Watching the brief news clip on the accident the next day, Alex smiled. He’d be there to comfort her; it would be only natural that she’d turn to him now in her time of need. She needed someone who shared her history, her memories. And in return, she’d make his ghosts – particularly Julie’s – go away.
Looking around his spacious, perfectly appointed house, he decided that Rory would add the warmth it needed. As beautiful as she was, she’d be perfect at those necessary but annoying business functions. Everyone would envy him for having her, just as he had envied Paul.
Yesterday’s accident had been front-page news. Senior Partner of Clark, Keller & DeLuca killed in a one-car accident. Already the media was blaming the over-population of deer in the area, despite the toxicology results. He assumed that either Clark or Keller was responsible for keeping that small detail from the public. It didn’t matter. The police knew about the results. They knew Paul was at fault.
He wondered if Paul knew he was going to die, or if death had come as a surprise. Perhaps sneaking up on him, appearing as the brakes failed and the vehicle slammed into the ancient guardrail and then through it. Or maybe it didn’t show up until he hung there, upside-down and held in place by the seatbelt. Did the belt release and send him through the windshield? That would have made up for much of what he’d inflicted on Rory over the years. Not all of Paul’s secrets were secret.
He wondered if death had been instantaneous or slow, if Paul felt his life slip away, if Rory had been his final thought.
Lucky girl, saved from a divorce and the mess she expected. Did she know when Paul died, when his soul left her behind? Alex wanted to call her and offer comfort that evening, but knew that would make him appear too eager. The last thing he wanted was to be mistaken for the callous suitor, too needy to wait a decent interval. He would call her later today and offer his sympathy. Just tell me what you need, Aurora, and it’s yours. He would mean every word.
Paul’s death had made the eleven o’clock news that night and was re-hashed at noon the next day. Such a nice man and such a tragedy, always good news fodder for the talented blonde newscaster.
Alex leaned back in his chair to watch and re-watch the recorded news clip. Clark, Keller & DeLuca was one of the city’s best-known accounting firms. As a result, some of the more tenacious reporters had stormed her house, camped out in cars parked along her street, and rushed her the moment she walked outside this morning.
He liked best the part where Rory refused an interview, holding her hands up to as if to stop the camera from taking her image and refusing to say anything beyond a plea for privacy.
The fifty-three second video played through twice before he hit pause, keeping her face on the screen, seeming to stare at the people who watched her. It was at that exact moment, for whatever reason, that she chose to let a small smile cross her lips. Though he knew it was impossible, he liked to imagine that she was looking right at him. But those were the thoughts of an obsessed madman. That was the last thing he was.
A copy of From the Forest was on the table next to him. Paul’s death had made him dig it out once more to reread the article that had once sent Richard into a fury, and once more laugh at the boy’s obsession. The day it was published, Richard ran to every one of his friends, ranting about her betrayal. All of them had said the same thing: Get over it. He wondered if Richard really had taken the advice. The way he’d glared at Paul yesterday certainly made things interesting.
It couldn’t have been murder. It had to be an accident. A deer probably ran out and he was simply too intoxicated to stop. An innocent accident. Lucky Richard.