Seconds Away Page 58

“Enter her mother?” I said.


“And Rachel wanted now to believe her mother was okay?”

“Naturally,” Mr. Caldwell said.

“So Rachel helps her mother get out of the hospital. She helps get her off her medications. She brings her home. She helps convince her mother that she isn’t sick.”

“But the irony is, she is,” Mr. Caldwell said. “Nora was very sick. Don’t you see what would happen if Rachel knew the truth—that her mother shot her and then shot herself? Can you imagine the guilt Rachel would feel? For bringing her home? For helping her off the meds? She’d never get over it. She’d blame herself.”

I did see.

“But wait,” I said. “Rachel did find drugs you were hiding. She did find that money.”


“So maybe that was what caused the illness or at least exacerbated it. You were a drug dealer.”

“No,” Mr. Caldwell said.

Taylor sighed. “He works for us. Well, more for someone you know in the county office.”

I thought about it and the answer was so clear now. “Detective Waters?”

“It was a sting operation,” Mr. Caldwell said. “I was working undercover. Those drugs were supposed to be used to bring down Brian Tart and Emile Romero.”

In the distance I heard the town’s emergency whistle blow.

“I have to go,” Chief Taylor said. He looked over at me. “Are you going to tell?”

I didn’t reply. I had thought that Taylor was a creep of biblical proportions. Now I could see the truth. He had done what he had done—he had covered up the truth—to protect Rachel.

The fire whistle sounded again. Taylor looked at me again. I nodded at him. He nodded back. An unspoken understanding passed between us.

Mr. Caldwell moved closer to me. “I know you and the chief don’t get along, but Ed did what he did for Rachel and me. He risked his own career to help us out. Do you see that?”

I looked at him. “Are you going to tell Rachel the truth?”

“About my working for the police? Yes. I’m going to tell her soon.”

I shook my head. “Not about that. About what really happened in that den.”


I said nothing.

“Listen to me, Mickey. I’m her father. I want what’s best for her. You get that, right?”

I still didn’t know what to say.

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He put down the basketball and rested his hands on my shoulders. He leaned in close and made sure I was looking him straight in the eyes. “It would kill her,” Mr. Caldwell said, his voice a plea. “Rachel did mess up. She messed up so big, her own mother shot her. It wasn’t the contents of that gym bag that got her mother killed. It was the illness, yes, but Rachel isn’t going to see that. Rachel is going to see that if she had left well enough alone, her mother would be alive right now. She is going to see that she helped facilitate her mother’s delusions. She is going to see that she brought her mother here and that her actions led to her mother’s death. She’s going to realize that because of what she did, her mother shot her own daughter and was so pained by that, so tortured by that last vision, she ended her own life. Do you see, Mickey? I’m a father. My job is to protect my daughter. Do you see how I couldn’t let Rachel spend the rest of her life with that kind of guilt?”

“Because she is to blame,” I said, my voice sounding far away in my own ears. “There may have been excuses. It may have been understandable. But in the end, what happened was Rachel’s fault.”

“Yes,” Mr. Caldwell said softly. “Which is all the more reason for those of us who love her to keep this quiet.”

It felt like someone had scooped out my insides. “So you just let Brian Tart and Emile Romero take the fall?”

“They have so many counts against them, those two won’t matter. The prosecutor could never prove it anyway. It’ll be one of those cases where everyone knows who did it but there won’t be a need to try it. The police won’t look too hard because they don’t want the truth out. I’m still a valuable commodity working undercover. If this became public, it would ruin that. A lot of criminals would go free.”

I felt a fresh pang of sadness. “So we all stay quiet.”

“For Rachel’s sake. Can you do that, Mickey?”

But I didn’t feel like answering that right now. I turned and walked away, toward a tree in the distance.


I didn’t turn around. I just kept walking. Eventually Mr. Caldwell started back for his car. I stopped and waited for him to drive off. Then I finished my walk to the big tree.

Uncle Myron was standing behind it. “I got scared when he asked to see your cell phone.”

“I hung up before I handed it to him,” I said.

“I was going to move in, but, well, you never gave me the distress signal.”

“I was fine,” I said, heading with Uncle Myron back toward his car, “but I felt better having you here as backup.”

Chapter 47

I had to start answering Rachel’s texts.

When I got home, I told her that I’d found nothing significant in Chief Taylor’s files. In short, I lied. Or at least, I bought more time because I didn’t know what to do. Ema also wanted to know what was up. I wasn’t sure what to do, but in the end, this was Rachel’s private business, not mine, so I again kept it to myself.

The doorbell rang.

Myron was on the phone. “It’s the pizza guy. You mind? The money’s on the kitchen table.”

I grabbed the money, gave it to the guy at the door, took the pizza. I dropped the pie on the kitchen table, filled two water glasses, and waited for Uncle Myron. He came in and sat down next to me.

Uncle Myron opened the box. The wonderful aroma wafted out as though conjured up by the gods we studied in mythology class. He gave me a slice first, then he took one for himself. He bit into it and said, “Heaven.”

“Pretty much,” I agreed.

He swallowed. “You still don’t want to tell me what that was all about?”

“I appreciate you backing me up,” I said.


It was getting late. I was tired and confused. “Do you believe it’s okay to lie sometimes?”

Myron put down the slice and wiped his hands on a napkin. “Sure.”

“Just like that?”

“Just like that. It’s the eternal question—do the ends justify the means?”

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