“It appears that someone was covered in dirt, barefoot, came in through the front door, was brought into the kitchen, and then came up for a shower. I’ve got a bra, underwear, a skirt, and a shirt that’s ripped to shit.”
He listens to Lieutenant Jasper Hale speaking on the other end of the line.
“I know that’s nothing substantial yet, but combine it with a missing wife on her husband’s birthday and the house burning down… Yes, my spidey senses are tingling.”
Edward squats again and starts rummaging through the trash, his hands now gloved after everything he’s found. Jasper is yammering in his ear when he spots something buried in the tissues and other trash, so he interrupts him.
“I found an expensive gold watch in the bathroom trash,” he says, turning the watch over in his hands. “The back is inscribed with Love, Jane.”
“Well, I pulled up the property record, and Caius and Jane Volturi are listed as the owners,” the lieutenant informs him.
“So, he threw away his shiny, fancy watch dedicated to him from his loving wife? On his birthday?” Things are not adding up.
“I’ll agree that it sounds suspicious, Cullen, but that’s it. I can’t go arrest the guy because he didn’t like the gift.” He could hear the heavy sigh on the other end.
“Have you located the wife?” Edward frowns as he stands, placing the watch on the counter next to the clothing.
“No. She hasn’t answered her cell phone, and I haven’t heard the results from the guy I have tracking it.”
“Let me know when you know something,” Edward says before disconnecting the call.
“You’re a fucking liar!” she screamed at him. Her hair was wild around her face, tangled and frizzy. Her red-painted lips were twisted in a snarl.
“And you’re a gullible cunt! Did you honestly think someone with my pedigree was single?” The very idea was ludicrous to him; she was clearly daft.
“Ugh!” She could still picture the gold watch she found on the bathroom counter as he showered, with an engraving on the back with someone else’s name. Love, Jane. “You’re an asshole, stop making excuses! You lied to me!” She grabbed a plate from the table and lobbed it at his head.
He easily ducked the flying object, standing there smugly with his hands in his pockets. It only infuriated her further.
“It doesn’t matter. We’re done, if that’s what you want. Nothing’s changed, except your knowledge of the situation.”
“It doesn’t matter? It doesn’t matter!” She lunged for him, slapping him across the face to bring him an ounce of the pain she experienced reeling through her. She felt betrayed, and he merely laughed at her.
“Don’t touch me again; you’ll only get one warning.” He turned his back to her, resuming his packing.
As she stood there with her head spinning, she felt lost. Eight months she’d put into this relationship, thinking herself in love with a wealthy, hard working businessman. They’d had lazy Sundays working on the paper’s crossword puzzle in bed, sipping mimosas and nibbling on each other. Exciting evenings out where he showed her off to his friends, always proud to have such a beautiful and intelligent companion on his arm. Instead, she was merely a jaunt to stave off boredom from the wife and house in the suburbs.
“You’re a motherfucker, you know that? Not a thing about this even phases you. We were building a life together, even if we never discussed marriage. At least, I was building a life with you. You’re a fucking fraud.” She paced as she calculated who she could rat him out to that would do the most damage, and figured his boss would do. Or maybe the men at the club. Fuck, she just realized that they had known what she was all along. Mistress.
She screamed again to let out her frustration before picking up the vase of flowers she’d so carefully arranged to go with the birthday dinner she’d painstakingly made. She heaved it in his direction, disappointed that it missed but mollified when the water splashed out against the side of his head.
She would look back on this moment in time as the axis of her world not only tipping, but flipping upside down.
He turned on her, fury evident on his face. He was sick of her disrespecting him, indignant with her questioning his decisions. And now she had the audacity to throw a vase at his head? She needed putting in her place, and he felt himself growing hard at the thought. Adrenaline raced through his veins, fueled by the drugs and the look of pure terror on her lovely features as he advanced on her. Yes, he would enjoy teaching her a lesson.
The sound of the doorbell interrupted the flow of conversation. Jane hopped up and made her way to the front door, unaware that her entire life was about to change drastically.
She pulled open the door, startled to see a filthy woman collapsed on her doormat. Frowning, she wondered if it was a homeless person looking for a handout.
“Who is it, dear?” she heard her mother-in-law ask as she entered the foyer.
“I don't quite know, Mother. What do you think?”
The older woman came to the door and peered out at the porch. “Oh! We must help her, Jane. Marcus! Caius!”
