Hider in the House – Episode Six
Once in his bedroom, Thomas jabbed a finger at the bottom of the bed and gave Hallie a “I mean business” look. Like she didn’t already know what she had to do. She thought about rolling her eyes at him, but decided she still wanted his cooperation later, so she’d forgo the teenage histrionics. Besides, he apparently already had a teenage daughter to deal with, and she didn’t want to be lumped into a comparison with Bec.
She dropped to all fours and since she’d forgone the eye roll, she added some extra butt wiggle, just for his benefit, as she crawled under the bed. He closed the door firmly and that was that.
Except it wasn’t that. She scooted around and rearranged herself before she realized she probably didn’t need to be completely under the bed. She could, if nothing else, stick her head out the other side. If Bec opened the door, it would be easy enough to slip back into hiding before she saw a thing.
Hallie guessed she’d lucked out that the room was carpeted and that the maid Thomas employed was relatively thorough. She shuddered to think what a couple of nights on a hardwood floor would have been like. Hallie decided to go to the bathroom before Bec arrived. She hoped Thomas wouldn’t come in and yell at her. But she didn’t know when she’d get the chance again and she’d just had coffee and a big breakfast. She didn’t bother flushing. She couldn’t see any reason for Bec to enter the bedroom or bathroom when there was another centrally located bathroom. Surely she’d use that one.
Hallie resettled herself flat on her back with her top half out from under the bed. She picked up the novel she’d swiped from Thomas’s bookshelf, but it really wasn’t a comfortable reading position. She sat up and grabbed one of his pillows. He hadn’t made his bed yet and if anyone looked she doubted they’d notice a missing pillow.
She kept one ear trained on the sound of the front door opening, of voices other than Thomas’s, before she decided she didn’t feel like reading after all. She kept the pillow and crawled all the way under the bed. Eyes open she stared without seeing anything other than the moment Erin was murdered. That scene was planted in her brain and she couldn’t dislodge it.
Sadness seeped into her. Guilt followed close behind. Erin was a crime writer with a focus on corruption in law enforcement. She’d written several books about a few of the cases she’d investigated and reported on. She’d won awards for her work. Erin had been more than a source. She’d been a friend. And if what Hallie had asked her to look into was what had gotten Erin killed? Hallie would have to live with that for the rest of her life.
Hallie probably wouldn’t get to attend Erin’s funeral or pay her respects to Erin’s family. She wouldn’t even be able to send flowers. Maybe they thought she had killed Erin, what with her name and photograph splashed all over the news and the internet as a person of interest.
Hallie had thought about calling her bosses at the Justice Department. But she didn’t know who she could trust. Before this happened she thought she could trust them all. But now? She wasn’t so sure.
Her only hope was her brother Dean. Him she knew she could trust. He’d help her sort this all out. He’d protect her. She’d been telling the truth when she told Thomas she couldn’t reach him. Dean and his new wife Annie were laying low on their trip. No photos or posts on social media while they were away. Hallie had applauded this decision when she’d heard about it. Even if Dean was active on social media, she didn’t see how she could send him a message the rest of the world wouldn’t see. Now would have been a good time to have a code word for “trouble” that they both knew. They could have set up a protocol since they both had potentially dangerous jobs. But they never had done such a thing.
Hallie heard the muffled sounds at the front door. Heard the delight in Thomas’s voice when he greeted his daughter and her high-pitched voice in response. All of a sudden Hallie missed her dad.
She sniffed and closed her eyes. She wasn’t tired. How could she be? But suddenly, all she wanted was to sleep and hope when she awoke the nightmare her life had become would be over.
But her brain kept playing over what had happened earlier. Thomas knew how to handle a gun. He knew how to subdue someone. For the most part anyway. She allowed herself a tiny smile when she thought of the split lip she’d given him. He’d also begun a methodical interview, which could have led to a full-on interrogation if it hadn’t been interrupted. The question that made her most uneasy was this one: Was Thomas a cop?
By the time Thomas stuck his head in the door and told her the coast was clear, Hallie was ready to climb the walls. At least when he was at work, she had the house to herself and roamed as she pleased. Being trapped in the bedroom for most of the day had frayed her already raw nerves. She’d resorted to quietly working out. Sit-ups. Push-ups. Lunges. The house had grown quiet for a while, but she didn’t know if Thomas and Becca had left or were absorbed in some super quiet activity. She didn’t want to risk Thomas’s wrath or exposure to Becca by investigating.
“Thank God,” she said as she followed him to the kitchen. “It’s like being in prison. I’ve never met your daughter and I truly hope you two had fun today, but I’m glad she’s gone. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I’m sure she’s lovely, but you’ve probably never had to spend a day hiding from her. It was not—”
Thomas paused at the counter, turned abruptly and jammed something into her mouth. Hallie’s eyes went wide at the same moment her teeth sank through mushroom and onions, pepperoni and cheese, tomato sauce and a thick, buttery crust.
While she chewed and swallowed, Thomas opened a bottle of Peroni and set it in front of her. His knowing smile combined the smug and the amused. Was that a hint sympathy she saw in his eyes? Work it, said that desperate little voice inside Hallie’s head. And be nice even if it kills you.