Crime Suspense Romance

We both liked reading people. That’s how we met. We’d worked together for three years, said a few words in passing, but never really noticed each other, until the day in the breakroom when we were the only two who could tell that Herb was obviously lying. 

We laughed and Herb shot us a glare and the rest of the group just went along as he dismissed us and continued his story. Unable to stifle our laughter we both apologized and left, only finally letting the laughs rip when we were almost halfway down the hall. I’m sure Herb still heard us.

“What a windbag.”

She wiped away a tear. “No. He’s a good guy.”

I rolled my eyes. She caught it from the corner of Her’s, and we succumbed to another bout. She bent at the waist, pushed me gently and stood up to catch her breath.

I exaggerated the force of her push and took a step back. “I don’t think he even knows how he sounds.”

“He has no idea,” she said through a mouthful of giggles and waved a hand. 

We laughed again and both glanced back up the hall.

We wiped away our tears and took deep breaths. 

I checked my watch. “Well, guess that’s it.”

She glanced up at the clock, still tamping titters, and turned to me with the warmest smile I’ve ever received. It caught me off guard. It caught us both off guard and we held each other’s breathless gaze, before breaking eye contact and shuffling our things uncomfortably.

“Ok.” I ran a hand along my temple and pulled my hair back and returned her smile. “Well, don’t work too hard.” I gave her a dorky wave, and turned to go.

“Matt, right?”

I turned back, brows raised in surprise. “Yeah.”

She didn’t bite her lip, exactly, she just kind of tucked her lower lip under her front tooth—a flash of a gesture—and gave a small wave. “Melody.”

“For sure. Nice to officially meet you.” I held out a hand.

She tucked her stack of folders into the crook of her arm and shook. “Nice to meet you, too.” 

We stood stupidly and shrugged and avoided eye contact before half-turning from each other.

“Alright,” I said with a no-look wave.


I stopped and turned. “Hey. You going to Champs with Collin and them after work?”

She turned back with the slightest tilt of her head and a smile pulling at the corner of her mouth. She looked up and to the left, before making eye contact and smiling broadly. “Yeah. I might.”

I shrugged, hoping it conveyed just the right amount of indifference, jutted my chin, and nodded. “Yeah, cool. I was thinking I might go too.”

“Cool. see ya there.” She flashed a curt smile and tossed her hair in a cascade as she spun and strutted away.

We both went that night. I’m usually pretty comfortable socially, but she was good at making me nervous. If she thought I liked her before, she knew now. She narrowed her eyes on me with a grin, subverting my questions and seemed to take pleasure in watching me flounder under her scrutiny. I liked it, and she could tell. Four months of this went by before I finally built up the courage to ask her out.

She’s the smartest woman I know. She’s loud and boisterous and endearing and seemingly carefree. Sometimes I’ll be sitting at a party, and I’ll see her laughing along with her friends. They have no idea that as they pour out their surface-level concerns in the pursuit of conversation, she can read their life’s stories in the subtext of their nonchalant statements. 

I’ve picked up on a few of her tells over the years. She’s quick as a whip, but if she needs a second to think, she rubs two fingers along the base of her ear, under her lobe. I’ve never won an argument with her, but there have been a few draws. The two-finger ear thing was a clear signal that I had her on the fences. I’m not sure if I can still use it. Last time we were arguing she noticed me noticing her rubbing at the upper part of her jaw, stopped, and smiled, and conceded the whole argument with a wave.

She’s got a tell that I think she doesn’t know about. Her right foot. I’ve noticed it when we’re watching tv and she’s engrossed in the show. When she knows everything that’s going on and is even ten steps ahead of the writers, she points the toe of her right foot to the right. When we’re watching something that’s either; so stupid it’s hard to follow, or so well written it presents a real thought-provoking premise, she points her toe to the left. 

I watch her read my mannerisms with embarrassing ease. I know I’m doing them and can’t help it. I live with the reality that I can’t hide anything from her. Which is fine with me. I really don’t think I have anything to hide. I wish I could say the same for her.

Melody and I were sitting in the breakroom, eating our lunch and fine-tuning our weekend plans.

“How about this?” I raised a palm, “You don’t have to go to Casey’s thing, and we’ll tell—” I squinted.

“Maggie,” she filled in.


She tightened her features around the bridge of her nose.

“Yeah, Maggie,” I said, my voice too high. I cleared my throat and with a voice much too low, said, “And We’ll tell Maggie I’ve got a thing that night.”

She relaxed, narrowing an appraising gaze.

I grinned and flashed a flurry of wide-eyed blinks.

She sneered with a smirk and pointed at me. “You’re not getting out of Maggie and Tom’s.”

I shrugged. “Worth a try.”

She chuckled a snort through her nose, and we returned to our salads.

“Have either of you seen Herb?”

