With her history, she was a flight risk.

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A VG Serial: ToxiCity

Episode 39

Before he left the station, Matt called Donna Cleveland. But it was six in the morning, and her machine picked up. He left a message to call him ASAP, then headed home. The day had dawned sunny and unseasonably warm, last night’s fog stippling the sky with gold-tinged clouds.

It occurred to him that they probably had enough to indict Hartman even without a confession. But he couldn’t. Aside from the fact he thought she was telling the truth, Brenda didn’t look strong, and she wasn’t in great shape. She couldn’t have tossed Romano into the dumpster by herself. She would have needed help. Aside from Cleveland, she didn’t know many people here, and Matt didn’t see Cleveland as an accomplice. The pieces didn’t fit, no matter how much he and Brewster wanted them to.


The smell of coffee woke him. He opened his eyes and saw Georgia perched on the bed, steam rising from the cup in her hands. She was wearing one of his T-shirts. She smiled, leaned over, kissed him. “So? Is it over?”

He shook his head.

Her smiled vanished as she handed him the cup. “I’m sorry. I know how much you wanted it.”

He sat up and sipped the coffee. Black and strong, the way he liked it. “Thanks.”

She lifted a hand to caress his forehead.

He set the coffee down.

“You want to go to synagogue?”

He shook his head again. “Too much going on.”

An hour later Georgia dropped him at the station. A night in jail apparently had made Brenda Hartman realize the seriousness of her situation. She’d called her husband; he was driving in from Muncie. The Assistant States Attorney, Tom Dirksen arrived and was talking to Brewster.

“We want her shipped down to Twenty-sixth and Cal after bond court,” Brewster said.

“You want bail waived? On a burglary charge?”

“We think she murdered Julie Romano.”

Dirksen’s eyebrows arched.

“But we don’t have enough evidence,” Matt cut in. “We need more time with her.”

“How much?”

“I don’t know. But with her history, she’s a flight risk.”

“How’s that?”

“She ran away from home a couple of months ago.”

Dirksen scowled.

Matt knew that would get him. Run-aways were supposed to be screwed up teenagers, not mature women.

“Home is Indiana?”

“Yeah, but she ‘s been jumping around the Midwest for a while, and we’re concerned she’ll pull a disappearing act. How much time can you get us?”

The states attorney shrugged. “Maybe a few days at most.”

“That’ll help.”

Matt retreated to his desk. He was writing up his report when Donna Cleveland called. She confirmed she and Brenda had been together the night Julie Romano died. She could even supply the names of the women they ‘d gone to the movies with.

Matt hung up and crumpled his report into a ball.


Episodes in the novel will be published on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.

Please click the following title,ToxiCity, to read more about Libby Fischer Hellman’s books on Amazon.

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