This scene continues from the last installment when Daniel throws Jane's phone out the window after he discovers she's talking to the Vanguard.
“What’d you do that for?” I demand.
“I need that phone, all my contact information is in that phone, my email, everything.”
Daniel is angry. It isn’t just silence anymore. I see it in the way he’s gripping the steering wheel, his wet hands creaking into the leather. It’s tempting to reach out and touch him, to try and draw him out of that steel-edged cocoon on the other side of the car. My eyes see Daniel but every other one of my senses registers a stranger as likely to lash out against me as that Vanguard policeman to lock me in cuffs and drive to Nebraska. For the first time since imposing myself on the Helstons I feel nervous with him the way I’ve seen people at the back lot nervous as though he’s some kind of time bomb or a villain demanding fearful respect, the same way people respect fires and tornadoes.
Here we are driving through the no man’s land south of the city. No one knows who I’m with. Come to think of it, there isn’t really anyone who would care to know. My phone is gone. He could do whatever he wanted with me. There’s nothing to stop him. Strange how it isn’t hard to imagine. What does it mean that I can look at him and imagine violence so easily?
Daniel skids into Mrs. Helston’s garage and is out of the car before I even have the chance to unbuckle my seat belt. From under the hood of my jeep in the adjacent stall Steve’s head pops up, startled by the Prius’ turbulent arrival.
“Pack up your stuff, we’re leaving tonight.”
“Come on, get moving.”
Steve wipes grease off his hands, looks at me like I hold the key to understanding this unexpected shift. Let’s see, what visual message am I sending right now? Drowned and disheveled rat sounds close enough. But I’m standing between the front of the car and the wall so Daniel can’t get out of the garage unless I move.
“Aren’t you even going to say one word to my face before you run off? And what’s with the sunglasses? Everyone in here knows what you look like. There’s no one to hide from unless you’re ashamed.”
That did it. He’s at me so fast I haven’t even closed my mouth before I’m up against the wall staring into those eyes. This doesn’t come with as much relief as I expected because he’s pretty scary right now, rioting energy that could probably peel my skin from my bones with very little trouble.
“What do I have to be ashamed of?”
“You won’t talk to me,” I whisper.
“Why should I talk to you? I knew from the very beginning finding you in that hospital couldn’t be a coincidence. Don’t you have anything better to do than screw up my life? Or are you and your terrorist buddies actually going to get it right and nab Steve this time?”
“What’s all this yelling?” Mrs. Helston calls from the top of the basement stairs.
“Nothing, Mom. Close the door.” Steve pulls at Daniel’s shoulder. “Calm down, braugh. What happened?”
“She met one of her contacts and now they know we’re here.”
“No,” I say, “It’s not like that. They don’t know where I am. They might now, but they don’t know it has anything to do with you.”
Steve laughs like we’re in the middle of a joke. “I’m really behind here. Dan? Did you take your pills today?”
“She was there that night in New York.” The way Daniel’s looking at me, I wish he’d kept his glasses on. “She told me everything would be fine. She said I would be fine.”
“I believed that. I really did. I wasn’t lying to you. They promised me.”
“Wait…you were there? Like there, there?” asks Steve. “You know those guys?” His hands swing around independent of his body as though looking for something to throw. I know the motion well. It’s making me a little sea sick. I back up towards the stairs so there’s more room to duck. Daniel advances with me.
“What’s worse is I even covered for her afterwards. She was the only person I could describe to the police but I didn’t tell them because I thought she’d been telling the truth.”
“I was. I really was, would you please just stop and listen? Just listen. Those guys are my family. Two are my brothers, one is my husband.”
“Your husband?” Steve bursts out, causing the door at the top of the stairs to open again. Both Mrs. Helston and Riley stand at the top open-mouthed. Quickly assessing the scene, Riley jogs down the steps and inserts herself in front of Daniel.”
“Why don’t we go upstairs and let all the shit out civilized like in the living room, okay? You need to calm down. If you hit her you’ll regret it.”
“Well I wouldn’t,” says Steve. He steps past me up the stairs. They shake under his weight. “Married to a terrorist is a fucking significant detail.”
Daniel ignores him. He’s fixed on a new idea, something that hasn’t occurred to him before. “Why did you get married? What about Boston?” Daniel nudges Riley away so there’s nothing between us.
What about Boston?
It occurs to me as soon as I say what happened he’s going to be even more upset than he is right now. I can’t say it. I’d rather he think I’m in league with the terrorists. And how do I even begin to say something like that? I fell in love with you in three hours and nothing else mattered?
He kneels in front of me. It’s an awkward motion, lopsided, with the handrail necessary to keep his balance. Now we’re on the same level, me on the step, him kneeling, more like half kneeling, a degree or two calmer. “Jane, please talk to me.”
The way he says my name, I can’t resist it. I lick my lips.
“That guy at the station works for them but he was threatening me. He called my brother and reported that I’d talked to the police. I’ve lived here for four years in secret and now they know where to find me because the nurse who I hit with my phone is online dating my other brother.”
I gulp large draughts of air but only make myself feel lightheaded. This isn’t how I thought this revelation would go. The moment when I admitted my brothers were part of the Vanguard was supposed to be triumphant, tied to the moment when they achieved success in their work. Not like this where every word feels like a crime I helped commit against the man in front of me. A moment ago it looked like he could decapitate me now he’s as frail as a twig, so full of dread that my next words could knock him down in an instant.
“They don’t know I’m with you or even what happened at the hospital because Grace wouldn’t know there was any connection, and if she brags using patients’ names she’s violating HIPPA. No one’s in danger except me.”
“Why you?” asks Riley.
Gulp, gulp, gulp. I wish I could still cry. I’d like to get through this and go hide in that tower room full of pillows and cry. “I got into a marriage I didn’t understand. Then I got pregnant and wigged out and had an abortion and skipped town.”
After all this Daniel is still stuck on the same question. “Why did you get married?”
God, just let him give it up, please? Why is it some men are as dense as bricks and some very few are more intuitive than women for finding exactly the thing that someone doesn’t want to talk about? Fuck.
“You need a drink.” Riley reinserts herself in front of Daniel and pulls me to my feet. Without her help I would probably fall down the stairs. At the top, I glance down. He’s just standing there not moving.