The Last Thing He Told Me

1.8 These Are Not Your Friends

chapter
Chapter

I go back into the house just long enough to grab Owen’s laptop.
I’m not going to sit there thinking about what Grady said, and all the things
he seemed to leave out, which are bothering me more. How did he know so
much about Owen? Maybe Avett wasn’t the only one who they’ve been
following closely for the last year and change. Maybe Grady’s nice guy act—
helping me with Bailey’s custody, o􀏦ering advice—was so I’d slip up and tell him
something Owen wouldn’t want him to know.
Did I slip up? I don’t think so, even as I go back through our conversation.
But I’m not going to risk doing it in the future, not with Grady, or with anyone
else. I’m going to 􀏯gure out what’s going on with Owen 􀏯rst.
I take a left o􀏦 the docks and head toward my workshop.
I need to make a stop 􀏯rst though at Owen’s friend’s house. It’s a stop that
I’m not particularly eager to make, but if anyone will have insight into what
Owen is thinking, into what I might be missing, it’s Carl.
Carl Conrad: Owen’s closest friend in Sausalito. And one of the only people
on whom Owen and I disagree. Owen thinks I don’t give him a fair shake, and
maybe that’s true. He’s funny and smart and totally embraced me from the
minute I arrived in Sausalito. But he also habitually cheats on his wife, Patricia,
and I don’t like knowing that. Owen doesn’t like knowing that either, but he
says he’s able to separate it out in his mind because Carl has been such a good
friend to him.
This is how Owen is. He values the 􀏯rst friend he made in Sausalito more
than he judges him. I know that’s how my husband works. But maybe he hasn’t
been judging Carl for other reasons. Maybe Owen doesn’t judge him because
Carl returns the favor, by not judging a secret Owen felt safe con􀏯ding in Carl.
Even if that theory is wrong, I still need to talk to him.
Because Carl’s also the only lawyer I know in town.
I knock on the front door, but no one answers. Not Carl, not Patty.
It’s odd because Carl works from home. He likes to be around for his kids—
his two young kids—who usually nap at this time. Carl and Patty are sticklers for
their children’s schedule. Patty lectured me about it during our 􀏯rst night out
together. Patty had just celebrated her twenty-eighth birthday, which made the
lecture all the more enjoyable. If I was still able to have children—that was how
she said it—I was going to have to be careful not to let them rule the roost. I’d
have to show them who was in charge. That meant a schedule. That meant, in
her case, a 12:30 P.M. nap every day.
It’s 12:45. If Carl isn’t home, why isn’t Patty?
Except that through the living room blinds, I see that Carl is home. I see him
standing there, hiding behind those blinds, waiting for me to go.
I knock on the door again, pressing hard on the doorbell. I’m going to ring
the doorbell for the rest of the afternoon until he lets me in. Kids’ naps be
damned.
Carl swings the door open. He is holding a beer; his hair is neatly combed.
Those are the 􀏯rst indicators that something strange is going on. His hair is
usually uncombed, which he thinks makes him look sexy. And there is
something in his eyes—a strange mix of agitation and fear and something else I
can’t name, probably because I’m so shocked that he hid from me.
“What the hell, Carl?” I say.
“Hannah, you need to go,” Carl says.
He’s angry. Why is he angry?
“I just need a minute,” I say.
“Not now, I can’t talk right now,” he says.
He moves to close the door, but I hold it open. My force surprises both of us,
the door escaping his grasp, opening wider.
Which is when I see Patty. She stands in the living room doorway, holding her
daughter Sarah in her arms, the two of them dressed in matching paisley dresses
—their dark hair pulled back into soft braids. The identical attire and haircut
only further highlight what Patty wants people to see when they look at Sarah:
an equally presentable but smaller version of herself.
Behind them—􀏯lling up the living room—a dozen parents and toddlers
watch a clown make balloon animals. A HAPPY BIRTHDAY SARAH banner hangs
above their heads.
It’s their daughter’s second birthday party. I had totally forgotten about it.
Owen and I were supposed to be here celebrating. Now Carl isn’t even opening
the door.
