Category Archives: Murder Mystery

Marital Duplicity; chapter eight, part two

Chapter Eight; Part Two

“Hello, Megan. It’s so good to see you again.” Reverend Yang clasps one of my hand in both of his. He’s wearing a nice Armani suit, black, and he’s quite a dashing figure. I’m wearing a black dress, but one with a high-cut neck. It falls well past my knees, and it covers most of my assets. I have my hair up in a severe bun, and I’m wearing gold studs in my earlobes. I’ve taken pains to look as plain as possible, but it doesn’t stop the gleam in Reverend Yang’s eyes. I sigh internally. I was hoping to do this the easy way, but, no.

“Reverend Yang. Yes.” I shake his hand before extracting mine. I sit on the couch and put my purse next to me. Whatever else he might be, Reverend Yang is not stupid. He pulls up his chair and sits across from me. I soften my tone a bit and say, “I keep thinking about what we’ve talked about. My relationship. The troubles. You know, my sister and her husband have been my inspiration as far as relationships go. They’ve been married thirty years.”

“Oh, yes. Bob and Jasmine are marital role models to us all.” Reverend Yang’s smile is forced, and his eyes are grim. “May we all be so lucky in love.”

“I know you can’t talk about your counseling sessions, but you must know Bob is missing.” I pat Reverend Yang’s hand, and he reflexively squeezes mine in return.

“As you said, I cannot talk about what is revealed to me in my counseling sessions,” Reverend Yang says. His presses his lips together tightly, and I realize I’m going to have to ratchet up the pressure. I start by unbuttoning the top button of my blouse, and Reverend Yang swallows hard.

“I know, Reverend.” I caress Reverend Yang’s hand. “But, it’s just, Jasmine and I are so worried about Bob. Anything you can tell us about it will really help.” I feel a flash of distaste at my methods, but whatever will get me the information I need.

“I really shouldn’t….” Reverend Yang’s voice trails off as I undo another button. I am not above using my feminine wiles to get what I want, even if I don’t like doing it.

“It’s rather warm in here.” I smooth my hair down and unbutton one more button. I better get what I want soon otherwise I’ll be topless. “I don’t want you to breach confidentiality, Reverend, but I’m at a dead end with my research. I need more information, and I would bet you knew him better than most.” I mop my chest with my handkerchief, and Reverend Yang can’t keep my eyes off my tits.

“Yes, well.” Reverend Yang clears his throat several times before continuing. “I really can’t break a confidence, but I can tell you he was having problems with alcohol.” I blink. I know that, but it’s not what I was expecting. I’m also not sure it has anything to do with Bob being missing. “He admitted that once he starts drinking, he can’t stop. I was trying to help him create a plan to combat that.”

“Is there anything else you can tell me?” I lean forward, giving him a healthy glimpse of my cleavage. He definitely appreciates that, and it takes him several seconds to respond.

“I can tell you he was having a personal problem at work. With a woman.” Reverend Yang places a hand on my thigh, and I let it stay there for a minute before pulling away.

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Marital Duplicity; chapter eight, part one

Chapter Eight

“Morning, Darla. How’re you doing?” I wave at my coworker as I enter the office. I’m in a good mood for no apparent reason, but I’m not going to question it. I’ve had enough days filled with pain, sadness, and grief, so I’ll take what I can get.

“Girl. I so do not want to be here this morning. I had a late night, if you know what I mean.” Darla laughs heartily, her eyes sparkling.

“That new man of yours must be quite something to wear you out.” One thing Darla and I share in common is our high libido. We’ve often commiserated over our inability to find a partner who can keep up.

“He can’t get enough of me,” Darla says, blushing bright red. She’s wearing an attractive sapphire blue pantsuit, and this is the happiest I’ve ever seen her. She clears her throat and adds, “What about your new boyfriend?”

“He’s not my boyfriend,” I say, restraining a sigh. “It’s more complicated than that.”

“You’ve said the sex is great,” Darla notes, eyeing me up and down.

“It is. I’m just not sure I want more.” I power up my computer and wait for it to start.

