We buried Hoyt four days later. Thousands of uniformed cops showed up to pay their respects. The details of what had happened at the Scope estate weren't out yet, and I wasn't sure they ever would be. Even Elizabeth's mother hadn't pushed for answers, but perhaps that had more to do with the fact that she was delirious with joy over her daughter's return from the dead. It made her not want to ask too many questions or look at the cracks too closely. I could relate.
For now, Hoyt Parker had died a hero. And maybe that was true. I'm not the best judge.
Hoyt had written a long confession, basically restating what he had told me in the car. Carlson showed it to me.
"Does this end it?" I asked.
"We still have to make a case against Gandle and Wu and some of the others," he said. "But with Griffin Scope dead, everyone's cutting deals now."
The mythical beast, I thought. You don't chop off its head. You stab it in the heart.
"You were smart to come to me when they kidnapped that little boy," Carlson said to me.
"What was my alternative?"
"Good point." Carlson shook my hand. "Take care of yourself, Dr. Beck."
"You too," I said.
You may want to know if Tyrese ever goes down to Florida and what happens to TJ and Latisha. You may be wondering if Shauna and Linda stay together and what that means to Mark. But I can't tell any of that because I don't know.
This story ends now, four days after the death of Hoyt Parker and Griffin Scope. It is late. Very late. I am lying in bed with Elizabeth, watching her body rise and fall in sleep. I watch her all the time, I don't close my eyes much. My dreams have perversely reversed themselves. It is in my dreams now that I lose her - where she is dead again and I am alone. So I hold her a lot. I am clingy and needy. So is she. But we'll work that out.
As though she feels my eyes on her, Elizabeth rolls over. I smile at her. She smiles back and I feel my heart soar. I remember the day at the lake. I remember drifting on that raft. And I remember my decision to tell her the truth.
"We need to talk," I say.
"I don't think so."
"We're not good at keeping secrets from each other, Elizabeth. It's what caused this mess in the first place. If we had just told each other everything..." I didn't finish.
She nods. And I realize that she knows. That she's always known.
"Your father," I say. "He always thought you killed Brandon Scope."
"That's what I told him."
"But in the end-" I stop, start again. "When I said in the car that you didn't kill him, do you think he realized the truth?"
"I don't know," Elizabeth says. "I like to think that maybe he did."
"So he sacrificed himself for us."
"Or he tried to stop you from doing it," she says. "Or maybe he died still thinking I killed Brandon Scope. We'll never really know. And it doesn't matter."
We look at each other.
"You knew," I say, my chest hitching. "From the beginning. You-"
She hushes me with a finger on my lips. "It's okay."
"You put all that stuff in the safety-deposit box," I say, "for me."
"I wanted to protect you," she says.
"It was in self-defense," I say, again remembering the feel of the gun in my hand, the sickening backfire when I pulled the trigger.
"I know," she says, wrapping her arms around my neck and pulling me close. "I know."
You see, I was the one who was home when Brandon Scope broke into our house eight years ago. I was the one lying alone in the bed when he sneaked up with the knife. We struggled. I fumbled for my father's gun. He lunged again. I shot and killed him. And then, in a panic, I ran. I tried to gather my thoughts, figure out what to do. When I came to my senses, when I returned to the house, the body was gone. So was the gun. I wanted to tell her. I was going to at the lake. But in the end, I never said anything about it. Until now.
Like I told you earlier, if I had just told the truth from the get-go...
She pulls me closer.
"I'm here," Elizabeth whispers.
Here. With me. It would take a while to accept that. But I would. We hold each other and drift off to sleep. Tomorrow morning we would wake up together. And the morning after that too. Her face would be the first I'd see every day. Her voice would be the first I'd hear. And that, I knew, would always be enough.