EXCERPT: Sarah arrives at the crime scene

I’d expected a single, silent, forbidding police sentry, standing at attention, barring my way into my childhood home with the power and awful gravitas of the state, but when I got to the house, there were two cops in front of the door. Neither silent nor grave, one was looking at his phone while the other talked to him. The phone-cop looked up at his buddy and grinned. Nonchalance wasn’t really what I’d expected at a murder scene, but I was just as certain that they'd become all business if I tried to get past them.

My Uncle John was standing on the walk between me and the cops. He was pacing the short distance and speaking quietly and rapidly into his phone.

He disconnected the call and shoved his phone into the breast pocket of his immaculate suit. Eleven o'clock at night, and John T. Stevens was still on, still looking like he’d stepped out of a GQ spread on the sartorial style of powerful attorneys. It had been that way all my life.

He turned and I noticed that he was drawn, pale. Just like me (and Mom, too), he’d already suffered the shock of Dad’s death once. He’d been devastated the first time: he’d lost weight, drank too much; he’d become a shadow of his former self. But just like me, he’d gotten over it, because whatever tragedies life serves to you, it still goes on, and you have to go on, too.

Despite the inexplicable insanity of this new situation, John smiled. “Christ, Sarah!” He embraced me, and I smelled his expensive cologne. It brought back a thousand pleasant childhood memories. “I’m so sorry.” A bitter laugh. “How many times do you have to live through someone telling you that your father’s –”

“Did you know, John?” I stepped back from his hug and studied his clear, gray eyes. “Did you know that Dad wasn’t dead?”

Because if anyone had known this secret, it would’ve been him. He wasn’t my uncle, not actually, not by blood. He was my father’s best friend, since high school; his business partner. The firm was still called Stevens and Walker.

My question was met with neither a tremor nor a blink nor a gasp; no denial or shock or resentment. John Stevens was again troubled by his friend’s death, but he wasn’t one of the best trial lawyers in the state because he reacted.

“I did not,” he replied.

I hadn’t actually expected any other answer, but I still had to ask.

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