I glared into her eyes. “How dare you ask me to choose!”
“The main suspect is right under our flamin’ noses."
“Shut up! I’m sick of hearing it.”
“I’m sick of being blackmailed.” She thumbed towards the hall. “Lee’s probably sat at home right now, laughing at how he’s twisted you around his little finger and deciding how he’ll spend my cash.”
Anger boiled deep in my gut. Protecting Laura dominated my thoughts, but underneath, I wanted a suspect other than the man who put fizz into my heart, and a bounce into my stride. “You’ve got him all wrong.”
She set her hand on my knee. “Just one call, Chelsea, and we might end this thing tonight. If he’s innocent, then he should understand and forgive you.”
“Yeah, right,” I muttered, rolling my eyes.
Laura pursed her lips. Lines of worry dented her silky complexion like deep scars. A chilling judder moved through my body. I never wanted to see this horrific look on her face again. It wasn’t hard to see how desperately she was trying to pull herself out of the dark pit that swallowed her almost whole.
I wanted the old Laura back.
“It’s just one, quick phone call to warn him off.”
I covered my face with my hands. “That simple, huh?”
“Will you do it?” she asked. “He’ll probably listen to you. If you won’t, then give me his number and I’ll phone him.”
The silence after her question ended when her shoe scraped the floor. “What’s it to be?”
I parted my fingers and stared at her distressing face.
She crossed her legs towards me.
“This is insane. You’re so wrong.” Something was seriously plucking at my heart strings. “But, okay. I’ll do it.”
She stood up to get my mobile. Knowing that Lee might never forgive me for wrongly accusing him again, caused a riot in my stomach, and tears to tingle behind my eyes. Before I talked myself out of it, I grabbed my mobile from her, and quite literally punched the dial button with my fingertip. I reminded myself that I’d known Lee for less than a week, and Laura for an eternity. Her safety and sanity had to take precedence over my desires.
“Hey, Chelsea.” Lee sounded shocked but happy to hear from me. “I’m worried about you. Have you seen the time? Why did you disappear?”
I pushed myself up and gave him a kiss. It was the least he deserved. “So this was your stakeout?”
Lee circled my lips with his finger. “Yes. I had to have a damn good reason for leaving you alone in that cosy bed this morning.”
After bluetoothing the most embarrassing of the photos to my phone, I settled back on the carpet.
Lee pointed the remote at the player. “Let’s see if we can spot him on a disc and end this thing.”
After a fuzzy start and sections of random dates, an image flashed onto the screen. I spotted the date stamped in the upper corner, March 10th, and tapped Lee’s leg. “This is it. But I can’t see Daryl’s house.”
“No, the camera’s pointing to the left. Try to look for cars you recognise and focus on the driver and plates. The photo was taken from inside a car, remember?”
Lee fast-forwarded the disc. We knew the photos were taken sometime after Daryl’s dental appointment in the afternoon.
A few grainy waves distorted the image. No audio. The camera shot one static angle. We sat watching, the silence broken only by cars rolling down the street outside, providing the missing soundtrack. Lee fiddled with my hair and rubbed my shoulders to stem the boredom. He dotted ticklish kisses and softly nibbled the back of my neck every so often, which played havoc with my concentration.
“Later,” I said playfully, pushing his face away. “We might miss something important.”
Thirty fruitless minutes later, I began losing hope and my bottom was past numb. I jumped up, sat next to Lee on the sofa, draped my legs over his thighs and began stroking his arm. “I hope this isn’t going to turn out to be a waste of time.” I sighed, wishing that snuggling up in a cinema was actually where we were.
“We won’t know until we watch them.”
Lee’s determination grew at the point that mine wavered. He repeatedly stopped and started the footage, pausing on cars to focus on the driver and asking me to check the number plates. Those that I could make out, I didn’t recognise.
I wanted to watch the footage, but I hoped that Daryl didn’t star in it, concerned about Lee’s reaction to viewing his dead brother large as life on the big screen.
A hiccup in the footage gave way to a previous recording again. Lee skipped the disc ahead, stopping when March 10th came back. I shuffled around to get more comfortable, then, suddenly, lurched forward in my seat. “Freeze it!” I pointed to the screen. “There! On the left.”
Lee jabbed the pause button.