Gone for Good Page 6

Morty worked on her the best he could. Patchwork really. Get her stabilized, he thought. Stabilized and out of here.

When he was done, the man lifted her gently. “If you say anything—”

“I’ve been threatened by worse.”

The man hurried out with the woman. Morty stayed in the basement. His nerves felt frayed from the surprise wake-up. He sighed and decided to head back to bed. But before he went up the stairs, Morty Meyer made a crucial error.

He looked out the back window.

The man carried the woman to the car. He carefully, almost tenderly, laid her down in the back. Morty watched the scene. And then he saw movement.

He squinted. And that was when he felt the shudder rip through him.

Another passenger.

There was a passenger in the back of the car. A passenger who very much did not belong. Morty automatically reached for the phone, but before he even picked up the receiver, he stopped. Who would he call? What would he say?

Morty closed his eyes, fought it off. He trudged back up the steps. He crawled back into bed and pulled the covers up over him. He stared at the ceiling and tried to forget.


The note Sheila left me was short and sweet:

Love you always.


She hadn’t come back to bed. I assume that she’d spent the entire evening staring out the window. There’d been silence until I heard her slip out at around five in the morning. The time wasn’t that odd. Sheila was an early riser, the sort who reminded me of that old army commercial about doing more before nine than most people did all day. You know the type: She makes you feel like a slacker, and you love her for it.

Sheila had told me once—and only once—that she was used to getting up early because of her years working on the farm. When I pressed her for details, she quickly clammed up. The past was the line in the sand. Cross it at your own peril.

I was more confused by her behavior than worried.

I showered and dressed. The photograph of my brother was in my desk drawer. I took it out and studied it for a long time. There was a hollow sensation in my chest. My mind whirled and danced, but coming through all that was one pretty basic thought:

Ken had pulled it off.

You may have been wondering what’d convinced me that he’d been dead all these years. Part of it, I confess, was old-fashioned intuition mixed with blind hope. I loved my brother. And I knew him. Ken was not perfect. Ken was quick to anger and thrived on confrontation. Ken was mixed up in something bad. But Ken was not a murderer. I was sure of that.

But there was more to the Klein family theory than this bizarre faith. First off, how could Ken have survived on the run like this? He’d only had eight hundred dollars in the bank. Where did he get the resources to elude this international manhunt? And what possible motive could there have been for killing Julie? How come he never contacted us during the past eleven years? Why was he so on edge when he came home for that final visit? Why did he tell me that he was in danger? And why, looking back on it, didn’t I push him to tell me more?

But most damaging—or encouraging, depending on your viewpoint—was the blood found at the scene. Some of it belonged to Ken. A large splotch of his blood was in the basement, and small drips made a trail up the stairs and out the door. And then another splotch was found on a shrub in the Millers’ backyard. The Klein family theory was that the real murderer had killed Julie and seriously wounded (and eventually killed) my brother. The police’s theory was simpler: Julie had fought back.

There was one more thing that backed the family theory—something directly attributable to me, which was why, I guess, no one took it seriously.

That is, I saw a man lurking near the Miller house that night.

Like I said, the authorities and press have pretty much dismissed this—I am, after all, interested in clearing my brother—but it is important in understanding why we believe what we believe. In the end, my family had a choice. We could accept that my brother murdered a lovely young woman for no reason, that he then lived without any visible income in hiding for eleven years (this—don’t forget—despite extensive media coverage and a major police search)—or we could believe that he had consensual sex with Julie Miller (ergo much of the physical evidence), and that whatever mess he had gotten himself into, whoever had terrified Ken so, maybe whoever I saw outside the house on Coddington Terrace that night had somehow set him up for a murder and made sure his body would never be found.

I’m not saying it was a perfect fit. But we knew Ken. He didn’t do what they said. So what was the alternative?

Some people did give credence to our family’s theory, but most were conspiracy nuts, the kind who think Elvis and Jimi Hendrix are jamming on some island off Fiji. The TV stories gave it lip service that was so tongue-in-cheek you’d expect your television to smirk at you. As time went by, I grew quieter in my defense of Ken. Selfish as this might sound, I wanted a life. I wanted a career. I didn’t want to be the brother of a famous murderer on the run.

Covenant House, I’m sure, had reservations about hiring me. Who would blame them? Even though I’m a senior director, my name is kept off the letterhead. I never appear at fund-raising functions. My job is strictly behind-the-scenes. And most of the time, that’s okay with me.

I looked again at the picture of a man so familiar yet totally unknown to me.

Had my mother been lying from the beginning?

Had she been helping Ken while telling my father and me she thought he was dead? When I think back on it now, it was my mother who had been the strongest proponent of the Ken-dead theory. Had she been sneaking him money the whole time? Had Sunny known where he was from the start?

Questions to ponder.

I wrested my eyes away and opened a kitchen cabinet. I’d already decided that I wouldn’t go out to Livingston this morning—the thought of sitting in that coffin of a house for another day made me want to scream—and I really needed to go to work. My mother, I was sure, would not only understand but encourage. So I poured myself a bowl of Golden Grahams cereal and dialed Sheila’s work voice mail. I told her I loved her and I asked her to call me.

My apartment—well, it’s our apartment now—is on 24th Street and Ninth Avenue, not far from the Chelsea Hotel. I usually walk the seventeen blocks north to Covenant House, which was on 41st Street, not far from the West Side Highway. This used to be a great location for a runaway shelter in the days before the cleanup of 42nd Street, when this stretch of stench was a bastion of in-your-face degradation. Forty-second Street had been a sort of Hell’s Gate, a place for the grotesquely amative intermingling of species. Commuters and tourists would walk past prostitutes and dealers and pimps and head shops and porno palaces and movie theaters, and when they’d reach the end, they’d either be titillated or they’d want to take a shower and get a shot of penicillin. In my view, the perversion was so dirty, so depressing, it had to weigh you down. I am a man. I have lusts and urges like most guys I know. But I never understood how anyone could confuse the filth of toothless crackheads for eroticism.

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