The innocent, p.63
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       The Innocent, p.63

           Harlan Coben
 
Chapter 62

  TWO DAYS LATER, Loren Muse was home in her garden apartment. She was making a ham and cheese sandwich. She grabbed two slices of bread and put them on her plate. Her mother sat on the couch in the next room, watching Entertainment Tonight. Loren heard the familiar theme music. She dug into the mayonnaise and began spreading it on the bread when she started to cry.

  Loren's sobs were silent. She waited until they passed, until she could talk again.

  "Mom. "

  "I'm watching my program. "

  Loren moved behind her mother. Carmen was munching down a bag of Fritos. Her swollen feet were propped up with a pillow on the coffee table. Loren smelled the cigarette smoke, listened to her mother's raspy breath.

  Adam Yates had killed himself. Grimes would not be able to cover it up. The two girls, Ella and Anne, and the boy, Sam, the one Adam had held in the hospital to ward off death- they would know the truth. Not about the videotape. Despite Adam Yates's fear, those images would not be what haunted his children late at night.

  "I always blamed you," Loren said.

  No reply. The only sound came from the television.

  "Mom?"

  "I heard you. "

  "This man I just met. He killed himself. He had three kids. "

  Carmen finally turned around.

  "See, the reason I blamed you was because otherwise-" She stopped, caught her breath.

  "I know," Carmen said softly.

  "How come. . . " Loren said, her voice hitching, the tears flowing freely. Her face began to crumble. "How come Daddy didn't love me enough to want to live?"

  "Oh, honey. "

  "You were his wife. He could have left you. But I was his daughter. "

  "He loved you so much. "

  "But not enough to want to live. "

  "It's not like that," Carmen said. "He was in so much pain. No one could save him. You were the best thing in his life. "

  "You. " Loren wiped her face with her sleeve. "You let me blame you. "

  Carmen said nothing.

  "You were trying to protect me. "

  "You needed to find blame," her mother said.

  "So all these years. . . you took the hit. "

  She thought about Adam Yates, about how much he'd loved his children, about how that hadn't been enough either. She wiped her eyes.

  "I should call them," Loren said.

  "Who?"

  "His children. "

  Carmen nodded and spread out her hands. "Tomorrow, okay? Right now come here. Come sit with me on the couch here. "

  Loren sat on the couch. Her mother scooted over.

  "It's okay," Carmen said.

  She threw the afghan over Loren. A commercial came on. Loren leaned on her mother's shoulder. She could smell the stale cigarettes, but that was comforting now. Carmen stroked her daughter's hair. Loren closed her eyes. A few seconds later, her mother began to flick the remote.

  "Nothing good on," Carmen said.

  With her eyes still closed, Loren smiled and moved in even closer.

  Matt and Olivia flew home that same day. Matt had a cane. He limped, but that wouldn't last much longer. When they stepped off the plane, Matt said, "I think I should go alone. "

  "No," Olivia said. "We do this together. "

  He did not argue.

  They took the same Westport exit, pulled down the same street. There were two cars in the driveway this morning. Matt looked at the basketball hoop. There was no sign of Stephen McGrath. Not today.

  They headed to the door together. Olivia held his hand. He rang the bell. A minute passed. Then Clark McGrath opened the door.

  "What the hell are you doing here?"

  Behind him, Sonya McGrath said, "Who is it, Clark?"

  Sonya pulled up short when she saw who it was. "Matt?"

  "I squeezed too hard," Matt said.

  The grounds were hushed. There was no wind, no cars driving by, no pedestrians. It was just four people and maybe one ghost.

  "I could have let go. I was so scared. And I thought Stephen was a part of it. And when we landed, I don't know anymore. I could have done better. I held on too long. I know that now. I can't tell you how sorry I am. "

  Clark McGrath bit down, his face reddening. "You think that makes it all okay?"

  "No," Matt said. "I know it doesn't. My wife is pregnant now. So I understand better. But it has to end, right here and right now. "

  Sonya said, "What are you talking about, Matt?"

  He held up a sheet of paper.

  "What is that?" Sonya asked.

  "Phone records. "

  When Matt first woke up in the hospital, he had asked Loren to get these for him. He had maybe an inkling of a suspicion- no more than that. But something about Kimmy's revenge scheme. . . it seemed like something she could never quite pull off on her own. It seemed too focused, too anxious to destroy not only Olivia. . .

  . . . but Matt as well.

  "These phone records belong to a man named Max Darrow who lived in Reno, Nevada," Matt said. "He called your husband's line eight times in the past week. "

  "I don't understand," Sonya said. She turned to her husband. "Clark?"

  But Clark closed his eyes.

  "Max Darrow was a police officer," Matt said. "Once he found out who Olivia was, he would have investigated her. He would have learned that her husband was a notorious ex-con. He got in contact with you. I don't know how much you paid him, Mr. McGrath, but it just made so much sense. Kill two birds with one stone. Like Darrow's partner told my wife, he was playing his own game. With you. "

  Sonya said, "Clark?"

  "He should be in prison," Clark spat at her. "Not having lunch with you. "

  "What did you do, Clark?"

  Matt stepped closer. "This is over now, Mr. McGrath. I'm going to apologize one more time for what happened. I know you won't accept it. I understand that. I'm very sorry about Stephen. But here's something I think you'll understand. "

  Matt took one more step. The two men were almost nose to nose.

  "If you come near my family again," Matt said, "I will kill you. "

  Matt walked away. Olivia stayed for another second. She looked first at Clark McGrath and then at Sonya, as if hammering home her husband's words. Then she turned away and took her husband's hand and never looked back.

 

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