Chapter 51

Dellapelle led Perlmutter into the basement. There was enough light, but Dellapelle still used the flashlight. He pointed it at the floor.


Perlmutter stared down at the concrete and felt a fresh chill.

"You thinking what I'm thinking?" Dellapelle asked him.

"That maybe"  -  Perlmutter stopped, trying to figure this into the equation-"that maybe Jack Lawson wasn't the only one being held down here."

Dellapelle nodded. "So where is the other guy?"

Perlmutter did not say anything. He just stared at the floor. Someone had indeed been held down. Someone who found a pebble and scratched two words into the floor, all in caps. A name actually, another person from that strange photograph, a name he'd just heard from Grace Lawson:



Charlaine Swain stayed to help Grace back to her room. Their silence was comfortable. Grace wondered about that. She wondered about a lot of things. She wondered why Jack had run away all those years ago. She wondered why he'd never touched that trust fund, why he let his sister and father control his percentage. She wondered why he'd run away not long after the Boston Massacre. She wondered about Geri Duncan and why she ended up dead two months later. And she wondered, perhaps most of all, if meeting Jack in France that day, if falling in love with him, had been more than just a coincidence.

She no longer wondered if it was all connected. She knew that it was. When they reached Grace's room, Charlaine helped her get back into bed. She turned to go.

"Do you want to stay a few minutes?" Grace asked.

Charlaine nodded. "I'd like that."

They talked. They started with what they had in common  -  children  -  but it was clear neither one of them wanted to stay on the subject long. An hour passed in a moment. Grace was not sure what they'd even discussed exactly. Just that she was grateful.

At nearly two in the morning the hospital phone next to Grace rang. For a moment they both just stared at it. Then Grace reached over and picked it up.


"I got your message. About Allaw and Still Night."

She recognized the voice. It was Jimmy X.

"Where are you?"

"In the hospital. I'm downstairs. They won't let me up."

"I'll be down in a minute."


The hospital lobby was quiet.

Grace was not sure how to handle this. Jimmy X sat with his forearms resting against his thighs. He didn't look up as she hobbled toward him. The receptionist read a magazine. The security guard whistled softly. Grace wondered if the guard would be able to protect her. She suddenly missed that gun.

She stopped in front of Jimmy X, stood over him, and waited. He looked up. Their eyes met and Grace knew. She didn't know the details. She barely knew the outline. But she knew.

His voice was almost a plea. "How did you learn about Allaw?"

"My husband."

Jimmy looked confused.

"My husband is Jack Lawson."

His jaw dropped. "John?"

"That's what he went by back then, I guess. He's upstairs right now. He may very well die."

"Oh God." Jimmy buried his face in his hands.

Grace said, "You know what always bothered me?"

He did not reply.

"Your running away. It doesn't happen very much  -  a rock star just giving up like that. There are rumors about Elvis or Jim Morrison, but that's because they're dead. There was that movie, Eddie and the Cruisers, but that was a movie. In reality, well, like I said before, the Who didn't run away after Cincinnati. The Stones didn't after Altamont Speedway. So why, Jimmy? Why did you run?"

He kept his head low.

"I know about the Allaw connection. It's just a matter of time before someone puts it together."

She waited. He dropped his hands away from his face and rubbed them together. He looked toward the security guard. Grace almost took a step back, but she held her ground.

"Do you know why rock concerts used to always start so late?" Jimmy asked.

The question threw her. "What?"

"I said..."

"I heard what you said. No, I don't know why."

"It's because we're so wasted  -  drunk, stoned, whatever  -  that our handlers need time to get us sobered up enough to perform."

"Your point being?"

"That night I nearly passed out from cocaine and alcohol." His gaze drifted off then, his eyes red. "That's why there was such a long delay. That was why the crowd got so impatient. If I had been sober, if I had taken the stage on time..." He let his voice drift off with a "who knows" shrug.

She didn't want excuses anymore. "Tell me about Allaw."

"I can't believe it." He shook his head. "John Lawson is your husband? How the hell did that happen?"

She didn't have an answer. She wondered if she ever would. The heart, she knew, was strange terrain. Could that have been part of the initial attraction, something subconscious, a knowing that they had both survived that terrible night? She flashed back to meeting Jack on that beach. Had it been fate, preordained  -  or planned? Did Jack want to meet the woman who had come to embody the Boston Massacre?

"Was my husband at the concert that night?" she asked.

"What, you don't know?"

"We can play this two ways, Jimmy. One, I can pretend I know everything and just want confirmation. But I don't. I may never know the truth, if you don't tell me. You may be able to keep your secret. But I'll keep looking. So will Carl Vespa and the Garrisons and the Reeds and the Weiders."

He looked up, his face so like a child's.

"But two  -  and I think this is more important  -  you can't live with yourself anymore. You came to my house needing absolution. You know it's time."

