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But perhaps she could turn this to her advantage. Her nose was inches from the outline of the pistol beneath his T-shirt. Her hands were free. Could she—

No. Even before she had finished formulating the thought, she cast it aside. Eddie had taught her how to shoot a handgun, but she’d never been comfortable handling any firearm. She couldn’t secure the pistol and fire it before Coburn knocked it aside or yanked it from her. Any attempt to do so would only anger him. And then what? She didn’t hazard to guess.

Using her fisted ponytail as leverage, he tilted her head back until she was looking up into his face. “Why did you delete your husband’s emails?”

“He’s been gone for two years. Why would I keep them?”

“They could have had important information in them.”

“They didn’t.”

“She says, sounding real sure about it.”

“I am,” she snapped. “Eddie wouldn’t have been so careless as to put important information in an email.”

He held her stare as though gauging the strength of her argument. “Do you do your banking on this computer?”

“No.”

“Pay any accounts?”

She shook her head as much as his hold on her hair would allow. “Neither of us used it for personal business.”

“What about his work computer?”

“It belonged to the police department.”

“It wasn’t given to you?”

“No. I suppose another officer has use of it now.”

He studied her face for another long moment, and must have determined that she was telling the truth. He released her hair and backed away. Relieved, she stood up and moved away from him and toward the door. “I’m just going to check on Emily.”

“Stay where you are.”

His eyes made a sweep of the room and did a double take when something on top of the dresser grabbed his attention. He crossed quickly to the bureau and picked up the picture frame, then thrust it into her hands. “Who are these guys?”

“The oldest one is Stan.”

“Eddie’s father? He’s in awfully good shape for a man his age.”

“He works at it. That’s Eddie standing next to him.”

“The other two? Twins?”

“Fred and Doral Hawkins. Eddie’s best friends.” Smiling over the fond memory, she ran her fingers across the glass sealing the photograph. “They’d gone on an overnight fishing trip into the Gulf. When they put in the following afternoon, they posed on the pier with their catch and asked me to take this picture.”

“Is that the boat you sold?”

“No, that was Doral’s charter boat. Katrina took it. Now he’s our city manager. Fred is a policeman.”

He looked at her sharply, then tapped the glass inside the frame. “This guy’s a cop?”

“He and Eddie enrolled in the police academy together and graduated in the same class of new officers. He—” She broke off and looked away from him, but he caught her chin and jerked her head back to him.

“What?” he demanded.

She saw no point in hedging. “Fred is spearheading the manhunt for you.”

“How do you know?”

“He conducted a press conference this morning. He pledged your swift capture and justice for the seven men you killed. Allegedly.”

He absorbed that, then released her chin and took the frame from her. To her consternation, he turned it over and began folding back the metal tabs so he could remove the easel back.

“What are you doing?”

“What does it look like?”

He took it apart and, inside, found only what she knew he would: the photograph, a piece of stiff backing, and the glass. He stared hard at the photograph and checked the date printed on the back of it. “They seem like a real chummy quartet.”

“The three boys became friends in grade school. Stan practically raised the Hawkins twins along with Eddie. They’ve been a great help to us since he died. They’ve been especially attentive to Emily and me.”

“Yeah?” He gave her a slow once-over. “I’ll bet they have.”

She wanted to lash out at him for what his smirk insinuated. But she held her tongue, believing it was beneath her dignity to defend her morals to a man who was smeared with his victims’ blood. She did, however, take the photograph from him and return it and the pieces of the frame back to the top of her bureau.

“How’d he die?” he asked. “Eddie. What killed him?”

“Car accident.”

“What happened?”

“It’s believed he swerved to miss hitting an animal, something. He lost control and went headlong into a tree.”

“He was by himself?”

“Yes.” Again she looked wistfully at the photograph that had so perfectly captured her husband’s smiling face. “He was on his way home from work.”

“Where’s his stuff?”

The question yanked her from the poignant reverie. “What?”

“His stuff. You’re bound to have kept his personal belongings.”

In light of their conversation, his wanting to go through Eddie’s effects was the height of insensitivity, and it offended her almost more than having been threatened with a pistol. She met his cold, unfeeling eyes head-on. “You’re a cruel son of a bitch.”

His eyes turned even more implacable. He took a step toward her. “I need to see his stuff. Either you hand it over to me, or I’ll tear your house apart looking for it.”

“Be my guest. But I’ll be damned before I’ll help you.”

“Oh, I doubt that.”

Catching his malevolent implication, her gaze swung beyond his shoulder toward the living room where Emily was still enjoying one of her favorite shows.

“Your kid is all right, Mrs. Gillette. She’ll stay all right so long as you don’t play games with me.”

“I’m not playing games.”

“So we understand each other, neither am I.”

He spoke softly, malevolently, and his point was made. Furious with him, and with herself for having to capitulate without putting up more of a fight, she said coolly, “It would be helpful if you told me what you’re looking for.”

“It would be helpful if you quit jerking me around.”

“I’m not!”

“Aren’t you?”

“No! I have no idea what you want or even what you’re talking about. Gold bars? Stock certificates? Precious stones? If I had something like that, don’t you think I would have liquidated it by now?”

“Cash?”

“Do I look like I have a lot of cash at my disposal?”

“No. You don’t. But you wouldn’t make it obvious, because that would be stupid.”

“Stupid in what way?”

“If you were suddenly flush with cash, people would be on to you.”

“People? What people? On to me? I don’t understand.”

“I think you do.”

During this heated exchange, he’d been coming ever closer until now they were toe to toe. His sheer physicality made her feel trapped. It was hard not to move away from him, but she refused to dance that dance again. Besides, she wouldn’t give him the satisfaction of knowing how effective his intimidation tactics were.

“Now, for the last time,” he said, “where’s Eddie’s stuff?”

She defied him with her glare, her upright posture, her sheer force of will. Telling him to go straight to hell was on the tip of her tongue.

But Emily giggled.

In her sweet, piping voice she addressed something to the characters on the program, then squealed in delight and clapped her hands.

Honor’s bravado evaporated. She lowered her defiant chin, and rather than telling him to go to hell, she said, “There’s a storage box under the bed.”

Chapter 6

     

 

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