coming out my ears and I need to know how off base some of them are. Help me out here.”

Vince appears with my French toast and Ben's sandwich. Vince frowns down at me, and then looks at Ben.

“Do you know who that is?” he asks him.

I roll my eyes. “Why would I be sitting with him if he didn't know who I was?”

Vince's frown deepens. He holds the steaming plate of French toast closer to his chest, like he's not sure he wants me to have it.

“Thank you,” Ben says earnestly. “It all looks great.”

Vince relents, plunking the plate down in front of me and sending the glob of butter on top sliding down the side of the bread.

I watch as he walks away. “I don't think he likes you anymore.” I grab the syrup from the end of the table. “This is what happens when you hang out with me, by the way. Get used to more of that.”

“Does that mean you'll help me?”

I take a bite of the French toast. Ben was right, it's very good. “Fine.”

He brightens. “Really?”

“Yes.”

“Including an interview? On the record?”

“Yes.”

Now he's positively delighted. “Seriously?” He picks up his phone and begins typing.

“Why do you look so surprised? My grandma planned an entire birthday party just to get me here for this. You didn't think she'd convince me?”

“Honestly, no.”

“I'm going to tell her about your lack of faith. She won't be pleased.”

“Too late, I'm already texting her.” He glances up briefly from his phone with a shit-eating grin.

“You're texting my grandma?”

“We talk often.”

“Jesus Christ.”

“Beverly loves me,” he says smugly.

“I'm well aware.”

“The feeling's mutual.” He glances up at me. “You're wrong, by the way.”

“About what?”

“New information. Kyle coughed up some.”

Listen for the Lie Podcast with Ben Owens

EPISODE THREE—“MATT WAS TOO GOOD FOR HER”

Kyle Porter lives in Austin, and I meet him downtown, in the conference room of a trendy hotel. He's on his way to get drinks with a colleague, and he looks like the main character of a sexy legal drama. Stylish, effortlessly cool.

Kyle:
              I think Lucy had been living in Plumpton for about a year when I met her? After she moved back as an adult, I mean. I was in Plumpton a lot for work, and I ran into her and Savvy at the bar one weekend. Lucy would hang out there sometimes during the day, when it was slow, and write.

Ben:
               Write?

Kyle:
              She was writing a book. She'd bring her laptop to the bar, which looked kind of funny. I saw her sitting there, typing away, so I just went over and said, “Are you drinking or working?” And she told me she was writing a book, which I thought was cool. We got to talking.

Ben:
               And then what happened?

Kyle:
              I think it was the third weekend I was in town. I could tell that third time that she'd been waiting for me, and she was just … looser. There's a hotel next to that restaurant, and after a couple glasses of wine I took a chance and asked if she wanted to get a room.

Ben:
               Did you know she was married?

Kyle:
              I saw the ring. But I was single, and honestly, I wasn't looking for a relationship anyway. A married lady seemed like a kind of ideal situation, actually.

Ben:
               What was your impression of Lucy? Did she seem happy?

Kyle:
              
Happy
is not the word, no. Lucy was complex. Layered. She wasn't interested in making other people comfortable, which I really liked about her. Not a common trait in a woman.

She seemed older than her early twenties. A real old soul. A deep thinker. She was writing that book, but she'd just get so stuck in her head. I'm not surprised that she never managed to publish anything.

Ben:
               Did Lucy talk about her marriage with you?

Kyle:
              Not at first. But our … tryst went on for months, nearly a year, and eventually she did talk about him a little.

Ben:
               Did you get the impression it was a happy marriage?

Kyle:
              I got the impression it was complicated. Most marriages are, though. Right? I've never been married. But that's what I'd always thought. It seemed dramatic, to be honest. She was so young. I'm a good fifteen years older than her, and I remember thinking that it didn't sound like either of them should have gotten married.

CHAPTER SIXTEEN
LUCY

I gave my number to Ben before leaving the diner yesterday, full of French toast and regret. I've never given a journalist my phone number (though some found the old one anyway), and I can't shake the feeling that I made a serious error.

I've actually been wondering whether I've made a whole slew of serious errors lately. My entire fucking life for the past few days is a serious error, starting with my decision to fly across the country for my traitorous grandmother. My traitorous grandmother who spends about 80 percent (conservative estimate) of her day drunk. Her judgment clearly can't be trusted.

My phone buzzes the next day, as I'm sitting in Mom's office, staring at the poster above her desk that says
Make Today So Awesome That Yesterday Gets Jealous
. I look down to see a text from Ben.

Are you free this afternoon?

I am currently spending my days staring at a motivational quote that borders on toxic positivity, thinking up ways to write kissing scenes without using the word
lips
fifteen times on one page. Of course I'm free.

I type a one-word response:
Why?

Want to meet my assistant? She's in town.

I spin around in Mom's desk chair. I do, surprisingly, want to meet his assistant. She sounded smart on the podcast last season. She called Ben out on his shit.

