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Knowing

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Worrying about what she was going to wear to Max and Blake’s wedding finally started to drive Josie so crazy that she did the unthinkable: She called her sister-in-law for advice. Much to her surprise, though, Jenna sounded so upset when she answered the phone that Josie forgot all about Batman and dresses and everything else. “Jenna, what’s wrong? It’s not…”

“No, the baby is fine, everything is fine.” She sniffed. “It’s just…we just found out one of our friends is dead. Her…her husband killed her.”

“Oh my god.”

Another sniff. “He’s in jail. Luckily the police got there before he could kill the baby too. But her mother says they told her he may not even stand trial. He’s so insane that he doesn’t even realize he’s in jail for murder, he thinks killing Mary was ‘an understandable mistake’ because...because he thought she’d cheated on him.”

Josie was horrified. She herself didn’t have very many friends from college, but the ones she did have were all still alive and doing at least as well as she was. And Jenna and her sorority sisters were all so close... “Are your friends coming over?”

“This weekend. Nobody…nobody could get away until then.”

“I can.” The words were out before Josie could even think about them first. She glanced at the clock, pulled up her email and started typing a message to Elise. “I’ll be there in half an hour, Jenna – an hour tops, okay? We’ll have lunch.”

“But you’re at work…”

“I can take a long lunch. And it’s a slow day, anyway,” Josie lied. There was no such thing as a slow day in FindLove’s offices, especially not since the reorganization. “I’ll be there soon, okay?”

“O-okay.” Jenna sniffed again. “Thanks, Josie. I really don’t…I really don’t want to be alone right now.”

“I don’t blame you, I wouldn’t either. I’ll be there soon.” Josie disconnected, sent her email, then shut down and stuffed everything into her laptop bag before grabbing that and her purse and heading for her car. She wasn’t sure what traffic was going to be like, and her brother and his wife lived on the other side of the valley.

Her appearance in the lobby startled Blake to his feet. “Josie, what…”

“Family emergency,” she said, and then stopped and thought. More information might be better, and Blake was the king of finding information. She went over to the reception desk and put down her bag. “Blake, have you seen a news story about a man murdering his wife because he thought she was cheating? Supposedly he’s so nuts he doesn’t even realize he did anything wrong, they aren’t sure he’ll be able to stand trial. The wife was one of my sister-in-law’s sorority sisters, her name was Mary.”

He sat back down. “Give me a second…” He typed, then typed some more, and then started clicking and scanning. He swallowed. “Okay…her name was Mary?”

“Yeah. You found it?”

“Oh, did I.” He shook his head. “It looks like…it looks like he’s completely insane, yes, so no, they probably won’t have a trial any time soon. He’ll be sent to a secure facility so they can try to fix him enough to be considered competent to stand trial.”

The look on his face was worrying her – she hadn’t forgotten she was talking to a guy who had beaten someone half to death in their parking lot with his bare hands, so whatever it was must be really bad. “What did he do?”

“You don’t…you don’t want to know.” His upraised hand stilled her objection. “No, Josie, I mean it. I have the police report pulled up…it’s so bad the news is just saying he suffocated her. Which he did, but…honestly, I don’t think they’re going to be able to fix this guy, he’s a…he’s a monster.” She didn’t look satisfied, and he shook his head but scooted over. “Fine. But if you get sick, use the trash can and you’re cleaning it up.”

Josie circled around the desk so she could stand next to him, bending over to read what was on the laptop screen. Her hand flew to her mouth, and Blake very quickly got up and pushed her into his chair, nudging the trash can closer with his foot. “Next time you’ll listen to me,” he scolded, and closed out that tab so she couldn’t see it anymore. He sat on the edge of the desk, folding his arms across his chest. “There is no way the police shared most of that with the victim’s mother, they aren’t…they wouldn’t have. And all your sister-in-law probably knows is what was reported on the news. Sometimes it’s better not to…not to know everything, Josie.”

She jerked her attention away from the screen – which now had a whimsically colorized picture of a kitten on it – to look at him. “I didn’t think…I wouldn’t have ever imagined it could have been something like that. I just wanted…I thought it would be better if I knew all the details so I wouldn’t be surprised if Jenna heard anything else.”

“I didn’t say I didn’t think you had a reason for wanting to know,” he told her, in a much gentler tone of voice. “Just that sometimes there’s a good reason you shouldn’t.” He picked up his phone, started tapping. “Where does your brother live, I’ll find you the best route – traffic on the mains is going to be a…be a bitch right now, and if you hit the freeway you won’t get there until tomorrow.”

Josie gave him the address, then went back to looking at the kitten picture. She revised her assessment of it from colorized photo to fantasy Photoshop, because the kitten was not only blue but really obviously floating in midair. Either way, though, it was adorable and looking at it was making her feel a little bit calmer. And she was going to need to be calm for Jenna, because it wasn’t good for a pregnant woman to stay upset like that.

Elise came striding into the lobby. “Blake, have you seen…” And then she stopped, looking at Josie, a considering sort of frown replacing the demanding, irritated one she had been wearing. She approached the desk at a slower pace. “You are absolutely green.”

“She insisted on seeing the police report,” Blake said. He glanced up from his phone. “The superglue murder – the victim was one of her pregnant sister-in-law’s friends. I’m finding her the best route to get over there quickly now.”

Elise raised an eyebrow. “Your brother’s out of town?”

Josie blinked at her. “No, not that I know of. I can’t think she’d have called him, though – he wouldn’t leave work for something like that.”

She did not understand the look that passed between Elise and Blake when she said that, but then Blake said he had the route and was sending it to her phone, and Elise was telling her they’d see her tomorrow and that ice cream was a good palliative for women who were in the process of spawning. It didn’t occur to her until she was already on her way across town that they’d been surprised her brother wouldn’t come home to comfort his pregnant wife – and that neither his sister nor his wife would expect him to. She turned that thought over in her mind, grimacing as she saw it from an outsider’s perspective. She’d always thought her brother was kind of an asshole, but she’d also always thought that was just because he was her brother; it had never occurred to her that him being that way…wasn’t very nice.

She grimaced again: Max’s Planeteer attitude was apparently contagious. Still, though, she felt an unaccustomed pang of sympathy for Jenna, married to a man who just wasn’t a very warm, caring human being. Her brother wasn’t a bad person, wasn’t crazy or angry or anything…he was just the person he was, and that person had never seen a reason to go out of his way to be nice to other people. Josie thought over that some more, and then put those thoughts out of her mind. She didn’t know exactly what the relationship dynamic was between her brother and his wife – who she didn’t actually know all that well in the first place – so making judgments about the state of their marriage and whether or not it was a good one would just be pure speculation on her part. And Science said that was a no-no, and Josie was Science, so she just wasn’t going to go there.

She was going to go see her sister-in-law, because her sister-in-law was pregnant and upset and needed some company. She was going to try out a little bit of Max’s ‘trying to be nicer to people’ shtick because Jenna needed someone and Josie was the only one available. And she was going to find out if they had any superglue in the house and confiscate it on the grounds that the fumes were highly dangerous to the unborn, because eventually Jenna was going to find out what had actually happened to her friend Mary – the regular news media may have held back the gruesome details, but the tabloid journalists definitely weren’t going to - and having a tube of the murder weapon lying around was just going to upset Jenna all over again. And she was going to leave before her brother got home from work, because the two of them picking at each other wasn’t good for an already-upset pregnant woman either and James wouldn’t stop even if Josie did.

Josie made a mental note to buy Max some cookies or something later in the week – or maybe just some fruit, since he’d been trying to watch his weight. Because this being nice thing? Was a lot more work than she’d thought.