Read The Last Thing He Told Me Online
Authors: Laura Dave
“What are you doing back here?” I say.
“We tried ringing the front bell,” the man says. “Are you Hannah Hall?”
“I'd like a better answer as to why you're trespassing on my property before I tell you that,” I say.
“I'm Special Agent Jeremy O'Mackey from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and my colleague here is Special Agent Naomi Wu,” he says.
“Call me Naomi. We were hoping we could talk with you?”
Instinctively, I close the computer. “It's actually not a great time,” I say.
She gives me a sticky-sweet smile. “It'll just take a few minutes,” she says. “Then we'll get out of your hair.”
They are already walking up the stairs onto the deck, sitting down in the chairs on the other side of the small table.
Naomi pushes her badge across the table, Agent O'Mackey does the same.
“I hope we aren't interrupting anything important,” Naomi says.
“I hope you didn't follow me here, that's what I hope,” I say.
Naomi takes me in, looking more than a little surprised at my tone. I'm too irritated to care. I'm irritated and more than a little worried they'll demand to take Owen's computer before I figure out what it has to tell me.
There's also this. I'm thinking of Grady Bradford's warning:
Don't answer any questions you think you shouldn't answer.
I'm bracing myself to heed it.
Jeremy O'Mackey reaches forward, takes his badge back.
“I assume you're aware that we're in the process of investigating the technology firm where your husband works?” he says. “We were hoping you could shed some light on his current whereabouts?”
I put the computer in my lap, protecting it.
“I'd like to, but I have no idea where my husband is. I haven't seen him since yesterday.”
“Isn't that odd?” Naomi says, as if this has just occurred to her. “To not have seen him?”
I meet her eyes. “Very, yes.”
“Would you be surprised to learn that your husband hasn't used his cell phone or any of his credit cards since yesterday? No paper trail at all,” she says.
I don't answer her.
“Do you know why that might be?” O'Mackey says.
I don't like the way they're looking at me, like they've already decided I am keeping something from them. It is another reminder I don't need that I only wish I were.
Naomi pulls a notepad from her pocket, flipping open a page.
“We understand you've been in business with Avett and Belle Thompson?” she says. “They have commissioned one hundred and fifty-five thousand dollars of work from you over the last five years?”
“I don't know off the top of my head if that's the correct amount. But, yes, they are clients.”
“Have you spoken to Belle since Avett's arrest yesterday?” she says.
I consider the messages I left on her voice mail. Six of them. Messages that have gone unreturned. I shake my head no.
“She hasn't called you?” he says.
“No,” I say.
She tilts her head, considers. “Are you sure about that?”
“Yes, I'm sure who I've spoken to and who I haven't spoken to.”
Naomi leans forward, toward me, like she is my friend. “We just want to make sure you're telling us everything. As opposed to your friend Belle.”
“What do you mean?”
“Let's just say it didn't help her proclamation of innocence that she made it after purchasing four flights to Sydney from different Northern California airports in an attempt to leave the country undetected. It doesn't scream
I know nothing,
I'm careful not to react. How is this happening? How is Avett in jail and Belle trying to sneak off to her former home? And how is Owen nowhere to be found in the middle of it all? Owen who is smart, who often sees the whole picture. Do I really believe he missed so much of this picture?
“Did Belle discuss The Shop with you?” Naomi asks.
“She never said anything to me about Avett's work,” I say. “Belle wasn't interested.”
“That mirrors what she said to us.”
“Where is Belle now?”
“At her St. Helena home with her passport in her lawyer's possession. She's maintaining her position that she's shocked to think her husband would be guilty of this wrongdoing,” he says. He pauses. “But in our experience the wife usually knows.”
“Not this wife,” I say.
Naomi chimes in, almost as if I haven't answered them. “As long as you're sure,” she says. “Someone has to think of Owen's daughter.”
“Good,” she says. “Good.”
It sounds like a threat. And I hear what she is pretending not to say. I hear her insinuation that they could take Bailey away. Didn't I have Grady's assurance that they wouldn't?
“We will need to talk to Bailey as well,” O'Mackey says. “When she returns from school today.”
“You will not be talking to her,” I say. “She knows nothing about her father's whereabouts. She's to be left alone.”
O'Mackey matches my tone. “I'm afraid that's not up to you,” he says. “We can set up a time now or we can just show up at your house later this evening.”
“We've retained legal counsel,” I say. “If you want to talk to her, you will need to reach out to our lawyer first.”
“And who is your lawyer?” Naomi says.
I say it before I let myself consider the implication of saying it. “Jake Anderson. He's based in New York.”
“Fine. Have him reach out to us,” she says.
I nod, trying to figure out how to defuse the situation, not wanting to undo whatever Grady promised that morning about Bailey staying put. That is the most important thing.
“Look, I know you're just doing your jobs,” I say. “But I'm tired
and as I already told the U.S. marshal this morning, I don't have many answers for you.”
