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Copyright © 2019 by Arizona Tape
All rights reserved. No part of this publication or cover may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law.
The Case Of The Night Mark is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events, locales, and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental. Individuals depicted in the images are models and used solely for illustrative purposes.
“I’m home,” Sam called into the hallway. The front door closed with a dull thud and her keys clattered when she threw them in the designated bowl. “Hello?”
“In the kitchen!” Melissa shouted back.
Of course. It was her favourite place in the house and very much her domain.
Sam tipped her shoes off and crossed into enemy territory, unsure what she was going to walk into.
“Hey.” Her wife smiled, her eyes surrounded with dark bags and creases. She waved a crystal glass at Sam. “Wine?”
“No,” Sam replied. “It’s a bit early.”
“Alright.” Melissa shrugged as she poured herself a massive glass. She clearly didn’t think it was too early.
Deciding it was best not to comment on that, Sam sat down on one of the barstools. “You wanted to talk?”
“Yes.” She rummaged through the cupboards and pulled out the dreaded file. “I want you to sign the divorce papers.”
Sam sighed. “And that couldn’t wait until I came home later tonight?”
“No, I need to mail it today.”
“Why didn’t you ask me yesterday?”
“I tried, but you locked yourself in your study,” Melissa argued, her nose crinkling just like it always did when she was angry. “I don’t know why you’re protesting so much.”
“Oh, really? Maybe because you went behind my back and petitioned for a divorce, a mutual divorce without consulting me. How can it be mutual when I didn’t know about it?” Sam hissed.
“See, this is why it’s impossible to be with you! I’m your wife, not a case or a suspect. I don’t need a consultation. I just want you to talk to me, like a normal person, but you’ve stopped doing that. You never talk to me. It’s always work, work, work.” She turned away, her shoulders tensed. “When you got discharged, I thought… maybe things will be different now. Maybe there would be more time and room for me, but you’ve just been hiding away in your office or sulking about your unsolved cases.”
“Sulking?” Sam cut in. “Sulking? I’ve been trying to solve murders, Melissa. Murders. I’ve been working hard, yes, but to bring some justice to the world. To give people that have lost their loved ones some kind of answer. That’s what I do.”
“No, that’s what you did. You’re not a detective anymore, okay? They’re not going to take you back.”
Melissa’s words stung more than Sam was willing to admit. Part of her still couldn’t believe she’d been discharged after all those years of service. She expected someone from the department to show up any day now to tell her they made a mistake, that they needed her back in the force. Maybe it was a delusion, maybe she was holding onto something that was already long gone, but this was all she had left after working her ass off. It couldn’t just be gone. It couldn’t…
But it had been almost a year now and nobody had turned up to reinstate Sam. They hadn’t reached out for her insight, help, or anything. It was like she’d never existed in the first place.
“Sam…” The other woman stepped around the bar and placed a hand on her shoulder. “I know it’s hard, but you have got to let it go. You’re not a detective anymore and our relationship… We used to be best friends, but now we’re nothing more than strangers.”
“Come on, we’re not strangers,” Sam protested, but even she could hear how weak it sounded.
“Aren’t we?” Melissa sighed as she sat down next to her. “When’s the last time we talked, actually talked? Sat together, shared a meal—”
“—Without using our phones or watching tv.”
Sam sighed. “I don’t know…”
“I’m not happy anymore.” She placed a careful hand on Sam’s. “And I don’t think you’re happy either.”
The two women locked eyes, sharing a look. A moment passed and for that brief moment, it felt like they were the two women in their twenties that met under a gingko tree. Two women that fell in love over picnics and a shared passion for food and drink. It had been summer, sunshine, and cocktails. A beautiful time they both hoped would last forever.
Sam interlaced their hands and a flicker of old attraction and affection returned, installing a whisper of home in her heart. But then Melissa pulled her hand away and the moment passed. Reality returned. They were no longer those young women and they hadn’t been for a long time.
“Where are you going to go?” Sam asked defeated.
“I found a little flat on the other side of town. It’s small, but it reduces my commute with five minutes. I signed the rental agreement yesterday.”
Samantha nodded, resting her head in her hands, fighting off the sinking realisation. Melissa was right, their relationship was over. She just hadn’t been able to accept it.
“Hand me the papers,” she said.
A faint smile of relief tugged on Melissa’s lips. “Thank you.”
With a heavy heart, Sam scribbled her signature down on the divorce petition, something she’d been avoiding and dreading ever since Melissa presented her with them. Yet, as she signed the last sheet, the heaviness lifted from her chest. It had been the right thing to do.
“Here.” Sam pushed the stapled sheets back to Melissa.
“Thank you. I mean it.” The two exchanged another look before Melissa grabbed the stack of papers. “I’ll be gone in the morning.”
Unsure how to reply to that, Sam slid from her barstool. It was too painful to look at her wife. Ex-wife. “I need a drink.”
She left the kitchen and poured herself an expensive whisky from her liquor cabinet before she retreated to the study, where she was greeted by the small pup. Hellhound.
“Hey, little one.” She scratched the dog’s chin, earning a happy whimper. “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have left you alone for so long.”
The pup whined as she rolled onto her back and exposed the soft of her belly. A brief sparkle of blue glowed up when Sam tickled her stomach and with a little bark, she squirmed back to her designated pillow.
“You’ve put me in a lot of trouble, you know that?” She took a swig from her whisky and sat down next to the puppy. “You better be worth it.”
“Awrrr.” With a playful yip, the hellhound wobbled and jumped around the room. Her little legs carried her across until she tired herself out and yawned. She whined and climbed on Sam’s lap where she curled into a ball.
“I suppose you’re kind of cute,” she conceded, scratching her ears. “I still need to find a name for you, but I don’t know what’s appropriate for a hellhound. Blue? Saskia? Azrael? Do those sound like something you’d like?”
“Awrr!” she barked, not really reacting to any of them.
“I guess not then.” She put the puppy back on the pillow and emptied her glass. “I’ll think about it. I’ll find a name for you when I can officially adopt you and become a Warden, or whatever.”
She picked up her glass, disappointed to find it empty. She’d get another, but she had an inkling Lilith would not take kindly to her being hungover when they visited the cobbler. Then again… she had just signed divorce papers. She deserved a little distraction.
“I guess one more wouldn’t hurt, huh?” she said to the dog, earning a little tail wag. “I’ll take that as a yes.”
She pulled a bottle from her secret stache hidden behind the dictionary and poured herself a single, then a double, then a couple more until she could no longer remember what she’d lost today.
NEXT CHAPTER COMING SOON
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