Authors: Lisa Scottoline
“The Wawa, like where you were. They have the best cameras around. The resolution is awesome. Any hit-and-run, we check the local Wawas for their cameras. We get lucky about half the time.”
Jake realized he could’ve made a colossal blunder, going to the Wawa.
“You want my opinion, the driver was probably drunk. That’s why people hit and run. To avoid detection because they’re drunk.”
Jake nodded, texting to Pam,
hang in, home soon
“Drunks usually stop for a hoagie or something to eat. They’ve been drinking and they get hungry. Wawa has cameras in the parking lot out front, too, so we can see the cars pull up. We even get a good view of their license plates. It’s unreal how often we luck out.” Officer McMullen snorted. “Anyway, I’ll go back to the scene after I drop you off. The rest of my platoon is still there, and I bet the body will be, too.”
“Really?” Jake blurted out, appalled.
“Yep. I’ve had bodies lie for a while in this county.” Officer McMullen’s upper lip curled with distaste. “You have no idea. I’ve had bodies lie bleeding through the blanket and I had to change the blanket.”
Jake flashed on Kathleen, bloodied in his arms last night.
“Problem is the coroner is in East Chester and he’s not always in his office, because he doesn’t have to be, and he’s the only one who’s allowed to pick up the body. He makes the declaration, then he takes the body to the hospital for the post. Postmortem, that is.” Officer McMullen steered the cruiser onto the road leading to the Chetwynd development. “People think the coroner does the post, but he doesn’t. He’s an elected official, and so’s the deputy coroner. They’re not even doctors. They could even be dentists. That’s why he’s not in the office half the time. Between you and me, it’s political.” Officer McMullen shook his head. “I guarantee the body’s still there.”
Jake’s stomach did a backflip, and another wave of guilt engulfed him. He knew he couldn’t hide it, so he turned his face to the window, where the police officer couldn’t see.
“So anyway, the post gets done at Paoli Hospital by a forensic pathologist, and unlike the coroner, he’s the real deal. He gets the trace evidence off the body, like hair, fiber, any prints, evidence like that. Between what he finds and what we find, we’ll get him.”
Jake spotted his house at the end of the street, not a moment too soon.
“It could be a woman, too. Remember last year, that socialite who hit that kid on a skateboard?” Officer McMullen eyed him in the rearview mirror. “Did you read about that case?”
“Yes, I did.” Jake edged forward, hoping that Ryan was nowhere near a window to see a police car pulling up.
“We caught her in the end, and we’ll catch this one, too. It might take us a week, a couple of months, or even a year, but we’ll get him. It’s only a matter of time.” Officer McMullen glanced over his shoulder. “What number did you say it was again?”
“My house? Two thirty-six, with the black shutters.” Jake scanned the façade of his house, relieved nobody was at the windows. “Officer, thanks so much for the lift.”
“No problem, sir.” Officer McMullen steered the cruiser to the curb, slowed to a stop, and got out to open the back door. “Good luck with your car.”
“Thanks,” Jake said, fleeing the cruiser.
“What happened, honey?” Pam asked, meeting him in the entrance hall. Obviously, Ryan hadn’t confessed to her, because she looked like her normal self—sweet, loving, and concerned about him. But she must already have been in Ryan’s room, because Moose trotted up behind her.
“It was nothing, really. I hit the Dumpster at the Wawa. I clipped the edge.” Jake gave her a brief hug, so he didn’t get any residual airbag powder on her clothes. She was dressed for the gym, in glasses, ponytail, and a long T-shirt over her black yoga pants, but worry was etched into the lines of her lovely face.
“How did you do that? You weren’t on the phone, were you?”
“No, I hit the gas instead of the brake.”
“Really?” Pam recoiled, puzzled. “You’re a better driver than that.”
“So how did it happen?”
“God knows. I needed my coffee.” Jake let her go and shrugged it off, or tried to. He’d been too preoccupied on the ride home to make up a detailed story about the accident. “Mike’s is right there, and I don’t think it’s totaled, so it’s a nuisance, but that’s all.”
“Thank God.” Pam’s intelligent blue eyes searched his face from behind her glasses. “What’s that powder on your sweater?”
“From the airbag.” Jake brushed it away, but Pam lifted her eyebrow.