Patty o􀏦ers a confused wave. “Hey there…” she says.
I wave back. “Hi.”
Carl turns back toward me, his voice controlled but 􀏯rm. “We’ll talk later,” he
says.
“I forgot, Carl. I’m sorry.” I shake my head. “I didn’t mean to show up
during her party.”
“Forget it. Just go.”
“I will but… would you just please step outside and talk to me for a couple of
minutes? I wouldn’t ask but it’s urgent. I think I need a lawyer. Something’s
happened at The Shop.”
“Do you think I don’t know that?” he says.
“So why won’t you talk to me then?”
Before he can answer, Patty walks toward us and hands Sarah to Carl. Then
she gives her husband a kiss on the cheek. A big show. For him. For me. For the
party.
“Hi,” she says, kissing me on the cheek too. “Glad you could make it.”
I keep my voice down. “Patty, I’m sorry for walking in on the party, but
something’s happened to Owen.”
“Carl,” Patty says, “let’s get everyone out back, okay? It’s time for ice cream
sundaes.”
She looks to the group and 􀏲ashes her smile at them.
“Everyone head out back with Carl. You too, Mr. Silly,” she says to the clown.
“It’s ice cream time!”
Then—and only then—she turns back toward me. “Let’s talk out front,
yeah?” she says.
I start to tell her that Carl is really who I need to speak with, Carl who is
walking away with Sarah on his hip, but Patty is pushing me onto the front
porch. She closes the thick red door and I am on the wrong side of it again.
This is when, on the privacy of her porch, Patty turns back to me, eyes
blazing. Smile gone.
“How dare you show up here,” she says.
“I forgot about the party.”
“Screw the party,” she says. “Owen broke Carl’s heart.”
“Broke his heart… how?” I say.
“Gee, I don’t know. Maybe it has something to do with him stealing all our
fucking money?”
“What are you talking about?” I say.
“Owen didn’t tell you that he convinced us to go in on The Shop’s IPO? He
sold Carl on the software’s potential, sold him on the enormous returns. Failed
to mention that the software was dysfunctional.”
“Patty, look…”
“So all of our money is now tied up in The Shop’s stock. Actually, I should
say, what’s left of our money is tied up in stock, which on my last check was
down to thirteen cents.”
“Our money was there too. If Owen had known, why would he do that?”
“Maybe he didn’t think they’d get caught. Or maybe he’s a freaking moron, I
can’t tell you that,” she says. “But I can promise you that if you don’t leave my
house, right now, I’m calling the cops. I’m not kidding. You’re not welcome
here.”
“I understand why you’re upset with Owen. I do. But Carl may be able to
help me 􀏯nd him and that is the fastest way to get this sorted out.”
“Unless you’re here to pay for our kids’ college, we have nothing to say to
you.”
I’m not sure what to say to her, but I know I have to say something before
she walks back inside. After seeing him in person, after seeing the look in his
eyes, I can’t shake the feeling that Carl may know something.
“Patty, can you take a breath please?” I say. “I’m in the dark here too. Just like
you.”
“Your husband aided in a half-a-billion-dollar fraud, so I’m not so sure I
believe you,” she says. “But if you’re telling me the truth, you’re the biggest fool
in the world, not seeing who your husband really is.”
It doesn’t seem like the greatest time to tell her that, in terms of playing the
fool, she isn’t avoiding it either. Her husband has been sleeping with his
coworker on and o􀏦 since Patty was pregnant with the child that Mr. Silly is
entertaining in the backyard. Maybe we are all fools, one way or another, when it
comes to seeing the totality of the people who love us—the people we try to love.
“Do you really expect me to believe that you didn’t know what was going
on?” she says.
“Why would I be here looking for answers if I did?” I say.
She tilts her head, considers. Perhaps that penetrates, or perhaps she realizes
she just doesn’t care. But her face softens.
“Go home to Bailey,” she says. “Just go. She’s going to need you.”
She starts to walk back inside. Then she turns back.
“Oh. And when you speak to Owen? Tell him to go fuck himself.”
With that, she closes the door.
On the walk to my workshop, I move fast.
