Written in 37 minutes.
Elizabeth switched off the engine, reached into the passenger seat for her purse to loop over her head, then got out of the car to meet Emily who had driven her own car. “The diaper bag is in the trunk—I really shouldn’t even bother,” she said with a sigh, unhooking Cameron from his booster seat. “Why am I dragging them both to day care for half a shift?”
“Because it’s good for Cameron to get back into the routine,” Emily said, popping the trunk to grab the bag for Jake. “And for you to be away from Jake.”
“I like the hospital,” Cameron said, grinning at her. “Can I come work with you?”
“No.” Elizabeth went to the other side of the car, while Emily took Cameron’s hand, and lifted Jake from his car seat. She pressed him close for just a moment. Her sweet precious little boy who had nearly disappeared forever—Oh, God. Then put him back into the car seat, lifting the carrier from the car.
“You don’t have to do this. You don’t even have to come back full-time next week,” Emily told her gently. “The only time you’ve been to work, I was home with the boys. I know it’s hard to leave them with people you don’t know. That aren’t family.”
“I just—I don’t have a choice. I have to get back to work—”
“You said Jason offered child support,” Emily reminded her. “To help the case in court, to make it look like he was involved—”
“He is involved—”
“And with Lucky not even offering a cent voluntarily—which you don’t want—anyway—” Emily pressed her lips together. “You could get a nanny. Someone whose only priorities are the boys—”
“That’s—” Entirely too tempting, just as it had been when Jason had offered the child support as an option. Of course, he wanted to give her too much, and it would let her stay home even longer. But— “I like my job. And daycare is good for the boys. Cameron learned to talk faster, and he’s so good with other kids.”
“So let’s stop arguing about this. I’m only here for four hours, and you’re going to be late.”
“All right. Hey, Cam, hold Aunt Em’s hand, okay?” Emily said. “What are the rules in the parking garage?”
“Hold hand, stay close. No running,” Cameron recited. “I know everything, Aunt Em.”
“I know you do—” They started towards the bank of elevators, but they only managed to get a few paces away from their cars when Emily stopped, her eyes wide. She shoved Cameron lightly towards his mother. “Stay here.”
“Em—” Elizabeth shifted Jake’s carrier to one hand and held Cameron close. “What’s wrong—”
“Just—” Emily waved at them, then went closer to the wall, then looked at Elizabeth, swallowing hard. “These are the overnight cars, aren’t they?”
“Yeah. I see Patrick’s, and I know he had the graveyard in the ER—Em—”
“Okay. Go drop the boys off,” Emily said, pulling out her cell phone. “I need—” Her voice faltered. “I need to make a call.”
“Mommy?” Cameron tilted his head up. ‘What’s wrong?”
“Nothing, sweetheart. Let’s go to daycare.”
She hurried the boys as quickly as she could into the daycare facility on the first floor, then left a quick message for Epiphany before rushing back to the parking garage. She’d only been gone for maybe ten minutes, but by then hospital security was on the scene, joined by police officers. There was a flash as a camera went off.
“Emily—” Elizabeth joined Emily, talking to one of the guards. “What’s—” Her words fell off as a stretcher wheeled past her, a doctor she recognized from the morgue. “Oh my God—”
“I saw her foot,” Emily murmured. “As we passed.” She shuddered, closing her eyes. Elizabeth watched in horror as a body was lifted onto the stretcher—into a body bag. The long, dark hair, the olive-skin. The bruises on her throat.
“That’s Leyla—” She pressed her hands to her own throat, feeling a strange burn. “Leyla. Has she been here all night?”
“No way to know yet—” Emily folded her arms. “How many times have we walked in this parking garage?” she murmured. “I was here just last night. Alone.”
“A million times,” Elizabeth answered, watching as Leyla’s face disappeared when the body bag was zipped. Walking alone at night —
“I’m going to need you both to come down to the station,” Detective Harper said as he came over from the scene. “Just to make a few statements.”
Nothing traveled faster than bad news, so by the time Emily and Elizabeth arrived at the station to give their statements, Nikolas and Lucky were in the squad room. Nikolas turned towards them. “Lucky called me as soon as it came over the scanner that you’d found a body.”
“Where are the boys?” Lucky asked Elizabeth, and she frowned at the absence of bitterness. “Did they see anything?”
“No. No—they’re at the daycare. I—” Elizabeth exchanged a trouble look with Emily. “I really don’t think we should talk about anything else until we give our statements.”
“Yeah, and we should probably wait for our lawyer,” Emily added. Harper, who had come in behind them, scowled.
“What do you need a lawyer for?” he demanded.
“You don’t need Diane for this,” Lucky told Elizabeth, the sympathy gone now. “What do you have to hide?”
“It’s not about hiding anything,” Emily explained patiently. “I just don’t talk to the police without a lawyer. Not after what the PCPD did this summer—”
“Neither do I,” Elizabeth said coolly. She glared in the direction of the interrogation room, remembering that terrible day, the horrifying moment as she stood alone in that room, listening to Lainey and Lucky accuse her of hurting her son. “So when Diane gets here, we’ll make the statement and that’s it.”
Nikolas sighed. “Fine. I get it.”
“It’s bullshit,” Lucky began but Harper waved him away.
“Whatever. I should have expected to see Morgan’s rat lawyer showing up here sooner or later—”
“What a lovely greeting,” Diane said as she swept inside the squad room. “Shall we get started?”
Elizabeth was relieved that her instincts had panned out — Diane had them in and out of the station within thirty minutes, their signed statements in evidence. Elizabeth had seen nothing, and Emily had done nothing more than call in the scene. Diane gave them a ride to the hospital to get the boys and their cars.
“Honestly, I don’t know why they dragged us all the way down here,” Emily said as Diane pulled into an empty space. “I’ve got a thousand missed calls from my parents. I need to go put out those fires.”
“Epiphany told me not to bother with my shift,” Elizabeth said, “since I’ve missed most of it. Go ahead and take care of it.”
Emily loped off towards the elevators, and Elizabeth turned to Diane. “They hauled us in because of Jason, didn’t they?”
“Yes,” Diane said, nodding. “That’s my suspicion. It’s no secret you’re in a divorce and custody battle with a fellow officer. With what happened at the trial, between the acquittal and Lucky’s—shall we say, embarrassment—they’re not going to do you any favors.”
Elizabeth sighed. “He’s really not going to make it easy.”
“No. I’m going to win at the hearing,” Diane told Elizabeth gently. “But that doesn’t mean it ends. He can stall your divorce, he can appeal the custody—as long as Lucky has decided to make your life miserable, the system can—and likely will—help him.”
“He’s acting like we had some sort of perfect marriage,” Elizabeth murmured. “But it wasn’t. He’s had more affairs than I have—and mine was just one night, Diane.”
“I know. We’ll get through this, but it won’t be pretty.” Diane squeezed her hand. “Now, go get the boys and enjoy your unexpected day off.”
Elizabeth’s heart lifted slightly when she saw a bike parked at the curb of the house, and Jason on the steps.
“I hope it’s okay,” Jason said, coming over to help her when she parked the car. “I was with Diane when you called, and—”
Elizabeth unfastened Jake from the car seat and handed him to his father. “It’s more than okay.”