The innocent, p.62
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       The Innocent, p.62

           Harlan Coben
 
Chapter 61

  THE DOOR TO BACKROOM B OPENED. Olivia waited.

  When Kimmy walked into the room, the two women just stared at each other. They both had tears in their eyes. Just like a few hours earlier.

  But this was nothing like that.

  "You knew," Kimmy said.

  Olivia shook her head. "I thought. "

  "How?"

  "You acted like you didn't remember Max Darrow. He was one of your clients in the old days. But the main thing is, everyone figures Darrow put that post online. But he wouldn't have known that it'd draw me out. Only a good friend, my best friend, would know I'd still be checking up on my child. "

  Kimmy stepped into the room. "You just left me, Candi. "

  "I know. "

  "We were supposed to go together. I told you my dreams. You told me yours. We always helped each other out, remember?"

  Olivia nodded.

  "You promised me. "

  "I know I did. "

  Kimmy shook her head. "All these years, I thought you were dead. I buried you, did you know that? I paid for your funeral. I mourned. I cried for months. I did things to Max for free- anything he wanted- just to make sure he tried to find your killer. "

  "You have to understand. I couldn't tell. Emma and I-"

  "You what?" Kimmy shouted. The sound echoed in the stillness. "You made a promise?"

  Olivia said nothing.

  "I died when you died. Do you know that? The dreams. The hope about getting out of this life. It all died when you did. I lost everything. For all those years. "

  "How. . . ?"

  ". . . did I find out you were alive?"

  Olivia nodded.

  "Two days after that girl comes to my door, Max comes over. He said that he sent her- that she wasn't really your daughter. He'd just sent her to test me. "

  Olivia tried to make sense of that. "Test you?"

  "Yeah. He knew we were close. He figures I know where you are. So he sets me up. He sends me some girl pretending to be your long-lost daughter. Then he watches me, sees if I'm going to call you or something. But all I do is, I go to your grave site and cry. "

  "I'm so sorry, Kimmy. "

  "Imagine it, okay? Imagine when Max comes to my house and shows me the autopsy. He tells me the dead girl had some kind of freak condition and couldn't possibly have kids. He tells me you aren't dead and you know what I did? I just shook my head. I didn't believe him. I mean, how could I? Candi would never do that to me, I tell him. She'd never just leave me behind like that. But Max shows me the pictures of the dead girl. It's Cassandra. I start to see the truth now. I start putting it together. "

  "And you wanted revenge," Olivia said.

  "Yes. I mean. . . I did. " Kimmy shook her head. "But it all got so crazy, you know?"

  "You were the one who helped Darrow find me. You had the idea about posting on the adoption Web site. You knew I'd bite. "

  "Yes. "

  "So you set up that meet. At the motel. "

  "Not just me. If it was just me. . . " Kimmy stopped and just stared. "I was just so hurt, you know. "

  Olivia nodded, said nothing.

  "So, yeah, I wanted payback. And I wanted a big payday too. I was the one getting the new life this time. It was finally my turn. But once Max and Chally flew out to Jersey"- Kimmy shut her eyes and shook her head as if she might jar something out-"it all just spun out of control. "

  "You were trying to hurt me," Olivia said.

  Kimmy nodded.

  "So first, you went after my marriage with that call to my husband's phone. "

  "Max came up with that, actually. He was going to use his own camera phone, but then he realized it'd work even better if he could use yours. See, if something went wrong, Chally would be the guy on the camera phone. He'd be holding the bag. But first he needed Chally's help. "

  "With Emma Lemay. "

  "Right. Chally was dumb muscle. He and Max flew up to get Emma to talk. But she wouldn't give you up. No matter what they did to her. So they kept pushing. And they just pushed too far. "

  Olivia closed her eyes. "So this"- she gestured around the room-"us being here tonight, this was to be your grand finale, right, Kimmy? You take my money. You break my heart by showing me that there is no daughter, no child. And then what?"

  Kimmy said nothing for several seconds. "I don't know. "

  "Yeah, Kimmy, you do. "

  She shook her head, but there was nothing behind it.