I keep my eyes down as I turn onto Litho Street and pass LeAnn Sullivan’s
house. I clock that she and her husband are sitting on their front porch, drinking
their afternoon lemonade. But I pretend to be busy on my phone. I don’t stop
the way I normally would to say hello to them. To join them for a glass.
My workshop is in a small craftsman house next door to their home. It is
2,800 square feet with an enormous backyard—the kind of space I only dreamed
of having when I was in New York, the kind of space I did dream about in New
York every time I had to subway out to my friend’s warehouse in the Bronx to
work on pieces that wouldn’t 􀏯t into my workshop on Greene Street.
I start to relax as soon as I walk through the front gate, closing it behind
myself. But instead of heading inside, I circle around to the backyard and the
small deck where I like to do my paperwork. I take a seat at the small table and
open Owen’s laptop. I push Grady Bradford out of my mind. I push out Patty’s
wrath. And I ignore that Carl wouldn’t even look at me, let alone provide any
insight. It centers me, in a way, knowing I have to 􀏯gure it out myself. And I feel
calmer being among my things, my work. Being in my favorite place in Sausalito.
It makes it almost feel normal that I’m hacking into my husband’s personal
computer.
Owen’s laptop powers up and I key in his 􀏯rst password. Nothing pops out
at me as unusual. I click open his PHOTOS folder, which is essentially the Bailey
bible. There are hundreds of photographs of her from elementary school and
junior high, photographs from each and every birthday starting with her 􀏯fth
birthday in Sausalito. I’ve seen these all many times. Owen loved narrating the
parts of their life that I’d missed: Little Bailey playing in her 􀏯rst soccer game,
which she was terrible in; Little Bailey performing in her 􀏯rst school play in
second grade (Anything Goes), which she was amazing in.
I don’t 􀏯nd a lot of photographs of them from when Bailey was very little,
back when they were still living in Seattle, at least not in the main folder.
So I click on a small subfolder labeled O.M.
This is the folder for Olivia Michaels. Owen’s 􀏯rst wife. Bailey’s mother.
Olivia Michaels née Olivia Nelson: high school biology teacher, synchronized
swimmer, Owen’s fellow Princeton alum. There are only a handful of
photographs in this folder too—Owen said Olivia hated to be photographed.
But the photographs he does have of her are beautiful, probably because she was
beautiful. She was tall and lean with long red hair that ran halfway down her
back and an intense dimple that made her look permanently sixteen.
We don’t look exactly alike—she was prettier, for starters, more interestinglooking.
But, if you swapped out some of the details, it would be fair to say there
is a similarity between us. The height, the long hair (mine is blond to her red),
maybe even something in her smile. The 􀏯rst time Owen showed me a
photograph of her, I commented on the similarity. But Owen said he didn’t see
it. He didn’t get defensive, he just said if I actually saw his 􀏯rst wife in person, I
wouldn’t think we had much in common.
I wondered if the photographs were also misleading in how little Olivia
seemed to resemble Bailey—with the exception of my favorite photograph of
Olivia. In that photograph, she is sitting on a pier in a pair of jeans, a white
button-down shirt. She has her hand on her cheek and her head is thrown back
as she laughs. The coloring is di􀏦erent, but there is something in that smile that
may match her kid’s—that I imagine matched Bailey in person. It pulls Olivia in
as the missing piece, connecting Bailey to someone besides Owen.
I reach out and touch the screen. I want to ask her what I’m missing about
her daughter, about our husband. She would most certainly know better than I
do—I know that to be true—which feels like its own kind of injury.
I take a breath in, and click on the folder labeled THE SHOP. It includes 􀏯fty-
􀏯ve documents all devoted to code and HTML programs. If there is a code
hidden within the actual codes, I certainly won’t 􀏯nd it. I make a note to 􀏯nd
someone who can.
Oddly, there is a document in THE SHOP titled MOST RECENT WILL. I don’t like
that it is in there, especially considering what is going on, but I relax when I
open it. The will is dated shortly after our wedding. He has shown me this will
before. And nothing has changed. Or almost nothing. I see a small note on the
bottom of the last page of the will above Owen’s signature. Was that there before
and I didn’t notice it? It names his conservator, someone I’ve never heard of. L.
