Thomas sat with his gun aimed at Jude. Neither man had spoken for the last minute, and instead, Jude just stared at the weapon as if he were in complete shock.

“What the hell do you think you’re doing?” Jude stayed very still and knew better than to make any sudden movements, even though Thomas was waiting for him to do just that.

“Don’t act so surprised. You had to know I’d figure it out sooner or later. Or do you really think I’m that stupid?” The man had always underestimated him.

“I’m not sure what you’re talking about,” said Jude, giving a subtle shrug. His eyes looked around the room as if he was looking for a way out of the situation.

Thomas shook his head to discourage Jude from lying. “You know. You’ve been lying to me, so don’t even deny it.” He would only put up with so much.

“Okay, so I’ve been staying in this shitty motel, and I don’t really have my own place. So what?” Jude seemed to search his eyes as if he was trying to see what Thomas knew. But Thomas wanted him to come clean about everything.

“Try again,” said Thomas. “And this time, try not to insult my intelligence. You know damned well why you’re here. And it isn’t for me.”

“I don’t know what you want me to say. But you need to trust me and just put the gun away. This is fucking crazy, man. You know me.”

“What I know is that my wife ends up dead, and you show up out of the blue to help after years as if nothing has changed. And now I find out you’ve been lying to me the whole time. And you want me to trust you? I don’t think so.”

Jude’s chest rose as he took a deep breath. “I want you to put the gun away and stop acting like you don’t know me, for God’s sake.”

“That’s the problem. So much time has passed. Do I still know you? What do you do? Who do you work for?” He was practically a stranger.

“I’ve already told you.” Which meant he wasn’t going to offer up more.

“You told me lies. I saw you. I saw you here, with Monica Morrison of all people.”

Jude let out a sigh, and Thomas thought he seemed as if the air had been let out of him. “So, you’re spying on me now?”

“I saw your car here. I wondered if it was you and why you’d be at a dump like this, so I pulled in to see if it was your car. You came out with her. So don’t bother denying it. And when I called, you lied to me about it. So, what am I supposed to think?”

“I don’t know.” Jude shrugged again, and Thomas could almost hear the wheels turning in his brain as he looked for an excuse.

“Don’t,” he said. “Don’t even play dumb. It was never your thing. You know I know who she is. A woman like her is pretty fucking hard to miss in a place like this. And it is not a coincidence that her father invented the very drug that was found in Ella’s system.”

“I didn’t have anything to do with that.”

“Of course, you would say that. But how do I know? Maybe this is your way of getting even. You know, since she chose me over you.”

“I would never hurt her.”

“Oh, right. Because you loved her. Isn’t that what you told her, that you loved her and you wanted her to ditch me and go away to be with you?”

“It was a long time ago. And I never told her to choose me. I only wanted her to know my feelings in case she was having doubts. I wanted her to be happy.”

“Oh, so that makes it better? Right? As if she couldn’t be happy with me? As if you were a better option? What a dick.”

“Yeah, I’m a dick.” He rolled his eyes. “Put the gun away. If you were going to use it, you would have by now.”

“No, I have things to say to you. And I want to know what you’re doing here. I want to know what you did to my wife. So you need to start providing some answers.”

“I said I didn’t have anything to do with Ella’s death. I promise you.”

“Did your girlfriend? Because her father sure as hell did. And if you’re with them, then you’re just as guilty.”

“Think what you want. He didn’t have anything to do with it either. Look, put the gun away, and we’ll talk rationally about this.”

“Oh, I’m rational. In fact, I’m seeing things clearer than I have in days. And that’s all thanks to you. So I want you to tell me everything, or I’m calling my boss, and I’ll put my own fucking job on the line just to turn your ass in. Or I’ll shoot you in the fucking face. Either way, it’s fine. I’m done with the lies. I want to know why my wife and my child had to die. I want to know why everything was taken from me!”

“I don’t know,” he said, giving Thomas a sympathetic look that only made him more aggravated. “Thomas, look at me. You’re overreacting. It’s me. It’s Jude. I’m your best friend. I care about you.”

“As much as you care about Monica Morrison, I’m sure. Let me guess. You’re going to tell me that you picked her up and seduced her to get answers for us?”

“No,” he said. “She’s my girl. I’m not going to deny that.”

“You already have. What happened to you telling me about you not wanting to settle down and how you didn’t have a girlfriend?”

“I couldn’t tell you without you wanting to know who she is or wondering why I didn’t bring her around. That’s all. And I told you the truth. My work is private.”

“And because I would make the connection between her and Precision-X.”

“Yeah, but I knew you’d get the wrong idea. Which I was obviously right about. It’s like I said, I can only tell you so much, Thomas. It’s for our safety.”