“Let me guess. He’s making noises about taking it to the next level.” Darla nods knowingly, and it’s another thing we have in common. We both like to be single and living on our own, though I have a hunch this might change for Darla. Her last boyfriend dumped her because she turned him down when he proposed. Even though they weren’t living together, and even though she repeatedly told him she didn’t want any kind of commitment, he proposed. In public. In a restaurant, involving the staff. That didn’t go over well Darla, and she never saw him again after that.

“I’m spending the night tonight.”

“All night?”

“Yes. Me and my cats. We’ll see how it goes.”

“You’ll be moving in together before you know it.”

“Bite your tongue!” I say in mock horror. “You’re making me break out in hives.” We laugh uproariously before focusing on our work. I’m relieved that things are uneventful and that I don’t have to be constantly looking over my shoulder. I’m very productive, and Cara nods at me approvingly as she passes by me. I feel like I’m back in the groove.       Continue Reading

Marital Duplicity; chapter seven, part two

“Reverend Yang. Thank you so much for seeing me. I know it’s late.” I hold my hand out to the reverend, and he shakes it with enthusiasm.

“Megan. It’s good to see you.” His eyes are glued to my admittedly impressive bosom, which I have on prominent display. I’m wearing a snug-fitting, bright red dress that falls just below my thighs. The good reverend’s eyes travel downwards and settle on the tattoo of my left ankle.

“They’re the initials of my best friend,” I offer. “She was…she died a few weeks ago.” Tears spring to my eyes, and they’re genuine.

“I am so sorry for your loss,” Reverend Yang says, forcing his eyes back to my face. “Please. Have a seat.” He gestures at the black velvet couch in the corner of his office. His wife is nowhere to be found, and I don’t ask. I sit on the couch and arrange my legs so my dress falls to the side. As he’s distracted, I pull out my phone and place it, camera-side up on the couch in the crack between cushions. Reverend Yang pulls his ergonomic chair next to me and stares into my eyes. Normally, I would find that off-putting, but it’s soothing coming from him.

“I know I only met you this morning, Reverend, but I feel as if I’ve known you forever.” I bat my lashes up at Reverend Yang, and, predictably, he melts.

“Call me Marcus.” He pats my shoulder several times before removing his hand.

“I can’t do that, Reverend Yang. It wouldn’t be respectful.” I lean forward so Reverend Yang can see that I’m not wearing a bra. I can tell he appreciates that mightily as his cock stiffens under his chinos. Something is rising in this church, but it’s not Jesus. Reverend Yang clears his throat before speaking.

“Megan. Please tell me what has brought you here this evening.”

“It’s my boyfriend, Reverend Yang,” I say, forcing tears to my eyes. “I’m afraid he’s…seeing another woman.” I touch my eyes with a newly-bought handkerchief, careful not to smudge my mascara. Yes, I even put on makeup for this occasion. I should take a picture for posterity.

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Marital Duplicity; chapter seven, part one

Chapter Seven; Part One

“Megan. You look good.” Jasmine eyes me critically as she opens her front door. I’m wearing a black dress that covers all my assets as well as my tattoos. Jasmine is wearing a flowered pink dress, and she actually has on a matching hat.

“Don’t worry. I won’t speak out of turn, and I’ll try not to piss off anyone.” I press my lips together so I won’t say anything else.

“Good. I do not want to be embarrassed in my own church.” Jasmine’s words are crisp as we get into her car. We don’t talk on the way to the church, but it’s not entirely uncomfortable. I’m just thinking about what I’m going to say, and I don’t know what Jasmine is thinking. Bob’s been missing for three days with no word from him at all. I’m sure Jasmine has left several messages and texts because I sure as hell would if someone I loved was missing. “The cops still are sitting on their asses,” Jasmine says, her voice soft. “They say they’re looking, but they’re not.”

“That’s why I’m doing this, Jasmine. Someone at your church has to know something.” I look out the window and marvel at how green it still is, even though it’s almost Halloween. Jasmine pulls up to the curb of the church and parks the car. She turns to face me, her eyes serious.

“I need to know what happened to Bob, but I also don’t want to be the gossip of the church.” Jasmine stares hard at me. “You need to be discreet.”

