Remembering what I could of that time, I could see how easily Hugh’s brainwashing might have taken root in the mind of a small boy whose older brother frequently had fits of rage and destruction.
“Christopher wouldn’t believe that,” he asserted.
My shoulders lifted in a weary shrug. “Christopher told me once, recently, that I’d wanted him dead since the day he was born. I had no idea what he was talking about, but now …”
“Let me read,” he said grimly, turning back to the monitor. “Go take that shower. We’ll have some coffee when you get out. Or something stronger.”
I started to leave the room but paused before I opened the door. Looking back at Chris, I saw him focused tautly on the words in front of him. “You didn’t know Hugh like I did,” I told him. “How he could twist things around … make you believe things …”
Chris’s gaze came up and held mine. “You don’t have to convince me, Gideon. Your word is enough.”
I glanced away quickly. Did he have any clue what those four words meant to me? I couldn’t tell him; my throat was too raw.
With a nod, I left him.
It took longer than it should have to put some goddamned clothes on. I chose with Eva in mind. The gray slacks she loved. A black V-neck T-shirt. Done.
There was a knock at the door. “Come in.”
Angus filled the frame. “The detectives are on their way up.”
“All right.” I walked with him down the hall to the living room.
My wife sat on the couch, bundled in sweatpants and a baggy sweater with socks on her feet. Her head rested on Victor’s shoulder, his cheek against the crown of her head. Her fingers stroked through Cary’s hair as he sat on a pillow by her knee. Couldn’t get more connected than that. The television was on, tuned to a movie none of them were watching.
Her gaze slid slowly over to me.
I held out my hand to her. “The police are here.”
Victor straightened, jarring my wife into sitting up. A brisk rap on the foyer door had everyone on alert.
Stepping closer to the couch, I kept my arm extended. Eva slowly disentangled herself and stood, her face still far too pale. She put her hand in mine and I exhaled a sigh of relief. I pulled her close, draping my arm over her shoulders and pressing a kiss to her forehead.
“I love you,” I said softly, walking her toward the door.
Her arms came around my waist and she leaned into me. “I know.”
I turned the knob. “Detectives. Please, come in.”
Graves entered first, her sharp blue eyes going immediately to Eva. Michna followed, his height advantage over his partner allowing him to lock eyes with me.
He gave me a brisk nod. “Mr. Cross.”
Eva stepped away from me as I closed the door.
“We’re very sorry for your loss, Mrs. Cross,” Graves said, in that way cops had that told you they said those words too often.
“You may remember Eva’s father, Victor Reyes,” I said. “And the tall Scotsman over there is Angus McLeod.”
The detectives both nodded, but Graves took the lead, as usual. “Detective Shelley Graves and my partner, Detective Richard Michna.” She looked at Cary, whom she’d spoken with just hours before. “Mr. Taylor.”
I gestured toward the dining table. “Let’s have a seat.”
My wife smoothed her hair back with unsteady hands. “Can I get you both some coffee? Or water?”
“Coffee would be great,” Michna said, pulling out a chair for himself.
“I’ll get it,” Chris interjected, entering the room from the hallway. “Hello. I’m Gideon’s stepfather, Chris Vidal.”
Acknowledged by the detectives, he passed through to the kitchen.
Graves took the seat beside her partner, setting a battered leather satchel on the table at her elbow. Where she was reed thin, he was portly. Her hair was brown and curly, held back in a ponytail as severe as her foxlike face. Michna’s hair was both graying and thinning, bringing more focus to his dark eyes and rugged features.
Graves eyed me as I pulled a chair out for my wife. I met her look and held it, seeing the dark knowledge of my crime. In return, I let her see my resolve. Yes, I’d done some immoral deeds for the sake of protecting my wife. I owned those decisions, even the ones I’d take to my grave.
I sat next to Eva, pulling my chair close and taking her hand in my own. Victor settled on the other side, with Cary beside him. Angus stood behind me.
“Can you both run through your evening, starting with when you arrived at the event?” Michna asked.
I went first, painfully aware of Eva’s attention to every word I said. Only the last few moments were lost to her, but I knew those minutes were vital.