Okay. Where?

We're in my room at the Plumpton Suites. Room 226.

Now?

Whenever you're ready. We'll be working for a while.

So, I put my laptop in my room and carry on with my terrible life decisions by driving across town to the nicest hotel in Plumpton.

Ben answers the door, dressed casually in jeans and a faded gray T-shirt.

“Hey.” He steps back so I can walk inside. The room is a basic suite with a kitchen and a small living room, two laptops on the coffee table. A pretty Black woman with a head of long, thick curls and a friendly smile, sits on the couch.

“Thanks for coming,” Ben says. “Paige didn't believe that I actually got you to agree to an interview.”

Paige stands. “You cocky little shit. This is not going to help your ego at all.”

“Paige, this is Lucy. Lucy, this is my assistant, Paige. She hates me.”

“Sorry.” She's addressing me now, her hand extended. “It's nice to meet you.”

“You too.”

“Please sit down and tell me how he got you to agree to talk to him.”

I sit down in the chair in the corner of the living room as Paige takes a seat on the couch again. Ben stays standing in the kitchen, leaning against the counter.

“Can I get you anything?” he asks. “Water? Or coffee? That's all I have. Oh, and whiskey.”

“I'm fine, thanks.”

Paige is studying me with such intensity that I wonder whether she's trying to memorize my face so she can paint it later.

“Paige,” Ben says.

“What?”

“You're doing that thing again.”

She blinks. “Right. Sorry. Is it rude to say you look different than the photos I've seen of you?”

“No.” I lean back in my chair. “The only photos that got around were the ones where I looked devious.”

“That's what it is.” Ben snaps his fingers. “I kept thinking there was something about you that was surprising.”

“My lack of deviousness?”

“Or the expression, anyway. Your level of deviousness remains to be seen.”

“I suppose it does.”

Paige is staring at me again.

“Paige,” Ben says.

She doesn't look away this time. “I can't
believe
you're sitting here talking to us. Do you listen to the podcast?”

“Yes.”

“Okay. Okay.” Paige scoots forward on the couch, pressing her palms together in a prayer pose. I can feel the excitement rippling off her. “I don't know where to start.”

“Paige, she's not here for an interview,” Ben says. “I just asked her to drop by to say hi.”

He's buttering me up for the interview. If I'm comfortable with him—and with Paige—I'm more likely to open up. Give him the good stuff.

I have no idea what the good stuff would be, but I suppose he can hold out hope.

“I know.” Paige drops her hands. “Just one, though. I have to know, because I have a theory.”

“Sure.” Why not? Fuck me up, Paige.

“I've never killed a woman, but I'm willing to try anything once.”

I shift, trying to ignore the voice. It's getting louder lately.

That can't be a good sign.

“Why did you punch Ross Ayers in high school?”

I blink, startled. I don't know which question I was expecting, but that wasn't it.

“Should have just fucking killed him. That would have been much more satisfying.”

“No one knows. We asked everyone,” Paige continues.

No, only Emmett knew, and he was always good at keeping a secret.

“He was taking up-skirt photos of a girl in one of our classes,” I say.

“I knew it.” Paige makes two fists like she's either victorious or getting ready to punch someone. “I knew it was something like that.”

Ben looks startled, like this isn't a theory she had shared with him.

“I think he saw me telling the teacher, because the photos were gone when they checked his phone,” I say. “I didn't tell people because the girl he'd done it to begged me not to. She was embarrassed. So, I figured since he wasn't getting punished, I'd take matters into my own hands.”

“Paige—”

“I know, call Ross to see if he'll do another interview.” She's typing on her phone.

“He's just going to deny it.”

“Emmett knew, right?” Paige asks. “He got shifty when I asked him about it.”

Jesus. I can see why these people actually solved a case last season. They're actually really good.

I don't know whether I'm relieved or terrified.

“I have an idea—”

“I didn't tell him who the girl was, but, yeah, he knew,” I admit, silencing the voice.

“I get the feeling Emmett is keeping a lot of your secrets?” Paige cocks her head. It's more of a challenge than a question.

“I haven't spoken to the man in five years.”

“Why not?” Ben asks.

“Shockingly, people stop calling when you've been accused of murdering a mutual friend.”

I think of the missed calls on my phone, the texts from Emmett that I ignored.

Paige is staring at me like she knows I'm lying.

I look away.

“Are you in touch with Matt?” Ben asks.

“I wasn't, but I just saw him recently.”

“Are you going to see him again?”

I shrug. “He asked to get together, but I haven't texted him back. Why?”

“He won't do an interview. I thought maybe you could put in a good word.”

I lift an eyebrow. “Seriously? You want
me
to try to get Matt to do an interview?”

“Why not?”

“He thinks I did it.”

“Is he right?” Paige asks.

I shoot her an amused look to try to cover the swell of panic I feel. “You know what? Fine. No promises, but I'll try.”

BOOK: Listen for the Lie
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