Chapter 28


Oliver woke the next morning to the worst headache of his life. The bright morning sun lanced through the parted curtains, causing him to groan and pull the covers back up over his head. The muscles in his shoulders and thighs ached. His head felt heavy and each thought sparked through his head like a burning ember drifting lazily through a muggy night.

He flung out an arm and was vaguely surprised to find the bed empty beside him. Only then did it strike Oliver as odd that he was sleeping in the bed instead of the sofa that he had occupied at night since Jeanne had come to stay with him.

Oh… he thought.

He opened his crusty eyes and glared suspiciously at the empty place beside him in the bed. Did that actually happen?

Oliver pushed the blankets away from his head, wincing again at the bright light, and swung his feet to the floor. He opened his mouth, closed it again, and moved his tongue experimentally across the inside of his teeth as he scanned the room through squinted eyes.

The bedclothes were a tangled mess. An empty bottle of bourbon and two glasses, one still half filled with amber liquid, rested on his bedside table. Oliver’s socks lay beside the bed, but his pants and other items of clothing were strewn across the living room. He turned his head and saw a small piece of paper, creased at the center to it would stand upright, perched on the table beside the far side of the bed.

“You’re joking,” he croaked.

The bourbon in the glass was watery, Oliver guessed it had been poured over an ice cube hours before, but it still packed enough of a burn to scorch away the worst of Oliver’s foggy mind. He lurched to his feet and cautiously walked around to the other side of the bed, still clutching the glass. The solid heft of it felt good in his hand, the angles of the cut glass bringing to mind the facets of a gem.

Gem. That was important.

Oliver picked up the paper on the bedside table, held it up in front of his face, and blinked twice. He willed his eyes to focus on the words scratched onto the page with a cheep blue pen. The handwriting was nearly as bad as his own, but he managed to make out the first two lines:


Thank you for all of your help…

“Oh, no. You have got to be kidding me,” he groaned. The glass in his hand was empty of alcohol, but it was heavy and still held some of the night’s chill. He pressed the glass against his temple and tried to read again.


Thank you for all of your help in securing my family gem…

“What’s it going to take to get the truth out of you?” Oliver muttered. He let the hand holding the letter drop and turned towards the kitchen, then spotted something that had been hidden underneath the letter on the bedside table. It was a foil pack of over the counter sleeping pills with a single blister popped. “She freaking drugged me,” he said, shaking his head as he turned his back on the bed and shuffled towards the kitchen.