Gone for Good Page 92

I had to face him.

I started walking in the direction where he’d been. My legs felt rubbery, but I kept going. When I passed a long row of abandoned pay phones, I heard him.


I turned and he was there. He motioned for me to sit next to him. I did. We both faced the plate glass window rather than each other. The window magnified the rays. The heat was stifling. I squinted my eyes. So did he.

“I didn’t come back for your brother,” the Ghost said. “I came back for Carly.”

His words turned me to stone. I said, “You can’t have her.”

He smiled. “You don’t understand.”

“Then tell me.”

The Ghost shifted his body toward me. “You want people lined up, Will. You want the good guys on one side, the bad on the other. It doesn’t work that way, does it? It is never that simple. Love, for example, leads to hate. I think that was what started it all. Primitive love.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“Your father,” he said. “He loved Ken too much. I look for the seed, Will. And that’s where I find it. In your father’s love.”

“I still don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“What I’m about to say,” the Ghost continued, “I’ve only told one other person. Do you understand?”

I said that I did.

“You have to go back to when Ken and I were in the fourth grade,” he said. “You see, I didn’t stab Daniel Skinner. Ken did. But your father loved him so much that he protected him. He bought off my old man. Paid him five grand. Believe it or not, your father almost saw himself as charitable. My old man beat me all the time. Most people said I should be in foster care anyway. The way your father saw it, I would either get off on self-defense or end up getting therapy and three square meals a day.”

I was stunned silent. I thought about our meeting up at the Little League field. My father’s crippling fear, his icy silence when we got back, his telling Asselta, “You want someone, you take me.” Once again it all made terrible sense.

“I only told one person the truth,” he said. “Any guesses?”

Something else fell into place. “Julie,” I said.

He nodded. The bond. It explained a lot about their strange bond.

“So why are you here?” I asked. “To take vengeance on Ken’s daughter?”

“No,” the Ghost said with a small laugh. “There is no easy way to tell you this, Will, but maybe science can help.”

He handed me a folder. I looked down at it. “Open it,” he said.

I did as he asked.

“It’s the autopsy of the recently departed Sheila Rogers,” he said.

I frowned. I didn’t wonder how he got it. I was sure he had his sources. “What does this have to do with anything?”

“Look here.” The Ghost pointed with a thin finger to an entry midway down. “You see down at the bottom? No scars on the pubic bone from the tears of the periosteum. No comments about pale striations over the breast and abdominal wall. Not unusual, of course. It wouldn’t mean anything, unless you were looking for it.”

“Looking for what?”

He closed the file. “Signs that the victim had given birth.” He saw the look of confusion on my face and added, “Put simply, Sheila Rogers could not have been Carly’s mother.”

I was about to say something but the Ghost handed me another file. I looked at the name on it.

Julie Miller.

The cold spread inside me. He flipped it open and pointed to an entry and started reading, “Pubic scars, pale striations, changes in the microscopic architecture of the breast and uterine tissues,” he said. “And the trauma was recent. See here? The scar from the episiotomy was still pronounced.”

I stared at the words.

“Julie did not come home just to meet up with Ken. She was getting her act together after a very bad spell. She was finding herself again, Will. She wanted to tell you the truth.”

“What truth?”

But he shook his head and continued. “She would have told you earlier, but she wasn’t sure how you’d react. The way you so easily let her break up with you . . . that was what I meant when I said you were supposed to fight for her. You just let her go.”

Our eyes locked.

“Julie had a baby six months before she died,” the Ghost said. “She and the child, a girl, lived with Sheila Rogers in that apartment. I think Julie would have finally told you that night, but your brother took care of that. Sheila loved the child too. When Julie was murdered and your brother needed to escape, Sheila wanted to keep it as her own. And Ken, well, he saw how useful a baby could be to hide an international fugitive. He had no children. Neither did Sheila. It would be better than the best disguise.”

Ken’s whispered words came back to me. . . .

“Do you understand what I’m telling you, Will?”

You I’ve hurt and betrayed more than anyone.

The Ghost’s voice cut through the haze. “You’re not a substitute here. You’re Carly’s real father.”

I don’t think I was breathing anymore. I stared out at nothing. Hurt and betrayed. My brother. My brother had taken my child.

The Ghost stood. “I didn’t come back for revenge or even justice,” he continued. “But the truth is, Julie died protecting me. I failed her. I made a vow that I would save her child. It took me eleven years.”

I stumbled to my feet. We stood side by side. Passengers were pouring off the plane. The Ghost jammed something in my pocket. A piece of paper. I ignored it.

“I sent that surveillance tape to Pistillo, so McGuane won’t bother you. I found the evidence in the house that night and kept it all these years. You and Nora are safe now. I took care of everything.”

More passengers disembarked. I stood and waited and listened.

“Remember that Katy is Carly’s aunt, that the Millers are her grandparents. Let them be a part of her life. Do you hear me?”

I nodded, and that was when Carly came through the gate. Everything inside of me shut down. The girl walked out with such poise. Like . . . like her mother. Carly looked around and when she spotted Nora, her face broke into the most amazing smile. My heart broke. Right then and there, it shattered. The smile. That smile, you see, belonged to my mother. It was Sunny’s smile, like an echo from the past, a sign that not all of my mother—nor all of Julie—had been extinguished.

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