Gone for Good Page 79

Her voice broke off. I had no idea what to do. I tried to scoot my chair closer to hers. The armrests were already touching, but I think she appreciated the gesture.

“Anyway, I finally met a woman. She was an American living in the area. We started cautiously, but there was something about her. I guess we both had that on-the-run look. We were also lonely as hell, though she at least had her husband and daughter. They were in deep hiding too. I didn’t know why at first.”

“This woman,” I said. “It was Sheila Rogers?”


“And the husband.” I stopped, swallowed. “That was my brother.”

She nodded. “They have a daughter named Carly.”

It was beginning to make sense.

“Sheila and I became close friends, and while it took him a little longer to trust me, I grew close to Ken too. I moved in with them, started helping them take care of Carly. Your niece is a wonderful child, Will. Smart and beautiful and, not to get metaphysical, but there is such an aura around her.”

My niece. Ken had a daughter. I had a niece I had never seen.

“Your brother talked about you all the time, Will. He might mention your mother or your father or even Melissa, but you were his world. He followed your career. He knew all about your working at Covenant House. Here he had been in hiding for what, seven years? He was lonely too, I guess. So once he trusted me, he talked to me a lot. And what he talked about most was you.”

I blinked and looked down at the table. I studied the Starbucks brown napkin. There was some stupid poem about aroma and a promise on it. Made from recycled paper. The color was brown because they did not use bleach.

“Are you okay?” she asked.

“I’m fine,” I said. I looked up. “So what happened next?”

“I got in touch with a friend back home. She told me that Cray had hired a private detective and that he knew I was in the Stockholm area. I panicked, but at the same time, I was ready to move on. Like I said, I had lived with Cray in Missouri. I figured that if I moved to New York, maybe I’d be safe. But I needed a deeper ID, in case Cray kept hunting. Sheila was in the same boat. Her fake ID was all surface, just a name change. And that was when we came up with a simple plan.”

I nodded. This one I knew. “You switched identities.”

“Right. She became Nora Spring and I became Sheila Rogers. This way, if my husband came after me, he’d only find her. And if the people searching for them found Sheila Rogers, well, you see, it adds another layer.”

I considered that, but something still did not add up. “Okay, so that’s how you became Sheila Rogers. You switched identities.”


“And you ended up in New York City.”


“And”—here was the part I was having trouble with—“somehow we happened to meet.”

Nora smiled. “You’re wondering about us, aren’t you?”

“I guess I am.”

“You’re thinking it’s a hell of a coincidence that I volunteered at the very place you work.”

“It would seem unlikely,” I agreed.

“Well, you’re right. It wasn’t a coincidence.” She sat back and sighed. “I’m not sure how to explain this, Will.”

I just held her hand and waited.

“Okay, you have to understand. I was so lonely overseas. All I had was your brother and Sheila and, of course, Carly. I spent all that time hearing your brother rave about you, and it was like . . . it was like you were so different from any man I’d ever known. The truth is, I think I was half in love with you before we ever met. So I told myself when I came to New York that I’d just meet you, see what you were really like. Maybe if it seemed okay, I’d even tell you that your brother was alive and that he was innocent, though Ken warned me repeatedly about the danger of that. It wasn’t a plan or anything. I just came to New York and one day I walked into Covenant House, and call it destiny or fate or whatever, but the moment I saw you, I knew that I would love you forever.”

I was scared and confused and smiling.

“What?” she said.

“I love you.”

She put her head on my shoulder. We grew quiet now. There was more. It would come in time. For now, we just enjoyed the silence of being with one another. When Nora was ready, she started up again.

“A few weeks ago, I was sitting at the hospital with your mother. She was in such pain, Will. She couldn’t take it anymore, she told me. She wanted to die. She was in such discomfort, well, you know.”

I nodded.

“I loved your mother. I think you know that.”

“I do,” I said.

“I couldn’t stand just sitting there doing nothing. So I broke my promise to your brother. Before she died, I wanted her to know the truth. She deserved that. I wanted her to know that her son was alive and that he loved her and that he hadn’t hurt anybody.”

“You told her about Ken?”

“Yes. But even in her haze, she was skeptical. She needed proof, I think.”

I froze and turned to her. I saw it now. What had started it all. The visit to the bedroom after the funeral. The picture hidden behind the frame. “So you gave my mother that photograph of Ken.”

Nora nodded.

“She never saw him. Just the photograph.”

“That’s right.”

Which explained why we never knew about it. “But you told her he was coming back.”


“Were you lying?”

She thought about that. “Maybe I was engaging in hyperbole, but no, I don’t think it was an outright lie. You see, Sheila contacted me when they captured him. Ken had always been very careful. He had all sorts of provisions set up for Sheila and Carly. So when they caught him, Sheila and Carly ran off. The police never knew about them. Sheila stayed overseas until Ken thought it was safe. Then she sneaked back in.”

“And she called you when she arrived?”


It was all adding up. “From a pay phone in New Mexico.”


That would be the first call Pistillo was talking about—the one from New Mexico to my apartment. “So then what happened?”

“It all started going wrong,” she said. “I got a call from Ken. He was in a frenzy. Someone had found them. He and Carly had been out of the house when two men broke in. They tortured Sheila to find out where he’d gone. Ken came home during the attack. He shot them both. But Sheila was seriously wounded. He called and told me that I had to run now. The police would find Sheila’s fingerprints. McGuane and his people would also learn that Sheila Rogers had been with him.”

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