The Last Thing He Told Me

1.9 Don’t Hold This Against Me

chapter
Chapter

After I’m certain that the FBI agents are gone, I leave my workshop.
I walk back toward the docks, Owen’s computer tightly clasped to my chest. I
pass the elementary school just as the kids are getting out for the day.
I look up, feeling eyes on me. Several mothers (and fathers) are staring in my
direction. Not exactly with anger—not like Carl and Patty—more like with
concern, with pity. These people love Owen, after all. They’ve always loved him.
They’ve embraced him. It’s going to take more than seeing his 􀏯rm’s name in
their newsfeed to make them doubt him. That’s the thing about a small town,
people protect their own. It takes a lot for them to turn on someone they love.
It also takes a lot to let anyone new in. Like me. They’re still not sure about
letting me in. And when I 􀏯rst moved to Sausalito, it was worse. Those curious
eyes were scrutinizing me, but for a di􀏦erent reason. They were asking questions
loudly enough that Bailey heard them, came home, and relayed them. They
wanted to know who was this out-of-towner who Owen had decided to marry.
They didn’t understand how Sausalito’s most eligible bachelor was o􀏦 the
market because of a woodturner, though they didn’t call me that. They called
me a carpenter—a carpenter who didn’t wear makeup or trendy shoes. They said
how strange for Owen to choose a woman like that—a fresh-faced woman,
pushing forty, who probably wasn’t going to give him more kids. A woman who
apparently didn’t stop playing with wood long enough to 􀏯gure out how to have
a family of her own.
They didn’t seem to understand about me what Owen understood from the
beginning. I had no problem being on my own. My grandfather had raised me to
depend on myself. My problems came when I tried to 􀏯t myself into someone
else’s life, especially when that meant giving up a part of myself in the process. So
I waited until I didn’t have to—until it felt like someone 􀏯t e􀏦ortlessly. Or
maybe that’s too easy. Maybe it’s more accurate to say that what was required to
be with Owen didn’t feel like e􀏦ort. It felt like details.
At the house, I lock the door behind me and take out my phone and look up
a name in my contacts. JAKE. It’s the last phone call I want to make at this
moment, but I do it anyway. I call the other lawyer I know.
“This is Anderson…” he says when he picks up.
The sound of his voice takes me back to Greene Street, to onion soup and
Bloody Marys at The Mercer Kitchen on Sundays, to a di􀏦erent life. It takes me
back because this is how my former 􀏯ancé has always answered the phone. Jake
Bradley Anderson—University of Michigan JD/MBA, triathlete, excellent cook.
In the two years since we’ve last spoken, he hasn’t made a change to his
greeting, even though it comes o􀏦 as smug. He likes that it comes o􀏦 as smug.
That is why he does it. He thinks it’s a good thing—smugness, intimidation—
considering what he does for a living. He is a litigator at a Wall Street law 􀏯rm,
on track to being one of their youngest senior partners. He isn’t a criminal
lawyer, but he is a great lawyer, as he would be the 􀏯rst to tell you. I’m just
hoping that Jake’s type of hubris will help me now.
“Hi there,” I say.
He doesn’t ask who it is. He knows who it is, even after all this time. He also
knows something is really wrong for me to be calling him.
“Where are you?” he says. “Are you in New York?”
When I called Jake to tell him I was getting married, he said that one day I’d
show up back home ready to be together again. He believed that. And
apparently he thinks today is that day.
“Sausalito.” I pause, dreading the words I don’t want to say. “I could use your
help, Jake. I think I need a lawyer…”
“So… you’re getting divorced?”
It’s all I can do not to hang up the phone. Jake can’t help himself. Even
though he was relieved when I called o􀏦 the wedding, even though he married
someone else four months later (and shortly thereafter divorced her), he liked to
play the victim in our relationship. Jake held on to the narrative that because of
my history, I was too scared to truly let him in—that I thought he’d leave me like
my parents did. He never understood that I wasn’t scared of someone leaving
me. I was scared that the wrong person would stay.
“Jake, my husband’s the reason I’m calling you,” I say. “He’s in trouble.”
“What did he do?” he says.
It’s the best I can hope for from him so I proceed to tell him the whole story,
starting with some background information about Owen’s work, the
