Chapter no 63

Anxious People

Jack stomps out of the interview room, exhausted with anger. The real estate agent is still sitting in there, terri1ed, looking on as the younger of the two police officers starts to march up and down the corridor. Then she turns hopefully to the older officer, who is still seated in the room, looking sad. Jim doesn’t seem to know what to do with his hands, or any other part of his body, for that matter, so he just passes the glass of water to her. It shakes, even though she’s holding it with all ten digits.

“You have to believe me, I swear I’m not the bank robber…,” she pleads.

Jim glances out at the corridor, where his son is walking around hitting the walls with his 1sts. Then Jim nods to the Realtor, hesitates, nods again, stops himself, then 1nally puts his hand very brieAy on her shoulder and admits: “I know.”


She looks surprised. He looks ashamed.


When the old policeman—and he’s never felt older than he does right now— lifts his hand, he toys with his wedding ring. An old habit, but scant comfort. He’s always felt that the hardest thing about death is the grammar. Often he still says the wrong thing, and Jack hardly ever corrects him, sons probably don’t have the heart to do that. Jack mentions the ring once every six months or so, saying: “Dad, isn’t it time you took that oP?” His dad nods, as if he’d just

forgotten about it, tugs it a little as if it 1ts more tightly than it actually does, and mumbles: “I will, I will.” He never does.

The hardest thing about death is the grammar, the tense, the fact that she won’t be angry when she sees that he’s bought a new sofa without consulting her 1rst. She won’t be anything. She isn’t on her way home. She mas. And she really did get angry that time Jim bought a new sofa without consulting her 1rst, goodness, how angry she was. She could travel halfway around the world to the worst chaos on the planet, but when she came home everything had to be exactly the way it always was or she got upset. Of course that was just one of her many strange little habits and quirks: she put onion Aakes on breakfast cereal and poured béarnaise sauce on popcorn, and if you yawned when she was next to you, she would lean forward and stick a 1nger in your mouth, just to see if she could pull it out again before you closed your mouth. Sometimes she put cornAakes in Jim’s shoes, sometimes little bits of boiled egg and anchovies in Jack’s pockets, and the looks on their faces when they realized seemed to amuse her more and more each time she did it. That’s the kind of thing you miss. That she used to do this, that she used to do that. She mas, she is. She was Jim’s wife. Jack’s mom is dead.

The gvammav. That’s the movst thing of all, Jim thinks. So he really wants his son to be able to pull this oP, solve the whole thing, save everyone. It just doesn’t seem to be working.


He goes out into the corridor. Looks at Jack. They’re alone out there, no one can overhear their conversation. The son turns around, despairing.

“It must be the real estate agent who did it, Dad, it must be…,” he manages to say, but the words get weaker and weaker the further into the sentence he gets.

Jim shakes his head, painfully slowly.

“No. It isn’t her. The bank robber wasn’t in the apartment when you stormed in, son, you’re right about that. But she didn’t leave with the hostages, either.”

Jack’s eyes dart wildly around the corridor. He clenches his 1sts, looking for something else to hit.

“How do you know that, Dad? How the hell do you know that?!” he yells, as if he were yelling at the sea.

Jim blinks as if he were trying to hold back the tide. “Because I didn’t tell you the truth, son.”


And then he does.

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