Jane watched Didi lean down to the woman and shake her shoulders. She heard her murmuring to the girl, but couldn’t make out the words. The rustle of the men coming in behind her caught her attention, and she looked into her husband’s face as he took in what was going on. She knew he despised her these days, as she was not as stupid as he thought. The expression on his face frightened her; that mixture of pure loathing and revulsion he typically reserved for his wife was now aimed at the unknown woman.
Marcus directed Didi to one side and together they shifted the girl, working to lift her. They brought her to the kitchen and sat her in a chair, Marcus keeping his hands on her shoulders. Everyone followed, the house now a flurry of activity. Didi brought a glass of water, and Jane a washcloth from the half bath under the stairs. Caius stood in the doorway with his arms crossed over his chest, silently enraged.
He took in the sight of bedraggled hair, the blackened skin, the torn clothing. “I’ll call the police,” he offered to the room in general. He moved to the ancient phone in the study, still visible to those in the kitchen. With one hand on the switch hook and the other on the receiver, he stood on the fringes of the activity and called the authorities.
Jane noticed Caius standing in the doorway of the kitchen before using the phone in the other room. She could hear him speaking to someone about the woman they found at the front door. He used words like dirty and damaged, and Jane wasn’t sure what to make of it. The girl opened her eyes, seeming to wake up from a stupor, and Jane had to stuff her fist in her mouth to stifle a scream as she saw the girl’s eyes. They oozed from the corners, and her pupils were huge, half-hidden under thick pools of blood. She blinked, and fat tears trailed down the dirt on her face.
“Good God,” Marcus murmured. “Are you feeling up to telling us your name?” He was all professional, as though he was a physician and not a stockbroker. The girl shook her head, wincing at the motion. A hand tentatively crept to her throat, conveying her problem with speaking.
“Well, the police should be on their way,” Didi said, patting the girl on the arm. “Shall we help you to a shower, dear girl?”
At the weak nod, the women all gathered together and moved in the direction of slowly ascending the staircase at the back of the house. The men left them to their ‘women’s work’, retiring to the study to be near the front of the house for when emergency personnel arrived. That was Marcus’s thought, at least.
Caius had other plans.
The women helped the girl into the shower stall upstairs in the guest bedroom. They had varying thoughts of shock and horror, with Didi being completely clueless, Jane having terrible suspicions, and the stranger trying to live minute by minute. She admitted to herself that the warm water felt like a tiny slice of heaven after the hell she’d climbed out of. She wasn’t even self conscious of being naked in front of her lover's wife and the woman that must be one of their mothers. She watched the wife move to the clothing draped over the sink’s edge, wondering why she would bother to try to scrub it clean. She seemed to need something to do with her hands in order to feel useful. And then Jane unbuttoned the pocket of the skirt and pulled the gold watch from its depths. Her head snapped up, and she met the eyes of the girl in the shower. A slow nod for acknowledgement, and the wife dropped the birthday gift into the trash, hastily covering it with paper while her mother-in-law was preoccupied. So much was explained in that moment, with nothing in the background but the sound of the water running and Didi tsking as she ran a washcloth over the girl’s arm.
Jane rushed to the window in the bedroom and looked out. There was nobody on the street, no flashing red and blue lights heading their way. Her husband’s mother interrupted her building panic by towing the girl that was almost certainly her husband’s mistress into the room. There was a towel around her hair and one around her body that she clung to. Didi rummaged in the closet and emerged with a fluffy white robe. Once they had wrapped her in the robe and tucked her in the bed under the covers, Jane drew Didi into the hallway.
“There’s something not right, Mother,” Jane started.
“Oh, pish-posh. She’s clearly been injured, maybe even wrecked her vehicle. Let the police come and figure it out.”
“But, Mother, I think—I think Caius knows her,” Jane tried again.
“Nonsense. From where? Don’t let your imagination run away with you, for goodness’ sake.”
Fed up with the older woman’s obtuseness, she grabbed Didi’s arm before she took off down the stairs. “Just be careful. Please.”
Shaking her off, Didi headed down the stairs in search of her husband and son. It was preposterous to imagine anything was amiss with her own son. As she rounded the corner into the study, she caught sight of her husband of thirty years lying in a pool of blood before indescribable pain crashed into the back of her skull. Her son’s malicious face was the last thing she saw looming over her before she lost consciousness.