Olivia gently put her own hand up to her throat now. “I struggled. I kicked, I flailed, but I could feel the power draining out of me. There was nothing behind my blows anymore. I could feel his thumb pushing down on my throat. I was dying. And then I heard the gun go off.”
Her hand dropped to the side. The antique clock in the dining room, a wedding gift to Bernie and Marsha, started to chime. Olivia waited, let it finish playing.
“The gun wasn’t loud. It was more like the crack of a bat. I guess that’s because it was a twenty-two, I don’t know. For a second, Clyde’s grip somehow tightened. His face looked more surprised than pained. He let go of me. I started gagging, choking. I rolled to the side, gasping for air. Emma Lemay was standing behind him. She pointed the gun at him and it was like all those years of abuse, all those beatings, they just boiled over. She didn’t cower. She didn’t look down. Clyde spun toward her, enraged, and she fired again, right in his face.
“Then Emma pulled the trigger one more time and Clyde Rangor was dead.”
Loren now had motive. If the video was any indication, Charles Talley, a scumbag by anyone’s calculations, had not only slept with Matt Hunter’s wife—Loren was betting that it was Olivia Hunter in that video with the blonde wig—but he’d gone through the trouble of sending the pictures to Matt.
Pissing him off.
Calling him out, if you will.
It added up. It made perfect sense.
Except too many things in this case made perfect sense at first. And then, after a few minutes, they didn’t anymore. Like Max Darrow being rolled by a prostitute. Like the murder of Charles Talley looking like a common jealous-husband scenario when, if that indeed was the case, how do you explain the connection to Emma Lemay and the Nevada FBI and all the rest of the stuff she’d learned at Joan Thurston’s office?
Her cell phone trilled. The number was blocked.
“So what’s up with this APB on Hunter?”
It was Lance Banner.
“Do you ever sleep?” she asked.
“Not in the summer. I prefer winter hibernation. Like a bear. So what’s up?”
“We’re looking for him.”
“Stop with all specifics, Loren. I mean, no, really, I can’t handle all that detail.”
“It’s a long story, Lance, and I’ve had a long night.”
“The APB was mainly on the Newark wire.”
“So has anyone checked out Hunter’s sister-in-law’s?”
“I don’t think so.”
“I live right down the block,” Lance Banner said. “Consider me on the way.”
NEITHER MATT NOR OLIVIA MOVED. The story had drained her. He could see that. He almost made a move to come closer, but she put up her hand.
“I saw an old picture of Emma Lemay once,” Olivia began. “She was so beautiful. She was smart too. If anyone had the wiles to get out of this life, it was Emma. But you see, no one does. I was eighteen, Matt. And I already felt like my life was over. So there we were, me retching, Emma still holding the gun. She stared down at Clyde for a long time and simply waited for me to catch my breath. It took a few minutes. Then she turns to me, all clear-eyed, and says, ‘We need to hide his body.’
“I remember shaking my head. I told her I didn’t want any part of that. She didn’t get upset or raise her voice. It was so strange. She looked so . . . serene.”
Matt said, “She’d just slain her abuser.”
“That was part of it, sure.”
“It was almost as if she’d been waiting for this moment. Like she knew it would one day happen. I said we should call the police. Emma shook her head, calm, in control. The gun was still in her hand. She didn’t point it at me. ‘We could tell them the truth,’ I said. ‘That it was self-defense. We’ll show them the bruises on my neck. Hell, we’ll show them Cassandra.’ ”
Matt shifted in his seat. Olivia saw it and smiled.
“I know,” she said. “The irony isn’t lost on me. Self-defense. Like you claimed. We were both, I guess, at that same fork in the road. Maybe you didn’t have a choice, what with all those people around. But even if you did, you came from a different world. You trusted the police. You thought that truth would win out. But we knew better. Emma had shot Clyde three times, once in the back, twice in the face. No one would buy self-defense. And even if they did, Clyde made big money for his mobbed-up cousin. He’d never let us live.”
“So what did you do?” he asked.
“I was confused, I guess. But Emma kept explaining the predicament. We had no choice. Not really. And that was when she hit me with her best argument.”
“Emma said, ‘What if it all goes well?’ ”
“What if what all goes well?” Matt asked.
“What if the police believe us and Clyde’s cousin leaves us alone?”
She stopped, smiled.
“I don’t get it,” Matt said.
“Where would we be? Emma and me. Where would we be if it all worked out?”
Matt saw it now. “You’d be where you were.”
“Right. This was our chance, Matt. Clyde had a hundred thousand dollars hidden at the house. Emma said we’d take it. We’d split up and run. We’d start new. Emma already had a destination in mind. She’d been planning on leaving for years, but she never had the courage. Neither did I. Neither did any of us.”
“But now you had to.”
Olivia nodded. “She said that if we hid Clyde, they’d figure the two of them ran off together. They’d be looking for a couple. Or they’d think they were both killed and buried together. But she needed my help. I said, ‘What about me? Clyde’s friends know what I look like. They’ll hunt me down. And how do we explain Cassandra being dead?’
“But Emma already had that covered. She said, ‘Give me your wallet.’ I dug into my pocket and pulled it out. She took out my ID—back in those days, Nevada didn’t require you to have pictures on the ID—and she jammed it into Cassandra’s pocket. ‘When is Kimmy coming back?’ she asked me. In three days, I told her. Plenty of time, she said. Then she said, ‘Listen to me. Neither you nor Cassandra has any real family. Cassandra’s mother threw her out years ago. They don’t talk.’