Sunday, December 24, 9:20am
The doorbell rang once before someone pounded on the door. Satan went into fits, barking and growling. Moody briefly considered letting her dog greet whoever was disturbing her midmorning coffee.
Nah, she wouldn’t do that to the dog. Getting herself out of trouble was a breeze. Untangling Satan from his own misdeeds at her instigation might be a bit more difficult. Anyway, the dog was blameless—unlike his master.
“Ughhh,” she sighed out loud as she looked through the peephole at her visitor. Maybe she should let Satan loose on the sheriff. It would serve him right.
“What?” she said in an exasperated tone before Seth could open his mouth. “If this is about the latest stiff, number one: I don’t know the guy, number two: I didn’t kill the guy, number three: I couldn’t begin to guess why anyone would.”
“No, ma’am. That’s not why I’m here. Look, Moody . . .”
Moody interrupted him. “It’s Miss Sinclair to you, Sheriff. You’re not my friend and I’m not yours. State your business, then get out of my house.”
Moody’s tone caused Satan to growl at the sheriff. Seth rested his hand lightly on his gun as the dog’s growl deepened.
She wouldn’t be able to bear if anything happened to her dog. A bullet trumped gnashing canine teeth. “Go,” she commanded and Satan retreated to the dining room doorway all the while keeping his eye on the sheriff. He huffed once before lying down and watching.
“Mizzzz Sinclair,” Seth said sarcastically. “I have some questions for you about Nancy’s book.” He took the book out and showed it to her. “I have a witness who said it was in your possession. Do you deny it?”
“That’s the dead real estate agent’s book? Well, what do you know. I found it in Deadman’s Alley between my house and Eloy’s. Didn’t know whose it was.”
The lies came easily now. She looked Seth straight in the eyes as she continued.
“But, I want to file charges against whoever came into my house and stole it. I didn’t know it was missing until now. You need to arrest your ‘source’—breaking and entering is still a crime here, isn’t it, Sheriff?” She was getting better and better at stretching and snapping the truth.
“Moody,” he started. “Miss Sinclair, we have bigger problems to solve right now. Two dead bodies right here at Christmas is not the best publicity for Rubicon Ranch. I promise we’ll find out who broke into your house but it’s not top priority.”
Seth looked a little uncomfortable as he continued. “There’s another matter I need to discuss with you. Someone sent these to me.”
He handed Moody the envelope with the picture. She took it out and laughed.
“Oh, wow. That is one of the worst photoshop jobs I’ve seen. Nancy looks a bit out of shape, doesn’t she? Too flabby for my taste.” In truth, the photo didn’t look at all photoshopped but seemed as if it had been done by a professional.
Moody handed the picture back to Seth. He reached for the envelope and she saw him flinch slightly as their hands brushed. She smiled at his discomfiture from her ice-cold hands, another lovely Sinclair trait.
Clearing his throat, Seth asked, “Did you get a copy of this? If someone was trying to blackmail you, like Nancy, you realize what that looks like? Did Nancy contact you with this picture?”
Moody looked at the sheriff with such a cold expression, her dog growled. She loved that animal, but he was too attuned to her emotions.
“This is nothing. I’ve been accused of worse. In fact, I recall you and your officers trying to pin a few other murders on me. Why would a little fake lesbian exhibitionism bother me? The only way this would piss me off is if someone made money out of my image and didn’t give me a cut.”
Seth looked taken aback. Moody knew he wasn’t expecting that answer out of her. Well, he didn’t know the new Moody. He was used to the old, meek Moody.
Embracing her Sinclair heritage was doing wonders for her. She was not a mouse. She was the snake who eats the mouse.
Moody’s phone rang as she opened her mouth to continue. She could feel Seth’s eyes on her as walked out of the room. “Watch him,” she whispered to Satan as she passed by. If Seth tried to rummage around the room, Satan would bark like there was no tomorrow.
“Hello.” No answer. Someone was breathing heavily on the other end but not saying a word. “Idiot,” Moody said to the mouth breather. This wasn’t the first time someone with a blocked number called her. Even when she changed the phone number, they managed to find it again.
Satan started barking. Shame on Seth for moving. Moody smiled as she started to hang up the phone. Before she did, though, she could hear the faint echo of her dog’s loud bark on the caller’s end.
Whoever was getting their jollies off by calling her throughout the day was very close by. She looked out the window and saw a couple of die hard Sinclairites who had managed to elude the cops. They were probably hoping to get a glance at the inside of her father’s den of iniquity. And, they all had cell phones. Hmm.
Double hmm. That cute guy from the fire the other day who was young enough to be an older nephew was one of the two people staring at her house. He couldn’t see Moody staring back through her sun-blocking curtains.
His expression reminded her of Morris. Dead and cold. She couldn’t decide if this was a plus or minus. A shout from the living room interrupted her thoughts.
She had totally forgotten about Seth. “Moody! Get your damn dog back before I shoot him!” Seth was standing on the seat of the chair as a silently snarling Satan circled him. Foamy saliva dripped from the dog’s bared fangs.
Awesome. Satan was more impressive when silently stalking. Moody was proud.
Moody turned her back to Seth. “Down,” she said to her wonderful warrior dog. Satan retreated back to his corner guard post. “You, too,” she said over her shoulder to Seth.
“Don’t leave town,” he said as he stepped off the chair.
“Seriously? That is the most clichéd line in law enforcement history. Even television shows don’t use it anymore.”
Moody watched Seth’s face turn red. Maybe she had gone too far.
Nah. What could he do? Cite her for the truth? Arrest her for the rare Sinclair honesty?
“You’re done here. You know who my lawyer is. Talk to him next time,” she said to the sheriff’s back before slamming the door shut.
A minute later there was a loud pounding on her door. Moody was livid.
“I told you, talk to my lawyer next . . . “
Moody stopped short. Standing in front of her was an older woman whose heavy makeup would shame a drag queen. The makeup could not hide the haunting psychological torment in her face, and Moody felt sure the woman’s long-sleeved shirt hid physical signs of abuse. She looked like someone who was accustomed to being abused. In another life, Moody had treated so many women and a few men who could not function without being a victim.
“You don’t know me,” the woman said, “But I have something I need to tell you. He’s going to sacrifice you if you stay here. And dear old Dad won’t be able to save you this time.”