Thomas wanted him to just admit what he had going on and that he had his own agenda by coming back around. “Well, let’s see what you have to say and if I like it. Because it looks like you and your girl are responsible for what happened to Ella. You’re also responsible for all the deaths on campus.”

Jude gave him a sincere look. “No, we’re not. I promise. The military has already called Dr. Morrison. That’s how I knew about Ella. The news devastated me, Thomas. I knew I had to come and see you and make sure you were okay. I wanted to say my goodbyes and try to make things right again. But more than that, I had to find out how it leaked. It wasn’t from us.”

“Then how? Because the military is denying that the leak came from their end. In fact, they were eager to cover it up and forget all about it. I’m pretty sure there aren’t that many ways it could happen.”

“You should know how it is. They don’t want to have to explain themselves,” Jude said. “It’s easier to make it go away. And it would cost them a hell of a lot less that way. That shouldn’t surprise you.”

“Or, you and your boss are working to cover it up.” Thomas wouldn’t put anything past him at that point.

“No. If I wanted to do that, I wouldn’t have bothered with you. You’d already be dead.”

Thomas wasn’t surprised to hear that, and it was why he kept his gun aimed at his old friend.

“The truth is, we have our own business these days. And frankly, the deaths at the university could actually hurt us. It’s bad for business, which is why I have to find the person responsible.”

“So, you came here to protect yourself and your boss’s company.”

“That’s part of it. I’m not going to lie to you.”

“Why not? You have already. Just add it to the list.”

Jude pegged him with a hard look. “Stop being a bitch and listen to me. I didn’t and wouldn’t have ever hurt Ella. I loved her. I know you hate me for that. But I can’t change the past.”

“What do you expect me to do?”

“Fine. I am here to protect my interests. But I’m also here to help you. But you’ll either have to take my word for it or not. Shoot me or put the fucking gun away.”

“So you can kill me? No chance.” Thomas wasn’t stupid enough to believe that he wouldn’t kill him at the first opportunity.

Jude gave him a hard look. “I didn’t save your life all those years ago to kill you now.”

Thomas felt the sting of those words. He had been saved, but what good was it for him now? “Well, part of me is dead anyway. I’ve got to hold on just long enough to catch who did this to Ella.”

“Stop it. You may not believe me, but you can still trust me. And to prove it, I’ll tell you what I can.”

“Lucky me.”

Jude sighed. “I’ll start with the most important thing. We’re looking for the same person.”

Thomas’s eyes narrowed. Did Jude have information he had not shared with him? “What do you mean? Alice?”

“Yeah, or whoever. You and I both know this is much deeper than some girl from a study group. There has got to be someone else behind it. And they have been causing some issues for my boss.”

“And you know it’s the same person?” He wanted to know how when they didn’t even know who it was.

“Yes.” Jude nodded.

Thomas wanted to believe him. If he had the same agenda, it could help Thomas’s chances of catching the person. But he still wasn’t sure he could trust Jude enough to put his gun down. “How?”

“The phone number. It matches one that has been associated with the deaths of a few of our clients.”

“Your clients?” Thomas wondered just how many there were. And what they were clients of.

“Yes. But that’s all I can tell you.” Jude wasn’t going to budge.

But Thomas could guess. A man like Dr. Morrison, who had been so well known for his breakthroughs in medicine, wouldn’t go changing his stripes. “So, the good doctor is still selling drugs?”

“I didn’t say that,” said Jude, pulling his lips in tight.

“Well, you leave me to guess. So, I’m guessing.” And he had a feeling he was right on track.

“Knock yourself out. I can’t tell you if you’re right or not. All I can say is that we need to find them and stop them. So that puts us on the same path, and you know we’re a hell of a lot stronger together than apart.”

Thomas couldn’t deny that. But there were going to have to be conditions. “If I’m helping you, I’m going to need to know the whole story.”

“It’s not mine to tell.” Jude shook his head and gave Thomas an apologetic look.

“Great. Your boss can tell me. I’d like to speak to him.”

“That’s not possible.”

“I’ll go to him alone if you won’t bring me. You can tell him whatever you want. But I want to know what’s going on.”

“Look, my boss knows that you’re with the FBI. And, no offense, but he doesn’t trust you, so you’re not going to be able to get close to him.”

“I’ve already gone rogue. And no one needs to know what I’m doing. I’ll take an extended leave. My boss offered me all the time I need.”

Jude’s jaw tensed. “Dr. Morrison would never go for it.”

Thomas shrugged. “Well, I’m sorry, friend. Dr. Morrison doesn’t have a fucking choice.”


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