The Last Thing He Told Me

2.14 If You Marry the Prom King…

chapter
Chapter

Seventy-three names, 􀏯fty of them men.
One of them is potentially Owen.
We walk quickly across campus toward the main research library, which
Cheryl tells us is most likely to house the school yearbooks. If we can get our
hands on the yearbooks from the years Owen was at UT, that could be the key to
getting through this list as quickly as possible. The yearbooks will o􀏦er not just
student names, but they’ll o􀏦er photographs too. They’ll potentially have a
photograph of a young Owen, if he did anything at school besides fail math.
We head inside the Perry-Castañeda Library, which is enormous—six stories
of books and maps and cards and computer labs—and head to the research
librarian’s desk. She informs us that we will need to put a request in at the
archives to get the hard copies of the school yearbooks from that far back, but we
can access the archive on a library computer.
We go to the second-􀏲oor computer lab, which is mostly empty, and sit at
two computers in the corner. I pull up Owen’s freshman and sophomore
yearbooks on one computer. And Bailey pulls up his junior and senior years.
And, side by side, we begin looking up students from Cookman’s class one at a
time, hitting the roster alphabetically. Our 􀏯rst candidate: John Abbot from
Baltimore, Maryland. I 􀏯nd him in one grainy photograph with the ski club. He
doesn’t look much like Owen in the photograph—thick glasses, full beard—but
it is hard to rule him out completely just based on that one photograph. We 􀏯nd
too many potential hits when we google just his name, but when I crossreference
with skiing, I 􀏯nd that John Abbot (Baltimore native, UT-Austin
grad) now lives in Aspen with his partner and their two kids.
We are able to rule out the next few male students on the list much more
easily: one is 􀏯ve feet tall and has curly red hair; another is six foot four and a
professional ballet dancer who resides in Paris; one is living in Honolulu,
Hawaii, and running for state senate.
We are on the Es when my phone rings. HOME comes up on the caller ID. For
a second, I imagine that it’s Owen. Owen is back at the house, and calling to tell
us that he has worked everything out, and we need to come home immediately.
So he can explain the parts that don’t make sense. Where he has been, who he
was before I knew him. Why he has left these things out.
But it isn’t Owen on the phone. It’s Jules.
Jules is responding to the text I’d sent her at the hotel bar, asking her to head
to the house, asking her to 􀏯nd the piggy bank.
“I’m in Bailey’s room,” she says when I pick up.
“Was anyone outside?” I say.
“I don’t think so. I didn’t see anyone strange in the parking lot, and there
wasn’t anyone on the docks.”
“Would you close the blinds while you’re there?”
“Already done,” she said.
I look over at Bailey, hoping she’s too busy with the yearbooks to pay close
attention. But I clock her eyeing me, waiting to see what this phone call is about.
Maybe hoping, against hope, this is going to be the call that gets her back to her
father.
“And you were right,” Jules says. “It does say Lady Paul on the side.”
She doesn’t say what it is, of course. She doesn’t say it’s a piggy bank that she
is at our house to retrieve—Bailey’s piggy bank—though it would sound pretty
innocuous if she did say that out loud.
I hadn’t imagined it. The small note on the bottom of the last page of Owen’s
will, listing the conservator, L. Paul. It was also the name on the side of the blue
piggy bank in Bailey’s room—LADY PAUL, written in black, beneath the bow.
The same blue piggy bank Owen had taken when we evacuated, the one I found
him with at the hotel bar in the middle of the night. I chocked it up to his being
sentimental. But I was wrong. He had taken the piggy bank because it was
something he needed to keep safe.
“But there is a bit of an issue,” Jules says. “I can’t open it.”
“What do you mean you can’t open it?” I say. “Just smash it with a hammer.”
“No, you don’t understand, there’s a safe inside the piggy bank,” she says.
“And the thing’s made of steel. I’m going to have to 􀏯nd someone who can crack
a safe. Any ideas?”
“Not o􀏦 the top of my head,” I say.
“K, I’ll deal with it,” Jules says, “but have you checked your newsfeed? They
indicted Jordan Maverick.”
