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James Kane was my best friend. We had known each other from middle school all the way into our adult years—we had graduated high school together, attended each other’s college graduations, and when he got married, I was the best man at his wedding. So on November second, at one in the morning, when I got the call that he had been murdered in his home, and that his wife was the leading suspect, I couldn’t help but feel devastated.

I arrived at his home at one thirty that morning—I was a police officer for the Boston Police Department—and it was my job to investigate the crime. When I got there I found blood on the linoleum kitchen—that trailed into the living room, up to the coffee table, where his body had fallen after the attack. The glass cover on the coffee table was smashed, and shards of glass were sprayed about the room. There was a knife on the carpet, covered in blood, a few feet away from his body.

A television set was lying face down, having been dropped near the living room window. A microwave had smashed through the window, as if it had been thrown as a projectile weapon, and it lay in some bushes outside. There were jumbles of CDs strewn about the floor, many of them aggregated near the living room couch.

The scene was taped off, and his body was bagged and taken to the forensics lab. His wife, Lauren, was already in custody, and had been taken to the police station where she was to be held indefinitely. After looking at the house—the same house I had only visited a week earlier, when James and Lauren had invited me for dinner—I felt like throwing up. I couldn’t believe that anyone would do this to James—especially not Lauren, who was one of the gentlest, most caring people I had ever met.

There was no warning for any of it. James had actually just gotten a promotion at his work, and he and Lauren were beginning to talk about children, and possibly moving to a bigger home. He had even asked me, if all things worked out, if I’d be the godfather. And I of course had said yes.

I left the home at five past two in the morning, and went back to the station, knowing that I had to see Lauren. I had to speak to her for reasons beyond the obvious homicide investigation.

She was in the chief’s office, wrapped in a blanket, sitting in a chair near a large glass window, answering questions from the two detectives on duty: Alex Garrison and Doug Souerberg. I walked into the office and they looked at me angrily.

“What are you doing here, Sam?” Doug asked me.

“I want to speak with Lauren,” I said. “I want to talk to her alone.”

“We have a few more questions to ask,” said Alex, “And then you can have the suspect. But we have to finish our job.”

I looked at Lauren, who was looking at me with tears in her eyes, and I smiled faintly trying to show compassion. “I’ll be back soon,” I said.

I walked to my desk, which was around the corner, and opened the bottom drawer. At the top of a stack of papers was a picture of James and me on a hiking trip six years ago, up in Vermont’s Green Mountains. We were both smiling broadly, with sunglasses covering our eyes, large metal-framed backpacks on our backs, and crudely crafted walking sticks—which we had made out of long, broken tree limbs—in our hands. The picture was taken a week after his college graduation, when James had demanded that we celebrate by hiking for a week in the fresh air.

Looking at the picture, what I felt wasn’t sadness or anger, but honest, plain emotionless. I had loved James like a brother—more than a brother—and now he was gone. It was strange that I couldn’t feel it; that my emotions had seemingly disappeared under an anesthetic.

When Alex and Doug had finished, I found Lauren weeping. She didn’t look at me when I walked in, as if she were ashamed to see me. “Lauren,” I said quietly. I bent down beside her chair. “Lauren, it’s okay. I’m here.” She looked at me, her eyes red and swollen, her face wracked with suffering, her mouth slightly parted—

“Sam,” she said in a trembling voice, “I’m so sorry. I didn’t—” Her head bent forward, as if she were accepting some hidden secret that she didn’t want to accept—it didn’t seem like guilt, but more like hopelessness.

I put my hand on her arm and asked calmly, “You didn’t, what?”

“I didn’t see what happened. I was in bed. James was out late with some clients—he said he needed to take them for drinks, and that it was extremely important. I didn’t really think much of it; he often had to work late. But I heard the fight downstairs—it woke me up—and I came down, and there he was, in the living room—but—”


“But he was dead. I don’t know. I don’t know anything. I don’t know if it was work-related—but I can’t see how it could have been—he was a fucking property salesman. Who would want to kill him?”

I shook my head. “It doesn’t make sense.”

“What are they going to do to me, Sam?” she asked calmly. She didn’t look scared, but more like a person who had accepted her fate, and seemed only curious to know when and how it would finally end.

