Page 15 of Beach Bodies

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She looked at the printout from the DMV with the woman’s name and photo. Jessica Rider. Twenty-seven. Smiling, attractive, young. The scoundrel husband was almost forty. Laura leafed through the file for a photo. He was a tired-looking forty, with messy hair, dark smudges under his eyes, and a thin face; maybe the madness of the trading floor was getting to him.

This wasn’t the first case Laura had had where she wanted to go to the cheater and say,Is she worth it, buddy? Is having a different bed partner worth screwing up your kids and destroying your wife?

With women cheaters, it was a little different, although she knew she would be on shaky ground if she ever voiced her opinions out loud.Women were often looking for attention. Recognition. Appreciation. Although who was to say men weren’t looking for that, as well?

With the photo printout in hand, Laura went inside Target, ready for a long shopping experience. Pushing a cart, she went up and down the aisles, looking at the faces of the young employees in red shirts stocking and checking out customers and running the show for minimum wage.

After a half hour, she wandered over to the pharmacy, where she saw Jessica Rider. She was the pharmacist. Quickly turning away, Laura made a beeline to the checkout with her cart full of unnecessary items. She had enough antacids, paper towels, and chocolate-covered peanuts to last a long while.

Now all she needed was a photo of some intimate moment between the couple, and she could hand the case file over to the wife. Back at home, she filled out the time card she’d use to invoice the client. She sent a short email.

Waiting to get that recipe.Their code words forIs he working late?

Setting the file aside for now, she picked up files for her new cases and began to sort through the information she had so far for case number two. This was a wealthy couple, the young wife a colorful character who ran a successful New Age health spa and was a frequent guest on local television.

She suspected her psychiatrist husband was sleeping with his office assistant. When Laura saw the photo of the husband, she bit her lip to keep from laughing. It was unprofessional to say, but she wondered what had attracted her to the man. Maybe he had a fabulous personality, and then she thought,you dummy, the guy’s wealthy. Money disguised a multitude of sins.

After a little digging around, Laura discovered that it was public knowledge that his private medical practice financed his wife’s growing spa business, and she’d achieved a little financial independence from him in the past year. Now this.

“I thought we could finally start a family, but no! He’s not interested in me, so there must be someone else, and the only person I can think of is his assistant.”

“What about a client?” Laura had asked.

“He’s a child psychiatrist. I don’t think so.”

But Laura wasn’t so sure. He had no social media presence that she could find. The practice website was up to date and informative, aimed at the distraught parents of children battling myriad issues. Maybe he was involved with a parent.

She’d have to follow him. There was no other way to gather information than good old-fashioned footwork. It was an aspect of detective work she enjoyed: spying on people. And during lunch would be optimum; his wife had said he had lunch in town at the coffee shop on Main every day.

Dressing in disguise was Laura’s first dilemma. She wanted to blend into the crowd, and with her statuesque height and strawberry-blond hair, she’d have to tone down her appearance.

A fad before her time had been the ridiculous baseball cap with the fake hair attachment. She didn’t own one, but someone had given Will a Mets cap with black dreadlocks as a gag gift years earlier. It was perfect. With her hair in a bun on top of her head and the cap pulled over it, she actually looked like someone with dark hair.

Wearing Will’s super baggy University of Pennsylvania sweatshirt that came to her knees with jeans and sneakers, the cap, dark glasses, bright-magenta lipstick, and a fake cigarette holder, she might attract some attention, but she was unrecognizable.

The doctor’s office was uptown in one of the historic storefronts along Main Street. It was just cool enough out to drive rather than ride her bike or walk. The key was to park far enough from the town center that her car wouldn’t be noticed.

She pulled into the parking lot of the Organic Bonanza, the local grocery store, and parked on the fringes. While she prepared to lock her bag in the trunk, the sound of a high-performance engine pulling up behind her got her attention.

“It’s not Halloween yet, is it?”

She turned to find a former boyfriend, estate attorney Dan Chua, grinning at her from his Porsche.

“You’re kidding me, right?” she moaned. “I’m supposed to be in disguise.”

“I recognized your, um… never mind. I recognized you from a block away. But it’s a good get-up for someone who doesn’t know you. Are you trailing anyone I know?”

“I hope not,” she said, grimacing. “Could you move on, please? I’m trying not to call attention to myself.”

“Good luck with that,” he said, laughing. “You’ll have to put a bag over your head and wear sackcloth.” He pulled away with a final wave.

“Ugh, jerk,” she mumbled, closing the trunk.

She’d cross the street and walk down a block to the shops. Trying but failing to blend in with the office workers, young mothers pushing strollers, and older women meeting in groups for lunch, Laura window-shopped before dropping into the coffee shop for a takeaway cup just so she’d have something to carry while she browsed and eavesdropped. If this was the place where the doctor had lunch every day, hopefully Laura would discover with whom.

A crowd had formed in the shop, the proprietor talking to a woman holding a microphone, so Laura quickly took a step backward through the crowd.

“What’s going on inside?” she asked a lady waiting in line.