Hider in the House – Episode Eight
Thomas considered his options. He’d been forced out of the detective bureau two years ago. He, better than anyone, understood the way a scandal could affect innocent people. How a cop who was completely clean could be contaminated in the fallout just by being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Which, it sounded like, Hallie and her friend Erin had both been. And it had gone horribly, terminally wrong for Erin.
He didn’t want to acknowledge that he didn’t want the same thing to happen to Hallie. Nor did he want to acknowledge that he was going to do everything in his power to make sure that didn’t happen. And the last thing he was going to do was acknowledge any of that to Hallie. If she knew she’d gotten to him, gotten under his skin within—he glanced at his watch—less than twelve hours of acquaintance, she’d have the upper hand. And he knew better than anyone what happened when a man let a woman get the upper hand, no matter what the relationship.
“So you saw two cops kill your friend and you ran. And now the cops are looking at you as a suspect in your friend’s murder. You don’t know who to trust. Not in the local police department and not in the U.S. Department of Justice. The only person you trust is your brother, also a cop, but who’s currently on his honeymoon.”
“That’s not entirely true.”
“Which part? Your brother isn’t on his honeymoon?”
“No. The part about him being the only one I trust.”
“You haven’t turned me in yet.”
His expression didn’t change.
“So I sort of trust you.”
Hallie sucked in a breath as her earlier doubts about Thomas returned. “Are you a cop?”
His gaze slid away from hers. “Used to be.”
Hallie sagged in relief. “You’re kind of young to be retired.”
That got his attention. “Who said I retired?”
“You were good. You didn’t quit. At least not voluntarily. And you don’t appear to have a duty-impairing injury.”
“I transferred,” he informed her as if that would put an end to the discussion.
“To a desk job,” Hallie guessed.
His eyes narrowed. “How could you possibly know that?”
“I didn’t. Not for sure.” She grinned, because he’d fallen for that age-old ploy. “I had you pegged for an accountant based on the way you dress.”
He frowned. “How would you…? Wait. You were watching me get dressed?” His tone of voice conveyed his outrage at her invasion of his privacy.
“Oh, come on. How much do you think I could see hiding under the bed so you wouldn’t find me? Not much, I can tell you that. Mostly what I saw was your feet. Your shoes and socks. Your pants cuffs.”
“And from that you deduced I was an accountant?”
“No. Once you left I snooped through your closet. Lots of button-down shirts, conservative ties and khaki slacks. Your wardrobe screams, ‘I have a boring job.’”
Thomas glowered at her and she grinned back.
“You, however, are nothing like your wardrobe. In fact, I’d say you’re downright fascinating.”
He rolled his yes. “We’re getting off the subject, here.”
“Oh, come one. I’m the one who’s been bored for days. Let me have some fun. You’re a decent guy who tries to act tough.”
“You’re a good dad and your ex-wife is clearly a fool.”
“You’re a cop turned accountant. There’s a good reason for that. If you had it your way, you’d still be a cop.”
Thomas trained his gaze on her.
“You were framed.”
She said it so softly he wasn’t sure he’d heard her. But he had heard her, and her words sent a chill up his spine. How did she know? Could she read him so easily?
“Again, we’re getting off topic.”
“Maybe I can help you.”
“I don’t see how.”
“I told you. I’m an investigator. I’m good at my job.”
“So was I. Trust me, I’ve put in the time investigating how I was set up.”
Hallie offered an unladylike snort. “They wouldn’t let you near the case. A cop investigating his own crime? Doesn’t happen. Maybe a couple of your buddies smuggled the paperwork to you, but it isn’t enough to figure out who set you up. Probably just enough to be frustrating because the answers aren’t there.”
How did she know this? Thomas didn’t know. Maybe she had excellent woman’s intuition. But he wasn’t going to discuss his case with her.
“I thought you were more interested in saving your own ass than you were in mine.”
She tilted her head as if in consideration. “I could be interested. In your ass.”
Thomas blushed. Goddammit, he never blushed. It just didn’t happen. Was she flirting with him?
He cleared his throat. “Be that as it may…” he tapped his pen on the pad of paper trying to think where he wanted to go with this interrogation. She had a funny kind of smile playing around her lips which told him she enjoyed setting him back on his heels. Getting him off track. Making him blush.
“Look, do you want my help or not? Because if you don’t, I’ve got better things to do.”
“I do want your help. I’ll try to behave myself. Tell me one thing, though. The guy you shot. He survived, didn’t he?”
“How’d you know—” Thomas stopped himself, but it didn’t stop her.
“I told you. I’m good at my job.”