He lowered his head. Grace heard the sobs. They wracked his body. Grace did not say a word. She did not put a hand on his shoulder. The security guard glanced over. The receptionist looked up from her magazine. But that was all. This was a hospital. Adults weeping were hardly foreign in this environment. They both looked away. A minute later Jimmy's sobs started to quiet. His shoulders no longer shook.

"We met at a gig in Manchester," Jimmy said, wiping his nose with his sleeve. "I was with a group called Still Night. There were four bands on the roster. One of them was Allaw. That's how I met your husband. We hung out backstage, getting stoned. He was charming and all, but you have to understand. For me the music was everything. I wanted to make Born to Run, you know. I wanted to change the landscape of music. I ate, slept, dreamed, shat music. Lawson didn't take it too seriously. The band was fun, that's all. They had some decent songs, but the vocals and arrangement were totally amateur. Lawson didn't have any grand illusions about making it big or anything."

The security guard was whistling again. The receptionist had her nose back in the magazine. A car drove up to the entrance. The guard headed outside and pointed toward the ER.

"Allaw broke up a few months later, I think. So did Still Night. But Lawson and I stayed in touch. When I started up the Jimmy X Band, I almost thought of asking him to join."

"Why didn't you?"

"I didn't think he was that good a musician."

Jimmy stood so suddenly that he startled Grace. She took a step back. She kept her eyes on him, still searching to make eye contact, as if that alone could keep him in place.

"Yeah, your husband was at the concert that night. I got him five tickets in the front pit. He brought some of his old band members with him. He even brought a couple backstage."

He stopped then. They stood there. He looked off and for a moment Grace feared that she was losing him.

"Do you remember who they were?" she asked.

"The old band members?"


"Two girls. One had this bright red hair."

Sheila Lambert. "Was the other girl Geri Duncan?"

"I never knew her name."

"How about Shane Alworth? Was he there?"

"Was that the guy on keyboard?"


"Not backstage. I only saw Lawson and the two girls."

He shut his eyes.

"What happened, Jimmy?"

His face sagged and he suddenly looked older. "I was pretty wasted. I could hear the crowd. Twenty thousand strong. They would chant my name. They would clap. Anything to get the concert started. But I could barely move. My manager came in. I told him I'd need more time. He left. I was alone. And then Lawson and those two chicks came into the room."

Jimmy blinked and looked at Grace. "Is there a cafeteria in this place?"

"It's closed."

"I could use a cup of coffee."


Jimmy started pacing.

Grace asked, "What happened after they came in the room?"

"I don't know how they got backstage. I never gave them passes. But all of a sudden Lawson comes up to me and is all 'hey how's it going?' I was happy to see him, I guess. But then, I don't know, something went really wrong."


"Lawson. He went crazy. I don't know, he must have been higher than I was. He started pushing me, making threats. He shouted that I was a thief."

"A thief?"

Jimmy nodded. "It was all nonsense. He said..." He finally stayed still and met her eyes. "He said I stole his song."

"What song?"

" 'Pale Ink.' "

Grace could not move. The tremor started moving down her left side. There was a flutter in her chest.

"Lawson and that other guy, Alworth, wrote this song for Allaw called 'Invisible Ink.' That was pretty much the only similarity between the songs. That part of the title. You know the lyrics to 'Pale Ink,' right?"

She nodded. She didn't even try to speak.

" 'Invisible Ink' had a similar theme, I guess. Both about how fragile memory can be. But that was it. I told John that. But he was just out of his mind. Whatever I said just pissed him off more. He kept pushing me. One of the girls, she had this really dark hair, was egging him on too. She started saying they'd break my legs or something. I called for help. Lawson punched me. You remember the reports that I was injured in the melee?"

She nodded again.

"I wasn't. It was your husband. He hit my jaw, and then he jumped me. I tried to push him off. He started shouting how he was going to kill me. It was, I don't know, the whole thing was surreal. He said he was going to cut me up."

The flutter expanded and grew cold. Grace was holding her breath. This couldn't be. Please, this just couldn't be.

"By now it was just so out of hand, one of the girls, the redhead, told him to calm down. It's not worth it, she said. She pleaded with him to forget it. But he wasn't listening. He just smiled at me and then... then he took out a knife."

Grace shook her head.

"He said he was going to stab me in the heart. You remember how I said I was stoned out of my mind? Well, that sobered me up. You want to sober someone up? Threaten to stick a knife in their chest." He went quiet again.

"What did you do?"

Had she spoken? Grace wasn't sure. The voice sounded like hers, but it seemed as though it'd come from someplace else, someplace tinny and distant.

Jimmy's face, lost in the memory, went slack. "I wasn't going to just let him stab me. So I jumped him. He dropped the knife. We started wrestling. The girls were screaming now. They came over and tried to pull us apart. And then, when we were on the floor like that, I heard a gunshot."

