Page 59 of Hardline (Hacker 3)


Officer Bates led me away from her desk to a small private room. She might have been my mother’s age, a little heavy set. Her hair was pulled into a tight ponytail. A few short curls had escaped from it, framing a face that was lined.

The chair legs squeaked against the concrete floor, and we sat down at a table across from each other. I twisted my fingers together nervously as she opened a file and shuffled through some of the papers. My heart pounded at the walls of my chest as I waited for her. My meager lunch turned in my stomach a little. My pep talk affirmations were drowned out by the voice in my head that kept reminding me how much I didn’t want to do this.

What Max had done was the ultimate trigger threatening to dredge up the past that I wanted to stay in the past. This was part of working through it. But I didn’t know this woman. A stranger to me, she seemed as hard and cold as the room we now shared, and I didn’t want to be vulnerable now to her, or anyone else for that matter.

She scanned the papers and glanced over at me briefly. “You okay, hon?”

I regained my focus on her face. My breathing had become erratic. I licked my lips. “Yes, I’m fine. Just nervous, I guess.”

She pulled out a piece of paper and positioned her pen above it. “No need to be nervous. All you need to do is tell me what happened exactly how you remember it. I’m going to write it down here. I’ll read it back to you when we’re done. And if everything is accurate, you sign it and then we’re done.”

I nodded quickly. My mind had invented all of her coldness. In that second, she’d become someone different, someone who maybe wasn’t judging me in all the ways I was afraid she and the rest of the world would.

“Okay,” I finally said.

“Tell me what happened the night of the assault.”

I closed my eyes and let my mind travel back to the night.

Over the next half hour, I relayed to Officer Bates how the evening had unfolded. From talking to guests, and then Michael, to relenting to Max’s request to speak privately. I told her all I could remember until everything went black. Over the past week or so, fragments of the night had resurfaced. I would have rather they hadn’t, but any information might be helpful to paint a more complete picture of what had happened. The rest had been witnessed by Blake and several others. While she scribbled down the final pieces of my account, I cringed inwardly that anyone else had seen me so helpless.

“Is there anything else you’d like to add?”

I shifted my focus back to her and shook my head, unsettled by how little I actually remembered from the night. As promised, she read it back to me. I signed it, my hand trembling slightly as I did.

Nervousness wasn’t making me shake, but a flood of relief. This was over. Finally. She let me know that they would be in touch if they needed anything further and showed me out of the room.

As I left, the concrete block that had taken up residence in my stomach lifted. It was all said and done, literally. I couldn’t know if it would mean justice for Max, but it began to mean something more to me. I’d done something I’d never had the chance to do before. I’d overcome my fears and insecurities enough to tell my story. I wanted to believe it was an important step toward healing.

I made my way through the rows of desks and back out to the bank of elevators. I waited there a moment before I heard a man’s voice behind me. I turned slightly to see Daniel with another man who I recognized as one of the detectives I’d spoken with.

“Miss Hathaway. You must remember me, Detective Carmody?”

My hand twitched, but he didn’t reach out. Instead he maintained a casual stance, almost too casual compared to how shrewdly he was studying me. I forced an impassive look.

“What brings you here?” the detective asked.

My gaze flashed to Daniel. The displeasure in his countenance made my heart stop.

“A private matter,” I murmured.

“Fair enough. Well, Mr. Fitzgerald, thanks for your time. I’ll leave you two alone.” He shifted back to me and lifted his chin slightly. “I’ll be in touch.”

The elevator opened, and we stepped in together. I retreated to the back of the car, my hands going to the cold metal railing.

“Can’t say I was expecting to see you here.” Daniel’s expression revealed nothing.

Oh, shit. What if he thought I was talking to someone about the still unresolved case of Mark’s suicide?

I stuttered over how to begin, not knowing what to say. “It’s nothing about Mark.”

He glanced up at the numbers descending above the elevator door. “Assuming it has something to do with Max Pope then.”

I stared at him stupidly, my brows knitted together. “Yes. But how did you know?”

His gaze fell back down to mine. “I run a law firm, remember? Who do you think he called first?”

My jaw fell open. I startled when the bell dinged, announcing our arrival at the ground floor. He stepped out and I released my death grip on the railing to follow him. We pushed through the heavy doors of the police station and slowed a few steps outside. He pulled out a pack of cigarettes and tapped one out. I wrinkled my nose.

“You should really stop smoking.”

He shot me an annoyed look and took in a drag. “Really? I’m at risk of losing a race that I’ve sunk millions of my own money into. And you’re telling me to give up smoking. You’ve got to be kidding me.”

I took a defensive step back. His anger, however fleeting, still had the power to make me take pause.

“Why were you in there?” I asked, assuming whatever the reasons were tied directly to his presently pissy mood.

“Because someone is leaking information to the cops.”

I froze. None of that sounded good. “What information?”

“Someone leaked a tip that you’re my daughter. They know good and goddamn well how damaging it’s going to be to my campaign too. Pricks.” He grimaced and blew out a smoky breath.

That would have explained why Carmody looked at me that way, like he knew a secret. He did.

“You didn’t deny it?”

He laughed. “What’s the point? You clearly are, and if there’s any doubt, a simple DNA test would confirm it. The two of us drink a cup of coffee in their office and they would have their proof.”

“Who would have tipped them off though?”

He shook his head, a bitter smile twisting his lips. “Call me crazy, but I’ve got your fiancé at the top of that list. Unless you want to start telling me who else knows, because I sure as hell haven’t been advertising it.”