Jason couldn’t get the image out of his head.
Everybody had been looking at him, expecting the whole stereotypical rookie puking thing. But she’d looked so quiet and peaceful and there wasn’t even any blood.
Lilith swung her legs around and pushed herself off the bed.
Jason watched her, feeling quite uncomfortable now that he had delivered his news. He’d just ran off without resolving anything last night and she was obviously still upset. But surely she didn’t mean it about giving back his key.
He looked her in the eyes and decided that he wouldn’t put up a fight if she insisted. What sort of demon had gotten into her?
She stood there silently and glared at him with glowing demonic eyes.
He was really feeling uncomfortable now.
“We got the call late last night. One of the janitors found her in the break room.”
He stopped and left a little space for her to say something. Anything. Even if it was “I hate you and get out of my house before a janitor finds you on the floor.”
She just stood there, looking at him and leaving all his spaces unfilled.
The empty space yawned wider and wider until he couldn’t take it anymore. Taking a deep breath, he leapt into the chasm.
“I’m sorry for breaking in on you like this, but I thought you should hear it from a friend before you went to work.”
She continued to just stand there on the edge of the silence, staring down at him.
Okay, at this point it was just ridiculous.
“Look, Lilith, I’m sorry for whatever I did that made you upset. But come on, this is important. It’s not really the time for the whole silent treatment passive-aggressive thing.”
“I appreciate that you came to tell me my boss is dead. I really do, from the bottom of my heart. Now can you please get out of the way so I can get dressed? I have an appointment.”
“No, Lilith, I will not get out of the way. Not until you respond in some sane way to said dead boss.”
“What do you want? It’s sad, I’ll miss her, I think the best way to honor her memory is to do the story that she assigned to me, and if you will get out of the way I can get right on that. Is that good enough for you? Will you leave me alone now?”
“No, that’s not good enough. Lilith, Shannon was killed.”
“And considering the timing, it’s possible that the motive is related to the story you’re working on. You could be in danger too. Don’t you get it? This is serious.”
“All right. Why don’t you tell me about it? While I change.”
Jason was grateful for any sort of halfway sane response and stepped out of the way. As she opened a dresser drawer he started to talk.
“I watched the security tape from the break room. By the way, that is the most soul-suckingingly sad break room I’ve ever seen. I feel sorry for you having to work there.”
“Shannon came in to the break room at 9:15.”
“She made herself some juice and everything seemed normal.”
“She sat at the table and drank it. I’m not sure how the chair supported her weight. Not that she was heavy or anything, but man. I guess the newspaper industry must be having a hard time. Couldn’t you guys afford better furniture?”
Lilith snorted and rolled her eyes as she pulled out a blouse.
“Can we skip the commentary on the interior decorating?”
Jason sighed. “All right. Okay, so she finished the juice and stood up to go, but then she stumbled a bit and held her hand to her head.”
“She started to walk back to the juice bar but then she stopped and made some odd gestures.”
“She held her hands to her throat like she was choking on something.”
“Then she collapsed on the floor. We’re not sure if the exact time of death yet though.”
Lilith finished changing and closed the drawer.
Jason watched her, wondering what she was thinking. She hadn’t said anything else about returning the key. She hadn’t said much at all.
“I did notice something odd on the tape. I had been awake for over 30 hours by that point, though.”
Jason’s stomach clenched as he thought of the hours between the last time he saw Lilith and the call from the station. But he wouldn’t think about that right now, not here in her house with her looking at him.
“If you squint just right there’s a shadow at the juice bar at 8:45, half an hour before Shannon came in. It’s only there for a second and I don’t even know if it’s real. It looks like a man with dark hair and wearing a sweater.”
Lilith turned towards him and bit her lower lip.
“A sweater, huh?”
Was that a hint of fear he saw in her eyes?
“Yeah, a sweater. Why, does that ring a bell?”
Suddenly he felt his own hint of fear.
“No, it’s just weird, you know. Like, what would a shadowy figment of your imagination need with a sweater? Now if you’ll excuse me, I have an appointment at the library. You can let yourself out.”
He watched her walk away, his hint of fear growing.
He could deal if she hated him. He would live if she never wanted to see him again – as long as she was alive and safe and happy.
He knew that Lilith hadn’t been happy for quite some time. And he was beginning to worry about the safe and alive part.
He saw Shannon again in his mind, lying there so quiet and still.
He imagined Lilith in her place, and his heart howled with pain. He would not let that happen. No matter what he had to do. Even if he had to make her so mad that she would never forgive him.