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“At what point did you give up?”

“I didn’t give up, Sheriff,” I snapped back at her. “I lost consciousness. At some point, the current must have thrown me clear. When I came to, I was on the riverbank, and the police were there.”

“I see.” The sheriff pushed some of the papers in the folder with her fingers. Her tone stayed neutral, but I heard an accusation in her voice. “I have a few other questions, Mr. Moran. Had you been drinking before the accident?”


“Nothing at all? No liquor, no drugs?”

“Your deputies tested me. The test was negative.”

“Yes, I know. Although to be clear, it took them some time to get the test done, so the results aren’t necessarily reliable. I ran your name through the system. It’s routine in cases like this. You’ve had a history of problems with alcohol, haven’t you? I’m seeing two DUIs in your record.”

“Those were years ago. Yes, sometimes I drink too much, but I wasn’t drinking tonight.”


Sheriff Sinclair twisted a pencil around in her fingers. Her eyes were still focused on me, as if she were taking the measure of this man in front of her. I’ve always felt that women make rapid judgments about the men they meet, for better or for worse. They decide if they’re solid or not solid in a matter of seconds.

“You have a temper, don’t you, Mr. Moran?”

“Excuse me?”

“I’m seeing arrests for assault in your past, along with the drunk driving. Bar fights, that kind of thing. Your record suggests that you can be a violent man.”

“I’ve made mistakes a few times when I was drunk,” I acknowledged. “I deeply regret the things I did.”

“Ever hit your wife?”

“No. I have never laid a finger on Karly or any other woman. Ever.”

“What about verbal abuse? Threats?”

“Absolutely not.”

“How were things between the two of you?”

Dylan, I’m sorry, I’m sorry. I made a stupid mistake. Can you ever forgive me?

“What?” I asked.

“How was your marriage?”

“Our marriage was fine,” I lied. Which was a foolish thing to do. People knew what had happened. Karly had told her mother about it. I’d told one of my coworkers. And yet I couldn’t say out loud to this police officer that my wife had cheated on me.

“Your wife came from money, didn’t she? She’s a Chance, as in Chance Properties?”

“Chance Properties is her mother’s real estate agency, yes. Karly worked for her mother. I’m not sure what that has to do with anything, Sheriff.”

“I just want to understand what happened. You were driving too fast. Some might say recklessly. You have a history of alcohol abuse and violent behavior.”

My face reddened. I could feel the heat of the flush. “What the hell are you saying? Are you implying that I drove my car into the river deliberately and then left my wife there to die?”

“I’m not implying anything.”

“Well, you seem to think I’m the kind of man who would do that.”

“I have no idea what kind of man you are, Mr. Moran. I’m not saying you were to blame for the accident. It’s simply my job to get the facts.”

I leaned across the table. The blanket slipped down my bare shoulders and I shrugged it back. My voice rose, but with the static of a radio station that’s going out of range. “You want the facts? The fact is, my wife is dead. I loved her. I did everything I could to save her, and I failed. If life handed out second chances, I’d be back in the water right now trying to get to her. Is that clear enough for you, Sheriff?”

Her face softened just a little. “It is. I’m sorry, Mr. Moran.”

“I’d really like to be alone,” I said. “This is all too much. I don’t even know where I am.”

“Yes, of course.”

Sheriff Sinclair closed the folder in front of her. She rolled the pencil back and forth on the table, then slid it inside a pocket. She stood up and went to the door, but as she opened it, she turned around and studied me again.

I knew what was coming.

“One more question, Mr. Moran. According to my deputies, you were mostly incoherent when they found you.”

“Is that a surprise?”

“No. Of course not. But they said you kept talking about seeing a man on the bank of the river near the scene of the accident. You kept asking why he didn’t help you. Why he didn’t try to rescue your wife.”

My throat went dry. This was the part no one would understand.

“I don’t remember saying that,” I replied.

“Did you see someone near the river?” the sheriff asked.

I closed my eyes and inhaled sharply. I felt my lungs screaming for air again, my chest ready to burst as my face breached the surface. I gulped in a breath, and as I prepared to dive back down, I saw him.

A man.

A man stood barely ten feet away on the riverbank at the edge of the rapids. When the lightning flashed, I saw him clearly. There was no mistaking what I saw, and it didn’t matter that what I was seeing was impossible. All I could do was shout to him. Beg. Plead.

That man was my lifeline. I needed him. He could save Karly.

Help me! My wife is drowning! Help me find her!

“No,” I told the sheriff, keeping my voice steady. “No, it was night. It was raining. I didn’t see anything.”

A strange little wrinkle of concern crossed her forehead. She didn’t believe me, that was obvious, but she couldn’t understand why I would lie about something like that. Instead, she gave me another polite smile and left the room and closed the door behind her. It was quiet now. I was alone with the chipped cream-colored paint on the walls and the stench of the river in my head.

Yes, I was lying, but I couldn’t tell her the reason.

I couldn’t tell her about the man I’d seen, because I had no way to explain it to myself. You’ll think I was imagining things, and I probably was. I was panicked and oxygen deprived, and it was night, and it was raining.

On the other hand, I know what I saw.

I was the man on the riverbank.

It was me.


After the accident, I couldn’t go home. It was too soon. Karly and I lived near River Park in a two-story Chicago apartment house, where I’d grown up with my grandfather. Edgar lived upstairs, and our place was on the first floor. When I walked in, the rooms would smell of Karly’s perfume. Photographs of us would be hung on the walls and in frames adorning the fireplace mantel. Her clothes would be in the closet, her shampoo in the bathroom. I’d see her handwriting on little poems she’d scrawled and left for me on the fridge. In the apartment, my wife of three years would still be alive, and I couldn’t face the fact that she was dead.

One of the police deputies drove me as far as Bloomington-Normal, and I took a train from there into the city. I walked to the hotel where I worked, which was on Michigan Avenue across from Grant Park. I booked a room and got out of the lobby before the staff could fawn over me with their sympathy. I spent the next two days and nights in a kind of hibernation. The phone rang; I ignored the calls. People knocked on the door; I didn’t answer. I ordered room service and had them leave the trays outside, and then I put them back in the hallway later, having eaten almost nothing at all.

Did I drink?

Yes, I drank a lot.

I know what you probably think of me. Dylan drinks. He gets into fights. He is a bad man. I can’t really disagree with you. It’s been that way since the death of my parents, but that’s not an excuse for how I’ve led my life. It simply is what it is. My vices cling to me like boat anchors. Karly told me once that I was always doing battle with another side of myself and that one day I would have to make the choice to cast him aside. But I’ve never known how to do that.

Sometime during my second night in the hotel, I had a nightmare that I was still under the water. I was a blind man, with no compass to guide me, swimming deeper into an abyss of darkness. The heaviness weighed on my lungs, like a balloon about to be popped. Somewhere beyond my reach, I could hear Karly’s muffled voice calling to me, begging for rescue.

Dylan, come find me! I’m still here!

I awoke tangled in the blankets. I was bathed in sweat, gasping as I stared at the ceiling. My blood was still poisoned with alcohol, leaving me dizzy. The hotel room spun like a carousel. I got out of the ultraplush bed and went to the window. Grant Park stretched out below me, the glow of lights lining the street that led toward Buckingham Fountain. Behind the park, Lake Michigan loomed like the stormy backdrop of a painting. Normally, I loved this view, but now I saw nothing but my own reflection in the glass, going in and out of focus.

Dylan Moran.

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