Page 28 of Black Lies

4 empty cans: Bud Light

Tags from an article of clothing: Gap. $24.99

Dry Cleaning receipt: One Price Cleaners

Empty bottle: Kahlua

Empty bottle: Absolut Vanilla Vodka

Thank you card and envelope from ‘Mom’: see photo

Monthly statement from Capital One credit card: see photo

Empty Bag of Nacho Cheesier Doritos

I called him, musing over the list as the phone rang.

“Yes, Ms. Fairmont.”

“Is this normal? All the alcohol?”

“It’s the first bag we’ve inventoried. It’s from last week. I left off all of the food items, but if you’d like we can also include those.”

“Food items?”

“You know, banana peels, coffee grounds, leftovers, egg shells—”

“No,” I interrupted. “I don’t need all that. Just items like this. When will you have the rest of the bags done?”

“I can put someone on it today, if you think it’d be important.”

“Yes. Please send me all of the reports as they are done. As soon as possible.”

“I’ll pull people off other projects. Get it to you quickly.”

“Thank you.” I hung up the phone, looked at the list again. Opened up the image with her credit card statement. Learned everything about her activities that month with one scroll down the bill. It was ridiculously invasive, this one aspect of the report. So much of her life broken down into simple facts by her trash. I spun in my chair. Looked at the silver can that sat feet away. Wondered how much of my life would be told through its contents. I placed a second call.

“John, this is Layana. From now on, have the housekeepers burn my trash. And buy me a shredder please. Something big and industrial.” I hung up, interrupting his response, certain that the request was simple enough for him to complete without further instruction. Then I returned to the list. Stared at the items and tried to find an opening.

I got four more emails that afternoon, each with a new list of trash. Each list dated, covering the latest month of Molly Jenkins’s life.

More alcohol. I counted six bottles and five 6-packs. Not enough to be an alcoholic, but the girl liked to party. She was also in college, so maybe that just made her normal. I got another nugget of information in her bank account statement. Put it side by side with her credit card one and compared notes. Learned a few things.

She frequented The Ginger Break. Had been there five times in the last month, four times on a Wednesday, once on a Friday. A Google search told me it was a bar a block from her apartment. Another search told me Wednesday is $5 Martini night.

I clicked my pen, examined my calendar. Wednesday was three days off. Doable. I leaned back in my chair and stared at the ceiling. Pulled scattered thoughts together in a semblance of a plan.

First step. Find bait.

Second step. Sequester Lee.

Third step. Watch and enjoy.

Chapter 30

“Why are you doing this?”

I glanced over a pomegranate martini into deep blue eyes. I had chosen well. His brow furrowed in a way that was gorgeously masculine. His eyes looked intelligent, but compassionate. As if he rescued kittens from trees before listening to your problems. His mouth was full. Twitched when he smiled. As if after he listened to your problems, he’d take you to bed and f**k away any concerns.

“Doing what, exactly?”

“Here.” He set down his beer. Leaned across the table and lowered his voice. “Playing games with some adolescent.” He tilted his head to Molly, a girl we had been eyeing from above for fifteen minutes. We were in the Ginger’s version of a VIP room. Situated above the bar, with tinted windows that provided privacy, we had a full view of down below. The section didn’t open for another three hours, but two hundred bucks got us a seat, a high-top by the windows, my knees bumping Marcus’s if I leaned in too deep.

I met his gaze. Direct. It ate holes in the dark parts of my soul. “Let’s go back over the plan.”

He sighed, leaned back and stretched his arms out, regarding me with a bored stare. “I know that plan. You go down there, I go down there. We drink; you leave. More drinks; we leave. I take her home, f**k her eight ways to Sunday, then head on my merry little way.”

I shifted. “Yes.”

He leaned forward again, his knee bumping mine, his hand reaching out and gently touching the top of my hand. “You have nothing to worry about with her.”

I moved my hand. “In what way?”

“You are a beautiful, sexy woman. She…” He glanced down, at the blonde head that all of this was about. “She’s a girl. She can’t compete.” He leaned closer, and I sat back. Glared at him with the frostiest look I had.

“I didn’t hire you to f**k me, Marcus. I’m in a relationship. Taken.”

He laughed softly. “Forgive me, Layana, but you are here. You don’t look taken to me.”

I drained the martini and stood, yanking my hand from underneath his. “Save the sexy shit for her. I’m well-taken care of.” I picked up my purse. “I’ll see you downstairs in twenty.” Then I tossed down a handful of bills and headed for the ladies room.

I took a deep breath and stared into the mirror. Adjusted the wig on my head. A thousand bucks and the thing still felt like something I bought at a dime store. Itchy. Hot. But at least it disguised me. I hoped to never see her again, but I couldn’t be too careful. And heaven forbid she recognized me from a magazine cover.

I tucked a fake strand of strawberry blond behind my ear and smiled into the mirror. Tried to look friendly. Tried to wipe the look of possessive hatred out of my eyes. Sort of succeeded. I opened the door, stepped back into the club and headed for Molly.

The next stool over was open and I grabbed it, avoiding looking at her as I caught the bartender’s eye. “Flirtini, please.”

I felt the soft touch of a hand, gentle on my arm. “Flirtini? Sounds good.”

Wow. That was easy. I turned casually, as if I was uninterested, gave a small smile as I noticed everything missing from the PI’s report. Her blue eyes sparkled. They were open, genuine, the smile that flooded her face wasn’t forced or fake. Her tan was natural, her br**sts looked real, and I could literally smell sexuality coming off her. I had a brief glimpse in my head of her and Lee f**king, and blinked it away. “It is. It has champagne in it.” I nodded to the bartender. “Here, let me get you one.”

“Get me one? Oh no, you don’t have to do that.”