Hider in the House – Episode Seven
Seriously? Pizza and beer? Forget his feet. There was a lot to work with here. “Thomas L. Purdue. You’re about to make me swoon.” She picked up the beer and drank. Then took another bite of pizza, closed her eyes and savored. When she opened them it was to see that Thomas had been watching her. His smile was neither smug nor amused. He just looked, dare she think it? Happy.
He handed her a paper plate. “Help yourself.” He indicated the pizza box on the counter. She selected another slice and took the plate and her beer to the table. Thomas followed with his own.
She ate and drank, ready to admit that she hadn’t realized how hungry she was. But Thomas apparently had. He was feeding her for the second time today. But maybe this was like the last supper? Maybe the cops were scheduled to show up in half an hour. He could have called them at any time today and she’d never know. Maybe he was a cop, that niggling little voice in head reminded her.
She’d deal with that when it happened she decided. For now, she was going to enjoy pizza and beer and Thomas’s company. “How was your day? Did you guys have fun?”
Thomas gave a small laugh. “Becca’s idea of fun is streaming some show I’ve never seen or heard of while she has her headphones in and her nose buried in her cell phone.”
“How old is she?”
“Almost twelve going on twenty-five.”
“I’ll say. The only way I’ve found lately to break into her world is to take her shopping.”
“Oh. That could be…fun,” Hallie said, hoping she didn’t betray her doubt. She’d never minded browsing department stores, but hated the trying-on-making-a-decision part of shopping. Luckily, her job required mostly basics, jackets, tops and slacks or skirts. Shoes designed for comfort. For a rare evening out, she had a few pieces she cycled through repeatedly.
Thomas gave her a look that conveyed an afternoon spent shopping was not his idea of fun. But spending time with his daughter was obviously important to him, and in Hallie’s book that made him a good dad.
“What do you like to do?”
“Yes. You. What’s your idea of fun?”
“Let me guess. Is it…answering questions with questions?”
“What do you mean?” He gave her devilish grin.
“Maybe you and your daughter could have fun together doing something you enjoy.”
“You think so?”
Hallie chuckled. “Take her, I don’t know. Bowling? Miniature golf? Hiking? Teach her to cook.”
Thomas sat back as if considering the possibilities. Had it never occurred to him to make a suggestion for an activity alternative to shopping?
He sipped his beer but didn’t respond.
“It doesn’t always have to be her way or the highway, you know. How’s she supposed to get to know you if you aren’t real with her?”
Thomas toyed with the pizza crust he’d left on his plate. “You have a daughter?”
He kept his eyes on her for a long moment before he got up, opened a kitchen drawer and returned to the table with a yellow legal pad and a pen. “How about, instead of giving me unsolicited parenting advice, you explain to me what you had to do with your friend’s murder and why you’re hiding in my house?”
“I told you, other than witnessing it, I didn’t have anything to do with Erin’s murder.”
“You said she was looking into some things for you. What things?”
“I’d rather not say.”
“Of course, you wouldn’t.” Thomas tapped the pen on the pad. “Let’s go back to basics, then. Your name?”
It was already all over the news so there was no reason to hold back. “Hallie Warren.”
“Date of birth?”
Hallie told him. He gave her a considering look, started to say something, but didn’t.
“What are you a cop?”
Thomas gave her a dead-eye stare and waited. Hallie gave him her address.
“I’d rather not say.”
He’d written her other answers on the legal pad, but now he threw the pen down in irritation. “You want my help, you can come clean with me. Otherwise, you know the alternatives.”
“Can I have another beer?”
“Be my guest,” Thomas replied completely without irony.
“You want one?” Hallie asked when she reached the refrigerator.
“Sure. Why not?”
She brought him one and took her seat. “How do I know I can trust you?”
Thomas laughed, but he cut it off quickly. “You don’t.”
Hallie concentrated on rubbing her thumb along the beads of condensation on her beer bottle. She must have known it would come to this. No one would let a complete stranger hide out in their home without asking questions first. Especially not someone who’d snuck in the way she had. She didn’t know Thomas and therefore had no reason to trust him. But he had even less reason to trust her. Bottom line? If he trusted her, he might let her stay. And if he proved untrustworthy? She’d be dead.
“I’m a background investigator working under contract with the U.S. Justice Department.
Thomas appeared intrigued by her answer but he didn’t write it down. He drank some of his beer and waited.
Hallie decided to go for broke. “I’m very good at my job.” There was no vanity in her statement. It was simply the truth. “A minor issue came up for a high level candidate. Part of what I do is make sure a minor issue will never become a major issue if the candidates I investigate obtain positions. This particular candidate used to be on the same police force as the ones I saw in Erin’s house.”
“As the one who murdered her.”
“So whatever this minor issue was, that you asked her to look into, wasn’t so minor after all.”
“That’s my conclusion, yes.”