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Chapter 1 - Monday evening

Maggie Cumberland froze a split second before her outstretched hand made contact with the kitchen door, her plan to announce her momentary return home to her husband fading at the urgent tone in his voice. It had an unrecognizable edge to it, cold and dispassionate, but it was the subject of his conversation that made her hesitate.

Shipments and delivery dates were not unusual topics for someone in the distribution business but unless Maggie’s ears were playing tricks on her the cargo he spoke of was human. Why else would the words “young women”, “twenty-five” and “Eastern European” belong in the same sentence about shipping?

She shook her head as if to reset her hearing. What was wrong with her? Mastersons Distribution specialized in high-end luxury goods including art and antiques. Daniel could be talking about portraits or other works of art depicting women, perhaps by Eastern European artists or part of an Eastern European collection.

Still, some instinct kept her rooted to the spot, afraid to fully open the door and reveal her presence. She didn’t like to eavesdrop, considered it a transgression which more likely than not would have a regrettable outcome, but she could hardly avoid hearing Daniel’s side of the phone call as his voice grew louder and more animated.

She stifled a gasp as he answered some unheard question with, “They’ve been drugged so they’ll cause no problems in transit.”

She started to tremble. So, no inanimate objects excuse. Her eyes widened as the full implication of what she’d overheard sank in. But it couldn’t be her husband talking. It had to be some stranger, some monster.

She backed quietly down the hallway, terrified the kitchen door would open before she could escape. Thankfully, in her rushed return home to collect the tennis balls for her club league match that evening, she’d left the front door open on her way in. She eased it gently closed behind her with only the slightest telltale click. Hopefully Daniel wouldn’t hear it from the kitchen.

She dashed to her car, drove around the corner before pulling over again. If someone she knew saw her she didn’t know how she would explain why she was sitting in that spot, but she didn’t dare drive any further. Not until she got herself under control. She gripped the steering wheel tight and pressed her feet hard against the floor in an effort to stop her limbs shaking. Snippets of Daniel’s words replayed in her mind.

Shipments. Girls. Drugs.

She tried desperately to view them in a different light, to turn them into something innocent, but to no avail.

What was she supposed to do? Should she go to the police? But with what? A few overheard words? They’d think she was crazy. And what if the police did believe her but she was wrong? Think of the havoc she’d cause. Daniel would never trust her again and with good cause. What kind of wife rats on her husband of over twenty years based on a few minutes of conversation she wasn’t meant to hear?

She shouldn’t have been there. Nor, for that matter, should Daniel. He rarely came home early, especially if he knew she would be out, her absence giving him an excuse for working late. The forgotten tennis balls were her excuse, but what was his?

She wished she’d slammed the front door on the way in. He would have heard it and come out of the kitchen to check who was there. They would have exchanged their mutual excuses and she wouldn’t have heard any of the awful conversation, which the more she thought about, the more she believed she must have misunderstood. It was the only explanation. Instead of sitting there like an idiot she’d be on her way to her tennis match, a match which, given her opponent’s inability to hit back any ball that didn’t bounce right at her feet, she was guaranteed to win.

She glanced at the dashboard clock. If she was going to make the match on time she needed to leave now. So what to do? Police station or club? Spend the next hour playing tennis, or spend it denouncing her husband as a potential monster to the police?

Daniel, a monster? No, no, no, he wasn’t like that. He was a kind, honest man. There had to be some perfectly innocent explanation which she’d now never know because she could hardly admit she’d been eavesdropping and then fled. What would he make of that?

She should have sailed straight into the kitchen, caught him mid-conversation, let him explain. But it was too late now. So she should put it out of her mind, accept she was making a mountain out of a molehill, and go and play tennis. Sue would be waiting for her. It was too late to back out now. Besides, she couldn’t go home early while Daniel was there and whacking tennis balls would be the perfect way to get rid of all the tension she’d built up inside.

She started the car.

Yes, tennis first, and then home again, and somehow she’d try and raise her concerns with Daniel over dinner.

