Those four days seemed like a space and time outside harsh reality. Now she had glorious memories of Zach to hold on to for years to come—years that were sure to be even lonelier and colder than the last five.
But she had to check one more thing about Zach. This was the last avenue open to her. If nothing came of it, she’d already determined that she wasn’t going to lie just for the money. No matter how scared that left her.
She would call the lawyer, bypassing Victor completely, and tell him she would give an affidavit testifying to what Victor had hired her to do, all the avenues she’d explored and that Zach was squeaky-clean and eligible for his father’s inheritance.
Then she’d walk away once more. At least if she disappeared she wouldn’t have to see Zach’s face when he realized who she really was, why she was really here.
It was the coward’s way out—but her reserves of strength were leaking out with the speed of an hourglass. So she was looking into the only option left: Zach’s military service.
The chance that she might have to use something so personal—his very intimate confession—against him...
Well, the thought made her sick to her stomach.
She’d done a preliminary search on her laptop, just to see if there was anything out there. Gaining access to military records wasn’t an option, but if the incident was big enough, it might have been reported by local media outlets in the US, especially in the deceased’s hometown.
Quite a few hits had shown up, but she didn’t dare read them when Zachary could walk in at any moment. Lately he spent more time with her at the B and B than he did at home—though he never offered to take her to his place.
They spent so much time together, the landlady had casually mentioned charging her for a second person. Sadie had adopted a deadpan expression and said, “Sure”—which had left Gladys a little startled.
Now Sadie glanced around the local library, wondering exactly how to use the computer system. She figured doing this anonymously on a public computer was the safest way to go. If she signed in as a guest, no one would be able to trace it back to her.
Finding the bank of computers near the back of the building, she was grateful to see they were mostly unoccupied. She signed in at the desk, using her sister’s name on the form. Then she chose the last computer on the end of the row, figuring there would be less chance of people reading over her shoulder.
Logging on, she retraced her internet search on this computer in a safe browser. Odds were, it was a useless precaution. After all, who would think to look at her browser history here? But just in case...
The first link happened to be to the website for the local Black Hills paper. Following it brought her to the electronic archives for the paper, but it needed a log-in for access. Deciding to come back to that, she tried a few more links.
The local paper for a small town in Pennsylvania wasn’t password protected. Sadie was able to learn the name of Zach’s friend who died, read the basics of his death and see pictures of him, his fellow soldiers and his grief-stricken family.
Sad. Very sad.
As if that wasn’t heartbreaking enough, there were excerpts from Zach’s speech at his friend’s memorial service, held after the soldiers made their final trip home. But it was a random sentence, late in the article, that told her she had to search further. As commanding officer, Zach had faced an inquiry into his friend’s death. No results were mentioned there, or in any other articles she read.
Frustrated, Sadie dropped back against her chair with a short sigh. What should she do now?
“Are you finding everything you need, ma’am?”
No. Sadie looked up into the face of a young woman who had a library volunteer tag on her shirt. No one had bothered her here in the corner, and Sadie had been grateful for the privacy. But maybe this young woman would know...
“Does the library have access to the local newspaper’s archives?”
The woman smiled. “We have the oldest editions on microfiche, but we have a subscription to the modern edition that’s available online.”
Well, wasn’t that handy. Sadie might have been happy if this wasn’t such an awful thing to be doing.