BARR SPENT THE REST of the afternoon at the police station with Irene, processing and doing paperwork and whatever else you have to do when someone confesses to murder. We'd agreed to meet at his house that evening, and as I made the short drive in Meghan's Volvo, I kept replaying the events in Irene's basement in my mind. What kept coming back to me over and over was the look in Zak's eyes as he'd watched his mother confess to murder. As with so many others involved with the case, his life was now changed forever.
I guess I should have been surprised to find Hannah's rental car parked in front of Barr's house, but I wasn't. I was beginning to wonder if she'd ever leave us alone. What had Irene said about Ariel? That it seemed like she would never go away.
And look what had happened to her.
The door was open, and I walked right in without knocking. Hannah stood in front of the sofa. She turned her head, and fury filled her eyes the instant she saw me. She'd cut off her long braid and now sported a short, tousled mop that mimicked my own. A wave of distaste washed through me when I saw it. Words of protest on my tongue, I turned toward Barr, who stood across the living room from her. They died when I saw the expression on his face, at once surprised, fearful, and pleading. The skin on the back of my neck tingled. Tension crackled in the space between them, and I could feel it extending toward me.
What was his ex up to this time?
"Did I interrupt something?" I asked. Couldn't quite keep the sarcasm out of my voice, but I didn't really try, either.
"Sophie Mae," Barr said. "Please don't take this wrong, but I need you to leave. Go home. I'll call you as soon as I can." The pleading in his eyes increased.
I was stunned. "What's going on here?"
"Please," he said.
Hannah shifted, snagging my attention.
And I saw the gun.
She held it easily in her hand. I don't know anything about guns, but it seemed big enough to do some real damage.
I looked at the gun. I looked at Hannah. She smiled. Then she pointed it at Barr.
"What are you going to do?" I asked. "Make him go back to Wyoming or shoot him?"
She made a noise of exasperation in the back of her throat, and pointed the barrel at me. "Shut up. This isn't about you."
"The hell it isn't."
Barr took a step toward her. She swung the weapon toward him again, and he stopped.
"Let me handle this," he said, voice low and calm. I had a sudden notion of him dealing with a horse or a cow-or a grizzly bear-using the same tone. "Hannah will let you go. Won't you, Hannah?"
She started to nod, then shook her head once. Her eyes darted left and right, and her shoulders hunched defensively. It was one thing to start waving a gun around at Barr, but another to add a third party, and her rival at that. My presence had backed her into a corner. My neck tingled again at the thought.
Barr was right. I should leave while I still could and let him handle his loony ex.
On the other hand, I had an idea.
"Oh, for heaven's sake," I said, and walked between them and into the kitchen.
Hannah looked confused as I passed. So did Barr.
I opened the cupboard and took out a glass. Ice clattered out of the refrigerator door into the glass, and then I ran tap water into it. Took a long drink.
"Anyone want anything?" I called.
"Water?" I opened the fridge again. "There's some root beer in here."
"No thanks," Barr said from the other room.
"Uh, no," came the hesitant reply.
"Okay, then," I said, returning to the living room. I walked straight up to Hannah and snatched the gun out of her hand. She was so surprised she didn't resist.
"This time you've gone too far," I said. The edge in my voice could have cut glass.
Barr was at my side in an instant. I gave him the gun and turned back to his ex-wife. Utter defeat slumped her shoulders, and she stared down at the floor.
She nodded. "I just-"
"You cut your hair."
"You can't force someone to love you."
"But you can do a pretty good job of making them dislike you. A lot."
Her head snapped up, eyes searching for Barr's. "Do you hate me now?"
A pause, and then he said, "You've got to stop this nonsense. Go back to the ranch. It's where you belong."
"Yeah." She grimaced, and looked between us.
"So go home," I said, "and leave us alone."
She blinked. "I'm sorry."
"Good," I said. "'Bye"
So I wasn't as easygoing as Barr. Sue me.
And she left this time. Really and truly left.