I don’t know how to feel anymore.
I stay in bed all morning, watching the shadows of tree limbs scrape across my bed as the sun comes up and glides toward noon. I have no reason to take a shower, to figure out my day, to do anything. I haven’t been this empty, this lost in a while.
Not since Delilah’s death.
Lying there, with the aftermath of what I’ve done in ruins all around me, it’s pretty easy to see that the whole reason I took on journalism as a major was for her. I was trying to make sense of things that just didn’t have to make sense. Now I’ve fucked up my life, and Ryan’s, and Brandon McDonal is dead, and for what? For an answer that just hurts everybody? How did I find justice for Peg, when the last thing Peg would have wanted was for her son to suffer?
I roll over and face the wall. I can hear Kara slamming things around in the kitchen, and I’m not surprised when she finally knocks on my door and pushes it open when I don’t answer.
“Hey,” she says. I turn over, and see her taking in the state of my bedroom. Which is . . . not great. I’ve reverted back to high school sloppiness: clothes on the floor, cans and bottles littering my desk. “Uh . . . so . . . you okay?”
“Sure,” I tell her. What else am I going to say? I just can’t even.
“Well, I’ve got a brunch shift,” she says. “Hey, maybe we can do something when I get home? Binge-watch Cake Boss?” That’s a kindness. She knows I love cooking shows. Especially pastry.
“Maybe,” I say. I roll over again.
Kara doesn’t leave. “He’s not worth it,” she says. “I mean, it’s the hunky one, right? Mr. Richy Goldenwallet?”
I still don’t answer.
“Okay. Well . . . call if you need me.”
I hear the door shut, and it feels like a weight has been lifted . . . but also like the only sunshine evaporated and left me sitting in the dark. Good. I’ve had enough of dragging things out into the light.
I can’t forget the heartbreaking look on Ryan’s face. I know he never wants to see me again, ever. And I’m sure I couldn’t face him, anyway. This is my fault, all of it. I’ve been so sure that I could make things right for him, and for Delilah, and now . . . now I have to face the fact that some truths are better left hidden.
Delilah might not even be the victim of some wider conspiracy; she might have just made a bad decision, and died horribly because of it. I was so sure, so sure that the Order had her killed, but I just don’t know anymore. They’re not masterminds. They’re just rich idiots who think they’re masters of the universe.
And however I want to remember her, my cousin was just a person, as flawed as anyone else.
And Peg? I know now that Peg Graham wasn’t killed because of some crusade, or because of her husband’s affairs, or because of some secret society. She died because a little kid got access to a gun. Happens every day in this country. Nothing special about it, which was part of the horror; I read somewhere (and never thought it would apply to anything I was involved in) that more people are killed by toddlers with guns in this country than by foreign terrorists.
What that says about the USA, I don’t know, but all it says to me now is that I broke Ryan’s heart, and it’s never going to heal.
I owe my listeners an explanation. I owe one to the Reddit army I recruited and encouraged, too. Right now, I’ve just gone radio silent, and I’m sure they’re out there screaming about conspiracies and murders and doing a fine job of destroying anybody I haven’t managed to bring down myself. How long before they turn on me, now? Couple of hours, I bet. They’re not very patient.
Maybe I should just put a real end to this and tell them I found out the truth but I can’t share it. But what would that stop? Nothing. No, I’m going to have to post somewhere or do a full podcast and lie. I’ll have to tell them Brandon did it after all, that my digging and speculating got me nowhere but back where I started. I wanted to be Serial, but turns out I’m Missing Richard Simmons.
I could start a new cold case. But if I do, what happens then? Do I hurt more people for my own ego and profit? Is that what this is about? Truth. Justice. They’re just words. And I’m not really sure I believe in them anymore.
Maybe I’ll just stay in bed.
No. If I’m going to be done with this, I need to be done with all of it. That means getting rid of the files that are still sitting on the corner of my desk, the ones that have dragged me deeper and deeper into this whole mess.
I get up, dress, cram them into a messenger bag, and head out...