“Whoaâ¦ whoa. What?” O'Mackey says.
I look at him and the no-longer-smiling Naomi.
“The U.S. marshal who came by to see me this morning,” I say. “We went through this already.”
They look at each other. “What was his name?” O'Mackey asks.
“The U.S. marshal's name?”
“Yes,” he says. “What was the U.S. marshal's name?”
Naomi looks at me with her mouth pinched, like the playing field has changed in a way she wasn't ready for. This is why I decide not to tell the truth.
“I don't remember,” I say.
“You don't remember his name?”
I don't say anything else.
“You don't remember the name of the U.S. marshal who showed up at your doorstep this morning. That's what you are telling me?”
“I didn't get a whole lot of sleep last night, so things are a little foggy.”
“Do you remember if this U.S. marshal showed you a badge?” O'Mackey says.
“Do you know what a United States marshal badge looks like?” Naomi says.
“Am I supposed to?” I say. “I also don't know what an FBI badge looks like, now that you're mentioning things I don't know. I probably should confirm that you are who you say you are. Then we can continue this conversation.”
“We're just a little confused because this case isn't in the jurisdiction of the U.S. Marshals' office,” she says. “So we need to ascertain
who exactly was speaking with you this morning. They shouldn't have been here without our approval. Did they threaten Owen in some way? Because you should know that if Owen's involvement is minimal, he may be able to help himself by testifying against Avett.”
“That's true,” O'Mackey says. “He isn't even a suspect yet.”
“Yet?” I say.
“He didn't mean yet,” Naomi says.
“I didn't mean yet,” O'Mackey says. “I meant that there is no reason for you to be talking to a U.S. marshal.”
“Funny thing is, Agent O'Mackey, he said the same thing about you guys.”
Naomi pulls herself together, smiles. “Let's just start over, okay?” she says. “We're all on the same team here. But, in the future, you might want your lawyer present before you talk to anyone who just shows up at your door.”
I match her smile. “That's a great idea, Naomi. I'm going to start with that right now,” I say.
Then I point toward the gate and wait for them to walk through it.
After I'm certain that the FBI agents are gone, I leave my workshop.
I walk back toward the docks, Owen's computer tightly clasped to my chest. I pass the elementary school just as the kids are getting out for the day.
I look up, feeling eyes on me. Several mothers (and fathers) are staring in my direction. Not exactly with angerânot like Carl and Pattyâmore like with concern, with pity. These people love Owen, after all. They've always loved him. They've embraced him. It's going to take more than seeing his firm's name in their newsfeed to make them doubt him. That's the thing about a small town, people protect their own. It takes a lot for them to turn on someone they love.
It also takes a lot to let anyone new in. Like me. They're still not sure about letting me in. And when I first moved to Sausalito, it was worse. Those curious eyes were scrutinizing me, but for a different reason. They were asking questions loudly enough that Bailey heard them, came home, and relayed them. They wanted to know who was this out-of-towner who Owen had decided to marry. They didn't understand how Sausalito's most eligible bachelor was off the market because of a woodturner, though they didn't call me that. They called me a carpenterâa carpenter who didn't wear makeup or trendy shoes. They said how strange for Owen to choose a woman like thatâa fresh-faced woman, pushing forty, who probably wasn't going to give him more kids. A woman who apparently didn't stop
playing with wood long enough to figure out how to have a family of her own.
They didn't seem to understand about me what Owen understood from the beginning. I had no problem being on my own. My grandfather had raised me to depend on myself. My problems came when I tried to fit myself into someone else's life, especially when that meant giving up a part of myself in the process. So I waited until I didn't have toâuntil it felt like someone fit effortlessly. Or maybe that's too easy. Maybe it's more accurate to say that what was required to be with Owen didn't feel like effort. It felt like details.
At the house, I lock the door behind me and take out my phone and look up a name in my contacts.
It's the last phone call I want to make at this moment, but I do it anyway. I call the other lawyer I know.
“This is Andersonâ¦” he says when he picks up.
The sound of his voice takes me back to Greene Street, to onion soup and Bloody Marys at The Mercer Kitchen on Sundays, to a different life. It takes me back because this is how my former fiancÃ© has always answered the phone. Jake Bradley AndersonâUniversity of Michigan JD/MBA, triathlete, excellent cook.
In the two years since we've last spoken, he hasn't made a change to his greeting, even though it comes off as smug. He likes that it comes off as smug. That is why he does it. He thinks it's a good thingâsmugness, intimidationâconsidering what he does for a living. He is a litigator at a Wall Street law firm, on track to being one of their youngest senior partners. He isn't a criminal lawyer, but he is a great lawyer, as he would be the first to tell you. I'm just hoping that Jake's type of hubris will help me now.
“Hi there,” I say.
He doesn't ask who it is. He knows who it is, even after all this
time. He also knows something is really wrong for me to be calling him.
