Spindle City Serials, Episode 3.2: “The Many Faces of Ada Singh”

Spindle City Mysteries (3)

Ten months ago, Mother introduced me to another one of her high society marriageable dames at one of her many fundraisers. I hadn’t wanted to go, hadn’t wanted to make small talk with some fancy skirt looking for a rock to slide on her finger, no matter how bizarrely insistent Mother was that I’d like this skirt for once—but I’d been having this uncomfortable feeling lurking somewhere around my ribs all year, whenever I thought I might disappoint her. Since I’d spent most of my life actively trying to disappoint my folks, this newfound sense of shame was unnerving.

I’d expecting to suffer through a few dances, make nice with a silly sister or two…and then, Ada.

Ada wasn’t at all the woman I’d expected her to be.

Hank pulled up in front of her house. The Tremaine Manor, back when Old Lady Tremaine was still alive, keeping Ella locked away in her own cellar. “Don’t suppose you’re coming in?”

Hank shook his head. “Have to pick up Evelyn first.”

“Dinner’s not till seven.”

“Yeah, but she has opinions on the seating arrangements.”

Of course she did. I hesitated, fingers around the door handle. “I’m glad Jack called you.”

“The future Mrs. Prince would’ve been better backup.”

No one’s better backup, I didn’t say. “Jack may have been playing matchmaker. She thinks I made a mistake.”

“You did,” Hank said quietly.

I opened my mouth—and then closed it, stepping out of the car. I bent down, looking at him through the window. “I meant what I said before. Thanks for—for coming.”

“Jimmy. I’ll always come.”

“You don’t have to.”

Hank snorted. “Right,” he said, and drove away.


I watched the car until I couldn’t see it anymore and then turned and walked to the door. I felt lousy, and it wasn’t just the guilt weighing me down, though that was heavy enough. My skin felt hot and thin, spread tight across my bones. Considering all the snow around, that wasn’t a great sign.

A harried maid led me into the parlor, empty but for a handful of servants bustling in and out. I heard quiet footsteps behind me, a gift. If she hadn’t wanted me to, I never would have heard her. “Think it’s too late to cancel?”

“I was having the same thought.”

I turned, grinning. “Cold feet, pumpkin?”

“Please stop calling me that.”

“I always get confused, how to best address you. You have so many little monikers.”

“For present, Ada will do.”

I bowed. “Ada it is.”

Ada curtsied back, sardonic as ever. She was stunningly beautiful, tall and lean with gams so long they could probably wrap around me twice. Her hair was black and gently curled, spilling just past her copper brown shoulders. “Will you sit?”

“Sure.” But my body betrayed me before I could make it, legs abruptly cutting out from under me. I landed hard on the floor, too warm and vaguely dizzy. “Well, hell.”

Ada knelt beside me, a hand to my forehead. “Anyone tell you you’re an idiot?”

“You mean, today?”

She shook her head and stood up, walking to the phone. “Jack? It’s Ada. I’m glad I caught you. Jim has apparently forgotten to take his medicine. Yes. Yes. Jack, I don’t disagree on any particular point, but could you snag his pills before—thank you. I’ll see you soon.”

She hung up and sat beside me. “Real ladies don’t sit on the floor,” I said. “Wouldn’t want anyone to get suspicious.”

She didn’t move. “You look terrible.”

“You look tired.” There were faint purple shadows under her eyes I hadn’t noticed before. “What’s eating you?”

“My betrothed is a head case.”

“You knew that when you proposed.”

“True.” Ada rubbed her eyes. “It’s a lot to adjust to, all this.” She waved a hand at all the finery: ugly artwork and furniture that someone somewhere had decreed valuable. “It’s what I wanted, or told myself I wanted. What I dreamt about. Reclaiming the life that was stolen from me—but none of it feels like mine. The bed is too soft. There are too many windows. I’ve been going to the cellar lately, just to sleep.”

Well, that didn’t sound particularly healthy. Then again, I was hardly the picture of emotional health myself. “Dreams change,” I told her. “They have to. Stretch with our bones as we grow up. No shame in ending up on a different path than you started down on.”

Ada picked at the carpet, eyes low. “Maybe I miss the path that was chosen for me.”

“You mean…the one with all the dropped bodies?”

“With all the bodies I dropped, yes. Sometimes I miss the work.” She did look up at me then, eyes troubled, but voice steady. “Maybe we’re both a couple of head cases.”