Chapter 2 - Later Monday evening

Daniel’s car was no longer in the driveway when Maggie got home. Nor was it in their two-car garage. The discovery spooked her. She’d convinced herself on the way back that his explanation for his early return would answer all her concerns regarding the strange phone call, but now she had to assume he didn’t even want her to know he’d been home.

She drove into the garage but made no effort to get out of the car. Monday evenings, she played tennis from six until seven and then came home and made dinner. Daniel would return sometime between eight and eight-thirty. A regular, predictable routine, or at least, that’s how she’d thought of it. But for all she knew this might not have been the first time Daniel had been home while she was out. If she hadn’t come back for the balls, she’d still be none the wiser.

Where would he have gone? Presumably not all the way back into the city. She pictured him sitting in Starbucks waiting for eight o’clock so he could pretend he’d just come off the train. Or maybe the bar nearby the station. Though the latter would be risky. He might bump into someone they knew who might later happen to mention it to Maggie. She was tempted to drive into town and see if she could spot him or his car, except what excuse could she give for being there if he saw her? The local stores would be closed.

No, far better to act normal and give him a chance to explain when he came in. Which meant she needed to get started on the dinner.

She hurried into the kitchen via the connecting door from the garage. Glanced around for any sign Daniel hadn’t tried to hide his presence, a coffee cup on the bench, crumbs from a pre-dinner snack, or a discarded water glass. A doodle on the scratch pad they used as a grocery list, a date, a number or something, anything that hadn’t been there an hour earlier. The kitchen was as spotless as she had left it.

She filled a large pot with water, set it to boil for the pasta. Put the rich meat and tomato sauce she’d made earlier on to simmer and started preparing a salad while she waited for the pasta to cook. Her hands shook as she chopped, forcing her to concentrate on the task more than usual. When the pasta was ready she mixed it into the sauce, poured it into a casserole dish and topped it with a hefty layer of grated cheese, and put it in the oven to bake.

Her movements were automatic, an often followed routine, but this time sloppily performed leaving a pool of water by the sink from the drained pasta, tomato splashes all over the hob, and flecks of cheese on the counter. She’d taken her frustrations out on the food.

She wiped up the mess and headed for the shower. On the way she snuck a glance into Daniel’s closet, rattled by the sudden memory of an acquaintance whose husband had packed up and left while she was out shopping. A woman who’d believed she was happily married. It had been the focus of local gossip for weeks.

There were no noticeable gaps in Daniel’s hanging garments or empty spaces on the shelves. His electric razor was on the bureau, his toothbrush in the bathroom. So it was safe to assume he would come home.

She had to reconsider that assumption when eight-thirty came and went and he still wasn’t back. She called him, got his voicemail, and left a message, but only because under normal circumstances he would expect her to do so. At nine she ate some salad, left the casserole untouched. She paced the floor, poured a glass of wine, and paced some more.

She couldn’t decide whether she wanted him to come home or not. If he did, what would she do? But if he didn’t, what would she do?

She tried his number again. Again it went straight to voicemail. She stood at the living room window, watching the deserted street for signs of his headlights.

It was uncharacteristic of Daniel to be late without warning her. He hadn’t said anything that morning to indicate this Monday would be any different from previous ones. She double-checked the calendar to make sure he hadn’t scheduled some event she’d forgotten about. Stared at the single entry for the day, tennis at six, and wondered how a day could start so ordinarily and end in such confusion.

The longer she waited the more her mind raced, examining trivial events for deeper meanings, for an understanding of how the man she thought she knew so well could be the same man she’d overheard earlier. She never claimed great intelligence, but she couldn’t believe she would be so easily duped. If someone was living a double life there had to be signs, didn’t there?

She sniggered. A double life? Did she really think that was what Daniel was doing? The guy might be bright and excel at his job, but when it came to the rest of his life he’d be at a loss without her to keep him on track. If he had another life, there’d have to be another woman and…

No, she refused to go down that line of thinking. She was one hundred percent certain there wasn’t another woman. Not one who did his laundry or cooked his meals.

She jumped at the sound of the phone. Snatched up the receiver and uttered a breathless, “Hello?”

