The whole country was able to watch the hearing live as Harry pleaded not guilty, and the judge ordered him remanded into custody in New Hampshire's State Prison for Men. But this was only the start of the storm. At that moment I still had the naive hope that it would all be over soon, but one hour after the hearing, I received a call from Benjamin Roth.
"Harry gave me your number," he said. "He insisted I call. He wants you to know that he's innocent, that he didn't kill anybody."
"I know he's innocent," I said. "Tell me how he's doing?"
"Not too great, as you can imagine. The cops have been giving him a hard time. He admitted to having a fling with Nola the summer she disappeared."
"I knew about Nola. What about the rest?"
Roth hesitated a second before answering. "He denies it. But . . ."
"But what?" I demanded.
"Marcus, I'm not going to hide it from you. This is going to be difficult. The evidence is . . ."
"The evidence is what? Tell me, for God's sake!"
"This has to stay a secret. No one can know."
"I won't say a word. You can trust me."
"Along with the girl's remains the investigators found the manuscript of The Origin of Evil."
"I'm telling you, the manuscript of that damn book was buried with her. Harry is in deep shit."
"What does Harry say?"
"He says he wrote that book for her. That she was always snooping around his home in Goose Cove, and that sometimes she would borrow his pages to read. He says that a few days before she disappeared, she took the manuscript home with her."
"What? He wrote that book for her?"
"Yes. But that can't get out, under any circumstances. You can imagine the scandal there'd be if the media found out that one of the bestselling books of the last fifty years is not a simple love story, like everyone thinks, but based on an illicit affair between a guy of thirty-four and a girl of fifteen . . ."
"Can you get him released on bail?"
"Bail? You don't understand how serious this is. There's no question of bail when it comes to capital crimes. The punishment he risks is lethal injection. Ten days from now his case will be presented to a grand jury, which will decide whether to pursue charges and hold a trial. It's just a formality. There's no doubt there will be a trial."
"And in the meantime?"
"He'll stay in prison."
"But if he's innocent?"
"That's the law. I'm telling youthis is a very serious situation. He's accused of murdering two people."
I slumped back on the couch. I had to talk to Harry.
"Ask him to call me!" I said to Roth.
"I'll pass on your message."
"Tell him I absolutely have to talk to him, and that I'm waiting for his call."
Right after hanging up, I went to my bookshelves and found my copy of The Origin of Evil. Harry's inscription was on the first page:
To Marcus, my most brilliant student
H. L. Quebert, May 1999
I immersed myself once again in that book, which I hadn't opened in years. It was a love story, mixing a straight narrative with epistolary passages, the story of a man and woman who loved each other without really being allowed to love each other. So he had written this book for that mysterious girl about whom I still knew nothing. I finished rereading it in the middle of the night, and contemplated the title. And for the first time I wondered what it meant: Why The Origin of Evil? What kind of evil was Harry talking about?
Two days passed, during which the DNA analyses and dental impressions confirmed that the skeleton discovered at Goose Cove was indeed that of Nola Kellergan. The investigators were able to determine that the skeleton was that of a fifteen-year-old child, indicating that Nola had died more or less at the time of her disappearance. But, most important, a fracture at the back of the skull provided the certainty, even after more than thirty years, that Nola Kellergan had died from at least one blow to the head.
From The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair by Joel Dicker. Copyright © 2014 by Joel Dicker. by Joël Dicker. Reprinted by arrangement with Penguin Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) LLC, A Penguin Random House Company. Copyright © Éditions de Fallois, 2012.
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No Man's Land
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