“I don’t almanbahis adres know,” I said. I hugged her, hoping that the contact would somehow give either of us a little bit of life.

The trial was set for January fourteenth. No other suspects had surfaced. New information had come to light: I had learned that James had been working not only as a property salesman, but also as a financial officer for a strip club. He of course didn’t tell Lauren about it—nor me—but he had been working there since last April, and had been earning quite a lot of money with it. I had initially thought that maybe the murder was tied to this work, but after inspecting the place, I couldn’t find any connections. There didn’t seem to be any dishonest transactions, or anything related to gang or mafia activity, and it just seemed to be another job. The place was completely clean—as clean as a strip club could ever be.

The theory was that Lauren had murdered her husband when she found out about the strip club. How she had found out—or even if she had—there was no proof. But most agreed with the consensus that the only logical scenario resulted in her discovering James’ job (without him knowing), and then, thinking that likely he was cheating on her, she murdered him in jealousy.

I didn’t agree with them—but I also didn’t have any proof either way. And, having worked on the police force for over four years, I had learned that when there’s no proof, it’s usually the innocent people that pay the price. But there was nothing I could do: Feelings couldn’t solve crimes—only cold, logical calculation could.

I spoke to Lauren daily, and kept updating her on whatever I found. When I told her about the strip club, she seemed surprised. And when I told her about the theories of her guilt, she was even more surprised. “If I had been jealous,” she said, “I would have tried to talk to him—not attack him with a knife.” I told her that I agreed with her, but at this point in time, it was her word against theirs.

When the trial started, her guilt was all-but decided. I was asked by my superiors to gather any kind of evidence that I could that would prove, even to a small degree, that she was guilty. They wanted to sweep the crime under the rug and get it out of the way. Any unsolved case, they explained, made the police department look bad, and that was bad for the public opinion polls.

The prosecution at the trial did everything they could to slander her: They called her “a jealous wife, because her husband made more money than her and flaunted it in her face;” they called her “mean-spirited, because she couldn’t cope with his working at a strip club,” even though there still wasn’t proof of her having known about it; they called her “a liar—because she wouldn’t admit to either of the other two facts.”

It wasn’t until late January that something finally happened. I had learned through a colleague of James’, at his former real estate job, that James had been talking to a group of ex-juvenile kids about a particular property in southern Massachusetts. James, nor his colleague, didn’t really think much about it, and figured they were just hard luck kids trying to get a fresh start. But the clue came when I discovered that they were refused the real estate.

Apparently there were two bidders for the property, and their bid happened to finish second. Now, that this would then motivate them to murder James, it still didn’t quite fit, but the last piece came in a memo I was sent from Skip Baywell.

Skip, my friend at the Boston Globe, told me that these same kids were found guilty of breaking into homes and stealing electronics and appliances when they were in their early teens. They would usually go in when the owners were asleep or out of the house, and then pilfer whatever they could. They were caught when they tried to rob a man with a shotgun who happened to be a very light sleeper.

I knew that this had to be the breaking clue—I could already see it in my head: They lose out on the real estate, and they blame it on James; and then, wanting revenge, they find where James lives and try to steal from him while he sleeps—maybe to pawn off his stuff a few days later to a street dealer. But they didn’t realize that James worked late most nights (at the strip club), and didn’t come home until after midnight. And that’s when they must have run into each other, and they murdered him.

Two days later, the ex-juveniles were found, arrested, and questioned—and admitted to the crime. The evidence was then used in court, and the case swayed in favor of Lauren’s innocence. On January twenty-eighth, Lauren was found “not guilty,” and was given her freedom.

We sat together in my apartment. She hadn’t returned to the house after the trial, except to gather a few necessary things, but had been staying at my place, sleeping in the bedroom while I slept on the couch. She had no family to return to, as both her mother and father had passed away years ago—which made me her closest friend and relative, and her only connection. And it was Valentine’s Day—February almanbahis adresi fourteenth—exactly a month since the trial began, two and a half weeks since it ended, and a little over three months since the murder occurred.

We sat with dinner plates, cross-legged, on the living room rug, looking out the window at my mediocre view of the city of Boston. I had asked for today off from work, because I knew that it would be her first Valentine’s Day since James died, and I didn’t want her to be alone. I had cooked some breaded pork cutlets, tortellini, and green beans, and we were enjoying the evening by talking about old times.

