Truths We Tell Chapter 1
----- November 16, 2012 -----
As the car pulls away from the curb, my hand clenches by my side and my calf muscles tense. If Ricardo doesn’t round that corner soon, I’m going to chase him down and that wouldn’t be good for anyone.
Least of all the train wreck of a girl in the back seat.
She doesn’t need me white-knighting her any more than I already have, even though I wasn’t entirely misguided in my first attempt. Stopping her from throwing herself into the Hudson River is one thing. Joining her in the back of a fancy Lincoln Town Car is quite another, especially when the only thing I want to do is put my arms around her until we both stop shaking. Between the hunted look in her eyes and the way my hands tremble, that could take some time.
I grip the phone tight in one hand and will my fingers to pick out the right letters to text Ricardo. Thank God for autocorrect which, for once, is on my side. Let me know when u drop her and where. He’s driving, but the streets of Manhattan are wall-to-wall traffic. He’ll have plenty of time to read and respond.
So why it takes him twenty-three agonizing minutes is anyone’s guess. I manage to run back up to Midtown, slogging through puddles and dodging umbrellas on the river path, checking my phone at the end of every song. Queen’s Another One Bites the Dust is crescendoing when my text tone sounds.
I stop in the middle of the path. The woman behind me catches me in the shoulder with her umbrella and spits out a curse word, but I don’t respond as I dig my phone out of my jacket pocket. The black leather case is soaked through and I swipe moisture from the screen as I read the text.
She is safely home. 47th St. She will be ok.
As always, Ricardo’s text is flawless, if a bit stilted. He prides himself on his English and I don’t blame him. My Spanish may be good enough to hold my own in a conversation, but I can’t write worth shit.
47th and what? I text. Christ, we’re practically neighbors.
Ricardo’s response: 438 47th Street. Between 9th and 10th.
Like a programmed GPS, my feet take me away from the river and up 10th Avenue until I hit 47th Street. I slow to an almost-walk as I approach her building. From across the street, it looks like any other on the street. Lights fill the windows and shadows cross behind curtains and shades. There are two windows that remain dark and I’m pretty sure one of them belongs to her.
I wish I asked her name. Not that she’d have given it to me, but at least then I’d know who to look for. I’m tempted to ring through the buzzers at the door until someone lets me in, but then what? Even if I find her, I don’t know what to say now anymore than I did then and I don’t get the feeling my checking up on her would be welcome.
My phone buzzes in my hand. It’s on. I clamp my fingers around the phone and feel my jaw clench. Fuck. I’m supposed to be home by now. There’s media shit storm about to unfold and I’m being paid a fuck ton of money to ensure it goes down the way it’s supposed to. The least I can do is show up.
Online in five. I text as I start a slow jog, accelerating to a near-sprint by the time I’ve crossed the two blocks to my apartment building. Vic is the doorman on duty tonight. He’s as Italian as they come, right down to the way he greets everyone. “Ciao, Signor Devereaux. It’s terrible out there tonight, yes?”
“Awful,” I agree as I wipe the water from my forehead. “Good job you’re working instead of out making trouble.”
Vic’s laugh follows me to the elevator. I give him some variation on that joke every time I see him and he laughs without fail. I’m pretty sure Vic got into his fair share of trouble when he was young, but now with his cane leaning against the wall and a picture of his grandkids on the corner of the front desk, the only trouble he’s getting into is not answering the phone fast enough at One Avalon Place. I don’t even think I’ve ever seen him open the actual door.
I’m going to miss this damn place – and Vic. He’s half the reason I’ve held onto the apartment as long as I have. The other half is I’d never cart the shit I needed here from Arkansas every time I flew back to New York. Servers, laptops, cables. Kevin, my old college lab partner, would remind me I could set it all up virtually with the same level of security. Maybe, but this shit needs to be untraceable and I’m not taking any chances.
I turn the key in the lock and click on the TV as the door slams behind me. Usually I’ve got it tuned to Bloomberg, but this news might be CNN-worthy. Although I don’t even get that far. I pass a gardening show and some celebrity chef chopping carrots before stopping on New York One. The banner under the news anchor reads: Coming up: ZARILLO-INGRAHAM VERDICT. Bingo, baby.
I turn up the volume as I start to undress, leaving my wet running clothes on the wooden floor en route to the bathroom. I click on the TV in the bedroom as I walk by and bring up the New York One app on the iPad as I turn on the shower. I’ll check the web in five minutes, but this is the evening news hour and even in the age of all-the-news, all-the-time, a lot of stations still hold the six-thirty slot for their biggest stories.
I step into the steam as Amanda Holywell takes over the newscast from Patrick what’s-his-name. She’s a damn sight easier to look at and her reporting’s better, too, but I don’t care about that. I don’t even care about the dark red low-cut blouse she’s wearing. I’m waiting for her prediction on the verdict and wondering if the fact the network switched to a female reporter is relevant. It’s got to be. Nothing the networks do is random. I just can’t tell if it’s because they’re sympathetic to Ingraham or if it’s to soften the blow.
Until I see the picture flash in the top right of the screen. And I sink against the cold tile wall like I’ve been shot. Because on the screen, next to Amanda’s perfectly coiffed brunette curls, is a picture of Ella Ingraham.
I’ve seen her picture a hundred times. Maybe a thousand. But never once have I seen her in person. Until today, kneeling by the edge of the river. The woman at the edge of the fucking Hudson River was Ella Ingraham. My stomach heaves and I lean over the drain, watching the contents of my stomach mix with the water as they swirl down into the city sewer. Jesus Christ.
“Analysts believe Zarillo will be the victor when the verdict is read tomorrow, but I have to say, Patrick, I’m glad I wasn’t on that jury,” Amanda Holywell says from the iPad perched on my bathroom countertop.
Patrick nods in agreement before his bland smile slides into place. “It was a tough case, Amanda. I’m not sure there is a victor, even if the jury decides Zarillo wins the settlement.”
Through the steam, I watch them talk about the case for the allotted thirty more seconds, although I’m not sure what they say. I’m fixated on the picture of Ella Ingraham in the corner. She’s staring at the camera, her mouth pinched a little around the edges. The circles under her eyes are dark, but not as dark as they were today. Her hair is carefully styled, not wild with rain. Everything about the woman in the photo oozes confidence. Defiance, even.
She’s not that woman. I wonder if she ever really was.
I turn off the water and walk naked and wet back to the living room where I left my phone. Texts fill the screen but I don’t read them. I go to my last sent text and type without thinking. Without seeing.
I’m done. Keep your money. I’m out.