Night had fallen by the time Josh and I finished packing up most of the house. We were both tired and hungry. Instead of heading back to Sentinel, he ordered pizza while I pushed past my fatigue and went through Ryan’s side of the closet.
When I ran across his favorite sweater, the tears came, and my knees buckled. The memories came back to me hard and fast as I slumped to the floor.
Ryan looked so handsome in the heather-blue wool sweater. It was a Christmas present.
Unexpectedly, he went down on one knee in the middle of my parents’ living room. He reached into his pocket and withdrew a small black box.
“All I want to do, Kerrie Ann Walker, is come home to you every day of my life. My future will be brighter if you’re in it as my wife.”
As the memory faded, I reached out my hand as if I could hold onto it. I wished he was still able to come home to me.
“Kerrie, I ordered from…” Josh said as he entered the room. “Kerrie!”
He rushed over to me. I was curled up on the carpet, clutching the garment to my chest like it was a teddy bear.
“Hey, hey, hey. Let me do this.” Carefully, he tried to remove the sweater out of my hand.
But I latched onto it, unwilling to let him take it from me. “No. I want to keep it.”
“Okay.” He stopped the useless endeavor. “We’ll figure out what stuff you’re taking with you after we eat. Can we leave it up here for now?”
I nodded, but the tears wouldn’t stop. “This is so damn unfair.”
Josh wrapped his arms around me. “I know it is.”
He really didn’t know. I sat back, dried my face, and looked up at my friend. “Ryan knew something was going to happen to him.”
“What are you talking about?” Josh’s forehead furrowed.
“Debbie showed me a video Ryan recorded. I haven’t seen the whole thing, but I saw enough. He was preparing for something bad.”
Josh leaned against the wall. “I guess that explains a few things.”
I blinked a few times. “Like?”
“Ryan contacted me about a week before the shooting. He’d changed his will, and he wanted to make sure I could provide for RJ. I thought it weird but allowed him to go over my finances. The day before it happened, I noticed a large deposit from Ryan.”
Suddenly, I was light-headed and too warm. Being in that room…in that house…with Josh felt wrong. I needed air. Badly. I jumped to my feet and ran for the stairs. Unfortunately, my friend was right behind me.
When I twisted the front doorknob and tugged, it wouldn’t budge. Josh blocked me from opening it.
“Let me out! Now!”
“No, Kerrie.” He wrapped his arm around me and pulled me against him. “Tell me what you’re upset about.”
“Ryan knew he was going to die, and he didn’t tell me! What the fuck was he working on that was so damn dangerous?” The tears returned and pooled in my eyes, making it difficult to see, but I still wanted out. Maybe if I ran… Or punched the hell out of someone, I’d feel better.
“We’ll find out. But not like this, Kerrie. You’re going to get hurt—or worst.”
“I don’t care!”
If Ryan knew he was in trouble, he should have told me. I wouldn’t have allowed him to pick up RJ that night. I could have had a squad car stationed in front of the house. I could have done something…anything!
Josh said near my ear, “You do. You’re just upset.”
The doorbell rang, and my friend had a dilemma. Either open the door for the pizza guy and risk me running out or let the man walk away. Josh grasped my hand and opened the door with his free one.
A pimply-faced kid, wearing a green Papa’s Pizza T-shirt, stood on the porch holding an insulated red bag. “That’ll be twenty-eight fifty.”
Rather than let me go, Josh motioned for me to take the box while he pulled a fifty-dollar bill from his jeans pocket. “Keep the change.”
I took the food into the kitchen and placed it on the table beside a six-pack of beer. I sat down and stared out the window. Josh came in and removed two bottles, sliding one in front of me.
“Talk to me, Kerrie. What were you thinking just now?”
“You should have let me go,” I said defiantly and reached for the beer.
Josh opened the box. “To do what? Punch out a tombstone?”
My gaze whipped to him. “Why would you say a stupid-ass thing like that?”
“How is that any dumber than beating the shit out of a couple of teens?” He lifted his hand before I could respond. “I got a call the other night. One of the officers on duty near the stadium said he spoke to you.”
“The boys were assaulting a woman.”
“Yeah, that’s what I was told.” Josh pushed the loaded pizza—pepperoni, mushrooms, black olives, onions, green peppers, and ham—toward me. “You might be interested to know the kids didn’t press charges.”
“They didn’t?” I feigned surprise. Honestly, I didn’t think their pride would let them even go to the police about the incident.
Josh lifted an eyebrow and gave me a look that said he saw past my bullshit. “When the cop showed them your picture, they admitted it looked like the person responsible.” He pointed to my hand and stated, “So, that’s what happened to your knuckles and face?”
I stuffed pizza into my mouth.
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