“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Sally says. “I never wrote to you. I don’t even know who you are.”
“Gary Hallet,” he introduces himself. He reaches into his pocket for her letter, although he hates to give it up. If they examined this letter in Forensics they’d find his fingerprints all over it; he’s folded and unfolded it more times than he can count.
“I mailed that to my sister ages ago.” Sally looks at the letter, then at him. She has the funny feeling that she may be in for more than she can handle. “You opened it.”
“It was opened already. It must have gotten lost at the post office.”
While Sally is deciding whether or not to judge him a liar, Gary can feel his heart flopping around like a fish inside his chest. He’s heard about this happening to other men. They’re going about their business one minute, and suddenly there’s no hope for them. They fall in love so hard they never again get up off their knees.
Gary shakes his head, but that doesn’t clear up the matter. All it does is make him see double. Momentarily there are two Sallys before him, and each one makes him wish he weren’t here in an official capacity. He forces himself to think about the kid at the university. He thinks about the bruises up and down the kid’s face and the way his head must have hit against the metal bed frame and the wooden floor as he thrashed about in convulsions. If there’s one thing in this world Gary knows for a fact, it’s that men like Jimmy Hawkins never pick fair fights.
“Would you know where your sister might be?”
“My sister?” Sally narrows her eyes; maybe this is just one more heart Gillian broke, arriving to plead for mercy. She wouldn’t have taken this fellow for such a fool. She wouldn’t have figured him to be her sister’s type. “You’re looking for Gillian?”
“Like I said, I’m doing some work for the attorney general’s office. It’s an investigation that concerns one of your sister’s friends.”
Sally feels something wrong in her fingers and toes that is a whole lot like the edge of panic. “Where did you say you were from?”
“Well, originally, Bisbee,” Gary says, “but I’ve been in Tucson for nearly twenty-five years.”
It is panic that Sally is feeling, that much is certain, and it’s creeping along her spine, spreading into her veins, moving toward her vital organs.
“I pretty much grew up in Tucson,” Gary is saying. “I guess you could say I’m chauvinistic, because I’m convinced it’s the greatest place on earth.”
“What’s your investigation about?” Sally interrupts before Gary can say more about his beloved Arizona.
“Well, there’s a suspect we’re looking for.” Gary hates to do this. The joy he gets out of a murder investigation isn’t happening for him this time around. “I’m sorry to inform you of this, but his car is parked out there in your driveway.”
The blood drains out of Sally’s head all at once, leaving her faint. She leans against the doorway and tries to breathe. She’s seeing spots before her eyes, and every spot is red, hot as a cinder. That goddamn Jimmy just doesn’t let go. He keeps coming back and coming back, trying to ruin someone’s life.
Gary Hallet stoops down toward Sally. “Are you okay?” he asks, although he knows from her letter that Sally’s the kind of woman who wouldn’t tell you right away if something was wrong. It took her nearly eighteen years before she gave her sister a piece of her mind, after all.
“I’m going to sit down,” Sally says, casually, as if she weren’t about to collapse.
Gary follows her into the kitchen, and watches as she drinks a glass of cool tap water. He’s so tall he has to duck in order to pass through the kitchen doorway, and when he sits down he has to stretch his legs straight out so his knees will fit under the table. His grandfather always said he had the makings of a worrywart, and this pronouncement has turned out to be true.
“I didn’t mean to upset you,” he tells Sally.
“You didn’t upset me.” Sally fans herself with her hand, and still she’s flushed. Thank goodness the girls are out of the house; she has that to be grateful for at least. If they get dragged into this, she’ll never forgive Gillian, and she’ll never forgive herself. How did they ever think they could get away with it? What idiots, what morons, what self-destructive fools. “You didn’t upset me a bit.”
It takes everything she has to keep her nerve and look at Gary. He looks right back at her, so she quickly lowers her gaze to the floor. You have to be extremely careful when you look into eyes like his. Sally drinks more water; she goes on fanning herself. In a predicament such as this, it’s best to appear normal. Sally knows that from her childhood. Don’t give anything away. Don’t let them know what you feel deep inside.