“The bastards. The insufferable, low-life—shithead bastards!”
Eliza was pacing the room, back and forth and back again near the window, too upset to sit still. Eric knew it’d be a while before she was calm and seated. News of a malicious murder on television didn’t have an effect on her; they oftentimes became plot inspirations for the novellas and graphic novels that paid her bills. Nothing would be written about crimes against her family unless she could solve them first.
She suddenly stopped and faced her brother. “Any suspects?”
Eric had been sitting in silence for so long that he needed to clear his throat to speak.
“They’ve arrested Dave.”
Her eyebrows knotted together. “Dave? David Westfore—you think he robbed your house?”
“You heard him at the bar the other night,” Eric said. “He’s been after me for weeks.”
Eliza smiled and resumed her pacing, the clicking of her black-leather pumps offsetting the sound of the clock on the wall. “And here I thought he was all talk.”
Eliza was chewing the inside of her lip as she walked, an absentminded thinking habit of hers. Eric watched her with his head craned uncomfortably upwards, both because his current state of depression had him slouching severely in his chair, and because Eliza had always been much taller than him, ever since his disappointing puberty growth spurt had failed to catch up to her.
She looked at her brother again, her pendulumic movement gradually slowing down. “Did David confess?”
Eric shook his head.
“So they haven’t located the—”
She paused. “I guess it makes sense. He’s one of the only people who knows how important it is, and how much it’s worth. Never trust a pawnshop worker, I guess Dad was right to say.”
Eliza slowed to another stop and watched Eric’s chin sink to his chest. She paused again. Then she walked cautiously over to him and hesitated by his side. He was still, waiting, curious as to what she would do. Eliza was not one to mistake for a “people person”; her shoulder was never one to cry on, and it was a very rare and special man to ever find a comforting embrace in her arms. That did not mean she couldn’t recognize its value.
She withdrew her hand from where it had been clasped in the other behind her back and, after a third pause, placed it on her brother’s shoulder.
Eric lifted his head to look at her. She smiled. “It’ll be all right,” she said.
He nodded, his dismal gaze returning to his lap. She gave his shoulder a squeeze, then planted a quick kiss on the top of his head. “The guest room is all set up for you. Will the detectives still be there in the morning, over at your place?”
“Yeah, probably…” He let out an irritated sigh and ran his hands over his face. “Dammit, they probably will be. Messing the place up, touching all my stuff…”
“Well, my apartment is your apartment, little brother,” she said. “I’m going to sleep. I want to stop by in the morning, before they ruin all of the evidence.”
“No, Eliza, please. Don’t—”
But she was already down the hall. “Goodnight!”
Eric sighed again before he went into the kitchen for a beer. While her spirit was never one to be hired by the many rules of the legal system, Eliza Hedges always happened to find herself amidst any local crimes. Like a second job, only one that she didn’t get paid for. Her passion for her family was equaled only by her eye for seemingly hidden clues. It was what kept her useful, kept her sane. Seeing what others didn’t kept her busy. It made her different, and gave her direction.
As Eric cracked open his beer and brought the bottle to his lips, he wondered if anyone would know who he was without sharing her last name. It was for this reason he hoped, partially as a joke and partially as petty selfishness, that she would never get married.