“Good thing we’re getting hitched then.” She laughed, and I took her hand. “El— ”

A valet sped through the room, and she squeezed my fingers. “Pretty sure we discussed my little monikers.”

I ignored this. “Ella,” I said, once the valet had left. “I can’t judge your choices. I won’t. Not after you saved my bacon. Not after the choices I’ve made.”

Ella frowned. “I met Thom once. You made the right call with him, with Patricia White, after everything with Snow—”

“More blood on my hands than that.” Unsteadily, I pushed myself up. My legs were shaky but held me, long enough that I could reach the plum sofa and drop down. “Of course, last I checked, marrying me was the third step in cementing societal credibility, so if you’re planning to retreat for a life of crime, best break my heart before everyone shows up to eat.”

“Can’t break a heart that doesn’t belong to me,” Ella said.

I groaned. “Not you too,” I said, just as the doorbell rang. Too soon to be Jack.

“It’s Jack,” Ella said, looking out the window and very, very still. “Maybe her friend drove her.”

“Who’s that?”

“I can’t quite—”

The butler appeared. “A Ms. Jack and Mr. Nguyen to see you, madam.”

“Nguyen?” Ella and I asked, and glanced at each other. The butler left, and I whispered, “You know Nguyen, you knew Mr. Almonds. Are there conventions for button men or something?”

Jack and Nguyen walked in before she could respond. Last time I’d seen him, Nguyen had a broken nose, a lame leg, and the shakes, courtesy of either shellshock or being on the run. He looked better now: nose mostly straight, limp all but gone, dark hair grown out from an uneven regulation cut. His fingers weren’t trembling, either; more importantly, they weren’t wrapped around a gun. We hadn’t left on unfriendly terms, but that didn’t mean we were friends.

Not that Jack was looking too friendly herself, as she chucked the bottle of pills at my head.

I caught them, but barely. “Hey to you too, kid,” I said, dry-swallowing a couple. “Nguyen, always a pleasure, but what the hell you doing here?”

“I called him,” Jack said. “Figured if you’re gonna go pissing off drug lords, we’ll need all the backup we can get.”

“How do you know I pissed Moll off?”

“Opened your mouth, didn’t you?”


“Squabble later,” Nguyen said, sitting beside me. “Last I heard some dame still needs help.”

Right. Nguyen had never actually met Rose.

I cleared my throat and turned to Ella. “Let me catch you up on the case,” I said, and told her the shorthand: who Rose was, the Godmother’s interest, the visit to St. Katherine’s. “Jack? Dig up anything worth adding?”

Jack, typically, had shunned the desk chair in favor of the desk. “When have I ever let you down?”

“You’re still wearing that Santa hat.”

Jack didn’t stick out her tongue or flip me off, so I knew she was still fuming. “A few years after the Burning Days, Rose’s folks were murdered, bodies discovered in some alley. What was left of them, anyway.”

It is only necessary to do this a few times before a sufficient reputation is formed.

I swallowed, feeling a little sick. “They were burned alive, weren’t they?”

Jack nodded.

Two decades of slamming back eel juice like water, and I still couldn’t forget the smell of burning flesh. Rose was only a couple of years younger than me. She’d remember it, too.

“Why did Moll kill them?”

“Officially, dunno. Case went unsolved. But word is that the Briars got their hands on a stash of nose candy and distributed it without cutting Moll Chen in on the cabbage.”

It cost them, but Christ, Jimmy. How they were bold.

I whistled. “Not inviting the Dragon to the party? That’s bold, all right.”

Nguyen snorted. “It’s stupid.”

It was probably both. I shook out a gasper, and then another when Ella held out a hand. “Where’d Rose end up?”

“Adopted. Couple of sisters, Florence and Fanny Merring. Nurses, both of them. Guess where they work?”

I didn’t have to. I was pretty sure I’d seen them and their dimples earlier today. “So, Moll kept Rose prisoner?”

“Indentured servitude, probably,” Nguyen said. “Work off her parents’ debts, or die trying.”

Ella, I noticed, was staring at the carpet, her long, lovely fingers closed into fists. I thought about offering my hand, but wasn’t sure she’d take it. Instead, I offered another, less crumpled cigarette.

She accepted it gratefully, putting the first one out in the ashtray. I stared at her gasper, and then back up at Ella. For a long moment, I lost track of the conversation.

“—If Rose wanted revenge, she took her time about it.”

