She would be a cop even if she had to leave him.

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A VG Serial: ToxiCity

Episode 63

Stone waited. A muffled voice on the PA system asked Dr. Stern to call surgery. An aide rolled an empty gurney down the hall. Finally, Matt ran his tongue around his lips. “You’re right. It won’t happen again.”

Stone searched his partner’s face, dissatisfied with his reply. He hadn’t expected True Confessions, but—what had he wanted? He pressed his palm against a metal wall plate. The ER doors slid open, revealing a room with multi-colored chairs. A nurse sat behind the intake desk. The waiting room was empty. Apparently people didn’t get sick in Lake Forest. He identified himself to the nurse, who offered to check on Feldman and disappeared.

They sat on the chairs. “Help me out here, Matt,” he said, trying to draw Matt out. “You think our killer worked for Feldman at the same time as Romano and Landon?”

“Could be,” Matt said. “Maybe he was fired—or thought he was—because of them.” He paused. “But where does Simon fit in?”

“I don’t know. Stay with this for a minute.”

“Maybe the killer was a vendor that Feldman stopped using. Or never paid. Actually, wouldn’t Romano have paid the bills?”

“That’s what I was thinking.”

Matt almost smiled. His head was back in the case. Stone felt relief.

“What’d you find out from Landon’s wife?” Matt asked.

“It was a clean break. No kids. She hasn’t heard from him in over a year.”

“She have an alibi?”

“She was on a sailboat with her boyfriend.”

Matt gazed through the window. An ambulance was pulling away from the building. He twisted around. “Damn. I just remembered something. Feldman showed up at Simon’s funeral.”

Stone’s stomach pitched. “Say what?”

“Feldman was one of the mourners at Simon’s funeral. Came out of the synagogue with his arm around Charlene Simon and helped her into the limo.”

“Friends, huh?” Stone frowned. “You think they’re more than friends?”

“I suppose it’s possible.” Matt’s brow furrowed. “You don’t think Feldman had anything to do with—”

“I guess that’s a question we’ll have to ask him.”

But not today. The nurse returned, followed by Ricki, who looked pale. Her father was in the ICU. He had suffered a stroke, but his vitals were stable. They’d know more in a day or so. The good news was that his blood was clean. No infectious agent or pathogen had shown up in the tests. Yet.

“He was lucky,” Ricki said.

Stone crossed his arms. “So were we.”

 ***

Back home Matt was greeted with the sight of several bags in the hall. He went into the kitchen. Georgia was putting bowls into a cardboard box. She twisted around. Her eyes were swollen, but she looked sober.

He pulled out a chair and sat down.

She closed the box and carried it into the hall. When she came back, she said, “Did I ever tell you what my favorite Jewish holiday is?”

He shook his head.

“Purim.” She faced him. “And not because you’re allowed to drink.”

She disappeared into the bedroom, coming back with her flowered toiletry bag. “Esther married King Ahashuveras, knowing he wasn’t Jewish. She didn’t care. She loved him. She was willing to take a chance. And it paid off. When Haman persuaded him to kill all the Jews—her husband, the king—didn’t go along and saved her life. He even had the bad guy killed.” She gave him a sad smile. “I’d say that’s a mixed marriage that worked.”

He reached for her hand. “Georgia. Don’t go. We can beat this.”

She shook her head. “You shouldn’t have to clean up after me.”

“That’s not—”

“Let me finish. I’ve been thinking a lot the past few days. God knows I don’t have much else to do.” She looked around the kitchen, as if the walls attested to her actions. “The thing is, Matt, I need to be a cop. And I’m going to do whatever it takes to be one again.” She took his hand. “You’re a good man, Matt. Probably the best I’ll ever have. And I’m probably a fool to walk.”

Matt opened his mouth to say something, but she touched a finger to his lips. She pulled her hand away.

“Take care of yourself, Matt,” she said softly and walked out of the room.

Episodes in the novel will be published on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.

Please click the following title,ToxiCity, to read more about Libby Fischer Hellman’s books on Amazon.

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