“Hey, Maggie, I am so sorry.” Daniel sounded it. “I got called into a last minute meeting and it went on way longer than expected.”

The relief at hearing his voice drained away in the face of his blatant lie.

“Maggie, you there?”

She managed to make an indecipherable sound. Daniel read it right.

“I really am sorry. I would have phoned earlier but I couldn’t. I know you’ve probably been worried, but I just want you to know, I’m on my way home now. Should be back in an hour.”

An hour? So where was he? Not in Starbucks, it would have been closed by now. And if he had gone to the bar why would he say he wouldn’t be home for an hour?

“Maggie?” She could hear the growing concern in his voice. “You okay?”

“No.” She managed to squeeze the word past the growing lump in her throat. Then wished she’d said yes.

“Why? What’s wrong?”

Wrong? She wanted to scream at him. Everything was wrong. This was wrong. They were wrong. Lying was just downright wrong. She tried to clear her throat to vent, managed only a coughing sound.

“Are you coming down with something?”

How about a bad case of deceiving husband, she wanted to say, but instead she croaked out a “yes.”

“Look, don’t wait up for me. Get yourself to bed, have a good night’s sleep. Hopefully, you’ll feel better in the morning.”

Maggie doubted it, but the idea of not having to face him and his lies until morning held appeal. She needed time to process this confirmation of his dishonesty.

She managed to find her voice.

“I think it’s the bug that’s going around. Been feeling off all day. Maybe it would be best if you slept in the guest room tonight. I don’t want to pass my germs on to you.”

She was surprised how easy the lie came out.

“A good idea. Means I won’t disturb you when I come in. So, see you in the morning. Love you.”

“Goodnight.” Maggie cut off the call.

Would Daniel notice she’d failed to return his endearment? She couldn’t bring herself to say it. She hoped he’d be too caught up in whatever he was doing to realize. Or he’d put it down to her not being well. Whatever, until she decided what she was going to do she’d have to be careful how she behaved toward him. He mustn’t realize she was onto him.

Chapter 3 - Tuesday morning

Maggie pretended to be asleep when Daniel came into the bedroom the following morning. She sensed him hovering by the bed, presumably debating whether he should wake her to see how she was. He must have thought better of it because she heard movement, a gentle click of the bathroom door, followed by the faint drum of the shower.

She really did feel lousy, but not from illness. She’d barely slept, her mind refusing to stop tormenting her with ‘what if’s and if only’ while, no matter how hard she tried, her conscience wouldn’t let her dismiss what she’d heard as a figment of her imagination. As much as it hurt to admit it, she knew what she’d heard. But she didn’t have a clue what she was supposed to do about it. How much easier it would be if it didn’t involve Daniel, the one person she’d normally turn to first for advice on something as serious as this.

The shower door rumbled on its track. Another few minutes and he’d be back in the bedroom. Should she pretend to have woken or wait to see whether he tried to wake her?

She clenched her eyes shut as the bathroom door opened. Flinched a few seconds later as his hand brushed her forehead.

“How you feeling?”

She rolled onto her back, feigning the first moments of wakefulness, and forced a weak smile.

“Awful.”

“Really?” Daniel sounded surprised. He put his hand on her forehead again. “You don’t look sick. And your forehead’s not hot.”

She turned onto her side, pulled the sheet up over her face and muttered, “Tell that to my insides.”

He chuckled. “You poor thing. Do you want me to get you anything before I go? A cup of coffee? Some medicine?”

She moaned in response. Then wondered whether she was overdoing it.

He kissed the top of her head. “I’ll give you a call later. See how you’re doing, okay?”

Maggie made a positive noise. Lay still and listened as he took an interminable amount of time to get dressed. She just wanted him to go.

Finally she heard the bedroom door shut. Or had he merely closed the closet? She strained to hear any other sound, aware she was being ridiculous, but she didn’t feel capable of keeping up an act in his presence. Once she felt confident he’d gone she pulled the sheet off her face.

