Cassie's plan is nearly blown by a run-in with her neighbor.
|“Hey, what’s up?”
Cassie jumped as the voice interrupted her rummaging around in the car. She turned to see her neighbor, Denise, standing in the small strip of woods between their houses. Her heart lurched when she noticed that Denise was wearing the heart shaped friendship necklace that Cassie gave her last Christmas.
“Hi Denise, have you been out all day?”
“Um yes, I’ve been at work.” She held up the brown bag in her hand. “Not exactly health food, but I have a sinus infection and had a hell of a day. Drake didn’t gripe when I said I’d pick up burgers for dinner.”
Cassie studied her friend. “You look pale. You should go inside and get some rest. Is Drake home?”
“No, he’s off on Fridays in the summer, but he’s been at the lodge with the officers this afternoon. He said he’ll be done at six. Why are you out here in this heat?”
What have I done?
Cassie glanced at her watch. It was five forty five! Jessie would be here soon, and she could not be anywhere near the house for the plan to work. Of course he’d find his cousin’s body in the bedroom where she left it, but timing was critical. The coroner would pin down the time of death and Cassie couldn’t be seen around here for much longer or the whole charade was blown.
Stop it! The damage is done. If you play it cool, then you can still get out of here in the acceptable time frame.
“Are you ok?” Denise asked. “You look flustered. Did you come home sick?”
“No, I always get off at noon on Fridays. I’ve been cleaning up around the house.”
“That’s right, your husband’s cousin is coming in from England. Is she here yet?”
Crap! Crap! Crap!
“She arrived yesterday. Jessie’s parents took her out.” It wasn’t a lie. Her husband’s parents had taken Sylvie out this morning and early in the afternoon. Cassie had been working on a tight time frame all day.
“I look forward to meeting her. I’m going to head inside and put my stuff away before Drake gets home. I want to crash in the recliner behind the TV watching Dateline tonight.”
The irony of Denise’s viewing preference on a Friday night struck Cassie as so funny that she didn’t have to fake her smile. “You deserve it. Take care of yourself.”
“See you later.” Denise walked in the garage. Cassie heard the beeps of the alarm system and Denise calling hello to her two parrots before the door closed.
Cassie let out a breath she didn’t realize she was holding, willing her heart to stop pounding. In all of her planning, she hadn’t considered what this would do to Denise. She was a good person, but she was shy and didn’t have many friends. This would be a devastating blow to the woman. It was a shame that she was going to be a casualty in this mess.
It was also a shame that Sylvie had to die, but there was no way Cassie could disappear unless there were a bigger crime for the police to investigate. By the time they got around to looking for Cassie, she’d be somebody else in another part of the world. Plus, she and Sylvie never got along. They hated each other. Sylvie thought Cassie was hiding things from Jessie, and she was right. Cassie was hiding plenty from everybody, but it didn’t matter. She wasn’t going to be Cassie anymore. It was fun for a while, but the charade was falling apart and it was only a matter of time before she was exposed.
Time was short. Jessie would be home in an hour and a half, so she had just enough time to disappear within the time frame of Sylvie's death. She got in her car and drove toward the Interstate, trying to push down the nausea and pain in her heart as she drove by Denise’s house one last time. It was too late to turn back now.
She made her choices. The damage was done. It was time to move on.