Saturday, March 31, 9:38 a.m.

I get in my car, which sits slicked with rain in the motel parking lot. As soon as I put the key in the ignition, my jacket pocket begins to jangle a tune that sounds kind of like Janis Joplin’s “Ball and Chain.”

Mystified, I reach into my pocket and pull out a cell phone. It’s not mine. It’s Jack’s phone—I forgot to give it back to him.

The caller ID reads “King County Coroner.”

My stomach seizes in a sour clench. Has something terrible happened to Lucy after all?

“Hello?” I say.

“Hello?” says a man whose voice is completely unfamiliar to me. “Sorry, I’m trying to reach Jack O’Lies?”

“He’s not available right now,” I say. “Did anything happen to his daughter?”

“Who is this, please?” the man says.

“A friend of his,” I say, though “friend” is too strong a word for our vague acquaintance, in my opinion. “We switched phones last night.”

“Are you Katherine?” he says.

“Yes,” I say. “Who are you?”

And how do you know my name? I silently demand.

“I’m a friend of his, too. Were you with him last night?”

“Yes,” I say. “For the most part.”

“Good, because I went by his house yesterday and nobody was home. I got concerned,” he says.

“You’re Harry, Jack’s coroner friend, right?” I say. “His daughter’s visiting her grandmother this weekend. He’s staying up here in Snohomish County.”

“With you?” he says.

“No! No way!” I exclaim.

“Okay,” he says slowly.

A long, weird silence stretches between us. I’m not sure what it means.

“Could I talk to Jack for a second?” he says.

“He’s not here,” I say.

“When do you expect him back?”

“I don’t. He’s not staying with me,” I say.

The weird silence falls again.

“Would you be available for a brief chat? Over coffee, maybe?” Coroner Dekins inquires.

Déjà vu! Times two! But I never say no to coffee. Even with someone who cuts up dead bodies.

 

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