I blinked, looking at Nguyen. He hadn’t noticed my little trance, and neither had Ella. Jack sure had, though.

“Vengeance doesn’t come with a clock,” Ella said. And she’d know. Ella had killed both her stepsisters, possibly her stepmother, too. No way of knowing how many people she’d bumped off, or how many secrets she was hiding. You could never be sure with a dame like that.

But apparently I had been sure. Otherwise, I’d have thought to look at her lips, too.

“Prince?” Ella’s smile was lovely and wide. “Solving the case over there?”

I laughed. “Just thinking through the angles. Why was Moll looking for Rose? How does the Godmother fit into this?”

“Will you tell the Godmother?” Ella asked, leaning forward. “If you find Rose?”

“I don’t know.” I met her eyes. “It’s hard to trust anyone these days.”

Ella opened her mouth, but one of the maids came in to ask about flower arrangements. “Sure you guys shouldn’t cancel?” Jack asked, as soon as the maid was gone. “Lot going on right now without adding wedding nonsense to the insanity.”

Nguyen blinked at me. “You’re getting married? She agreed to marry you?”

“Hey,” I said. “I’m a catch.” I wasn’t—my mug was decent enough, my family influential, but my business was an embarrassment and my illness a secret horror. I desperately wanted to skip the dinner, but now I couldn’t afford to. Ella and her painted kiss were the best lead I had to go on.

Ella shook her head. “Evelyn says it’s the quickest way to get caught, freezing up when things get hairy. Speaking of your mother, Prince—”

“Must we?”

“—I could use a favor. I’m told she has opinions on accessories, and I’m worried none of my current collection will do. Some time ago, I stashed away a package of…souvenirs, a few baubles, some nice rocks. But I can’t leave with all these people running around.”

“Anything for you, pumpkin. Got an address?”

She wrote it down. “Nguyen,” I said, “why don’t you stay while Jack and I grab these? You two can catch up. See who’s iced the most folk.”

Ella frowned. “We’re not exactly old friends. Crossed paths on a job once.”

“She broke three of my ribs and knocked me out.”

Ella shrugged. “You were in my way.”

“You and Nguyen go,” Jack said. “I’ll stick around, see if I can taste test the dessert or something.”

That was exactly the opposite of what I wanted. “You sure?” I asked. “You could throw stuff at the protestors.”

“Tempting, but I’ll hang back, as long as your dame can restrain any urges to doll me up. No dresses. No blush.” She looked at me. “No lipstick.”

So, she had put it together. I wasn’t surprised, and I understood what she wanted. Leave her behind to snoop. Trust her to take care of herself. Treat her like the partner she was, not the secretary she’d started out as.

We all end up on different paths.

I nodded, even though my stomach clenched up and the space in my lungs felt a little tighter. I did trust Jack. I just loved her, too.

Funny, how I was always making that same mistake.


I drummed my fingernails restlessly against the windowpane. Tap. Tap tap tap. Tap. Tap tap—

“You gonna tell me what’s going on,” Nguyen asked, turning down a crooked little street. “Or you want me to guess?”

“Guess,” I said, just to be contrary.

He sighed. “Tell me what the hell’s going on, Prince.”

I tapped my fingernails some more. “Rose’s apartment,” I said finally. “Someone left a kiss behind. Ella, apparently, except they don’t know each other.”

“So she says.”

I had one hell of a headache. “Yeah.”

“Maybe she’s stepping out on you?”

If only. “Ella can step wherever she wants.” I didn’t think she went for skirts, but it wouldn’t matter if she did. Our arrangement wasn’t exactly exclusive. Couldn’t even call it romantic, really: I carried a torch for her, maybe always would, but my heart, well, it belonged to someone else—as everyone was so damn keen to point out today. “She’s involved somehow.”

“Somehow? She’s a hatchet man, Prince.”

“Not anymore.”

“You sure? It’s not an easy line of work to get out of, especially if you develop a taste for it.”

And Ella had admitted as much. “You like it? The work?”

“No,” Nguyen said, after a moment. “But I don’t have a problem doing it, either.”

I saw the tremor in his left hand. Left it alone. “You’re right,” I said reluctantly. “Most likely, someone hired Ella to kill Rose, and Rose is…”

I didn’t say it. Stupid not to, but sometimes you couldn’t help yourself.

Nguyen took pity on me. “So who hired her?”

