Rubicon Ranch: Necropieces ~ Chapter 42: Eyana Saleh (aka Egypt Hayes) — by Mickey Hoffman

Egypt snapped a length of tape across a packing box and motioned for her assistant to take it out to the car. The rest of her belongings could be left in place while she worked elsewhere. Jake’s invasion hadn’t damaged her editing equipment beyond use, but she’d rented a facility where the footage could be edited to meet professional standards. After that, she should be ready to make a decision about what to do with this house.

She turned at the sound of voices coming from the hallway. The short and stocky figure of her assistant appeared in the doorway, gesturing over her shoulder at Ward Preminger, who loomed behind her. “Sorry, Egypt, he wouldn’t wait. He insisted on coming in.”

From Ward’s tight expression, Egypt didn’t think he was coming to bring her a get-well bouquet. The assistant quickly glanced from one to the other, wheeled around, and slipping past him, leaving Egypt alone with her visitor.

“This is a surprise. I thought you left town, Ward. Have you come to say goodbye?” Egypt studied his face for a hint of his intent, but came up empty.

His cheeks reddened, but he immediately gained control of himself. “I—we have unfinished business.”

She felt a surge of fear and reflexively stepped back. He must have caught it because he quickly said, “I didn’t come to challenge you, but I need to clear things up. When we first met I felt something happen between us, something real, but the reasons you gave for coming here didn’t make a lot of sense. After you were attacked, I realized you’ve been more involved than just a bystander. I really should have figured that out right away ‘cause I know you went through my wallet the day you brought me home.

So, if you don’t mind, just to satisfy my curiosity before I leave this insane town, I’d like to hear your side of things.”

Egypt’s throat felt dry. She reached for a bottle of mineral water and drank down what remained. Trying for a light tone she said, “And here I thought I put everything back perfectly. Just goes to show you, crime doesn’t pay.”

Ward hitched a seat on the corner of her desk like he wasn’t going to budge until she gave him what he wanted. Egypt sighed. Where to start?  And what was he really after?

“I guess you wouldn’t believe it if I said I also felt the . . . energy . . . between us and just wanted to find out more about you?”

There was a glint in Ward’s eyes. “You can try to convince me of that later, but really, if that was the case, why didn’t you just ask?”

“Fair enough. But if I’m not mistaken, your interest goes beyond my searching your wallet.”

“You’re still not answering my question.”

No, she wasn’t and he didn’t make it any easier. Ward was wholly focused on her like one of her zoom lenses that showed every flaw and every nuance. Might as well get it over with.

“It’s simple. I didn’t know what your relationship was with the Sinclairs. My cameras caught you checking out their property on several occasions. But for all I knew Morris or Moody hired you to keep watch for them.”

“What if they had? What’s it to you?”

Egypt picked up her iPad but her fingers froze on the screen. Could she trust him?

Ward continued, “In case there’s any doubt in your mind, I think Morris finally wrote up his own fate and deserved the end he got.”

Before Egypt even knew it, she’d accessed a document and handed him the tablet. As soon as it was out of her hands, she had a flashback to Jake coming at her in this same room. No, Ward wasn’t like Jake . . . or was he? Now all she could do was watch.

Ward’s eyebrows came together in a frown as he read. He closed his eyes for a long moment, let out a long breath and handed the tablet back without meeting her eyes. The drone of an airplane flying overhead broke the heavy silence. Finally, he said, You—you sent Jake Sinclair a letter saying that Morris was going to cut Jake out of his will? How did you know what Morris was going to do? And why did you tell Jake?”

“I didn’t know anything about Morris’s will, but I knew Jake would take action.” Seeing the amazed expression on his face, she added, “I met Morris years ago. For now, it’s enough to know that I owed Morris some payback.”

“My god, Egypt.”

A chill went down her spine. She’d shared her secret on impulse. It could bring them together or he could turn on her. If he chose to do so. She had to make him understand.

“I can explain, but it’s a long story. Right now what you need to know is I had no idea the man’s son—a monk for pete’s sake—would turn out to be a killer.” She instinctively touched a hand to the bruising around her neck.

Ward shook his head. “You’re lucky to be alive. The attack is what made me finally decide to come by before leaving. You got way more punishment than you deserved for a search of my house.” Ward’s expression softened. “I guess I’ve learned from my experiences here, too. The last few days have been pretty unforgettable, wouldn’t you say? You know, what happened, everything that’s happened in this place would make a pretty good story. Or . . . a movie.”

Unexpectedly, the corners of Ward’s mouth turned up in an ironic smile. He stood and stretched his hand toward her. As she clasped it in a firm handshake, they both began to laugh.


About mickeyhoffman

Author of School of Lies, a murder mystery. Published by Second Wind Publishing,LLC.
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