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Page 4


Ray opened one eye and peeked out. A man-cum-boy with frosted tips in his spiky dark hair and a hoop earring was on the screen now. The guy was making kissy lips at the camera, the caption under him reading “Vanished,” when it probably should have read “Douchebag.” Ray frowned, a stray, vague concern passing through his head, but he couldn’t process it right now. His entire body craved sleep, but if he didn’t send in those five photographs, Fester would call again and who needed that? With great effort, Ray managed to get back to his feet. He stumbled to the kitchen table, booted up his laptop, and made sure that the pictures had indeed made it to his computer.
They had.
Something niggled at the back of his head, but Ray couldn’t say what. Maybe something irrelevant was bothering him. Maybe he was remembering something really important. Or maybe, most likely, the blow from the baseball bat had produced little skull fragments that were now literally scratching at his brain.
The bar mitzvah pictures came up in reverse order—last picture taken was first. Ray quickly scanned through the thumbs, choosing one dance shot, one family shot, one Torah shot, one with the rabbi, one with Ira’s grandmother kissing his cheek.
That was five. He attached them to Fester’s e-mail address and clicked send. Done.
Ray felt so tired that he wasn’t sure he could get up from the chair and make his way to the bed. He debated just putting his head down on the kitchen table and napping when he remembered the other photographs on that SD card, the ones he’d taken earlier in the day, before the bar mitzvah.
An overwhelming feeling of sadness flooded into his chest.
Ray had gone back to that damn park and snapped pictures. Dumb, but he did it every year. He couldn’t say why. Or maybe he could and that just made it worse. The camera lens gave him distance, gave him perspective, made him feel somehow safe. Maybe that was what it was. Maybe, somehow, seeing that horrible place through that oddly comforting angle would somehow change what could, of course, never be changed.
Ray looked at the pictures he’d taken earlier in the day on his computer monitor—and now he remembered something else.
A guy with frosted tips and a hoop earring.
Two minutes later, he found what he was looking for. His entire body went cold as the realization hit him.
The attacker hadn’t been after the camera. He’d been after a picture.
This picture.
MEGAN PIERCE WAS LIVING THE ultimate soccer-mom fantasy and hating it.
She closed the Sub-Zero fridge and looked at her two children through the bay windows off the breakfast nook. The windows offered up “essential morning light.” That was how the architect had put it. The newly renovated kitchen also had a Viking stove, Miele appliances, a marble island in the middle, and excellent flow to the family-cum-theater room with the big-screen TV, recliners with cup holders, and enough sound speakers to stage a Who concert.
Out in the backyard, Kaylie, her fifteen-year-old daughter, was picking on her younger brother, Jordan. Megan sighed and opened the window. “Cut it out, Kaylie.”
“I didn’t do anything.”
“I’m standing right here watching you.”
Kaylie put her hands on her hips. Fifteen years old—that troubling adolescent cusp between adult and childhood, the body and hormones just starting to come to a boil. Megan remembered it well. “What did you see?” Kaylie asked in a challenge.
“I saw you picking on your brother.”
“You’re inside. You couldn’t hear anything. For all you know, I said, ‘I love you so much, Jordan.’”
“She did not!” Jordan shouted.
“I know she didn’t,” Megan said.
“She called me a loser and said I had no friends!”
Megan sighed. “Kaylie…”
“I did not!”
Megan just frowned at her.
“It’s his word against mine,” Kaylie protested. “Why do you always take his side?”
Every kid, Megan thought, is a frustrated lawyer, finding loopholes, demanding impossible levels of proof, attacking even the most minute of minutia.
“You have practice tonight,” Megan told Kaylie.
Kaylie’s head dropped to her shoulder, her entire body slumping. “Do I have to go?”
“You made a commitment to this team, young lady.”
Even as Megan said it—even as she had said similar words a zillion times before—she still couldn’t believe the words were coming from her own mouth.
“But I don’t want to go,” Kaylie whined. “I’m so tired. And I’m supposed to go out with Ginger later, remember, to…”
Kaylie may have said more, but Megan turned away, not really interested. In the TV room, her husband, Dave, was sprawled out in gray sweats. Dave was watching the latest fallen movie actor bragging in some tasteless interview about the many women he’d bagged and the years of scoring at strip clubs. The actor was manic and wide-eyed and clearly on something that required a physician with a loose prescription pad.
From his spot on the couch, Dave shook his head in disgust. “What is this world coming to?” Dave said, gesturing at the screen. “Can you believe this jerk? What a tool.”
Megan nodded, suppressing a smile. Years ago she had known that tool quite well. Biblically even. The Tool was actually a pretty nice guy who tipped well, enjoyed threesomes, and cried like a baby when he drank too much.
A long time ago.
Dave turned and smiled at her with everything he had. “Hey, babe.”
Dave still did that, smiled at her as though seeing her anew, for the first time, and she knew again that she was lucky, that she should be grateful. This was Megan’s life now. That old life—the one nobody in this happy suburban wonderland of cul-de-sacs and good schools and brick McMansions knew about—had been killed off and buried in a shallow ditch.
“You want me to drive Kaylie to soccer?” Dave asked.
“I can do it.”
“You’re sure?”
Megan nodded. Not even Dave knew the truth about the woman who had shared his bed for the past sixteen years. Dave didn’t even know that Megan’s real name was, strangely enough, Maygin. Same pronunciation but computers and IDs only know spelling. She would have asked her mother why the weird spelling, but her mother had died before Megan could talk. She had never known her father or even who he was. She’d been orphaned young, grew up hard, ended up stripping in Vegas and then Atlantic City, took it a step further, loved it. Yes, loved it. It was fun and exciting and electrifying. There was always something going on, always a sense of danger and possibility and passion.