I frowned, thinking it over. “A while ago, Ella had to flee Spindle City. Went to the Godmother for help. Might be I’m not the only one with a debt.”

Nguyen turned down another narrow alley and parked on the curb. “So, the Godmother hires you to draw Rose out, and Ella to drop her when she does?”

“Maybe,” I said, and got out of the car. The Pond was a rink-a-dink gin mill, long since abandoned, with broken windows and dust-coated floors. I warily followed Nguyen inside, hand on my gat, but there was no one there.

Ella told us she’d stashed her jewels behind the bar, underneath the floorboards. Nguyen got to work, prying them up, and I knelt beside him, exhausted. My legs were steadier and my fever had gone down, but I felt weary down to the bone. Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad, not being able to walk. Walking was exhausting. Everything was exhausting.

Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad, not waking up. The world was ugly and treacherous, and at least I wouldn’t be afraid all the damn time.

“Nguyen? You know what the hell you’re living for?”

Nguyen’s small hands went still. “No,” he said finally. “But I plan to keep going until I figure it out.”

I nodded. “Yeah.”

Nguyen went back to work, and the board came loose. He reached down and pulled out a black briefcase, handing it to me. Ella had given us the combination, and I opened it carefully, half expecting it to blow. But all I saw were trinkets: a few diamond rings, some ruby earrings.

Could be she just wanted the glitter.
Or maybe she wanted me out of the way.

Or maybe, I thought, as I felt for and found a false bottom, she needs something else from here.

I pulled out a brown leather journal and opened it, flipping through pages of names and numbers, of sins and debts.

“A diary?”

“A ledger,” I said, scanning through the names: bulls, politicians, mobsters, clergymen. Assassins who’d needed help skipping town. Private dicks with complicated love lives.

Bring her to me, and I’ll strike you off the ledger for good.

“It’s the Godmother’s,” I said, hushed.

Nguyen and I stared at each other for a beat before I looked back at the book. One page alone was a scoop worth killing for: the mayor pushing lobbies to keep his illegitimate tots out of the press, the DA with the stiff fetish, the rich skirt who needed help disappearing her brother’s body. These were the kind of secrets that people bled both green and red to protect, secrets you were supposed to carry with you to the grave. If this book ever saw the light of day, half the town could end up in the clink, or worse.

So what the hell was it doing here? Had Ella stashed it for the Godmother, or were we stealing it from the Godmother? What the hell had I stumbled into?

Nguyen wasn’t waiting to find out. He pulled me up and dragged me to the car, iron in hand. I kept an eye out, but no one stopped us from burning rubber, and I couldn’t spot a tail.

We passed a payphone. “Stop,” I said, but he didn’t, not for several blocks. When he finally did pull over, I jumped out, only to be swarmed by rabid protestors. One shoved a pamphlet in my face. “Only the Lord decides who’s worthy of being healed.”

“Move,” I said, “or I’ll spit on you.”

He must not have been worthy, because he jumped away fast. I shut myself in the phone booth and called Ella.

She answered quickly. “What’s wrong?”

Everything. “Nothing,” I lied. “Just thought you might want the update: case safe and secure. Talk to Jack?”

“Sorry,” Ella said. “She’s indisposed, I’m afraid.”

Maybe my heart stopped for a second there. Then it started again, beating harder than ever.

“Want me to pass on a message?”

I coughed. “No,” I said, voice as even as I could make it. “No, that’s all right. I’ll be back soon enough.”

I hung up and returned to the car. “Jack couldn’t come to the phone,” I said dully, eyes closed. “I think—”

“We don’t know anything yet,” Nguyen said.

No. We didn’t. But I couldn’t get past the sick feeling in my gut, that I’d made a horrible mistake, leaving Jack behind. If Ella had hurt her, if she’d killed —

“Drive,” I said, and Nguyen drove.


It was starting to get dark, by the time we got back to the manor. Nguyen parked a half-mile out and rummaged in his trunk for supplies. There were fresh tire tracks in the snow nearby, but I didn’t have time to puzzle out where they’d come from. “Don’t suppose you’ve got binoculars?”

Nguyen frowned. “Of course I do.”

Armed with binoculars, iron, and extra clips, we snuck onto the property. I introduced Nguyen to my most sophisticated investigative techniques: climbing trees and praying for a good view. All I got was déjà vu and a quickly sinking heart.

