Chapter 52

Maybe, Grace thought, we are not supposed to know the entire truth. And maybe the truth does not matter.

There were plenty of questions in the end. Grace thought that she would never know all the answers. Too many of the players were dead now.

Jimmy X, real name James Xavier Farmington, died from three gunshot wounds to the chest.

Wade Larue's body was found near the Port Authority Bus Terminal in New York City less than twenty-four hours after his release. He'd been shot in the head at point-blank range. There was only one significant clue: A reporter for the New York Daily News managed to follow Wade Larue after he left the press conference at the Crowne Plaza. According to the reporter, Larue got into a black sedan with a man fitting Cram's description. That was the last time anyone saw Larue alive.

No arrests have been made, but the answer seemed clear.

Grace tried to understand what Carl Vespa had done. Fifteen years had passed, and his son was still dead. Weird to put it that way, but maybe it was apropos. For Vespa, nothing had changed. Time had not been enough.

Captain Perlmutter would try to make a case against him. But Vespa was pretty good about covering his tracks.

Both Perlmutter and Duncan came to the hospital after Jimmy was killed. Grace told them everything. There was nothing to hide anymore. Perlmutter mentioned almost in passing that the words Shane Alworth had been scratched into the concrete floor.

"So what does that mean?" Grace asked.

"We're checking the physical evidence, but maybe your husband wasn't alone in that basement."

It made sense, Grace guessed. Fifteen years later they were all coming back. Everyone in that photograph.

At four in the morning Grace was back in her hospital bed. Her room was dark when the door opened. A silhouette slid in quietly. He thought that she was asleep. For a moment Grace didn't say anything. She waited until he was in the chair again, just like fifteen years ago, before she said, "Hello, Carl."

"How are you feeling?" Vespa asked.

"Did you kill Jimmy X?"

There was a long pause. The shadow did not move. "What happened that night," he said at last. "It was his fault."

"It's hard to know."

Vespa's face was no more than a shadow. "You see too many shades of gray."

Grace tried to sit up, but her rib cage would not cooperate. "How did you find out about Jimmy?"

"From Wade Larue," he said.

"You killed him too."

"Do you want to make accusations, Grace, or do you want to know the truth?"

She wanted to ask if that was all he wanted, the truth, but she knew the answer. The truth would never be enough. Vengeance and justice would never be enough.

"Wade Larue reached out to me the day before he was released," Vespa said. "He asked if we could talk."

"Talk about what?"

"He wouldn't say. I had Cram pick him up in the city. He came out to my house. He started in with some touchy-feely crap about understanding my pain. He said he was suddenly all at peace with himself, that he didn't want vengeance anymore. I didn't want to hear any of that. I wanted him to get to the point."

"Did he?"

"Yes." The shadow was still again. Grace debated reaching for the light switch and decided against it. "He told me that Gordon MacKenzie had visited him in the hospital three months ago. Do you know why?"

Grace nodded, seeing it now. "MacKenzie had terminal cancer."

"Right. He was still hoping to buy a last-minute ticket to the Promised Land. All of a sudden he can't live with what he's done." Vespa cocked his head and smiled. "Amazing how that happens right before you're going to die anyway, isn't it? Ironic timing when you think about it. He confesses when there is no personal cost, and hey, if you buy into that confess-and-forgive nonsense, there could be a big upside."

Grace knew not to comment. She stayed still.

"Anyway, Gordon MacKenzie took the blame. He was working the backstage entrance. He let some pretty young thing distract him. He said that Lawson and two girls sneaked past him. You know all this, don't you?"

"Some of it."

"You know that MacKenzie shot your husband?"


"And that's what started the riot. MacKenzie met up with Jimmy X after the whole thing went down. They both agreed to keep it quiet. They worried a little about Jack's injury or if those girls were going to come forward, but hey, those three had plenty to lose too."

"So everyone just kept quiet."

"Pretty much. MacKenzie became a hero. He got a job with the Boston police from that. He rose to captain. All off his heroics from that night."

"So what did Larue do after MacKenzie confessed all this?"

"What do you think? He wanted the truth to come out. He wanted vengeance and exoneration."

"So why didn't Larue tell anyone?"

