When I get home, bleary from the long, frantic drive back from Eddyville, I still can’t believe Brandon’s dead. The sight of the police car on our street is another slap. What’s it doing here? Officer Matthews couldn’t—wouldn’t—explain it.
Maybe it’s time I just asked.
It’s still light out, and there are people out and about up the street. So I chance it. I stalk to the car, checking over my shoulder a few times, and stand by the driver’s-side door. There, I hesitate.
Inside is a cop with close-shorn brown hair and a strong jaw. He hasn’t noticed me, and I’m not sure what to do now. I raise my hand to knock on the glass, and that motion he does see.
He takes one look at me, standing at his window, and screeches away.
God, Macy, your paranoia is in full swing. You probably just interrupted a drug bust or something.
Or he was shocked that I approached and is off to report to Officer Matthews or Brockman or whoever has him watching me.
Yep, paranoia in full swing.
Rattled, I dash up to our apartment, not bothering to worry if it looks like I’m running. I unlock the dead bolt, noting the irony that Kara finally did lock it after all this time.
“Kara?” I call out, and my voice is shaky.
I need to talk to someone about what happened to Brandon. It’s impossible not to feel responsible. Because I am—for bringing the past back into the light of the present, if not for the act itself. Kara said that I might be bringing danger to our doorstep.
But maybe it’s not our doorstep I should have been worried about.
I look down at my fingers and remember the sense of numbness from the bouquet of hemlock and correct myself. There’s plenty of danger to go around. I know that. I just briefly forgot, in pretending to be Mackenzie.
Given the poking around I’ve been doing into the secret society, I wondered all the way home what men with their connections are capable of. A prison murder seems well within reach. I’d been hoping Brandon called me in so he could recant his confession. What else would be important enough that he had to tell me in person?
Kara still doesn’t answer when I call her name, so I go and peek in her room. Unmade bed, abandoned jeans on the floor, stacks of books teetering on the nightstand. She must be working. I’m here alone, and while I want to talk, I’m also a tiny bit relieved to skip an “I told you so” for now. I stopped at Panera halfway home, did a quick edit, and used the free Wi-Fi to upload the podcast. There’s always a delay before it populates to the various apps, but it should be up everywhere by now. I can check in on the first reactions, maybe add some of them to the feed.
I had no choice but to hurry it. For one thing, the newspaper’s going to write about Brandon’s death. If it bleeds, it leads is a cliché for a reason. I’m surprised that reporter hasn’t called me yet.
By getting the podcast out right away, I earned some protection. Maybe. I explained my side, mourned Brandon, and made it inconvenient for whoever is behind his death to try to come after me. For once, the spotlight is my friend.
So why doesn’t it lessen the guilt I feel pressing down on me? Or is solving this thing the only way to do that?
Talking about it was like reliving the moment I found out. You can hear the tremble in my words, the fear. I am visible in this one.
I ended up with a short podcast, but it got the job done. The other message besides mourning: If it’s meant to make me go away, Brandon’s death was a mistake. It only convinced me even more that I must find out if Brandon was used to cover for Peg’s real murderer. But the big questions remain . . . why a cover-up and by who? I am not giving up. Not with a man’s death on my conscience.
And the official cause of death being suicide means some people will interpret this as proof of Brandon’s guilt—that he finally made good on his attempt of eighteen years ago. Every inmate death gets investigated, and so did his. There’s no reason to suspect it was anything more. But most of my fan base will not be eager to buy such a convenient story. And me? I can’t afford to.
Because I all but know this wouldn’t have happened without me putting Brandon McDonal back on the public radar, where he caught the eye of the Kentucky Innocence Project and Reddit’s battalion of armchair detectives in the first place.
At that thought, I decide to take a shower before braving contact with the outside world, aka popping open my laptop and opening Reddit. My hope is that a dose of steaming hot water will cut through the haze of questions and help me arrive at clearer answers on what to do next. If I’m honest, I’m afraid people will blame me as much as I blame myself.
My phone buzzes with a text. It’s...