Jordan is the COO of The Shop, Avett’s number two and Owen’s
counterpart on the business side of the 􀏯rm. He was newly divorced and had
been spending a little bit of time at our place. I invited Jules over for dinner,
hoping they’d hit it o􀏦. They didn’t. She thought he was boring. I thought there
were worse things to be—or maybe I just didn’t see him that way.
“For the record,” she says. “No more setups.”
“Understood,” I say.
At a di􀏦erent moment this would have been all the encouragement I needed
to ask her about her colleague Max, to make a joke about whether he was the
other reason she wasn’t interested in setups. But, in this moment, all it does is
remind me that Max has an inside source. One that can potentially help us in
regard to Owen.
“Has Max heard anything beyond Jordan?” I ask. “Has he heard anything
about Owen?”
Bailey tilts her head, toward me.
“Not speci􀏯cally,” she says. “But his source over at the FBI did say the
software just became functional.”
“What does that mean?” I ask.
Except I can guess what that means. It means Owen probably thought he was
out of the woods. He probably thought any contingency plan he needed to
create could be put on the backburner again. It means that when Jules called
Owen and said they were coming in, he couldn’t believe it. He couldn’t believe
that this close to being safe, he was about to be caught.
“Max is texting me,” Jules says. “I’ll call you after I 􀏯nd a safecracker, okay?”
“I bet those are some words you thought you’d never say.”
She laughs. “No kidding.”
I say goodbye and turn to Bailey. “That was Jules,” I say. “I’m having her look
into something at the house.”
She nods. She doesn’t ask if I have anything to report on her father. She
knows I’d tell her if I did.
“Any progress?” I say.
“I’m on H,” she says. “No hits yet.”
“H is progress.”
“Yeah. Unless he’s not on the list.”
My phone rings again. I think it’s going to be Jules calling back, but the
number is one I don’t recognize—one with a 512 area code. Texas.
“Who’s that?” she says.
I shake my head that I don’t know. Then I accept the call. The woman on the
other end of the line is already talking to me. She is midway through a sentence
that, apparently, she thought I was there to hear.
“Scrimmages,” she says. “We should have accounted for them too. The
scrimmages.”
“Who’s this?”
“It’s Elenor McGovern,” she says. “From the Episcopal church. And I think I
may have found an answer for you about the wedding your stepdaughter
attended. Sophie, one of our longtime parishioners, has a son who plays football
for UT-Austin. She never misses a game. She was in here earlier, helping with the
new member breakfast, and it occurred to me she might be the person to ask if
I’d missed something. And she said that during the summer, the Longhorns have
a series of intrasquad scrimmages.”
My breath catches in my throat. “And they’re held in the stadium?” I say.
“Just like the regular season games?”
“Just like the regular season games. Usually with a fairly packed crowd.
People go as if it’s an actual game,” she says. “I’m not much of a football fan so
that didn’t occur to me, at 􀏯rst.”
“It occurred to you to ask her, that’s pretty great,” I say.
“Well, maybe. And this part certainly is. I did a cross-check for you on the
dates of the scrimmages during the time we were open. We had one wedding that
lines up with the 􀏯nal scrimmage of the 2008 season. One wedding that your
stepdaughter might have been at. Do you have a pen? You should write this
down.”
Elenor is proud of herself, and she should be. She may have found a link to
Owen—to what Owen had been doing in Austin that weekend, so long after
graduation. And to why Bailey was with him.
“I’m writing it down,” I say.
“It was the Reyes and Smith wedding,” she says. “I have all the information
on the wedding here. The ceremony took place at noon. And the reception was
held o􀏦-site. It doesn’t specify where.”
“Elenor, this is amazing. I don’t even know how to thank you for this.”
“You’re so welcome,” she says.
I reach across Bailey to pick up the printout of Cookman’s class. There it is.
No Reyes. But one Smith.
Katherine. Katherine Smith. I point to her name and Bailey starts typing
quickly, searching for the yearbook index. KATHERINE SMITH coming up. SMITH,
KATHERINE. Ten page numbers by her name.
Maybe they were friends—or she had been Owen’s girlfriend, the one that
Professor Cookman remembered. And Owen had been in town for Katherine’s
wedding. He had brought his family back to help his old friend celebrate. Maybe
if I could 􀏯nd her, she could shed light on who Owen used to be.
“Was her 􀏯rst name Katherine, Elenor?”