“It was always so funny,” she said, “How he never seemed to be laidback about anything he cared about. I remember when we first met—how he told me that he was in love with me from the first moment he saw me, and that he wasn’t going to stop telling me so until I told him to stop. I honestly didn’t know what to think of him. He just knew what he wanted and he wouldn’t let himself relax—even for a second.”

I nodded in agreement. “We actually had gone hiking,” I said, “after he graduated from college. He told me that he wanted to walk the great outdoors now that he was finished with school, and that I was going to come with him—and if I said no, he would drag me along by the straps on my boots and carry me the whole way.”

We both laughed charily; we didn’t want to feel too happy, as we had both lost the closest person in our lives; but we also knew that James wasn’t the kind of person that would have accepted other people being miserable on his behalf. We knew that our laughter was what he would have wanted.

Since the trial ended, Lauren and I had talked for at least two or three hours every night. A lot of times the topics didn’t involve James, but other more general news, and we talked simply and honestly—because we enjoyed hearing each other; we enjoyed the sound of our mutual friendship.

And tonight, looking through the window at the Prudential Center, we enjoyed the feeling of family. We had lost something very dear to both of us—but the fact that we were here together made the loss more manageable, and, at the very least, survivable.

“Sam,” said Lauren, putting down her plate, “I wanted to tell you something.”

“Sure,” I said, “What is it?”

“I wanted to thank you for everything that you’ve done for me. It’s certainly not easy trying to comfort the wife of your best friend, and I know that it mustn’t have been very easy to let her live at your place while you slept on the couch.”

“Oh, nonsense,” I said, “It’s been nothing. It’s been great having you here. It’s wonderful having the opportunity to talk to you all of these nights.”

“Do you mean that?”

“Of course I do. You mean a lot to me, Lauren.”

“Because…I really like you, Sam. And I know, since you were James’ best friend, maybe it would be awkward for you to really like me, too. But I just wanted you to know—that I like you a lot, and I hope that we can stay really close, and maybe—get a little closer.”

I had been thinking of Lauren in the same way since the trial ended. I would lie awake some nights looking up at the ceiling—wondering what she was feeling, and if she needed someone to hold her. I wanted to hold her, but I knew that she needed space, and I wasn’t about to take that from her. But looking at her now—her brown hair lying on her shoulders, and her green eyes staring back at me with curiosity—I knew I had to tell her.

“Lauren,” I said, pausing just briefly to gather my thoughts, “Seeing as this is Valentine’s Day, I would love it if you’d be my valentine.”

“Really?” she asked, smiling and blushing.

“Really. And, if it’s all right, I’d like—” I paused. “I’d like to kiss you.”

She looked away briefly, as if unable to believe something. “It’s all right,” she said.

When I touched the side of her face, and leaned in to kiss her lips, we were both shaking nervously. It had been over a year since I had last been with someone, and touching Lauren now, it was an overload for my mind and senses.

“Sam,” she said, taking my hand from her cheek and gripping it in her hand, “I’m kind-of scared—because I really like you, and it’s been a long time since I’ve felt this. Is it all right if we go slow?”

I nodded. “Of course,” I said.

She looked out the window as a feeling of serenity sharpened the features of her face; she seemed to be contemplating something. “You’ve been sleeping out here every night,” she said, turning to me suddenly.


“Is it comfortable?”

I didn’t want to lie to her, but I also didn’t want to make her feel bad. “It has its moments,” I said.

“I say this because I don’t want to sleep alone tonight. Maybe it’s presumptuous of me, especially after I just said that I wanted to take it slow—but I would like it if we shared your bed, if it’s okay. I would like it if you slept in it with me.”

I didn’t know how to respond, so I said, “Okay.”

“You don’t have to if you’d rather not,” she said, almanbahis adres turning away.

“No, I would love to share the bed with you.” She looked at me quietly, as if she was about to cry, and I leaned in to kiss her. I could sense her breathing quicken as she closed her eyes

“Sam,” she said, pulling away, “let’s go into the bedroom.”

