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The Beginning After by Kiersten Modglin (22)

Twenty-Six

FRANK, 2016

Frank sat across from his client, a folder in his hands. She scooted her chair forward, her growing bump making it harder than ever to get close to the table. She tucked a piece of her dark hair behind her ear, folding her hands together and clearing her throat.

“Okay, Mr. Beasley,” she said, “what do you have for me?”

He opened the file in front of him, pulling out a sheet of paper. “These are the reports from our surveillance. I’ve had your husband trailed every night for the past month. I’ve also looked over the phone bills you sent in. Here is a list of the names of people he’s called or received calls from over the last six months.” He pulled another paper from the folder and slid it to her.

Her gaze danced over the paper, her fingers trailing each line.

“Do you recognize the names? Is there anyone you want me to look into?”

When she was finished looking over the list, she looked up, shaking her head. “These are all okay. Me, his parents, his sister, a few of the people he works with. No one suspicious.” She paused. “He has a work phone too. Would we be able to get records from it?”

“Already done,” he replied, sliding the next sheet of paper to her. “Here’s the list I’ve compiled for it too, though some of the calls were made to or from burner cells. Not entirely unusual for a cop, anonymous tips and all.”

She glanced over the next list, her hand moving to her stomach. She rubbed the bump softly, a small smile creeping onto her face. “So, you’re saying he isn’t having an affair?”

He shook his head. “Of course, I can’t be absolutely certain. I’m very good at my job, but even I’ve been fooled once or twice.” He paused, his lips firm, as he tried to read her expression. “What I’m saying, though, is that I have no reason to believe your husband is having an affair.”

She smiled up at him, small tears in her eyes. “Thank you,” she said quietly, her voice cracking.

“It was my pleasure, ma’am. This is the type of news I actually like to deliver.”

“May I?” she asked, gesturing to the remaining contents of the folder.

“Of course,” he told her, sliding it toward her. “It’s yours. Surveillance photos, notes from our investigation, websites he’s visited, places he frequents, etcetera. Basically, your husband’s life for the last month.”

“Thank you,” she said, sifting through the paperwork. “My friends were right, you are the best.”

“I love what I do,” he said honestly. “And I’m always glad when I can help.”

“You know, I can’t help but think that you can’t stay very busy in a town like Pawley’s Corner. Haven’t you thought of branching out into larger places?”

“I have a few offices in larger markets. I do well for working in little old Pawley’s Corner, though.”

She smiled coyly at him. “Lots of scandal?”

“You’d be surprised,” he said, smirking.

“Well, if you ever decide to take the leap, I work out of Birmingham. I’d love to pass your information around to my colleagues.”

“That’s very kind of you,” he told her. “I may take you up on that someday. For now, I’m okay though.”

She stared at him, her eyes kind, as if she were trying to read him. Finally, she closed the folder, holding it to her chest. “Well, thank you again. I trust we can keep this all between us?”

“Of course.” He nodded. “I wouldn’t have much of a business if that wasn’t a guarantee. Besides, I still don’t even know your name. Who could I tell?”

Her jaw dropped open slightly. “You didn’t research me? I figured when I gave you my husband’s name…you would’ve realized why I was being so secretive.”

“I never research my clients.”

“Why is that?” she asked.

His eyes darted away from hers, thinking quickly. “I don’t want my process to be clouded or my decisions to be affected by what I learn about you. I try to keep my mind clear so I can focus on the case. I know your husband’s name because you gave it to me. I know he’s a cop because that was required for me to have someone watch him daily. I don’t know much else, because I won’t look into it if I’m not asked to. It keeps things simpler that way.”

Her eyes continued to dance around his face, as if trying to decide if he were lying. “My name’s Sarah,” she told him finally. “Sarah Williams.”

“You didn’t take your husband’s last name?” he asked, his brow furrowed.

“No,” she said, standing up from the table, folder in hand. “I thought you would’ve already known this, so I don’t suppose there’s any harm in telling you now. I’m a journalist. And, well, I’m an anchor with the Birmingham Morning Show.”

Frank tried to keep his face still, though he knew his shock must’ve radiated throughout his expression. “Oh.” The Birmingham Morning Show was a nationally syndicated program. It was huge. In fact, Frank should’ve recognized her. Her face had looked familiar, he remembered, but he could never figure out why. He was working in the presence of a celebrity. He realized how ridiculous it was to be star struck by her when he worked with a state senator daily, but Todd was his best friend, that made this slightly different.

“Yeah,” she said, “so, as you can imagine, the producers didn’t want me to change my name when Clay and I got married. It just made it easier to keep it the same.”

“Well, it’s nice to meet you, Sarah Williams-Nealson.”

She laughed. “Call me Sarah.”