She moved her fingers through wavy carbonblack hair just long enough to graze her shoulders. Her fingertips traced the lines these last brutal years had channeled into her face.
Beth knew she was plain. That was fine. She’d been plain her whole life.
What wasn’t fine was having the hard countenance of a fifty-year-old when she’d just turned thirty-eight. Lately she’d noticed how lived-in she looked. If Walter were still here maybe what few looks she had wouldn’t be deserting her.
She rolled her jeans up to her knees.
A rogue jet ski skimmed across the middle of the lake, invisible save for its brief intersection with a streak of moonlit water.
That was November 1996 and I faced returning to a world that feared and hated me.
Bodies had been unearthed at my home on Lake Norman.
I was suspected in my mother’s death.
I was suspected in Walter Lancing’s disappearance.
I was the writer turned serial killer.
Orson and Luther had framed me in every way imaginable.
I couldn’t go home.
I was wanted.
And though I’d done questionable things in the name of self-preservation, I was by no means a murderer.
So I ran.
The village of Haines Junction, Yukon saved my life.
I’d been running two years when I found it—through desert villages in northern Mexico, the Baja Peninsula, the towns and cities of America.
I worked a summer in a lumber yard in Macon, Georgia.
I was a busboy for one week in Baltimore.
A ranch hand for a west Texas winter.
I slept in tents.
Fields beneath stars on cool clear nights.
I grew my hair out.
I didn’t shave.
I didn’t bathe.
I left places.
Arrived at new places.
I stopped reading.
I fulfilled my alcoholic tendencies.
I traveled by bus.