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Above Reproach

Now it was time to deal with Heiligenthal. She stared at the monitor, trying to ascertain how to get under his skin. He’d said he did everything to be above reproach when it came to being one-on-one with females. Could she use that? She thought of how the two women she’d talked to him about had made statements about him being honorable. Pshaw. There was no such thing as an honorable man. They were all beasts and every single one of them would take some if it was offered to them. Yes, her feminine wiles would be useful at this point. She smiled to herself and headed to the locker room. The four cameras in the interrogation room were hidden pretty well. Only someone who knew where they were would be able to place them. For the whole time she’d watched him, he hadn’t surveyed the room even once, keeping his hands folded and his head slightly bowed. Well, she’d surprise him!

She retrieved her purse from her locker and pulled out her meagre store of makeup. This time it was a weapon, she told herself, doing her up her eyes and putting on some lipstick. She unpinned her long, auburn hair and ran her fingers through it to let it flow over her shoulders. She removed her belt and hung it in the locker and then unbuttoned the top few buttons of her uniform shirt. She tried several different combinations to find what she thought would be most provocative without being too indecent, because she knew that too much would defeat her purpose as much as too little would. She looked at her cheeks, wishing she’d had some rouge, but her clean, tanned skin would have to suffice. Maybe Heiligenthal would be more uncomfortable with natural beauty? Hm. She smiled to herself. This should do to back him into a corner.

She saw him snatch up his glasses as she opened the door and walked in, swinging her hips just slightly. He blinked twice and raised his eyebrows, obviously surprised at the change.

“Well, Sam,” she said, purposefully lowering her voice seductively. “It seems you have been a rather bad boy.” He shifted slightly—uncomfortably, she thought—but when he replied his voice was even.

“In what way do you mean that, deputy?” There was not even a catch in it and Toni could feel her chest tightening. She tried to keep her smile in place.

“Oh, a little bird twittered in my ear that you like children,” she drawled. “You do like children, don’t you, Sam?”

“Of course, I like children,” he replied, then suddenly flushed, brows snapping down behind his glasses. “Are you saying you think I did that to Takisha?” he demanded, voice rising. Toni smiled smugly.

“My God, you’re twisted!” he exclaimed. “What makes you think I would do something like that? She’s a child, for crying out loud! Any man who touches a child and then kills it deserves to be executed for what he’s done!” He growled then sighed and rubbed his face with his hands, then looked down at them.

“You didn’t even think once about that sweet little black girl?” Toni crooned instead, perching herself on the edge of the table, trying to push him to some sort of confession.

“That you would even consider insinuating that, deputy!” he snarled back, shoving back from the table and standing up. “I would never look at a woman that way and much less a child.” He turned aside and let out a moan. “O Lord, this can’t be happening!” Ah, she was getting somewhere!

“What can’t be happening, Sam?” Toni purred. “Being stuck in a room with a beautiful woman, all alone?” She laughed beguilingly. “Don’t you like what you see?” He turned back towards her, eyes burning behind his glasses.

“What I see?” he hissed. “Do you know what I see?” There was a tone in his voice that sent a chill down her back and suddenly she wondered if she was truly master of the situation.

“What do you see, Sam?” she drawled instead. “Tell me.” She smiled as beguilingly as she could. To her surprise, he reached up and took off his glasses and looked at her full on. That odd luminescence she’d seen in the photos lit his eyes as he took her measure. Then he began to speak.

“I see a sorry, poor, broken woman,” he began sharply. “I see someone who is so wounded, she is doing everything and anything to heal herself, but it’s not helping. It’s only causing more pain, more suffering, more wounds.” His voice softened as he continued. “I see someone who longs to be loved but can’t find it. I see someone who is so sad and bitter, she is rotting from the inside out. I see someone who has lived with evil for so long, her eyes are blind to good when it comes up and stands before her in all its glory.” He sighed and there was a catch in his voice as he continued, almost as if he was trying to keep from crying. “I see someone who needs healing, but won’t accept it, even though it’s there for the taking.” His shining eyes gazed into hers gently. “That is what I see, deputy, and it’s not pretty.”

As he spoke, Toni could feel herself lose control of her posture and her facial expression. She knew she was staring at him, slack-jawed. She knew she was frozen in that provocative posture, unable to relax. She could feel tears stinging the corners of her eyes. How could he see those things that she herself refused to acknowledge when she lay alone in her dark room? How could he be so gentle about them? How could his voice be so tender as he spoke to her? She needed to get up, get out, get away! But she could not move.

Slowly, Sam Heiligenthal raised his horn-rimmed glasses and placed them back on his nose and, as he did, the spell broke. Toni could feel herself take a breath again, and another. She could feel her chest heaving. Unconsciously, she raised her hand and clutched at her shirt, pulling it shut. She was such a fool! She slipped off the table, staggered, grabbed at the door, trying to get it open. All the while he just stood there, looking away from her at the wall next to the door.

Finally, the knob yielded, and she staggered out into the hallway, slamming the door behind her. One sob escaped her lips, followed by a small “Gah!” She gagged for a moment and let out another moan, reaching up trembling hands to button her shirt. She had gotten two buttons done when she sensed someone was standing there. She looked over: Anders! He had an incredulous look on his face as he eyed her.

“What?” she snarled, unable to hide the shakiness in her voice.

“Sheriff wants to see you,” he said, then licked his lips.

“I’m all right,” she snapped back, pushing at her hair. “Don’t ask. Tell the old man I’m on my way. Just have to use the can.” She turned and nearly ran to the locker room, where she pinned up her hair again and washed off her makeup. She stared at her pale face in the mirror. The shakiness was wearing off, but the hollowness was not filled by her anger or hatred. Something about what Heiligenthal had said made it impossible. Like a doctor, diagnosing a dying patient, she thought, then shook her head. No, no, no, a thousand times no!

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