It’s a logical interest, especially for someone who mastered his craft at such a young age.
I key “mathematical symbols” into my search bar and scan image after image in search of the symbol I’m looking for. I find triangles but nothing that is a real match. Same story I always end up with. Finally, I force myself to stop putting off what I really came here for. Today I will do what I haven’t had the courage to do ever. I walk to one of the tables with archived material and search for old newspaper clippings of the night my life changed forever. Or I try. There is not one single reference to a fire in my hometown the year or month when it occurred. Nothing. That is just…odd.
Back at the table, I Google my father and start listing every name ever associated with him I can find. I’m surprised at how few links I find on him, considering he was responsible for carving out more than a few pieces of history. My heart squeezes when I think of being with him when one of his great discoveries had been made. I shove aside the bittersweet memory and refocus on research. What would make someone want to kill him, and everyone he loved? What would make them hunt me down?
Maybe it’s not about his archeological finds. He sat on government committees and became involved in international relations, and not long before he died there was talk of his retirement from field work and a political appointment in Washington. I shake my head. I don’t know where this is taking me. I was young, and uninvolved in that part of his life. I know nothing about it. If I’m still a target, and I am, then someone thinks I know something I shouldn’t. It’s only logical. They can’t hurt my father by killing me. He’s already dead.
I decide to make a list of everyone I ever knew or knew my family to know, here and overseas, when my brother and I would go on digs with my father. Next, I cross-reference it with the Google searches. I stare at the list. It’s sixty names long and I don’t even know what I’m looking for. My first instinct is to mark everyone off that has nothing to do with my father, but I change my mind. I’ve hyper-focused on this being about him and his work.
It’s not about the money. It was never about the money. My mother’s voice flashes through my mind. My mind was trying to tell me something, but what? Who was she talking to?
Who was there that day?
Remarkably, I do not have a flashback while doing my research, and I wonder if that has something to do with feeling like I’m taking control and finding answers. At 5:00 I force myself to pack up and head to my meeting with Meg. Finding Earl’s Restaurant and Bar is easier than I expect, and I arrive at 5:15. A waitress points me to the left and I enter a bar area with huge booths that sit on pedestals above rows of tables, and directly opposite the huge wooden bar. I choose the booth at the very back where I can see Meg when she enters, and I have plenty of room to put my computer to use while I wait.
I’ve barely settled into my seat when a waitress appears to take my order of a house red wine. I open my computer and look directly in front of me and go still. Jared is sitting at the next booth over, facing me, his computer open and a beer by his side.
I swallow the dryness in my throat and he motions to my table, asking to join me. I nod, unsure why this makes me guilty. He’s a neighbor, not my new lover, but I know Liam wouldn’t approve—and honestly, if I found him having drinks with some hot woman, I wouldn’t either.
He slides into the half-moon-shaped booth, and to my relief, remains directly across from me. “Past due we get some quality time together,” he says, as the waitress sets my wine down beside me.
“I wasn’t aware we were trying to get quality time together.”
“Well, now you are,” he says with a smile, and there is this casual sexy thing about him that screams completely relaxed and comfortable in his own skin. And I’m sure many women would be comfortable in it too. But not me. I prefer the edgy, dark thing Liam wears like a second skin.
“You really are a smartass, aren’t you?” I ask, but it’s really not a question. He is.
“Most of the time.”
“Comes natural, like being arrogant does for your boyfriend.”
Boyfriend? Is that what Liam is to me? And somehow it seems too small a word for him.
“I’d defend him, but I don’t think it would do me any good.”
“Good call.” Amusement fills his dark eyes and he is absolutely Mr. Bad Boy Sexy in this moment. “What are you working on?”
“Just playing around while I wait for a friend to join me.” There. Avoidance. I’m still good at it with everyone but Liam. “What about you?”
“I’m doing high-tech work on contract.”
“High-tech work? You don’t seem like a computer geek.”
“What do I seem like?”
“The long hair and ripped jeans and…well, something more…rowdy.”
He laughs. “Rowdy. I’m not sure how to take that, but basically I’m a professional hacker. I’m hired to try to hack a site, and if I can, they then pay me to make sure no one else can. I do a lot of defense contractor work.”
Bad-boy hacker. That fits him. “Thus the Boeing shirt?”
“Thus the Boeing shirt. Normally I’m holed up in a hotel for a month or so on a job, but a friend was laid off and had to relocate for a job, which stuck him with the apartment. At six grand a month in rent, he was eager to have someone supplement the cost.”