“Married to the job?”
“It was supposed to be a stepping stone into politics, but I discovered I liked it and am good at it. My ex had a different vision for my future.”
“She wanted you to go into politics.”
“She has her sights set high.”
“It must have been painful when you two split.”
“Not as bad as it should have been.”
“How long were you married?”
“I can imagine you standing before a gilded altar in a church filled with stained-glass windows and hundreds of important people.” She didn’t like the image.
“It was quite the society affair.”
She liked John Adler a lot, and if she were going to trust someone now, it would be him. She stared at the spoon before she said, “So, I received flowers today. They were delivered to my office. No note. My boss has no idea who sent them.”
He scanned the room, and his tone sharpened when he spoke, “Where are they?”
“I gave them to the nurses. Someone also sent me flowers the night of my lecture. I gave those away to a student. I don’t know anyone who would send me flowers.”
He was silent.
With him she was able to confess, “They gave me the creeps. Who would have thought such a pretty and perfect arrangement of white tulips would make me want to jump out of my skin.”
“The other flowers were also white tulips?” he said.
“Yes. Does that mean anything?”
“I’m not sure.” His expression said otherwise. He was concerned but seemed to be holding back his thoughts for her sake. “Was there a card?”
“Susan said there wasn’t.” She stabbed her spoon in the sorbet and set it on the table beside her. “I’m scared. I can’t stop looking for Gina, but I am terrified.”
Adler looked her in the eye. “You’re not in this alone, Kaitlin. I’ve got your back.”
She believed him, and that calmed some of the fears enough for her to say, “I had a dream just a few minutes ago. I woke to the alarm in the hallway. I was so terrified. I was drenched in sweat.”
“Tell me about the dream.”
“It was the moment I was stabbed. My attacker said, ‘I am coming back for you. You deserve to be punished.’”
Adler leaned forward. His eyes were intent, but his voice was calm. “What do you remember about him?”
“I never saw his face.”
“His voice? A mark on his hands? A smell?”
She drew in a breath. “The voice was muffled. A whisper. He sounded angry and frustrated, like I’d screwed up his plans.” She tried to relax her clenched fists. “His hands were smooth. His breath smelled of peppermint.”
“That’s more than you first recalled.”
“My head is finally clearing.”
“Did anything about this man’s voice remind you of the man that took Gina?”
A swell of emotion tightened her voice. “No. I know it’s been fourteen years, but nothing about this guy made me think of Gina’s kidnapper. I know this guy wasn’t on the road that night.”
“Who would care about this case as much as you now?”
“Gina and I don’t have any family left to speak of, but her face was in the news so much fourteen years ago. Even last year a reporter did a story about her unsolved case.”
“Someone might see themselves as Gina’s champion.”
“And he’s come back for all the girls on the road with her that last night. Jennifer is dead. Erika’s missing. And I’m stabbed.” She felt vulnerable and fought a rush of tears.
“He’s not going to hurt you,” Adler said.
“I’ve survived years of self-destructive behavior. Now I’m faced with a real threat, and I’m afraid of dying. How’s that for a turnaround?”
“It’s healthy. And I’m going to keep you safe.”
“How can you be sure?”