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Authors: Amy Tintera

Listen for the Lie

BOOK: Listen for the Lie
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For Laura, Emma, and Daniel.

Thank you for having so many ideas.

CHAPTER ONE
LUCY

A podcaster has decided to ruin my life, so I'm buying a chicken.

I make plans for this chicken as I sit in my cubicle at Walter J. Brown Investment Services, waiting to be fired. I stopped pretending to work two hours ago. Now I'm just staring at recipes on my phone, dreaming about sticking lemons up a chicken's butt.

It's an apology chicken, for my boyfriend.

It's like that engagement chicken. The one women make to persuade their boyfriends to propose? Except this is a “sorry I didn't tell you I'm the prime suspect in my friend's murder” chicken.

Apology chicken, for short.

“Lucy?”

I look up from my phone to see my boss standing at the door of his office. He adjusts his tie and clears his throat.

“Could you come in for a minute?” he asks.

Finally. They clearly decided to fire me this morning. Glass office walls are a strange choice always, but especially when you have a meeting with three other managers, and none of them can stop glancing over at your assistant, whom they are clearly discussing, for the entire conversation.

“Sure.” I slide my phone into my pocket and follow him into his immaculate office.

I'm struck by how pristine it is, even after nearly a year of working
for him. There's nothing on the beige walls. No boxes piled in a corner. The desk is completely bare except for the monitor and the keyboard.

Every evening, when Jerry Howell walks out of his office, he leaves absolutely no evidence that he was ever there. He probably missed his calling as a serial killer.

Of course, he's only in his midforties. Plenty of time to take up a new hobby.

I sit down in the chair on the other side of his desk and try to put a pleasant expression on my face. One that doesn't betray the fact that I was calmly thinking about him murdering people.

(A side effect of being accused of murder is that you spend a lot of time thinking about it. You get used to it.)

Jerry reaches up to touch his hair, and then quickly folds his hands on top of his desk. He does that a lot. I think he used to play with his hair, but he's balding now, and it's cut very close to his scalp.

“I'm sorry, Lucy, but we have to let you go,” he says, to the surprise of no one.

I nod.

“We're downsizing, unfortunately.” He looks at a spot just past my shoulder instead of at my face. “Having assistants double up. Chelsea is going to assist both me and Raymond. I'm sorry.”

Chelsea's really getting the short end of the stick here. Double the work, all because of a true crime podcast.

“I understand.” I get to my feet. Jerry looks relieved that I'm not going to make a scene.

Through the ill-advised glass wall of the office, I can see a security guard already standing at my desk. It's standard procedure when someone is fired, but I can't help but notice that all three of the assistants who sit in my cubicle pod have fled.

I guess we're not getting “sorry you were fired for being a suspected murderer” drinks.

My desk is not as clean as Jerry's, and I have to take a minute to
gather up my mug, water bottle, purse, and several tubes of lip balm. The security guard hovers the entire time.

He marches me through the now-silent office to the elevator while everyone either watches or pretends not to see. Chelsea looks pissed.

I step into the elevator. The door slides shut.

The security guard leans closer to me with a grin. One of his front teeth overlaps the other.

“So, did you do it? Did you kill her?”

I sigh. “I don't know.”

“Seriously? That's the truth?”

The elevator door opens again with a
ding
. I step out and look at him over my shoulder.

“The truth doesn't matter.”

CHAPTER TWO
LUCY

It's probably unfair to say that a podcast ruined my life.

Technically, my life was destroyed the night Savvy was murdered.

And then it was destroyed again, the next day, when I decided to take an early-morning stroll with her blood drying on my dress.

And for a third time, when everyone in my hometown decided that
I
was the one who killed her.

But a podcaster dragging the case into the public eye, five years later, doesn't exactly
improve
my life.

I'm making the apology chicken, because my former coworkers aren't the only ones listening to Ben Owens's newest season of his true crime podcast. My boyfriend, Nathan, was weird when he came home from work last night. He was late, and smelled like beer, and he wouldn't look at me. Clearly, someone clued him in.

To be honest, I never had any intention of telling him. Nathan has almost no interest in anything besides himself. I didn't think it would come up.

I've known plenty of self-absorbed men, but Nathan takes the cake. It's my favorite thing about him. I can't even remember the last time he asked me a personal question. When I told him that I'd been married for two years, in my early twenties, he said, “No worries, want to go to a movie?”

I'm sure he must have googled me at some point early in our rela
tionship, but the case didn't generate national media attention, and I was never actually arrested for the crime, so you have to do a tiny bit of digging to find me. That is way too much effort for Nathan.

But now, thanks to my least favorite podcaster, murder is the very first thing that pops up when you google “Lucy Chase.” So I'm making apology chicken and preparing to get dumped. Immediately after getting fired.

To be fair to Ben Dipshit Owens, Nathan and I probably wouldn't have made it more than another month or two, even without a surprise murder thrown into the relationship. We'd only been dating for three months when he offered to let me move in with him. My lease was up, and we were still in the sex-all-the-time phase of our relationship, so it seemed logical. I was there every night anyway.

