Maddie: why where r u? mall? we can meet you
Evan: w the guys
Maddie: want us to come?
Evan: no gotta go
Mindy shook her head, feeling sorry for the girl. She wished Evan didn’t lead them on. She scrolled backwards to see if the earlier texts showed a relationship that would justify gift-giving, but she wasn’t finding anything. It looked as if Maddie was always asking for Evan’s time, but he wasn’t coming around. Mindy knew the feeling.
She thumbed back to the list of girls Evan texted and touched the third name, which was Amanda, a name she didn’t recognize. It must’ve been one of the girls who didn’t go to CVHS or a girl in a different class. The text opened, and the screen filled with a nude photo of a girl—showing her full breasts, tiny little tummy, and a completely shaved pubic area. Her legs were partly opened, a crudely pornographic pose.
Mindy recoiled, shocked. This was a sext, for God’s sake! What were these girls thinking? What the hell was going on? The photo didn’t show the girl’s face, but it was a selfie of her body, and she had a tattoo of a dream catcher on her side, too, like Miley Cyrus.
She scrolled backwards through Evan’s texts with Amanda:
Amanda: ur at movies? don’t u kno what ur missing?
Evan: oh man
Amanda: did u forget?
Evan: no way
Amanda: get here. im so wet.
Amanda: i need u. get over here. i need it hard
Evan: gimme ten
Amanda: dying 4 u luv u
Evan: luv u 2
Mindy felt aghast. She scrolled backwards, and the texts were a blur of dirty talk and nude selfies—Amanda’s perfect butt, fleshy breasts, tan tummy, and a belly button as taut as a frown. It was positively pornographic, but Mindy couldn’t help but look at the girl’s waistline with envy. Her own waist had never looked like that, and her belly button was a thing of the past.
Mindy went into contacts, looking for more information about Amanda. She searched under A, but there was no other contact information but a phone number. Mindy took a picture of the contact information, then went back to the screen of people Evan texted, touching the next girl’s name. She wanted to make sure there weren’t any other girls he was buying presents for, or whatever was going on.
She went through one girl, then another, and then finally the third, but it was getting late. Plenty of those girls had sent him naked pictures, but something told Mindy that Amanda was the one Evan was buying gifts for, or maybe he was even giving money to. Mindy had to figure out what to do, but she couldn’t do it now.
She turned off the phone, left the bathroom, and headed back toward Evan’s bedroom. She crept inside, replaced the phone, plugged it in, and slipped out, closing the door behind her. She headed down the hallway, turned into her bedroom, and crawled under the covers beside her snoring husband.
She stared at the ceiling and realized she still didn’t know for sure who was withdrawing the money, since both Paul and Evan could withdraw from the account. It seemed more likely that it was Evan, but she didn’t know why, and that left the question why Paul had lied to her about Carole’s birthday.
You have to let it go. We’ve been through the mill. We’ve worked through it, and we did everything we were supposed to do. We’re past it now.
Mindy didn’t know if she’d ever get to sleep.
Sunday morning dawned sunny and cool, and Chris joined the back of the crowd filing into the modern church. Dr. McElroy had sent the CVHS faculty an email saying that Abe’s passing would be mentioned at the church service this morning, the first Sunday after his death on Friday night, since he and his partner Jamie Renette had been such active members of the congregation. Chris had decided to come and follow up on Abe’s suicide because he couldn’t put his doubts to rest until he had investigated from this angle.
Meanwhile, he’d worked all night reviewing his tapes and research files, but learned nothing more about Dylan or Trevor. The Rabbi was setting up the work-around on the Kiefermanns’, but that wouldn’t happen until tomorrow, if then. Chris was running out of time.
He spotted a man he assumed was Jamie at the front, talking with the female pastor and a group of teary men and women, presumably close friends of the couple. There were also faculty from CVHS, among them Dr. McElroy, Courtney and her husband, Rick Pannerman and his wife, and Coach Natale and his wife. Behind them was a weepy clutch of students but so far, Chris didn’t see anybody from the baseball team.
They filed into the church, a modern building made of sandstone-faced bricks with stained-glass windows depicting flowers, trees, sunny skies, and a cross. A tan spire soared at its center, and the glass entrance was flanked by banners that read, Everyone Is Welcome at Our House of Worship. Chris had been raised without a religion, and as an adult, his career infiltrating neo-Nazis, drug cartels, and human traffickers had provided him ample evidence that God needed to do a better job.
Chris reached the church and entered a hall with an American flag, a Pennsylvania flag, and a rainbow flag. The congregation filed into sleek oak pews, greeting each other with hugs, then settling into seats. He sat on the end of a pew in the back, and the church was shallow and wide, so he could keep an eye on Jamie, his friends, and the CVHS faculty. The pastor appeared on the elegant altar, flanked by banners with an embroidered cross and a white dove. Live music began, a string quartet in the balcony.
The pastor crossed to the pulpit. “Ladies and gentlemen, friends of our church. We welcome those who are here today to support Jamie in the heartbreaking loss of his partner, our beloved Abe. We thank you all for being here at this difficult time.”
Chris heard sniffling, and Dr. McElroy patted Jamie on the back.
“Before we begin the service, allow me to remind you that God does work in mysterious ways, and at times like these, we are at a loss to understand the mystery of those ways.” The pastor’s voice softened. “I say this because there is no one in this congregation who does not have an Abe Yomes story. Mine is the time he told me I shouldn’t wear green vestments because ‘nobody looks good in green except leprechauns.’”
Chris heard teary chuckles and wished he had gotten to know Abe better.
“Abe was a fixture at all of our volunteer efforts—he happily doled out the carbohydrates at our Thanksgiving Day meal, he worked on our voter-registration drive, and he delivered Christmas gifts to the children of those less fortunate.” The pastor smiled sadly. “He was the least credible Santa Claus, because he was way too thin and refused to wear the beard.”