“What’s wrong?” She wasn’t entirely sure why her stomach clutched at the sight of Quinn using a magnifying glass on one of the photos, but it could have to do with the somewhat dazed and shocked expression on his face.
But that expression vanished when he lifted his gaze to hers. “Sorry. Just thinking.” He set the glass down. “These pictures are … disturbing. I’m trying to imagine someone playing dead for the camera.”
“You think she’s acting?” Of all the reactions she’d imagined the good detective having, that hadn’t cracked the top one hundred.
“Quinn, that woman isn’t playing at anything. You can see the progression. She’s dying. On film. And here? After she’s been in the water?”
She stepped forward, tapped a finger on the final image. “She’s dead.”
The distance in his voice pushed her deeper into resolve and incredulity. How could he not see what she did? And why did it bother her so much that he didn’t?
“Did Merle tell you where he got the negatives?” She didn’t hear Quinn in his voice now. All she heard was cop. The hair on the back of her neck bristled even as the little voice in her head sang “told you so.”
“Merle didn’t get the negatives, he got the film,” Riley explained carefully. “There’s a difference. I can walk you through the process—”
“Where did he get them?” The urgency in his voice churned up new bubbles of doubt. “Where did the box they were in come from?”
“A customer.” It was all he was going to get out of her as long as he refused to share what he obviously knew. There was no denying that guarded, suspicious glint in his eyes. A glint that removed any lingering doubt the pictures represented far more than just a macabre photo shoot. He did believe they were real—he was just downplaying his reaction. She was trying to decide what would piss her off more: him not believing her, or him pretending he didn’t. The later won out. She bristled.
He set that last picture on top of the others, closed the folder, and picked it up.
“What are you doing?”
“I’m taking these with me.” It wasn’t a question or a request, but a flat out statement.
“Fine.” She shrugged. “I’ll just develop another set.”
“No.” He didn’t flinch. He didn’t hesitate. He ordered. “No, I want the negatives, too.”
So he was going back on their deal after all. Disappointment crashed through her. She should have known. “Why?” she challenged. “If you’re saying they’re not what I thought they were—”
“The negatives, Riley.” Every word sounded like an expertly aimed shot from his gun. “Give them to me.”
She crossed her arms over her chest and planted her feet as if standing in front of a linebacker. “No.”
“What do you mean no?”
Her fists clenched so hard her nails bit into her palms. It should have come as a relief, the offer to take all of this out of her hands. Heck, wasn’t she just thinking it wasn’t worth the emotional exhaustion to keep dwelling on them? But she didn’t feel any sense of relief by his command. Instead, she felt only a stomach-churning sense of dread and heartbreaking disappointment. She’d probably just broken the world record for almost-hook-up to bust up.
“There’s not really anywhere to go with the word, detective.” The title tasted more than a little bitter on her tongue now. “No, you can’t have the negatives.”