"Henry, I – " she sighed again. Here he was doing her yet another favour.
"It's nothing. There are some things I need to get. And I wouldn't be doing anything else," he shrugged it off, grinning sideways at her from the driver's seat. "Besides, it's good to see you smile again."
She did so automatically, looking down at the printed-off map in her hands. If she could pay everyone in smiles, her life would be a lot easier. She knew perfectly well that there was nothing Henry could get in Olympia that he couldn't get in Seattle. She'd spent a lot of the journey wondering how on earth she could thank him for taking the time and effort to drive her there and back and had eventually realised that the only thing she had to offer was her company – the same thing he'd asked for last Thursday.
"Sure you don't want to come in with me? You're part of this too."
He shook his head. "It's kinda personal. You don't come with me to visit Trish. I won't get in between you and … him."
"You'll get bored, just being on your own," she suggested, realising immediately after speaking that perhaps her friend wanted some time alone. He hadn't indicated that he needed space or freedom and sometimes she wondered how she would cope if he wasn't there, but she knew she wasn't the woman Henry had imagined living with after his wedding.
"No, I've got two papers to get through," he nodded towards them on the back seat. "Abby?"
"Don't get your hopes up too much. He could be like his father."
He dropped her off outside the building, insisting that she could call him any time and they'd go for lunch afterwards. She looked upwards at the windows and breathed out slowly. Her stomach clenched and she tried to tell herself that it was just cramps. I'm not nervous. Why would I be nervous? This was Olympia, not Harper's, and Henry was always at the other end of a phone. She strode towards the door and let herself in. Here's the secret everyone died for. My parents, my friends, everyone Henry loved. Why did no one tell me? Why did mom never say I had a brother?
"Where do I go for adoption records?"
"Fourth floor," the woman on reception answered, pointing towards the elevator. Abby hurried across the floor and inside, head down, hoping that no one would recognise her. It seemed unlikely. After all, to most people, she was just another face in another human tragedy. And Henry might be the only one who ever understands what's happened to me. And Shea… I barely know her, but surely our mutual experience should push us together, not draw us apart? Maybe I should contact her, explain about my brother, explain that it's not me.
A blonde woman looked impatiently up at her from the desk. "Can I help you?"
Abby sat down on an itchily-upholstered green chair opposite the woman. If I can survive Wakefield, I can survive bureaucracy. For a second, the other woman looked faintly annoyed that a distraction had arrived but put aside her work and turned to her. Abby noticed a sign with the woman's name: Petra Harding.
"I – I'm looking for – I found out recently that I have a half-brother," Abby explained. "I wanted to find him."
"Well, you're in the right place," Petra replied with a smile and Abby wondered if she'd initially misjudged the woman. "Do you have his name?"
"Date of birth?"
"No, I don't know anything about him. That's why I've come here."
"Ah, OK. And you are?"
"My name is Abby Mills." She doesn't even recognise the name.
"And what do you know about the person you're trying to find?"
"He's my half-brother. My mother's son by a different father. He's older than me so…" Abby paused while mentally calculating the last date her brother could have been born. "He must have been born before August 1982."
"His mother's name?"
"Sarah Mills. Well, she would have been Sarah Lawson at the time. It was before she married my dad."
"And his father's?"
"I don't know," she lied. No one knows my mother's name but everyone'll know the name John Wakefield. And mom might not even have given a father's name if she was running away from him. How did mom ever willingly give up her son? "How does this work?"
"Well, if you give your consent, we'll appoint someone to search the adoption records. If the man you're looking for exists, we'll contact him and tell him that he has a sister who wants to find him. If he consents, we'll give you his details and you can contact him. It's quite simple."
"And what if he doesn't consent?"
"If he doesn't want to get in contact with blood relatives, we can't give you any contact details due to privacy laws. Unless it's a medical emergency or something," Petra shrugged. Abby wasn't worried. There wasn't any reason for her brother to reject her.
"But you will contact him?"
"Yes. Well, unless… uhh, sometimes people who know they were adopted actively want to be found so they can leave a note on their adoption records saying that and giving permission for their details to be passed along. If that's the case, it'll be much quicker for you."
"How long is it likely to take?"
"We're a bit back-logged at the moment. Maybe six to eight weeks. Is that OK?"
Abby nodded slowly. It wasn't ideal. She hardly wanted six to eight weeks of being accused of being John Wakefield's daughter. But I'll probably never see Lucy's boyfriend again. Or anyone else. The only person I will see who thinks that about me is Henry and he's too nice to care. So what's six weeks? Rooting through her bag to find her diary, she felt her cell phone vibrate against her hand. Pulling it out, she saw she'd missed two texts, both from Henry. She read the most recent one first.
