Gone for Good Page 65

“True, true, you’re absolutely right, Mr. Klein. I was”—the Ghost made quote marks with his skinny fingers—”hospitalized. You know what that means, Willie boy? They lock up a child with the most depraved whack-jobs that ever cursed this wretched planet, so as to make him all better. My first room-mate, his name was Timmy, was a pyromaniac. At the tender age of thirteen, Timmy killed his parents by setting them on fire. One night he stole a book of matches from a drunk orderly and lit up my bed. I got to go to the medical wing for three weeks. I almost set myself on fire so I wouldn’t have to go back.”

A car drove down Meadowbrook Road. I could see a little boy in the back, perched high by a safety seat of some kind. There was no wind. The trees stood too still.

“That was a long time ago,” my father said softly.

The Ghost’s eyes narrowed as if he were giving my father’s words very special attention. Finally he nodded and said, “Yes, yes, it was. You’re right about that too, Mr. Klein. And it wasn’t like I had a great home life to begin with. I mean, what were my prospects anyway? You could almost look at what happened to me as a blessing: I could get therapy instead of living with a father who beat me.”

I realized then that he was talking about the killing of Daniel Skinner, the bully who’d been stabbed with the kitchen knife. But what struck me then, what gave me pause, was how his story sounded like the kids we help at Covenant House—abusive home life, early crime, some form of psychosis. I tried to look at the Ghost like that, as if he were just one of my kids. But the picture would not hold. He was not a kid anymore. I don’t know when they cross over, at what age they go from being a kid who needs help to a degenerate who should be locked up, or even if that was fair.

“Hey, Willie boy?”

The Ghost tried to meet my eye then, but my father leaned in the way of even his gaze. I put a hand on his shoulder as if to tell him I could handle it.

“What?” I said.

“You do know I was”—again with the finger quotes—“hospitalized again, don’t you?”

“Yes,” I said.

“I was a senior. You were a sophomore.”

“I remember.”

“I had only one visitor the whole time I was there. Do you know who it was?”

I nodded. The answer was Julie.

“Ironic, don’t you think?”

“Did you kill her?” I asked.

“Only one of us here is to blame.”

My father stepped back in the way. “That’s enough,” he said.

I slid to the side. “What do you mean?”

“You, Willie boy. I mean you.”

I was confused. “What?”

“That’s enough,” my father said again.

“You were supposed to fight for her,” the Ghost went on. “You were supposed to protect her.”

The words, even coming from this lunatic, pierced my chest like an ice pick.

“Why are you here?” my father demanded.

“The truth, Mr. Klein? I’m not exactly sure.”

“Leave my family alone. You want someone, you take me.”

“No, sir, I don’t want you.” He considered my father, and I felt something cold coil in the pit of my belly. “I think I prefer you this way.”

The Ghost gave a little wave good-bye then and stepped into the wooded area. We watched him move deeper into the brush, fading away until, like his nickname, he vanished. We stood there for another minute or two. I could hear my father’s breathing, hollow and tinny, as if coming up from a deep cavern.


But he had already started toward the path. “Let’s go home, Will.”


My father would not talk.

When we got back to the house, he headed up to his bedroom, the one he had shared with my mother for nearly forty years, and closed the door. There was so much coming at me now. I tried to sort through it, but it was too much. My brain threatened to shut down. And still I didn’t know enough. Not yet anyway. I needed to learn more.


There was one more person who might be able to shed some light on the enigma that had been the love of my life. So I made my excuses, said my good-byes, and headed back into the city. I hopped on a subway and headed up to the Bronx. The skies had started to darken and the neighborhood was bad, but for once in my life, I was beyond being scared.

Before I even knocked, the door opened a crack, the chain in place. Tanya said, “He’s asleep.”

“I want to talk to you,” I said.

“I have nothing to say.”

“I saw you at the memorial service.”

“Go away.”

“Please,” I said. “It’s important.”

Tanya sighed and took off the chain. I slipped inside. The dim lamp was on in the far corner, casting the faintest of glows. As I let my eyes wander over this most depressing place, I wondered if Tanya was not as much a prisoner here as Louis Castman. I faced her. She shrunk back as if my gaze had the ability to scald.

“How long do you plan on keeping him here?” I asked.

“I don’t make plans,” she replied.

Tanya did not offer me a seat. We both just stood there, facing each other. She crossed her arms and waited.

“Why did you come to the service?” I asked.

“I wanted to pay my respects.”

“You knew Sheila?”


“You were friends?”

Tanya may have smiled. Her face was so mangled, the scars running jagged lines with her mouth, I couldn’t be sure. “Not even close.”

“Why did you come then?”

She cocked her head to the side. “You want to hear something weird?”

I was not sure how to respond, so I settled for a nod.

“That was the first time I’ve been out of this apartment in sixteen months.”

I was not sure how to respond to that either, so I tried, “I’m glad you came.”

Tanya looked at me skeptically. The room was silent save for her breathing. I don’t know what was physically wrong with her, if it was connected to the brutal slashing or not, but every breath sounded as though her throat were a narrow straw with a few drops of liquid stuck inside.

I said, “Please tell me why you came.”

“It’s like I told you. I wanted to pay my respects.” She paused. “And I thought I could help.”


She looked at the door to Louis Castman’s bedroom. I followed her gaze. “He told me why you came here. I thought maybe I could fill in some more of the pieces.”

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