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The Beginning After by Kiersten Modglin (15)

Sixteen

PEIGHTON

After Peighton’s shower the next morning, she walked into the kitchen feeling refreshed. Isabel had a cup of tea waiting for her. “Good morning!”

“Good morning, Izzy,” Peighton greeted her. “Thank you,” she said, taking a sip of her tea. “Woah, is this a new tea?”

Isabel turned to her. “What do you mean? It’s the same tea you always drink.”

Peighton sniffed it. “It smells like perfume.”

“I’ve got you hooked on my English breakfast tea.” She laughed. “We’re all out. That’s Earl Grey.”

“I knew it was different,” Peighton said, taking another sip and instantly spitting it back out. “I’m sorry, I can’t.” She laughed. “You’ve got me spoiled.”

“I have to run to the grocery store this afternoon, I’ll pick up some more of the usual. Would you like some coffee for the road?”

“That would be good,” Peighton told her. “I won’t be gone long. I’m going to talk to some of the police on Todd’s case. I want to see if I can get copies of what they found on his laptop. When they dropped it off last night, it was almost completely erased.”

“What?” Isabel asked.

“Yeah, I can’t figure out why that would be.”

“That’s illegal, I’d say. I’d be finding out for sure, dear,” Isabel said cautiously, handing her a mug of coffee. “Drink this before it gets cold.”

Peighton nodded. “There’s a casserole in the fridge. Could you heat that up for dinner?”

“Of course, honey.”

“Thanks, Izzy. I’m going to go now. Kyle might come home…if he does, will you call me?”

“I will,” Isabel said, getting back to work.

With that, Peighton walked out the door, cup of coffee in hand, and headed for the police station. When she arrived, she walked into the brick building, searching for a familiar face. Clay was nowhere to be found. A young man with thick black hair approached her. “Hi, can I help you?”

“Yes, I wanted to speak with someone about the investigation around my husband’s death.”

“What was his name?”

“Todd Claiborne.”

“Okay, just one second,” he said, disappearing through a doorway. When he returned, there was a large gray-headed man following him.

“Ms. Claiborne.” He held out his hand. “I’m Sergeant Lewallen.” She shook his hand. “I was sorry to hear about your husband’s passing. We all really thought a lot of him here at the station.”

“Thank you, that’s very kind.”

“Is there something I can do for you?”

“I wanted to talk to you about the investigation. I had a few questions. When I received my husband’s laptop back, it was wiped cleaned. Several of his documents, even pictures, are gone. I just wondered…well, why they’re gone and if I could get them back.”

His eyebrows raised. “Could I get you to step into my office?”

She nodded, following him back through the door. He took a seat in the oversized leather chair. As she sat down across from him, he leaned forward across the desk, speaking low.

“Now, I’m a bit confused. What investigation are we talking about?”

“The one surrounding my husband’s death.”

He scratched his head. “Your husband’s death was ruled an accident.”

“Right, I know, but when I received his laptop back yesterday

“Back from where?” he asked.

“From…from you,” she spoke slowly, her head beginning to pound.

“We never had your husband’s laptop, Ms. Claiborne. We had no reason to. There were no signs of foul play, no forced entry. There was never an investigation because his death was ruled an accident on the scene.”

“W-what?” she asked, clutching her chest. “But then why

“Who took your husband’s laptop?”

“When we came back from the hospital, it was gone. Izzy said the cops had taken it.”

“Izzy is…?”

“Our housekeeper.”

“Would Izzy have any reason to need the laptop?”

“Of course not.” Peighton shook her head. “And what about Beelzebub? Clay said you found the messages on his computer.”

“I’m sorry, Ms. Claiborne, I truly am, but I haven’t a clue what you’re talking about. Beetle-whats-it? And who’s Clay? I’m afraid you’ve lost me.”

“Officer Nealson…” she said, trying hard to catch her breath.

He stood up, walking to a filing cabinet. He sifted through, pulling out a tan envelope and bringing it to his desk. Opening it, he began running his finger across the page, reading. “Right, Officer Nealson was one of the officers on scene the day of your husband’s death. He brought you in to ID the body. There’s nothing at all in here about a laptop or a beetle…beezle…what was it again?” She shook her head, afraid to answer. He went on. “Officers found no signs of forced entry, no foul play suspected. Autopsy confirmed cause of death was severe internal hemorrhaging and a broken neck, likely caused by a fall. There was no further investigation.”

Peighton stood up, nearly knocking the chair over. She felt as though she would be sick at any moment. “I have to go.” She pulled open the door, rushing out.

“Ms. Claiborne! Ms. Claiborne!” the Sergeant yelled after her, but she couldn’t stop. She pulled her phone out, clicking on his name with her thumb.

Clay answered almost instantly. “Peighton?”

“You lied to me,” she said, hardly able to catch her breath. She stood on the sidewalk, one hand on her knees, trying to keep herself from breaking down right there.

“What?”

“You lied to me, Clay. About Todd, about the investigation.”

“What are you talking about, Peighton?”

“Save it. I just came from meeting with your sergeant. Now, either you tell me the truth right this second or I am marching myself right back into that station and I’m telling him everything, and so help me god, Clay, if you do anything to hurt my family…I will kill you myself.”

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