Six-fifteen. He’d still be downstairs. He left the house promptly each morning at six-thirty. She couldn’t remember the last time he was late for work or took a day off sick. And even on those rare winter days when the weather forced him to stay home, he’d be at his desk in his study by eight and put in a whole day’s work.

She’d given up trying to persuade him to enjoy an impromptu day off or even half a day, but he insisted he had all the information he needed to work at home so there was no justification for it. She never came out and said it but she thought he was taking dedication to the extreme, especially when he was foregoing the opportunity to spend some unexpected quality time with their son.

She slid out of bed, crossed to the window and peered through the thin gap where the drapes met. A few minutes passed before Daniel’s BMW appeared in the driveway. He reversed it into the road and set off for the station in one fluid, confident movement that always impressed her.

She lingered by the window, glad he was gone but reluctant to make a start on her own day. She rarely ventured into Daniel’s study, had no reason to, but short of asking Daniel outright it was the only way she could think of confirming one way or the other whether she had anything to worry about.

To delay the inevitable further, she took a shower, dressed, and tidied up the bedroom. Then she remade the bed in the guest room and collected up the clothes Daniel had left lying on the floor. Twenty-two years of marriage and she still hadn’t managed to train him to put his dirty clothes in the laundry hamper.

In the kitchen a half-drunk cup of coffee and an empty cereal bowl stood on the countertop. Maggie sighed. Was it really too much to ask him to put them in the dishwasher?

She opened the appliance door. Felt a twinge of guilt. The washer was full of clean dishes, dishes she’d forgotten to remove the previous evening. She’d have been doubly annoyed if he’d stuck his dirty dishes in with the clean ones. Though of course she had no way of knowing whether he’d bothered to look inside, because if he had, what were the chances he’d noticed the dishes were clean and not dirty? His domestic abilities were non-existent, a fact which sometimes she found endearing but increasingly, like today, downright frustrating.

She slammed the door shut. The dishes could wait. She gulped down a lukewarm coffee—for some reason Daniel had turned the coffee maker off—and headed for his study.

Chapter 4 – Tuesday morning

The study was as neat as ever. Despite Daniel’s domestic shortcomings, his organizational approach to his work verged on obsessive. The top of his L-shaped desk was bare save for his computer. Only the accounting texts on the solitary narrow bookshelf hinted at the profession of the occupier. A four-drawer hardwood filing cabinet and an ergonomically designed chair were the only other pieces of furniture. At first glance a stranger could be forgiven for thinking the room was unused, but Maggie knew Daniel could lay hands on any information he needed in seconds from his well-maintained filing system.

She, on the other hand, had no idea where he kept anything. There’d been no need. He managed it all so well. She took care of the house, he looked after the finances. So where to start? And what was she even looking for?

She opened the top drawer of the desk. Pens, chargers, a calculator and a disused cell phone, nothing out of the ordinary. She moved on to the lower drawer, found neatly marked tabs listing files of household bills, insurance and their bank accounts. She pulled out a couple, flipped through, but neither contained anything unexpected.

She sat down, leaned back in the chair. What she needed to find was an innocent document, an invoice or a delivery note, which would explain what she’d heard. The kind of document Daniel would probably keep with his work files in the filing cabinet. All she had to do was look. But what if she found something else, something confirming her fears? The possibility made her terrified to look.

Too terrified to look. She had no business doing so. These were confidential work files, for Daniel’s eyes only. She leapt up. He probably kept the cabinet locked anyway. She yanked on the handle of the top drawer of the cabinet to prove her point. Stumbled back as the drawer easily slid open.

It was empty.

She frowned. Remembered a conversation when Daniel had mentioned he was running out of filing space. So where were all the files?

She opened the next drawer down. This one was half full, the tabs labeled with names of various companies, some of which Daniel had worked for. She fingered through them, found one marked Mastersons. She inhaled hard, gingerly pulled out the file as if it were toxic.

As she opened it she let out a sigh of relief. It contained a single letter, a contract of employment. She skimmed the text. Saw no mention of types of cargo, human or otherwise, merely a list of responsibilities of the job. A list so lengthy, no wonder he worked such long hours.

