Darkfever Page 2

I love to eat. Fortunately, it doesn’t show. I’m healthy through the bust and bottom, but slim through the waist and thighs. I have good metabolism, though Mom says, Ha, wait until you’re thirty. Then forty, then fifty. Dad says, More to love, Rainey and gives Mom a look that makes me concentrate really hard on something else. Anything else. I adore my parents, but there’s such a thing as TMI. Too much information.

All in all, I have a great life, short of missing my parents and counting the days until Alina gets home from Ireland, but both of those are temporary, soon to be rectified. My life will go back to being perfect again before much longer.

Is there such a thing as tempting the Fates to slice one of the most important threads that holds your life together simply by being too happy?

When the phone rang, I thought it was my parents.

It wasn’t.

It’s funny how such a tiny, insignificant, dozen-times-a-day action can become a line of demarcation.

The picking up of a phone. The pressing of an on button.

Before I pressed it—as far as I knew—my sister Alina was alive. At the moment of pressing, my life split into two distinct epochs: Before the call and After.

Before the call, I had no use for a word like “demarcation,” one of those fifty-cent words I knew only because I was an avid reader. Before, I floated through life from one happy moment to the next. Before, I thought I knew everything. I thought I knew who I was, where I fit, and exactly what my future would bring.

Before, I thought I knew I had a future.

After, I began to discover that I’d never really known anything at all.

I waited two weeks from the day that I learned my sister had been murdered for somebody to do something—anything—besides plant her in the ground after a closed-casket funeral, cover her with roses, and grieve.

Grieving wasn’t going to bring her back, and it sure wasn’t going to make me feel better about whoever’d killed her walking around alive out there somewhere, happy in their sick little psychotic way, while my sister lay icy and white beneath six feet of dirt.

Those weeks will remain forever foggy to me. I wept the entire time, vision and memory blurred by tears. My tears were involuntary. My soul was leaking. Alina wasn’t just my sister; she was my best friend. Though she’d been away studying at Trinity College in Dublin for the past eight months, we’d e-mailed incessantly and spoken weekly, sharing everything, keeping no secrets.

Or so I thought. Boy was I ever wrong.

We’d been planning to get an apartment together when she came home. We’d been planning to move to the city, where I was finally going to get serious about college, and Alina was going to work on her Ph.D. at the same Atlanta university. It was no secret that my sister had gotten all the ambition in the family. Since graduating high school, I’d been perfectly content bartending at The Brickyard four or five nights a week, living at home, saving most of my money, and taking just enough college courses at the local Podunk university (one or two a semester, and classes like How to Use the Internet and Travel Etiquette didn’t cut it with my folks) to keep Mom and Dad reasonably hopeful that I might one day graduate and get a Real Job in the Real World. Still, ambition or no, I’d been planning to really buckle down and make some big changes in my life when Alina returned.

When I’d said good-bye to her months ago at the airport, the thought that I wouldn’t see her alive again had never crossed my mind. Alina was as certain as the sun rising and setting. She was charmed. She was twenty-four and I was twenty-two. We were going to live forever. Thirty was a million light-years away. Forty wasn’t even in the same galaxy. Death? Ha. Death happened to really old people.

Not.

After two weeks, my teary fog started to lift a little. I didn’t stop hurting. I think I just finally expelled the last drop of moisture from my body that wasn’t absolutely necessary to keep me alive. And rage watered my parched soul. I wanted answers. I wanted justice.

I wanted revenge.

I seemed to be the only one.

I’d taken a psych course a few years back that said people dealt with death by working their way through stages of grief. I hadn’t gotten to wallow in the numbness of denial that’s supposed to be the first phase. I’d flashed straight from numb to pain in the space of a heartbeat. With Mom and Dad away, I was the one who’d had to identify her body. It hadn’t been pretty and there’d been no way to deny Alina was dead.

After two weeks, I was thick into the anger phase. Depression was supposed to be next. Then, if one was healthy, acceptance. Already I could see the beginning signs of acceptance in those around me, as if they’d moved directly from numbness to defeat. They talked of “random acts of violence.” They spoke about “getting on with life.” They said they were “sure things were in good hands with the police.”

I was so not healthy. Nor was I remotely sure about the police in Ireland.

Accept Alina’s death?

Never.

“You’re not going, Mac, and that’s final.” Mom stood at the kitchen counter, a towel draped over her shoulder, a cheery red, yellow, and white magnolia-printed apron tied at her waist, her hands dusted with flour.

She’d been baking. And cooking. And cleaning. And baking some more. She’d become a veritable Tasmanian devil of domesticity. Born and raised in the Deep South, it was Mom’s way of trying to deal. Down here, women nest like mother hens when people die. It’s just what they do.

We’d been arguing for the past hour. Last night the Dublin police had called to tell us that they were terribly sorry, but due to a lack of evidence, in light of the fact that they didn’t have a single lead or witness, there was nothing left to pursue. They were giving us official notice that they’d had no choice but to turn Alina’s case over to the unsolved division, which anyone with half a brain knew wasn’t a division at all but a filing cabinet in a dimly lit and largely forgotten basement storeroom somewhere. Despite assurances they would periodically reexamine the case for new evidence, that they would exercise utmost due diligence, the message was clear: Alina was dead, shipped back to her own country, and no longer their concern.

They’d given up.

Was that record time or what? Three weeks. A measly twenty-one days. It was inconceivable!

“You can bet your butt if we lived over there, they’d never have given up so quickly,” I said bitterly.

Prev Next