Chapter 12


    In the first ten minutes after the police left her house, Sharon Beckman found she couldn't move. She stood by the front door, paralyzed.

    Jason went back out. God only knew what he did these days. What Jason had not told the cops was that the last time he had seen Kenny the two had gotten into a fist fight. The last thing Jason had said to his stepfather was 'If you ever touch me again I'm going to fucking kill you.'

    That was not something you told the police. She knew Jason would never do anything like that, but they didn't.

    The house was quiet.

    Kenny was dead.

    Sharon knew she was supposed to be feeling something, something akin to grief, something like heartache, but she didn't. All she felt was a faint cold fear. And the knowledge that she had to move. Fast.

    From right when she'd first met Kenny, Sharon had known it was all going to fall apart one day. It wasn't like she didn't know who he was when they'd met, what kind of life she was getting into. She was no angel herself. But eight years ago, when Kenny had robbed all those houses and put himself on the police radar, she'd known a day like this would come.

    When she had set fire to the house on Lenox Avenue, back in 2002, destroying all that evidence, she'd known she'd pay for it some day. Today. She had been a little sorry that the whole block had gone up in flames, but no one had got hurt. She didn't lose much sleep over it. There was no love lost between her and her neighbors on Lenox Avenue anyway. Fucking lowlife crackheads.

    She turned around three times in the living room, trying to organize her thoughts, trying to think straight.

    She should have left a long time ago. When cops followed up on things it was a clear sign that they had you in their sights. Cops always knew a lot more than they let on. It was like those jobs she used to go on with her father when she was small. Her dad would work on somebody's plumbing, and when he was all done he'd turn the water back on and slide a sheet of newspaper under the pipes. If one drop of water fell, blotting out on the paper, the job was shit. Her father would always tear it out and start over. If there was one solitary drop there was certain to be more.

    Same thing with cops.

    Drip, drip, drip.

    Then they had you.

    Kenny had put all the new stolen merchandise into a storage locker on Linden Avenue. He'd learned the first time not to keep anything in the house. They both had. She wasn't sure what he had in there these days and that was fine with her. The less she knew, the better.

    Sharon also knew what Kenny had done to that girl in 2002, even as she tried hard to block it out of her mind. Of course, there wasn't a jury in the world that would give a shit. They had gotten away with it once, but now that Kenny was dead everything was going to fall on her like a load of bricks. There was no way she could deal with this on her own. She knew at least a dozen people who might have wanted to do Kenny in, a dozen people who'd had a beef with him, and once the police realized this they were going to see her as a link. It was only a matter of time until they revisited the Antoinette Chan case. She knew how hard cops worked on burglaries. They didn't give up until they had you in a jail cell.


    Forget it.

    Sharon ran upstairs. She would load the car with what she could, go find Jason. She would get the keys to the Master lock that was on the door at the storage locker, throw them in the Delaware River, and she and her son would be long gone.

    But where would they go? They couldn't go to her sister's in Toledo. That would be the first place they'd look. She had exactly eight hundred twenty-six dollars to her name. Plus whatever was in the coin jar, plus whatever was in the gas tank.

    Sharon was only forty-four. Still young. Still had her looks, or whatever looks she'd had to begin with. She'd start a new life. Meet a man with a real job.

    Kenny was dead.

    Before she could get her things out of the drawers in the upstairs bedroom she heard a noise.

    'Jason?' No answer.

    She listened for a few more moments, heard nothing. Must have been the brats next door, she thought. One day they'd thrown a basketball against an adjoining wall for three straight hours. She wouldn't miss them.

    She grabbed her two battered suitcases from the top shelf of the bedroom closet, began to stuff them with clothing. She soon realized she would need some big plastic garbage bags to take it all.

    Sharon ran down the stairs, her mind racing in a hundred different directions. When she turned the corner toward the kitchen she saw the shadow on the wall. She stopped, spun around, her heart pounding.

    'Jason, we—'

    It wasn't Jason.

The Echo Man
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