THE TRUTH ABOUT THE HARRY QUEBERT AFFAIR
"Jesus, Marc, have you heard?"
"My God, turn on the TV! It's about Harry Quebert! It's Quebert!"
I put on the news. To my amazement I saw the house at Goose Cove on the screen and heard the reporter say: "It was here, in his home in Somerset, New Hampshire, that author Harry Quebert was arrested today after police discovered human remains on his property. Initial inquiries suggest this may be the body of Nola Kellergan, a local girl who at the age of fifteen disappeared from her house in August 1975 and has never been seen since." The room began spinning around me, and I collapsed onto the couch in a daze. I couldn't hear anything clearly anymorenot the TV, nor Douglas, at the other end of the line, bellowing, "Marcus? Are you there? Hello? He killed a girl? Quebert killed a girl?" In my head, everything blurred together like a bad dream.
So it was that I found out, at the same time as a stupefied America, what had happened a few hours earlier: That morning a landscaping company had arrived at Goose Cove, at Harry's request, to plant hydrangea bushes. When they dug up the earth, the gardeners found human bones buried three feet deep and had immediately informed the police. A whole skeleton had quickly been uncovered, and Harry had been arrested.
On the TV screen they cut between live broadcasts from Somerset and from Concord, sixty miles northwest, where Harry was in police custody. Apparently a clue found close to the body strongly suggested that here were the remains of Nola Kellergan; a police spokesman had already indicated that if this information was confirmed, Harry Quebert would also be named as a suspect in the murder of one Deborah Cooper, the last person to have seen Nola alive on August 30, 1975. Cooper had been found murdered the same day, after calling the police. It was appalling. The rumble grew ever louder as the news crossed the country in real time, relayed by television, radio, the Internet, and social networks: Harry Quebert, sixty-seven, one of the greatest authors of the second half of the twentieth century, was a child predator.
It took me a long time to realize what was happening. Several hours, perhaps. At 8 p.m., when a worried Douglas came by to see how I was holding up, I was still convinced that the whole thing was a mistake.
"How can they accuse him of two murders when they're not even sure it's the body of this Nola?" I said.
"Well, there was a corpse buried in his yard, however you look at it."
"But why would he have brought people in to dig up the place where he'd supposedly buried a body? It makes no sense! I have to go there."
"New Hampshire. I have to defend Harry."
Douglas replied with that down-to-earth Midwestern sobriety: "Absolutely not, Marcus. Don't go there. You don't want to get involved in this mess."
"Harry called me . . ."
"About one this afternoon. I must have been the one telephone call he was allowed. I have to go there and support him! It's very important."
"Important? What's important is your second book. I hope you haven't been taking me for a ride and that you really will have a manuscript ready by the end of the month. Barnaski is shitting bricks. Do you realize what's going to happen to Harry? Don't get mixed up in this, Marc. Don't screw up your career."
On TV the state attorney general was giving a press conference. He listed the charges against Harry: kidnapping and two counts of murder. Harry was formally accused of having murdered Deborah Cooper and Nola Kellergan. And the punishment for these crimes, taken together, was death.
Harry's fall was only just beginning. Footage of the preliminary hearing, which was held the next day, was broadcast on TV. We saw Harry arrive in the courtroom, tracked by dozens of TV cameras and illuminated by photolighting, handcuffed, and surrounded by policemen. He looked as if he had been through hell: somber faced, unshaven, hair disheveled, shirt unbuttoned, eyes swollen. His lawyer, Benjamin Roth, stood next to him. Roth was a renowned attorney in Concord who had often advised Harry in the past. I knew him slightly, having met him a few times at Goose Cove.
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.
Blood at the Root
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