Merritt Saxe, newly hired public relations specialist with the Florida prison system, answers an urgent plea from their division’s director, Willard Ware Baintree. Following his orders, she finds him in the apartment of his mistress, his bloody T-shirt and the mistress’s dead body convincing her the criminal justice superstar is himself a criminal. The director claims he didn’t kill the woman and coerces Merritt into being his alibi.
Meanwhile, as the director pulls her farther into his web of lies, Merritt breaks with her longstanding boyfriend and begins a steamy relationship with hunky attorney Israel Goodspeed, whose brother works for the director. Yet how can she trust Israel with her secret or her heart when she suspects the director has been orchestrating their relationship to keep her in line? Speaking out about the cover-up could cost her more than time in jail…it could cost her life.
I got out of the car and walked up the stairs to Number 201. Hesitating, to collect my thoughts and catch my breath, I knocked once, lightly, and then again more forcefully. The director opened the door and pulled me in without ceremony.
Tear tracks stained his face. Blood stained his white T-shirt. His eyes were glazed over. He appeared to be in shock. He looked like hell.
“Director, are you all right?”
He didn’t answer.
“Director Baintree,” I shouted, “are you hurt?” My raised voice blew him out of his stupor and back into battle mode.
“What the hell does it look like? No, I’m not all right. I need you to take me home.”
“Where’s Miss Braddock? Does she need a ride somewhere?”
“Miss Braddock?” The director appeared confused.
“Savannah Braddock. The woman who lives here.”
“She’s gone,” he said simply, deflated, his face crumpling.
I don’t know what prompted me to do this, but I walked around him and ran from room to room. There weren’t many places to look in that tiny apartment. Apparently, all it needed were the basic necessities—a kitchenette, a bathroom, and of course, a bedroom. That’s where I found her, half naked, sprawled out on the bedspread, a pool of blood soaking the white eyelet duvet cover. And the handle of an oversized kitchen knife sticking out of her abdomen.
I wanted to scream, but no sound came out. I began hyperventilating. I was going to be sick—I knew I wouldn’t make it into the bathroom.
“For God’s sake, stop.” The director walked into the bedroom. He rounded on me, and my breathing calmed, but I continued to stand there, immobilized, staring at the once perfect, now bloody and lifeless body of Savannah Braddock.
“We’ve got to get out of here, now,” he ordered.
I took a deep breath to stave off my sickness.
“D-did you c-call 9-1-1?” I asked.
“No. I can’t be seen here. Someone will find her. I’ll make sure of it.”
“Are you sure she’s—” I couldn’t bring myself to say the word. But I knew, just from looking at her, her pale face and the stiffness of her body, that she was. And I was just as sure that the director had killed her. He certainly had the strength to overpower her and stab her with enough force to kill her. It hadn’t been an easy death. She had bled out. The director had had an assignation with her after the barbecue last night and had undoubtedly slept over, which Peggy admitted he often did. So he had opportunity. But what was his motive? Had she been threatening to go public or to go to his wife? Was she having an affair? Who else would find her? She was pretty much off limits to anyone but the director. Did she even have any female friends who were concerned about her? A family? I guess they’d miss her in court. But was this her permanent residence or just an illicit meeting place? Did anybody else but Peggy and me know about this little hideaway?
I looked around the room. A picture of Savannah and the director lay under smashed glass on the floor. Shaking out the jagged glass cautiously, I grabbed the frame and the picture and tucked it into my purse.
The director looked at the picture and nodded. Suddenly he surfaced from shock and went into control mode. He grabbed my arm and started pulling me out of the bedroom.