Gracie recognized the man sitting next to her waiting for the bus. He’d been following her since Ronny disappeared three weeks ago. She smoothed her grey checkerboard, wool skirt and clutched the black briefcase to her chest. He’d never gotten this close.
“W-why are you following me?” she asked loudly enough to cause the woman standing a few feet away to stop texting and look at them.
“Man, it’s cold up here. Why couldn’t you live in Miami?” He blew on his hands, like a shortstop on an October night in Boston.
“I said why are you following me?” She swiveled her head, glared, her face a stony mask.
“What makes you think I am?” Vapor from his mouth filled the gap between them.
“Do you really think I didn’t notice?” She took a mental picture--white male, shoulder-length, curly black hair, green eyes, chipped front tooth, scar dissecting his left eyebrow, three diamond studs in each earlobe.
“Damn, why’d you have to live in Connecticut?” He stomped his sneakered feet, stuck his hands in his arm pits, watched a streetlight flicker and go dark.
“Are you going to answer me?” Gracie said in a loud whisper. She glanced toward the woman without moving her head.
“You know why.” He slid closer, leaned forward. “You killed Ronny.”
“What? Are you crazy?” This time the woman stepped farther away and looked around.
“I’m not,” he whispered.
Gracie rocked back and forth, looked to see if the bus was coming, stared at the boutique across the street.
“It wasn’t my fault.” She rocked faster. “He attacked me.”
“We both know that’s not true. Did he look like your dad? Is that who you thought was attacking you?” He leaned closer. “Is that why you stabbed Ronny?”
“Damn you.” Gracie covered her ears. “Why won’t you leave me alone?” She rocked harder. The briefcase fell to the ground. The pounding in her head grew. She cocked her hand, screamed, swung at her stalker. But hit only air.
“Where’s Ronnie, Gracie? His family needs to know.”
“You seem to know everything.” She snapped her head to face him. “You tell me.”
“I only know what you let me know, Gracie.”
Her shoulders slumped, like a fighter who knows he’s beaten.
“I. . .I can’t tell you that. He’ll come back if I do,” she said.
The man touched her arm. “If you don’t, he’ll never go away, just like your father.”
“I didn’t kill my father.”
“But you wanted to.”
She covered her eyes with gloved hands. “Ronny’s last words. . .”
“He. . .he said he was joking. Said he’d never hurt me. He held the knife sticking out of his stomach. There was so much blood. His eyes. I never saw eyes so sad.”
Gracie inhaled deeply, blew the air out, watched it dissolve. She turned. The man was gone. So was the woman. She rocked for what seemed like hours.
Gracie picked up the briefcase. It was then she noticed the building across the street wasn’t a boutique. It was a police station. The man stood next to the front door, waving her over. Maybe he was right, she thought. Gracie stood, looked left then right, took another deep breath, and stepped into the crosswalk.