CHAPTER ONE HUNDRED and TWENTY-SIX
Monday morning — 6:30 A.M.
Ava woke to the sound of delicate piano music. Unsure of where she was, she closed and opened her eyes. She smiled.
She was at Seth’s house.
When they’d finished the preliminary forensics work in that awful mansion’s awful crypt and had catalogued all of the disgusting ‘trophies’, Seth had asked her what her choice was. Exhausted, she shook her head then slept most of the way back to Denver. He woke her when they neared Denver and asked again. She’d said she wanted to go to his house.
She’d told him she didn’t care if it was messy. She didn’t care if it was small. She just wanted to be safe and warm. Seth had given her a long look then turned off Colorado Boulevard onto Montview. He parked his car in front of one of those huge mansions that had been split up into apartments. She was so exhausted she didn’t bother to look around. He’d led her up the stairs to his bedroom. He’d gently undressed her then tucked her in. She was asleep before her head hit the pillow.
She reached out for Seth, but he wasn’t there. Sitting up in bed, she saw that he hadn’t slept in the bed. In the dim morning light, she looked around the large room. She was lying in an antique four poster bed. The room was spotless and beautiful. Large antique mullioned windows were framed in dark oak. The wood floors were covered with antique Turkish rugs. She picked up her clothing to put it on and realized it was filthy. Spotting a door, she went to use the large bathroom. She slipped on the white bathrobe hanging on the door and went to find Seth. He couldn’t be far in this small apartment.
She opened the door to the bedroom and gawked.
This wasn’t an apartment.
She shrugged. She didn’t care if he rented a room here. Careful not to wake the other residents, she slipped down the wide oak staircase and down to the main level. Her feet padded on the shining oak floors. She followed sound of the piano until she found carved double hung sliding doors. She pressed her head against the door. A cell phone rang.
“O’Malley,” Seth’s gravely voice came through the doors.
She opened the sliding doors to find a wide open drawing room. The morning light was just beginning to filter in through the sheer curtains. Delicate Queen Anne antique furniture was grouped in sitting arrangements around the large room. The focal point of the room was a Grand Piano. Seth was sitting on the piano bench. Hearing her, he finished his conversation and looked up. He smiled.
“Did I wake you?” he asked.
She shook her head.
“What is this place?” she asked.
“My home,” he said. “You wanted to see it.”
“The whole thing?”
“The whole thing.”
“But…” she started.
“How can I afford all of this on a cop’s salary?” Seth returned to playing the piano. “It’s amazing how much money a cop can make by pulling the right strings and losing the right evidence for the right people.”
Gaping, Ava stood in the middle of the room. Seth continued playing. When he looked up at Ava’s shocked face, he laughed. He played and laughed until she turned to leave the room.
“I inherited it.”
He raised a shoulder in a shrug. Unsure of what to do, she sat down next to him on the bench.
“Seriously?” she asked.
“Serious as a dirge,” he said.
“What are you playing?” she asked. “I feel like I’ve heard it before but…”
“You might have,” he said. “It’s something I wrote when I was a kid. After last night, I needed something comfortable and familiar.”
He continued to play through her stunned silence.
“The Colorado Symphony play this concerto in their Colorado composers series. It’s been in a couple movies. You know those preachy, too-serious documentaries? My work is popular with the independent film makers.”
Ava’s surprise kept her silent. He continued playing.
“My mother used to say that I was born playing the piano. I’m glad she missed the time I stopped playing when I was high all the time. It would have killed her. I still wrote music but mostly because I have to.”
“Have to?” Ava asked.
“That’s how it feels,” Seth said. “The piano is one of the gifts of sobriety. I love to play. I think it’s the only time I’m truly at peace with myself. I write music when I’m working on a big case.”
“But…” she started.
“What?” he stopped playing to look at her.
Embarrassed, she didn’t say anything else.
“You thought I lived in some junked out house filled with take-out containers and trash. Cop’s lifestyle.” He leaned forward to kiss her nose. “I might have but Maresol, my housekeeper, hates messes. She runs this house like a well oiled machine. She’ll be here in a little more than an hour. Would you like some breakfast? She makes the most amazing pancakes. If we ask nice, she’ll even make donuts.”
Seth fingers moved across the keyboard in the quick and lively Mozart Concerto 11.
“How many people know about this?”
“About what?” Seth asked. “The house? Or the music?”
“Not many,” Seth said. “It’s not a secret. I just don’t bring people home.”
“Why?” Ava asked.
“Too much to explain,” he said. “It’s still your choice. What would you like?”
“We have an hour?” she asked.
Ava raised her eyebrows. Without saying another word, he took her hand and led her to his bedroom.
Denver Cereal continues on Monday…