Tell no one, p.15
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       Tell No One, p.15

           Harlan Coben
 
Chapter 14

  What else had Elizabeth been keeping from me?

  As I headed down Tenth Avenue toward the Quick n-Park, I again tried to dismiss those photographs as merely a record of her car accident injuries. I remembered how nonchalant Elizabeth had been about the whole thing at the time. Just a fender-bender, she said. No big deal. When I asked for details, she had pretty much brushed me off.

  Now I knew that she'd lied to me about it.

  I could tell you that Elizabeth never lied to me, but that would be, in light of this recent discovery, a pretty unconvincing argument. This was, however, the first lie I was aware of. I guess we both had our secrets.

  When I reached the Quick-n-Park, I spotted something strange - or perhaps, I should say, someone strange. There, on the corner, was a man in a tan overcoat.

  He was looking at me.

  And he was oddly familiar. No one I knew, but there was still the unease of deja vu. I'd seen this man before. This morning even. Where? I ran through my morning and spotted him in my mind's eye:

  When I pulled over for coffee at eight A. M. The man with the tan overcoat had been there. In the parking lot of Starbucks.

  Was I sure?

  No, of course not. I diverted my eyes and hurried over to the attendant's booth. The parking attendant - his name tag read Carlo - was watching television and eating a sandwich. He kept his eyes on the screen for half a minute before sliding his gaze toward me. Then he slowly brushed the crumbs off his hands, took my ticket, and stamped it. I quickly paid the man and he handed me my key.

  The man in the tan overcoat was still there.

  I tried very hard not to look in his direction as I walked to my car. I got in, started it up, and when I hit Tenth Avenue, I checked the rearview mirror.

  The man with the tan overcoat didn't so much as glance at me. I kept watching him until I turned toward the West Side Highway. He never looked in my direction. Paranoid. I was going nutsy paranoid.

  So why had Elizabeth lied to me?

  I thought about it and came up with nothing.

  There were still three hours until my Bat Street message came in. Three hours. Man, I needed to distract myself. Thinking too hard about what might be on the other end of that cyber-connection shredded my stomach lining.

  I knew what I had to do. I was just trying to delay the inevitable.

  When I got home, Grandpa was in his customary chair, alone. The television was off. The nurse was yakking on the phone in Russian. She wasn't going to work out. I'd have to call the agency and get her replaced.

  Small particles of egg were stuck to the corners of Grandpa's mouth, so I took out a handkerchief and gently scraped them away. Our eyes met, but his gaze was locked on something far beyond me. I saw us all up at the lake. Grandpa would be doing his beloved weight-loss before-and-after pose. He'd turn profile, slump, let his elastic gut hang out, and shout "Before!" and then suck it up and flex and yell "After!" He did it brilliantly. My father would howl. Dad had the greatest, most infectious laugh. It was a total body release. I used to have it too. It died with him. I could never laugh like that again. Somehow it seemed obscene.

  Hearing me, the nurse hurried off the phone and hightailed it into the room with a bright smile. I didn't return it.

  I eyed the basement door. I was still delaying the inevitable.

  No more stalling.

  "Stay with him," I said.

  The nurse bowed her head and sat down.

  The basement had been finished in the days before people finished basements, and it showed. The once-brown shag carpet was pockmarked and water-buckled. Faux white brick made from some sort of bizarre synthetic had been glued to asphalt walls. Some sheets had fallen to the shag; others stopped mid-topple, like columns of the Acropolis.

  In the center of the room, the Ping-Pong table's green had been washed to an almost in-vogue spearmint. The torn net looked like the barricades after the French troops stormed. The paddles were stripped down to the splintery wood.

  Some cardboard boxes, many sprouting mold, sat on top of the Ping-Pong table. Others were piled in the corner. Old clothes were in wardrobe boxes. Not Elizabeth's. Shauna and Linda had cleared those out for me. Goodwill got them, I think. But some of the other boxes held old items. Her items. I couldn't throw them away, and I couldn't let other people have them. I'm not sure why. Some things we pack away, stick in the back of the closet, never expect to see again - but we can't quite make ourselves discard them. Like dreams, I guess.