She put the file back. Closed the drawer and moved on to the third one. This was full, the tabs marked with quarterly dates. She took out the most recent, realized it was merely an accounting report for the first quarter of the current year. She snapped the file shut. It was confidential information which she should not be looking at. Daniel would be furious if he found out.

The bottom drawer contained tax files, personal tax files. She checked the latest one, in case Daniel had used it as a cover for shady dealings, but it contained nothing but tax forms. Her eyes widened as she noticed the size of the figures on the main form. She had no idea their income was so large. She merely signed the forms at Daniel’s request, never paid much attention to the detail.

She was about to close the drawer when she noticed some of the older files at the back had thick brown envelopes squashed between the covers. Receipts probably, from the days before Daniel did most of his banking online.

She started to close the drawer. Hesitated. If she didn’t check them out she’d probably have to come back later and satisfy her curiosity. But if the envelopes were sealed she wasn’t going to tamper with them. No matter how curious she was.

The envelopes were closed with metal clasps. She gently unfastened one, reached in and pulled out the contents.

Or at least half the contents.

She gasped at the sight of the wad of cash in her hands. She put the envelope down, shakily fanned through the wad. All fifties, as far as she could tell, held together by a thick rubber band. She put the cash on the desk, reached back into the envelope and pulled out another similar size bundle.

She dropped the cash and envelope onto the desk and slumped into the chair.

What the hell was going on? Daniel didn’t use cash. Said using cards gave him more control. He could tell exactly where he’d spent every penny, had even tried to persuade her away from using cash. But she didn’t necessarily want a reminder of how she spent money, every coffee or cosmetic she bought listed for Daniel to see.

So why would he have bundles of cash hidden away?

She looked down at the open drawer. There were another three envelopes. Did they contain cash too?

She picked out the middle one. Saw how easily it bent in the middle as the contents separated. Her fingers shook so much she could barely open the clasp. She emptied the contents onto the desk, hardly daring to look. Two more identically-sized bundles fell out, this time of twenty dollar bills.

Practically in a trance, she opened the remaining two envelopes. Two more bundles of fifties, two more of twenties. Daniel had thousands of dollars stashed away in the house. And he hadn’t told her. But why? Why would he not want her to know about it?

She grappled for an explanation. Her eyes filled with tears as she forced herself to accept the only possible explanation. He was involved in something underhand. Something he didn’t want her to know about.

She picked up one of the bundles of fifties. Slipped off the band and counted the notes. Fifty. Two thousand five hundred dollars. She assumed each bundle had fifty notes, but counted them anyway. Fourteen thousand dollars. She’d never seen so much cash before in her life. Somehow the eight bundles looked small compared to what they represented.

But what did they represent? Other than dollars? His share of profit from ruining the lives of others?

The tears flowed fat and fast, rolling down her cheeks, dropping off her chin, as her anguish demanded to be released in breath-catching sobs. She, who had donated her free time to help abused women, was married to someone who perpetuated abuse. The very thought made her want to vomit. Made her limbs shake.

She laid her forearms on the edge of the desk, bent forward to rest her forehead on her hands while she struggled to breathe. Her tears plopped onto her knees as she willed herself not to be sick. Daniel must never know she’d been in his office. Not now.

Chapter 5 – Tuesday midday

Maggie stood outside the non-descript building that served as the police station, the gravity of the moment rendering her motionless. Decision time. Once she walked through those doors there’d be no going back. This was the moment when she could either save her marriage or blight it forever.

The temptation to walk away was strong. All it would take would be to pretend she’d never heard the phone call. No one else knew. She could go on living her life as she always had done, safe and comfortable. It wasn’t her job to root out criminals. She couldn’t be the only wife who knew her husband was involved in shady dealings. She shuddered. Disgusting dealings. Inhumane dealings.

If you see something, say something. Wasn’t that what the signs in the subway and train stations said? But they were referring to possible acts of terrorism, acts which could cause devastation and kill or hurt many people. This was different, wasn’t it?

She could wait and hope justice caught up soon. Act the shocked and surprised wife when the police turned up at the door. Daniel would back up her claims she was ignorant of what he was up to. There was nothing to tie her to the crimes.