Paul. No address. No phone number.
L. Paul. Who is this person—and where have I seen his or her name before?
I’m making a note about L. Paul in my notebook when I hear a female voice
behind me.
“Learn anything interesting?”
I turn to see an older woman standing at the edge of my backyard, a man
standing next to her. She is put together in a navy pantsuit, her gray hair pulled
back tight in a ponytail. The man is less put together, with heavy eyelids, a
wrinkled Hawaiian shirt, and a thick beard that makes him look older than she
is, even though I suspect he is closer to my age.
“What are you doing back here?” I say.
“We tried ringing the front bell,” the man says. “Are you Hannah Hall?”
“I’d like a better answer as to why you’re trespassing on my property before I
tell you that,” I say.
“I’m Special Agent Jeremy O’Mackey from the Federal Bureau of
Investigation, and my colleague here is Special Agent Naomi Wu,” he says.
“Call me Naomi. We were hoping we could talk with you?”
Instinctively, I close the computer. “It’s actually not a great time,” I say.
She gives me a sticky-sweet smile. “It’ll just take a few minutes,” she says.
“Then we’ll get out of your hair.”
They are already walking up the stairs onto the deck, sitting down in the
chairs on the other side of the small table.
Naomi pushes her badge across the table, Agent O’Mackey does the same.
“I hope we aren’t interrupting anything important,” Naomi says.
“I hope you didn’t follow me here, that’s what I hope,” I say.
Naomi takes me in, looking more than a little surprised at my tone. I’m too
irritated to care. I’m irritated and more than a little worried they’ll demand to
take Owen’s computer before I 􀏯gure out what it has to tell me.
There’s also this. I’m thinking of Grady Bradford’s warning: Don’t answer
any questions you think you shouldn’t answer. I’m bracing myself to heed it.
Jeremy O’Mackey reaches forward, takes his badge back.
“I assume you’re aware that we’re in the process of investigating the
technology 􀏯rm where your husband works?” he says. “We were hoping you
could shed some light on his current whereabouts?”
I put the computer in my lap, protecting it.
“I’d like to, but I have no idea where my husband is. I haven’t seen him since
yesterday.”
“Isn’t that odd?” Naomi says, as if this has just occurred to her. “To not have
seen him?”
I meet her eyes. “Very, yes.”
“Would you be surprised to learn that your husband hasn’t used his cell
phone or any of his credit cards since yesterday? No paper trail at all,” she says.
I don’t answer her.
“Do you know why that might be?” O’Mackey says.
I don’t like the way they’re looking at me, like they’ve already decided I am
keeping something from them. It is another reminder I don’t need that I only
wish I were.
Naomi pulls a notepad from her pocket, 􀏲ipping open a page.
“We understand you’ve been in business with Avett and Belle Thompson?”
she says. “They have commissioned one hundred and 􀏯fty-􀏯ve thousand dollars
of work from you over the last 􀏯ve years?”
“I don’t know o􀏦 the top of my head if that’s the correct amount. But, yes,
they are clients.”
“Have you spoken to Belle since Avett’s arrest yesterday?” she says.
I consider the messages I left on her voice mail. Six of them. Messages that
have gone unreturned. I shake my head no.
“She hasn’t called you?” he says.
“No,” I say.
She tilts her head, considers. “Are you sure about that?”
“Yes, I’m sure who I’ve spoken to and who I haven’t spoken to.”
Naomi leans forward, toward me, like she is my friend. “We just want to
make sure you’re telling us everything. As opposed to your friend Belle.”
“What do you mean?”
“Let’s just say it didn’t help her proclamation of innocence that she made it
after purchasing four 􀏲ights to Sydney from di􀏦erent Northern California
airports in an attempt to leave the country undetected. It doesn’t scream I know
nothing, does it?”
I’m careful not to react. How is this happening? How is Avett in jail and Belle
trying to sneak o􀏦 to her former home? And how is Owen nowhere to be found
in the middle of it all? Owen who is smart, who often sees the whole picture. Do
I really believe he missed so much of this picture?
