The Accident

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Authors: Linwood Barclay
in hand, and stopped at my side, pressing into me. The backpack hadn’t been fully zipped, and one of Hoppy’s ears was sticking out.
    “You okay, sweetheart?” I asked.
    She nodded.
    “You sick?”
    She hesitated a second, then nodded. “I want to go home,” she insisted.
    “I don’t know what her problem is,” Darren said to me, like Kelly wasn’t even there. “I asked her and she wouldn’t say a thing.”
    Kelly wouldn’t look at him. I mumbled a thank-you and guided her out to the front step. Ann and Darren muttered something in return before closing the door behind us. I stopped Kelly and leaned over to zip up her jacket. Inside the house, I could hear voices being raised.
    Once I had Kelly buckled in and was pulling away from the Slocum house, I asked, “So what happened?”
    “I don’t feel good.”
    “What is it? Stomach?”
    “I feel weird.”
    “Pizza? Too much soda?”
    Kelly shrugged.
    “Did something happen? Did something happen with Emily?”
    “No, nothing happened? Or no, nothing happened with Emily?”
    “I just want to go home.”
    “Did Emily or somebody say something? About your mother?”
    “You looked like you didn’t even want to talk to Mr. Slocum. Did something happen with him?”
    “I don’t know.”
    “What do you mean, you don’t know?” The hairs were standing up on the back of my neck again. I was getting a bad vibe off him there. I didn’t know what it was. But there was something I didn’t like. “Did he … did he make you feel uncomfortable?”
    “Everything’s fine ,” Kelly said, but she wouldn’t look at me.
    My mind was taking me places I didn’t want to go. There were questions I felt I needed to ask, but it wasn’t going to be easy to ask them.
    “Look, honey, if something happened, you need to tell me about it.”
    “I can’t.”
    I glanced over at her, but she was still looking straight ahead. “You can’t?”
    Kelly didn’t say anything.
    “Something happened, but you can’t talk about it, is that what you’re saying?”
    Kelly’s lips tightened. I felt a spike of anxiety.
    “Did someone make you promise not to say anything?”
    After a moment, she said, “I don’t want to get in trouble.”
    I kept my voice as even as possible. “You’re not going to get in trouble. Sometimes, grown-ups, they’ll make kids promise not to tell something, but that’s wrong. Any time a grown-up does that, it’s to cover up something that they’ve done. It’s not because of anything bad you’ve done. And even if they say you’re going to get in trouble if you tell, you won’t.”
    Kelly’s head went up and down a fraction of an inch.
    “This thing … that happened,” I said, tentatively. “Was Emily there? Did she see it?”
    “Where was Emily?”
    “I don’t know. She hadn’t found me yet.”
    “Found you?”
    “I was hiding, and then she was going to hide.”
    “From her father?”
    “No,” she said impatiently. “We were hiding from each other. In different parts of the house, but then we were trying to sneak up on each other.”
    “Okay,” I said, starting to clue in. “Did she come in later? Did she find you?”
    A shake of the head.
    We were by the hospital, the point where we’d normally turn down Seaside Avenue to our place, which was neither by the sea nor within view of it. But I felt, now that Kelly was talking, pulling in to the driveway might shut her down. So I went past our street and wandered down Bridgeport Avenue. If Kelly noticed we were missing the turn to our place, she didn’t mention it.
    Okay, no more stalling. This was my life— our life—now. Dad and daughter had to talk about things that Dad would have been very happy to hand over to Mom.
    “Sweetheart, this is really difficult for me to ask, but I have to, okay?”
    She looked me in the eye, then turned away.
    “Did Mr. Slocum do something to you? Did he touch you? Did he do something that you didn’t

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