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All the little pieces, p.19
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       All the Little Pieces, p.19

           Jilliane Hoffman
 

  Faith nodded. Lynne Friend was a woman in the middle of a divorce who disappeared back in 1994 after telling her fiancé that she was headed to her ex-husband’s house to pick up a support check. They found her car with the purse and keys in it, but no blood or other signs of foul play. On the same night she went missing, the Coast Guard had stopped a boat seven miles off Miami Beach that they’d thought was drug smuggling. Officers had witnessed the two men on board drop a rather large something off the side of the boat. When they finally caught up to the speedboat, which raced away, it turned out the guy driving it was Lynne Friend’s ex-husband. Eighteen years later, without any new evidence or a confession, prosecutors indicted Clifford Friend for first-degree murder. This past summer they got a conviction, even though Lynne Friend’s body has never been found.

  He reached for her hands. ‘You’re freezing and it’s seventy out. What’s that about?’ he asked with a smile. He pulled her to him and she didn’t resist. ‘It’s gonna be OK,’ he said, hugging her. ‘This will all work out. Thank God you and Maggie are OK.’ She felt his biceps tighten, his large, warm hands pressing against her back, squeezing her close.

  It was the first time in weeks that he had hugged her and it made her feel … worse. She wanted to feel his strong arms wrapped around her, enveloping her small body in his, protecting her from the monster that might be walking out those doors at any moment. She wanted to hear his heartbeat and smell his cologne and feel his muscles through his starched dress shirt. She wanted to lose herself in his embrace as she had many times before. But at the same time, she didn’t deserve it – him wanting her, protecting her, accepting her. His arms felt like a crushing vise of guilt, sucking the breath out of her. And then there was the intern. Had he hugged her like this? Held her close? Told her things would be fine? She doubted that he had just fucked Sandra for three months without one embrace, without whispering something sweet in her ear. The girl had said she loved him, after all.

  She pulled away. ‘I have to get down to Fort Lauderdale. I have that appointment with the realtor. You’ll take Maggie to school?’

  He nodded. He looked hurt and confused, which made her feel worse, and yet better.

  ‘Tell Mrs Wackett I’ll pick her up about four. I should be done by then,’ she added. ‘I’ll take her to the park.’

  He moved to leave.

  ‘This is all very heavy. It’s very heavy,’ was all she could say.

  ‘For both of us,’ he answered softly. ‘Keep it … together, Faith. It will all work out.’

  It was the perfect moment to tell him about the lies, to trust him, to take a step that any therapist would probably tell her she had to take toward forgiving him for the affair and now forgiving herself for her own failures. But she only managed a nod before hurrying to her Explorer.

  Because her focus was back on the two glass doors of the police station and the dark-haired person dressed in a black suit who’d just walked out of them and into the brilliant Florida sunshine.

  43

  ‘It’s twelve hundred square feet and it was a sandwich shop, so it has a small kitchen built out already, which is fabulous. I think it’s got a lot of potential for a cupcake bakery.’ The real estate agent’s strappy sandals were cute, but they needed to be re-heeled. As she swept across the room to show Faith the details of the mostly empty space that smelled of old fryer oil, the metal clicked on the ceramic tile floor like a woodpecker going at a tin can.

  Faith nodded absently.

  ‘And you can’t beat a Las Olas location,’ she continued cheerily, gesturing toward the plate-glass window that looked out onto Las Olas Boulevard, a tree-lined street filled with cafés and boutiques that ran from downtown Fort Lauderdale to the beach. The window and door, however, were covered with brown butcher paper to prevent people from looking into a vacant store and seeing it was actually vacant. ‘It will give your shop the visibility it needs.’

  There was a long pause while the realtor waited for Faith to say something.

  ‘Forty-five dollars a square foot is … well, that’s a lot of cupcakes I have to sell just to make the rent.’ Her voice trailed off into a whisper as the sentence finished up. There was a substantial tear in the butcher paper and she could still see the many passing tourists enjoying an ice-cream cone, pushing strollers, window shopping. As they passed, a few of them approached the window and put their faces against the glass where the tear was, trying to see what was inside. She kept waiting for Derrick Poole’s face to suddenly appear, his hand cupped around his eyes as they scanned the room for any sight of her. She moved behind a pole.

