>In case you missed it, the first installment of Decode was last Sunday. Check back every week for a new chapter!
Chapter 2: Crash
Veronica cut through a side street to get home faster after her meeting with David Moore at Maddox Technology. All she could think about was that insolent Craig/Maddox person and spaghetti. She picked up speed passing the gingerbread houses she coveted, when something slammed into the side of her car, rolling across the hood.
Veronica screamed, her brakes squealing as she came to a stop, a man’s body sliding onto the street. She fumbled out, peering at the body on the ground.
“Sir,” she said, gripping his shirt sleeve. “Sir!” The man didn’t move or so much as grunt and he felt rigid.
Veronica’s whole body shook as she flung her purse upside down to get to her phone. She could barely articulate what happened and tried to focus on the trees, the house in front of her, or the mound of receipts now piled in her seat. Anything but the body frozen on the ground in front of her car.
What felt like hours later, she sat frozen to a metal chair, awaiting her execution judgment. She had never seen the inside of the police station. And as she looked around, not actually seeing anything, she wished she wasn’t there at that moment either. Veronica replayed the scene in her mind over and over, wondering how she hadn’t seen the man coming. Had she been that distracted? Veronica always considered herself a careful driver, but a careful driver wouldn’t kill someone with her car.
A man in his fifties with a long, thick face and olive skin sat down at the desk in front of her. The name on the plaque read Lieutenant Stanley Guarini.
“Did I…did I kill him?” Veronica gripped her bag, which was still empty except for her wallet and cell phone. “I know it sounds crazy but I could swear he fell out of the sky. I didn’t see anyone on the road until…until I hit him.”
Guarini puckered his lips in what Veronica supposed was a smile. The young woman in front of him looked a mess with tangled pieces of chestnut hair coming loose from the twist on her head, her glasses askew on the bridge of her nose.
“Good news,” he said in a not so good news type of voice. “You didn’t kill our John Doe.”
Veronica started to smile. But then she saw his facial expression.
“He was already dead when you hit him.”
Veronica’s jaw dropped. Lt. Guarini flipped open a folder and handed her a photo of the victim. Veronica clasped a hand over her mouth.
“Do you know him?”
Veronica nodded, pushing the photo back to the Lieutenant.
“I just met him today.” She fought a lump rising in her throat and wrapped an arm around her stomach. “David Moore. Maddox Technology.”
Guarini smiled sympathetically and handed her a box of tissues.
“You work there?”
Veronica wiped her nose. “No. I’m a web designer and I’m supposed to beta test some software. My boyfriend is a programmer there though.”
Guarini nodded. “I suggest you stay put until the investigation closes then. That means no Florida getaway.”
Veronica nodded vigorously.
“I hate Florida.”
“Good.” He pointed to an officer. “Take this young woman back to her car and see she gets home safely.”
Veronica stood stiffly, following the officer back out into the icy January wind. She drove home, her eyes darting to make sure no one stepped foot on the street as she passed. As Veronica kept her eyes forward, a black coupe traced her movements from behind, all the way back to her apartment.