فصل 34کتاب: دو نفر میتوانند رازنگهدار باشند / فصل 34
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متن انگلیسی فصل
THURSDAY, OCTOBER 10
“But none of it makes any sense.”
I’m at Malcolm’s house Thursday evening, curled up on his couch like on homecoming night. He has the Defender movie on again, but neither of us are watching it. He texted me half an hour ago: I need your true-crime brain.
I’m not sure why he trusts me after my Kyle-Liz theory imploded so spectacularly. But here I am. I don’t think I’m helping, though. Declan being Lacey’s killer has always made sense to me. But being Brooke’s? Never even crossed my mind.
“What connection is there between Declan and Brooke?” I ask.
Malcolm’s eyes flash. “None that I know of. Except that he was in town the night she disappeared. If the police had ever looked at my phone, they’d have seen his text.” He takes out his phone and clicks it on, then swipes for a minute. He holds the phone out to me and I’m looking at a message. In town for a few hours. Don’t freak out.
I read it twice, and when I look back up at Malcolm, his face is the picture of misery. “I thought that … I was trying to help Declan out by not, you know. Telling the police,” he says haltingly. “I thought it was just bad timing. But what if … Christ, Ellery.” He slumps back against the couch, rubbing a hand so hard across his bruised face that it has to hurt. “What if it was more than that?” I study Declan’s text again, wondering why I don’t find it more disturbing. After all, I’ve had him at the top of my suspect list for weeks, and this puts him at the scene of the crime. “Okay, but … Declan was in the process of moving then, right? Or he had moved? So he had a perfectly good reason for being here,” I say, handing the phone back to Malcolm. “And why would he send you that text if he was planning something? You’d think he’d be more subtle.” “Subtle isn’t how Declan rolls. I get what you’re saying, though.” Malcolm brightens a little, then jiggles his phone as though he’s weighing it. “I should let my mother know what’s up. But she’s having dinner with a friend, and she’s hardly done that kind of thing since she and Peter got married. I feel like I should let her have a few hours of peace before everything goes to hell again.” I think back to my one lunch at Echo Ridge High with Brooke, when she’d said that Malcolm was cute but couldn’t compare to Declan. “Do you think— Could Declan and Brooke have been secretly dating or something?” “What, while he was also secretly dating Daisy?”
“I’m just trying to figure out how the ring could’ve gotten there. Would he have given it to Brooke?” Malcolm’s voice is ragged. “Maybe? I mean, you’d think somebody would’ve noticed him sneaking around with a high school girl, but maybe not.” He runs a hand through his hair. “I shouldn’t have left Declan’s place. Me and him—I don’t know. It’s always been complicated. We’re not close. Sometimes I’ve almost hated him. But he’s not a … serial killer.” He almost chokes on the words.
“If he were—and I’m not saying he is—do you think Daisy knows?”
I’d had Daisy in mind as a potential accomplice right up to the day she clocked Mia in the head with a candlestick, then spilled her guts after. She’d seemed so sincere and heartbroken that I couldn’t picture it anymore. “No,” I say slowly. “I mean, why would she go through the trouble of looking for Lacey’s bracelet if she were? The case was ice cold at that point. If she were involved, the last thing she’d want to do is get the police thinking about it again. And Declan helped her, didn’t he? Although … well, I guess he’s not the one who gave the bracelet to Lacey, right? Daisy said as much. So maybe he figured it didn’t matter.” Malcolm rubs his temple and sighs, deep and weary. “I want to believe him. So much.” I’m a little surprised to realize that I do too. “I have to say … look, I guess you know I’ve always had questions about your brother.” I rest my chin in my hand, thinking. “But a dropped ring at a murder site is a little too convenient, isn’t it? And none of it fits with Katrin’s anonymous messages, or what we think might’ve happened with Brooke and her car.” “Too many puzzle pieces,” Malcolm says moodily.
We lapse into silence for a few minutes, watching The Defender until a light knock on the doorframe startles us both. It’s Peter Nilsson, looking casually handsome in a polo shirt and khakis. He has a tumbler in one hand, filled with ice and amber liquid. “You two all right? Need anything?” Malcolm is silent, so I speak up. “No, thank you. We’re fine.” Mr. Nilsson doesn’t leave immediately, so I feel like I should make more conversation. Plus, I’m curious. “How is Katrin doing, Mr. Nilsson? We miss her at school.” “Ah. Well.” He leans against the door with a sigh. “She’s devastated, of course. It’s good for her to have some time away with her aunt.” “Is that her mother’s sister, or yours?” I ask.
“Mine,” Peter says. “Eleanor and her husband live in Brooklyn. We don’t see them as often as we’d like, but she and Katrin had a nice visit last month.” Malcolm stirs beside me on the couch. “They did?”
