Gone for Good Page 8


Just like that. “So all those talks we had, all those times I made convincing arguments to the contrary . . .”

“I wondered who you were trying to convince, me or you.”

“You never bought my arguments?”

“Nope,” Squares said. “Never.”

“But you never argued with me either.”

Squares took a deep drag on the cigarette. “Your delusion seemed harmless.”

“Ignorance is bliss, eh?”

“Most of the time, yeah.”

“But I made some valid points,” I said.

“You say so.”

“You don’t think so?”

“I don’t think so,” Squares said. “You thought your bro didn’t have the resources to hide, but you don’t need resources. Look at the runaways we meet every day. If one of them really wanted to disappear, presto, they’d be gone.”

“There isn’t an international manhunt for any of them.”

“International manhunt,” Squares said with something close to disgust. “You think every cop in the world wakes up wondering about your brother?”

He had a point—especially now that I realized he may have gotten financial help from my mother. “He wouldn’t kill anyone.”

“Bullshit,” Squares said.

“You don’t know him.”

“We’re friends, right?”


“You believe that one day I used to burn crosses and shout ‘Heil Hitler’?”

“That’s different.”

“No, it’s not.” We stepped out of the van. “You asked me once why I didn’t get rid of the tattoo altogether, remember?”

I nodded. “And you told me to fuck off.”

“Right. But the fact is, I could have removed it by laser or done a more elaborate cover-up. But I keep it because it reminds me.”

“Of what? The past?”

Squares flashed the yellows. “Of potential,” he said.

“I don’t know what that means.”

“Because you’re hopeless.”

“My brother would never rape and murder an innocent woman.”

“Some yoga schools teach mantras,” Squares said. “But repeating something over and over does not make it true.”

“You’re pretty deep today,” I said.

“And you’re acting like an asshole.” He stubbed out the cigarette. “You going to tell me why you’ve had this change of heart?”

We were near the entrance.

“In my office,” I said.

We hushed as we entered the shelter. People expect a dump, but our shelter is anything but. Our philosophy is that this should be a place you’d want your own kids to stay if they were in trouble. That comment stuns donors at first—like most charities, this one seems very removed from them—but it also strikes them where they live.

Squares and I were silent now, because when we are in our house, all our focus, all our concentration, is aimed at the kids. They deserve nothing less. For once in their often sad lives, they are what matters most. Always. We greet each kid like—and pardon the way I phrase this—a long-lost brother. We listen. We never hurry. We shake hands and hug. We look them in the eye. We never look over their shoulder. We stop and face them full. If you try to fake it, these kids will pick it up in a second. They have excellent bullshit-o-meters. We love them hard in here, totally and without conditions. Every day we do that. Or we just go home. It doesn’t mean that we are always successful. Or even successful most of the time. We lose a lot more than we save. They get sucked back down into the streets. But while here, in our house, they will stay in comfort. While here, they will be loved.

When we entered my office, two people—one woman, one man—were waiting for us. Squares stopped short. He lifted his nostrils and sniffed the air, hound-dog style.

“Cops,” he said to me.

The woman smiled and stepped forward. The man stayed behind her, casually leaning again the wall. “Will Klein?”

“Yes?” I said.

She unfurled her ID with a flourish. The man did the same thing. “My name is Claudia Fisher. This is Darryl Wilcox. We’re both special agents for the Federal Bureau of Investigation.”

“The feds,” Squares said to me, thumbs up, like he was impressed I ranked such attention. He squinted at the ID, then at Claudia Fisher. “Hey, how come you cut your hair?”

Claudia Fisher snapped the ID closed. She arched an eyebrow at Squares. “And you are?”

“Easily aroused,” he said.

She frowned and slid her eyes back to me. “We’d like a few words with you.” Then she added, “Alone.”

Claudia Fisher was short and semi-perky, the dedicated student/athlete from high school who was a little too tightly wound—the type who had fun but never spontaneously. Her hair was indeed short and feathered back, a bit too late-seventies but it fit. She had small hoop earrings and a strong bird nose.

We are naturally suspicious of law enforcement here. I have no desire to protect criminals, but I do not want to be a tool in their apprehension either. This place has to be a safe haven. Cooperating with law enforcement would cripple our street cred—and really, our street cred is everything. I like to think of us as neutral. Switzerland for the runaways. And of course, my personal history—the way the feds have handled my brother’s situation—does little to endear me to them either.

“I’d rather he stayed,” I said.

“This has nothing to do with him.”

“Think of him as my attorney.”

Claudia Fisher took Squares in—the jeans, the hair, the tattoo. He pulled on imaginary lapels and wriggled his eyebrows.

I moved to my desk. Squares flopped into the chair in front of it and threw his work boots onto the desktop. They landed with a dusty thud. Fisher and Wilcox remained standing.

I spread my hands. “What can I do for you, Agent Fisher?”

“We’re looking for one Sheila Rogers.”

That had not been what I expected.

“Can you tell us where we might find her?”

“Why are you looking for her?” I asked.

Claudia Fisher gave me a patronizing smile. “Would you mind just telling us where she is?”

“Is she in trouble?”

“Right now”—she paused a beat and changed the smile—“we’d just like to ask her some questions.”

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