“I’ll do my best, Jasmine.” I restrain a sigh and get out of the car. I look at the church, which is pretty drab and nondescript. Whatever flaws Reverend Yang has, ostentatiousness is not one of them. As Jasmine and I walk into the church, Reverend and Mrs. Yang are there to greet us. I inhale sharply because Reverend Yang is even more handsome in person. He has a way of looking at you as if you’re the only person in the world. Mrs. Yang is lovely, too, but I’m uncomfortable by the way she keeps her eyes fastened on her husband.

“Jasmine. It’s so good to see you.” Reverend Yang clasps Jasmine’s hand in his. I watch as my sister’s posture changes so she’s almost thrusting out her chest at him.

“Reverend Yang! It’s good to see you, too.” I blink because my normally sensible sister is practically simpering. Mrs. Yang is glaring daggers at Jasmine, though my sister doesn’t even notice. “This is my sister, Megan.”

“Megan. How good of you to come. Jasmine has told me so much about you.” Reverend Yang takes my hand in turn, and I have to tell myself sternly to not be suckered by his charm.

“It’s nice to meet you, Reverend Yang.” I shake his hand quickly before extracting my own.

“Jasmine, where is Bob this morning?” Mrs. Yang asks, her voice frosty.

“He couldn’t make it.” Jasmine smiles falsely at Mrs. Yang before adding, “We should go in and make sure we get a seat.” Jasmine marches me into the nave and up the middle aisle. I prefer sitting in the back if I attend church at all, but Jasmine seats us in the third pew on the left side. I groan because I won’t be able to doze off– even if I want to.

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Marital Duplicity; chapter six, part two

Chapter Six; Part Two

I hang up and take a few notes on my phone. I feel a bubble of excitement because finally, I have a lead. Granted, it’s second-hand, and it’s flimsy, but it’s still more than I had ten minutes ago. I think about what I’ve learned. Bob was concerned about improprieties at his church. He wanted to talk to Reverend Yang about it, and he said something had been going on too long. Put that together with the fact that Reverend Yang was recently reprimanded for canoodling with a parishioner, and it seems the sexy, virile reverend is up to his old tricks. I don’t know how as he’s supposed to have his wife in every session with a female parishioner, but there are ways around that, I’m sure.

The question is, what am I going to do about it? I can’t just call him up and say, “Hey, Rev. You schtupping your lady parishioners?” Oh, yeah. I’m sure that’ll get the results I want. What do I do? I can go to church with Jasmine on Sunday for starters. I’ll have to skip taiji, but it’s for a good cause. Then, maybe I can make up some story about having a troubled relationship and see where that goes with the reverend. I have  hunch Jasmine won’t be pleased about that. She’s gushed about him in the past, and I know she’s protective about her church. I don’t think she’ll be happy to find that there’s something hinky about the church. I remind myself not to get ahead of myself because I don’t know for sure it’s the reverend who’s done something wrong.

I’m upset. I may not be a fan of religion, but I know it brings comfort to many afflicted souls. I don’t like it when religious leaders take advantage of their flock. I pull up the church’s website, and it’s full of bland platitudes. ‘Seeking a higher truth’. ‘Loving is letting go.’ I roll my eyes at the inanity. I would expect something deeper or more insightful from a church, but I don’t know why. There are plenty of shitty churches, and maybe this is one of them. I push back these thoughts and try to remain open-minded. Just because I have a problem with platitudes and empty promises, it doesn’t mean they’re bad people. I skim the rest of the website, and there’s an emphasis on the counseling aspect. There are testimonies from several women claiming that the reverend helped save their marriages. “My husband and I were barely even talking before I went into counseling,” writes Mrs. Chiang. “We just celebrated our 25th anniversary, and we couldn’t be happier.” A young Mrs. Li adds, “I just got married a year ago, but we were already having problems. He worked later and later, but he refused to talk to me about it. A few sessions with Reverend Yang helped me get my marriage back on track.” Mrs. Wu raves, “Reverend Yang is a gift from heaven! He has a voice like an angel, and the patience of a saint. He counseled me three times a week for a year. Now, my husband and I are better than ever.”

