Today's Reading

"Cut the shit, Porter. Jenny told us. Same day she told you she and Stephen were expecting, you informed her that you'd be going away for a while."

"I did." I gave him a second to make the connection himself. But Turley had never been the sharpest tool. "And that conversation took place before Owen Eaton was killed. So unless you're saying his bashed-in head was premeditated..."

"No one is accusing you of killing Owen Eaton."

"Then what are you accusing me of? Taking an extended vacation? Not leaving a forwarding address? This is America, man. People don't have to register with the state every time they take a piss." I double tapped the table, then was out door. I did not look back.

I made it as far as the blustery parking lot before Turley came huffing behind me. He looked so pissed, red, puffy face chapped in the stinging cold. For a second, I thought he might try to jam me up on some bullshit charge. My disappearing act had to have been a humiliating pain in his ass.

"You're right," Turley said, shoulders slagging. "Technically, you didn't break any laws. But let me give you a heads up. You running when you did—"

"I didn't run."

"Fine. You leaving the region when you did, okay? You made this bigger than our little mountain town." He forced a chuckle. "Someday maybe we can sit down and you can buy me a beer and tell me how you managed to stay hidden all those months, with every state trooper looking for you."

"Sure, Turley, we can have a beer together."

"The Feds got involved. There was a statewide manhunt. You made folks look stupid. My advice: lawyer up."

"Lawyer? I didn't do anything except leave. No one told me I had to stay."

Now it was Turley's turn to shrug, ineffectual and smug.

"The case against Owen Eaton is closed?" I asked but I already had the answer. I'd been assured. My inside man had told me the case was closed.

"They know you didn't kill anyone, but the case is far from over."

"What the fuck, Turley? Is this about Adam and Michael?" I'd long railed against the Lombardi Brothers, who ran this place, blaming them for what happened to my brother, but I'd been out of the state so long, out of their hair for almost a year; I hadn't caused them any grief.

"Adam and Michael Lombardi don't like you any more than you don't like them. With their connections in the state senate, having the ear of local—and federal—law enforcement? They can cause you a lot of aggravation."

I pulled my Marlboro's, fighting to light one against the icy gusts that never relented, doing my best to keep my hands steady. I looked out over the expanse of this small mountain town I'd never be able to escape. What made me think I could outrun my name?

"You might not believe this," Turley said, "but I'm glad you're okay." Before I could paint-by-numbers another response, he stopped me. "Where you staying? And, no, it's not so I can tell the Feds where to find you. They want to talk to you, they'll get in touch no matter what I say."

"Planned on crashing in a roadside motel for the night. Shower, sleep. Figure the rest out tomorrow."

"I was filling up at Hank Miller's gas station the other day. Know for a fact he hasn't rented out your old room above the garage." Turley checked a make-believe watch. "If you hurry, might be able to catch the old guy before he goes to sleep."

"Thanks, Turley."

"Don't thank me. You're gonna need all your money for a lawyer. Nothing I can do to get you outta this mess."

I ducked down into my winter coat, turning to face the next storm.

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