As a private-eye, Bobby uncovers the truth for a living. But the realities of his own life are a lot harder for him to deal with.
Can this thirty-five-year-old alcoholic, who is struggling with recovery, overcome his demons long enough to find his brother’s killer? Can he save his nephew, who is starting to feel a lot like a son, from the dangerous adults that surround him?
When the medical examiner told me that my fiancée had been pregnant at the time of her death, I couldn’t stop the tears from coming.
Blinking back the waves of sadness, I turned my face away as Dr. Cho continued speaking. “It seems that her killing herself was a good thing. From what I’ve seen, babies born to mothers who are in jail never make much of their lives. Still, the father is unknown.”
“I was the father.” I turned to face him, the agony visible in my eyes.
Dr. Cho’s own eyes took on a deeper slant than usual, but his smooth Asian skin refused to furrow as his brows knit together. Thankfully, thinking about Dr. Cho’s skin distracted me from ruminating on my pain.
“Aw shit.” The medical examiner chastised himself. “I’m sorry, Bobby. I assumed when you asked about the autopsy that you were doing investigative work on the case. I forgot about your history with the deceased. I wasn’t thinking.”
“No,” I said. “Neither was I. The first rule of investigation is never ask a question if you’re not prepared for the answer.”
“Can I do anything?”
“Can you go back in time and un-tell me that my fiancée was pregnant when she shot herself?”
He hung his head.
“It’s okay.” I lied. “Listen, I’ve gotta go.”
I made it all the way out to the parking lot before vomiting on a lonely stretch of pavement. Luckily, no one saw me do it. As an investigator, I knew nearly all the cops, morgue attendants, and medical examiners. I would never have lived it down if anyone had witnessed me tossing my proverbial cookies in the staff parking lot.
Getting into my car was difficult. My hand shook as I tried, unsuccessfully, to fit my key into my car door lock. Even after inserting the key, it took several tries before I managed to turn it.
After its brake lines had been cut by a mafia kingpin—before he’d been killed by my ex-fiancée—I’d retired my rusty Fiat. It would’ve cost more to fix the car than it was worth. Besides, James offered me his fire-red Thunderbird for an unbeatably low price—free. Usually, driving James’ old car made me feel invincible, but that day, it failed to lift my mood.
Unthinking, I drove to the nearest liquor store, parked and cried. Sarah had died while pregnant with our child. My mind struggled between two possibilities. Either, I could reach for the door, get out, go inside, and buy a case of Sam Adams, or I could reach for the phone and make a call. It took me a long time to make my decision.
Finally, after catching sight of my forlorn reflection in the rearview mirror, I experienced a sudden moment of clarity. At thirty-five years old, I looked better than I had a couple months before. Sure, my brown eyes were bloodshot, but that was from tears, not the bleary aftermath of a night of drinking. My face was lean, my hair chestnut, although, if I looked closely, I could see one or two grays. I was still handsome, and I’d worked hard not to fall apart. Amazingly, after my ex shot herself in front of me, I had suffered only one alcoholic relapse.
That one night of drinking had convinced me even more than ever that I am an alcoholic. My sister found me passed out on my bathroom floor regurgitating on my own vomit in the middle of a blackout and saved my life by calling 9-1-1. In the ER, they’d pumped my stomach and as soon as I was released, I dragged my humiliated, and still-hung-over, ass to an AA meeting.
Sitting in the liquor store parking lot, I remembered how my last bender had almost killed me. I picked up my phone and scrolled through my recent calls. I pressed redial. My sponsor answered on the second ring.
“Hey, Bobby, how are ya?”
Instead of replying, I wept into the phone.
“Okay. Breathe. If you need to cry, go ahead.”
Todd waited patiently until I stopped sobbing. Finally, when I could speak again, I told him that Sarah had been pregnant when she died and that I was in a liquor store parking lot.
“The Wine & Spirits in Manayunk.”
“Stay there. I’m gonna come get you. You can follow me to the noon meeting on Germantown Ave. Then we’ll get lunch and talk. Okay?”
“Okay.” Even in the midst of my urge to escape, I noticed that we were saying okay a lot and smiled in spite of myself.
“Until then, stay on the phone with me, okay?”
“Want to tell me how you’re feeling?” Todd asked.
“Want to tell me what you’re thinking?”
“I’m thinking that a Sam Adams would taste pretty damn good right about now.”
“Sure, it would. But would it feel good to end up face-down on your bathroom floor, wishing you were dead, wanting to eat your own gun, and crying about Sarah? Would it taste good to end up in the hospital having to get your stomach pumped?”
“I’m crying about Sarah now,” I pointed out.
“No, you’re not. You’re crying because, when she killed herself, she killed your baby. You’re crying because you feel powerless, hurt, and out-of-control. This isn’t just about Sarah. It’s a hodge-podge.”
“It hurts, Todd.”
“Welcome to the messy, fucked-up world of human emotions.”
“Did she know she was pregnant?” I demanded, even though he couldn’t possibly have known the answer. “Was she really that selfish?”
“Yes. She was selfish, and you know she was selfish. I dunno if she knew about the baby or not. My question to you is this: Do you want to be selfish?”
“Kind of,” I admitted.
Todd laughed. “No, you don’t, or you’d have picked up a drink instead of the phone. Now, listen, man, I just pulled into the parking lot behind you. You okay to drive?”