I read a half dozen more testimonials, all in a similar vein. All of them from women. There are none from men, which makes me suspicious as well. I also notice how all the testimonials are aimed solely at Reverend Yang. None of them mention the church otherwise. So, they’re not really fans of the church—they’re fans of him. I shut down the tab, feeling suddenly old. I have no doubt that Reverend Yang has been messing around with his female parishioners, and I think he’s still doing it. I also think it might have something to do with Bob’s disappearance, but I’m not sure how. I don’t think I can ask Jasmine about it, so I’m just going to have to follow my plan of going with her to church and practicing some subterfuge. I don’t feel good about it, but it has to be done. I swallow hard and call Jasmine.

“Megan. You going to ask me more impertinent questions?” I can hear the frost in Jasmine’s voice, but I don’t care. I’m going to help her despite herself, damn it.

“Nope. I just want to know if I can go to church with you on Sunday.” I say it as casually as possible, but Jasmine’s not fooled.

“You want to come to my church and spy on my friends? Megan! How can you stoop so low? I raised you better than that!” Jasmine’s voice is shrill, and I try to block it out as best as possible. Technically, I don’t need her permission to go to her church, but it would make things easier.

“I just want to get a feel of your church. You and Bob spend a lot of time there, and all of your friends are there. Maybe they know something about Bob’s disappearance.” I take a deep breath and add, “I’m not going to grill them, Jasmine. I’m just going to have a few casual conversations.”

“You can come. But if you say anything to upset one of my friends, I’ll never forgive you.” With that, Jasmine hangs up. I try to tell myself she’s under a lot of stress, but that’s going to get old soon. I’m only doing this because she asked; the least she could do is be supportive. I glance at my phone and see it’s nearly eight. I call Doug, and I’m relieved when a cheerful voice answers.

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Marital Duplicity; chapter six, part one

Chapter Six; Part One

“Girl, it’s good to see you!” Darla Quinn, one of my coworkers flashes a smile at me as I walk into the office. I call it an office, but it’s more like a bunch of desks in an open room. Darla’s dishwater blond hair is pulled back into a high ponytail, and she’s wearing makeup for once. Instead of her shapeless shirt and pants, she’s wearing a pair of tailored beige pants and a denim shirt. Her nails are perfectly manicured instead of bitten to the quick. She looks good, which means she’s probably getting some.

“You, too. You seeing anyone new these days?” I ask, sliding into my chair. I’ve noticed that she’s smartened up over the past few weeks, and I know it has to do with a man. I thought she would have told me by now, but she hasn’t. It’s up to me to ask, which I do.

“Mmmmhmmmmmm. Jimmy. He’s six-feet nothing and a long, tall, cool drink of water.” Darla pauses before adding, “And he can go for hours. He’s Italian.”

“Like a stallion!” I chortle, and Darla laughs with me. “I’m happy for you, girl.” I smile at Darla, and she smiles back. I instinctively look around, but my stalker is sitting in jail awaiting trial. I don’t have to worry about her any longer.

I quickly check my blog, and the outpouring of love is tremendous. Many of them tell their own stories about their siblings. SeeNoEvil writes, “I’m the oldest of five boys. Five! Every Saturday morning, we’d get up before our parents, and I’d make them pancake from a box. I’d shape them like Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, and other Disney figures. They’d always eat the heads off first before gobbling up the rest. I made myself regular round pancakes because I thought they tasted better.” PizzaEveryDay adds, “I’m the baby of three kids. My brother and sister are at least a decade older, so I often felt like an only. Until my parents died in a plane crash when I was ten. Then, my brother took me into his family, and he and his wife became my second parents. My brother died this year at the age of fifty. I miss him every day.” GallopingTrot reminisces, “I was an only, but I had a cousin who was my BFF growing up. We would giggle over the cute boys at school, and she’s the one who held my hands while I cried over my first love breaking my heart. She now lives in Paris with her husband, but we still talk to each other every day.”

This is why I write my blog posts. Not only do they help me figure out what I’m thinking, but they connect me with other people who feel the same way. I’ve had people write me, thanking me for putting into words what they’re feeling but cannot express. It’s a big, cold world out there. It helps to know that others know what you’re going through. It makes me feel a little less alone. Nothing will ever take away the sting of losing my best friend, but this helps. I shut down the tab and concentrate on my work. Others have taken up my lists in my absence, but it’s time for me to hit the ground running. I’m one of the best workers—I sell the most Groupon coupons almost every day. I want to keep it that way. I’m willing to give myself a mulligan this month, but I don’t want to make a habit of it.

