“The other reason I came by, Theresa, was to share a little bit of news. As you know, we weren’t satisfied with the internal examination we had performed on Stallings’s Lincoln Town Car.”
“So I called in a favor from the FBI’s scientific analysis team, CODIS. They do amazing work, the best work, and they just finished spending a week with the car.”
“I can e-mail you their report tomorrow, but long story short, they didn’t find anything.”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean they found nothing. No trace of skin cells or blood or hair or even residual sweat. Not even what they call degraded DNA. If Ethan had ridden in that car for three hours on the drive from Boise to Wayward Pines, this team would’ve at least found some molecular trace of him.”
“How is this possible?”
“I don’t know yet.”
Theresa grabbed the banister and struggled onto her feet.
Made her way over to the makeshift bar on the dry sink.
Didn’t even bother with another G&T. Just scooped some ice into a rocks glass and filled it with premium vodka.
She took a long pull, staggered back over to the staircase.
“I don’t know how to process this, Adam,” she said, and with the next sip, she knew this would be the drink that pushed her firmly over the edge.
“I don’t either. You asked me what I thought had happened?”
“I don’t have any answers for you. Not yet. Strictly between you and me, we’re taking another hard look at Agent Stallings. A hard look at everyone who had access to the scene of the accident prior to my arrival. But so far, we’ve gotten nowhere. And as you know, this happened over a year ago.”
“Something isn’t right,” she said.
Hassler stared at her, his hard eyes troubled.
“No shit,” he said.
* * *
Theresa walked him out to his car and stood on the wet street getting rained on and watching the taillights grow smaller and smaller before disappearing over the top of the hill.
All up and down the street, she could see the lights of Christmas trees inside their neighbors’ houses. She and Ben hadn’t put one up yet, and she doubted they’d get around to it this year. The gesture would feel too much like an acceptance of this nightmare, the final acknowledgment that he was never coming home.
* * *
Later, after everyone had cabbed home, she lay on the couch downstairs in the aftermath of the party, fighting the spins.
She couldn’t sleep, couldn’t pass out.
Every time she opened her eyes, she’d focus on the wall clock as the minute hand trudged between two and three a.m.
At two forty-five, unable to stand the nausea and the dizziness for another second, she rolled off the couch, climbed to her feet, and moved unsteadily into the kitchen.
She took one of the few remaining clean glasses out of the cabinet and filled it under the tap.
Drank and refilled two more times before her thirst was quenched.
The kitchen was a disaster.
She dimmed the track lighting and started loading the dishwasher, something satisfying about watching it fill up. She initiated the wash cycle and then walked around the house with a plastic bag, collecting beer cups, paper plates, discarded napkins.
By four a.m., the house was looking better, and she didn’t feel nearly as drunk, although a pounding had become noticeable behind her eyes—the first indication of the approaching headache.
She popped three Advil and stood at the kitchen sink in the predawn silence, listening as the rain pattered on the deck outside.
She filled the sink with hot water and squirted in the dish soap, watching bubbles begin to populate the surface.
Thrust her hands underwater.
Left them there until the heat became unbearable.
She’d been standing in this exact spot that last night when Ethan came home late from work.
Hadn’t heard the front door close.
Hadn’t heard his footsteps.
She’d been scrubbing a skillet when she felt his hands encircle her waist, his breath on the back of her neck.
She keeps scrubbing, says, “Seven o’clock, eight. That’s late. It’s ten thirty, Ethan. I don’t even know what to call this.”
“How’s our little man?”
“Fell asleep in the living room, waiting to show you his trophy.”
She hates how just the presence of his hands on her body can disarm her anger in a millisecond. She’s felt a blinding attraction to him from the first time she spotted him across the bar in Tini Bigs. Unfair advantage.
“I have to fly to Boise first thing in the morning,” he says into her ear.
“His birthday’s Saturday, Ethan. He turns six only once in his life.”
“I know. And I hate it. But I have to go.”
“You know what it’s gonna do to him, you not being here? How many times he’s going to ask me why you aren’t—”
“I get it, Theresa, all right? You think this hurts you more than it hurts me?”
She pushes his hands off her hips and turns around to face him.
Asks, “Does this new assignment have anything to do with trying to find her?”
“I’m not gonna do this right now, Theresa. I have to be up in five hours to catch my flight. I haven’t even packed.”
He gets halfway out of the kitchen before stopping and turning back around.
For a moment, they just hold each other’s stare, the breakfast table between them and on it the plate of cold food that will be the last meal Ethan eats under this roof.
“You know,” he says, “it’s over. We’ve moved on. But you don’t act like anything has—”
“I’m just tired of it, Ethan.”
“You work, and you work, and you work, and what’s left for us? The dregs.”
He doesn’t respond, but she can see the muscles in his jaw quiver.
Even this late at night, after a fifteen-hour day, he looks amazing, standing under the track lighting in that black suit she never gets tired of seeing him wear.
Already, her anger is ebbing.
A part of her needing to go to him, to be with him.
He has such a hold on her.
Some kind of magic in it.