Gone for Good Page 24

And I hated myself for that.

It was nearly four in the morning when the van pulled up to my building.

“What do you make of it so far?” I asked.

Squares stroked his stubble. “What Castman said at the end there. About it never leaving her. He’s right, you know.”

“You speaking from experience?”

“As a matter of fact, I am.”


“So my guess is that something from her past came back and got her.”

“We’re on the right track then.”

“Probably,” Squares said.

I grabbed the door handle and said, “Whatever she’s done—whatever you’ve done—it may never leave you. But it doesn’t condemn you either.”

Squares stared out the window. I waited. He kept staring. I stepped out and he drove away.

A message on the phone knocked me back a step. I checked the time on the LCD. The message had been left at 11:47 P.M. Awfully late. I figured it had to be family. I was wrong.

I hit the play button and a young woman said, “Hi, Will.”

I didn’t recognize the voice.

“It’s Katy. Katy Miller.”

I stiffened.

“Long time, right? Look, I, uh, sorry I’m calling so late. You’re probably asleep, I don’t know. Listen, Will, could you give me a call as soon as you get this? I don’t care what time it is. I just, well, I need to talk to you about something.”

She left her number. I stood there, dumbstruck. Katy Miller. Julie’s little sister. The last time I’d seen her . . . she’d been six years old or so. I smiled, remembering a time—sheesh, Katy couldn’t have been more than four—when she had hidden behind her father’s army trunk and jumped out at an inopportune time. I remember Julie and I covering ourselves with a blanket, no time to pull up our pants, trying not to laugh our asses off.

Little Katy Miller.

She’d be, what, seventeen or eighteen by now. Odd to think about. I knew the effect Julie’s death had on my family, and I could pretty much surmise what it had done to Mr. and Mrs. Miller. But I’d never really considered the impact on little Katy. I thought again about that time Julie and I had pulled up the blanket giggling, and now I remembered that we’d been in the basement. We’d been messing around on the very couch where Julie would be found murdered.

Why, after all these years, was Katy calling me?

It could be just a condolence call, I reminded myself, though that seemed odd on several levels, not the least of which would be the hour of her call. I replayed the message, searching for a hidden meaning. I didn’t find one. She had said to call anytime. But it was four in the A.M., and I was exhausted. Whatever it was, it could wait until morning.

I climbed into bed and remembered the last time I’d seen Katy Miller. My family had been asked to stay away from the funeral. We complied. But two days later, I went by myself to the graveyard off Route 22. I sat by Julie’s tombstone. I said nothing. I did not cry. I did not feel comfort or closure or anything else. The Miller family pulled up in their white Oldsmobile Cierra, and I made myself scarce. But I’d met little Katy’s eyes. There was a strange resignation in her face, a knowing that went beyond her years. I saw sadness and horror and maybe I saw pity too.

I left the graveyard then. I had not seen or spoken to her since.


Belmont, Nebraska

Sheriff Bertha Farrow had seen worse.

Murder scenes were bad, but for overall vomit-inducing, bone-crunching, head-splitting, blood-splattering grossness, it was hard to beat the metal-against-flesh effect of an old-fashioned automobile accident. A head-on collision. A truck crossing the divider. A tree that splits the car from the bumper to the backseat. A high-speed tumble over a guardrail.

Now, that did serious damage.

And yet this sight, this dead woman at this fairly bloodless scene, was somehow much worse. Bertha Farrow could see the woman’s face—her features twisted in fear, uncomprehending, maybe desperate— and she could see that the woman had died in great pain. She could see the mangled fingers, the misshapen rib cage, the bruises, and she knew that the damage here had been done by a fellow human being, flesh against flesh. This was not the result of a patch of ice or someone changing radio stations at eighty miles an hour or a rush truck delivery or the ill effects of alcohol or speed.

This had been intentional.

“Who found her?” she asked her deputy George Volker.

“The Randolph boys.”

“Which ones?”

“Jerry and Ron.”

Bertha calculated. Jerry would be about sixteen. Ron fourteen.

“They were walking with Gypsy,” the deputy added. Gypsy was the Randolphs’ German shepherd. “He sniffed her out.”

“Where are the boys now?”

“Dave took them home. They were kinda shook up. I got statements. They don’t know nothing.”

Bertha nodded. A station wagon came tearing up the highway. Clyde Smart, the county medical examiner, stopped his wagon with a screech. The door flew open, and Clyde sprinted toward them. Bertha cupped a hand over her eyes.

“No rush, Clyde. She ain’t going anywhere.”

George snickered.

Clyde Smart was used to this. He was closing in on fifty, about Bertha’s age. The two had been in office for nearly two decades. Clyde ignored her joke and ran past them. He looked down at the body, and his face dropped.

“Sweet Jesus,” the M.E. said.

Clyde squatted beside her. He gently pushed the hair back from the corpse’s face. “Oh God,” he said. “I mean—” He stopped, shook his head.

Bertha was used to him too. Clyde’s reaction did not surprise her. Most M.E.s, she knew, stayed clinical and detached. Not Clyde. People were not tissue and messy chemicals to him. She’d seen Clyde cry over bodies plenty of times. He handled each DOA with incredible, almost ridiculous, respect. He performed autopsies as though he could make the person recover. He’d deliver bad news to families, and he’d genuinely share their grief.

“Can you give me an approximate time of death?” she asked.

“Not long,” Clyde said softly. “The skin is still in early rigor mortis. I’d say no more than six hours. I’ll get a liver temperature reading and—” He spotted the hand with the fingers that jutted out in unnatural directions. “Oh my God,” he said again.

Bertha looked back at her deputy. “Any ID?”


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