Read Long Gone Online

Authors: Alafair Burke

Long Gone



Alafair Burke


In memory of David Thompson


Title Page
Prologue: The Kiss


Part I Too Good to Be True
Chapter One - Four Weeks Earlier
Chapter Two
Chapter Three
Chapter Four
Chapter Five
Chapter Six
Chapter Seven
Chapter Eight
Chapter Nine
Chapter Ten
Chapter Eleven
Chapter Twelve
Chapter Thirteen
Chapter Fourteen
Chapter Fifteen
Chapter Sixteen
Chapter Seventeen
Chapter Eighteen
Chapter Nineteen
Chapter Twenty
Chapter Twenty-One
Chapter Twenty-Two
Part II Nothing to Hide
Chapter Twenty-Three
Chapter Twenty-Four
Chapter Twenty-Five
Chapter Twenty-Six
Chapter Twenty-Seven
Chapter Twenty-Eight
Chapter Twenty-Nine
Chapter Thirty
Chapter Thirty-One
Chapter Thirty-Two
Chapter Thirty-Three
Chapter Thirty-Four
Chapter Thirty-Five
Chapter Thirty-Six
Chapter Thirty-Seven
Chapter Thirty-Eight
Chapter Thirty-Nine
Chapter Forty
Chapter Forty-One
Chapter Forty-Two
Chapter Forty-Three
Part III Memories
Chapter Forty-Four
Chapter Forty-Five
Chapter Forty-Six
Chapter Forty-Seven
Chapter Forty-Eight
Chapter Forty-Nine
Chapter Fifty
Chapter Fifty-One
Chapter Fifty-Two
Chapter Fifty-Three
Part IV Mia
Chapter Fifty-Four
Chapter Fifty-Five
Chapter Fifty-Six
Chapter Fifty-Seven - Two Weeks Later
Chapter Fifty-Eight
Chapter Fifty-Nine
Epilogue: Six Months Later
A Special Note of Thanks to My Readers
About the Author
Also by Alafair Burke
About the Publisher

The Kiss

lice Humphrey knew the kiss would ruin everything.

“You’ve heard what they say about pictures and a thousand words.”

She looked up at the man—Shannon was his last name, the first hadn’t registered. He was the one with the faded, reddish blond hair. Ruddy skin. Puffy, like a drinker.

She didn’t like sitting beneath his eye level like this. In this tiny chair at her kitchen table, she felt small. Trapped. She mentally retraced her steps into the apartment, wondering if the seating arrangement had been planned for catastrophic effect.

Shannon and his partner—was it Danes?—had been waiting on the sidewalk outside her building. The two of them hunched in their coats and scarves, coffee cups in full-palmed grips to warm their hands, everything about their postures hinting at an invitation out of the cold. She, by contrast, hot and damp inside the fleece she had pulled on after spin class. She’d crossed her arms in front of her, trying to seal the warmth in her core as they spoke on the street, the perspiration beginning to feel clammy on her exposed face.

Shannon’s eyes darted between the keys in her hands and the apartment door before he finally voiced the suggestion: “Can we maybe talk inside?”

Friendly. Polite. Deferential. The way it had been with them yesterday morning. Only a day ago. About thirty-one hours, to be precise. They’d said at the time they might need to contact her again. But now today they suddenly appeared, waiting for her on the sidewalk without notice.

“Sure. Come on up.”

They’d followed her into the apartment. She’d poured herself a glass of water. They declined, but helped themselves to seats, selecting the two kitchen bar stools. She opted for the inside chair of the two-seat breakfast table, leaving herself cornered, she now realized, both literally and figuratively. But hers was the obvious choice, the only place to sit in the small apartment and still face her unannounced guests.

She’d unzipped her fleece, and found herself wishing she’d showered before leaving the gym.

They’d eased into the conversation smoothly enough. Initial banter up the stairs about how they should both get more exercise. Just a few follow-up issues, Shannon had explained.

But there was something about the tone. No longer so friendly, polite, or deferential. The surprise visit. Her heart still pounding in her chest, sweat still seeping from her scalp, even though she had finished her workout nearly half an hour ago. Maybe it was a subconscious shaped by television crime shows, but somehow she knew why they were here—not the reasons behind the why, but the superficial why. Even before the kiss, she knew they were here about her.

And then came their questions. Her finances. Her family. The endless “tell us agains”: Tell us again how you met Drew Campbell. Tell us again about this artist. Tell us again about the trip to Hoboken. Like they didn’t believe her the first time.

But it wasn’t until she saw the kiss that she realized her life was about to be destroyed.

Shannon had dropped the photograph on the table so casually. It was almost graceful, the way he’d extended his stubby fingers to slide the eight-by-ten glossy toward her across the unfinished pine.

She looked down at the woman in the photograph and recognized herself, eyelids lowered, lips puckered but slightly upturned, brushing tenderly against the corner of the man’s mouth. She appeared to be happy. At peace. But despite her blissful expression in the picture, the image shot a bolt of panic from her visual cortex into the bottom of her stomach. She inhaled to suppress a rising wave of nausea.

“You’ve heard what they say about pictures and a thousand words.”

She’d pulled her gaze from the picture just long enough to look up at Detective Shannon. His clichéd words echoed in her ears, her pulse playing background percussion, as her eyes returned to her own image. There was no question that the man in the photograph was Drew Campbell. And even though the cognitive part of her brain was screaming at her not to believe it, she had to admit that the lips accepting his kiss were her own.

She ran her fingertips across the print, as if the woman in the picture might suddenly turn her head so Alice could say, “Sorry, I thought you were someone else.” She felt the detectives looking down at her, waiting for a response, but she couldn’t find words. All she could do was shake her head and stare at the photograph.

Alice Humphrey knew the kiss would destroy her life because thirty-one hours earlier she had stepped in Drew Campbell’s blood on a white-tiled gallery floor. She’d fumbled for a pulse, only to feel doughy, cool skin beneath her trembling fingers. And until she’d seen this picture, she would have sworn on her very life that, other than a handshake, her palm pressed against his still carotid artery was the only physical contact she’d ever shared with the man.

She’d had a crappy year, but had never paused to appreciate the basic comforts of her life—its ordinariness, the predictability, a fundamental security of existence. All of that was in the past now.

Alice had no idea what would happen next, but she knew the photograph would shatter everything. And she knew this was only the beginning.

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