  ‘You said you were hoping for something that was on Las Olas …? Faith? Has that changed? Because forty-five is the going rate. You’re gonna find that strip malls downtown or on the beach are in the same price range. Now if you want something on Federal, that’s further north and in a changing neighborhood …’

  The realtor prattled on, but Faith had stopped listening. It was hard to plan for the future with any enthusiasm when her future was so uncertain. ‘I’m sorry, Jackie, but I …’ she said when there was another pregnant lull and it was obvious she was expecting her to say something. ‘I, ah, I … my mind is not in it today. I’m distracted, is all. It’s not your fault.’

  She looked away from the window and around the abandoned sandwich shop. An Izzy’s Monster Subs specials board still hung over where there was presumably once a refrigerator case. Chairs were stacked atop a couple of lonesome two-tops, as if the place was closed for the night, not for forever – as if there was a chance someone might come in, rip down the butcher paper, fire up the grill and flip the closed sign back over. The space would go on, yes, but Izzy’s Monster Subs would not: Izzy had broken the lease and left town, presumably taking the refrigerator case with her. If Faith didn’t rent the 1,200 square feet, someone else would and put in a candy shop, or a wine bar, or a pet boutique. A wave of desolation came over her. Anything could be reinvented; anyone could be replaced. And it could even be made better than it was before.

  It was time to call Detective Nill and tell him about the second man. As much as she didn’t want to see what was happening, she couldn’t keep closing her eyes, saying it didn’t happen just because she didn’t see it. The fibers found in Poole’s car that matched the fabric patch found in the woods could be from the second man – the man wearing the plaid shirt who’d taken Angelina into the woods with him after she screamed, ‘No!’ In fact, they probably were. It was time to finally be honest about what she had seen out there that night, both with herself and with the detectives. It was time to come clean and fix this incredible mess that seemed to surround her, that touched every aspect of her life, and as the lies piled up, consumed her every thought. She had to make it right, whatever the consequences to her own self might be. She had to do what she could to get Poole and his partner/friend off the street, not just so she could sleep at night, but for the other women who the two of them might hurt in the future. No, no, no. Use the right terminology. Open your eyes and see it happening. The word was kill. The other women those two men might kill. She thanked a disappointed and perturbed Jackie and told her she would call her sometime during the week, as she followed her out the back door of Izzy’s and into the alley.

  She walked to Las Olas, where her car was parked, trying to ready herself. She lit up a cigarette, inhaling deeply, waiting for the nicotine to hit her bloodstream, do its magic and calm her. Everything would soon change for her. She had no idea what Jarrod would do once he found out about the drinking and the lies and the second man. Like Izzy, he might very well decide it was time to move on, that there was nothing worth saving here and it was time to shut the doors and start anew someplace else. With someone else. She swallowed the lump caught in her throat. If that were the case, they would likely split custody of Maggie. She’d affirmatively decided to stay with Jarrod after the affair because she didn’t want to raise Maggie in two houses, she didn’t want to kiss her daughter go
odnight over the phone or not see her on a Saturday because it was ‘his’ night. She didn’t want to go to bed alone herself and wade back into a strange and scary world of dating. She didn’t want to date. She didn’t want things to change, so she had swallowed her anger and gone on, but now … now she couldn’t control the change. Now it was she who had caused the damage. The direction of their relationship, of her future, of Maggie’s future was in Jarrod’s court. He would decide if it was over, he would decide if she would be a part-time mother, tossed back like an unwanted fish into a dating pool full of divorcees and bitter women who had failed at a relationship.

  Lost in her thoughts, she had walked past her car at some point. In front of her was the Royal Pig Pub. Waiters were clearing tables outside from lunch and setting up for dinner. She looked at her watch. It was two thirty. The restaurant’s plate-glass doors were being wiped clean and she could make out the large full bar, the monstrous TVs that hung everywhere. Next door was a Starbucks. The iPhone in her hand had grown slippery as she rubbed her sweaty fingers against the rubber case. Liquid courage to make the call she was about to make did not come in the form of a Frappuccino; she wished it were caffeine she craved. And lunch, she told herself. She hadn’t eaten.

