Spell Blind – Snippet 07

Most of the tables in back were open, and I thought about sitting at a table nearby and trying the whole “what-a-coincidence” thing, but she was too smart for that to work. Instead, I went with the direct approach.

“May I join you?”

She glanced at me, did a double-take. “Mister Fearsson!” Her expression turned guarded; I think she expected me to yell at her, or maybe throw a punch.

“I read your article.”

“Is that why you’re here?”

“No. I . . . had a meeting nearby and I saw you come in. I thought I’d say hello.”

“What kind of a meeting?”

A reporter to the core.

“The kind that I’m not going to tell you about.” I reached for the chair opposite hers, and raised an eyebrow. “May I?”

She started to say something; I expect she was going to tell me she was working and didn’t want to be disturbed. But then she smiled. “Sure,” she said, setting her computer aside. “Be my guest.”

“Thank you.” I sat and sipped my coffee. It was pretty good, almost as good as my own.

“How’s your investigation going?”

“I don’t think I’m going to tell you about that, either.”

“So you’re going to sit there and drink your coffee and not say a word?”

“No,” I said. “I was thinking that we could talk about something other than Claudia Deegan and the Blind Angel murders.”

She shook her head. “Bull. You’re just like me. You don’t want to make small talk. You don’t want to chat with me about the weather or this coffee or the Diamondbacks–”

“You’re a baseball fan?”

“My dad wanted a boy, remember? My point is, you miss being a cop. You’re back working on a case that I’ll bet you’ve been thinking about constantly for a year and a half. You’re as absorbed in your work as I am in mine.”

“Is that so?”

Yes,” she said, her green eyes dancing. “You want to talk about Claudia Deegan and the other murders.”

“I do?” I asked, laughing.

“Yup. So why don’t you tell me about your meeting and what you’ve learned, instead of playing these games.”

I leaned forward. She did, too, eager, eyes fixed on mine.

“No,” I whispered, and sat back.

Her expression soured. “What is it you’re hiding?”

“I’m not hiding anything. That’s the problem I have with reporters. You assume that I have to be hiding something simply because I don’t want to share the details of my investigation with your readers. Isn’t it possible that I have other reasons for keeping these things to myself? Did it ever occur to you that I could actually compromise the investigation by revealing too much?”

She shook her head, a smirk on her face. “That’s an old excuse, Mister Fearsson. Politicians and bureaucrats have been hiding behind that one for a long time. ‘We’re keeping the truth from you,'” she said, in a deep mocking voice, “‘but it’s for your own good.'”

“It’s not an excuse.” I leaned in again. “What if the Blind Angel killer reads newspapers and blogs?” I asked, my voice low. “I don’t know if he does, but it’s possible, right? I don’t want to tip him off. I certainly don’t want to give him any hints about who I’m talking to, for their sake and mine, too.”

“What about the rest of us?” She gestured toward the front window of the shop. “People out there are terrified of this guy. Don’t they have a right to know how this investigation is going, and how soon they can expect you to catch him?”

“I guess you and I have different priorities. I think it’s more important that people be safe than informed.”

She gaped at me, wide-eyed and clearly disgusted. “You truly think that’s the choice?”

“Yes, I do.”

Her laugh was harsh and abrupt. “Well, good for you, Mister Fearsson! You’ve stumbled across the same excuse for suppressing the media that Hitler and Stalin used! Maybe you’d feel safer living in North Korea!”

People were watching us, some craning their necks to get a better view, which was good, because this wouldn’t have been as much fun without an audience. “I didn’t say anything about suppressing the media,” I told her, keeping my voice low. “I was just pointing out that sometimes giving people too much information can do more harm than good.”

“Well,” she said. “I don’t believe that.”

I took a breath. Too late, I realized that coming into the coffee shop had been a bad idea. Mental note to self: Next time your instincts tell you to stay away from a woman, do that.

“Well, I’m sorry to have troubled you, Miss Castle. I guess I should be on my way.”

“Yes, you should,” she said, already turning back to her computer. “I have work to do.”

Right. I stood and picked up my coffee, having every intention of walking away. But I didn’t.

“You know what?” I said. “I don’t want to go.”

She blinked. “You don’t.”

“No, I don’t.” I sat down again. “I’d rather stay, and fight with you.”

She considered me for several seconds, wondering, no doubt, if I was nuts. Then she burst out laughing.

“That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard in my life!”

“Yeah,” I said, grinning. “I guess it is.”

Her laughter faded until she was just looking at me, a quizzical smile on her lips. “Justis is a very odd name for a private detective.”

“What would be a normal name for one?”

“I don’t know. Joe. Dave. Bob. Dick.”

I raised an eyebrow.

“As in ‘Tracy,'” she said grinning. “You know what I mean. Justis sounds so . . . formal.” She shook her head. “That’s not the right word. I guess I’m saying that you don’t seem like a ‘Justis’ to me.”

“That’s why I go by Jay.”

She squinted. After a while she shook her head. “I’m not sure Jay works, either.”

“So you’re going to keep calling me Mister Fearsson?”

“Maybe. We’ll see.”

I watched her for a minute, until at last she dropped her gaze, her cheeks coloring. “What?” she said.

“I was thinking that Billie suits you well.”

She had gone shy, but a smile tugged at her lips. “Thank you.”

I glanced around. “This is a pretty upscale coffee shop. I didn’t think bloggers made any money.”

“Sure we do. I sell ads on my site. For a lot. I probably make more than you do.”

“Everybody makes more money than I do.”

She laughed.

“Did you always want to be a reporter?”

Another laugh escaped her, this one self-conscious and breathless, but her eyes met mine again. “Not always, no. You don’t meet too many kids who want to grow up to be journalists. But once I started college I knew.”

“What did you want to be before then?”

“A ballerina. A movie star. An airplane pilot.” She shrugged. “Little girl stuff.”

“Except the airplane pilot.”

She grinned, nodded. “Right. I wanted to . . . to go places. Travel.”

“Where was home?”

Her smile turned brittle. “Home? Connecticut.”

Two words, but I sensed that there were layers upon layers to her story. I could tell from the tone of her voice and the pain lurking in her eyes. And I found that I wanted to know all of it. Every detail.

“Well you managed to get pretty far away at least.”

“Pretty far,” she repeated. “How about you? Did you always want to be a private eye?”

The way she said “private eye” made it sound far more exciting and exotic than it was.

I grinned and shook my head. “I wanted to be a cop.”

“Of course. Sorry. I forgot.”

“It’s all right. We’re off the record, right?”

She gaze remained locked on mine and her smile warmed once more. She reached up and closed her computer. “We’re off the record.”

“Thank you,” I said.

“Leaving the force must have been hard.”

“Yeah, you could say that.”

“I did. What would you say?”

I hesitated, wondering how much to tell her.

“We agreed that we’re off the record,” she said. “I’d never lie about that. But that doesn’t mean I can’t ask you questions, does it?”