Stay Close

Page 20


“Stewart Green?”
She nodded.
Broome’s mouth felt dry. “When you say ‘he was there’… ?”
“He was lying on his back. His eyes were closed. I bent down and touched him. He was covered in blood.”
She nodded.
Broome felt his heart sink. “Was he dead?”
“I thought so.”
A hint of impatience sneaked into his voice. “What do you mean, ‘thought so’?”
“I’m neither a psychiatrist nor a physician,” she snapped back. “I can only tell you what I thought. I thought that he was dead. But I didn’t check for a pulse or anything. I already had his blood all over me, and I was completely freaking out. It was so weird. For a moment, everything slowed down, and I was almost happy. I know how that sounds, but I hated him. You have no idea how much. And my problem, well, it was taken care of now. Stewart was dead. But then I quickly sobered up. I realized what would happen, and please don’t tell me I’m being unfair. I could almost see exactly how it’d go. I’d run back down to a phone booth—I didn’t have a cell phone back then, did anyone?—and I’d call and report it and you cops would look into it and you’d find out how he was harassing me and worse. Everyone would say what a nice family man he was and how this stripper-whore had taken him for all he was worth and, and, well, you see what I mean. So I ran. I ran, and I never looked back.”
“Where did you go?”
Harry Sutton coughed into his fist. “Irrelevant, Detective. This is where her story ends for you.”
Broome looked at him. “You’re kidding, right?”
“We had a deal.”
Cassie said, “It’s the truth, Detective.”
He was about to call her on it—tell her, no, it’s at best the partial truth—but he didn’t want to chase her away. He tried to ask for some details, hoping to learn more or figure out what was what. Mostly he wanted to know how badly injured (or, uh, dead) Stewart Green was, but if there was more to mine here, he wasn’t getting it.
Finally Harry Sutton said, “I think you’ve learned all you can here, Detective.”
Had he? What had he learned in the end? He felt just as lost as before—maybe more so. Broome thought about the other men, the connections, all those men gone missing. Had they been killed? Had they been injured and, what, run off? Stewart Green had been the first. That much Broome was pretty sure about. Did he recover from this attack and… ?
And what?
Where the hell was he? And how did this connect to Carlton Flynn and the others?
Cassie rose. His eyes followed her. “Why?” Broome asked.
“Why what?”
“You could have stayed hidden, kept your new life safe.” He glanced at Harry Sutton and then back to her. “Why come back?”
“You’re Javert, remember?” she said. “You’d hunt me across the years. Eventually Javert and Valjean have to meet up.”
“So you decided to control the time and place?”
“Better than you just showing up on my doorstep, right?”
Broome shook his head. “I don’t buy it.”
She shrugged. “I’m not trying that hard to sell it.”
“So is that it, Cassie? You’re done here?”
“I’m not sure I understand.”
Oh, but she did. He could see it in her eyes.
“Do you just go back to your regularly scheduled life now?” Broome asked. “Has this been cleansing for you? Did it give you everything you need?”
“I think it has,” she said. “Do you mind if I ask you a question?”
Trying to turn the tables, Broome thought. Defensive. The question was, why? He gestured for her to go ahead.
“What do you do with this information?” she asked.
“I add it to the other evidence I have and try to draw conclusions.”
“Did you ever tell Stewart Green’s wife the truth about him?”
“Depends on whose truth.”
“You’re playing semantics with me, Detective.”
“Fair enough. Before now, I only heard rumors about Stewart Green. I really didn’t know for sure.”
“Will you tell his wife now that you know?”
Broome took his time with that one. “If I think it will help find what happened to him, yeah, I’ll say something to her. But I’m not a private eye hired to dig up dirt on the man.”
“It may make it easier for her to move on.”
“Or it may make it harder,” he said. “My concern is solving crimes. Period.”
“Makes sense,” she said with a nod, reaching for the doorknob. “Good luck with the case.”
“Uh, before you go…”
She stopped.
“There’s one big thing we’ve been dancing around, what with all our clever Victor Hugo references.”
“What’s that?”
Broome smiled. “The timing of this little meeting.”
“What about it?”
“Why now? Why, after seventeen years, did you choose to return now?”
“You know why.”
He shook his head. “I don’t, no.”
She looked toward Harry for guidance. He shrugged his shoulders. “I know about the other man vanishing.”
“I see. How did you learn about him?”
“I saw it on the news,” she said.
Another lie.
“And, what, you see a connection between what happened to Stewart Green and what happened to Carlton Flynn?”
“Other than the obvious?” she said. “Not really, no.”
“So hearing about it sort of reminded you of the past? Brought it back to you somehow?”
“It’s not that simple.” She looked down at her hands again. Broome could see it now. There had been a ring on her wedding finger. He could see the tan line. She had taken it off, probably for this meeting, and didn’t feel comfortable without that. That explained all the hand wringing. “What happened that night… it never really left me. I ran away. I changed my name. I built a new life. But that night followed me everywhere. It still does. I guess I thought that maybe it was time to stop running. I thought that maybe it was time to confront it once and for all.”
So, to be safe—and because secret identities were awfully cool—they started calling themselves that too.