“Where are you?” he says. “Are you in New York?”
When I called Jake to tell him I was getting married, he said that one day I'd show up back home ready to be together again. He believed that. And apparently he thinks today is that day.
“Sausalito.” I pause, dreading the words I don't want to say. “I could use your help, Jake. I think I need a lawyerâ¦”
“Soâ¦ you're getting divorced?”
It's all I can do not to hang up the phone. Jake can't help himself. Even though he was relieved when I called off the wedding, even though he married someone else four months later (and shortly thereafter divorced her), he liked to play the victim in our relationship. Jake held on to the narrative that because of my history, I was too scared to truly let him inâthat I thought he'd leave me like my parents did. He never understood that I wasn't scared of someone leaving me. I was scared that the wrong person would stay.
“Jake, my husband's the reason I'm calling you,” I say. “He's in trouble.”
“What did he do?” he says.
It's the best I can hope for from him so I proceed to tell him the whole story, starting with some background information about Owen's work, the investigation into The Shop and Owen's bizarre disappearance, walking him through the dual visits from Grady Bradford and the FBI, and how the FBI didn't know about Grady. I move him through how no one seems to know anything about where Owen is, or what he is planning nextâleast of all Bailey and me.
“And the daughterâ¦ she's with you?” he says.
“Bailey, yes. She's with me. Which is probably the last place she wants to be.”
“So he left her too?”
I don't answer him.
“What's her full name?” he says.
I hear him typing on his computer, taking notes, making one of the charts that used to cover our living room floor. Owen, now, in its bull's-eye.
“First of all, don't be too worried that the FBI didn't know about the guy from the U.S. Marshals Service coming to talk to you. They could all be lying to you. And beyond that, there are often turf wars between different law enforcement agencies, especially when the scope of the investigation is still in question. Any word yet from anyone at the SEC?”
“There will be. You should refer all law enforcement to me, at least until we know what's going on. Don't say anything, just have them call me directly.”
“I appreciate that. Thank you.”
“Don't mention it,” he says. “But I gotta askâ¦ how wrapped up in this are you?”
“Well, he's my husband, so I would say intimately.”
“They're going to show up with search warrants,” he says. “I'm surprised they haven't already. So, if there is anything that implicates you, you need to get it out of your house.”
“I can't be implicated,” I say. “I have nothing to do with this.”
I feel myself getting defensive. And I feel an uptick of anxiety, thinking of anyone showing up at my house with search warrantsâthinking of the duffel bag they would find, still untouched, hidden beneath the kitchen sink.
“Jake, I'm just trying to figure out where Owen is. Why he thought the only way out was to get away from here.”
“He probably doesn't want to go to jail, for starters.”
“No, that's not it. He wouldn't run because of that.”
“So what's your theory?”
“He's trying to protect his daughter,” I say.
“I don't know. Maybe he thinks it's going to ruin her life if her father is falsely accused. Maybe he's off somewhere trying to prove he's innocent.”
“Not likely. Butâ¦ there is the possibility that something else is going on,” he says.
“Like worse things that he's guilty of,” he says.
“Helpful, Jake,” I say.
“Look, I'm not going to sugarcoat this. If Owen isn't running from The Shop, he is probably running from what The Shop might reveal about him. The question is what that might beâ¦” He pauses. “I have a private investigator, a good one. I'll ask him to do some digging. But I'm going to need you to email me Owen's entire history. Anything you know. Where he went to school, where he grew up. And dates. Everything. Where and when his daughter was born.”
I hear Jake start to bite on his pen. No one else in the world would decipher that is what he is doing, his secret habit. The one less-than-confident thing Jake does. But I can picture it as if I were sitting right there, staring at his mauled pen cap. It's a terrible thing to know everything about someone long after you want to.
“And do this for me. Keep your phone near you in case I need to get in touch. But don't answer for any numbers you don't recognize.”
I think of Grady saying Owen threw his phone awayâthat he threw away the phone with the only number for him I'd recognize.
“What if it's Owen?”
“Owen's not calling right now,” he says. “You know that.”
“I don't know that.”
“I think you do.”
I don't say anything. Even though I suspect he's right, I'm not going to tell Jake he is. I'm not going to betray Owen in that way. Or Bailey.
“And you need to figure out why he ran, something more specific than he's trying to protect his kidâ¦” he says. “And you better figure it out quickly. The FBI isn't going to ask nicely for long.”
My head starts to spin, thinking about how unkindly the FBI has been asking already.
“Are you still there?” he says.
“Justâ¦ try to stay calm. You know more than you think you do. You know how to get through this.”
It's enough to make me cry, the way he says itâsweetly, assuredlyâJake's version of a deep kindness.
“But in the future,” he says, “don't say someone is innocent, okay? Say he's not guilty, if you have to say something. But saying someone's innocent makes you sound like an idiot. Especially when most people are guilty as fuck.”
And then there's that.