Gone for Good Page 72

Sheila. Her betrayal pierced me deep, struck bone. To defend her now, to think I had been anything more to her than a dupe, would be to turn a blind eye in the worst way. You would have to be naïve beyond Pollyanna, to have rose-tinted glasses melded onto your face, to not be able to see the truth.

“I’m telling you all this, Will, because I was afraid you were about to do something stupid.”

“Like talk to the press,” I said.

“Yes—and because I want you to understand. Your brother had two choices. Either McGuane and the Ghost find him and kill him, or we find him and protect him.”

“Right,” I said. “And you guys have done a bang-up job of that so far.”

“We’re still his best option,” he countered. “And don’t think McGuane will stop with your brother. Do you really think that attack on Katy Miller was a coincidence? For all your sakes, we need your cooperation.”

I said nothing. I could not trust him. I knew that. I could not trust anyone. That was all I had learned here. But Pistillo was especially dangerous. He had spent eleven years looking into his sister’s shattered face. That kind of thing twists you. I knew about stuff like that, about wanting to the point of distortion. Pistillo had made it clear that he would stop at nothing to get McGuane. He would sacrifice my brother. He had jailed me. And most of all, he had destroyed my family. I thought about my sister running off to Seattle. I thought about my mom, the Sunny smile, and realized that the man sitting in front of me, this man who claimed to be my brother’s salvation, had smothered it away. He had killed my mother—no one could convince me that the cancer was not somehow connected to what she went through, that her immune system had not been another victim of that horrible night—and now he wanted me to help him.

I did not know how much of this was a lie. But I decided to lie right back. “I’ll help,” I said.

“Good,” he said. “I’ll make sure the charges against you are dropped right away.”

I did not say thank you.

“We’ll drive you back if you’d like.”

I wanted to refuse, but I did not want to raise any warning flags. He wanted to deceive, well, I could try that too. So I said that would be fine. When I rose, he said, “I understand that Sheila’s funeral is coming up.”


“Now that there are no charges against you, you’re free to travel.”

I said nothing.

“Are you going to attend?” he asked.

This time I told the truth. “I don’t know.”


I couldn’t stay at home waiting for I-don’t know-what, so in the morning, I went to work. It was a funny thing. I expected to be fairly worthless, but that wasn’t the case at all. Entering Covenant House—I can only compare the experience to an athlete strapping on his “game face” when he enters the arena. These kids, I reminded myself, deserve nothing less than my best. Cliché, sure, but I convinced myself and faded contently into my work.

Sure, people came up to me and offered their condolences. And yes, Sheila’s spirit was everywhere. There were few spots in this dwelling that did not hold a memory of her. But I was able to play through it. This is not to say I forgot about it or no longer wanted to pursue where my brother was or who killed Sheila or the fate of her daughter, Carly. That was all still there. But today there was not much I could do. I had called Katy’s hospital room, but the blockade was still in place. Squares had a detective agency running Sheila’s Donna White pseudonym through the airline computers and thus far, they had not gotten a hit. So I waited.

I volunteered to work the outreach van that night. Squares joined me—I had already filled him in on everything—and together we disappeared into the dark. The children of the street were lit up in the blue of the night. Their faces were flat, no lines, sleek. You see an adult vagrant, a bag lady, a man with a shopping cart, someone lying in a box, someone begging for change with a diner paper coffee cup, and you know that they are homeless. But the thing about adolescents, about the fifteen- and sixteen-year-olds who run away from abuse, who embrace addiction or prostitution or insanity, is that they blend in better. With adolescents you cannot tell if they are homeless or just wandering.

Despite what you hear, it is not that easy to ignore the plight of the adult homeless. It is too in-your-face. You may divert your eyes and keep walking and remind yourself that if you gave in, if you tossed them a dollar or some quarters, they’d just buy booze or drugs or whatever rationale sails your boat, but what you did, the fact that you just hurried by a human being in need, still registers, still causes a pang. Our kids, however, are truly invisible. They are seamlessly sewn into the night. You can neglect and there are no aftereffects.

Music blared, something with a heavy Latin beat. Squares handed me a stack of phone cards to hand out. We hit a dive on Avenue A known for its heroin and started our familiar rap. We talked and cajoled and listened. I saw the gaunt eyes. I saw the way they scratched away at the imaginary bugs under their skin. I saw the needle marks and the sunken veins.

At four in the morning, Squares and I were back in the van. We had not spoken to each other much in the last few hours. He looked out the window. The children were still out there. More seemed to come out as though the bricks bled them.

“We should go to the funeral,” Squares said.

I did not trust my voice.

“You ever see her out here?” he asked. “Her face when she worked with these kids?”

I had. And I knew what he meant.

“You don’t fake that, Will.”

“I wish I could believe that,” I said.

“How did Sheila make you feel?”

“Like I was the luckiest man in the world,” I said.

He nodded. “You don’t fake that either,” he said.

“So how do you explain it all?”

“I don’t.” Squares shifted into drive and pulled into the street. “But we’re doing so much with our heads. Maybe we just need to remember the heart too.”

I frowned. “That sounds good, Squares, but I’m not sure it makes any sense.”

“How about this then: We go to pay our respects to the Sheila we knew.”

“Even if that was just a lie?”

“Even if. But maybe we also go to learn. To understand what happened here.”

“Weren’t you the one who said we might not like what we find?”

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