TITLE: Crimson (working title)
By Lauren Bombardier
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Crimson petals tumbled onto the blackness of the coffin as Kate paid her last respects to a man she didn't know. She looked up to find a pair of piercing blue eyes staring at her across the void. The man tilted his lips in irony as she acknowledged him.
The few guests that had attended the funeral wandered to their vehicles after the benediction. Kate stood by the grave site as the undertaker and his son filled it in. The dirt thudded hollowly on the wood, pounding into her thoughts.
"Miss Jesperson?" The blue eyes crinkled in sympathy. She allowed him to take her elbow and guide her to a headstone a few graves over. "Miss Jesperson, we need to talk about this."
"Talk about what, Lt. Rogers?" She stooped to retrieve another crimson rose that had fallen out of a funeral bouquet and began to strip the petals from the stem. "My father killed himself. The how and the why are irrelevant."
"Not when there is murder involved." The words fell on her heart like bricks, causing it to stutter. A thorn pieced her finger and she dropped the rose. The color of her blood matched the petals she still held. She quickly brought her hand to her mouth, tasting copper as she sucked at the wound. A moment passed before she could speak.
"Murder?" She pressed her other hand to the wound to stop the blood before it dropped onto her clothes. "When did murder enter into the picture?"
The lieutenant pulled a brilliantly white handkerchief out of his pocket and handed it to her. "When we couldn't find a suicide note. Usually, as suicide feels he has to explain why he's done what he did. There was no note from you father at the scene."
"Surely you must have other evidence, lieutenant. The autopsy report proclaimed it a suicide." Kate had bound her finger with the handkerchief. It looked like she held a white flag, though she felt no desire to surrender to the circumstances she faced.
Lt. Rogers scraped his hand through his blond crewcut. "I knew your father from my church. He performed the duties of an elder and many people respected him, including myself."
"What are you implying, lieutenant?
"As a Christian and active in his faith, your father viewed murder, suicide, and abortion as morally wrong. I've heard him express those views several times."
Kate gazed about at the perfectly manicured graves with their large granite or marble headstones. "I wouldn't know anything about my father's views or his faith. He wasn't a part of my life any more than these other corpses here." She grimaced at her own morbidity before continuing. "I received a two sizable checks from him every year – my birthday and Christmas. I always considered them as bribes to keep me away."
His eyes intensified even more. "Why would he want to keep you away?"
The wind played with her dark hair as it tried to tease apart the loose chignon she wore. She captured as many strands as she could and tried to tuck them back together, to no avail." I came from a past that he didn't want a part of anymore." She clinched her jaw as she dug in her purse for a hair tie.
Lt. Rogers bowed his head. "That is hard for any child to comprehend."
She sharpened her gaze on him, her smoky eyes narrowing. "You do not defend him? From the way you spoke, you were his closest friend."
"I knew him only through church and only as a respected elder. I do not know his past nor do I know why he chose to hide it, as you say." He darted a glance at her. "I have questions that need answers."
"Questions about murder." He nodded at her skepticism. "As I said, I did not know him. I have no reason to disbelieve the coroner." She looked across the cemetery to the street. A limousine waited at the curb. "His associates speak nothing but platitudes and condolences. They didn't know him anymore than I did."
"Do you plan to take you father's place as CEO?"
Kate nodded once. A flash of doubt skittered across her mind before she lifted her chin. The lieutenant's mouth quirked up at the corners.
A raindrop splatted on the headstone of the grave next to her. She lifted her face as more rain fell, then she looked at the lieutenant. She searched his face for a moment before she slipped a hand into her purse and pulled out a card. "Any questions you have will be directed to my attorney." She handed him the card. "Apparently I can afford one now." He nodded and looked at the card in his hand.
Kate turned and negotiated her way through the maze of headstones toward the limousine. Halfway there, she felt lightning rip through her body. She fell to the ground as thunder pounded her eardrums to the beat of her own heart.
Lt. Rogers read the card before him. Wilson, Thane, & Storey; Attorneys-at-Law. He grimaced. He had dealt with this law firm before. He lifted his head and watched Miss Jesperson walk toward her limousine. He found himself running toward her before she hit the ground. By the time he reached her, her lifeblood was pouring out mingling with the crimson petals she had still held. He pulled his handkerchief off of her hand and pressed it against her shoulder, praying all the while that the ambulance he called for on his cell phone would make it in time.
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