The Other Side of Us
OLIVER GARRETT STARED at the rolling digits on the gas pump, willing the damn thing to finish filling his tank so he could get back on the road. He had a nine-o’clock appointment with an up-and-coming country-and-western band who could become regular clients—if this first recording session went well. Being late would be an awesome start to their relationship—the rule was, it was okay for the talent to be late, but not the sound engineer. That was simply the way the world worked.
It was exactly like his wife, Edie, to suggest they swap cars for the day and not notice her Mini was low on fuel. It wouldn’t have even crossed her mind to check last night on her way home from work, let alone before she took off in his wagon this morning. Just as she never seemed to be aware when she used the last of the hot water or put an empty milk carton back in the fridge.
He frowned, annoyed by the whiny, resentful tone to his own thoughts. Admittedly, he wasn’t exactly a dream to live with, either. He left his shoes to clutter up the bedroom floor and liked to drink juice straight from the container. Sometimes he even left whiskers around the sink after he’d finished shaving. Tolerating another person’s little habits and preferences was part of marriage, and getting bent out of shape about the small stuff was a surefire way to make himself—and Edie—miserable.
The pump hit the thirty-buck mark and he called it quits—half a tank was more than enough to get him where he needed to go. He leaned into the car to grab his wallet, but it was nowhere to be seen. He swore under his breath. Why did keys, passports and wallets always go missing when time was at a premium?
He crawled into the car, checking first the floor, then under the seats. He found his wallet wedged between the passenger seat and the door, along with a fistful of crumpled papers and an empty chocolate-bar wrapper. He pulled it all out, dumping the trash in the nearby bin before hustling inside to pay.
He tossed his wallet onto the passenger seat when he returned to the car, his gaze gravitating to the lone piece of trash he’d missed. He reached for it impatiently, the neat freak in him unable to leave a job half-done, even though he was running late. The curse of the detail-minded.
He was about to lob the crumpled piece of paper through the open car window and into the garbage when something caught his eye: a line of dark printing, visible from the wrong side of the paper.
The Annandale Motel.
Huh? He smoothed the paper flat on his thigh. Sure enough, it was a receipt for a queen room for one night, along with minibar expenses—a bottle of wine, a package of pretzels. Total $187.50.
Everything in him went very still.
The date was Wednesday of last week. The same day Edie was supposed to have given singing lessons to one of her many private clients, followed by a girls’ night out with her friends.
There had to be an explanation. Maybe the receipt had fallen out of one of her friend’s bags. Maybe—
Someone tooted the horn behind him. He was blocking the exit. Feeling oddly disconnected from his body, he shoved the car into gear and drove out of the service station, turning onto the nearest street and pulling over. He read the receipt again, his gut churning. Looking for proof that what he was thinking was impossible.
The last four digits of a credit-card number were printed below the total.