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What was dad working on when he died?

My mother turned from the kitchen counter, where she was collecting her cell phone, putting it in her purse. Since Id come out of her library, she had been talking about Spence, how it was so funny that sometimes he couldnt seem to dress himself. I hadnt known how to segue into the topic again, so I just blurted it out.

My mom cocked her head. I watched her intently for her reaction, not wanting to upset her, but she just blinked a few times, shook her head a little as if she was surprised, and said, Why these questions all of a sudden?

I was sitting on a tall chair at the island. I dont know. Ive just been thinking about him, I guess.

She turned back to her purse. It makes sense, I suppose.

What do you mean?

Well, youre at a transition point in your life, a time when you can go one way or another, and its usually at those times that we look back and try to make some sense of it all, see if weve done the right things, if weve ended up with the right people. And we remember people who arent with us anymore.

Is that what you do? I mean, do you think about whether you ended up with the right people, wonder if you did the right things?

My mother turned around again and looked at me. She put her hands on the counter behind her and leaned back.

In the last year, I had learned something about Victoria McNeil, something she thought no one else would ever know. We hadnt spoken about it since. Not directly. But now, I think we both knew I was referring, obliquely, to the topic, and yet we both knew the specifics would remain unspoken. My mother was from the school of holding your emotional cards close to your heart, and after all shed been through in her life, I respected that.

A thump from above us, then another. Spence dropping something upstairs. He could be clumsy, especially when he was distracted and running late. My mother smiled at the sound. I ended up with the right people, she said. And you?

Well, since I havent ended up with anyone, its kind of hard to say right now.

What about that young guy you mentioned?

I laughed a little. I hadnt told my mother how young he was.

What? she said.

Nothing. I saw him last night.


I remembered the feel of my legs around him, my back against the rough wall of the stairwell. I thought of him later in bed, curving around me, how he fell asleep first and I traced the ribbon of red tattooed in a trail down his arm. Yeah, it was fun.

And so?

I shrugged. Who knows?

Theo hadnt said anything specific about getting together again. It gave me a tickle of discomfort. Was all that stuff about dying to see me just about one thing-sex? Then again, what did I care?

And hows Sam? my mom asked.

We havent spoken in a few weeks.

Do you miss him?

I shifted around on the chair. Yes. And no. I mean, I miss lots of things about him, and I miss having someone in my life, but sometimes I dont mind being alone. I dont mind deciding what I want to eat for dinner and what I want to do for the weekend. I like that part a lot. I looked down at the book my dad used to read me, played with its cover. Inside, I had tucked the clipping about my grandfathers death. But then again, sometimes its lonely.

My mother chuckled. And so goes the circle of life. She nodded at the book. So all this about your dad

Yeah, I dont know. Youre okay now, Boo.

My mother stood away from the counter, collecting other things in her purse-her keys, a small water bottle. You asked what he was working on when he died. I dont know all the specifics. I really never did. Your dad didnt talk much when it came to his work.

Didnt that bother you?

No. I knew he had to keep quiet because he was working sensitive cases.

He worked for the Detroit police, right? Wasnt it just the usual robberies and stuff?

Your father worked out of the Detroit police office, and yes, he worked on things like robberies and even a serial killer, but he also profiled for the federal government. The primary case he was working on when he died was federal.

What was it?

A Mob case. The killing of the Rizzato Brothers.

A Mob case? I repeated. I thought of Dez Romano, Michael DeSanto.

Your dad had a certain knack for organized-crime cases. They were always asking him to consult.

Did he ever get any threats from them?

From whom? The Mob? My mother shook her head. He was just an average consultant. Never in the forefront.

I thought about the man running behind Dez and Michael as they chased me out of Gibsons. He hadnt been at the forefront there, either. But somehow, whoever he was, I doubted that he was just an average consultant.

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