Anyway, that was the official account of what happened.
I've never believed it. I'm not saying it's not possible. But I believe a much more likely scenario is that my brother is dead--that he has been dead for the past eleven years.
More to the point, my mother always believed that Ken was dead. She believed it firmly. Without reservation. Her son was not a murderer. Her son was a victim.
"He's alive. . . . He didn't do it."
The front door of the Miller house opened. Mr. Miller stepped through it. He pushed his glasses up his nose. His fists rested on his hips in a pitiful Superman stance.
"Get the hell out of here, Will," Mr. Miller said to me.
And I did.
The next big shock occurred an hour later.
Sheila and I were up in my parents' bedroom. The same furniture, a sturdy, faded swirling gray with blue trim, had adorned this room for as long as I could remember. We sat on the king-size bed with the weak-springed mattress. My mother's most personal items--the stuff she kept in her bloated nightstand drawers--were scattered over the duvet. My father was still downstairs by the bay windows, staring out defiantly.
I don't know why I wanted to sift through the things my mother found valuable enough to preserve and keep near her. It would hurt. I knew that. There is an interesting correlation between intentional pain infliction and comfort, a sort of playing-with-fire approach to grieving. I needed to do that, I guess.
I looked at Sheila's lovely face--tilted to the left, eyes down and focused--and I felt my heart soar. This is going to sound a little weird, but I could stare at Sheila for hours. It was not just her beauty--hers was not one would call classical anyway, her features a bit off center from either genetics or, more likely, her murky past--but there was an animation there, an inquisitiveness, a delicacy too, as if one more blow would shatter her irreparably. Sheila made me want to--bear with me here--be brave for her.
Without looking up, Sheila gave a half-smile and said, "Cut it out."
"I'm not doing anything."
Excerpted from Gone For Good by Harlan Coben Copyright 2002 by Harlan Coben. Excerpted by permission of Delacorte, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Blood at the Root
"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
- PW Starred Review
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