AatW – 65

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The days that followed kept Alice distracted and jittery. She waited expectantly for Hackett to return home each night, then struggled to fight the lump in her throat each time he told her that he hadn’t gotten any news on the investigation yet. During the hours she spent alone, she kept herself busy with caring for her baby and knitting, going through her yarn at a rapid rate. Gertie once stopped by for a visit, but she said very little during the hour that the two of them sat in the living room, and the older woman sensed that she needed her space. Then, finally, the day came that Hackett announced, “They found blood at the base of the tree, and it was a match for the undercover officer.”

Alice wanted to faint. She sagged against him, holding onto his shirt to keep herself supported while burying her face in his chest. “I was right,” she muttered. “That was the right place.”

“You’ll need to testify in court. I know that you don’t have any concrete memories, but you were the one who identified the scene.” Hackett slowly stroked her hair. “It might be enough for a conviction.”

“Might?” Alice looked up to see his face.

“The evidence is better than what we had before – it’s certainly enough to arrest him on – but a decent lawyer has a chance of keeping him out of prison. Unfortunately, he working with Miranda, and she could probably pull that off.”

“Oh.” Alice tightened her grip on Hackett’s shirt. “But this is still good, right?”

Hackett grunted and nodded. “It will be a relief to have justice … and closure.”

“Oh no!” Alice suddenly exclaimed. “I feel so selfish! All along I’ve been thinking about how badly I wanted Damon out of our lives, and it never properly occurred to me that he murdered your friend.”

Hackett gently traced the side of Alice’s face with his fingers, studying her features for a moment. “My sweet darling,” he murmured. “You’ve been busy rebuilding the pieces of your own life. My friend wasn’t Damon’s only victim.”

Alice closed her eyes. “You really don’t mind cleaning up the mess he left?”

“I’m the one who gained a family, with a beautiful wife and a baby girl. I could do worse.”

She smiled slightly. “I’m so glad that we found each other.”

“Me too.” Hackett bent to kiss Alice, only to be interrupted by Alicia crying from her rocker the moment their lips brushed. Alice blushed and apologized as she jumped to pick up and console her baby, but Hackett only smiled, pulling them both into a hug. “Did I ever tell you that you’re the cutest mother I’ve ever seen?”

“I’m just doing my best to love my baby, that’s all,” Alice replied shyly. “I don’t want her to grow up lost and confused the same way I did.”

“Mm hm, and that’s one of the things that I love most about you – you always put your heart into everything you do, a hundred and ten percent.” Hackett closed his eyes. “Don’t ever change, Mrs. Alice Hackett.”

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