Chapter Twenty-Four

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Claire insisted that I come over to her house for dinner, so I gave both her and Owen a ride up the street. By the time I pulled into her driveway, the sky had turned from violet to cobalt. Her windows were dark. Behind the house somewhere, her dogs were barking.

"How about some wine?" Claire said, as we walked into her kitchen. "Or something a bit stronger?"

"I'd love a whiskey," I said.

"Good idea," Claire told me as she poured us each a tumbler of whiskey. She sipped hers meditatively, her eyes overbright. "That boy, Scott Parker. What part of the island is he from?"

"South," Owen rumbled, slumping into a chair at Claire's kitchen table.

"So his dad was a fisherman?" Claire asked.

"More like a professional drinker."

"Did you know him well in high school?" I asked Owen.

"Not really. He was in Suze's year, so he was a year above me, like Andy and Rusty and Kaye. He was always sort of... weird. We never got along." Owen spun his whiskey glass in slow circles on the table, frowning at it. "I had no idea he hated me this much."

A whimper sounded from the dining room. Ferdinand was sitting behind a baby gate that he could have knocked over with a single tap of his huge paw.

"Shoot, I have to take Ferdy out," Claire said.

"I'll take him." Owen set his whiskey down and led Ferdy outside.

Claire took Owen's seat across from me at the kitchen table. For a moment, Claire was so still she reminded me of Owen; it was not like her to be still or quiet, as if she were watching a movie of her own thoughts.

"The thing is," she said, already halfway through some mental conversation, "what if that boy didn't do this to punish Owen for supposedly killing Suze? What if he did it because he's the one who deserves all the attention?"

The warmth from the whiskey dissipated as quickly as it came. "You think Scott killed Suze?"

"I don't know," Claire admitted. "He seemed so obsessed with her just now, didn't he? But I knew Suze... she would never have noticed a boy like him."

"I think he knew that, though. He said she never loved him." I thought about Scott's intense stare, his fragility, the way Andy always seemed to be keeping him in check.

"The police never even questioned him, as far as I remember," Claire continued. "Not the way they questioned the other boys from Suzanna's year."

"The other boys? You mean Jonas Whittaker?"

"Yeah, all of them: Rusty Solomon, Ron O'Brien, Andy Carrillo—"

"Andy?" I interrupted. "But he never went out with Suze, did he? And neither did Rusty—"

"No, no," she said. "The police talked to every friend Suzanna had ever had, hoping someone would know more about her life. But she had so many secrets. There was so much that she knew, and that she did, without telling a soul."

Suze's secretiveness didn't surprise me. I'd seen her strange, prescient eyes, her temperamental mouth.

Ferdy burst inside through the kitchen door, his fluffy feet sliding on the kitchen tile as he careened towards us. Owen stepped inside after him, smiling slightly for the first time all night, and came over to stand beside my chair. With a sad, affectionate glance down at me, he tucked a lock of my hair behind my ear.

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