Shadows of Yesterday(8)

By: Sandra Brown

Leigh suppressed a grimace. She tried to make allowances for her mother’s snobbery, but her denigration of Chad after all he’d done for Leigh and Sarah seemed the height of ungraciousness. “I didn’t want to mix with him, Mother. I only wanted to compensate him. He looked like he could use some extra cash.”

For a moment her thoughts turned back to Chad, to how he had looked bending over her, clasping her hand while a contraction wrung her inside-out. His eyes were so blue. Strange eyes with so dark a complexion. His gentleness had belied his strength and brawn. He spoke eloquently, like an educated man. He had even compared her to a quattrocento Madonna.

Her obstetrician had commented on Chad’s thoroughness. Leigh remembered the newspaper. “The young man could have done you great harm had he not been so conscientious.”

She had no way to thank him if she couldn’t find him. Chad Dillon was a mystery that would forever remain unsolved, and that vexed her. More and more she found her thoughts dwelling on the elusive man.

She sighed heavily, and her parents misinterpreted her disappointment as fatigue. “You rest now, Leigh,” her father said. “Come on, Lois, let her sleep.”

“Maybe we shouldn’t leave tomorrow. Sarah’s only four weeks old. Do you want us to stay with you longer?”

“No,” Leigh said sharply, then softened her tone by adding, “I’m fine. Truly. You were more than generous to stay with me all this time. Sarah is an exemplary baby. She’ll be sleeping through the night in another couple of weeks. I’ll be able to take her to work with me for the few hours a week I need to be there. We’ll be just fine.”

Tears came to her mother’s eyes. “I just can’t believe this has happened to you, Leigh. Why did Greg have to get himself shot? Why are you left alone, a widow at twenty-seven, with a baby? I begged you to come live with us when Greg got killed. My granddaughter wouldn’t have been born on the side of a state highway if you’d been at home with us where you belong. You’re dooming yourself to unhappiness.”

Lois dissolved into a fit of sobbing. Harve Jackson placed a supportive arm around her and led her from the room. At the doorway he looked over his shoulder. “Go to sleep, Leigh. Get all the rest you can before we leave.”

He closed the door behind them and Leigh sank gratefully into the pillows. At times she forgot her situation. Invariably some well-meaning person, usually her mother, would remind her of it.

The pain of Greg’s violent death was sometimes too much to bear. She had always feared it, had almost dreaded it with the certainty that it was preordained and only waiting for the destined moment. But she hadn’t been prepared for the reality, the suddenness, the irrevocability of her husband’s murder.

They had argued the night before he was killed.

“Where are you going this time?”

“I can’t tell you, Leigh. You know that. Please don’t ask me.”

“To the border?”

“Leigh, for God’s sake, don’t do this every time I leave.” He paused long enough in packing his duffel bag to place impatient hands on his hips. “Do you think I can do my job, concentrate on what I’m doing, if every time I leave, the image of you I take with me is a tearful, resentful one? You knew what I did before you married me. You said you could take it.”

“I thought I could.” She buried her face in her hands and wept. “I can’t. I love you.”

He expelled a half-exasperated, half-affectionate sigh and came to her, wrapping his arms around her. “And I love you. You know I do. But I love my job, too. It’s important work, Leigh.”

“I know—at least on an intellectual level. I’m not asking you to give it up completely. But you could take an administrative job. You could plan raids without actually executing them.” She shuddered as she looked down at the automatic pistol lying on the bed, as much a part of his gear as the socks and underwear he was packing. “I hate the thought of you working undercover.”

“Leigh, I’d go crazy behind a desk and you know it. I’m a good actor. They need me in the field.”

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