I check my emails periodically. I get one from Doug in the early afternoon. He says he’s willing to talk about Bob whenever I want and wherever I want. I Google him, and I find out that he’s in his late sixties and a widower. He’s a retired engineer, and he spends most of his time gardening. I ask him if he’s willing to talk to me tonight around eight, and he agrees with alacrity. He knows about Bob’s disappearance, and he’s concerned. He says the last time he talked to Bob was three days ago, and it wasn’t about anything in particular. I have to go, so I tell him I’ll talk to him later tonight. Twenty minutes later, I get an email from Samuel. He’s not as forthcoming, and he tells me he has nothing to say. When I mention Bob’s disappearance, he responds that it’s probably nothing. The tone of his emails is off-putting, and I think he’s hiding something. I manage to convince him to talk to me tonight, but he’s adamant that it’s before six o’clock. I agree because I’ll say anything to get him to talk to me.

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Marital Duplicity; chapter five

Chapter Five

“Lee. Taiwanese Evangelical Church in the Twin Cities.” I groan as the results come back to me. My sister and her husband belong to has over 200 members, and Lee is a very common last name for Taiwanese people. This isn’t going to work. Instead, I search for their online directory. Once I have it, I isolate it to 14 people with ‘L’ first names. They only show the initial and not the whole first name, which makes my job harder. Without thinking of it, I pick up the phone and start calling. When someone answers, I say, “Hello, may I speak to Lee, please?” Eight people actually answer their phones and tell me there’s no Lee there. I leave messages on the other five people’s VMs. Two call me back within an hour to say there’s no Lee there. And then there are three. I don’t hold out any hope, but at least it’s another checkmark in my notes.

Next, I Google Matthew Brewer, Minneapolis, and attorney. The results are astronomical. That might not even be his last name. I quickly email Jordan, and he emails me back immediately. Michael Bowman. Attorney to the rich and not-so-famous in Edina, which is just how they like it. Michael Bowman. What am I going to say to him? I can’t just ask him to betray the confidence of his clients, can I? That has to be against the law. Then again, it can’t hurt to try. I pick up the phone once again and call the number Jordan gave me.

“Michael Bowman. How may I help you?” I blink because his rich, plummy, British voice isn’t what I was expecting.

“Hi, Mr. Bowman. My name is Megan Liang. Jordan Cheng is my nephew. He gave me your name and number. Please hear me out.” I say it all in a rush so he won’t hang up on me.

“You have five minutes, Ms. Liang. Go.” I imagine him starting a timer, then dismiss the image from my mind.

“Jordan’s father is missing. Jordan said he asked about divorce laws, so Jordan referred him to you. Is there anything you can tell me about that?” I count to ten, slowly, before he answers.

“You know I can’t break confidentiality, Ms. Liang, but I can tell you that I did talk to Mr. Robert Cheng for quite some time about divorce lawyers. That’s really all I say. Goodbye, Ms. Liang.” Mr. Bowman hangs up without saying anything else. I make a note of it, though it doesn’t tell me much more than I knew before. Rather, it confirms what I’ve been told. Bob was talking about divorce. Jasmine is adamant that it’s not about their marriage. What if it was, though? What would Jasmine do if Bob told her he wanted a divorce? I stop, appalled. Am I really having this thought about my sister? I can’t help but remember the time she got into a fight with her best friend when they were sixteen. Over a boy, if I remember correctly. Jasmine started punching Sandy repeatedly in the gut until Sandy started spitting up blood. Goddamn it. My sister is not a killer or anything like that. I am ashamed for even thinking it. Still. The way her eyes go from warm to deadly in less than ten seconds. The way her body goes rigid when she’s trying to hold in her temper. The way she goes preternaturally still when she’s upset.

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Marital Duplicity; chapter four, part two

“Auntie!” Coral throws her arms around me and squeezes me hard. She’s still dressed in her black business suit, and I feel a flash of envy at her luxurious curls, which she inherited from my sister. Plus, she has a figure that makes grown men cry. “Come in, come in!”