"Oh, he did." Vespa smiled. "Three guesses who."

Grace saw it. "He told his lawyer."

Vespa spread his hands. "Give the lady a kewpie doll."

"But how did Sandra Koval convince him to keep quiet?"

"Oh, this part is brilliant. Somehow  -  and let's give the lady credit  -  she did what was best for her client and her brother."


"She told Larue that he'd have a better chance of getting out on parole if he didn't tell the truth."

"I don't understand."

"You don't know much about parole, do you?"

She shrugged.

"You see, the parole board doesn't want to hear that you're innocent. They want to hear your mea culpas. If you want to get out, you have to hang your head in shame. You did wrong, you tell them. You've accepted blame  -  that's the first step toward rehabilitation. If you keep insisting you're innocent, you're not going to get better."

"Couldn't MacKenzie testify?"

"He was too ill by then. You see, Larue's innocence wasn't the parole board's concern. If Larue wanted to take that route, he'd have to request a new trial. It would take months, maybe years. According to Sandra Koval  -  and she was telling the truth here  -  Larue's best chance of getting out was to admit his guilt."

"And she was right," Grace said.


"And Larue never knew that Sandra and Jack were brother and sister?"

Again Vespa spread his hands. "How would he?"

Grace shook her head.

"But, you see, it's not over for Wade Larue. He still wants vengeance and exoneration. He just knows he'll have to wait until he's out of jail. The question is, how? He knows the truth, but how will he prove it? Who will, pardon the expression, feel his wrath? Who is really to blame for what happened that night?"

Grace nodded as something else fell into place. "So he went after Jack."

"The one who pulled the knife, yep. So Larue got his old prison buddy Eric Wu to grab your husband. Larue's plan was to hook up with Wu the moment he got released. He'd make Jack tell the truth, film it, and then, he wasn't sure, but probably kill him."

"Find exoneration and then commit murder?"

Vespa shrugged. "He was angry, Grace. He might have ended up just beating him up or breaking his legs. Who knows?"

"So what happened?"

"Wade Larue had a change of heart."

Grace frowned.

"You should have heard him talk about it. His eyes were so clear. I'd just punched him in the face. I'd kicked him and threatened his life. But the peace on his face... it just stayed there. The moment Larue was free, he realized that he would be able to get past it."

"What do you mean, past it?"

"Exactly that. His punishment was in the past. He could never really be exonerated because he wasn't blameless. He fired shots in the middle of the crowd. That raised the hysteria level. But more than that, it was like he told me: He was truly free. Nothing was left to tie him to the past. He was no longer in prison, but my son would always be dead. You see?"

"I think so."

"Larue just wanted to live his life. He was also afraid of what I'd do to him. So he wanted to trade. He told me the truth. He gave me Wu's number. And in exchange, I'd leave him alone."

"So it was you who called Wu?"

"Actually Larue made the call. But yes, I spoke to him."

"And you told Wu to bring us to you?"

"I didn't realize you were there. I thought it was just Jack."

"What was your plan, Carl?"

He said nothing.

"Would you have killed Jack too?"

"Does it matter anymore?"

"And what would you have done with me?"

He took his time. "There were things that made me wonder," he said.


"About you."

Seconds passed. There were footsteps in the corridor. A stretcher with a squeaky wheel rolled past the door. Grace listened to the sound recede. She tried to slow her breath.

"Here you were nearly killed in the Boston Massacre  -  yet you end up marrying the man responsible for it all. I also know that Jimmy X came to visit your house after we saw him at that rehearsal. You never told me about that. And then there's the fact that you remember so little of what happened. Not just that night, but for almost a week before."

She tried to keep her breaths even. "You thought -"

"I didn't know what to think. But now maybe I do. I think your husband is a good man who made a terrible mistake. I think he ran away after the stampede. I think he felt guilty. That was why he wanted to meet you. He saw the press reports and wanted to know you were okay. Maybe he even planned on apologizing. So he found you on the beach in France. And then he fell in love with you."

She closed her eyes and leaned back.

"It's over now, Grace."

They sat in silence. There was nothing else to say. A few minutes later Vespa stole out, silent as the night.