Dead of Night

Page 55

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Sarah sat huddled in a blanket on the farmhouse steps. She'd been sitting there for a long time, but the scene before her still seemed surreal. A line of squad cars and emergency vehicles formed a long train out to the road. The twirling lights mesmerized her for a moment until she forced her gaze away.

Michael had been loaded into one of the EMT vans and was already on his way to the nearest hospital. Sean was standing behind her on the porch, talking to one of the detectives from the county sheriff's office. Inside the house, crime scene officers from the state police were combing the rooms for evidence.

It was finally over, and yet Sarah felt more stunned than relieved. Too much had happened over the past few days. She would need time to process it. But for the moment, she tried not to think at all as she pulled the blanket more tightly around her.

Even in such a remote location, the curious had already started to gather. Following the sirens and flashing lights, they'd parked out on the road and walked across the field to the edge of the overgrown yard, which was as close as they were allowed to get.

One man stood away from the others. Derrick Fears caught Sarah's eyes and, even from a distance, she felt the impact of his stare. Then, with a slight shrug, he turned and disappeared into the darkness.

Sean sat down beside her. "You really should go to the hospital. Head wounds can be serious."

"Look who's talking."

He reached up and wiped a hand across the dried blood on his face. "Helluva night we've had." His gaze searched hers for a moment, then he turned to stare out over the field. "They found Cat's body in the cemetery, just where you said it would be."

Sarah swallowed. "What about her friend?"

"The state police received an anonymous tip about an old storm cellar in the woods behind Clay's property. They found the body inside. They also found what looked like a little kid's drawings on the wall, and old scratch marks on the door.

Sarah shuddered at the image his words evoked. "I'm so sorry," she whispered. "I don't even know what to say."

"You have nothing to be sorry about. None of this is your fault. If anyone's to blame for Cat's death, it's me. I never should have dragged her into this. I never should have married her to try and get over you." He turned then, his gaze burning into hers. "Sarah-"

She closed her eyes.

"I should have had more faith in you," he said softly.

"How could you, when I didn't have much faith in myself?"

"I told myself the reason I left was because I didn't want to have to make a choice. I didn't want to have to live with what I might find out about you. But the truth was never about you. It was me. You called me an emotional coward once, remember? You were right. It wasn't your past that scared me off. It was how I felt about you. And now it's too late, isn't it?"

"I don't know how I feel about anything right now," she said with numb detachment. "I don't even know who I am anymore. What I've learned about myself, about my family, is going to change me. In ways I can't even imagine."

He took her hand and held it for a moment-a touch so gentle it brought tears to Sarah's eyes. "If you ever need me..."

"I know, Sean."

Sometime later, she walked alone across the field and through the orchard. A breeze stirred the bells over the graves, and Sarah shivered as her gaze lifted to her childhood home. The house was bathed in the cold, gray light of dawn. The charm was lost in all the shadows, the beauty hidden by a dark history she'd tried very hard to forget.

But a light shone from the kitchen window, where Esme waited for her inside. She turned when Sarah came through the door, and a moment later, bony arms wrapped her in a tight cocoon, rocking her back and forth the way she had when Sarah was little.

"I know, child," she soothed. "I know."