35

The housing market in the U.S. was taking a plunge, but neither Margo nor the real estate company she worked for felt the effects. In fact, sales couldn’t have been better. An estimated twenty thousand military troops and their families were expected to converge on the Fayetteville area in the next two years, and real estate deals were for the asking.

Margo sat in her office, preparing showings for two of her clients. She had sold over two million dollars in property this month and made a nice piece of change doing it. She picked up the photos of the homes she would show that afternoon and thought about how happy the families would be if and when they decided upon any one of the dozen properties she had chosen for them to look at.

She glanced at the picture of her family that sat on a corner of her desk. Those had been good times-times when she knew what a happy home meant. Over the past few weeks, she was trying to make it a home again. She and Jefferson were back to sleeping together, but her body wouldn’t respond to what her brain chose to ignore.

Glancing at her watch, Margo shoveled the photos and specs together and put them in a file folder. Thankful for the privacy screen that surrounded her office space, she grabbed her purse, took out a tube of lipstick, and painted her lips. Before she had time to bring her lips together to make sure they were covered, she heard voices and then a face soon peeped into her cubicle.

She froze upon seeing him. Avoiding Malik had been easy, except on Sundays while at church. They would turn away from each other, if one happened to look in the other’s direction, especially since Jefferson was attending every week.

Eyebrows arched, Malik approached and stared at Margo as if she was the goddess Venus, the one responsible for love, beauty, and sexuality, not to mention marriage, procreation, and domestic bliss. Still holding the lipstick, Margo sighed and looked away.

“You’re beautiful, Margo,” Malik said, his stare searing her flesh and going through the garments she wore.

“You shouldn’t have come here, Malik,” she whispered. “Jefferson may show up anytime, and right now I’ve got to see a client.”

“When will you be finished?” Malik asked, not willing to let go so easily.

“I don’t know. It could take a couple of hours or more. And I’ve got another client to see after that.”

“Why don’t you cancel…reschedule your late appointment? I need to see you, Margo. It’s been weeks since we’ve talked, since we…”

Margo put her fingers to Malik’s lips.

“You’ve got to forget it, Malik. I’m trying to make a life with my husband. I promised that I would stand by him.”

“Did he stand by you, Margo? Think about all the time you lost while he was sitting in prison, unable to support you because he comprised his right to be with you. Embezzling from your own company and having an affair with your married next-door neighbor shouldn’t qualify you for a second chance.”

Margo stood up. “Listen to you, Malik. The pastor spoke about forgiveness on Sunday. You’re better than Jefferson. Please, please don’t try and put me in a position to choose between you and my husband.”

“Oh, so I might stand a chance?”

“Cut it out, Malik, and leave. I’m going to be late.”

“Is something going on that I should know about?”

Margo and Malik jumped at the sound of Jefferson’s voice. “No, Jefferson,” Margo managed to say. She looked like a ghost. She wasn’t sure what he might have heard. “I’m on my way to meet a client.”

“I hope he isn’t it,” Jefferson said as he controlled the urge to do harm to Malik. “I received a call about an hour ago from my attorney.”

“What is it?” Margo asked.

Jefferson kept his eye on Malik, who had yet to move. “Hamilton was murdered today in Central Prison.”

Malik and Margo reacted at the same time.

“My God!” Margo said.

“Damn,” was all Malik could come up with, although he had relaxed a bit now that he was sure Jefferson hadn’t heard his exchange with Margo.

“Do you know who did it?” Margo asked.

“Another inmate. They believe Hamilton had a mark on him.”

Margo dropped down in her chair. “I don’t believe it. No matter how awful Hamilton was, he didn’t deserve to die that way.”

“Someone believed he did, and it has me a little worried.” Jefferson scrunched his face. “Do you mind if I speak with my wife alone?” he asked Malik.

“I was on my way out anyway,” Malik said and walked away.

“I don’t like him, Margo. I don’t like the sight of him, and I best not catch him hanging around you again. Today was his lucky day because I didn’t feel like a fight with Hamilton on my mind.”

“Jefferson, I can’t keep him away from here. This is a public place,” Margo said and sighed. “You have nothing to worry about; I’m not going anywhere.”

“I’m not worried about that right now. I’m afraid, Margo. I have to find out who killed Hamilton. Robert Santiago is still out there somewhere, and this sounds like him. Why now? Why today?”

“Hamilton’s death may be entirely the work of someone else. He probably pissed someone off in prison-you know he could do that well. I think you’re reading more into it, Jefferson. Try and relax. I wonder where Angelica is? Even though she and Hamilton had a rocky marriage, she loved that man.”

“She did.”

“Were you ever in love with her?” Margo asked as if it were a routine question. It was quite obvious to her that she caught Jefferson off guard.

Jefferson stared at her. “I’ve never been in love with Angelica, Margo. She used people to benefit herself, but she loved you more than you believe.”

“Well, it’s all relative now. I tried to do the Christian thing by her, love thy neighbor as thyself, but she ran off to who knows where, and I’m done being the nice person.”

“She’s probably somewhere making someone else’s life miserable. I’m glad she’s out of our lives. But I’m worried, Margo. Hamilton’s death has Santiago written all over it. Mark my words.”

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