Gone for Good Page 35

Sheila was dead.

I was still back there, with Sheila, back in our apartment, grasping smoke, trying to hold on to what was already gone, when Pistillo’s words cut through the haze.

“You should have cooperated with us, Will.”

I surfaced as if from a sleep. “What?”

“If you’d told us the truth, maybe we could have saved her.”

Next thing I remember, I was out in the van.

Squares alternated between pounding on the steering wheel and swearing vengeance. I had never seen him so agitated. My reaction had been just the opposite. It was like someone had pulled out my plug. I stared out the window. Denial was still holding, but I could feel reality start hammering against the walls. I wondered how long before the walls collapsed under the onslaught.

“We’ll get him,” Squares said yet again.

For the moment, I did not much care.

We double-parked in front of the apartment building. Squares jumped out.

“I’ll be fine,” I said.

“I’ll walk you up anyway,” he said. “I want to show you something.”

I nodded numbly.

When we entered, Squares reached into his pocket and pulled out a gun. He swept through the apartment, gun drawn. No one. He handed me the weapon.

“Lock the door. If that creepy asshole comes back, blow him away.”

“I don’t need this,” I said.

“Blow him away,” he repeated.

I kept my eyes on the gun.

“You want me to stay?” he asked.

“I think I’m better off alone.”

“Yeah, okay, but you need me, I got the cell. Twenty-four, seven.”

“Right. Thanks.”

He left without another word. I put the gun on the table. Then I stood and looked at our apartment. Nothing of Sheila was here anymore. Her smell had faded. The air felt thinner, less substantial. I wanted to close all the windows and doors, batten them down, try to preserve something of her.

Someone had murdered the woman I love.

For the second time?

No. Julie’s murder had not felt like this. Not even close. Denial was, yep, still there, but a voice was whispering through the cracks: Nothing would be the same ever again. I knew that. And I knew that I would not recover this time. There are blows you can take and get back up from—like what happened with Ken and Julie. This was not like that. Lots of feelings ricocheted through me. But the most dominant was despair.

I would never be with Sheila again. Someone had murdered the woman I love.

I concentrated on the second part. Murdered. I thought about her past, about the hell she had gone through. I thought about how valiantly she’d struggled, and I thought about how someone—probably someone from her past—had sneaked up behind her and snatched it all away.

Anger began to seep in too.

I moved over to the desk, bent down, and reached into the back of the bottom drawer. I pulled out the velour box, took a deep breath, and opened it.

The ring’s diamond was one-point-three carats, with G color, VI rating, round cut. The platinum band was simple with two rectangle baguettes. I’d bought it from a booth in the diamond district on 47th Street two weeks ago. I’d only shown it to my mother, and I had planned on proposing, so she could see. But Mom had no good days after that. I waited. Still, it gave me comfort that she’d known that I had found someone and that she more than approved. I had just been waiting for the right time, what with my mother dying and all, to give it to Sheila.

Sheila and I had loved each other. I would have proposed in some corny, awkward, quasi-original way and her eyes would have misted over and then she would have said yes and thrown her arms around me. We would have gotten married and been life partners. It would have been great.

Someone had taken all that away.

The wall of denial began to buckle and crack. Grief spread over me, ripping the breath from my lungs. I collapsed into a chair and hugged my knees against my chest. I rocked back and forth and started to cry, really cry, gut-wrenching, soul-tearing cries.

I don’t know how long I sobbed. But after a while, I forced myself to stop. That was when I decided to fight back against the grief. Grief paralyzes. But not anger. And the anger was there too, lingering, looking for an opening.

So I let it in.


When Katy Miller heard her father raise his voice, she stopped in the doorway.

“Why would you go over there?” he shouted.

Her mother and father stood in the den. The room, like so much of the house, had a hotel-chain feel to it. The furniture was functional, shiny, sturdy, and totally lacking in warmth. The oils on the wall were inconsequential images of sailing ships and still lifes. There were no figurines, no vacation souvenirs, no collections, no family photographs.

“I went to pay my respects,” her mother said.

“Why the hell would you do that?”

“I thought it was the right thing to do.”

“The right thing? Her son murdered our daughter.”

“Her son,” Lucille Miller repeated. “Not her.”

“Don’t give me that crap. She raised him.”

“That doesn’t make her responsible.”

“You never believed that before.”

Her mother kept her spine stiff. “I’ve believed it for a long time,” she said. “I just haven’t said anything.”

Warren Miller turned away and began to pace. “And that jackass threw you out?”

“He’s in pain. He just lashed out.”

“I don’t want you to go back,” he said, waving an impotent finger. “You hear me? For all you know, she helped that murdering son of a bitch hide.”


Katy stifled a gasp. Mr. Miller’s head snapped around. “What?”

“She was his mother. Would we have done differently?”

“What are you talking about?”

“If it was the other way around. If Julie had killed Ken and needed to hide. What would you have done?”

“You’re talking nonsense.”

“No, Warren, I’m not. I want to know. I want to know if the roles were reversed, what would we have done? Would we have turned Julie in? Or would we have tried to save her?”

As her father turned away, he spotted Katy in the doorway. Their eyes met and for the umpteenth time in her life, he could not hold his daughter’s gaze. Without another word Warren Miller stormed upstairs. He made his way into the new “computer room” and closed the door. The “computer room” was Julie’s old bedroom. For nine years it had remained exactly the same as the day Julie died. Then one day, without warning, her father had gone into the room and packed up everything and stored it away. He painted the walls white and bought a new computer desk at Ikea. Now it was the computer room. Some took this as a sign of closure or, at least, moving on. The truth was just the opposite. The whole act was forced, a dying man showing he can get out of bed when all it really did was make him sicker. Katy never went in there. Now that the room had no tangible signs of Julie, her spirit seemed somehow more aggressive. You relied on your mind now instead of your eyes. You conjured up what you were never meant to see.

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