CHAPTER TWENTY-ONE: Noah Fraley’s desk

Josie sat in a chair next to Noah Fraley’s desk, staring down at her sneakers and waiting to talk with the chief while Noah made awkward attempts at conversation. “Did you know Mrs. Gosnell’s father-in-law is a patient at Rockview?”

She had tried like hell to stay away from Sherri’s blood, but there it was—a browning crust around her soles. There was no avoiding it. Not in that room. Not after the way June had killed her. “They’re called residents,” she told Noah, absently.


She was trying to focus on Noah, but kept seeing June’s tongue extended toward her. Princess. What was Isabelle Coleman’s tongue barbell doing in June Spencer’s mouth? Noah stared at her expectantly. She said, “In nursing homes, they’re not called patients. They’re called residents. They live there.”

Noah’s face flushed. “Oh.”

She hadn’t meant to embarrass him. Quickly, she said, “I knew that Sherri’s father-in-law is a resident there. I see him there sometimes when I visit my grandmother. Saw him today, actually. He’s the one with the artificial larynx, always accusing Sherri of stealing it. Must be a family joke. Sherri’s husband is—was—the plumber, right?”

Josie couldn’t remember his first name, but knew he was a Gosnell. She knew this because over a year ago, when their hot water heater burst, Ray had categorically refused to call the man—or any plumber—insisting on installing the new one himself, even though he had no plumbing experience whatsoever. The fight that ensued between Josie and Ray had been a big one. It was almost as though letting another man fix something in his house was a violation. As if letting a plumber install a hot water heater was the equivalent of letting a stranger have a go at

your wife. The irony was not lost on Josie.

“Nick,” Noah supplied. “Nick Gosnell. They told him about an hour ago. He was out on an emergency call. Dusty tracked him down. Poor guy. Can you imagine? I heard they were high school sweethearts.”

Josie frowned. “That’s not all it’s cracked up to be.”

She expected more blushing from Noah, perhaps a muttered apology or a palm to his forehead in a gesture of embarrassment. But all he said was, “I guess not.”

She followed his gaze to where Ray stood, just outside the chief’s door, talking with another officer. Slowly he walked toward her, and she had the strange sensation of being one of those military wives who saw the soldiers in their shiny dress uniforms coming up the driveway, knowing it only meant bad news. When he got closer, she stood up and wiped her sweaty palms on her jeans.

The phone rang on Noah’s desk and he answered it with a brisk, “Fraley.”

Ray said, “You okay?”

No. She felt shaken by what had happened with June. She’d given a brief statement to Ray when he arrived at the nursing home with a small group of other officers, but she hadn’t told him about the tongue piercing.


She said, “Yeah, I’m fine. Where’s June?” “Downstairs in holding.”

Josie kept picturing June being led away from the home by two Denton PD officers, her pale wrists locked in handcuffs behind her back, her eyes looking straight ahead but not seeing anything. She hadn’t put up a fight. It broke Josie’s heart to watch the girl chained up after having spent a year in captivity. She felt sad and horrified by Sherri’s barbaric murder, and her heart went out to the nurse’s family. But she couldn’t get June’s face out of her head.

“Are you listening to me?” Ray waved a hand in front of her face.

She focused on him. A five o’clock shadow stubbled his jaw line. They were now standing outside the chief’s office. They’d crossed the room without her even realizing it. “Sorry,” she mumbled.

“I said I checked out the acrylic nail. It belongs to one of the searchers.”

“Thanks,” she said.

“The chief wants to see you. Don’t wind him up, okay?”

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Written by Amazing Thing Admin

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