Tell No One, Page 41Harlan Coben
"You're late!" the photographer, a tiny man with a fake French accent, shouted at Shauna. "And you look like - comment dit-on? - like something flushed through the toilette. "
"Up yours, Frederic," Shauna snapped back, not knowing or caring if that was his name. "Where you from anyway, Brooklyn?"
He threw his hands up. "I cannot work like this!"
Aretha Feldman, Shauna's agent, hurried over. "Don't worry, Francois. Our makeup man will work magic on her. She always looks like hell when she arrives. We'll be right back. " Aretha grabbed Shauna's elbow hard but never let up the smile. To Shauna, sotto voce, she said, "What the hell is wrong with you?"
"I don't need this crap. "
"Don't play prima donna with me. "
"I had a rough night, okay?"
"Not okay. Get in that makeup chair. "
The makeup artist gasped in horror when he saw Shauna. "What are those bags under your eyes?" he cried. "Are we doing a shoot for Samsonite luggage now?"
"Ha-ha. " Shauna moved toward the chair.
"Oh," Aretha said. "This came for you. " She held an envelope in her hand.
Shauna squinted. "What is it?"
"Beats me. A messenger service dropped it off ten minutes ago. Said it was urgent. "
She handed the envelope to Shauna. Shauna took it in one hand and flipped it over. She looked at the familiar scrawl on the front of the envelope - just the word "Shauna" - and felt her stomach clench.
Still staring at the handwriting, Shauna said, "Give me a second. "
"Now's not the time-"
"A second. "
The makeup artist and agent stepped away. Shauna slit open the seal. A blank white card with the same familiar handwriting fell out. Shauna picked it up. The note was brief: "Go to the ladies' room. "
Shauna tried to keep her breath even. She stood.
"What's wrong?" Aretha said.
"I have to pee," she said, the calmness in her voice surprising even her. "Where's the head?"
"Down the hall on the left. "
"I'll be right back. "
Two minutes later, Shauna pushed the bathroom door. It didn't budge. She knocked. "It's me," she said. And waited.
A few seconds later, she heard the bolt slide back. More silence. Shauna took a deep breath and pushed again. The door swung open. She stepped onto the tile and stopped cold. There, across the room, standing in front of the near stall, was a ghost.
Shauna choked back a cry.
The brunette wig, the weight loss, the wire-framed spectacles - none of it altered the obvious.
"Elizabeth. . . "
"Lock the door, Shauna. "
Shauna obeyed without thought. When she turned around, she took a step toward her old friend. Elizabeth shrunk back.
"Please, we don't have much time. "
For perhaps the first time in her life, Shauna was at a loss for words.
"You have to convince Beck I'm dead," Elizabeth said.
"A little late for that. "
Her gaze swept the room as though looking for an escape route. "I made a mistake coming back. A stupid, stupid mistake. I can't stay. You have to tell him-"
"We saw the autopsy, Elizabeth," Shauna said. "There's no putting this genie back in the bottle. "
Elizabeth's eyes closed.
Shauna said, "What the hell happened?"
"It was a mistake to come here. "
"Yeah, you said that already. "
Elizabeth started chewing on her lower lip. Then: "I have to go. "
"You can't," Shauna said.
"You can't run away again. "
"If I stay, he'll die. "
"He's already dead," Shauna said.
"You don't understand. "
"Don't have to. If you leave him again, he won't survive. I've been waiting eight years for him to get over you. That's what's supposed to happen, you know. Wounds heal. Life goes on. But not for Beck. " She took a step toward Elizabeth. "I can't let you run away again. "
There were tears in all four eyes.
"I don't care why you left," Shauna said, inching closer. "I just care that you're back. "
"I can't stay," she said weakly.
"You have to. "
"Even if it means his death?"
"Yeah," Shauna said without hesitation. "Even if. And you know what I'm saying is true. That's why you're here. You know you can't leave again. And you know I won't let you. "
Shauna took another step.
"I'm so tired of running," Elizabeth said softly.
"I know. "
"I don't know what to do anymore. "
"Me neither. But running isn't an option this time. Explain it to him, Elizabeth. Make him understand. "
Elizabeth lifted her head. "You know how much I love him?"
"Yeah," Shauna said, "I do. "
"I can't let him get hurt. "
Shauna said, "Too late. "
They stood now, a foot apart. Shauna wanted to reach out and hold her, but she stayed still.
"Do you have a number to reach him?" Elizabeth said.
"Yeah, he gave me a cell-"
"Tell him Dolphin. I'll meet him there tonight. "
"I don't know what the hell that means. "
Elizabeth quickly slid past her, peeked out the bathroom door, slithered through it. "He'll understand," she said. And then she was gone.