Vanished in the Night(92)

By: Eileen Carr

“I will, Gary. I’ll make them pay.”

Gary smiled. “Good.” Then he shoved the gun into his mouth and blew the back of his head off.


Veronica had told the funeral director to set up only a dozen chairs. It would be too depressing to see row after row of empty folding chairs at the memorial service laying her brother and her father to rest.

She had spent the past week making the arrangements; she was too shaken to go back to work yet.

It had taken hours after Gary Havens had shot himself to finally get out of there. They’d found the Plumas County deputy who’d been waiting at the clearing handcuffed to a tree. He had a concussion, but was otherwise fine. Veronica had a dislocated shoulder and a lot of bruises, and loud noises still made her jump. If Zach wasn’t in her bed next to her, she needed a light on. Recognizing the signs of PTSD, she was talking to a shrink. She’d work through it.

Lyle Burton would never be the same again, either. He had already made one suicide attempt in jail. Veronica wondered whether he’d ever make it to trial. He was a broken man.

She watched now as the chairs had filled within five minutes of the funeral director opening the doors, and the room was soon packed with people trying to find a place to stand as the employees scrambled to set up more chairs.

Zach’s sisters were here with their husbands. His mother had come, too. There were friends from the hospital. Tina, of course, and Matt Cassel, her EMT boyfriend. Even some people she knew from Al-Anon were there.

“I can’t believe all these people came,” she whispered to Zach. “None of them knew Max, and if they’d met my father, they probably wouldn’t be here to pay their respects.”

“They know you, though.” He put his arm around her and pulled her against him. “They’re not here because of Max or your dad. They’re here because they love you. It’s why we’re all here.”

She stood on her tiptoes and kissed his cheek.

He was right, too. These things weren’t for the people who’d died. Nothing could change anything that had happened to her brother or her father, or anything they’d done in their lives. It could change things for her, though. It could make a difference for her. Couldn’t it?

She sighed. “Max has been gone for so long. He’s been gone from my life longer than he was in it. And my dad wasn’t much of a dad in the first place.”

“So you can lay them to rest now. And you can say good-bye and go on with your life.”

“It’s never been completely mine before. I don’t have to nurse my mom, or bail out my dad, or wait for my brother. The only person I have to worry about is me. I can go wherever I want.”

“And where do you want to be, Veronica?” Zach asked softly.

She stepped into the circle of his arms. “Right here.”