“With Emma Lemay.”
“Right. Chally was dumb muscle. He and Max flew up to get Emma to talk. But she wouldn’t give you up. No matter what they did to her. So they kept pushing. And they just pushed too far.”
Olivia closed her eyes. “So this”—she gestured around the room—“us being here tonight, this was to be your grand finale, right, Kimmy? You take my money. You break my heart by showing me that there is no daughter, no child. And then what?”
Kimmy said nothing for several seconds. “I don’t know.”
“Yeah, Kimmy, you do.”
She shook her head, but there was nothing behind it.
“Darrow and Chally wouldn’t have let me stay alive,” Olivia said.
“Darrow,” Kimmy said softly, “had nothing to say about it.”
“Because you killed him?”
“Yes.” She smiled. “Do you know how many times that son of a bitch had his pants down in a car with me?”
“And that’s why you killed him?”
“I needed to stop this,” Kimmy said. “And I needed to strike first.”
“You thought he’d kill you?”
“For this kind of money, Max Darrow would kill his own mother. Yeah, I was hurt when I found out—no, it was more like . . . it was more like I was in shock. But Max, I thought he was just in this with me. But then he started running his own game too. It had to stop.”
“What do you mean?”
“Just . . .” Her whole persona emanated exhaustion. “Just forget it,” Kimmy said. “All that matters is, Max didn’t like witnesses. I was an unreliable whore. You think he’d risk that?”
“And Charles Talley?”
“Your husband tracked him down. They got into that fight and then he ran away. Chally called me. See, I was staying on the floor below you. He was in a panic, all worried about the cops coming. He was on parole. One more offense and he was in for life. He’d do anything to avoid that. So I told him to wait in the stairwell.”
“You set it up to look like Matt killed him.”
“That had been what Max wanted all along—to set up both Chally and your husband.” She shrugged. “I figured, might as well stick with the plan.”
Olivia looked at her old friend. She stepped closer. “I thought about you,” she said. “You know that.”
“I know,” Kimmy said. “But that wasn’t enough.”
“I was afraid. Emma said if they found out what we’d done, they’d hurt us all. They’d look for the tape again. We didn’t have it. They’d kill us.”
“Look at me,” Kimmy said.
She pulled out a gun. “Look at what I’ve become.”
“I didn’t plan it like this,” Olivia said. “I thought I would die.”
“I know that now.”
“And I’m pregnant.”
Kimmy nodded. “I know that too.” The gun in her hand shook.
Olivia took another step closer. “You won’t kill the baby.”
Kimmy’s face fell. Her voice was barely audible. “It was the tape.”
“What was, Kimmy?” And then Olivia saw it. “Oh. Oh, no. . . .”
“That damn tape,” Kimmy said, tears spilling down her face. “That’s what got Cassandra killed. That’s what started it all.”
“Oh, God.” Olivia swallowed. “Cassandra wasn’t the one who stole it from Clyde,” she said. “You were.”
“For us, Candi. Don’t you see?” she pleaded. “That tape was our ticket out. We were going to get a big stash of cash. We’d run away, you and me—just like we talked about. It’d be our turn, you know? And then I come home and someone murdered you. . . .”
“All that time, all these years, you . . .” Olivia felt her heart break anew. “You blamed yourself for my death.”
Kimmy managed a nod.
“I’m so sorry, Kimmy.”
“It hurt so bad when I found out you were alive. You understand? I loved you so much.”
Olivia did understand. You grieve, not just for the dead, but for yourself, for what might have been. You think your best friend, the one person you could dream with . . . you think she died because of you. You live with that guilt for ten years and then one day, you learn it was all a lie. . . .
“We can make it okay,” Olivia said.
Kimmy straightened up. “Look at me.”
“I want to help.”
There was a hard rap on the door. “Open up! Police!”
“I killed two men,” Kimmy said to her. Then she smiled—a beatific smile that brought Olivia back. “Look at my life. It’s my turn, remember? My turn to escape.”
“Please, Kimmy . . .”
But Kimmy pointed the gun to the floor and fired. There was a moment of panic and then the door burst open. Kimmy spun toward the door and aimed her gun. Olivia screamed, “No!”
Gun blasts followed. Kimmy spun one more time, like a marionette, and then she dropped to the floor. Olivia fell to her knees and cupped her friend’s head. She lowered her lips to Kimmy’s ear.
“Don’t . . .” Olivia begged.
But now, at long last, it was Kimmy’s turn.
TWO DAYS LATER, Loren Muse was home in her garden apartment. She was making a ham and cheese sandwich. She grabbed two slices of bread and put them on her plate. Her mother sat on the couch in the next room, watching Entertainment Tonight. Loren heard the familiar theme music. She dug into the mayonnaise and began spreading it on the bread when she started to cry.
Loren’s sobs were silent. She waited until they passed, until she could talk again.
“I’m watching my program.”
Loren moved behind her mother. Carmen was munching down a bag of Fritos. Her swollen feet were propped up with a pillow on the coffee table. Loren smelled the cigarette smoke, listened to her mother’s raspy breath.
Adam Yates had killed himself. Grimes would not be able to cover it up. The two girls, Ella and Anne, and the boy, Sam, the one Adam had held in the hospital to ward off death—they would know the truth. Not about the videotape. Despite Adam Yates’s fear, those images would not be what haunted his children late at night.
“I always blamed you,” Loren said.