We undressed beside the bed, and slipped underneath the covers. The air wasn’t cold, but we felt warmer once we were in the bed, knowing that our bodies were as close as they were. I looked at her, and she looked down, contemplating again.

“I’ve been thinking a lot recently,” she said, “About human life. I’ve been thinking about love and joy, and what it all means—and what if I just decided to stop living someday soon. Would it be better that way?”

“No,” I said, “Because there is a lot of beauty in this world. There are a lot of problems, too—and I know it because I see it everyday at work—but that’s just the superficial craziness of lost people. It isn’t what life’s all about.”

“What is life about?” she asked, looking at me.

I moved closer to her in the bed. “It’s about loving who you are, and loving what you do, and looking for the best life you possibly can.”

“I want to live the best life,” she said, “But I feel like it isn’t possible for some people—for people like me.”

“You’re being silly,” I said. “You know that’s not true.”

She looked away and smiled. “Maybe you’re right. I just feel bad a lot. I feel like bad things always find me. And I know that all he would have wanted me to do was make sure I was happy, but it makes me feel powerless. I’m afraid that maybe I don’t deserve to be happy anymore.”

I looked down—at the blue covers of the bed—and thought introspectively. It was strange how those same words had come from my mouth only a month ago when I was talking to my mother back home in California. She had told me then that I should keep my head up and keep doing the work that I knew I needed to do—and that, in time, things would work out if I just kept trying.

“Lauren,” I said, “you deserve to be happy. You deserve it much more than you’re giving yourself credit for.”

She gripped my hand tightly—like a handshake—but much more protectively. “I want to be happy,” she said. “And I’m thankful that you’ve been here because I feel like it’s possible. I feel I can because I have you.”

“I know it’s possible,” I said. “And I’ll help you get there. All it takes is a human will—to start moving forward—to see the dream and to try to achieve it.”

I leaned over and kissed her on the cheek tenderly, as my mother used to kiss me when I was a child. She looked at me with admiration. “You’re a beautiful person,” she said. “I don’t know why you never got married.”

“I never found the right girl,” I said, turning away.

She leaned in close and asked, “Can I kiss you?”

I nodded and looked back at her. Placing her hands behind my head, she pushed her mouth against mine, and sucked the air out of me.

We fell back against the pillows, our bodies touching—and I ran my hands up through her hair, brushing past the nape of her neck, feeling the thrust of her tongue in my mouth.

“Sam,” she sighed, still kissing me, “I want to make love to you.” She pulled away to look into my eyes, to see how I would respond.

“I want it, too,” I said.

She pulled off her bra and removed her underwear. I slipped my boxers past my feet and kicked them to the end of the bed. Then we looked at each other carefully—our naked bodies covered with the blanket—and we smiled excitedly. Reaching out, we moved close together.

I pushed her onto her back, and ran my hands down her chest, squeezing her right breast, eliciting a moan from her mouth. She moved her hands down my back, rubbing lightly with the ends of her nails, sharpening the nerves in my skin, and I pushed hard against her, enjoying the sensation, feeling a need to be pressed as closely as I could to her body. My right hand moved up to the side of her face, gently rubbing her cheek with the edge of my thumb, while my left hand dropped below, past her stomach, stopping between her legs. She opened her mouth and closed her eyes as the tips of my fingers touched the opening between her legs. I could feel strands of pubic hair graze against my palm as my index and middle fingers pushed into the soft tunnel past her vulva.

She breathed a heavy breath of air; I leaned in and kissed her passionately on the lips while I pushed my fingers in slowly, until they were pressed up to their knuckles—a smooth, wet stickiness coating them from her arousal; she flexed the muscles in her legs, and closed her insides tightly around my fingers. I slid the fingers partially out, and then pushed them back in, causing her chest to heave forward, and her mouth and lips to push hard against mine.

“Oh God, Sam,” she breathed deeply. “Oh, don’t stop.”

I watched her visage lose its tension, and become fully composed in half stress, half relaxation. With my right hand, I brushed a few strands of hair away from her mouth and eyes, pushing it behind her ear, while my left hand slid in and out of her, with increasing speed, pushing down to the knuckles each time I flexed forward. Her hips moved with my thrusts, and her calf muscles pushed down against the mattress.

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