Unfortunately, that phase ended about two weeks after I moved in. I'm pretty sure Nathan regretted his decision, but he's the kind of guy who avoids conflict at all costs. So, we've been awkwardly living together for two months now, even though I'm pretty sure neither of us is all that thrilled about it.

Let this be a lesson to all the men out there who can't handle conflict—man up and dump your girlfriend, or you might end up living with a suspected murderer indefinitely.

The front door opens, and Brewster runs over to greet Nathan, tail wagging.

I'd be lying if I said that Brewster's little furry yellow Lab face didn't factor into my decision to keep living with this man. He may be a deeply average dude, but he has great taste in dogs.

Also, decent taste in apartments. The recently renovated nine-hundred-square-foot one-bedroom with a dishwasher
and
an in-unit washer/dryer is more than I've ever been able to afford in Los Angeles. It has these gray hardwood floors and bright white marble countertops that aren't all that trendy anymore, but still clearly signal that you pay a monthly rent that would horrify people in most other parts of the country.

“Hi, boy.” Nathan spends a long time petting his dog, trying to avoid looking at me. “Something smells good.”

“I made chicken.”

He stands, finally glancing my way. His attention turns to the chicken, cooling on the stove.

“Great.” He loosens his tie and pulls it off, unbuttoning his collar.

I used to love watching him do that. He always stretches his neck to one side as he pulls free his top button, and there's something really sexy about it. Every time he'd come home, I'd stop what I was doing and hop over to give him a kiss. I'd run my hands into his dark hair, perfectly combed to one side for work, and muss it up a bit, because I think it looks better that way.

He notices me staring at him and suddenly looks alarmed. “I, uh, I'm going to change.” He rockets into the bedroom like I might chase him down for a kiss.

I pull out a carving fork and knife. The chicken now seems like a bad idea. Maybe I don't care enough to apologize.

Then again, I'm going to have to find a new place to live if Nathan kicks me out, and landlords tend to require pesky things, like proving you have an income.

I pierce the chicken just as Nathan walks back into the room. He swallows, his Adam's apple bobbing, and I briefly imagine stabbing the fork straight into his neck. It's two-pronged, so it would leave twin bloody little holes, like a vampire bite.

My other hand is holding the knife, and I stare at him as I double-fist my weapons, waiting. I want him to say it first. He's the one who clearly thinks I'm a murderer; he should have to say it first. I'm pretty sure those are the rules.

I stare. He stares.

Finally, he says, “How was work?”

“I was fired.”

He edges around me and reaches into the counter next to the fridge. “Cool. You want some wine? I'm going to have some wine.”

I wait for my words to sink in, but he just reaches for the bottle of wine, oblivious.

I stab the knife into the chicken, right between the breast and thigh. I may have used a bit more force than necessary.

Nathan jumps. I smile.

At this rate, he's going to end up married to a murderer.

Listen for the Lie Podcast with Ben Owens

EPISODE ONE—“THE SWEETEST GIRL YOU EVER MET”

Maya Harper:
She got away with murder, and everyone knows it. Every single person in Plumpton knows that Lucy Chase killed my sister. It's just that no one can prove it.

Maya Harper was eighteen years old when her older sister, Savannah, was murdered. She describes Savannah as fun and sweet, the kind of woman who could organize a party in less than an hour and make it look like she'd worked on it all month.

Maya
:             She was just so nice and welcoming to everyone. And she was the best sister. When she was in high school, she'd let me hang out with her and her friends sometimes. And we weren't even close in age. She was six years older than me. I didn't know anyone else who had a big sister who let a little ten-year-old tag along to football games.

Maya was happy to talk to me, but she was skeptical that I'd find anything new.

Maya:
             You know that my family has hired three different private investigators, right? Like, my parents did not give up. I don't know if there's anything left to find.

Ben:
               I'm aware, yeah.

Maya:
             I guess it couldn't hurt, though. I mean, it's been five years and it's like no one even cares anymore that Savvy is dead. They've all given up.

A quick note here—you'll often hear people who knew Savannah refer to her as “Savvy.” It was what most people called her.

Ben:
               So you haven't heard any updates from the police or the DA or anyone?

Maya:
             Not in years. They all knew Lucy did it, they just couldn't prove it, I guess.

Ben:
               There have never been any other suspects?

Maya:
             No. I mean, Lucy was covered in Savvy's blood when they found her. She had Savvy's skin underneath her fingernails,
there were scratches on Savvy's arm and bruises shaped like Lucy's fingers. People saw them fighting at the wedding. Lucy killed her. She killed my sister and got away with it because the useless police department said there wasn't enough evidence for an arrest.

Ben:
               Have you had any contact with Lucy recently?

Maya:
             No, not since she left Plumpton. She's never come back, even though her parents still live here.

Ben:
               As far as you know, is she still claiming to have no memory of the night Savannah died?

Maya:
             Yeah, that was her story.

Ben:
               Do you believe her?

Maya:
             Of course I don't believe her. No one believes her.

Is it true that no one believes Lucy Chase? Is she hiding something, or have the people of Plumpton accused an innocent woman of murder for five years?

Let's find out.

I'm Ben Owens, and this is the
Listen for the Lie
podcast, where we uncover all the lies people tell, and find the truth.

BOOK: Listen for the Lie
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