She glanced over her shoulder, back the way she’d come. She’d parked her car in a municipal lot down the road, afraid for it to be seen outside the station house.

Afraid. There was so much to be afraid of now. She’d been flung into a no-win situation, dire consequences whether she followed through with her plan or not, a life of fear the only guaranteed outcome.

She sighed. She’d been over and over this in her mind, bouncing back and forth between her options, but the truth had gnawed at her. If her suspicions were correct, for every day she kept quiet she would be inflicting misery on untold numbers of girls. Her fear surely paled in comparison.

Suddenly, one of the double doors swung open. A uniformed officer breezed through. He stopped abruptly as he noticed her and caught the door before it started to close.

“Ma’am.”

Maggie took it as a sign.

“Thank you.” Head high she strode into the building.

Her courage didn’t last long. Her mind emptied and her mouth dried up the moment the stern-faced officer behind the desk asked how he could help.

He waited a moment while she stood speechless, his expression softening. “Ma’am?”

“I… I’d… I’d like to speak to a detective, please.”

“You want to report a crime?”

“No. No.”

The officer frowned.

“Well, sort of.” She leaned close to the glass separating them. There was nobody else there to hear her but she couldn’t bring herself to raise her voice. “I think I have some information about a possible crime.”

The officer narrowed his eyes. “What kind of crime?”

“Please, if I could just speak with a detective.”

“A robbery? An assault?”

“Please.” Maggie broke off. This wasn’t how she’d imagined dealing with the situation. She probably came across as a crazy woman.

She noticed the officer eyeing her up.

A crazy woman in an expensive suit. Maybe she’d overdressed, but she wanted to be taken seriously.

“Your name, please?”

“What?”

“Your name. So I can tell Detective Abbot you’d like to see him.”

“Oh.” Maggie surveyed the still empty lobby. Whispered, “Cumberland.”

“Mrs. Cumberland,” she added before the officer could ask for her full name.

The officer picked up a phone, punched in a couple of numbers. Told someone named John about Maggie’s request.

“No, she wouldn’t say what crime.”

He grinned as if he’d heard something funny.

“Probably. Thanks.”

He hung up. The grin disappeared. “Detective Abbot will be with you in a few moments.” He began tapping away at a keyboard.

Maggie bristled at the apparent dismissal. She was expected to wait there in full view of anyone else coming into the building? Why couldn’t the officer let her in through the coded-entry door? Find her a seat out of view. Surely the detective wasn’t going to conduct the interview in the lobby.

She coughed.

The officer didn’t look up. “He won’t be long.”

Maggie peered through the entrance door to check for any sign of someone else coming in. She couldn’t imagine there was a lot of crime in town, but it would be just her luck for someone she knew to turn up while she was there.

Her agitation increased as the minutes passed. She jiggled from one foot to the other trying to hide the fact she’d started to shake.

This was a big mistake.

She jumped at the sound of a door opening behind her.

“Mrs. Cumberland?”

A hulk of a man approached and offered a handshake. “Detective Abbot. Would you follow me please?”

Wordlessly, Maggie followed him back the way he’d come into a brightly lit, narrow hallway.

He opened the door of a sparsely furnished office, switched on a light and gestured for her to sit down in front of a battered wooden desk.

“Can I see some ID please?”

The brusqueness of his request startled Maggie. And the way he loomed over her while waiting for her to dig her license out of her wallet unnerved her, made her feel as if she had something to hide. She struggled to suppress a sigh of relief when he finally moved around to the other side of the desk. He copied some details from her license onto a pad of paper, slid the document back over the table and settled back in his chair in such a relaxed fashion Maggie doubted he’d take her seriously.

He stared at her, his emotionless expression giving little indication of what he might be thinking. Was he categorizing her? Well-dressed, possibly wealthy, white, middle-aged, probably a stay-at-home wife based on the time of day she’d shown up. What other labels was he attributing to her?

He smiled. In an instant his whole demeanor changed. The thin line of his mouth softened, his steely stare took on a kinder, gentler look, the combination taking a good five years off Maggie’s estimate of his age.

