Page 71

“That’s what happens when you write letters.” Gillian is out of bed now, pulling on jeans and a soft beige blouse. “You want to communicate? Use the damn phone.”

“I gave him some coffee,” Sally says. “He’s in the kitchen.”

“I don’t care what room he’s in.” Gillian looks at her sister. Sometimes Sally really doesn’t get it. She certainly doesn’t seem to understand what it means to bury a body in your backyard. “What are we going to tell him?”

Sally clutches at her chest and goes white. “I may be having a heart attack,” she announces.

“Oh, terrific. That’s all we need.” Gillian slips on a pair of flip-flops, then stops to consider her sister. Sally can have a fever of a hundred and three before she thinks to complain. She can spend the whole night in the bathroom, brought to her knees by a stomach virus, and be cheery by the first light of morning, down in the kitchen, already fixing a fruit salad or some blueberry waffles. “You’re having a panic attack,” Gillian decides. “Get over it. We have to go convince that damn investigator we don’t know anything.”

Gillian runs a comb through her hair, then starts for the door. She turns when she senses that Sally isn’t following her.

“Well?” Gillian says.

“Here’s the thing,” Sally says. “I don’t think I can lie to him.”

Gillian walks right up to her sister. “Yes, you can.”

“I don’t know. I may not be able to sit there and just lie. It’s the way he looks at you....”

“Listen to me.” Gillian’s voice is thin and high. “We will go to jail unless you lie, so I think you’ll be able to do it. When he talks to you, don’t look at him.” She takes Sally’s hands in her own. “He’ll ask a few questions, then he’ll go back to Arizona and everyone will be happy.”

“Right,” Sally says.

“Remember. Don’t look at him.”

“Okay.” Sally nods. She thinks she can do this, or at the very least she can try.

“Just follow my lead,” Gillian tells her.

The sisters cross their hearts and hope to die, then swear they’re in this together, forever, till the absolute very end. They’ll give Gary Hallet simple facts; they won’t say too much or too little. By the time they have their story worked out and go downstairs, Gary has finished his third cup of coffee and has memorized every item on the kitchen shelves. When he hears the women on the stairs, he wipes his eyes with the back of his hand and pushes his coffee cup away.

“Hey there,” Gillian says.

She’s good at this, that’s for sure. When Gary stands to greet her she sticks her hand out for him to shake just like this was a regular old social event. But when she really looks at him, when she feels his grip on her hand, Gillian gets nervous. This guy won’t be easy to fool. He’s seen a lot of things, and heard a lot of stories, and he’s smart. She can tell that just by looking at him. He may be too smart.

“I hear you want to talk to me about Jimmy,” Gillian says. Her heart feels too big for her chest.

“I’m afraid I do.” Gary sizes Gillian up fast—the tattoo on her wrist, the way she takes one step back when he addresses her, as if she expects to be hit. “Have you seen him recently?”

“I ran away in June. I took his car and hit the road and haven’t heard from him since.”

Gary nods and makes some notes, but the notes are just scribbles, nothing but nonsense words. Ivory Snow, he’s written at the top of the page. Wolverine. Apple pie. Two plus two equals four. Darling. He’s jotting down anything in order to appear concentrated on official business. This way, Sally and her sister won’t be able to look into his eyes and sense that he doesn’t believe Gillian. She wouldn’t have had the nerve to take off with her boyfriend’s car, and Hawkins wouldn’t have let it go so easy. No way. He would have caught up with her before she reached the state line.

“Probably a smart move,” Gary says. He’s done this before, smoothed out the doubt so it doesn’t seep through his voice. He reaches into his jacket pocket, takes out Hawkins’s legal record and spreads it across the table for Gillian to see.

Gillian sits down to get a better look. “Wow,” she says.

Jimmy’s first arrest for drugs was so many years back he couldn’t have been more than fifteen years old. Gillian runs her finger down a list of crimes that goes on and on; the misdemeanors becoming more violent with every year, until they veer into felonies. It looks as if they were living together when he was picked up for his last aggravated assault, and he never bothered to mention it. Unless Gillian is mistaken, Jimmy told her he’d gone to Phoenix to help his cousin move some furniture on the day of his court date.