Authors: Ritter Ames
Yeah," Keith said, shaking his head and laughing. "Between his flying distractions and the need for his litter box, he proved himself a worthy sidekick to your Wonder Woman."
And Meg finished,
"She's Batgirl. I'm Wonder Woman."
Funny how easy it was to break the last tension in the scene. After everyone took a minute to finish laughing, Kate asked,
"What about Timothy?"
He's still alive," Banks explained. "Until he was knocked out by the pain meds, he talked his head off about how Erin ruined his life. He'd decided if she hadn't hooked up with Collier and showed him her whack-job side, Collier would have never interviewed for the position in Malibu, and Timothy's job would have been saved. That stunt Erin pulled the day she showed up at the house capped it for him after Collier got back to the office. Apparently, Collier has quite the nasty streak when his anger reaches epic levels, and he took his rage out verbally on his assistant. Timothy also had the misfortune of having left the recommendation letter that Collier had promised to sign on his boss's desk. Collier took one look at it, said it was too complimentary for Timothy's talents, and ripped the page in half."
That's when he decided to text Erin," Meg said.
"Collier officially ended his tirade by sweeping everything off his desk and ordering Timothy to clean it all up when he left for an afternoon meeting. Timothy found Collier's cell phone and sent the text. He killed Lila thinking she was Erin, so hyped on adrenalin at the moment he didn't realize his mistake until it was too late. He pushed her over the balcony and fled, hoping you both would run to her body and not try to catch him."
Sydney…" Kate croaked, "Did…he…"
He didn't mean for Sydney to be implicated," Banks confirmed. "He had a copy of the house key he'd made from Collier's key ring. Once inside, he found the knife when he was casing the house to prepare for Erin's arrival. When he realized someone was already in the master suite and saw Lila from behind, he thought Erin had arrived ahead of him and either had coerced a key from someone or knew how to pick locks. He'd planned on sending more texts later from Collier's phone, to further incriminate his boss, which is how he had the cell phone with him that night and how it ended up hidden in Sydney's workroom when it fell from his pocket."
Meg circled around to stand near Kate
's head. "Which means Erin had been right all along. She was the intended victim."
So why am I always the one who ends up in the emergency room.
Then she felt guilty when she remembered that Lila hadn't even had that chance. Out loud, Kate whispered, "Does anyone know if I'll be able to get out of here tonight?"
Yeah, we checked," Keith said. "You can be released any time. The doctor will be by in a minute. Just give your throat a rest for a few days." Keith pulled keys from his pocket.
She was exhausted by the time they all got to home, but Kate had no intention of staying in bed all evening again. Apparently staring down death was also a good treatment for migraines. She leaned close enough for Meg to hear her ask,
"What do we need to still do tomorrow? I want to write up the final work plan."
The only thing you're going to plan tonight is a trip for our families to get away from it all and go camping in a couple of weeks in Green Mountain National Forest. Otherwise, you're off the clock, boss. I'm taking over tomorrow. No arguments."
We could go out if you're up to it, Katie. I'll get a relief guy to come in for my show, and we can take everyone for a celebratory dinner. Pick up the kids—hey!" Keith looked around then said to Meg, "I thought the kids were all at your house. Didn't you have them earlier?"
"I left them with my mother. She has them pulling weeds. Don't worry."
Kate shook her head and gazed toward the front bow window, where an orange face with one bright green eye had his already smashed-looking nose pressed even flatter against the glass, watching as she approached.
"No, I'm good for soup tonight, but I do need to make a grocery run to get one large salmon fillet."
We can keep the cat then?" he asked.
Of course," Kate said, her smile bigger than her voice. "Was there ever any doubt?
Moving 101—The Big Day
If possible, leave extra space at the end of the moving van/truck when loading is completed. Use moving belts or cords to keep the forward items from shifting during transit, or put a large piece of furniture in this final space so it can be unloaded early and offer the open space early. This offers a little landing room when the family begins the unpacking process, and people have a place to stand in the truck bay. Also, no one will have to reach way high from ground level or stand on a ladder to start unloading. If you are a two-car family and the second vehicle is traveling via a car trailer, be sure to load the inside of that vehicle up as well, and the extra area on the trailer around the vehicle can be used to transport bikes, grills, and outdoor furniture.
* * *
"So this is the deck you want added onto our house," Keith said, taking a broad view of the green landscape behind the Collier house. It was moving day, and early that morning Kate won in her determination to at least check for herself that things were going as smoothly as Meg promised. Keith agreed, as long as he drove her there so he could make sure she left again.
Not that she hadn't trusted her friend. It was just…
Well, it's just who I am.
She hugged the notebook and focused on the fact that she didn't even have to touch the rubber band on her wrist.
Keith pulled out a chair at the majolica tiled table, and the legs made a long squeak of protest. Kate winced at the awful noise then turned slowly for a last sweep of the master bedroom.
Only a couple of notes to make in the binder.
Load up started in less than half-an-hour, and she wanted to be thorough, despite the fact Keith warned he was only staying there an hour. And she was leaving with him. No arguments.
Finished, she moved across the plush carpet—she would definitely miss the soft pile—and out the French doors.