  She ducked into the ‘gastro pub & kitchen’ and walked up to the elevated, enormous rectangular wood bar that was the center of the restaurant, which looked a lot more like a pub than a kitchen. Giant flat-screen TVs filled every imaginable inch of wall space and sports games played on each one. The place felt abuzz with activity, although there was really no one there – a few scattered souls around the bar and those finishing lunch in booths. She found a spot in the far back, away from the prying eyes of those who might have reason to peek in the clean windows to see who was inside.

  She pulled up Detective Nill’s number at PBSO and got it ready on her screen, placing the phone on the bar in front of her. All she had to do was press the green send button.

  She was almost ready.

  But first she ordered a Stoli and cranberry.

  44

  Most people remember the moment they knew their spouse was the one. The first kiss that took their breath away, that moment they saw fireworks, that very second when they thought, ‘I could have this man’s children.’

  Faith didn’t.

  It wasn’t that their first kiss wasn’t a magical moment. It wasn’t that she didn’t know Jarrod was the only one for her the first time they made love.

  She just didn’t remember it.

  The Salty Dog Saloon on University Avenue was half-empty. It was midnight on a Thursday and the young, raucous UF college crowd was thinning out a little earlier than usual. It was mid-term week and for a good chunk of students there was still Friday to get through. It was October 20, 2005.

  ‘Hey there. What’s your name?’ The guy with the mop of curly blond hair and red cheeks who was suddenly sitting beside her at the bar asked.

  Faith studied her happy neighbor on the stool over. He was cute: tall, lean, really muscular, as far as she could tell from the tight T-shirt he was wearing. He looked like a biker, she thought. Not a Harley biker – a bicycle-biker. No … maybe a surfer, with those salty, bleached highlights, although the beach was hours away from land-locked Gainesville. Judging from the color of his tan, he was definitely from Florida. Maybe California. What he definitely wasn’t was Italian, which was her type. She ignored him.

  ‘No, come on, what’s your name?’ he asked again. ‘You look bored.’ He cocked his head quirkily and rested it in the palm of his hand, his elbow on the bar. But his head slipped off, and he almost smashed his chin on the bar.

  ‘You look drunk,’ she replied.

  He looked around and nodded. ‘My friends left me. That’s sad. I have no friends. And we were so close, all of us. They’re like brothers to me. Come on, what’s your name?’

  ‘Faith’ she answered.

  ‘No shit! ’Cause ya gotta have faith!’ He started singing loudly and pathetically off-key. He didn’t sound anything like George Michael. Not even close.

  ‘I’ve heard that one a thousand times before,’ she said. ‘If you’re not gonna be on key, at least be original.’

  ‘OK, OK. Reach out and touch faith!’ he tried, again nowhere near the right key. If she hadn’t heard those lyrics a thousand times, too, she wouldn’t have known it was a song he was trying to sing.

  ‘That’s the Depeche Mode version,’ he said with a smirk. ‘You want me to sing the Marilyn Manson one? I’m really good. Thank God I don’t look like him, though. He’s scary.’ He shivered.

  ‘It’s the same song,’ she replied, smiling.

  He slapped the bar. ‘That makes three songs with your name in it! There’re no songs with my name in it. You’re so lucky.’

  ‘You’re good. For someone who’s bombed. I’m surprised you can remember the lyrics.’

  ‘I’m not bombed, I’m Jarrod,’ he replied with a sweet chuckle.

  Definitely not Italian. She smiled anyway.

  ‘Do you go to UF?’ he tried. ‘What’s your major? Let me guess – arch-e-ology!’ he declared with another chuckle that was a lot heartier. It was a joke that obviously only he got and one that he found hysterically funny. ‘You look like you could use another drink, Faith. One more! Whatever she’s drinking,’ he yelled across the bar at the bartender. ‘Whatever “Ya Gotta Have Faith” over here is drinking.’ Then he looked at her drink, reached over, picked it up and examined it. ‘It’s pink, whatever it is. Make it two! And hit all her friends, too,’ he added, looking around the bar. ‘Did your friends leave you, too? That’s sad. We’re a lot alike, you and I – we’ve both been abandoned.’

  ‘You want to buy my boyfriend a drink?’ she asked.

  He looked around the bar again and smiled coquettishly. ‘Boyfriend? I don’t see one of those. Nope.’

  ‘He’s in the bathroom, but he’ll be back. Then you’ll be in trouble – he drinks Scotch.’

  The surfer made a face that looked like a two-year-old who had tasted spinach for the first time. ‘Scotch? He must be, like, old.’

