By Leila Baez / Matthew staff
Lucinda closed the door behind her, exhaling as the lock clicked. William and she were supposed to be a team, completing every case together. He promised. She made him promise he wouldn’t fly off the handle and disappear into his work without a trace. She still had no clue how his six-foot, lanky, coat-wearing arse could sneak in and out of any situation like a fox. The past eight years of getting to know him, breaking down walls, reaching for a point where he allowed her in as she welcomed him. All that work and yet she woke up that morning to an empty bed and silent penthouse not even three hours he proposed to her. He was crafty, sending John to “check up” on her, more like stall. John, the poor bastard, trying to find a way to convince her to stay put.
That morning, she was officially at her wit’s end. The previous forty eight hours were spent receiving a sixteen-year-old Veronica Scott into her home. The girl’s mother had suffered a heart attack during a drive home from work and the child flew across an ocean with nothing but an old duffel bag to London to escape the system. Lucinda was well aware of the awful conditions of the American Foster Care system, but for Veronica to risk her life hoping an uncle she’d never met would take her in raised several alarms.
It took William and herself less than five minutes of reading through the wrinkled files the girl had brought to realize the death was no natural occurrence. William had taken this case personally, speed-dialing his brother, Micheal, to ask how he’d let such a thing happen. When Micheal played the “estranged but paid support” card, Lucinda joined William in berating his very existence. She was grateful Veronica had been charging her hearing aids.
The dust was supposed to be settled, but the chaos never ceased. She got around John and Veronica was still sleeping when she left. Her driver caught a glimpse of her in the rear-view mirror and, with little worry for the speed limits or proper traffic directions, made it to William’s flat right in time to see him flag down a taxi. Lucinda nearly sprained an ankle rushing out of the car and over to him, yanking him backward by his scarf so he faced her.
“Got you,” she huffed.
William tugged his scarf back, averting his gaze, lips tightly pressed. Lucinda did not keep silent.
“Grabbing something from the flat my arse! In the limo, William. Before I get more pissed off.”
William did not get in the limo. Instead he let out a disgruntled groan.
“Let me go, Luce,” he started, “I was merely gathering information.”
“William Scott, this has nothing to do with gathering information.” she put her finger to his lips when he tried to interject, “You’re trying to take another vigilante route instead of properly solving this case. We promised Veronica that we would do everything in our power to solve this case, but we promised to do so together.”
She pointed to the open back door of the short limo.
“Get in the car and we will go to St. Bart’s. I’ll be damned if I stand idle and allow you to leave so much as one minute detail unsolved that I could have pointed out.”
She took her phone from her pocket, holding it up and showing him quick flashes of pictures sent by Micheal, depicting possible leads and clues. William opened his mouth before closing it again, still not moving towards the car.
“Lucinda, I don’t believe you understand,” he growled.
“Understand? What would I not understand?”
“The degree in which I miss the times when I was free. Not having to tell anyone where I was going or what I was up to!”
Lucinda stopped in her tracks to process his words, her eyes narrowing, lips pursing. She leaned back, her eyes shifting to her left ring finger before she turned and walked towards her vehicle, scoffing as the cab William called had driven away. She imagined the driver speeding off, as tired of his shit as she was.
“That can be arranged, William. If you decide to cherish a life where no one cared for you, when the only people by your side were your landlady and barely your brother, then please go ahead.”
“But recognize that is all you get: a bitter older brother, your landlady, and a matchbox flat.”
She got into the backseat, slamming the door shut and locking it, glancing at the driver in a way that said ‘drive’. The ride was silent, the only sound being the air conditioning, even that had been lowered by the driver. When they got back to the apartment parking lot, she gave a rushed apology to the driver, got out and went inside, taking the twenty-something floor elevator ride to her floor: the penthouse. She put her face in her hands once she stepped inside, sliding against the door onto the floor.
She was trembling, a clumsy rush of a woman to keep from letting anyone else see. Feeling a thin band of metal against her cheek, she drew her hands away and stared at the ring. She took it off and examined it, lurching up to her feet and taking the walk up the stairs to the right and into her room, the ring box still on the nightstand. Placing the ring back inside the coffin shaped handmade box, she closed it and put it in the drawer, slamming the drawer shut. She had not realized she was still huffing, the struggle to keep back tears becoming harder. After a moment her expression changed and she looked up, nearly blank-faced.
“I need a bloody drink…” she drifted off as she took firm, calculated steps back downstairs and through the left hall to the kitchen. She got out a tall bottle of wine, the label being that of some fancy brand she did not care to know and popped the cork off, not even bothering to grab a cup. She made her way back upstairs with the bottle, deciding that, if she passed out, it would be in her own bed and not the kitchen island. Fishing her phone out of her pocket, this time she did not act immediately. If he wanted her gone, he would not have given her a ring. But, special movie theme or not, the box was shaped like a damned coffin and the ring was made in the shape of a flower. A rose. Not necessarily a long lasting thing, and not the smoothest of flowers either. Every natural rose came with sharp thorns, not diamond encrusted petals.
She had no doubt anyone she knew would tell her she was overthinking. She could hear the vague noise of Veronica chatting away with John. She must have found her spare pair of hearing aids. They would be fine. Time passed and the bottle was now two thirds empty. She now knew that anyone she knew would tell her she was drunkenly overthinking. She paid little mind as she placed the bottle down and flipped onto her side, stretching her arm out and reaching for the phone, opening it and going to her messages. William Scott. Delete. Are you sure? Yes. No doubt the one sober part within her cursed herself, but that part of her was not in charge, nor would it be for a few hours at least. She then went into her contacts. William Scott. Delete. Are you sure?
She stopped for a moment, taking a shaky breath before pressing yes then going into the blocked section. Add number. 020 and eight more digits. Are you sure?
“Yes,” Lucinda grumbled, her speech slurred from the liquor. “I’m sure.” If he wanted to contact her, he had John. If he really wanted to contact her, he had Micheal. If not, she would be mailing that coffin to him in a manilla envelope by Thursday and his things would be promptly shipped to the flat by the week’s end. She was done for the night, something she proved as she let the exhaustion of the day take over her, phone in her outstretched hand, her head face down on the quilted comforter. It smelled of liquor and a long day spent on a case no one had asked for. And, for all she cared, he was on it. Case closed.