Will’s words made her reconsider all the stories she’d heard about horrible exes. There had to be some, especially the abusive ones. Maybe the ex-husbands weren’t always as bad as she previously thought. Any horror story she ever heard came from a bitter ex-wife. All this new insight into the male psyche made her think. Yeah, she’d give other men the benefit of the doubt, but not Clint. The man emanated evil. Her best bet was to be prepared for the worst because he would bring it.
What was the deal with the doll? Her hands flattened on the table as she pressed down to stand. Using the table made her feel a bit like her granny. Her shoulders could belong to a senior citizen. She shimmied the offending body part loosening them up a bit.
“What are you doing?” Will called, still seated at the table.
Tonya glanced back over her shoulder. “No worries. Just getting the doll.”
The sound of the kitchen chair tumbling to the floor heralded Will’s sprint into the living room. He leaped past her to pick up the doll with a dishtowel he must have grabbed from the stove handle. He held the wrapped doll away from his body as if radioactive.
“Why did you do that?” Here she thought Will had the corner on mental stability. Should have known better.
“Evidence. It's key to keep it clean for the police.” He walked back to the kitchen holding the doll in front of him. There appeared to be something handing from the doll. A cord or something. She’d never really examined it after realizing it sported a portion of her favorite top.
The reality of Clint in her house, snooping through her things, and taking her favorite blouse because he knew she liked it made her blood pressure rise. “You touched it, I touched it. Clint’s a private investigator he would know enough not to leave fingerprints.”
Will slipped the towel wrapped doll under the open lid of the pizza box. “Why’d you get involved with a P.I.?” Frustration tinged his words, but the accusatory slant remained.
“Hey!” She threw up her hands. Why was everything always her fault? “I did not think ahead to ask his profession. Even so, I’d never considered his profession as something that could cause problems down the road. In fact, at times I thought dating a detective made me safer. Do women ask you what you do, and then leave in the middle of date when they don’t like it?” Good comeback, she congratulated herself as she took her seat. Instead of replying, Will’s eyes were still upward as if remembering.
He finally spoke. “I usually never get to the actual date. Once a woman hears, I’m a divorce lawyer and with one of the most cut throat agencies in town, most confess to a rekindled romance with their ex. One mentioned she was entering a convent. As far as actual dates, I put I was a lawyer on my online profile, which wasn’t too terrible. I had one date, who developed indigestion at hearing the details of my profession and had her dinner boxed up.”
Tonya made a sympathetic sound. Really, he didn’t strike her as overbearing or argumentative. Traits she assumed a lawyer normally possessed. While he launched into a story about a vanishing date, she slid her hand under the lid of the open pizza box and snagged the doll.
“I even asked a little old lady to go in and check on her. The pitying look the woman gave me when she came out discouraged me from dating. Another reason Ericka and I continued to hang out. I decided until I changed to something like Intellectual Properties Law that I’m updateable.”
The doll firmly in her grasp she turned it over. A roughly drawn face with black marker pupils, a J for a nose and a large O for a mouth. A few loops of yarn represented her hair. The string that initially piqued her interest was a noose woven out of three individual yarn strands. Taped to the front of the doll’s torso was a small yellow note.
Written in block lettering to disguise his handwriting was a message: Come back now, before it gets worse.
Her fingers traced the string noose. She never thought Clint would ever escalate this much. It was probably just a threat. Yeah a threat, she inhaled deeply and put the doll down.
Will’s larger hand covered hers, warming it, giving her the illusion she wasn’t alone in this mess. Her hand turned under his to wrap her fingers around his. For a moment, the lyrics to some oldies song came to mind, about the two of them facing the world together. It wasn’t the two of them. Will’s luck ran toward vanishing dates and convent-bound females. In the book of bad dates, he’d entitled her chapter Woman to Avoid.