We both started and turned to the door, wide-eyed and still chewing.

Janet stood in the doorway, clutching one side of the door’s casing, her eyebrows through the roof.

I swallowed before I was finished chewing and coughed into my hand. “Who? Herb?”  

She nodded vigorously. 

I glanced up and to the right and stuck out my lower lip before dropping my fork and turning my seat a quarter turn to spare my neck the craning. “No. Don’t think I’ve seen him today.”

Janet turned and glanced around the office. 

“No call. No show?” I asked. 

She turned back to us with a hunch of confidentiality. “He didn’t show up yesterday either.” She lowered her voice to right above a whisper, “No one’s seen him since Monday night.”

“Weird.” I shot a quick glance to Melody, slowly chewing and staring off in the middle-distance. I tilted my head. Melody's eye’s flitted once before fixing on the middle distance again. I huffed a breath through my nose and turned back to Janet and put a hand to my head. “He hasn’t called out in—I looked up and to the right and then back at Janet—Like, Three years, or something.”

“Five,” she corrected, automatically.

I bunched my chin and nodded. “Weird. Yeah. No. Haven’t seen him.”

Janet took a breath, flashed a glance toward Melody—her back turned toward her—and nodded in conclusion at me. “Yeah, ok.” Before she turned to go, she asked. “Let me know if you hear from him, will you?”

I didn’t shake or nod, but kind of bobbled my head at her. “Yeah, for sure.”

She waved to me as she flashed a final appraisal toward melody. “Ok. Thanks.”

She was gone in a streak. I repositioned my chair back to square, pushed it around a few times, picked up my fork and leaned my elbows on the table. I gathered a bloom of lettuce around the tines of my fork and paused as I brought it to my mouth and caught Melody from the corner of my eye.

She was still staring into the middle distance. She blinked as I turned my attention to her. She swallowed, stabbed a single piece of lettuce and popped it into her mouth, chewing slowly. 

“You alright?”

 She swallowed, “Yeah,” and turned a tightlipped smile, the small wrinkles at the corners of her eyes creasing. “I’m fine.” She took a breath and another bite and turned to me with a mouthful, “I’ll tell Maggie you’ve got a thing.”

I laughed through my nose. “No. I want to go.” I nodded and took a bite of my own. We smiled at each other as we chewed.

We were on the couch. Me; half-sitting, her; half-lying, her head on my chest. Her breathing had deepened more than ten minutes ago, but for some reason I was still watching 27 Dresses. I convinced myself that it was because if I changed the channel too early before she fell asleep it would wake her up. But the real reason—that I would probably never admit it to her—was that I thought it was a great movie. I Kept a watch on Carol from the corner of my eye as I smiled at Ketherine Heigle modeling Dresses for James Marsden, holding her mouth as she silently delivered an over-the-top giggle before stifling it, not wanting to let on how much she liked him.

I caught myself smiling along and scoffed and rolled my eyes. I tried not to turn my torso as I blindly reached an arm behind me and felt along the surface of the end table for the remote, almost knocking over a glass of water, a mostly empty beer, and a bowl of crunchy snacks. My fingers landed on it. I froze as things came to a tottering rest, took a breath and listened to Melody’s breathing. It had lightened. I quietly lifted the remote and held it against my leg waiting for her to fall into a deeper sleep. 

I flipped around and landed on a monster flick. Someone screamed, the exact kind of thing that wakes her up. I fumbled for the volume button, turned it up a few clicks initially, before I was able to turn it down. She stirred against me and mumbled.


I whispered, “Sorry, Babe.” and pretended to turn it down even further, lifting my arm and miming a couple exaggerated button pushes. 

She huffed a small sound of satisfaction, nestled her head into my chest and put a sleepy hand on my belly. 

I hunched, just missed the crown of her head with a kiss and turned my attention back to the movie. The girl was cleaning up the remnants of a bloodbath in a bathroom. She was squeezing bloody rags into a half-filled bucket. The montage cut down on the work and before long she was wiping up the last streaks of blood from a white porcelain sink. She examined her reflection in the vanity, turned her head from side to side looking for missed spots, and as she left and the camera followed her, it panned in an obvious sweep of foreshadow. A thin band of blood on the edge of the basin under the right faucet. 

I shook my head and clicked my tongue against my teeth. And before I could get out the words, rookie mistake, a memory came flooding back. A streak just like it, two nights ago, on the edge of our sink basin in the guest bath.

It had been a weird night. I’d gotten off early and hadn’t had a chance to kiss her goodbye. I watched her through the conference room windows as I texted her.

Leaving early. Taking the bus.

Keys are in your desk. I’ll get


I smirked as she reached for her phone. 

She opened it, read the message and smiled warmly. She looked up at me with a snap. 

I gave her a wave. 

