Deanna Forbes sat straight in the uncomfortable wooden chair. She kept her shoulders back and her right leg crossed over her left knee, making sure to hold her foot perfectly still. That effort, along with the pleasant expression on her face, cost her considerable energy, but she was a strong-willed woman and had had a lot of practice at maintaining proper demeanor.
Her ash blond hair, blunt cut to just below her jawline, was shiny smooth and added to her cool, collected composure. Only her gray eyes darted from place to place, taking in all the details of her surroundings and keeping up with her rapidly shifting thoughts.
“Now, Ms Forbes,” Detective Simon Stone addressed her from the opposite side of the table where they sat in the interrogation room. Her eyes focused totally on him as he continued. “I have here your earlier statement that you were with friends at a private party the evening Peter Crandell was shot, but so far, our office hasn’t been able to make contact with any of these – uh – friends.” As he said the last word, his left eyebrow lifted in a question, and his blue eyes pinned her.
The implication that real friendship was somewhat lacking here wasn’t lost on Deanna, but she couldn’t seem to keep herself from focusing on those eyes – well – on his whole appearance, which was commandingly attractive: dark complexion, black, wavy hair, and strong brows – all accented by the most brilliantly blue eyes she’d ever seen on a man. This meeting was the second time she’d sat with Simon Stone for questioning, and both times his extravagant good looks and his virile, no-nonsense manner, coupled with a surprisingly melodious voice, had interfered with her efforts to concentrate. That wasn’t good — not good at all. She needed all her wits about her for this one.
“Well, Detective Stone, as I explained in my original statement, it was a bon voyage party, and two of the couples were sailing that night. The other two couples live in Montrose, some 100 miles from here, so God only knows where they may be by this week. Besides – as I also said previously – you won’t find anyone who honestly thinks I had a motive for killing Peter Crandell. Why on earth would I want poor Peter dead?”
“I don’t know that you did want him dead, Ms Forbes. But right now we can’t rule out anyone who knew him, and an alibi for your whereabouts at the time of death is crucial.” There was a knock at the door of the interrogation room, and Stone got up to answer it. After the briefest whispered conversation, he turned to Deanna. “Excuse me a moment, Ms Forbes. I’ll be right back with you.” He then stepped out into the hall to continue the conversation.
After a good five minutes, he returned with a smile on his face. “Well, good news: “ he said, closing the door and returning to his seat at the table, “our men have finally made contact with one of the couples from the bon voyage party. They have corroborated your alibi completely, so it looks as though you’re free to go. I’m sorry we had to detain you so long.”
Deanna smiled widely. “That is good news, Detective. And I’m glad to know you think so too. I’d hate to have you believe I was guilty of such a terrible act as shooting someone.”
“Just because we question a person doesn’t necessarily mean we believe they committed the crime, Ms Forbes. But in cases like this, there are usually a number of people who are possible suspects until we can find good reason to eliminate them from the list.”
“I understand, Detective Stone. But I want to make sure I have the facts right: You are saying that your department no longer consider me a suspect in the shooting of Peter Crandell. Is that correct?”
Stone smiled. “You are correct, Ms Forbes,” he said and rose from his chair.
Deanna rose as well, and on a sudden impulse, she said, “Well … now that we’ve got all that matter cleared up, I wonder if you might consider having dinner with me tomorrow evening, Detective Stone. I feel I’d like to get to know you better.”
Stone’s first response was one of surprise, but it registered only momentarily. His easy smile replaced it, a smile that reached his eyes, and Deanna suddenly realized that it was that smile that came from deep inside of him that made him particularly attractive.
“I should be free tomorrow evening ─ barring some unexpected homicide, that is,” he said with a grin. “Do you have a particular place in mind?”
“I like dining at The Captain’s Table in the restored lighthouse a little south of the city. Do you know it?”
“Yes, I’m familiar with it. I enjoy it myself. Shall I pick you up?”
“It’s probably better if I meet you there. Say 7:00?”
“Fine. I’ll look forward to it, Ms Forbes.”
Deanna smiled widely again. “Why don’t you just call me Dee? All my friends do, and I think we could become friends now that this nasty murder business is behind us.”
“Well, then, Dee,” he said moving to the door and holding it open for her, “I’ll see you at The Captain’s Table at 7:00 tomorrow evening.”
“Good bye Detective Stone.” She smiled again and gave him a questioning look. “Perhaps you’ll give me permission to call you Simon when we meet for dinner.”
“Perhaps I shall,” he answered with a teasing grin. Deanna turned and walked out of the office and exited the police station without looking back. Keeping her back straight and her head up was second nature to her; smiling at everyone she passed didn’t come quite so naturally. However, she was determined not to let that smile slip until she was well out of sight of any law enforcement officers.
Simon Stone returned to his own desk and filled out his report on the interrogation – but he didn’t sign off on it. Instead, he entered Deanna Forbes’ name into a data base he used only when the normal sites failed to give him satisfactory information. He waited, holding his breath.
In the meantime, Deanna Forbes sat behind the wheel of her Lexus. Driving back to her home, she questioned her own sanity. Why on earth had she invited Simon Stone to dinner? Well, she knew the answer on the surface, of course: he was stunning, sexy, and captivating. He was also dangerous, but she had lived with danger most of her life.
Having been raised by a drunken father who came home to beat up on his wife and two kids on a regular basis ─ and then living with a grandmother who ran a gambling casino, with all the attending crime element casinos attracted ─ she was no stranger to dealing with danger and its threats to her own peace and security. In fact, sometimes she wondered if she had become too comfortable with danger. Maybe that’s why she’d never stuck with any relationships in the past that didn’t carry with them any kind of threat.
She shrugged her shoulders now. Oh well, her die was cast. She was having dinner with a man who, up until an hour ago, had considered her a possible murderer. Come to think of it, he hadn’t told her which couple had corroborated her alibi for that night. Of course, all six of the other guests had been so drunk that they couldn’t have been sure about who was there and who wasn’t.
One thing about most of her friends: they were so irresponsible in their own lives that they didn’t think twice about checking up on anyone else to make sure they weren’t doing something they shouldn’t be doing. It would never occur to them that one of their guests might have slipped away from the group long enough to put old Peter away and slipped right back into the crowd as if nothing had transpired except a trip to the bathroom.
The mystery continues in book #1 of the Simon Stone Detective Series.
Read all of INNOCENT UNTIL PROVEN GUILTY. Available in paperback and digital at Amazon.