  I wasn't sure where I had put it, but I knew it was there. I started going through old photographs, once again averting my gaze. I was pretty good at that, though as time went on, the photographs hurt less and less. When I saw Elizabeth and me together in some greening Polaroid, it was as though I were looking at strangers.

  I hated doing this.

  I dug deeper into the box. My fingertips hit something made of felt, and I pulled out her tennis varsity letter from high school. With a sad smirk, I remembered her tan legs and the way her braid bounced as she hopped toward the net. On the court, her face was locked in pure concentration. That was how Elizabeth would beat you. She had decent enough ground strokes and a pretty good serve, but what lifted her above her classmates was that focus.

  I put the letter down gingerly and started digging again. I found what I was looking for at the bottom.

  Her daily planner.

  The police had wanted it after the abduction. Or so I was told. Rebecca came by the apartment and helped them find it. I assume they searched for clues in it - the same thing I was about to do-but when the body popped up with the K branding, they probably stopped.

  I thought about that some more - about how everything had been neatly pinned on KillRoy - and another thought scurried through my brain. I ran upstairs to my computer and got online. I found the Web site for the New York City Department of Correction. Tons of stuff on it, including the name and phone number I needed.

  I signed off and called Briggs Penitentiary.

  That's the prison that holds KillRoy

  When the recording came on, I pressed in the proper extension and was put through. Three rings later, a man said, "Deputy Superintendent Brown speaking. "

  I told him that I wanted to visit Elroy Kellerton.

  "And you are?" he said.

  "Dr. David Beck. My wife, Elizabeth Beck, was one of his victims.

  "I see. " Brown hesitated. "May I ask the purpose of your visit?"

  "No. "

  There was more silence on the line.

  "I have the right to visit him if he's willing to see me," I said.

  "Yes, of course, but this is a highly unusual request. "

  "I'm still making it. "

  "The normal procedure is to have your attorney go through his-"

  "But I don't have to," I interrupted. I learned this at a victim's rights Web site - that I could make the request myself. If Kellerton was willing to see me, I was in. "I just want to talk to Kellerton. You have visiting hours tomorrow, don't you?"

  "Yes, we do. "

  "Then if Kellerton agrees, I'll be up tomorrow. Is there a problem with that?"

  "No, sir. If he agrees, there's no problem. "

  I thanked him and hung up the phone. I was taking action. It felt damn good.

  The day planner sat on the desk next to me. I was avoiding it again, because as painful as a photograph or recording might be, handwriting was somehow worse, somehow more personal. Elizabeth's soaring capital letters, the firmly crossed ts, the too many loops between letters, the way it all tilted to the right. . .

  I spent an hour going through it. Elizabeth was detailed. She didn't shorthand much. What surprised me was how well I'd known my wife. Everything was clear, and there were no surprises. In fact, there was only one appointment I couldn't account for.

  Three weeks before her death, there was an entry that read simply: PF.

  And a phone number without an
area code.

  In light of how specific she'd been elsewhere, I found this entry a little unsettling. I didn't have a clue what the area code would be. The call was made eight years ago. Area codes had split and changed several different ways since then.

  I tried 201 and got a disconnect. I tried 973. An old lady answered. I told her she'd won a free subscription to the New York Post. She gave me her name. Neither initial matched. I tried 212, which was the city. And that was where I hit bingo.

  "Peter Flannery, attorney at law," a woman said mid-yawn.

  "May I speak to Mr. Flannery, please. "

  "He's in court. "

  She could have sounded more bored but not without a quality prescription. I heard a lot of noise in the background.

  "I'd like to make an appointment to see Mr. Flannery. "

  "You answering the billboard ad?"

  "Billboard ad?"

  "You injured?"

  "Yes," I said. "But I didn't see an ad. A friend recommended him. It's a medical malpractice case. I came in with a broken arm and now I can't move it. I lost my job. The pain is nonstop. "

  She set me up for an appointment tomorrow afternoon.

  I put the phone back into the cradle and frowned. What would Elizabeth be doing with a probable ambulance-chaser like Flannery?

  The sound of the phone made me jump. I snatched it up mid ring.

  "Hello," I said.

  It was Shauna. "Where are you?" she asked.

  "Home. "

  "You need to get over here right away," she said.