“Sure. Katrin went to New York, did some shopping.” Peter’s brow creases slightly. “That was my interpretation, anyway, by the number of bags she brought home.” “I don’t remember that,” Malcolm says.
“You and your mother were on vacation,” Peter says. “It was a last-minute thing. Eleanor’s husband was out of town for business so she flew Katrin down for the weekend. Although she almost didn’t make it. That was the night of that hailstorm, remember? The plane was delayed for hours.” He chuckles and sips his drink. “Katrin kept texting me complaints from the runway. She has no patience.” I’m sitting close enough to Malcolm that our arms are brushing, and I can feel him tense at the same time I do. My entire body goes numb and my pulse starts to race, but I manage to speak. “Oh, that’s so frustrating. I’m glad she made it there eventually.” Mr. Nilsson’s eyes wander to the screen. “The Defender, huh? That’s your mother’s movie, isn’t it?” “Yeah. She only had one line, though.” I don’t know how I’m still talking normally when a million thoughts are zipping through my head. “ ‘That does not compute.’ ” “At least it’s a memorable one. Well, I won’t keep you from it. You sure I can’t get you anything?” Malcolm mutely shakes his head, and Mr. Nilsson turns and retreats back in to the dark hallway. We sit in silence, my heart hammering so loudly that I can hear it in my ears. I’m sure Malcolm’s is doing the same. “Fuck,” he finally breathes.
I keep my voice to the lowest whisper possible. “Katrin wasn’t here on Labor Day weekend. You and your mom weren’t here. There’s only one person in your house who could’ve driven Katrin’s car that night.” “Fuck,” Malcolm says again. “But he—he wasn’t here either. He was in Burlington.” “Are you sure?”
Malcolm gets to his feet wordlessly and motions for me to follow. He leads me upstairs to his bedroom and shuts the door behind us, then pulls his phone out of his pocket. “He said he had dinner with a guy who used to live here. Mr. Coates. He was my Scout troop leader. I’ve got his number in here somewhere.” He scrolls for a few minutes and presses the screen. I’m standing close enough to him that I can hear a faint ringing sound, then a man’s voice. “Hey, Mr. Coates. This is, um, Malcolm Kelly.” He laughs self-consciously. “Sorry about the blast from the past, but I had a question for you.” I can’t hear what Mr. Coates is saying, but his tone is welcoming. “Yeah, so,” Malcolm continues, swallowing hard. “I was just talking to my brother, you know, Declan? Right, of course you do. He’s majoring in political science and he’s interested in doing, like, an internship or something. I’m probably not supposed to be doing this, but Peter mentioned he had dinner with you last month and there was a chance you might have some kind of opening in your new firm.” He pauses and waits for Mr. Coates to speak, his cheeks staining a deep red. “You didn’t? On Labor Day weekend?” Another pause. “Oh, sorry. I must’ve heard wrong. I was just, you know, trying to help my brother out.” Mr. Coates talks for a minute. Malcolm nods mechanically, like Mr. Coates can see him. “Yeah, okay. Thanks a lot. I’ll have him call you. It really— That’ll be really helpful. Thanks again.” He lowers the phone and meets my eyes. “You hear that?” “Enough.”
“Peter wasn’t there,” Malcolm says. “He lied.”
Neither of us says anything for a beat. When I raise a hand to tug at my necklace, it’s trembling so hard that my fingers knock against my chest.
“Let’s think about this,” I say, in a voice I have to fight to keep steady. “It sounds like Peter was probably here, driving Katrin’s car the night of the hailstorm. But if Katrin wasn’t in the car when it hit something—or someone—why would Brooke be involved? Why would she help get the car fixed if she … Oh.” I grab hold of Malcolm’s arm. The pieces are falling into place, and this time I might actually be right. “Oh my God, Mal. Katrin said Brooke took off during a sleepover once, remember? She thought Brooke was slipping out to hook up with you. What if she was with Peter?” “That’s impossible,” Malcolm says, with no conviction whatsoever. His eyes are like glass.
“Think about it, though. If Brooke and your stepfather were having an affair—which, ew, but I guess that’s the least of our problems right now—we’ve been looking at everything wrong. It’s not just about the hit-and-run. It’s about keeping everything quiet.” I pull my own phone out of my pocket. “We need to tell Ryan about this. He’ll know what do to.” I’ve just opened a new text window when the door flies open. It’s like watching some alt-version of my life to see Peter standing there with a gun pointed straight at us. “Your poker face needs work, Malcolm,” he says calmly. His pale hair glints silvery gold in the dim lighting, and he smiles so normally that I almost smile back. “Anyone ever tell you that?”
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