“The airbag went off? How fast were you going?”
“Not that fast.”
“But you have to be going a certain miles an hour for the airbag to go off. You must’ve been going kind of fast.”
“I didn’t think I was, but whatever. We’re insured, and I’m not going to sweat it. I have to rent a car.” Jake looked around for Ryan, masking his anxiety. “So what’s up with Ryan?”
“I don’t know, he seems really sick.” Pam raked her nails through her hair, which had a ridge from her ponytail. “He’s thrown up twice and he looks terrible.”
“Oh no.” Jake let his concern show.
“And he hardly slept last night. He didn’t want to tell me because he knows he can’t be sick now. The game’s Sunday. It’s the playoffs, remember?”
“Right.” Jake had forgotten. He didn’t know how Ryan would bear up under the pressure. It was getting worse and worse.
“He could have something, like a bug, but he was hiding it from me. I heard him in the bathroom and went in. He’s miserable, but there’s no fever. It could be the flu, there’s something going around.”
“That’s probably what it is. The flu.” Jake’s heart went out to his son. It sounded as if Ryan was distraught over the news about Kathleen, which was just what Jake would have expected. Ryan had to have known Kathleen, at least to say hello. And she had died at his hands.
“Wait a minute.” Pam frowned. “Did you tell me he had a hamburger last night, at the diner? I should call Sal right now and make a complaint.”
“No, he didn’t have the burger. He only had ice cream.” Jake had to prevent her from calling Sal, who would tell her that he and Ryan hadn’t even been in last night.
“But you said he had a burger.” Pam frowned, more deeply. “I remember because I was surprised. He’d been saying he wants to eat less meat.”
“He ordered the burger, and I ordered a sundae, but when the food came, he thought mine looked better and we ended up switching.” Jake knew this was believable because everybody coveted his ice-cream sundaes, but he was the only one who ever ordered them.
“Oh, okay. Then it wasn’t the meat. Good.” Pam cocked her head. “Hmmm. It could’ve been that cheesy crap with the nachos, at the movie.”
“Right.” Jake wanted to talk with Ryan alone, which would be a problem now that Pam wasn’t going to the gym. But he knew how to make that happen. “Meanwhile, I didn’t get any breakfast. I didn’t even get my coffee yet.”
“I can fix you some eggs, if you want.”
“I’d love that, thanks. I’ll change and stop in and see him.” Jake went to the stairwell.
“Okay, I’ll call you when they’re ready.” Pam went to the kitchen with Moose following her, his toenails clicking on the hardwood. Jake hustled upstairs, knocked on Ryan’s door, then slipped inside his room.
“Dad!” Ryan looked pale and drawn, and there were dark circles under his eyes. His hair was a rumpled mess, and he was sitting up in bed in his sweats. His laptop, notebooks, and an open textbook lay scattered around him. “Did you hear? It was
She’s in my
She goes to my
“I know.” Jake hurried over, scooped Ryan up, and hugged him close. He could feel his son slump against his chest, as if there were no strength at all in his young, athletic body.
.” Ryan’s voice sounded hoarse, about to give way to tears. “I didn’t know her, but a lot of my friends did.”
“I know, I know.” Jake held him closer, rocking him a little, reflexively. For a second, he didn’t know who was comforting whom, because they both felt so guilty and heartsick, bound by remorse.
“Janine Mae, that girl, the one I was going to go out with tonight, they were
They both ran track. Dad, she even has MacCabe for homeroom. Remember Mrs. MacCabe?”
“Yes, of course, I’m so sorry.”
“God, it’s so horrible.” Ryan pulled away, his face a tormented mask and his weary eyes glistening. He yanked his laptop over, his movements suddenly frantic. “Look, you should see on her Facebook page, they already made it a memorial and everybody’s posting how they’re so sorry and how could somebody do such a thing, to leave her to die in the street, and she was so nice, she had to work after school—”
“Oh, this is just awful.” Jake glanced at the memorial Facebook page, which showed a photo of a grinning Kathleen Lindstrom, but he didn’t have the heart to read the posts. He realized he’d have to set aside his own anguish to help his son, and be strong for him.
