Home > City of the Lost (Casey Duncan #1)(17)

City of the Lost (Casey Duncan #1)(17)
Author: Kelley Armstrong

“No, I—”

“You don’t think you deserve to escape. You killed a man, and you should pay the price.”

I tell myself there’s nobility in that, honour and justice. But in his voice, all I hear is disgust, like I’m a penitent flagellating herself.

“I’ll go,” I say. “You might not want me there, sheriff, but you won’t regret it. There’s one thing I’m good at, and that’s my job. I might be able to help with your problems.”

He shakes his head. “I’ve seen your record, detective. Fucking impressive. But that’s here. And where we’re going? It’s not here.”

Three

I have ninety-six hours to prepare for my disappearance. Diana has twenty-four. I expect my extra three days come courtesy of the sheriff. As a cop, he knows I shouldn’t walk away from my job.

I’m about to disappear. I’m not going to fake my death. I’m not even going to vanish in the night. The art of disappearing, it seems, is not to disappear at all. You just leave … after extensive and open preparation. Cancel all appointments. Pay your bills. Give notice at your job. Tell your friends and family. Make up a story. Lie about where you’re going, but make it clear they shouldn’t expect to hear from you for a few years. If possible, give those messages at the last moment, when it’s too late for them to argue.

The core concept is simple: give no one any cause to come after you. We’re even supposed to overpay our taxes, as painful at that might be.

There is some misdirection involved as well, because no matter how careful you are, a friend or family member might try to file a missing person’s report. So you leave hints about where you’ve gone. Calgary, Valerie recommended for us. Don’t say that outright, but run computer searches on apartment rentals and jobs in Calgary. Leave an “accidental” trail in case someone decides to hunt us down.

I tell my sister I’m going. It’s a brief conversation. We exchange duty calls at Christmas and birthdays and that’s it. She expresses no surprise that I’m moving with Diana again. It’s what she expects from her feckless little sister.

I set up my departure at work by talking to my partner about Kurt’s shooting and mention bad memories resurfacing from my own assault. I tell him about the attack on Diana and vent my frustration with the system. I’ll quit at the last moment, with an e-mail to my sergeant, cc’ing my union rep. I spend most of those four days at the station, getting my cases in order, so they’ll know, looking back, that I’d been preparing for this.

It’s the day before I’m due to leave. Kurt was released this morning, and he’s ignored the doctor’s orders to go straight to bed. “Had enough of that shit,” he said. We’re in the bar, early afternoon, the place still closed. He’s not due back to work for two days, but he’s prowling about, bitching like Martha Stewart come home to find her mansion in disarray.

“Fucking Larry,” he says, yanking near-empty bottles from the bar. “Doesn’t replace anything until the last drop’s gone, no matter how many times I tell him. You let a bottle run dry, someone’s gonna ask for a shot so they can stick their hand in the till while you’re in the back getting the replacement. And look at the bar. Idiot hasn’t wiped it down since I’ve been gone.” He reaches for a dishrag, then wrinkles his nose. “Is this the same one I left?”

I take it from him, toss it into the laundry bin under the sink, grab a fresh rag, and tell him to restock the bottles.

I clean up, though I suspect no one other than Kurt will even notice. The bar has more rings than a Beverly Hills housewife. It’s a piece of shit, but when Kurt’s here, it’s a spotless piece of shit.

He passes me on his way to the back and catches me around the waist, pulling me into a long, hungry kiss. I haven’t told him I’m taking off, but he senses something’s up.

He’s replacing the last bottle when I say, “I need to leave.”

He stands there, back to me, hand still on the bottle. “And by leave, you mean …”

“Going away. Someplace safe. Someplace”—I inhale—“permanent.”

His hand tightens on the bottle. Still he keeps his back to me, his voice level. “Can I talk you out of it?”

“No.”

He turns then, eyes meeting mine. “What if I—?”

“No.” I walk to him, and I put my hands around his neck, and I kiss him, and I pour everything I’m feeling into that kiss, everything I can’t say. How amazing I think he is. How sorry I am to get him mixed up in this.

For six months, Kurt has been my hookup. The guy I go to for a little companionship, but mostly for sex. He’s been safe. No one I’d ever fall for. But in this last week …

Could we have had something? I don’t know. I won’t think about it. I can’t.

When I pull back, he puts his hand under my chin and searches my gaze.

“You’ll be safe?” he says.

I nod.

A pause. A long one. “And there’s nothing I can say or do—”

“No. Please, no.”

“When’re you going?”

“Tomorrow.”

He swears and pulls back, looking around. Then he says, “Can I have tonight?”

“You can, though I know you’re probably not up to—”

He kisses me, even hungrier now, hands on my ass, pulling me against him. Then he takes my hand and slides it to his crotch.

   
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