Trifecta – Deliberation

Further to the detective story… I left it on a cliffhanger, sorry about that! The prime suspect, who also happens to be the hero, had just incriminated himself pretty thoroughly, and now has some serious explaining to do…

He looked at her very blankly. She had never known quite so blank an expression to make its way onto his mobile face. “What?” She sighed. “You’ve admitted you went there to kill him-” “Metaphorically! He agreed to be the basis for a character in my latest novel… It’s unfortunate that that character happens to die, but it doesn’t mean anything!”
“That’s as may be, but you just admitted to having a huge motive. For you, criticism (or plagiarism) of your work is possibly the biggest motive for murder anyone could want. Apart from anything happening to your daughter,” she added.
“I’m glad you think I’m at least vaguely human,” he said, injured. “For your information, Denny did me a big favour by rejecting that manuscript. He made me work hard to better myself. You know I keep that rejection slip framed on my wall. It’s a symbol of betterment and a reminder to me that complacency kills writers. Metaphorically again, in case you’re wondering.”
“I wasn’t,” she snapped, realized she had overreacted, and took a very deliberate sip of coffee. It wasn’t comforting, or even very hot anymore, and it still tasted disgusting, but the time it took enabled her to think what to say next. “Look, I think we got off to a bad start just now. I will admit to paying you out a bit. A little bit. And I didn’t mean to imply that you are self-centred. I know your family means a lot to you. But can’t you see how it looks? You were in Denny’s apartment. You have means, opportunity, and to an outsider it looks very much like motive, too.”
“But you know I didn’t do it, right?”
She really wanted to pause long enough to make him squirm, but his eyes made her say, “I know,” immediately. And that was the other thing she hated – that he could so easily push her buttons and be a complete pain one minute, and the next, look at her so disarmingly that she didn’t have the heart to retaliate. She slapped the coffee cup back down on the flat white table. It slopped over the edge, forming an ugly brown splash on the sterile surface. For some reason this annoyed her beyond belief. She stood up, practically snarling. “Ok, I’ve had enough of this. Get out of here. Go home.”
“I’m free to go, then?”
She didn’t know if he was mocking or not, and she no longer cared. “Do I have to write it down? Go home. And don’t come in tomorrow. You’re too close to this one.”
“Do you mean that, or do you mean you can’t work with me on it?”
“I don’t have to answer that. Go home.”
And he did. But the look he gave her as he left made her wonder if he would ever come back.

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