Choose Me Page 2

“Her cell phone,” she says. “Where is it?”

There’s a knock on the door. They both turn as the patrolman pokes his head into the apartment. “Detective Loomis? Got a neighbor out here. You want to speak to her?”

Standing in the hallway is a young Asian woman who tells them she lives in the apartment next door. Judging by her bathrobe and flip-flops, she’s just rolled out of bed, and she keeps glancing at the dead girl’s apartment, as if the closed door hides some unimaginable horror.

Frankie pulls out her notepad. “And your name is?”

“Helen Ng. That’s spelled N-G. I’m a student at Commonwealth. Like her.”

“Did you know your neighbor very well?”

“Just in passing. I moved into this building only five months ago.” She pauses, looking at the closed door. “God, I can’t believe it.”

“That she’d take her own life?”

“That it happened right next door. When my parents hear about this, they’re going to go nuts. Make me move back home with them.”

“Where do they live?”

“Just down the road in Quincy. They wanted me to save money and commute to school, but that’s not a real college experience. It’s not like having your own apartment and—”

“Tell us about your neighbor,” Frankie cuts in.

Helen thinks about this and gives a helpless shrug. “I know she’s—she was—a senior. Comes from some little town up in Maine. She was pretty quiet, for the most part.”

“Did you hear anything unusual last night?”

“No. But I have this cold, so I popped a few Benadryls. I woke up just a little while ago, when I heard the police radio in the hallway.” Helen glances again at the apartment. “Did she leave a note or anything? Did she say why she did it?”

“Do you know why?”

“Well, she did seem depressed a few weeks ago, after she broke up with her boyfriend. But I thought she got over that.”

“Who was her boyfriend?”

“His name’s Liam. I’ve seen him here a few times, before they broke up.”

“You know his last name?”

“I don’t remember, but I know he’s from her hometown. He goes to Commonwealth too.” Helen pauses. “Have you called her mother? Does she know?”

Frankie and Mac exchange looks. This is a call neither one of them wants to make, and Frankie knows exactly how Mac will palm off the task. You’re a woman; you’re better at this sort of thing is his usual excuse. Mac has no children, so he can’t imagine, the way Frankie can imagine, the heartbreak of getting such news. He can’t imagine how hard these calls are for her to make.

Mac has also been jotting down the information, and he looks up from his notes. “So this ex-boyfriend’s name is Liam, he’s from Maine, and he attends Commonwealth.”

“That’s right. He’s a senior.”

“He shouldn’t be too hard to track down.” He closes his notebook. “That should do it,” Mac says, and Frankie can read the look he gives her. Boyfriend left her. She was depressed. What more do we need?

After leaving the death scene, Frankie needs to go home. She needs to take a shower, eat breakfast, and say hello to her twins—if they’re even awake yet. But on her way home to Allston, she can’t help but make a detour. It’s only a few blocks out of her way, and most days she’s able to resist the compulsion to see the building again, but this morning her Subaru seems to veer off course of its own accord, and once again she finds herself parked across the street from the brick building in Packard’s Corner, staring up at the fourth-floor apartment where the woman still lives.

Frankie knows the woman’s name and where she works and how many parking tickets she’s racked up. These facts should not really matter to her anymore, but they do. She’s shared these details with no one else—not with her colleagues in the homicide unit, not even with her own daughters. No, this knowledge she keeps private, because the fact she even knows about this woman’s existence is too damn humiliating.

So Frankie sits alone in her car on this drizzly April morning, watching an apartment building she has no legitimate reason to be watching, except to torment herself. Everyone assumes she’s recovered from the tragedy and moved on with her life. Her daughters have graduated from high school with honors, and during this gap year they’re both happy and thriving. Her colleagues at Boston PD no longer avoid her gaze or look at her with pity. That pity was the worst part of it—having her fellow cops, right down to the patrol officers, feeling sorry for her. No, her life is back to normal—or has assumed some semblance of it.

Yet here she is, parked once again in Packard’s Corner.

A woman emerges from the building, and Frankie jerks to attention. She watches as the woman crosses the street and walks past Frankie’s vehicle, obviously unaware she is being watched, but Frankie is certainly aware of her. The woman is fair haired, bundled up against the cold in black leggings and a white down jacket that is formfitting enough to reveal a narrow waist and slim hips. Frankie used to have a figure like that, back in the days before the twins arrived. Before middle age and too many hours sitting at her desk and too many meals wolfed down in a rush expanded her hips, ballooned out her thighs.

In the rearview mirror, Frankie watches the woman walk away toward the T station. She thinks about getting out of her car and following her. Thinks about introducing herself and suggesting they have a civilized little chat, woman to woman, perhaps at the coffee shop down the street, but she cannot bring herself to step out of the car. In Frankie’s long career as a cop, she’s kicked open doors, tracked down killers, and twice stared down the barrel of a gun, yet she cannot bring herself to confront Ms. Lorraine Conover, age forty-six, a sales clerk at Macy’s with no criminal record.

The woman walks around the corner and disappears from sight.

Frankie slumps back in her seat, not yet ready to start the engine, not ready to face what other horrors this day will bring.

One dead girl is bad enough.





No one knew she was there. No one ever would.

At nine thirty in the morning, all the tenants on the second floor should be out of the building. The Abernathys in apartment 2A, who used to be annoyingly friendly with Taryn, by now would have left for their jobs, his in the City of Boston’s Auditing Department, hers in the Office of Neighborhood Development. The two engineering grad students who lived in 2B should be somewhere on campus, huddled over their laptops. The blondes in 2C should have shaken off their usual weekend hangovers and stumbled off to classes at Commonwealth.

No one should be home in 2D either. By now, Liam was headed to his econ class on the far side of campus, a fifteen-minute walk away. After econ he had German III, then he’d eat lunch, probably his usual sub sandwich with extra jalape?os in the student union, and then it would be poli-sci. Taryn knew every detail of his schedule, just as she knew every inch of this apartment.

She turned the key, quietly pushed open the door, and stepped inside 2D. It was larger and so much nicer than her own crappy apartment, which smelled like mildew and old pipes. Here, when she took a deep breath, what she smelled was him. The velvety steam that still lingered after his morning shower. The citrus notes of his Sauvage aftershave. The yeasty scent of the whole wheat toast he always ate for breakfast. All the smells she missed so much.

Everywhere she looked brought back a happy memory. There was the sofa where they used to spend Saturday nights watching cheesy horror flicks, her head nestled against his shoulder, his arm draped around her. There was the bookshelf where their photo had once been prominently displayed. In that photo, taken the summer they’d both graduated from high school, they were standing on Bald Rock Mountain with their arms around each other, his windblown blond hair lit up like a golden halo in the sunlight. Liam and Taryn, forever. Where was that photo now? Where had he hidden it?

She went into the kitchen and remembered their Sunday-morning pancakes and mimosas mixed with cheap cava because real champagne was too expensive. On the kitchen counter was the stack of yesterday’s mail, the envelopes already slit open. She read the note sent by his mother, along with the clipping from their hometown newspaper. Dr. Howard Reilly, Liam’s father, had received the town’s new Citizen of the Year award. Whoop-de-do. She flipped through the rest of his mail—a rent bill, an envelope of pizza coupons, and a credit card application. At the bottom of the stack was a thick brochure for Stanford Law School. Why was he looking at Stanford? She knew he was applying to law schools, but not once had he ever mentioned going to California. They’d already agreed that after graduation, they would both stay in Boston. That was their pact. It was what they’d always planned.

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