Seconds Away Page 45

I shrugged. ’’What difference does it make now?’’

Myron seemed to be weighing his words on a hand scale. ’’Because there is a chance I can get it done.’’

’’How?’’

’’I have this friend. This very well-connected friend . . .’’

’’Angelica Wyatt?’’

’’No.’’

I almost asked him whether he knew about Ema, about Angelica Wyatt having a daughter, but I knew that there was some secrecy regarding her identity, and I didn\'t want to say anything I shouldn\'t.

’’So who?’’

’’You don\'t know him. He\'s the friend who asked me to watch Angelica.’’

’’He can get Dad\'s body exhumed?’’

’’If I really push it, yes, he can do it. But I need to know your real reason, Mickey. I would go out on a limb for you for no reason. I can\'t ask my friend to. You get that, don\'t you?’’

I nodded. We sat at the kitchen table. It had been updated within the last five years, but again, this was the kitchen of my father\'s childhood. Dad had spent countless hours here with his family. It was a simple thought and yet, for a moment, it overwhelmed me.

’’I\'m not sure Dad is in that grave.’’

Uncle Myron opened his mouth, closed it, opened it again. ’’I don\'t understand.’’

’’I know it sounds crazy,’’ I said, ’’but I need to know for certain that Dad is in that coffin.’’

Myron blinked twice. ’’Do you have reason to believe he\'s not in there?’’

I wasn\'t sure how to respond. I couldn\'t go into the sandy-blond paramedic. For one thing, Myron would never believe me, but even if he did, both Bat Lady and Shaved Head had warned me not to tell Myron. I also knew that my father never told Myron about Abeona. There had to be a reason, right?

’’Mickey?’’

I met his eye and held it. ’’Yes,’’ I said. ’’I have a reason.’’

Then Myron caught me off guard with his next question. ’’Does this have something to do with the fire at Bat Lady\'s house?’’

’’What makes you think that?’’ I asked.

’’I told you. Your father visited that house. It changed him. Now suddenly you\'re drawn to it too.’’ Myron leaned a little closer to me. ’’Have you met the Bat Lady?’’

’’Yes,’’ I said before I could stop myself.

’’What did she say to you?’’

I shook my head, remembering the warnings. ’’Please, Myron. Please ask your friend to help us.’’

’’I need to know more.’’

’’Can\'t you just trust me on this?’’

’’That\'s not the issue. You know that.’’

I wasn\'t sure what to say to that, but Myron\'s cell phone buzzed. He checked a text message and sighed. ’’It\'s Angelica. I have to go. We aren\'t done with this, okay?’’

’’Okay.’’

He rose and looked at me as though he were seeing me for the first time. ’’Mickey?’’

’’Yes.’’

’’I\'ll talk to my friend. I\'ll try my best to help you.’’

Chapter 36

I could smell the charred remains of the Bat Lady\'s house.

It was eight P.M. not too late. Night had fallen. I had a flashlight, but for now, standing on the sidewalk, the streetlight gave me enough illumination. A few wooden beams from the house remained upright, stretching up into the darkness like fingers on a giant hand.

’’Hey.’’

I turned. It was Ema. ’’Hey. How did you get past Niles?’’

’’Are you kidding? He\'s so happy I have a friend, he practically shoved me out the door.’’

I smiled. I thought about how wonderful the hug we shared earlier had been and tried to sort through my feelings about it. Ema was my friend. My very best friend. That was where that overwhelming sense of warmth came from, right?

We slowly approached the house. I kept my flashlight off because I didn\'t want the neighbors to see. We stopped at the crime-scene tape. Ema turned to me, shrugged, and ducked under it. I followed her up those front porch steps and inside the house. There was debris all over the floor.

’’This was the living room,’’ I said to her.

The light was getting pretty dim now. I still didn\'t want to use the flashlight, but I figured that maybe the light of my mobile phone would do the trick. Ema did the same.

’’What\'s this?’’ she asked.

The frame was shattered, but I recognized it right away the faded color photograph of the five hippies.

’’Is that . . . ?’’ Ema pointed to the attractive woman in the tight T-shirt in the middle. Across her chest was the Abeona butterfly.

’’Yep,’’ I said. ’’I think it\'s Bat Lady.’’

’’Wow. She was kind of hot.’’

’’Subject change,’’ I said, and Ema smiled. I tried to pick up the frame from the sides, but it pretty much fell apart. I slid the picture out and slipped it into my pocket. I figured that it might come in handy at some point.

The old record player had been damaged. There was no vinyl on the turntable, but I did manage to find the Beatles, the Beach Boys, and the Who albums. I doubted that they were in working condition anymore. I looked for the album that Bat Lady seemed to always play Aspect of Juno by HorsePower but it had either been burned completely or . . .

Or what?

’’Should we head to the garage?’’ Ema asked.

I shook my head. That had been the original plan. We would go to the garage, try to break in, see if we could find the tunnel. But the tunnel I had gone through had led from the garage to the basement below us, to a door that no longer existed between the kitchen and this living room. With the garage locked, wouldn\'t it be simpler and probably more productive to simply go in reverse to start in the living room, go down to the basement, see where it led?

Okay, the basement door was gone. So was most of the kitchen. I tried to picture the house\'s layout as it had been before the fire. I moved closer to where I thought the basement door would be. The remnants of the second floor and roof had collapsed over it. I started to pull up the plywood, trying to dig through the rubble. Ema joined me.

We worked in silence, removing debris, carefully moving it to the side. When I stopped and thought about it, we were, in fact, tainting a crime scene. I was already in plenty of trouble, but what about Ema?

’’We should stop,’’ I said.

’’Huh?’’

’’We\'re tainting a crime scene.’’

’’You\'re kidding, right?’’

Ema kept on digging.

’’Seriously,’’ I said, ’’this was a mistake.’’


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