"There's a piece in the LA Times about you and Jimmy from your friend Mina. You might want to read it." Abby's stomach plummeted. Jimmy… But I barely said anything about him to Mina and that was private. I told her as a friend, not a reporter. She felt sick, painfully sick, and would have doubled over in grief if she'd been back in the apartment. How much did I tell her? How much in the paper?
The second, preceding text wasn't as bad. "Pix in Seattle Times of us out running yesterday. Didn't know that was news. Seen any camera crews today?" She'd never really been comfortable with photos or home movies and, after the previous few days, desperately wanted to stay out of the news. I need to speak to Henry now.
She turned back to Petra. "Erm… I – Something's happened and I need to speak to my friend. Could I come back later? How late are you open?"
"I'll be here 'til five. Take all the time you need to think about it."
She met Henry at a restaurant and they ordered lunch. She grabbed both papers and, wanting to put off facing her memories of Jimmy and innocence and love, flicked through the Seattle paper until she came to the photos of herself and her friend. Henry said something as drinks and plates were put in front of them but she didn't hear what. She looked awful, of course, with her hair scraped back in a headband and her face red and sweaty. Henry said her name again and she looked up.
"I said: I spoke to a couple of jewellers for you. Are you sure you want to sell those necklaces?" he asked, nodding towards the brown envelope containing some of the chokers and tighter necklaces that had once been her mother's.
"Henry, can you think of a reason why I wouldn't want anything tight around my neck?" she answered slowly. He winced and she immediately felt guilty for attacking him. I can't snap at Henry. It's not his fault Wakefield didn't suffer, didn't experience the fear and agony of this victims before he died. He should have been broken. He shouldn't have had an easier death than everyone else.
"Did you see any cameras yesterday?" she noted vaguely him speaking in the background, the foreground of her mind full of ways they might have died. Slowly, she reached out, pulled the envelope into her lap and lifted out the pieces that used to encircle her mother's neck. Abby struggled to breathe as she imagined rope coiling around hers instead. "I don't remember anyone. I know there were photos of us at the funerals but nothing since. Do you think we've been followed here?"
"He should have hanged! He should have died like he killed my parents! We should have hanged him!" she burst out, too loud and too angry for being in public but she didn't care. Henry leaned in and took her hand.
"Abby, if I could have hanged him, I would have," he insisted quietly.
"Did it feel good stabbing him? Did it feel good killing him the same way he killed JD and Trish?"
She regretted saying it the instance it was out. Henry's face froze in a blend of shock and horrified comprehension. His lips moved silently as his mind scrolled across the possible replies.
"I – I'm sorry…"
"No," he finally answered. "No, Abby, it doesn't feel good killing anyone in any way."
"I'm so sorry. I shouldn't have reminded you and I shouldn't have put you on the spot like that," she said as he looked down into his half-eaten meal. She pretended not to see him blink back tears.
"It feels good knowing he's dead and that he can't hurt us now, if that helps."
"Thank you," she smiled as he raised his head and he beamed at her.
"That –" he unfolded the other paper across the table. Abby's eyes jumped to M. Randall in the by-line and began to skim the article. "That is going to feel less good. Why did you tell her all that?"
"But despite reams of photos of the beautiful couple, bride- and groom-to-be Trish Wellington and Henry Dunn, they weren't the only example of young love cruelly ripped apart by serial killer John Wakefield…"
"Oh God," she breathed. The flowery prose mocked her in black-and-white. Everyone has read this article. Henry has read this article. My grandmother has read this article. She slumped down in her chair, unable to meet his eyes and wondering if praying for a hole to open up in the floor for her would work. Probably not. Maybe I should ring gran and tell her Mina made the whole thing up. No, that would only make it worse. She might not have even read it yet.
"We are not going to talk about this," she told Henry. "Right, umm… Stop grinning! This isn't funny!"
"OK, so what happened at the office?" Henry asked in a blatant attempt to change the subject.
"They're going to find him for me. I can fill in the forms and such and they'll go through the records. When they find him, they'll put us in contact. It'll be fine. I'll go back after we've eaten."
"Just like that?"
"It might take a while. The woman there said six to eight weeks. And my brother will have to give permission. But there's no reason for him to not want to meet me, is there? You'd want to meet your long-lost sister, wouldn't you?"
"Yeah," he said, hesitating slightly. "Although maybe not with all this in the news at the moment. Reckon it'll be over by the time six weeks roll around?"
"Easily. I just wish it was sooner. I can't wait to meet him."
"Abby, I'm a bit worried about all the press. If they've seen us here, they might find out what you're doing and scare him off."
"I can't curl up and do nothing. You said it yourself, running away from things doesn't help," she insisted. She could understand Henry's concern for her and his reluctance to meet the son of the man who killed his friends and family, but this wasn't about Henry. This was about her. "I have to do this, Henry."
"Do you want me to give you a lift back so you fill in your forms?" he finally said, laying down his cutlery and waggling his car keys in front of her.
"No," she grinned. "I want to drive."