Gone for Good Page 69

“Because Ken didn’t tell you. And because we didn’t want your brother. We wanted McGuane. So we flipped him.”

“Flipped him?”

“We gave Ken immunity in exchange for his cooperation.”

“You wanted him to testify against McGuane?”

“More than that. McGuane was careful. We didn’t have enough to nail him on the murder indictment. We needed an informant. So we wired him up and sent him back in.”

“You’re saying that Ken worked undercover for you?”

Something flashed hard in Pistillo’s eyes. “Don’t glamorize it,” he snapped. “Your low-life brother wasn’t a law enforcement officer. He was just a scumbag trying to save his own skin.”

I nodded, reminding myself yet again that this could all be a lie. “Go on,” I said again.

He reached back and grabbed a cookie from the counter. He chewed slowly and washed it down with the iced tea. “We don’t know what happened exactly. I can only give you our working theory.”


“McGuane found out. You have to understand. McGuane is a brutal son of a bitch. Killing someone is always an option for him, you know, like deciding to take the Lincoln or Holland Tunnel. A matter of convenience, nothing more. He feels nothing.”

I saw now where he was heading with this. “So if McGuane knew that Ken had become an informant—”

“Dead meat,” he finished for me. “Your brother understood the risk. We were keeping tabs, but one night he just ran off.”

“Because McGuane found out?”

“That’s what we think, yes. He ended up at your house. We don’t know why. Our theory is that he thought it was a safe place to hide, mostly because McGuane would never suspect he’d put his family in danger.”

“And then?”

“By now you must have guessed that Asselta was working for McGuane too.”

“If you say so,” I said.

He ignored that. “Asselta had a lot to lose here too. You mentioned Laura Emerson, the other sorority sister who was killed. Your brother told us that Asselta murdered her. She was strangled, which is Asselta’s favorite method of execution. According to Ken, Laura Emerson had found out about the drug trade at Haverton and was set to report it.”

I made a face. “And they killed her for that?”

“Yeah, they killed her for that. What do you think they’d do, buy her an ice cream? These are monsters, Will. Get that through your thick head.”

I remembered Phil McGuane coming over and playing Risk. He always won. He was quiet and observant, the sort of kid who makes you wonder about still waters and all that. He was class president, I think. I was impressed by him. The Ghost had been openly psychotic. I could see him doing anything. But McGuane?

“Somehow they learned where your brother was hiding. Maybe the Ghost followed Julie home from college, we don’t know. Either way, he catches up to your brother at the Miller house. Our theory is that he tried to kill them both. You said you saw someone that night. We believe you. We also believe that the man you saw was probably Asselta. His fingerprints were found at the scene. Ken was wounded in the assault— that explains the blood—but somehow he got away. The Ghost was left with the body of Julie Miller. So what would be the natural thing to do? Make it look like Ken did it. What better way to discredit him or even scare him away?”

He stopped and started nibbling on another cookie. He would not look at me. I knew that he could be lying, but his words had the ring of truth. I tried to calm myself, let what he was telling me sink in. I kept my eyes on him. He kept his gaze on the cookie. Now it was my turn to fight back the rage.

“So all this time”—I stopped, swallowed, tried again—“so all this time, you knew that Ken didn’t kill Julie.”

“No, not at all.”

“But you just said—”

“A theory, Will. It was just a theory. It’s just as likely that he killed her.”

“You don’t believe that.”

“Don’t tell me what I believe.”

“What could possibly be Ken’s motive for killing Julie?”

“Your brother was a bad guy. Make no mistake about that.”

“That’s not a motive.” I shook my head. “Why? If you knew Ken probably didn’t kill her, why did you always insist he had?”

He chose not to reply. But maybe he didn’t have to. The answer was suddenly obvious. I glanced at the snapshots on the refrigerator. They explained so much.

“Because you wanted Ken back at any cost,” I said, answering my own question. “Ken was the only one who could give you McGuane. If he was hiding as a material witness, the world wouldn’t really care. There would be no press coverage. There would be no major manhunt. But if Ken murdered a young woman in her family basement—the story of suburbia gone wrong—the media attention would be massive. And those headlines, you figured, would make it harder for him to hide.”

He kept studying his hands.

“I’m right, aren’t I?”

Pistillo slowly looked at me. “Your brother made a deal with us,” he said coldly. “When he ran, he broke that deal.”

“So that made it okay to lie?”

“It made it okay to track him down by any means necessary.”

I was actually shaking. “And his family be damned?”

“Don’t put that on me.”

“Do you know what you did to us?”

“You know something, Will? I don’t give a damn. You think you suffered? Look in my sister’s eyes. Look at her sons’.”

“That doesn’t make it right—”

He slammed his hand on the table. “Don’t tell me about right and wrong. My sister was an innocent victim.”

“So was my mother.”

“No!” He pounded the table, this time with his fist, and pointed a finger at me. “There’s a big difference between them, so get it straight. Vic was a murdered cop. He didn’t have a choice. He couldn’t stop his family’s suffering. Your brother, on the other hand, chose to run. That was his decision. If that somehow hurt your family, blame him.”

“But you made him run,” I said. “Someone was trying to kill him—and you top that off by making him think he’ll be arrested for murder. You forced his hand. You pushed him farther underground.”

“That was his doing, not mine.”

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