“I thought you would show up looking like a prince walking out of the pages of a fairy tale, which is exactly what happened.” Jack’s tone was unexpectedly harsh. “I thought Julian would take one look at you and it would be déjà vu. Only this time you would be at the center of it. And I didn’t want that. For your sake.”
“I didn’t realize.”
“No. How could you? Which is why I’m sharing this information. Because you’re my friend and I…care about you. I can’t stop you from getting involved, but you have to at least understand what the risks are.”
“Yes. Okay.” Ellery added a belated, “Thank you.”
“I’m not saying this out of jealousy,” Jack added, which was such an out-of-the-blue comment. It had never occurred to Ellery that Jack was motivated by jealousy.
“I know. I didn’t think you were.”
Jack gave him a funny look, started to speak, stopped himself.
Ellery was trying to process everything Jack had told him. It was a lot to take in. He said, “I appreciate the honesty. I promised to try to help Julian, and I still want to. I’m just not sure how best to do that.”
“I understand.” Jack hesitated. “If I can help you, I will.”
“I mean it,” Jack insisted. “I don’t have any desire to see Julian punished for something he didn’t do—or even something he didn’t mean to do. If you need help, ask me, and I’ll do what I can.”
Jack’s steady gaze held his own. Ellery said, “All right. I will.”
Jack nodded. “Then I guess that’s it. That’s all I wanted to say.”
“I’m glad you told me what was going on. I didn’t think it was like you to make a snap judgment.”
“Part of why I want Julian held is to make sure he doesn’t panic and flee—or harm himself.”
They continued to gaze at each other. Watson sat between them, tongue lolling as he waited for something fun to happen.
Nothing fun happened.
“Right. Well.” Jack let out a breath that was a half-laugh and said, “That’s a very nice robe, by the way. I like the surfboards.”
Ellery answered with the shaka sign.
Jack looked quizzical. “You’ve never surfed, have you?”
“No.” Ellery chuckled at the idea. He thought of that oft-postponed diving lesson. He suspected the chances of that date-that-would-not-really-have-been-a-date with Jack were now as far removed as him ever going surfing.
“I guess…” Jack seemed to gather himself. He said briskly, “Anyway. I appreciate your hearing me out.”
“Yeah, of course. I appreciate your telling me what’s really going on.”
“Have a nice evening.”
“I will,” Ellery said. “You too. And thank you again.”
He watched Jack walk out to his police SUV. Watched him climb in and drive away. Watched until the SUV’s taillights vanished in the twilight and only the fireflies were left, flickering and floating over the meadow.
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