Page 52 of The Innocent

This couldn’t be good.

The phone was picked up on the second ring.

Marsha said, “I’m glad you called.” If she’d been sleeping, she hid it pretty well.

“Are you alone?”


“I mean . . . I know the kids are there—”

“I’m alone, Matt.”

“I don’t mean to pry. I just want to make sure I’m not interrupting anything.”

“You’re not. You never will be.”

That should have set his mind at ease, he guessed. “Do you mind if Olivia and I crash at your place tonight?”

“Of course not.”

“It’s a long story, but basically I was assaulted tonight—”

“Are you okay?”

The pain was starting to ebb back into his head and ribs. “I got a few bumps and bruises, but I’ll be fine. Thing is, the police want to ask some questions and we’re just not ready for that yet.”

“Does this have anything to do with that nun?” Marsha asked.

“What nun?”

Olivia’s head snapped toward him.

“There was a county investigator here today,” Marsha said. “I should have called you, but I guess I was hoping it was no big deal. Hold on, I have her card here someplace . . .”

Matt’s mind, both exhausted and scrambled, remembered now. “Loren Muse.”

“Right, that’s the name. She said a nun made a phone call to the house.”

“I know,” he said.

“Muse reached you?”


“I figured she would. We were just talking and then, I don’t know, she spotted your picture on the refrigerator and suddenly she starts asking Kyra and me all these questions about how often you visit.”

“Don’t worry, I straightened it out. Look, we’ll be there in twenty minutes.”

“I’ll get the guest room ready.”

“Don’t go to any trouble.”

“No trouble. I’ll see you in twenty minutes.”

She hung up.

Olivia said, “What’s this about a nun?”

Matt told her about Loren’s visit. Olivia’s face lost even more color. By the time he finished, they were in Livingston. The roads were completely empty of both cars and pedestrians. There was no one about. The only lights coming from the homes were those downstairs lamps set on timers to fool burglars.

Olivia remained silent as she pulled into Marsha’s driveway. Matt could see Marsha’s silhouette through the curtain in the downstairs foyer. The light above the garage was on. Kyra was awake. He saw her look out. Matt slid down the car window and waved up to her. She waved back.

Olivia turned off the ignition. Matt checked his face in the visor mirror. He looked like hell. Lawrence was right. What with the bandage wrapped around his head, he did resemble the soldier playing the flute in Willard’s Spirit of ’76.


She said nothing.

“Do you know this Sister Mary Rose?”


She stepped out of the car. Matt did the same. The outside lights—Matt had helped Bernie install the motion detectors—snapped on. Olivia came around to him. She took his hand and held it firmly.

“Before I say anything else,” she began, “I need you to know something.”

Matt waited.

“I love you. You are the only man I’ve ever loved. Whatever happens now, you have brought me a happiness and joy I once thought was impossible.”


She put her finger to his lips. “I just want one thing. I want you to hold me. Hold me right now. Just for a minute or two. Because after I tell you the truth, I’m not sure you will ever want to hold me again.”

Chapter 33

WHEN CINGLE GOT to the police station she used her phone call to reach her boss, Malcolm Seward, the president of Most Valuable Detection. Seward was retired FBI. He opened MVD ten years ago and was making a small fortune.

Seward was not thrilled about the late-night call. “You pulled a gun on the guy?”

“It’s not like I would have shot him.”

“How reassuring.” Seward sighed. “I’ll make some calls. You’ll be out in an hour.”

“You’re the best, Boss.”

He hung up.

She went back to her holding cell and waited. A tall officer unlocked the holding cell door. “Cingle Shaker.”

“Right here.”

“Please follow me.”

“Anywhere, handsome.”

He led her down the hallway. She expected this to be it—the bail hearing, the quick release, whatever—but that wasn’t the case.

“Please turn around,” he said.

Cingle cocked an eyebrow. “Shouldn’t you buy me dinner first?”

“Please turn around.”

She did. He cuffed her hands.

“What are you doing?”

He didn’t speak. He escorted her outside, opened the back door of his squad car, and pushed her in.

“Where are we going?”

“The new court building.”

“The one on West Market?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

The ride was short, less than a mile. They took the elevator to the third floor. The words OFFICE OF THE ESSEX COUNTY PROSECUTOR were stenciled on the glass. There was a big trophy case by the door, the kind you see in a high school. Cingle wondered about that, about what a trophy case was doing in a prosecutor’s office. You prosecute killers and rapists and drug dealers and the first thing you see when you enter is a bunch of trophies celebrating softball wins. Weird.

“This way.”

He led her through the waiting area, past the double doors. When they stopped, she peeked inside a small, windowless space. “An interrogation room?”

He said nothing, just held the door. She shrugged and entered.

Time passed. A lot of time, actually. They had confiscated her possessions, including her watch, so she didn’t really know how much. There was no one-way mirror either, like you usually see on TV. They used a camera here. There was one mounted in the corner of the wall. From the monitoring room, you could zoom the camera in or change the angle, whatever. There was one sheet of paper taped down at a funny angle. That was the guide spot, she knew, where you put the release statement so that the camera could tape you signing it.

When the door finally opened, a woman—Cingle assumed that it was a plainclothes investigator—stepped into the room. She was a tiny thing, maybe five-one, 110 pounds tops. Sweat drenched her body. It looked like she’d just stepped out of a steam room. Her blouse stuck to her chest. There was dampness under her pits. A thin coat of perspiration made her face glisten. She wore a gun on her belt and had a manila folder in her hand.

Tags: Harlan Coben Thriller