  ‘I like old. And he likes expensive Scotch.’

  He shook his head. ‘No way. If there was a boyfriend, he wouldn’t leave you alone for a second – you’re too pretty. But to be sure … bartender! Three shots of Scotch! What’s a good Scotch? I’m not a Scotch drinker. I don’t think this place even has Scotch,’ he announced as loudly as he had sung. ‘No one here is old enough to drink Scotch; they’re not old enough to even drink, bunch of freshmen. You have to be a grandpa in a sweater to drink that shit. Chivas, right? That’s what my grandpa would drink. You’re not a freshman are you? I didn’t mean to insult you.’

  Faith’s friends had cleared out a half-hour or so before. God knows where any of them were now. There was no boyfriend. But a free drink with a cute boy who was making her laugh couldn’t hurt.

  He smiled at her and toasted her Seabreeze with his beer as the bartender laid out three shot glasses on the bar and reached for the Chivas. ‘You’re a good man, kind sir! Keep ’em coming till one of us falls down! I hope it’s not me. But if it’s my new, beautiful lady friend, here, don’t you worry: I’ll carry her home!’

  She woke up the next morning in a strange bed, naked and tangled in white sheets. The blond surfer whose name she couldn’t remember was sleeping next to her, his bare ass sticking out from underneath an army-green comforter. She sat up with a start. Where the hell was she? Her head hurt so much. She wrapped herself in the sheet, ran into the bathroom and threw up. She rinsed her mouth out in a sink that was coated in bathroom slime. She spotted a couple of toothbrushes resting precariously in a plastic cup from Checkers on the Formica counter, which was dotted with amber cigarette burns, next to combs and hairspray and different bottles of men’s cologne. On the toilet tank was a fish bowl. There was an inch of water in the bowl and a poor fish somewhere in the murky water. On the floor were piles of abandoned towels and men’
s underwear. She opened the mirrored medicine cabinet, ignoring the partied-out image looking back at her. Trojans, KY Jelly, Gillette shaving cream, aftershave. She bit her cheek. She was in a guys’ apartment. Guys’ – as in plural. Oh God … was she in a frat house?

  How much had she drunk? Enough that she had gone home and obviously had sex with a man she didn’t know. She didn’t even remember his name. What was it again? It wasn’t Italian – she remembered that much, but that was about it. She pulled the sheet tighter against her and looked around the bathroom for an exit other than the door. She felt like such a slut. It didn’t matter how high up it was, if there were a window, she would’ve already been out it.

  She had to get out before whatever his name was and his frat brothers woke up, before anyone saw her face. Hopefully there were no pictures or video. She quietly opened up the bathroom door.

  ‘Hey there,’ he said with a lopsided smile, rubbing his head. He was standing in front of her, completely naked. ‘I’m Jarrod. And I hate to ask this, but … what’s your name again? I know there’s a song about it. Mandy? Cecilia?’

  She’d been too embarrassed to run out. He had not asked her to leave. So she’d stayed. He went downstairs – after putting on a pair of shorts – and had come back with coffee, two bagels and a bottle of Tylenol. He asked if she wanted to watch a movie. It was a Friday, but she had no class, so she’d said yes. One movie led to two led to a Godfather and Rocky marathon. They ordered pizza and ate dinner in his room. They had sex and this time she remembered it. And when he kissed her, she definitely saw fireworks.

  She learned his last name was Saunders and he was in his second year of law school and wanted to be a litigator. He had a brother and a sister, and he’d grown up in Illinois. His family still lived around Chicago. He went to Purdue for undergrad on a baseball scholarship, but after he tore his rotator cuff and baseball didn’t work out, he wanted to get out of the cold, so he picked UF for law school, but he had taken a year off to work for his dad before starting and he knew for sure he didn’t want to end up back in Chicago. He had broken up with his girlfriend of a year a month earlier. He hated peppers. His favorite food was Italian. He was German-Irish, so he loved Oktoberfest and St Patrick’s Day, which was his favorite holiday. He wanted to move to New York. His favorite baseball team was the Chicago Cubs and he loved the Dolphins but couldn’t explain why, because they sucked and they sucked every year and they would continue to suck until he died. He loved dogs and wanted to get a German shepherd and name it Dante when he got his own place.

 
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