“Auntie!” Michelle and Ing-wen (named for the First Lady and for the Taiwanese president, respectively. Ing-wen is called Ingrid by Americans), scream as they both tackle my knees. They are adorable, chubby, two-year-old twins with black curls and enormous brown eyes that tilt slightly at the edges. They have cocoa-colored skin that I could just eat up. They’re wearing matching jumpers, both dark blue, and they’re tugging at my hands. “Come play with us!”

“Girls, let Aunt Megan get in the house first.” Coral scolds her daughters, but lovingly. The girls back up and allow me to enter.

“Ms. Liang! Megan! So nice to see you. So sorry it’s for a sad reason.” Jamal Harrington fills the room as he enters. He’s a behemoth of a man, but all muscle. His dreads reach halfway down his back, and he fills his suit nicely. He also loves chess and has trounced me in it a few times.

“Good to see you again, Jamal.” I shake his hand before taking off my shoes. I follow the girls into the living room where they have two jigsaw puzzles for kids strewn across the floor. One is of kittens and one is of puppies. About half the pieces of each puzzle are filled in.

“Ooooh, I love puzzles!” I sit on the floor and study the pieces. Of course, I know where the pieces go, but I pretend to study them intently.

“Look!” Michelle picks up a piece and crams it into a space where it doesn’t belong.

“Not there, silly!” Ing-wen pries the piece out and puts it in the right place. Michelle immediately socks her in the arm, and Ing-wen starts crying.

“Girls.” Jamal folds his arms across his chest and looks sternly at his daughters. “We do not hit in this house.” This is directed at Michelle. “We also don’t make fun of others.” This is aimed at Ing-wen. Both girls mumble a ‘sorry’ before going back to their puzzles.

“Hey, girls. Does this piece go here?” I pick up a kitten piece and point at the puppy puzzle. Both girls burst into giggles, their spat forgotten.

“That’s not a puppy piece!” Michelle covers her mouth with her hand, but she can’t stop laughing.

“It’s a kitty piece!” Ing-wen claps her hand in glee.

“Oh, right! I think it goes here.” I make a great show of putting the piece in its right place before smiling at the girls. They smile back at me before returning to their puzzles. I look at them fondly, then see Jamal looking at me speculatively. Not in the, ‘I’d like to bed her way’, which would be flattering if not awkward, but in a ‘I’m not sure what to make of this woman’ kind of way. I’m pretty sure it has to do with the fact that I’m good with his girls, but I don’t have kids of my own. Maybe I’ll tell him why one day. Maybe. The doorbell rings, so Coral goes to answer it. I’m sure it’s my sister, so I keep playing with the girls.

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Marital Duplicity; chapter four, part one

Chapter Four; Part One

“Bob Cheng,” I murmur, typing his name into Google. I receive more results than I can do anything with, so I narrow it down by putting in his full name. ‘Robert Jin-wen Chen’ and the place of his employment, ‘MPowerment Marketing Firm’. That narrows the results considerably, more than I want to, so I delete the firm name. Then, I start sifting through the results. Bob has a sister, Wendy, who lives in San Francisco. I make a note and move on. Bob is on the board of three Christian charities, and he even plays Santa at his church’s Christmas party. I slap my hand on the couch in disgust. Nothing in here says anything other than he’s a pure saint, but I know there has to be more to him. I put the firm’s name back in the Google search and find out something interesting. Bob had been given a warning from his boss, Geoff, about two weeks ago for perennially leaving early. I remember that was the excuse he gave yesterday before he disappeared, a mythical doctor’s appointment.

I make a note of it and push forward. There’s another interesting tidbit about how he got passed over for a promotion six months ago. He was gunning to be the leader of his team; it’s what he worked for all his life. He thought he had a lock on it ,but then it was given to Geoff at the last moment. Bob lost his mind and stormed into HR, accusing them of racism and a whole slew of other unsavory things. He was put on probation, and Jasmine confided to me at the time that Bob was this close to quitting. The problem was, he’d been with the firm since he got his MBA, so if he jumped back in the job market, he wouldn’t have much to put on his resume. She managed to calm Bob down, and he was able to get back into his firm’s good graces. Before the last three months, he was a solid member of the team. Valued and respected.

