A scene from Breaking Bread, Book Five in the Bucks County Novels, by Margaret Sorick. Find all the excerpts here.
As Brad drove off, I walked back to where Juan Paolo and Jack waited. “I guess you heard?”
They nodded. JP said, “Most of it. I’m sorry, darling.”
“He’s right, you know,” I said. “I should have called. I don’t know why I didn’t.”
“Honey, you’re in shock,” Jack said. “Hell, I think he’s in shock, too. Brad will realize it after he has a chance to calm down.”
“I… I… didn’t mean to hurt him.” I covered my face with my hands. “God, what is wrong with me? He was the first person I thought of, too.”
“Shock, Maya,” Jack repeated. “Neither of you were thinking clearly. You can work this out. I’m sure of it. You both care about each other too much for this to ruin everything.”
“I hope you’re right.”
Jack eventually drove us home. There was nothing we could do, really nothing to see. The crime scene investigators would go in once the building was deemed safe. Everything would be photographed in situ before anything, including the body of the victim could be removed.
One by one my employees called back during the evening —a testimony to the panicked messages I had left on everyone’s voice mails. By the time we said goodbye to Jack, only Caitlyn had yet to check in. Jack tried to reassure me that it didn’t mean anything, but I feared the worst.
We dropped Juan Paolo first, and he tried to persuade me to stay, insisting that I shouldn’t be alone, but all things considered I thought that was a bad idea. As Jack pulled to a stop in front of my apartment, he gave my hand a squeeze and promised to be in touch first thing in the morning. My job tomorrow –today actually, the sky was already brightening with the approach of dawn– would be contacting my insurance company and making other assorted phone calls, including one to my parents. I wondered how they would react. If they would actually feel sorry for me, or if they would look at this as some kind of sign from God that I should never have taken on such an enterprise.
I trudged up the stairs to the second floor landing and unlocked my door. It felt like I hadn’t been home in a week even though it had only been a little over twelve hours. I showered under the hottest water I could stand, shampooed the red spray out of my hair, and watched the remnants of Natasha Romanov wash down the drain.
Exhaustion and stress sent me into an unexpectedly deep slumber so that I awoke with a start when the phone rang. Light poured through the windows on which I had neglected to close the blinds. The caller ID read Jack Staley.
“How are you, Maya?”
“Half dead. Is there any news?”
“Yeah. Sort of. You mind if I come over?”
“No, not at all. I’ll make coffee.”
“Be there in five.”
We disconnected and I hauled myself out of bed. After splashing some cold water on my face and brushing my teeth, I dressed in leggings and a long sleeved t-shirt. The doorbell rang as I was grinding beans for the coffee maker. I paused to open the door for Jack. He was still in the same clothes from last night and dark circles shadowed his eyes.
“Have a seat at the counter, Jack. I’m just getting the coffee on. Did you eat breakfast yet?”
“No. But don’t you go to any trouble on my account.”
“It’s no trouble, Jack. I don’t keep much food here anyway. But I have some croissants from the cafe…” I couldn’t finish. I started crying. Jack came around the counter and held me close.
“Ah, honey. I know. This is a hell of a thing.”
“I’m sorry,” I sobbed.
“Shh. It’s ok, Maya. It’s ok.” He held me until I got the tears under control and then he handed me a paper towel so that I could blow my nose. “The hell with breakfast. Come on. Let’s go sit on the sofa.”
I nodded and let him lead me into the living room. I curled into one corner of the sofa, tucking my feet up under me. Jack perched on the other end, elbows on his knees.
“So what’s the news, Jack?”
He took a deep breath. “Caitlyn is missing.”