She Wore Mourning, стр. 1
SHE WORE MOURNING
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Copyright 2019 P.D. Workman
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To those who are broken, and yet go on
Zachary Goldman stared down the telephoto lens at the subjects before him. It was one of those days that left tourists gaping over the gorgeous scenery. Dark trees against crisp white snow, with the mountains as a backdrop. Like the picture on a Christmas card.
The thought made Zachary feel sick.
But he wasn’t looking at the scenery. He was looking at the man and the woman in a passionate embrace. The pretty young woman’s cheeks were flushed pink, more likely with her excitement than the cold, since she had barely stepped out of her car to greet the man. He had a swarthier complexion and a thin black beard, and was currently turned away from Zachary’s camera.
Zachary wasn’t much to look at himself. Average height, black hair cut too short, his own three-day growth of beard not hiding how pinched and pale his face was. He’d never considered himself a good catch.
He waited patiently for them to move, to look around at their surroundings so that he could get a good picture of their faces.
They thought they were alone; that no one could see them without being seen. They hadn’t counted on the fact that Zachary had been surveilling them for a couple of weeks and had known where they would go. They gave him lots of warning so that he could park his car out of sight, camouflage himself in the trees, and settle in to wait for their appearance. He was no amateur; he’d been a private investigator since she had been choosing wedding dresses for her Barbie dolls.
He held down the shutter button to take a series of shots as they came up for air and looked around at the magnificent surroundings, smiling at each other, eyes shining.
All the while, he was trying to keep the negative thoughts at bay. Why had he fallen into private detection? It was one of the few ways he could make a living using his skill with a camera. He could have chosen another profession. He didn’t need to spend his whole life following other people, taking pictures of their most private moments. What was the real point of his job? He destroyed lives, something he’d had his fill of long ago. When was the last time he’d brought a smile to a client’s face? A real, genuine smile? He had wanted to make a difference in people’s lives; to exonerate the innocent.
Zachary’s phone started to buzz in his pocket. He lowered the camera and turned around, walking farther into the grove of trees. He had the pictures he needed. Anything else would be overkill.
He pulled out his phone and looked at it. Not recognizing the number, he swiped the screen to answer the call.
“Uh… yes… Is this Mr. Goldman?” a voice inquired. Older, female, with a tentative quaver.
“Yes, this is Zachary,” he confirmed, subtly nudging her away from the ‘mister.’
“Mr. Goldman, my name is Molly Hildebrandt.”
He hoped she wasn’t calling her about her sixty-something-year-old husband and his renewed interest in sex. If it was another infidelity case, he was going to have to turn it down for his own sanity. He would even take a lost dog or wedding ring. As long as the ring wasn’t on someone else’s finger now.
“Mrs. Hildebrandt. How can Goldman Investigations help you?”
Of course, she had probably already guessed that Goldman Investigations consisted of only one employee. Most people seemed to sense that from the size of his advertisements. From the fact that he listed a post office box number instead of a business suite downtown or in one of the newer commercial areas. It wasn’t really a secret.
“I don’t know whether you have been following the news at all about Declan Bond, the little boy who drowned…?”
Zachary frowned. He trudged back toward his car.
“I’m familiar with the basics,” he hedged. A four- or five-year-old boy whose round face and feathery dark hair had been pasted all over the news after a search for a missing child had ended tragically.
“They announced a few weeks ago that it was determined to be an accident.”
Zachary ground his teeth. “Yes…?”
“Mr. Goldman, I was Declan’s grandma.” Her voice cracked. Zachary waited, listening to her sniffles and sobs as she tried to get herself under control. “I’m sorry. This has been very difficult for me. For everyone.”
“Mr. Goldman, I don’t believe that it was an accident. I’m looking for someone who would investigate the matter privately.”
Zachary breathed out. A homicide investigation? Of a child? He’d told himself that he would take anything that wasn’t infidelity, but if there was one thing that was more depressing than couples cheating on each other, it was the death of a child.
“I’m sure there are private investigators that would be more qualified for a homicide case than I am, Mrs. Hildebrandt. My schedule is pretty full right now.”
Which, of course, was a lie. He had the usual infidelities, insurance investigations, liabilities, and odd requests. The dregs of the private