Brad stared at Alex, thoroughly confused. “What do you mean? I thought you and her…”
Alex’s head shot up. “I won’t discuss that,” he said angrily, glaring from him to Haden. He looked ready to bolt and Brad straightened, moving behind his desk.
“Should we break for lunch?” he asked the chief, reaching for the phone. Haden grimaced sourly at the abrupt change of conversation, but inclined his head.
Alex looked baffled, then the anger left his face and he sank into his chair, folding his arms on his chest.
“Jane was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen,” he said into the quiet room. Brad replaced the receiver in its cradle, watching Alex’s expressive face. The boy took a breath. “I was fourteen, and lonely. She was kind to me.” A fleeting smile touched his lips. “I didn’t even know what love was.”
He looked at them without embarrassment. “Sean Elson was a good man. A better father than I deserved. I was backward and stupid, afraid of my own shadow. His patience still amazes me. He set it up so I wouldn’t have to go to school, and when he couldn’t be there, Jane made sure I did my lessons.”
He turned suddenly to Ben. “I wanted to do something big with my life, to thank him, but he died…”
Haden’s craggy face softened at the distress in his voice. “Don’t worry, son. He’d be proud of you.”
Brad noisily picked up the phone in the awkward pause that followed Ben’s words. “So, sandwiches all right with everyone?”
Alex laughed as the tension eased in his chest. “Sure.”