I lean back and pet Onyx who is curled in my lap. Jet meeps at me, so I pet him, too. He’s at my side, and I give them both equal skritches. They snuggle against me, and I close my eyes for several minutes. I crack my back as I stretch it, and I wonder if I’m up for this. I just got done investigating Julianna’s death, and I’m still shaken up by it. I’m not sleeping, I’m rarely eating, and I’m looking over my shoulders wherever I go—online and in the real world. Whatever happened to Bob, I know it’s going to be emotionally messy, if not physically so. I straighten up and metaphorically suck it up. Jasmine is the main reason I’m alive, so this is the least I can do for her.

I go back to my research. I read articles for hours until my eyes glaze over, but I cannot find anything scandalous. The only thing close to it is a DUI thirty years ago when he was twenty-five. I do a quick check, and it was the month before he got married to Jasmine. I doubt it has anything to do with this, but I make a note of it, anyway. I also remember what Viv told me, and it seems that my brother-in-law has a drinking problem. I recall previous holidays in which he ordered enough alcohol for the table then drank most of it himself, one Christmas Eve in particular. To add insult to injury, I was covering the tab for that night. It cost me well over two hundred dollars. I’m still pissed about Bob assaulting Viv, but I can’t find any evidence of a similar event. People with a proclivity for alcohol tend to have anger issues as well. I look for any record of Jasmine taking unexplained trips to the hospital, but I don’t find any. That eases my mind somewhat, but she’s not the type to tell anyone about an unhappy situation. Not even me. Scratch that. Especially me. She would want to protect me as she’s always done.

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Marital Duplicity; chapter three

Chapter Three

“Hello?” My phone wakes me a half hour before my alarm goes off, and it’s Jasmine, otherwise I wouldn’t have answered.

“Megan! Bob never came home! Please come over now.” Jasmine’s voice is trembling, and I can tell she’s crying.

“Give me ten minutes, Jasmine.” I hang up and get up. I go to the kitchen to feed the beasties before going to take a quick shower. I dress in sweats, give the cats some love, then take off for Jasmine’s place, my mind whirling. I can think of a million reasons why he didn’t come home, and none of them good. The least worst possibility is that he went on a bender and had to sleep it off on his friend’s couch. That seems highly unlikely, but I’m clinging to it so I won’t have to think about worse possibilities.

“Megan!” Jasmine throws her arms around my neck and squeezes. It’s clear she’s been crying for hours, and she doesn’t have any makeup on for once. She’s wearing gray sweats, but they’re not meant to be exercised in. She probably paid more for the sweat suit than I pay in mortgage every month. I brush that aside because now is not the time nor the place. This is all about her.

“Jasmine!” I hug her tightly, stroking her back as I do.

“I’ve called him thirteen times between when you left last night and when I called you this morning.” Jasmine is blubbering, so it’s difficult to understand what she’s saying.

“Let’s go inside and talk.” I go into her house and close the door behind me. I take off my shoes and line them up on the welcome mat. I lead her into the kitchen and put a kettle on the stove. Once the water is boiling, I make us ginger tea. “When’s the last time you ate?” I ask, trying out my best mom glare.

“I can’t, Megan. I really can’t.” Jasmine sags to the floor, and I’m disconcerted at how much of a wreck she is.

“You can, and you will.” I stare into the fridge to see what she has in there. There are dumplings, noodles, radish cakes, and rice. Not exactly breakfast fare, but I’m beyond caring at this point. I heat up two bowlfuls of noodles, grab the necessary accoutrements, and go into the dining room. Once I have everything laid out, I go back to haul Jasmine’s ass in there as well. Once we’re seated, I start eating. Jasmine pushes the noodles around inside her bowl, but doesn’t eat. “Jasmine.” I put some steel into my voice, and she obediently lifts a noodle to her mouth. I glare at her until she starts masticating and swallows. I don’t let her talk until she’s finished half of her noodles. Then, I nod at her. Clearing her throat, she begins.

“As I told you, Bob has been acting strangely for the past three months.” Jasmine takes a deep breath and continues. “I asked him about it, but he said it was just work. His boss was pushing him to put in more time, despite his seniority.” Jasmine reaches for her glass and drains half her water in one gulp. “Two months ago, I caught him sneaking into the house at one in the morning. It was really bad.”

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