“No, not Katherine. Let me see. Bride’s 􀏯rst name is Andrea,” Elenor says.
“And… yes, there we are. Andrea Reyes and Charlie Smith.”
I feel de􀏲ated that it wasn’t Katherine herself, but maybe she is related to
Charlie somehow. This could certainly still be the connection. But before I can
repeat that to Bailey, she turns to a page featuring the debate society and
President Katherine “Kate” Smith.
And the photograph comes up.
It’s a group photograph of the entire debate team. They are sitting on
barstools in a small, old-school bar, more like a cocktail lounge than a traditional
pub: wooden rafters, a long brick wall, bourbon bottles lined up like presents.
Lanterns line the bar top, backlighting those bottles, backlighting the dark wine
bottles above them.
The caption under the photograph reads: DEBATE TEAM PRESIDENT
KATHERINE SMITH CELEBRATES WINNING THE STATE CHAMPIONSHIP AT HER
FAMILY’S BAR, THE NEVER DRY, WITH TEAMMATES FROM (L) TO (R)…
“No way!” Bailey says. “That could be the bar. Where the wedding was.”
“What are you talking about?”
“I didn’t say anything, but last night when we were at Magnolia Cafe, and
you were asking me all those questions, I remembered being at a bar for the
wedding,” she says. “Or, more like, some sort of small restaurant. But then I
􀏯gured it was late and I was just grasping for something… anything… so I let it
go. I didn’t even mention it. But this place in the photo, this Never Dry bar,
looks like the bar.”
I cover the phone’s mouthpiece, and look down at Bailey, who is pointing
with fever, almost in disbelief. She points to a record player in the corner, a weird
kind of proof.
“I’m not kidding,” she says. “That’s the bar. I recognize it.”
“There are a million bars that look like that.”
“I know. But there are two things I remember about Austin,” she said. “And
that bar is one of them.”
Which is when Bailey makes the photograph bigger. The debate team faces
growing less blurry, Katherine’s face becoming delineated. Easy to see.
We both go silent. The bar doesn’t matter anymore. Owen doesn’t even
matter, exactly.
All that matters is the face.
It isn’t a photograph matching the woman I know as Bailey’s mother—that,
more important, Bailey knows to be her mother. Olivia. Olivia of the red hair
and girlish freckles. Olivia who looks a little like me.
But the woman staring back at us—this woman Katherine “Kate” Smith—
looks like Bailey. Exactly like Bailey. She has the same dark hair. She has the same
full cheeks. And, most notably, she has the same 􀏯erce eyes—judgmental more
than sweet.
This woman staring back at us—she could be Bailey.
Bailey shuts o􀏦 the screen suddenly, as if it is too much to look at. The
photograph, Kate’s face matching her own. She looks over at me, wondering
what I am going to do next.
“Do you know her?” she says.
“No,” I say. “Do you?”
“No, I don’t know,” she says. “No!”
“Hello?” Elenor says. “Are you still there?”
I keep my hand over the speaker, but Bailey can hear her through the phone.
She can hear her loud-pitched questions. It’s making her even more tense than
she is. Her shoulders are seizing. Her hands are reaching for her hair, pulling it
tight behind her ears.
I’m not proud of this. But I hang up on Elenor.
Then I turn back to Bailey.
“We need to go there right now,” Bailey says. “I need to go to this bar… to this
Never Dry…”
She is already standing up. She is already grabbing her things.
“Bailey,” I say. “I know you’re upset, I know you are. I’m upset too.”
We aren’t saying it yet, not out loud, who we think Katherine Smith may be
—who Bailey fears and hopes she is.
“Let’s just talk this through for a second,” I say. “I think our best chance to
get to the bottom of all this is to keep going through the class roster. We are at
most forty-six men away from getting an answer to who your father used to be.”
“Maybe we are. Maybe we’re not.”
“Bailey…” I say.
She shakes her head. She doesn’t sit back down.
“Let me say this another way,” she says. “I’m going to the bar right now. You
can come with me or you can let me go alone.”
She stands there and waits. She doesn’t storm out. She waits to see what I will
do. As if there is a choice.
“I go with you, of course,” I say.
Then I stand up. And we walk together toward the door.


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