Today's Reading

The medics had the victim loaded up ready to transport. "How's she doing?" Leah asked.

One medic's expression told her more than words could.

Leah felt sick to her stomach.

"Can we go to the hospital with her?" Lavinia asked. "I'll call her mother."

"If you wish. I'll be there as soon as I sort things out here." The couple left and Leah located Tanner. He was talking to some animated people who must have witnessed the fight. They pointed this way and that, obviously affected by what they had seen. She waited a beat for him to finish. "Tanner, let's check out the apartment."

He nodded and followed her. "Guy's full name is Carlos Porter, around twenty-six years old. He's the estranged husband. Has a possible address in West Table Rock, but no one here saw which direction he ran."

"So he doesn't live here," Leah said, half to herself. She couldn't concentrate, kept seeing the victim's face in her mind's eye.

When they reached the apartment's open door, she stopped. Obviously a fight had taken place. What sparse furniture was in the room was broken or torn. Just inside the door, on the floor, Leah saw something bloody. As she looked closer, she realized she was looking at a hard-plastic model horse, a realistic scale model with pointed ears and a long tail. All of the legs were broken off, and that stopped her cold. This was what he'd beaten Alex with. Carlos most likely reached for the most convenient weapon. And it was probably a piece of a broken leg that Alex had clenched in her fist. Anger welled up inside Leah and she clenched her own fists, shoulder aching where Brad had squeezed it a few hours ago hard enough to leave a bruise. Tanner stepped around her and inside the apartment first.

Frowning, he asked, "Do you hear water running?"

Leah tore her eyes away from the horse. They'd need to collect it as evidence, but she did hear water running.

"Bathroom's in the back." They started toward the rear of the apartment.

Tanner reached the door first and lurched inside. "It's the guy!" he said, alarm in his voice.

Leah followed him in and saw the reason for his quick reaction. A male subject was in the tub, head slumped on his chest, eyes closed. Water ran down the drain—blood-tinged water. He'd cut his wrists.

Tanner shoved the shower curtain out of the way and grabbed the guy's shoulders. He fit the description of Carlos Porter.

"Get some towels," Tanner said as he struggled with the deadweight. There was scant room in the tight space for Leah to move in and help.

She pulled a towel from the sink as Tanner draped the limp body across the bathroom floor.

"Here, take this," she said. "Is he breathing?"

"Barely." Tanner felt for a pulse at the neck, then took the towel. He wrapped it around one wrist, then checked the other. "Weak pulse. He cut the wrong way; bleeding is slowing."

Leah saw that. Keying her mike, she explained the situation and asked for a second ambulance. She opened the small cupboard under the sink and found another towel. This one she wrapped around the man's other wrist. The bleeding looked to have stopped, but she applied pressure anyway.

Squinting as sweat ran down her face, burning her eyes, Leah raised her arm and wiped the side of her face with her shoulder sleeve, a dull ache reminding her of her injury. Because of the warm night it was very humid in the tight space. She leaned over Carlos and Tanner to turn off the faucet, watching the last of the pink water disappear.

"What a coward," Tanner said.

"What?" Leah jerked around to face him. Who was he calling a coward?

"This guy. Any man who hits a woman is a coward. And he didn't have the guts to deal with the consequences of his actions."

Leah considered that as they waited for the paramedics. Coward. She agreed with him. But there was a disconnect. Her husband could never be called a coward. He was a cop—a good one. Yet he'd smacked her more than a few times in the last two years.

Was this her future? What she'd seen in the courtyard? Broken and beaten by Brad after he grabbed for the closest weapon?

No,' she told herself. My situation is entirely different. Brad was sorry. It was an accident. It's not the same thing.

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