Truth or Die(7)
Author:James Patterson


    So here was McGeary going through the recording sent over by the New York Taxi & Limousine Commission to see if any image of the shooter triggered a match. And here was me, having asked if I could watch it, too.

    “Mike, cue it up from the beginning, will you?” said Lamont.

    McGeary punched a button and then another until the screen lit up with the first frame, the taxi having pulled over to pick Claire up. The image was grainy, black-and-white, like on an old tube television with a set of rabbit ears. But what little I could see was still way too much.

    It was exactly as Lamont had described it. The shooter smashes the driver’s side window, beating the driver senseless with the butt of his gun. He’s wearing a dark turtleneck and a ski mask with holes for the eyes, nose, and mouth. His gloves are tight, like those Isotoners that O. J. Simpson pretended didn’t fit.

    So far, Claire is barely visible. Not once can I see her face. Then I do.

    It’s right after the shooter snatches the driver’s money bag. He swings his gun, aiming it at Claire in the backseat. She jolts. There’s no Plexiglas divider. There’s nothing but air.

    Presumably, he says something to her, but the back of his head is toward the camera. Claire offers up her purse. He takes it and she says something. I was never any good at reading lips.

    He should be leaving. Running away. Instead, he swings out and around, opening the rear door. He’s out of frame for no more than three seconds. Then all I see is his outstretched arm. And the fear in her eyes.

    He fires two shots at point-blank range. Did he panic? Not enough to flee right away. Quickly, he riffles through her pockets, and then tears off her earrings, followed by her watch, the Rolex Milgauss I gave her for her thirtieth birthday. He dumps everything in her purse and takes off.

    “Wait a minute,” I said suddenly. “Go back a little bit.”





    CHAPTER 6


    LAMONT AND McGeary both turned to me, their eyes asking if I was crazy. You want to watch her being murdered a second time?

    No, I didn’t. Not a chance.

    Watching it the first time made me so nauseous I thought I’d throw up right there on the floor. I wanted that recording erased, deleted, destroyed for all eternity not two seconds after it was used to catch the goddamn son of a bitch who’d done this.

    Then I wanted a long, dark alley in the dead of night where he and I could have a little time alone together. Yeah. That’s what I wanted.

    But I thought I saw something.

    Up until that moment, I hadn’t known what I was looking for in the recording, if anything. If Claire had been standing next to me, she, with her love of landmark Supreme Court cases, would’ve described it as the definition of pornography according to Justice Potter Stewart in Jacobellis v. Ohio.

    I know it when I see it.

    She’d always admired the simplicity of that. Not everything that’s true has to be proven, she used to say.

    “Where to?” asked McGeary, his hand hovering over a knob that could rewind frame by frame, if need be.

    “Just after he beats the driver,” I said.

    He nodded. “Say when.”

    I watched the sped-up images, everything happening in reverse. If only I could reverse it all for real. I was waiting for the part when the gun was turned on Claire. A few moments before that, actually.

    “Stop,” I said. “Right there.”

    McGeary hit Play again and I leaned in, my eyes glued to the screen. Meanwhile, I could feel Lamont’s eyes glued to my profile, as if he could somehow better see what I was looking for by watching me.

    “What is it?” he eventually asked.

    I stepped back, shaking my head as if disappointed. “Nothing,” I said. “It wasn’t anything.”

    Because that’s exactly what Claire would’ve wanted me to say. A little white lie for the greater good, she would’ve called it.

    She was always a quick thinker, right up until the end.





    CHAPTER 7


    NO WAY in hell did I feel like taking a taxi home.

    In fact, I didn’t feel like going home at all. In my mind, I’d already put my apartment on the market, packed up all my belongings, and moved to another neighborhood, maybe even out of Manhattan altogether. Claire was the city to me. Bright. Vibrant.

    Alive.

    And now she wasn’t.

    I passed a bar, looking through the window at the smattering of “patrons,” to put it politely, who were still drinking at three in the morning. I could see an empty stool and it was calling my name. More like shouting it, really.

    Don’t, I told myself. When you sober up, she’ll still be gone.

    I kept walking in the direction of my apartment, but with every step it became clear where I truly wanted to go. It was wherever Claire had been going.

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