Long Lost Page 27

’’Hey, girl,’’ she whispered. ’’It\'s me.’’

The dog\'s tail wagged as though it took great effort. The rest of the body stayed still. There were tears in Terese\'s eyes.

’’This is Casey,’’ she said to me. ’’We got her for Miriam when she was five years old.’’

The dog managed to lift its head. She licked Terese\'s hand. Terese just stayed there, on her knees. Casey\'s eyes were milky with cataracts. The old dog tried to get her legs under her and stand. Terese hushed her and found a spot behind the ears. The dog still twisted her head as if she wanted to look into Terese\'s eyes. Terese moved forward so it would be easier. The moment was tender and I felt like I was intruding.

’’Casey used to sleep under Miriam\'s bed. She would get low and scratch her way underneath and then she\'d turn around so just her head was sticking out. Like she was on guard duty.’’

Terese petted the dog and started to cry. I moved away, shielded them from anyone\'s view, gave them their time. It took Terese a few minutes to put herself back together. When she did, she took my hand again.

We headed into the living room. There was a line of maybe fifteen people waiting to pay their respects.

The whispers and stares began the moment we stepped fully into the room. I hadn\'t thought about it, but here was the ex-wife who had been gone for nearly a decade showing up at the home of the current wife. It would make tongues wag, I guess.

People parted and a woman dressed smartly in black I assumed the widow came through it. She was pretty, petite, and almost doll-like with big green eyes. A touch of Tuesday Weld, to quote a Steely Dan song. I didn\'t know what to expect, but her eyes seemed to light up when she saw Terese. Terese\'s too. The two women smiled sadly at each other, the kind of smile you give to someone you adore but wished you were seeing under better circumstances.

Karen spread her arms. The two women embraced, holding each other, staying very still. I wondered for a moment what sort of friendship these two women shared and figured that it had probably been something pretty profound.

When they finished the embrace, Karen sort of gestured with her head. The two women started out of the room. Terese reached back and grabbed my hand, so I went too. We headed into what the British probably called the ’’drawing room’’ and Karen closed the pocket doors. The two women sat on a couch as though they had done it a thousand times and knew their exact spots. No awkwardness.

Terese looked back at me. ’’This is Myron,’’ she said.

I put out my hand. Karen Tower shook it with her tiny one. ’’I\'m sorry for your loss,’’ I said.

’’Thank you.’’ Karen turned back to Terese. ’’Is he your . . . ?’’

’’It\'s complicated,’’ Terese said.

Karen nodded.

I pointed back with my thumb. ’’Do you guys want me to wait in the other room?’’

’’No,’’ Terese said.

I stayed where I was. No one was sure how to go on, but I sure as heck wasn\'t going to take the lead. I stood as stoically as I could.

Karen cut right to it. ’’Where have you been, Terese?’’

’’Here and there.’’

’’I\'ve missed you.’’

’’I\'ve missed you too.’’

Silence.

’’I wanted to reach you,’’ Karen said. ’’And explain. About Rick and me.’’

’’It wouldn\'t have mattered,’’ Terese said.

’’That\'s what Rick said. It happened slowly. You were gone. We started spending time together, for companionship. It took a long time before it became more.’’

’’You don\'t need to explain,’’ Terese said.

’’Yeah, I guess not.’’

There was no apology in her voice, no waiting for forgiveness or understanding. They both seemed to get it.

Terese said, ’’I wished it ended better for you both.’’

’’We have a son named Matthew,’’ she said. ’’He\'s four years old.’’

’’I heard.’’

’’So how did you hear about the murder?’’

’’I was in Paris,’’ Terese said.

That made Karen react. She blinked and backed up a bit. ’’That\'s where you\'ve been this whole time?’’

’’No.’’

’’Then I\'m not sure I understand.’’

’’Rick called me,’’ Terese said.

’’When?’’

Terese filled her in on Rick\'s emergency phone call. Karen\'s face, already something of a death mask, lost even more color.

’’Rick told you to come to Paris?’’ Karen asked.

’’Yes.’’

’’What did he want?’’

’’I was hoping you might know,’’ Terese said.

Karen shook her head. ’’We haven\'t been talking much lately. We were going through a pretty bad spell. Rick had become withdrawn. I was kind of hoping it was just because he was onto a big story. You know how he got then?’’

Terese nodded. ’’How long had he been like that?’’

’’Three, four months now since his father died.’’

Terese stiffened. ’’Sam?’’

’’I figured you knew.’’

’’No,’’ Terese said.

’’In the winter, yeah. He took a bottle of pills.’’

’’Sam committed suicide?’’

’’He was sick, something terminal. He kept it from us, for the most part. Rick didn\'t know how bad it had gotten. I guess it got bad at the end so he decided to speed up the inevitable. Rick went into a funk, but then he started in on some big new investigation. He would disappear for weeks at a time. When I asked where he was, he\'d snap and then he\'d be sweet, but he wouldn\'t tell me. Or he\'d lie about it.’’

Terese was still trying to get her bearings.

’’Sam was such a sweet man,’’ Terese said.

’’I really never got to know him too well,’’ Karen said. ’’We only visited him a couple of times, and he\'d gotten too ill to come over here.’’

Terese swallowed, tried to get herself back on track. ’’So Sam commits suicide, and Rick buries himself in his work.’’

’’Something like that, yeah.’’

’’And he wouldn\'t tell you what he was investigating?’’

’’No.’’

’’Did you ask Mario?’’

’’He wouldn\'t say.’’

I didn\'t ask who Mario was. I figured Terese would fill me in later.

Terese continued now, back on a roll. ’’Do you have any idea what it was Rick was working on?’’

Karen studied her friend. ’’How well hidden were you, Terese?’’


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