Two Can Keep a Secret(6)

“Next weekend. Right before you two start school,” Nana says. Echo Ridge has the latest start date of any school we’re ever attended, which is one point in its favor. At La Puente, we’d already been in school two weeks by Labor Day. Nana gestures with her spatula toward the kitchen window over the sink, which looks out into the woods behind her house. “You’ll hear it once it does. It’s a ten-minute walk through the woods.”

“It is?” Ezra looks baffled. I am too, but mostly by his utter lack of research. “So the Kilduffs still live right behind the place where their daughter … where somebody, um …” He trails off as Nana turns toward us with two plates, each holding an enormous fluffy omelet, and deposits them in front of us. Ezra and I exchange surprised glances. I can’t remember the last time either of us had anything for breakfast other than coffee. But my mouth waters at the savory scent, and my stomach rumbles. I haven’t eaten anything since the three Kind bars I had for dinner on last night’s flight.

“Well.” Nana sits down between us and pours herself a glass of orange juice from the ceramic pitcher on the table. Pitcher. Not a carton. I spend a few seconds trying to figure out why you’d bother emptying a carton into a pitcher before taking a sip of mine and realizing it’s freshly squeezed. How are she and Sadie even related? “It’s their home. The two younger girls have lots of friends in the neighborhood.”

“How old are they?” I ask. Melanie wasn’t just Sadie’s favorite babysitter; she was almost a mentor to her in high school—and pretty much the only person from Echo Ridge that my mother ever talked about. But I still know hardly anything about her except that her daughter was murdered.

“Caroline is twelve and Julia is six,” Nana says. “There’s quite a gap between the two of them, and between Lacey and Caroline. Melanie’s always had trouble conceiving. But there’s a silver lining, I suppose. The girls were so young when Lacey died, looking after them might be the only thing that kept Melanie and Dan going during such a terrible time.”

Ezra cuts into the corner of his omelet and releases a small cloud of steam. “The police never had any suspects in Lacey’s murder, huh?” he asks.

“No,” Nana says, at the same time as I say, “The boyfriend.”

Nana takes a long sip of juice. “Plenty of people thought that. Think that,” she says. “But Declan Kelly wasn’t an official suspect. Questioned, yes. Multiple times. But never held.”

“Does he still live in Echo Ridge?” I ask.

She shakes her head. “He left town right after graduation. Best for all involved, I’m sure. The situation took an enormous toll on his family. Declan’s father moved away shortly after he did. I thought the mother and brother would be next, but … things worked out differently for them.”

I pause with my fork in midair. “Brother?” I hadn’t known Lacey’s boyfriend had a brother; the news never reported much about his family.

“Declan has a younger brother, Malcolm. Around your age,” Nana says. “I don’t know him well, but he seems a quieter sort. Doesn’t strut around town as if he owns it, at any rate, the way his brother did.”

I watch her take a careful bite of omelet, wishing I could read her better so I’d know whether Lacey and Sarah are as intertwined in her mind as they are in mine. It’s been so long since Sarah disappeared; almost a quarter century with no answers. Lacey’s parents lack a different kind of closure—they know what, when, and how, but not who or why. “Do you think Declan Kelly is guilty?” I ask.

Nana’s brow wrinkles, as though she suddenly finds the entire conversation distasteful. “I didn’t say that. There was never any hard evidence against him.”

I reach for the saltshaker without responding. That might be true, but if years of reading true-crime books and watching Dateline has taught me anything, it’s this: it’s always the boyfriend.



Wednesday, September 4

My shirt’s stiff with too much starch. It practically crackles when I bend my arms to drape a tie around my neck. I watch my hands in the mirror, trying and failing to get the knot straight, and give up when it’s at least the right size. The mirror looks old and expensive, like everything in the Nilssons’ house. It reflects a bedroom that could fit three of my old one. And at least half of Declan’s apartment.

What’s it like living in that house? my brother asked last night, scraping the last of his birthday cake off a plate while Mom was in the bathroom. She’d brought a bunch of balloons that looked tiny in the Nilssons’ foyer, but kept batting Declan in the head in the cramped alcove he calls a kitchen.

Fucked up, I said. Which is true. But no more fucked up than the past five years have been. Declan’s spent most of them living four hours away in New Hampshire, renting a basement apartment from our aunt.

A sharp knock sounds at my bedroom door, and hinges squeak as my stepsister pokes her head in without waiting for an answer. “You ready?” she asks.

“Yep,” I say, picking up a blue suit coat from my bed and shrugging it on. Katrin tilts her head and frowns, ice-blond hair spilling over one shoulder. I know that look: There’s something wrong with you, and I’m about to tell you exactly what it is and how to fix it. I’ve been seeing it for months now.

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