I fear someone will discover the body soon.
I blinked, disbelieving the words written in that flowery, female hand. I surreptitiously glanced farther to my right, to the woman I had sat beside on the crowded train.
She was crying, and obviously so. She clutched tightly at the worn and weathered tissue in her hand, using it every few moments to dab at her watering eyes or hastily wipe at her nose before returning to the journal in her lap.
I looked away, faking an intense interest in brushing a nonexistent speck of dust from my tie. This wasn’t any of my business. And I was sure that what I had read had to be taken out of context. It was a journal entry, after all, and perhaps it was a meaningful line from her book reading or a trite explosion of emotion after a bad breakup. She couldn’t actually be referring to a dead, human body.
I was nearly elbowed in the head by a standing passenger when the conductor came on the speaker system, his voice far too cheerful for that of a Chicago train conductor. “I know we’re a little more crowded than usual, but let’s all try to squeeze in! We’re extra busy due to a traffic accident back on State Street and people were rerouted from the buses. Thanks folks!”
There were murmurs throughout the train, speculating on the amount of damage in the wreck or complaining about the cramped space in the train. I heard the woman behind me talking to her friend. “There were at least twenty cars involved, you know. I had to hang up my cell phone because of all the fire trucks—couldn’t hear a thing!”
Her companion agreed. “State Street is bad enough during rush hour as it is. Do you remember when we waited…”
I tuned them out and felt my eyes slide slowly back to the woman’s journal entry.
I know I should confess, but it was an accident. What will happen when they find out?
Okay, so she wasn’t waxing poetic over a broken heart. Whatever act this woman had been a part of had left her despairing. Her body was wracked with silent sobs as she wrote. Other people began to notice, casting her mixed looks of sympathy and distaste. They looked at me as well, as if it were my appointed job as Closest-Person-in-Proximity to this sobbing mess of a woman to do something about it.
I fished through my suit jacket pocket for the small pack of tissues I always carried; spring was a nightmare for my allergies. I cleared my throat and handed her the entire pack.
“I think you need these more than I do,” I said warmly.
She jerked upright, as if realizing for the first time that she wasn’t alone on the subway train. The journal closed with a slap. She cast me a cautious glance and slowly took the proffered tissues.
“Thank you,” she sniffed. Stuffing her used tissue into her pants pocket, she opened the pack to withdraw a new one, promptly blowing her nose loudly into it.
“Are you all right?” I asked. Stupid question, I know, but it was a more appropriate lead-in than, “So I noticed you accidentally killed something or someone. How’s that going for you?”
“I’m fine.” Bad lie. We both knew it. “I mean, I will be fine,” she corrected.
“Okay.” I let the subject drop. Because really, it wasn’t my business. And if there was a body in a freezer somewhere, I’m better off not knowing.
She went to return the package of tissues to me, but I waved a hand nonchalantly. “Please, keep them.”
“Thank you,” she said again.
A minute of silence passed between us, the rhythmic clanging from the train helping to eradicate the silence that might have otherwise been a little awkward.
“Do you work in the city?” I asked her, not being able to help myself. It was partly out of concern for her well-being, but mostly my own morbid curiosity as to whether or not a real dead body was involved. I willed her to tell me as I sat there, waiting for a response.
“No,” she replied.
I turned away and silently cursed my telepathic abilities.
“My husband did.”
“Did?” I tried not to sound too hopeful.
“I mean, does,” she said quickly. “He still works there; he’s just not my husband anymore.”
“Ah, I’m divorced too.”
“We aren’t divorced yet. Just separated.” She looked at her watch. “For about fifteen minutes now.”
I blinked. “Does he—well—does he know?”
“Wow.” Smooth one. I was amazing with the ladies, I tell you what.
“So that would explain why you’re going through all my tissues.” I attempted a joke because I had nothing encouraging or relevant to say. Honestly, the first thing that popped into my head was Little Orphan Annie singing “the sun’ll come out tomorrow,” but that wasn’t going to do anyone any good.
She looked down at her journal. “That’s not why I was crying.”
“Oh, sorry. I know it’s not my business.”
She attempted a watery smile and shook her head. “You are very nice.”
The train stopped, relieving itself of a large number of passengers. There was an open seat several rows ahead and I wondered if I should move. The woman had finally seemed to collect herself and our conversation had died. Would she want me to move? As the train started again, I tightened my hand around the handle of my briefcase and readied myself to stand when I felt the woman place a hand on my arm.
“Can I tell you something? I have to tell somebody.”
I swallowed. Here it was. I began to imagine that she had discovered her husband was having an affair with the cleaning lady and had bludgeoned her to death with a handheld mini-vac. Then she had shoved the body into the broom closet and hopped the first subway out of town. I needed to sit down with my overactive imagination and have a chat.
“My husband was cheating on me.”
Or maybe not.
She swallowed. “I found out this morning. He left his cell phone at home and She called. ‘Pamela’ flashed on the caller I.D. screen and I didn’t know any Pamelas. I was curious. I listened to the voicemail.”
“Ah,” I supplied helpfully. Yep, a real charmer.
“She was finalizing their plans for this weekend—plans that involved her wearing skimpy black lingerie, by the sound of it. He told me it was a business trip. Can you believe that?”
I committed treason against my sex and agreed that men were scum.
“I’d always suspected, of course. But here was my proof. I was furious, and I wasn’t thinking, and I opened the balcony door and threw his cell phone out as hard as I could.”
“Into your back yard?”
“I live on the thirty-second floor.”
“I see.” I cleared my throat. “That’s illegal, you know.”
“That’s the least of my problems. Toby, my husband’s bulldog, thought I had thrown a ball and jumped over the railing after it.” A tear formed in the corner of her eye. “I tried to grab him by his collar as he shot by me, but…”
“My God, that’s… that’s horrible.”
“I’m sure my husband will think I did it on purpose to get even with him. I have always hated that dog. But I would never hurt him intentionally.”
I nodded. “So tell your husband the dog simply got loose.”
She dropped her hands helplessly into her lap, her knuckles knocking against the hard cover of the journal. “That’s pretty much impossible.”
“I live on State Street.”
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