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Tell No One

Harlan Coben

Chapter 11

  On May 12, 1970, Jeremiah Renway and three fellow radicals set off an explosion at Eastern State University's chemistry department. Rumor had it from the Weather Underground that military scientists were using the university labs to make a more powerful form of napalm. The four students, who in a fit of stark originality called themselves Freedom's Cry, decided to make a dramatic albeit showy stand.

  At the time, Jeremiah Renway did not know if the rumor was true. Now, more than thirty years later, he doubted it. No matter. The explosion did not damage any of the labs. Two university security guards, however, stumbled across the suspicious package. When one picked it up, the package exploded, killing both men.

  Both had children.

  One of Jeremiah's fellow "freedom fighters" was captured two days later. He was still in jail. The second died of colon cancer in 1989. The third, Evelyn Cosmeer, was captured in 1996. She was currently serving a seven-year prison sentence.

  Jeremiah disappeared into the woods that night and never ventured out. He had rarely seen fellow human beings or listened to the radio or watched television. He had used a telephone only once - and that was in an emergency. His only real connection to the outside world came from newspapers, though they had what happened here eight years ago all wrong.

  Born and raised in the foothills of northwest Georgia, Jeremiah's father taught his son all kinds of survival techniques, though his overriding lesson was simply this: You could trust nature but not man. Jeremiah had forgotten that for a little while. Now he lived it.

  Fearing they would search near his hometown, Jeremiah took to the woods in Pennsylvania. He hiked around for a while, changing camp every night or two, until he happened upon the relative comfort and security of Lake Charmaine. The lake had old camp bunks that could house a man when the outdoors got a little too nasty. Visitors rarely came to the lake - mostly in the summer, and even then, only on weekends. He could hunt deer here and eat the meat in relative peace. During the few times of the year when the lake was being used, he simply hid or took off for points farther west.

  Or he watched.

  To the children who used to come here, Jeremiah Renway had been the Boogeyman.

  Jeremiah stayed still now and watched the officers move about in their dark windbreakers FBI windbreakers. The sight of those three letters in big yellow caps still punctured his heart like an icicle.

  No one had bothered to yellow-tape the area, probably because it was so remote. Renway had not been surprised when they found the bodies. Yes, the two men had been buried good and deep, but Renway knew better than most that secrets don't like to stay underground. His former partner in crime, Evelyn Cosmeer, who'd transformed herself into the perfect Ohio suburban mom before her capture, knew that. The irony did not escape Jeremiah.

  He stayed hidden in the bush. He knew a lot about camouflage. They would not see him.

  He remembered the night eight years ago when the two men had died - the sudden gun blasts, the sounds of the shovels ripping into the earth, the grunts from the deep dig. He'd even debated telling the authorities what happened - all of it.

  Anonymously, of course.

  But in the end he couldn't risk it. No man, Jeremiah knew, was meant for a cage, though some could live through it. Jeremiah could not. He'd had a cousin named Perry who'd been serving eight years in a federal penitentiary. Perry was locked in a tiny cell for twenty-three hours a day. One morning, Perry tried to kill himself by running headfirst into the cement wall.

  That would be Jeremiah.

  So he kept his mouth shut and did nothing. For eight years anyway.

  But he thought about that night a lot. He thought about the young woman in the nude. He thought about the men in wait. He thought about the scuffle near the car. He thought about the sickening, wet sound of wood against exposed flesh. He thought about the man left to die.

  And he thought about the lies. The lies, most of all, haunted him.