As a little Valentine treat, I’m posting an excerpt from Cropped to Death that features Detective Ted Roget, one of the men vying for Faith’s attention. (stay tuned for a scene featuring Steve Davis).
Arriving home, I hit the button and popped the trunk, then scrambled from the driver’s seat. I gathered up the bags of groceries and balanced dinner, my purse, and the keys while I opened up the door. Where was Steve or Hank now? No one ever lurked when a person needed help with the groceries.
I plopped the bags on the empty countertop, then hurried upstairs to change from the nice blouse I wore to work into a Mountaineers t-shirt. I was a messy cook. The biggest clue to what I made for dinner was my shirt. As I was twisting my hair into a messy bun, the phone rang. I let the answering machine take the call.
Returning to the kitchen, I removed the chicken from the grocery store’s self-service bag and arranged the pieces on a serving platter. At least the main entrée could look pretty. I filled a pot with water and set it on the stove.
The doorbell sung. Turning the knob on the stove, I set it on high then raced for the front door. My grandmothers arrived early to ensure dinner got made.
I tugged open the door and shouted an enthusiastic hello. “Hey Gram—”
The grin froze on my face.
Detective Roget leaned against the door frame, looking me up and down. “I hear you have questions for me.”
Everyone in this town, except for the murderer, had a hard time keeping secrets. I stood in the middle of the threshold. “I don’t have anything to say to you. I went to the police station to verify something Karen England said.”
“Is that so?” He pulled out a small notebook from the pocket of his jacket. “I bet I’m right to assume this has something to do with a certain case I’ve asked…” He held up his index finger. “Let me correct that, told you, to stay out of.”
“I am staying out of it. The reporter came to me and made some allegations about Marilyn. I decided I should check into what she said.”
“And what would those allegations be?”
I rolled my eyes. “I’m sure you know because you helped plant them into her story.”
“You think well of me don’t you?” His sarcasm came through loud and clear.
Sizzles popped in the background. I groaned and ran into the kitchen. The water started boiling. Hard. Grabbing a potholder, I removed the lid to calm the hot bubbling liquid. I blew on the roiling water. For some reason I always thought it sped up the cooling process.
Praying I didn’t burn myself, I dumped in the box of macaroni then took the cheese from the refrigerator.
“I guess I don’t need to call the fire department.”
I spun around. Detective Roget, cell phone in hand, stood in the kitchen and glanced around the area. The open floor plan allowed him a look at my living and dining room. The dining room I had converted into a craft area was messy and disorganized.
“The water just boiled over,” I said.
“You shouldn’t leave unattended items cooking.”
Viciously, I grated the mild cheddar cheese into a bowl. “I thought my grandmothers were at the door. Not you. You were the one who asked questions and distracted me.”
“You were the one who came by the police station and played amateur sleuth.”
I almost dropped the cheddar. I placed the remainder of the block down then went to refrigerator. I yanked open the door and gazed inside, stalling until I had a good response. Or at least until Roget forgot what he said.
He let out a long-suffering sigh. “Does it occur to you, Miss Hunter, that I’m quite capable at doing my job? People read way too many books where the damsel in distress solves the case and the day.”
I slammed the door and turned around. “I’m not in distress. And how would I know how capable you are when you arrested the wrong person? You jumped to the first conclusion you could. If what I said can be used against my friend, then why can’t what I’ve learned help her get out of jail?”
“Because this isn’t Monopoly. There isn’t some kind of get out of jail card up for bartering.”
“I’m not bartering. I want you to see the truth. Sometimes the truth isn’t just what you hear. It’s about what you don’t.” I stirred the pasta.
“Now I get you.” The low tone rumbled from Detective Roget. He rested a hand on my shoulder, kneading the muscle with gentle fingers. “Listen, Faith, you’re not to blame for your friend getting arrested. My case is based on a lot more evidence. Evidence you don’t know about.”
The relaxing touch lulled the anger I had at him. But I couldn’t allow it to continue. Stepping away, I tilted my head and looked at his face. His rugged features softened and compassion lurked in his green eyes.
“I can’t mention specifics. But I will let you know Marilyn was seen talking to Michael before—”
“He was murdered. I read that. How do you know that person isn’t lying? Maybe Annette Holland made it up so you wouldn’t suspect her. Why wouldn’t a murderer lie?”
“The person I talked with is very reliable. Even you’d agree. You have to realize I’m not the bad guy here.” He walked to the front door and paused with his hand on the knob. “And for the record, I’m available.”