Truth & Tenderness

By: Tere Michaels



Matt was still standing by the back door, and Jim reluctantly drew himself out of the pity party to look at his friend.

And then he wanted to look away because of the gravity of Matt’s expression.





THEY SAT in the living room, posh and comfortable in tans and blues. They had sandwiches and pasta salad, courtesy of the housekeeper, and beers—two apiece—on coasters.

“I didn’t throw away my notes after the trial,” Jim said eventually, concentrating on the turkey on rye on his plate. “Then one day you get bored. You start thinking,” he murmured. “You think you’re going to do just one search, just to satisfy the curiosity, but you keep putting his name in that little box and suddenly it’s three hours later. Then it’s three days, and then…”

“Then it’s three years later. Got it,” Matt answered. He put his half-cleaned plate down on the coffee table, then leaned toward Jim, elbows on his knees. “I’ve been there. Haven’t been a cop in years, but I still think about the ones we never closed.” His voice was soft and full of pity; Jim blinked but said nothing. “But the case is over. Even if you find anything—double jeopardy.”

“I know that.” It came out snappy, even as Jim tried to rein in his bubbling anger. He knew—logic was his tether; it kept him sane and alive. “I know. He’s never going to go down for Carmen’s murder. But….”

“You think it wasn’t his first.”

Jim dropped his plate on the table, then sank back into the easy give of the sofa. He wanted to kick something, throw a chair through the big picture window on the other side of the room. When tracking Tripp’s life was a dirty little secret, he could still pretend it was insane, an exercise in frivolity. Exposing it to the real world, to another person, made it a mission. Made it possible. He wanted to ruin something in this moment of conflicted anger—he just didn’t want it to be his life.

If word got out he was trying to find another case to pin on Tripp Ingersoll, the fallout wouldn’t affect just him.

Griffin’s movie would be a magnet for bad press. All his hard work—and the memories of Ed, Delia, and Carmen Kelly—would be dragged through the muddy rehash.

He’d lose the endlessly dragged-on civil case Tripp had against him and the Seattle PD.

He didn’t care about money, but he sure as hell cared about his reputation.

And his fiancé’s. And the Kelly family’s.

“You know what I’m about to say.” Matt spoke with such seriousness in his tone that Jim couldn’t even look at him. His face burned with embarrassment.

“I know.”

“The risks, Jim.”

“I know!”

“Terrific. You know. You get it. You’re not stupid,” Matt said sternly. “Now do something about it.”

Jim leaned back to stare at the ceiling. Skylights showed the steady mist outside, beading against the glass. “I’ll delete it.”

“Jim.”

A warning word. From the first moment they had met, Jim knew Matt had his number. They had each other’s numbers. Platitudes weren’t going to work.

Jim opened his mouth, because he was going to say, You’re right, I’ll delete it and forget about him, but he knew that was a lie. For all the rationality and knowing better, Jim couldn’t forget Carmen on that slab or her parents in side-by-side graves with her within two years of her death. Carmen’s blood was on Tripp Ingersoll’s hands, but sometimes Jim felt like Delia’s and Ed’s blood were on his.

“I need to finish this. I need to see if there’s anything out there. And if there’s not, if he’s clean—” Jim choked on the word. “—I’ll get rid of everything.”

Matt sighed dramatically. “Right.” Another sigh. “I’ll help you out—we can put in a few hours during the week. It’ll go faster that way.”

Jim sat up slowly, unfolding his tightly held limbs as he moved to look at Matt. Every cell of his body buzzed with permission from Matt to pursue this, permission to be obsessed and channel his energy into something potentially meaningful. It was like a fucking gift.

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