"I don't think I want this balcony anymore," she whispered. Her voice and throat were still healing, and she kept to the concession made to not overdo her vocal cords. She had a small white board in her purse
, along with a marker, in case her throat got worse. She'd used both the previous day per doctor's orders, and the practice was tedious but made a real difference when her voice got strained as the day lengthened. To keep the bruises from showing, she'd pulled out a sleeveless white knit turtleneck to wear under her lightweight denim jacket. If anyone looked closely they would see a bit of purple above the high collar, but most of the marks remained hidden.
"Good." Keith reached out and pulled her onto his lap. "Because I think a contemporary balcony like this would look a bit out of place on our blue Victorian house. I would have tried to figure something out if you had your heart set on it
She put a finger to his lips and shook her head. "I'm thinking small gazebo now."
Keith tapped the back of the notebook she clutched to her chest. "So, what do you think so far? Will the movers get the green light?"
"Honestly, I'm feeling both thrilled and heartsick at how little there is left to do. Meg did it all beautifully."
"That's what you get when you hire good help." A voice came from behind the chair. In the doorway Meg stood smiling, hands on hips and her thick red hair pulled back in a ponytail that tried but couldn't contain several free-spirited curls. "And I had excellent instruction."
Gil walked up behind Meg and said, "Don't forget to mention how most everything was lined out ahead of time, so all you really had to do yesterday was give orders to the guys picking up donated items for the nonprofits." He put his hands on her shoulders. "And if my wife is good at anything, it's giving orders."
"Hey." Meg twisted to face him. "I'm going to consider that a compliment only because I don't want to argue on the day you're going to get us your boss's cabin near the national park." She poked him in the chest twice with her index finger and said, "I want you in a good mood so you can suck up to him and get me all the amenities I prefer when camping."
"So the plan is really a go?" Kate said softly. She and Keith rose from the chair and followed the other couple to the end of the balcony.
"Yep, sometime in the next few weeks we're spending a very long, very relaxed weekend near Mount Equinox," Meg said, pointing toward a peak in the distance. "You're going to love it, Katie. I promise."
"But the cat is new to the house, and—"
Everyone laughed, and Kate could feel the blush crawling up her neck.
"The cat will be fine," Meg assured her. "Our pet sitter will come over and feed him and clean the litter box after taking care of our menagerie each day. And we won't be that far.
Kate tried to smile but felt the frown taking hold. Too much to deal with. She'd better get back to her contracted tasks before Keith called time on her one-hour deadline. "I'm going to head down to the kitchen and the few things there. You all stay here and keep making plans for the trip."
It was nice to get a few minutes by herself. She'd felt mentally wrapped in cotton wool ever since coming home from the hospital. Kate understood Keith's concern—this was the second incident in as many months, but at some point she just wanted to shout "I want to be by myself!" Except she couldn't shout if she tried, and she definitely couldn't hurt the feelings of people who cared so much about her.
As she started down the staircase, she heard the group laughing again.
She gave a happy sigh.
The kitchen was still her favorite room of the house. Even with everything wrapped up and packed, it continued to feel like the room gave a comforting hug when she entered. She circled the great room and made sure the wrapped plastic protected all the wood surfaces and held the pillows and cushions in place. As she moved back into the kitchen, the
"first night" box stood open on the counter with its large red A marked on each side. She pulled the rapidly shrinking roll of red duct tape off the Velcro line hanging on her apron and used it to secure the box flaps.
She slipped the roll onto her left wrist like a bangle, so it would be handy if she needed it again.
Someone had pulled up the blinds earlier, flooding the kitchen and family's great room with warm sunlight. She couldn't help taking a quick glance toward the spot outside where Lila had died, and
she wondered if the memory would ever leave her mind.
"I still think about her, too."
Kate whirled, startled. Sydney stood in the doorway from the garage entrance, exactly like she had the last time she'd come into the house without anyone knowing she was there.
"I'm sorry. I did it again."
Sydney hurried over and gave Kate a hug. "I should have called out. But when I saw you standing there, I just assumed you were thinking the same thing I was thinking."
Kate smiled, and gave
Sydney's shoulder a pat as they broke from the embrace. "It's okay. I'm glad you came by. I wanted to see you."
"It will be fine in a couple of days," Kate said. "Just a little rest."
nodded. "I think we could all use a little of that." She hugged her arms around her torso in the way Kate remembered from the last time. "Mom's condo was a lease, so Dad's getting things worked out. And the furnishings and clothes inside are going to charity."
"Are you okay with that decision?"
"Yes. Dad took us by there so we could each get whatever we wanted to remember Mom. He bought some rolling suitcases so we could put the stuff in there and we'd know exactly where it is during the move. It helped Dara and Dustin." When Sydney looked into the distance without talking about her own feelings, Kate hoped it helped her as well. It would take time. For everyone.
Kate was pleased Collier took this approach, using the suitcases to save Lila's belongings. Having the items in something different from the regular packed household
items was a great idea. She had called and left a message on his phone, to offer any additional help he might need, but he'd responded by text and said everything else was taken care of. Kate imagined he had a problem with feeling vulnerable about anything. The next sentence Sydney said confirmed the observation.
"Dad feels guilty, I think about Timothy almost killing you."
"He shouldn't." Kate tried to increase the volume on her whisper to reassure her. "He's not responsible for the actions of someone who worked for him."
"But Dad knows he can be…"
Sydney blew out a long breath. "Dad knows he can be challenging. Mom and I told him so enough times. I think he sees everything that happened as a kind of cause and effect."