Gone for Good Page 88

The rest of it was a wonderful blur. Dad jumped on. Then Melissa. I see it now in fuzzy snapshots. Ken hugging Dad; Dad grabbing Ken around the neck and kissing the top of his head, holding the kiss, his eyes squeezed shut, tears streaming down his cheeks; Ken spinning Melissa in the air; Melissa crying, patting her brother as if to make sure he was really there.

Eleven years.

I don’t know how long we acted like that, how long we were that marvelous, delirious mess. Somewhere along the way, we calmed down enough to sit on a couch. Ken kept me close. On several occasions, he put me in a headlock and gave me “nuggies.” I never knew being hit on the top of the head could feel so good.

“You took on the Ghost and survived,” Ken said, my head in his armpit. “Guess you don’t need me covering your back anymore.”

And pulling away, I said in a desperate plea, “No, I do.”

Darkness fell. We all went outside. The night air felt wonderful in my lungs. Ken and I walked ahead. Melissa and Dad stayed ten yards or so back, perhaps sensing that was what we wanted. Ken had his arm around my shoulders. I remember once during that year at camp I missed a key foul shot. My bunk lost the game because of that. My friends started picking on me. No big deal. It’s camp. It happens to everyone. Ken took me for a walk that day. His arm was around me then too.

I felt that same kind of safe again.

He started telling me the story. It pretty much matched what I already knew. He had done some bad things. He had made a deal with the feds. McGuane and Asselta had found out.

He skittered around the question of why he had returned home that night, and more to the point, why he had been at Julie’s house. But I wanted it all out in the open. There had been too much deception already. So I asked him flat out: “Why did you and Julie come home?”

Ken took out a pack of cigarettes.

“You smoke now?” I said.

“Yeah, but I’ll give it up.” He looked at me and said, “Julie and I thought it would be a good place to meet up.”

I remembered what Katy said. Like Ken, Julie had not been home in more than a year. I waited for him to go on. He stared at the cigarette, still not lighting it.

“I’m sorry,” he said.

“It’s okay.”

“I knew you were still hung up on her, Will. But I was taking drugs back then. I was a total shit. Or maybe none of that mattered. Maybe I was just being selfish, I don’t know.”

“It doesn’t matter,” I said. And that was true. It didn’t. “But I still don’t understand. How was Julie involved?”

“She was helping me.”

“Helping you how?”

Ken lit the cigarette. I could see the lines on his face now. His features were chiseled but weathered now, making him almost more handsome. His eyes were still pure ice. “She and Sheila had an apartment near Haverton. They were friends.” He stopped, shook his head. “Look, Julie got hooked on the stuff. It’s my fault. When Sheila came up to Haverton, I introduced them. Julie fell into the life. She started working for McGuane too.”

I had guessed that it was something like that. “She was selling drugs?”

He nodded. “But when I got caught, when I agreed to go back in, I needed a friend—an accomplice to help me take down McGuane. We were terrified at first, but then we all saw it as a way out. A way to find redemption, you know what I mean?”

“I guess.”

“Anyway, they were watching me closely. But not Julie. There was no reason to suspect her of anything. She helped me smuggle out incriminating documents. When I made tapes, I’d pass them on to her. That was why we met up that night. We finally had enough information. We were going to give it to the feds and end this whole mess.”

“I don’t understand,” I said. “Why would you guys keep the stuff yourself? Why not just turn everything over to the feds as you got it?”

Ken smiled. “You met Pistillo?”

I nodded.

“You have to understand, Will. I’m not saying all cops are corrupt or anything. But some are. I mean, one of them told McGuane I was in New Mexico. But more than that, some of them, like Pistillo, are too damn ambitious. I needed a bargaining chip. I couldn’t leave myself that exposed. I had to turn it over on my own terms.”

That, I thought, made sense. “But then the Ghost found out where you were.”



We reached a fence post. Ken put his foot up. I looked behind me. Melissa and Dad were keeping their distance. “I don’t know, Will. Look, Julie and I were both so scared. Maybe that was part of it. Anyway, we were reaching the endgame. I thought we were home free. We were in the basement, on that couch, and we started kissing. . . .” He looked off again.


“Suddenly there was a rope around my neck.” Ken took a deep drag. “I was on top of her, and the Ghost had sneaked up on us. Next thing I knew, my air was gone. I was being strangled. John pulled back hard. I thought my neck would snap. I’m not even sure what happened next. Julie hit him, I think. That’s how I got loose. He punched her in the face. I pulled away and started backing up. The Ghost took out a gun and fired. The first shot hit my shoulder.” He closed his eyes.

“I ran then. God help me, I just ran.”

We both soaked in the night. I could hear the crickets, but they played softly. Ken worked on his cigarette some more. I knew what he was thinking. Ran away. And then she died.

“He had a gun,” I said. “It’s not your fault.”

“Yeah, sure.” But Ken did not appear convinced. “You can probably guess what happened from there. I ran back to Sheila. We grabbed Carly. I had money stored away from my days working with McGuane. We took off, figuring that McGuane and Asselta would be close behind. It wasn’t until a few days later, when the papers started listing me as a suspect in Julie’s murder, that it hit me that I was not just running from McGuane but the whole world.”

I asked the question that had been bothering me from the start. “Why didn’t you tell me about Carly?”

His head snapped away as if I’d connected with a right on his jaw.


He would not face me. “Can we skip that for now, Will?”

“I’d like to know.”

“It’s no big secret.” His voice was strange now. I could hear the confidence start coming back, but it was somehow different, a shade off maybe. “I was in a dangerous spot. The feds captured me not long before her birth. I was afraid for her. So I didn’t tell anybody she even existed. No one. I visited a lot, but I didn’t even live with them. Carly stayed with her mother and Julie. I didn’t want her connected to me in any way. You understand?”

Prev Next
Romance | Vampires | Fantasy | Billionaire | Werewolves | Zombies