investigation into The Shop and Owen’s bizarre disappearance, walking him
through the dual visits from Grady Bradford and the FBI, and how the FBI
didn’t know about Grady. I move him through how no one seems to know
anything about where Owen is, or what he is planning next—least of all Bailey
and me.
“And the daughter… she’s with you?” he says.
“Bailey, yes. She’s with me. Which is probably the last place she wants to be.”
“So he left her too?”
I don’t answer him.
“What’s her full name?” he says.
I hear him typing on his computer, taking notes, making one of the charts
that used to cover our living room 􀏲oor. Owen, now, in its bull’s-eye.
“First of all, don’t be too worried that the FBI didn’t know about the guy
from the U.S. Marshals Service coming to talk to you. They could all be lying to
you. And beyond that, there are often turf wars between di􀏦erent law
enforcement agencies, especially when the scope of the investigation is still in
question. Any word yet from anyone at the SEC?”
“No.”
“There will be. You should refer all law enforcement to me, at least until we
know what’s going on. Don’t say anything, just have them call me directly.”
“I appreciate that. Thank you.”
“Don’t mention it,” he says. “But I gotta ask… how wrapped up in this are
you?”
“Well, he’s my husband, so I would say intimately.”
“They’re going to show up with search warrants,” he says. “I’m surprised
they haven’t already. So, if there is anything that implicates you, you need to get
it out of your house.”
“I can’t be implicated,” I say. “I have nothing to do with this.”
I feel myself getting defensive. And I feel an uptick of anxiety, thinking of
anyone showing up at my house with search warrants—thinking of the du􀏦el
bag they would 􀏯nd, still untouched, hidden beneath the kitchen sink.
“Jake, I’m just trying to 􀏯gure out where Owen is. Why he thought the only
way out was to get away from here.”
“He probably doesn’t want to go to jail, for starters.”
“No, that’s not it. He wouldn’t run because of that.”
“So what’s your theory?”
“He’s trying to protect his daughter,” I say.
“From what?”
“I don’t know. Maybe he thinks it’s going to ruin her life if her father is falsely
accused. Maybe he’s o􀏦 somewhere trying to prove he’s innocent.”
“Not likely. But… there is the possibility that something else is going on,” he
says.
“Like what?”
“Like worse things that he’s guilty of,” he says.
“Helpful, Jake,” I say.
“Look, I’m not going to sugarcoat this. If Owen isn’t running from The
Shop, he is probably running from what The Shop might reveal about him. The
question is what that might be…” He pauses. “I have a private investigator, a
good one. I’ll ask him to do some digging. But I’m going to need you to email
me Owen’s entire history. Anything you know. Where he went to school, where
he grew up. And dates. Everything. Where and when his daughter was born.”
I hear Jake start to bite on his pen. No one else in the world would decipher
that is what he is doing, his secret habit. The one less-than-con􀏯dent thing Jake
does. But I can picture it as if I were sitting right there, staring at his mauled pen
cap. It’s a terrible thing to know everything about someone long after you want
to.
“And do this for me. Keep your phone near you in case I need to get in touch.
But don’t answer for any numbers you don’t recognize.”
I think of Grady saying Owen threw his phone away—that he threw away the
phone with the only number for him I’d recognize.
“What if it’s Owen?”
“Owen’s not calling right now,” he says. “You know that.”
“I don’t know that.”
“I think you do.”
I don’t say anything. Even though I suspect he’s right, I’m not going to tell
Jake he is. I’m not going to betray Owen in that way. Or Bailey.
“And you need to 􀏯gure out why he ran, something more speci􀏯c than he’s
trying to protect his kid…” he says. “And you better 􀏯gure it out quickly. The
FBI isn’t going to ask nicely for long.”
My head starts to spin, thinking about how unkindly the FBI has been asking
already.
“Are you still there?” he says.
“I’m here.”
“Just… try to stay calm. You know more than you think you do. You know
how to get through this.”
It’s enough to make me cry, the way he says it—sweetly, assuredly—Jake’s
version of a deep kindness.
“But in the future,” he says, “don’t say someone is innocent, okay? Say he’s
not guilty, if you have to say something. But saying someone’s innocent makes
you sound like an idiot. Especially when most people are guilty as fuck.”
And then there’s that.


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