“Did Belle discuss The Shop with you?” Naomi asks.
“She never said anything to me about Avett’s work,” I say. “Belle wasn’t
interested.”
“That mirrors what she said to us.”
“Where is Belle now?”
“At her St. Helena home with her passport in her lawyer’s possession. She’s
maintaining her position that she’s shocked to think her husband would be
guilty of this wrongdoing,” he says. He pauses. “But in our experience the wife
usually knows.”
“Not this wife,” I say.
Naomi chimes in, almost as if I haven’t answered them. “As long as you’re
sure,” she says. “Someone has to think of Owen’s daughter.”
“I am.”
“Good,” she says. “Good.”
It sounds like a threat. And I hear what she is pretending not to say. I hear her
insinuation that they could take Bailey away. Didn’t I have Grady’s assurance
that they wouldn’t?
“We will need to talk to Bailey as well,” O’Mackey says. “When she returns
from school today.”
“You will not be talking to her,” I say. “She knows nothing about her father’s
whereabouts. She’s to be left alone.”
O’Mackey matches my tone. “I’m afraid that’s not up to you,” he says. “We
can set up a time now or we can just show up at your house later this evening.”
“We’ve retained legal counsel,” I say. “If you want to talk to her, you will need
to reach out to our lawyer 􀏯rst.”
“And who is your lawyer?” Naomi says.
I say it before I let myself consider the implication of saying it. “Jake
Anderson. He’s based in New York.”
“Fine. Have him reach out to us,” she says.
I nod, trying to 􀏯gure out how to defuse the situation, not wanting to undo
whatever Grady promised that morning about Bailey staying put. That is the
most important thing.
“Look, I know you’re just doing your jobs,” I say. “But I’m tired and as I
already told the U.S. marshal this morning, I don’t have many answers for you.”
“Whoa… whoa. What?” O’Mackey says.
I look at him and the no-longer-smiling Naomi.
“The U.S. marshal who came by to see me this morning,” I say. “We went
through this already.”
They look at each other. “What was his name?” O’Mackey asks.
“The U.S. marshal’s name?”
“Yes,” he says. “What was the U.S. marshal’s name?”
Naomi looks at me with her mouth pinched, like the playing 􀏯eld has
changed in a way she wasn’t ready for. This is why I decide not to tell the truth.
“I don’t remember,” I say.
“You don’t remember his name?”
I don’t say anything else.
“You don’t remember the name of the U.S. marshal who showed up at your
doorstep this morning. That’s what you are telling me?”
“I didn’t get a whole lot of sleep last night, so things are a little foggy.”
“Do you remember if this U.S. marshal showed you a badge?” O’Mackey
says.
“He did.”
“Do you know what a United States marshal badge looks like?” Naomi says.
“Am I supposed to?” I say. “I also don’t know what an FBI badge looks like,
now that you’re mentioning things I don’t know. I probably should con􀏯rm
that you are who you say you are. Then we can continue this conversation.”
“We’re just a little confused because this case isn’t in the jurisdiction of the
U.S. Marshals’ o􀏩ce,” she says. “So we need to ascertain who exactly was
speaking with you this morning. They shouldn’t have been here without our
approval. Did they threaten Owen in some way? Because you should know that
if Owen’s involvement is minimal, he may be able to help himself by testifying
against Avett.”
“That’s true,” O’Mackey says. “He isn’t even a suspect yet.”
“Yet?” I say.
“He didn’t mean yet,” Naomi says.
“I didn’t mean yet,” O’Mackey says. “I meant that there is no reason for you
to be talking to a U.S. marshal.”
“Funny thing is, Agent O’Mackey, he said the same thing about you guys.”
“Did he?”
Naomi pulls herself together, smiles. “Let’s just start over, okay?” she says.
“We’re all on the same team here. But, in the future, you might want your lawyer
present before you talk to anyone who just shows up at your door.”
I match her smile. “That’s a great idea, Naomi. I’m going to start with that
right now,” I say.
Then I point toward the gate and wait for them to walk through it.


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