Gone for Good Page 29

The fashion stages, like so many other things, ended with Julie Miller’s murder. My mom—Sunny—packed the clothes away and stored them in the dingiest corner of the basement.

Dad flipped the headband back into the box. “We were going to move, you know.”

I hadn’t.

“Three years ago. We were going to get a condo in West Orange and maybe a winter place in Scottsdale, near Cousin Esther and Harold. But when we found out your mother was sick, we put it all on hold.” He looked at me. “You thirsty?”

“Not really.”

“How about a Diet Coke? I know I could use one.”

Dad hurried past me and toward the stairs. I looked at the old boxes, my mother’s handwriting on the sides in thick marker. On the shelf in the back I could still see two of Ken’s old tennis rackets. One was the first he’d ever used, when he was only three. Mom had saved it for him. I turned away and followed him. When we reached the kitchen, he opened the refrigerator door.

“You want to tell me what happened yesterday?” he began.

“I don’t know what you mean.”

“You and your sister.” Dad pulled out a two-liter bottle of Diet Coke. “What was that all about?”

“Nothing,” I said.

He nodded as he opened a cabinet. He took out two glasses, opened the freezer, filled them with ice. “Your mother used to eavesdrop on you and Melissa,” he said.

“I know.”

He smiled. “She wasn’t very discreet. I’d tell her to cut it out, but she’d just tell me to hush, it was a mother’s job.”

“You said, me and Melissa.”


“Why not Ken?”

“Maybe she didn’t want to know.” He poured the sodas. “Very curious about your brother lately.”

“It’s a natural enough question.”

“Sure, natural. And after the funeral, you were asking me if I think he’s still alive. And then the next day, you and Melissa have an argument about him. So I’ll ask you one more time: What’s going on?”

The photograph was still in my pocket. Don’t ask me why. I’d made color copies with my scanner that morning. But I couldn’t let go of it.

When the doorbell rang, we both jumped, startled. We looked at each other. Dad shrugged. I told him I’d get it. I took a quick sip of the Diet Coke and put it back on the counter. I trotted to the front door. When I opened it, when I saw who it was, I nearly toppled back.

Mrs. Miller. Julie’s mom.

She held out a platter wrapped with aluminum foil. Her eyes were lowered as though she were making an offering on an altar. For a moment, I froze, unsure what to say. She glanced up. Our eyes met just as they had when I stood on her curb two days earlier. The pain I saw in them felt alive, electric. I wondered if she felt the same coming from mine.

“I just thought . . .” she began. “I mean, I just . . .”

“Please,” I said. “Come in.”

She tried to smile. “Thank you.”

My father moved from the kitchen and said, “Who’s there?”

I backed up. Mrs. Miller stepped into view, still holding up the platter as if for protection. My father’s eyes widened, and I saw something behind them burst.

His voice was a rage-filled whisper. “What the hell are you doing here?”

“Dad,” I said.

He ignored me. “I asked you a question, Lucille. What the hell do you want?”

Mrs. Miller lowered her head.

“Dad,” I said more urgently.

But it was no use. His eyes had gone small and black. “I don’t want you here,” he said.

“Dad, she came to offer—”

“Get out.”


Mrs. Miller shrunk back. She pushed the platter into my hands. “I better go, Will.”

“No,” I said. “Don’t.”

“I shouldn’t have come.”

Dad shouted, “Damn right you shouldn’t have come.”

I shot him a glare, but his eyes stayed on her.

With her eyes still lowered, Mrs. Miller said, “I’m sorry for your loss.”

But my father was not through. “She’s dead, Lucille. It doesn’t do any good now.”

Mrs. Miller fled then. I stood holding the platter. I looked at my father in disbelief. He looked back and said, “Throw that crap away.”

I was not sure what to do here. I wanted to follow her, to apologize, but she was halfway up the block and moving fast. My father had moved back into the kitchen. I followed, slamming the platter down on the counter.

“What the hell was that about?” I asked.

He picked up his drink. “I don’t want her here.”

“She came to pay her respects.”

“She came to ease her guilt.”

“What are you talking about?”

“Your mother is dead. There’s nothing she can do for her now.”

“That doesn’t make any sense.”

“Your mother called Lucille. Did you know that? Not long after the murder. She wanted to offer her condolences. Lucille told her to go to hell. She blamed us for raising a murderer. That’s what she said. It was our fault. We raised a murderer.”

“That was eleven years ago, Dad.”

“Do you have any idea what that did to your mother?”

“Her daughter had just been murdered. She was in a lot of pain.”

“So she waits until now to make it right? When it won’t do any good?” He shook his head sternly. “I don’t want to hear it. And your mother, well, she can’t.”

The front door opened then. Aunt Selma and Uncle Murray entered with their grieving smiles in place. Selma took over the kitchen. Murray busied himself with a loose wall plate he’d spotted yesterday.

And my father and I stopped talking.


Special Agent Claudia Fisher stiffened her spine and knocked on the door.

“Come in.”

She turned the knob and entered the office of Assistant Director in Charge Joseph Pistillo. The ADIC—immaturely nicknamed, naturally enough, a-dick—ran the New York office. Outside of the director in Washington, an ADIC was the most senior and powerful agent in the FBI.

Pistillo looked up. He did not like what he saw. “What?”

“Sheila Rogers was found dead,” Fisher reported.

Pistillo cursed. “How?”

“She was found on a roadside in Nebraska. No ID. They ran her prints through NCIC and got a hit.”

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