Hank’s car was parked outside, and sure enough, I spotted him and my mother sitting in the parlor, backs to the window. If they were injured, I couldn’t tell. Ella was sitting nearby, mouth moving. Jack wasn’t in the room.

I looked through every open window I could find, but I couldn’t spot her anywhere. Not every room was visible, though. Couldn’t peek into the attic. Couldn’t see into the cellar.

I needed to see in that cellar.

I climbed back down the tree. “Okay,” I said. “I’m going through the basement. You go around the back, see if you can sneak Mother and Hank out of there somehow. Jack, too, if you spot her. Take Hank’s ride. I’ll take yours, and we’ll meet up at my place.”

Nguyen stared at me. “That’s a terrible plan.”

“You have a better one?”

Nguyen didn’t, so we went with mine.

I crept carefully to the small cellar window. Brambles had grown, wild and thorny, around the bottom of the house, but none blocked the glass. They’d been cut, deliberately. And the window, too grimy to see through, was slightly ajar.

Holding my breath, I pushed it open, leaned in—and promptly fell through. “Jesus Christ,” I whispered, blinking in disbelief, but my eyes hadn’t deceived me.

It was Rose.

She was lying on Ella’s old cot, and in the dim lighting, looked absolutely terrible—dark skin nearly ashen and beaded over with sweat. She didn’t seem injured, other than an angry needle mark on her arm, surrounded by a black bruise, but when I took her by the shoulders, she didn’t respond at all.

“Shit,” I muttered, with feeling. How the hell was I going to get Rose out of here? It was hard enough lifting myself through the window, never mind an unconscious woman. And I seriously doubted I could sneak her up the stairs without anyone noticing. Frankly, I was a little surprised no one had come when I’d fallen inside.

This time, I didn’t hear her footsteps. Guess she wasn’t in a giving mood. I only briefly felt her hands before I was thrown hard into a wall.

Fuck,” I swore eloquently, as I tried and failed to push myself back up. Blood trickled down from my temple where I’d cracked it against the uneven brick, and I couldn’t bring my arms up in time to stop the knife at my throat—but the hand holding it paused, anyway.


I blinked. Ella knelt in front of me, eyes wide. She’d changed into a pink saree while I was gone. “Knife doesn’t go with the glad rags,” I said carefully. “And I’d hate to ruin all that silk with my poisonous blood.”

Ella drew the blade back, but not enough for comfort. “Why can’t you ever let anything go?”

“Born stubborn, I guess. Mother always says so. While we’re on the subject, why don’t you let her and Hank go? No need for them to get hurt.”

She frowned at me. “I haven’t—”

“And Jack? I suppose she’s fine too?”

“Prince—Jim, you’ve got this all—”

Ella turned suddenly, and I followed her gaze. Nguyen stood at the top of the stairs, roscoe aimed at Ella’s head.

“Back away from him,” Nguyen said. “Now.”

Ella did, dropping the knife. Nguyen slowly walked down, gun steady. From further upstairs, I heard voices: Mother’s, Hank’s, Ja —

I used the wall to push myself up. “Jack!”

Jack appeared in the doorway, Santa hat and all. She didn’t appear hurt; actually, she was almost bouncing, although the grin dropped from her face when she saw me. “Shit, Prince, are you—Rose! I knew it! I knew you saved her, Ella!”

“Wait,” I said. “What?”

Hank and Mother pushed their way in behind Jack. Mother took in the whole scene: an injured son, an unconscious woman, a gun pointed at her future daughter-in-law. She said, “Jimmy, I hope that’s not what you planned to wear tonight.”

I slumped to the ground, laughing. Hank joined in, then Ella and Jack. Nguyen didn’t because he was a humorless bastard, but he did cautiously lower his gun.

“When you’re all done,” he said. “We have some things to hash out.”


The least suspicious way to cancel a rehearsal dinner, Mother said, was to stage a loud lover’s quarrel. Ella slapped me before tearfully sending her servants away. Her fake tears were awful. The slap, unfortunately, was much more convincing.

The cellar was far too cramped for seven people, so we retired to the parlor, relocating Rose to the sofa. Ella sat by her side, occasionally wiping her forehead with a damp cloth. “Moll overdosed her with something,” Ella said. “She hasn’t woken since yesterday. I thought she was about to this morning, but . . .” Ella looked at Jack. “How did you know?”

