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Page 26


STILL AT LA CRÈME, Megan fingered the “Celeb Experience: Paparazzi for Hire” card. She flipped it over and read “Weak Signal Bar and Grill.” A text buzzed her phone. She checked it and saw that it was from Dave:
She debated ignoring it, but really, how long could she do that? In the long run, it would cause more problems. She wondered about what to do here, what she should say now—and what she would be forced to tell him in the next few days. That façade she had created all those years ago had become over the years more her than, uh, her. But that didn’t mean Dave would understand.
She looked at his simple message again: Where are you???
Façade, Megan knew, was really just a politically correct term for lie. She had lied to Dave the first time they met, at the hotel bar in Boston, a scant four months after she had run away from Atlantic City. She was alone and scared and badly in need of cash. With no prospects and afraid to even work at one of the local clubs, Megan survived by rolling guys. She’d dress in the casual jeans look of a coed (“I’m a senior at Emerson,” she’d claim), hang out at hotel bars, get guys (preferably married ones) drunk or sometimes slip something into their drink, take them upstairs to their rooms, rob them, and disappear into the night.
On that particular night, she decided to try the Loews downtown hotel for the first time. The pickings in the married category had been slim. A group of Harvard boys stumbled their way in, whooping and hollering. She tried not to hate them with their smug faces and soft hands.
She figured that this would be easy money, though she knew college kids rarely carried cash, and then something surprising happened. Who knew what? Call it fate or destiny or whatever, but she started talking to one of them, a shy, sweet guy named Dave Pierce. Something about him simply drew her. He made her feel warm and comfortable. It wasn’t like with Ray. There was no immediate thunder crack. That would come later. But there was something else, something deep and strong and real.
So she lied to him. What choice did she have?
They talked all night, and it was wonderful. He was graduating from Harvard. She claimed to be graduating from Emerson. When they got together for their first real date a week later, she even told him to meet her at the Emerson College library. This was in the days before you needed student IDs to get into every building. She simply stacked a bunch of books on a table and waited for him.
The lies just continued.
She knew plenty about the campus. She told him that she lived in the Colonial Residence Hall but claimed that he couldn’t stop by because she had a difficult roommate who hated company. In terms of family, she told him the truth—she was an only child and her parents had died young. She made up a fake, normal, boring childhood in Muncie, Indiana, and acted as though the memories of losing her parents made talking about it too much to bear. Dave was sympathetic. If there were holes in her story—and there were—Dave never looked too closely at them. He was both a trusting soul and in love. If she chose to keep things from him, well, that added to the mystery and maybe even the attraction. In his naïve world, it couldn’t be anything major. What difference could a few contradictory life details make anyway?
Plus Maygin-Cassie-Megan was an awfully good liar.
But now the façade—read: lies—were in serious jeopardy of crumbling. After all the years, after all the hard work, she had chosen to risk it all. And for what? Righting the past? A little excitement? Or subconsciously, did she want to get caught? Was the mask simply too heavy to wear for the rest of her life?
How would Dave react to the truth?
Megan took a deep breath and texted back:
There was a brief pause and then another text from Dave:
Megan stared at the small screen for a moment. Then she typed:
Another pause. Megan waited for the phone to ring. It didn’t. Instead she received another text from her husband:
She quickly replied.
Ha. She meant it and really, when you thought about it, what a joke. Trust me. Talk about irony. She didn’t wait for a reply. Time to visit Broome again.
She closed up her phone and started to rise from the barstool. The crowd was picking up, and Lorraine was busy. She nodded a good-bye at her old friend, and Lorraine arched an eyebrow in return. She headed to the door, threading through men who openly stared at her. In normal society, men want to stare like this, but we force them to be surreptitious. In here, the cover charge gives them the right to put such pretenses away.
She wondered for a brief second whether Dave had ever been to a place like this. If he had, he hadn’t told her, but as she knew too well, most married men don’t. Had he been to a club like this before? Would he too enjoy openly ogling or having a lap dance or what? Did it matter?
Fifteen minutes later, Megan entered the Heritage Diner. The place was wonderfully old-school. The booths still held those small jukeboxes, though she doubted that they worked. A man with thick clumps of ear hair worked the cash register. Pastries aged under glass covers. The wall had signed photographs of local news anchors. The waitresses wore uniforms and attitudes.
Broome stood when she entered and approached.
“Thanks for agreeing to see me,” he said.
“Where’s Harry?”
“Not here yet.” They slid into the booth. “Would you like something to eat?”
“No, thank you.”
Broome pointed to his own cup. “I’m having coffee. Would you like some?”
Megan shook her head, glanced back at the door. “Harry should be here any second.”
“Do you mind if we get started?” Broome asked. “I’m a little pressed for time.”
“Without my lawyer?”
“You don’t need a lawyer. I don’t suspect you of anything, and the clock is really ticking. So is it okay?”
When she didn’t reply, Broome just dived in.
“Does Mardi Gras mean anything to you?” he asked.
“I thought you were going to show me a picture.”
“I will in a second. But I wanted to ask about Mardi Gras first.”
“If it means something to me?”
“You know it does.”
“Do you mind telling me what?”