“So what was it you wanted to tell me?” he asked after what seemed like an interminable wait.

Maggie realized he’d been waiting for her to speak.

“I think…”

She tried again.

“My husband, I…”

The carefully rehearsed speech vanished, words stuck in her throat. Abbot was looking at her as if she was a gibbering idiot, which she probably was.

“I’m sorry.”

Abbot held up his hand. “Take it easy, okay.”

Maggie nodded rapidly, grateful to be able to respond without words. She hadn’t even started explaining her situation and already she was being told to calm down.

Abbot smiled again. “Nothing to be nervous about.”

Maggie gaped at him. Well, if informing on your husband was nothing to be nervous about, she wasn’t sure what was.

“You’re here to report a crime, yes?”

Maggie swallowed hard. “I think so.”

Abbot squinted. “You think so.”

She could hear the doubt.

“I think my husband’s company is involved in human trafficking.” The words tumbled out so quickly they barely sounded decipherable.

There was a moment of silence. Abbot’s smile disappeared.

“Human trafficking.”

 Thank goodness, he’d understood that part.

Abbot straightened in his chair, picked up the pen, pulled the pad toward him again.

“What makes you think that?”

Maggie chewed on her lip. There was no going back now.

“Take your time. Tell me what you know.”

Maggie told him.

Abbot listened. Jotted down the occasional word in an illegible scrawl, at least from Maggie’s perspective, though she’d never been particularly adept at reading upside down.

Each pen stroke felt like a knife in Maggie’s soul. She was betraying her husband, her best friend, the one person who’d made her life so happy, and her traitorous words were being reduced to a few salient points.

She stopped short of telling Abbot about the money. She’d damned Daniel enough. Let the police find out the rest. Abbot took her through her story again, checking he’d got it down accurately.

He hadn’t. Or she thought he hadn’t until she corrected him and realized he didn’t amend what he’d written down. He was testing her. She almost called him on it, but decided to play along. Consistency in her story had to work in her favor.

“I hope I haven’t wasted your time.” She shrugged. “I didn’t know what else to do. I tried convincing myself I’d misheard, but I know I didn’t. I know what I heard.”

Abbot tossed his pen down.

“No, it’s good you came in and let us know your concerns.” He gave her a reassuring smile. “It can’t have been easy. Not many people would have the courage to do what you’ve done. Especially since it involves your husband.”

“Will he know?”

Abbot frowned. “Sorry?”

“Will he have to be told I made this report?”

“That’ll depend on whether you are willing to testify against him if necessary.”

Maggie gasped.

“Testify! No, I couldn’t do that.” The very thought unnerved her. “I won’t have to, will I?”

Telling an unknown detective her concerns was bad enough, sitting across from her husband in court, something else altogether.

“By law you can’t be forced to testify against your husband.”

Relief washed over Maggie.

“So what will happen now?”


AUTHOR Q&A

About me

British-born but now resident in New York, Mel Parish's innate curiosity leads her to find intrigue even in everyday happenings. She is fascinated by how one seemingly small decision can have dramatic repercussions. Fortunately, the characters in her head are the ones who have to deal with the fall-out while she leads a relatively normal life or at least, what she considers normal. Mel’s books are also inspired in part by seven years in Hong Kong as well as travels around the US.

Q. What draws you to this genre?
A.
I enjoy creating challenging situations for my characters and seeing how they respond. I don’t plot out my novels—I start with an idea and let the characters take over, so often what my characters do next surprises me as much as I hope it will surprise the reader.
Q. Where did the idea for this book come from?
A.
In 2015 I did a trip of a lifetime around the US on Amtrak. I didn’t meet anyone who admitted to being on the run like my character Maggie but the possibilities fired my imagination. I already wanted to write about a woman forced out of her comfort zone and the two ideas meshed to inspire this book.
Q. Where can readers find out more about you?
A.
You can find out more about me at www.melparish.com or on my blog at www.melparish.blogspot.com. I’m also on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/MelParishAuthor and Twitter @mel_parish. I love to hear from readers.

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