Jack shrugged. “Stayed behind to snoop,” she said unapologetically. “Faked a trip to the ladies’ and found some interesting laundry in the trash: nurse’s uniform, hat, and face mask, all torn up and spattered with dried blood. Prince said the staff at St. Katherine’s looked beat to hell, and Moll said her conversation with Rose had been interrupted.”

“You were her backup,” I said.

“Against her wishes, yes.”

I frowned. “Didn’t want your help?”

“Said the briefcase was more important.”

“Over her life?”

“It’s hard,” Hank said dryly. “Loving someone with such a lousy sense of priorities.”

I glared at him. Might have thrown something, too, if Mother wasn’t around. “So then you didn’t steal it, the Godmother’s ledger. It was Rose’s errand. She stole it.”

Hank gaped. “You have the Godmother’s ledger? There’s an actual ledger?”

I pulled the book out of my jacket and tossed it over, amused when Mother scrambled up to read over Hank’s shoulder. “It’s why the Godmother came to me in the first place,” I said. “But how Rose got her hands on it . . .”

“Inside job,” Nguyen said. “Had to be.”

Seemed incredible, Rose working for both the Godmother and Moll Chen. But it would explain how the Godmother knew I was sick. Jack didn’t tell her. Hank hadn’t even told Mother, but Rose had felt my fevered cheek last year.

Ella kissed Rose on the forehead. “Moll treated Rose like a thing,” she said. “Thought she owned her. But Rose—”

“Rose doesn’t really take to being owned.”

I stood up too fast and caught myself on the armrest. No one noticed, too busy staring at Rose, whose eyes were half-open and glassy. She waved weakly at me, and then looked at Ella.

“So,” Rose said, lip-twitching. “Maybe you were right about that backup.”

Ella took a deep breath. “You—”

“Later,” I said. “Rose, glad to see you up and kicking. How about you try flapping your lips now, see what they say about the Godmother.”

Rose grinned. “It’s always information with you,” she said, and struggled to sit up with Ella’s help. “The Godmother came to me when I was 16. Heard about my predicament, offered me an opportunity. Spy on the Dragon, and when the time was right, she’d help me take Moll down.”

“You’re, what?” Nguyen asked. “25, 26?”

“29,” Rose said. “And yeah, the time was never right.”

“So you took the ledger,” I said. “As leverage.”

Rose shrugged one shoulder. “I like the Godmother,” she said. “Decent to her people, never set anyone on fire. But I couldn’t trust her word, and anyway, she thinks she has some claim to me, just like Moll does. And no one, no one owns me.”

Jack nodded, kicking her legs in the air. “But something went wrong. Moll found out.”

“Bad luck,” Rose said, slumping against Ella. Her full face was lined in exhaustion, like she could sleep another hundred years without waking up. “Stanley. Saw more than he was supposed to see, started acting shifty. People noticed.”

And when they did, he probably ratted her out to save his own skin, the little weasel. It did raise the question, though: what the hell did I do with her now?

Ella read my face. “You can’t turn her over to the Godmother.”

“No shit, pumpkin.” I stared at her. “Is that why you sewed your lips? You think I just hand people over for the noose?”

Jack and Hank both coughed, while Nguyen raised an eyebrow.

Fine. If they try to bump me off first, yeah, I’ll let em get cut down, but Jesus Christ, Ella. Rose is my friend.”

Rose grinned wearily. “Aw, I like you too, Prince.”

“Shut up, Rose.”

My head ached like crazy. I rubbed my temples, fingers coming away a little red. Needed to apply some kind of bandage before —

But Mother was up, a silk handkerchief in her hand. “Here,” she said, reaching for me. “Darling, put this—”

Don’t,” I said, jerking away fast, too fast.

Mother paused. A few years ago, I doubt I could’ve read the hurt in her eyes. “For Heaven’s sake, Jimmy, don’t . . .”

I looked up at her. Held my breath.

She knew it then, and didn’t want to. “Jimmy?”

I looked away. “Listen—”


“It doesn’t—”


I swallowed. “About a year.”

The room was deathly quiet. I didn’t want to look at any of them. Didn’t want to say, I’m dead by New Years, and if I live, I won’t keep my legs. But maybe Mother had been right a year ago: you have to face your ugly truths eventually. And I’d been running from mine for about as long as I could remember.

I forced myself to look at Mother, just in time to see her get shot.


The Long And Silent Ever After comes to its breakneck conclusion next week, as the bullets continue to fly–and more than one person is struck by the crossfire.

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