“Of course, I killed him,” Claire whispered, irritated. Why did she have to say it out loud?
Their visit had been going so well, too. David had arrived earlier than expected. Together, they’d taken the kids to the beach and went for walks in the woods. Cub 1 found a piece of sea glass and gave it to his father. Cub 2, in effort to keep up, picked up a rock as his own gift. David applauded everything they did, answered every question the boys could think of. She loved listening to their conversations.
She let them wring every ounce of joy from the day. Then, after the Cubs were down for the night, Claire invited David to sit outside with her. They sipped steaming herbal tea as she told David about the horrible situation with their boys. How Cub 1 told her what happened to him and his brother at the hands of the neighbor.
“Did you believe him?” David asked.
“He would never lie about that.”
David shook his head, “They seemed fine, though. …how do you know it’s-“
“It’s true,” She snapped, “I knew it was true even before it was verified by their doctor. I spend every minute of my life with them. I know my kids.”
She’d meant it as a jab but David didn’t get angry. He pressed for more information. He was argumentative by nature and an attorney by trade. The latter influenced the former when it came to emotional-charged disagreements. Facts outweighed feelings in David’s arena. Claire felt him hiding as he built his case: “When?” “How did it happen?” “To what degree?” “How long did it go on?” “How long have you known?” “What did you do?”
She’d answered with complete honesty, until the last. She paused long enough to make him ask a second time: “Claire, what did you do?”
“What would you do?”
“I want to kill the son of a bitch, but-” He set his mug on the patio table, “-you pressed charges, right? I mean, he’s not still over there?” David pointed in the direction of the neighbor’s darkened house.
“I handled it. So no, he’s not there anymore.”
David ran his fingers through his neat beard, scratching at the skin underneath. Thinking.
Claire made casual and sipped her tea. It was cold.
“Rephrase that, please. It sounds odd.”
Claire refrained from rolling her eyes. Let out a deep breath.
“You mean that he’s in jail; that’s how you handled it?”
Claire looked at him. Come on, David. Put two-and-two together.
“Claire. ” David said her name like a curse. “Tell me how you handled it.”
“Of course, I killed him,” she whispered, irritated. Why she have to say it out loud?
David paled. Even under the sallow bug-zapping light bulb, she could see his warm, brown skin wash free of color. Then he stood up, knocking the table with his bulky jacket and spilling his tea. “Oh. Oh, no. You just …? What the hell, Claire?”
She shook her head, “They don’t punish pedophiles, David, you know this. They punish people who sell dope to willing consumers, not perverts who force themselves on kids.”
David returned her look, the one that said, “Don’t you get it?”
She was about to answer, but he lurched to one side and heaved into the grass. Claire heard the splash but didn’t see it.
He was panting when he spoke again. Scolding, with his voice so low she could barely hear, “Damn your temper! Always acting before you think! You put yourself in danger. I understand why Claire, but, we are not married anymore. I could be subpoenaed.”
Claire was stunned. David’s mind worked so much faster than hers. “Why would you be subpoenaed?”
He turned from his mess and, though he looked woozy, kept standing. “Don’t say another word about this. Not to me or anyone else. I know a few talented people in this area. I’ll make some calls.”“David, no one knows. I don’t need a lawyer-“
David raised his voice, “Yes you do!” He took a deep breath and started again, softly, “People don’t get away with this kind of thing anymore, Claire.”“They do all the time,” she argued.
“They don’t, not when there’s an established connection between victim and perpetrator. Random crimes may go unsolved, but this was … all you. So you’re getting a lawyer.” He picked up the mug from the table. “I need to call my office, let them know I’ll be working remotely for the next few weeks. Let’s go inside.”