“I told Mom I was sick, but it’s just that I feel so terrible, and you should see, everybody’s posting about it, how sad it is, and it made me throw up, and the only reason I stopped was there was nothing left. Dad, I already got a text from Janine Mae saying she’s so upset, and like, she was so cute, everyone on the boys team wanted to take her out.” Ryan’s words sped up, and he started scrolling through Facebook, tapping the trackpad. “Look, Dad, I think her mom and dad are divorced, and look at this, the track coach said on our Facebook page that nobody’s allowed to run on Pike Road anymore. Caleb says on his page the school is going to stop all the teams from running there—”
“Ryan, please, I know how you feel, but maybe you shouldn’t look at the computer anymore.” Jake kept his hand on Ryan’s shoulder. “It’s making it worse—”
“But I killed Kathleen, I killed her—”
“Lower your voice, please.” Jake glanced toward the door, though Pam couldn’t hear from the kitchen. “Son, I’m worried about you—”
“Dad”—Ryan interrupted, tapping the trackpad in an agitated way—“they’re all talking and texting and posting about her, and how could this horrible person kill her and leave her, and they all mean
but they don’t even know—”
“Ryan, we did it, we’re both responsible, but you need to try and not get too focused on this.” Jake tried to calm him down, but he could see that Ryan was hardly listening.
“Dad, no, you know what, I was thinking, if we tell them how it happened, we could explain that I wasn’t high at the time—”
“No, we couldn’t,” Jake said firmly. “If they test you and find out you smoked, you would be guilty of a DUI and vehicular homicide. If you got tried as an adult, which is distinctly possible, that could be a ten-year prison term. We can’t go to the police. Don’t even think about that. I know we did the wrong thing—”
“No, it was all my fault.
“Ryan, we can’t keep going over and over this, around and around in circles.” Jake had to tell him about the car accident at the Wawa, because it would look strange to Pam if he didn’t. “Listen, I just had a fender bender that will cover the damage in the car.”
How?” Ryan’s eyes widened, glistening and bloodshot.
“I don’t have time to give you the details, and it doesn’t matter.”
“Don’t forget your coat in the garage—”
“I’ll take care of it, and I didn’t forget.” Jake knew what to do with the coat, but the car had taken priority. “I knew as soon as I heard that it was Kathleen, how you would feel, but you need to let me handle—”
“I just can’t believe it. I hate myself, I hate this—”
“I know how you feel, but we have to keep it together.” Jake squeezed his shoulder. “This is the time to stay calm. Let me handle everything. I know what’s best for you, I really do. I love you.”
“You said that I could get ten years in jail if they charge me as an adult, but what if they don’t?” Ryan began to calm down and met his gaze evenly. His bloodshot eyes were still wet, but he was no longer on the verge of tears. “What if they decide I’m a kid, a juvenile? I went online and did the research—”
“You can’t find an answer like that online.” Jake didn’t add that he’d tried.
“But I found these websites for lawyers, and if I go in the juvenile system, it looks like a lot less time—”
“No website can tell you whether you’ll be tried as an adult. Considering who your mother is, they might want to make an example of you.”
“But you don’t know that, you can’t tell that for sure. What if we went to a lawyer?”
“No, we need to keep it to ourselves—”
“We could go to a lawyer together and tell him what happened, and see what he said.” Ryan seemed to recover, sitting up straighter, his voice strengthening. “Maybe there’s a way we can still make it come out right. We could go to the police and make them understand.”
“No.” Jake stiffened. “There’s no way.”
“But if we could get, like, an expert opinion—”
“I know what I’m doing, son.”
Ryan blinked, and Jake knew he was remembering the year that his dear old dad got laid off, rejected for every job he applied to, dressed up for interviews that got canceled. Pam and Ryan had seen him every morning, leaving the house for his rented cubicle, wearing a tie and jacket like a costume. It had been the year that his family had learned Dad wasn’t infallible. Jake felt as if he could never live it down, but he had to try.
“Ryan, I do know what I’m doing. You have to believe me.”
“But the lawyer on one of the sites said that anything clients tell him is confidential. Is that right, that he can’t tell anybody?”
“So then why can’t we go?”
“How are we going to go see a lawyer together? What do we tell your mother?”
“She doesn’t have to know. She has that dinner tonight, remember, for whatever? She has to go, she’s supposed to give a speech.”
Jake had forgotten that, too. He was so preoccupied with Kathleen and Ryan.