Thank you, Rosemary, for sharing this chilling excerpt.
It was a little after four o'clock on the thirtieth day of December. The Bay Street and Wall Street stock markets had just closed when an attractive dark-haired woman rushed into my office. Her china-blue eyes were pleading. "Mrs. Tierney, I need to speak to you."
"You can't just barge in here," said Rose Sisto, our administrative assistant. "I'm sorry, Pat, she ran past me."
The New Year was almost here and I had work to finish up because the girls and I planned to drive up north in the morning. I was about to tell Rose to head on home and I decided now would be a good time to do so. "I'll take care of it, Rose. Call it a day. I'll lock up."
Rose scowled at the woman and then nodded to me. "Thanks, Pat." She offered me a cautious smile. "Happy New Year." She closed the office door.
I motioned to the woman to take the chair that faced my desk.
"You've caught me at a bad time, Ms.…"
She extended her hand. "Seaton. Jude Seaton."
I hesitated and then shook it. "I'm very busy."
"I'll pay for your time, of course." She dug into her shoulder bag.
I held up a hand. "Five minutes. Then, I'll write a note for Rose to book you an appointment in January. And my fees only apply to my clients. Until you and I decide to work together, there's no charge. Who referred you to us?"
"It…it's not what you think. I don't need an investment advisor."
I slid my chair back. "Then why come to me?" I was sure she was going to try to sell me something, until I saw tears glisten on her cheeks.
I pushed a box of tissues across the desk. She patted her face and fixed her eyes on me again.
What was she up to?
"It's my little boy, Tommy. I'm afraid someone will…" She worried her hands together. "Hurt him."
"Your little boy?"
She took a deep breath. "I've heard a lot about you. Gemma Johannsen is a friend of mine."
Gemma had come to my late husband, Michael for investment advice when she had inherited her uncle's large estate. I'd managed her money for the past four years, since Michael's death.
"I realize this is a strange request, but…I need someone to take Tommy over the New Year, while I sort things out. Would you…"
I stared at her and wondered whether she was crazy. She was in her mid-thirties, nicely dressed in slim-fitting black trousers and a black cashmere turtleneck. Well groomed. Didn't look like a head case, but…
"Ms. Seaton, if your son is in danger, you need the police."
"No. No police."
I was taken aback. "They'll know how to handle whatever this is."
"Absolutely no police."
I frowned. She was up to something she didn't want the police to know about. I wanted her out of my office.
I stood up. "Surely this is a matter for your family."
"I can't leave Tommy with my mother or my sister. Or any of my friends."
I didn't need this. I walked over to the door and opened it. "Look, Ms. Seaton, I've had enough. You must have noticed in the listings downstairs that our name is Tierney Pratt Financial. We're a financial services firm, not a child-care center."
The woman's eyes seemed to grow larger in her pale face. "I don't know where else to go, and I didn't think you'd turn Tommy away."
"Whatever made you think that?"
"Tommy," she started, in a voice not much louder than a whisper, "is Michael's son."
I stared at her and let her words sink in. She held my gaze.
"Michael?” I asked. “My husband?"
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Rosemary McCracken is a freelance journalist and fiction writer who lives in Toronto. Her first mystery novel, Safe Harbor, was shortlisted for Britain’s Debut Dagger in 2010. Safe Habor was released by Imajin Books this spring.
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Eileen Schuh, Canadian Author