Grace was still shaking her head. Not Jack. Jack wasn't there that night, no way, no chance at all...

"It was so loud, you know. Like the gun was behind my ear or something. All hell broke loose then. There were screams. And then there were two, maybe three more shots. Not in the room. They were from far away. I heard more screams. Lawson stopped moving. There was blood on the floor. He'd been hit in the back. I pushed him off and then I saw that security guard, Gordon MacKenzie, still pointing his gun."

Grace closed her eyes. "Wait a second. Are you telling me Gordon MacKenzie fired the first shot?"

Jimmy nodded. "He heard the commotion, heard me calling for help and..." Again his voice trailed off. "We just stared at each other for a second. The girls were screaming, but by now they were being drowned out by the crowd. That sound, I don't know, people talk about the most terrible sound, like maybe it's a wounded animal, but I've never heard anything that comes close to the sound of fear and panic. But you know that."

She didn't. The head trauma had wiped out the memory. But she nodded so that he'd keep talking.

"Anyway, MacKenzie stood there for a second, stunned. And then he just ran. The two girls grabbed Lawson and started dragging him out." He shrugged. "You know the rest, Grace."

She tried to take it all in. She tried to understand the implications, tried to fit it into her own reality. She had been standing yards away from all this, the other side of the stage. Jack. Her husband. He'd been right there. How could that be?

"No," she said.

"No what?"

"No, I don't know the rest, Jimmy."

He said nothing.

"The story didn't end there. Allaw had four members. I've been checking out the time line. Two months after the stampede someone hired a hit man to kill one of the members, Geri Duncan. My husband, the one who you say attacked you, ran overseas, shaved his beard, and started going by Jack. According to Shane Alworth's mother, he's overseas too, but I think she's lying about that. Sheila Lambert, the redhead, changed her name. Her husband was recently murdered and she disappeared again."

Jimmy shook his head. "I don't know anything about any of that."

"You think it's all just a big coincidence?"

"No, I guess not," Jimmy said. "Maybe they were scared of what would happen if the truth came out. You remember what it was like those first few months  -  everyone wanting blood. They could have gone to jail, maybe worse."

Grace shook her head. "And what about you, Jimmy?"

"What about me?"

"Why did you keep this secret all these years?"

He said nothing.

"If what you just told me is true, you didn't do anything wrong. You were the one attacked. Why didn't you just tell the police what happened?"

He opened his mouth, closed it, tried again. "This was bigger than me. Gordon MacKenzie was part of it, too. He came out the hero, remember? If the world ever learned that he fired that first shot, what do you think would have happened to him?"

"Are you saying you lied all these years to protect Gordon MacKenzie?"

He didn't reply.

"Why, Jimmy? Why didn't you say anything? Why did you run away?"

His eyes started shifting. "Look, I told you everything I know. I'm going home now."

Grace moved closer. "You did steal that song, didn't you?"

"What? No."

But she saw it now. "That was why you felt responsible. You stole that song. If you hadn't, none of this would have happened."

He just kept shaking his head. "That's not it."

"That's why you ran away. It wasn't just that you were stoned. You stole the song that made you. That was where it all started. You heard Allaw play in Manchester. You liked their song. You stole it."

He shook his head, but there was nothing behind it. "There were similarities..."

And another thought struck her with a deep, hard pang: "How far would you go to keep your secret, Jimmy?"

He looked at her.

" 'Pale Ink' became even bigger after the stampede. That album ended up selling millions. Who has that money?"

He shook his head. "You're wrong, Grace."

"Did you already know I was married to Jack Lawson?"

"What? Of course not."

"Is that why you came by my house that night? Were you trying to figure out what I knew?"

He kept shaking his head, tears on his cheeks. "That's not true. I never meant to hurt anyone."

"Who killed Geri Duncan?"

"I don't know anything about that."

"Was she going to talk? Is that what happened? And then, fifteen years later, someone goes after Sheila Lambert aka Jillian Dodd, but her husband gets in the way. Was she going to talk, Jimmy? Did she know you were back?"

"I have to go."

She stepped in his path. "You can't run away again. There's been too much of that."

"I know," he said, his voice a plea. "I know that better than anyone."

He pushed past her and ran outside. Grace was tempted to yell, "Stop! Grab him!" but she doubted the whistling guard would be able to do much. Jimmy was already outside, almost out of sight. She limped after him.

Gunshots  -  three of them  -  shattered the night. There was the squeal of tires. The receptionist dropped her magazine and picked up the phone. The security guard stopped whistling and sprinted toward the door. Grace hurried behind him.

When Grace got outside, she saw a car shoot down the exit ramp and disappear into the night. Grace had not seen who was in the car. But she thought she knew. The security guard bent down over the body. Two doctors ran out, nearly knocking Grace down. But it was too late.

Fifteen years after the stampede began, the Boston Massacre claimed its most elusive victim.