She returned a smiling sneer and tossed a small, shooing wave under the table as she dropped her phone into her purse. 

I did a double take. As I had turned away, I saw her raise a hand for me to wait. When I turned back, she was silently rattling away on the other side of the glass.

I saw something else before I left. Herb. He was sitting at the other end of the room, staring daggers at her. It wasn’t boredom. It wasn’t listening intently. It was a hateful, beady-eyed stare. I stared at him, trying to make sense of his expression. His eyes flicked to me. I flinched and we held a heartbeat of contact before he turned back to the meeting, the hate replaced with patient concentration. I squinted an eye and tilted my head as I turned to go.

That afternoon I did some light house cleaning, listened to a few records, and had Melody’s favorite dinner ready to go before I retired to my office for a few hours of me-time. Before I knew it I was lost in my new work. An exceptionally accurate rendition of The Battle of the Bulge. 

I finished the one-haired brush stroke of black along an American troop’s belt and took a breath as I set him next to the others. I pushed the magnifying attachment out of the way and beamed down at my progress. “And all before…” I blinked hard, opened my eyes wide and looked at my wrist in surprise, “...six thirty?” I looked up and turned an ear to the apartment, heard nothing, and checked my watch again. “Six thirty.” 

I pushed a palm into the small of my back and straightened as I stretched out the stiffness of a long sit and groaned a bit louder than I had to as I stood. I pulled the head band of the magnifier free, tossed it on the desk and clicked the lamp off. I walked to the record player and turned it down before lifting the needle and carefully returning the record to its jacket and cover.  

Maybe she had come home, and I hadn’t noticed. I went to the darkened foyer. Her purse wasn’t where she usually dropped it. I called her. No answer. I texted and pocketed my phone. I walked to the laundry room and flicked on the light. 


“Hey, Buddy.” 

Cat Stevens was swishing back and forth over his food bowl, purring like a generator with plenty of gas. His tail shuddered and twitched. “Mrooow.” 

I smiled, crouched and held out a hand, rubbing my pointer finger and thumb together and clicking my tongue against my teeth. 

He zig-zagged toward me and shot his head under my hand and rubbed his face along my calf in one swift swoop.

I giggled.

He circled, coming around for another attack.

“Alright, Cat.”

I shuffled across the room and flipped the clasp that secured the only two cabinet doors in the room. We had moved the cat food all around the house, and Cat Stevens had hunted it down and dug into it every time. Finally, we put a childproof latch on the laundry room cabinet and that seemed to solve it. Most of the time. He’s a pretty smart guy. I poured a scoop into his bowl. He chirped and stomped across the room and plopped his butt on the ground and stared up at me with his big green eyes, one of them half brown. 

“Ok.” I bent and petted his nape. 

He chirped deeper, purring and pushing against my hand. Then, with a snort, he dove into his food. 

I laughed, ran my hand along his tail, shook off the hair, and went to the kitchen. I made dinner, ate, and set aside a plate for Melody. I cleaned most of it. I opened a beer and sat at the kitchen table for a few sips. If she was running late tonight, then what a great time to get more done. I nodded with a huff, raided the fridge for another beer, and marched into my office.

I never heard her come home. I worked late into the night and when I couldn’t see straight anymore, I called it quits. Besides, I had to pee. I crossed the kitchen and noticed her purse on the counter. I decided to use the guest bath downstairs so I wouldn’t wake her up. 

As I was washing up, I noticed a streak on the sink. I tore a piece of toilet paper loose and wiped the streak up. The stark white tissue flooded with a bright crimson.

“Rookie mistake.” I said it out loud this time, surprising myself.

Melody stirred and groaned. She turned and groped at my shoulder, ”Wha?” nestling her head into my chest. 

I bent and kissed her forehead and whispered. “Nothing, Babe.”

She took a deep breath and nestled in tighter and whispered, “...left blood on the sink.”

I bent an ear. “You left the blood?”

Really just a tone from her throat, “Mm-mm.” She nestled in even tighter and sighed deeply, “Mm-mm. You did.”

I did? I thought back to Monday night. Had I really spent all that time working on my diorama, or had I been up to something else? Something I’d blocked out?  

We were having breakfast the next morning, sitting at a bistro table on the sidewalk. She was scrolling and I was sipping my coffee, lost in thought. I tossed back the rest of my cup and set it down with a clink. I glanced up at her and cleared my throat.

She flashed an annoyed glance.


She took a breath, paused whatever she was watching and turned her short patience toward me with a high chin. 

I smirked at her. It made her scowl and then laugh in frustration, and then laugh genuinely. 

We both looked away. 

I looked back, “Do we want to get married?”

She turned in surprise and shot me a leering appraisal before looking up and to the left.

September 23, 2023 01:15

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We made a writing app for you

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