  "Darrow and Chally wouldn't have let me stay alive," Olivia said.

  "Darrow," Kimmy said softly, "had nothing to say about it. "

  "Because you killed him?"

  "Yes. " She smiled. "Do you know how many times that son of a bitch had his pants down in a car with me?"

  "And that's why you killed him?"

  "No. "

  "Then why?"

  "I needed to stop this," Kimmy said. "And I needed to strike first. "

  "You thought he'd kill you?"

  "For this kind of money, Max Darrow would kill his own mother. Yeah, I was hurt when I found out- no, it was more like. . . it was more like I was in shock. But Max, I thought he was just in this with me. But then he started running his own game too. It had to stop. "

  "What do you mean?"

  "Just. . . " Her whole persona emanated exhaustion. "Just forget it," Kimmy said. "All that matters is, Max didn't like witnesses. I was an unreliable whore. You think he'd risk that?"

  "And Charles Talley?"

  "Your husband tracked him down. They got into that fight and then he ran away. Chally called me. See, I was staying on the floor below you. He was in a panic, all worried about the cops coming. He was on parole. One more offense and he was in for life. He'd do anything to avoid that. So I told him to wait in the stairwell. "

  "You set it up to look like Matt killed him. "

  "That had been what Max wanted all along- to set up both Chally and your husband. " She shrugged. "I figured, might as well stick with the plan. "

  Olivia looked at her old friend. She stepped closer. "I thought about you," she said. "You know that. "

  "I know," Kimmy said. "But that wasn't enough. "

  "I was afraid. Emma said if they found out what we'd done, they'd hurt us all. They'd look for the tape again. We didn't have it. They'd kill us. "

  "Look at me," Kimmy said.

  "I am. "

  She pulled out a gun. "Look at what I've become. "

  "Kimmy?"

  "What?"

  "I didn't plan it like this," Olivia said. "I thought I would die. "

  "I know that now. "

  "And I'm pregnant. "

  Kimmy nodded. "I know that too. " The gun in her hand shook.

  Olivia took another step closer. "You won't kill the baby. "

  Kimmy's face fell. Her voice was barely audible. "It was the tape. "

  "What was, Kimmy?" And then Olivia saw it. "Oh. Oh, no. . . "

  "That damn tape," Kimmy said, tears spilling down her face. "That's what got Cassandra killed. That's what started it all. "

  "Oh, God. " Olivia swallowed. "Cassandra wasn't the one who stole it from Clyde," she said. "You were. "

  "For us, Candi. Don't you see?" she pleaded. "That tape was our ticket out. We were going to get a big stash of cash. We'd run away, you and me- just like we talked about. It'd be our turn, you know? And then I come home and someone murdered you. . . "

  "All that time, all these years, you. . . " Olivia felt her heart break anew. "You blamed yourself for my death. "

  Kimmy managed a nod.

  "I'm so sorry, Kimmy. "

  "It hurt so bad when I found out you were alive. You understand? I loved you so much. "

  Olivia did understand. You grieve, not just for the dead, but for yourself, for what might have been. You think your best friend, the one person you could dream with. . . you think she died because of you. You live with that guilt for ten years and then one day, you learn it was all a lie. . .
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  "We can make it okay," Olivia said.

  Kimmy straightened up. "Look at me. "

  "I want to help. "

  There was a hard rap on the door. "Open up! Police!"

  "I killed two men," Kimmy said to her. Then she smiled- a beatific smile that brought Olivia back. "Look at my life. It's my turn, remember? My turn to escape. "

  "Please, Kimmy. . . "

  But Kimmy pointed the gun to the floor and fired. There was a moment of panic and then the door burst open. Kimmy spun toward the door and aimed her gun. Olivia screamed, "No!"

  Gun blasts followed. Kimmy spun one more time, like a marionette, and then she dropped to the floor. Olivia fell to her knees and cupped her friend's head. She lowered her lips to Kimmy's ear.

  "Don't. . . " Olivia begged.

  But now, at long last, it was Kimmy's turn.

 

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