Promise Me Page 48

“I was going to try to retrace Aimee’s footsteps. See if I can figure out where she really went.”

“What do you mean, ‘really went’?”

“There was a reason she picked this spot. She used this house as a diversion. It wasn’t her real destination.”

“You think she ran away, don’t you?”

“I don’t think it was a random abduction or anything like that,” Myron said. “She led me to this specific spot. The question is, why?”

Erik nodded. His eyes were wet. “You mind if I tag along?”

He did, but Myron shrugged and started toward the house. The occupants might wake up and call the police. Myron was willing to risk that. He opened the gate. This was where Aimee had gone in. He made the same turn she made, went behind the house. There was a sliding glass door. Erik stayed silent behind him.

Myron tried the glass door. Locked. He ducked down and ran his fingers along the bottom. Some kind of crud had accumulated. Same with the door frame going up.

The door had not been opened in a while.

Erik whispered, “What?”

Myron signaled him to keep quiet. The curtains were pulled closed. Myron stayed low and cupped his hands around his eyes. He looked into the room. He couldn’t see much, but it looked like a standard family den. It was not a teen’s bedroom. He moved toward the back door. That led to a kitchen.

Again no teen bedroom.

Of course Aimee might have misspoken. She might have meant that she went through a back door to get to Stacy’s room, not that the bedroom was right there. But heck, Stacy didn’t even live here. So either way, Aimee had clearly lied. This other stuff—the fact that the door hadn’t been opened and didn’t lead to a bedroom. That was just the icing.

So where had she gone?

He got on all fours and took out his penlight. He shined it on the ground. Nothing. He hoped for footprints, but there hadn’t been much rain lately. He put his cheek flat on the grass, tried to look not so much for prints as any sort of ground indentation. More nothing.

Erik started looking too. He didn’t have a penlight. There was almost no other illumination back here. But he looked anyway and Myron didn’t stop him.

A few seconds later Myron stood. He kept the penlight low. The backyard was half an acre, maybe more. There was a pool with a whole other fence surrounding it. This gate was six feet high and kept locked. It would be hard, though not impossible, to scale. But Myron doubted Aimee had come here for a swim.

The backyard disappeared into woods. Myron followed the property line into the trees. The nice wooden picket fence ran around the side property lot, but once you got into the wooded area, the barrier became wire mesh. It was cheaper and less aesthetic, but back here, mixed in with branches and thicket, what did it matter?

Myron was pretty sure what he would find now.

It was not unlike the Horowitz-Seiden border near his own home. He put his hand on top of the fence and kept moving through the brush. Erik followed. Myron wore Nikes. Erik had on tasseled loafers without socks.

Myron’s hand dipped down near an overgrown pine bush.

Bingo, this was the spot. The fence had caved in here. He shined the penlight. From the rusted-out look of it, the post had buckled years ago. Myron pulled down on the mesh a little and stepped over. Erik did likewise.

The cut-through was easier to find. It ran no more than five, six yards. It had probably been a longer path years ago, but with the value of land, only the thinnest clump of brush was now used for privacy. If your land could be made usable, you made sure that it was.

He and Erik ended up between two backyards on another cul-de-sac.

“You think Aimee went this way?”

Myron nodded. “I do.”

“So what now?”

“We find out who lives on this street. We try to see if there’s a connection to Aimee.”

“I’ll call the police,” Erik said.

“You can try that. They might care, they might not. If someone she knows lives here, it might just further back up the theory that she’s a runaway.”

“I’ll try anyway.”

Myron nodded. If he were in Erik’s shoes, he would do that too. They moved through the yard and stood on the cul-de-sac. Myron studied the homes as if they might give him answers.

“Myron?”

He looked at Erik.

“I think Aimee ran away,” he said. “And I think it’s my fault.”

There were tears on his cheek.

“She’s changed. Claire and I, we’ve both seen that. Something happened with Randy. I really like that boy. He was so good with her. I tried to talk to her about it. But she wouldn’t tell me. I . . . this is going to sound so stupid. I thought maybe Randy had tried to pressure her. You know. Sexually.”

Myron nodded.

“But what decade do I think we’re living in? They’d been together two years already.”

“So you don’t think that was it?”

“No.”

“Then what?”

“I don’t know.” He went silent.

“You said it was your fault.”

Erik nodded.

“When I drove Aimee here,” Myron said, “she begged me not to say anything to you and Claire. She said that things weren’t good with you two.”

“I started spying on her,” Erik said.

That wasn’t a direct answer to the question, but Myron let it go. Erik was working up to something. Myron would need to give him room.

“But Aimee . . . she’s a teenage girl. Remember those years? You learn how to hide things. So she was careful. I guess that she was more practiced than I was. It’s not that I didn’t trust her. But it’s part of a parent’s job to keep tabs on their children. It doesn’t do much good because they know it.”

They stood in the dark, staring at the houses.

“But what you don’t realize is that even while you’re spying on them, maybe every once in a while, they turn the tables on you. Maybe they suspect something’s wrong and they want to help. And maybe the child ends up keeping tabs on the parent.”

“Aimee spied on you?”

He nodded.

“What did she find, Erik?”

“That I’m having an affair.”

Erik almost collapsed with relief when he said it. Myron felt blank for a second, totally empty. Then he thought about Claire, about how she was in high school, about the way she’d nervously pluck her bottom lip in the back of Mr. Lampf’s English class. A surge of anger coursed through him.

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