Copyright © 2013 by Larry M. Edwards. All rights reserved. No part of this work excerpt may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the author.
I answered the phone and Aileen barely let me say hello. “There’s a book . . . about Mom and Dad,” she said between sobs. “You have to do something.”
I’d heard of people who said their skin crawled in reaction to a sudden fear. At that moment, I knew what they meant. My skin crawled; my gut Gordian knotted; I could barely breathe.
Why now, after all these years?
Written by Ann Rule, the book But I Trusted You and Other True Cases comprised a collection of stories about Pacific Northwest murders. The second story—“Death in Paradise: The Haunting Voyage of the Spellbound”—featured our parents. No one in our family had been interviewed or forewarned of the book by the Seattle-based author. It had come out of the blue, from left field, fallen from the sky. Pick your cliché. We’d been blindsided.
“Does it have anything new?” I asked. “Or just the same old shit?”
“I haven’t read all of it,” Aileen said, her voice fractured by a sob, “but she says Mom shot herself in her bunk.”
“Oh, Jesus. Read me what it says.”
When she finished, I said, “Gary never said that; no
credible person ever said that. It reads like a Keystone Cops routine.”
“You have to do something,” Aileen said again, a desperate plea straining her voice.
“I will. I’ll get—”
“Can we sue?”
“I said I’ll take care of it. But I need to read it first.”
Not long after our parents died, the rumor mill posited that true-crime writer Ann Rule had a book in the pipeline, but we never heard any more about it. Until that night. Aileen had purchased the book after being alerted by a childhood friend.
“It’s filled with mistakes, especially about Mom,” she said. “From her car accident to how she met Dad to how she died.”
I heard her flip through the pages. “It says no one had
heard from them for almost ten days.”
“That sounds more like Gilligan’s Island.”
“How can she do this . . . without our
I sighed, as much in response to her question as the book itself. “There’s no law against it. But she does have an obligation to get the facts right.”
Aileen read more passages to me, her words boozy and broken by frequent sobs. Some of the errors niggled but were inconsequential. However, the descriptions of how and why our parents died perpetuated the inaccuracies published in news accounts thirty-one years earlier.
Ann Rule said Dad had been struck on the head by the boat’s out-of-control boom and died almost instantly. Never mind that Gary had changed his story when talking to the FBI, and I never heard Gary or Kerry say that Dad had died instantly. Rule described the wound over Kerry’s right eye, omitting the more serious of the two wounds—the wound doctors said could not have been caused by an accident.
“That’s not journalism, it’s a joke,” I said.
We signed off and I went to the kitchen. I plunked ice into a glass and poured a double shot of gin, followed by diet grapefruit soda. I slurped a long draught and savored it for a moment before swallowing.
Janis walked in, eyed the glass, then me. “I heard bits and pieces,” she said. “Your parents?”
I nodded and tried to speak, but my words logjammed my
throat and my reply sounded more like one of the crows that hung out in our yard. She laced her arms around me. I set my drink on the counter and crushed her in a return embrace.
That compartment, the one where I’d stuffed the images of my parents’ deaths, had been flung open. After a moment, I gulped more gin and told her about the book.
She hugged me again and whispered, “I’m sorry. You’ve been doing so well.”
Back in my office, I stared out the window. Nothing to see other than a few lights from the neighbor’s house up the hill. A long night ahead, the darkness deepened by lowering clouds. Rain in the forecast.
I turned to my computer and logged on to Amazon. A quick search and the book’s cover popped up on the screen. At least it didn’t depict my parents or their boat.
The book had been released only days before to capitalize on the Christmas buying binge. The “Add to Cart” button tempted me, but I didn’t want to wait for delivery. Surely a local bookstore had a copy I could get in the morning. . . .