The Keepsake: A Rizzoli & Isles Novel
whispers are the only reason I am still alive. I’ve learned to pay heed to every anomaly, every tremor of disquiet. I notice unfamiliar cars driving up my street. I snap to attention if a co-worker mentions that someone was asking about me. I make elaborate escape plans long before I ever need them. My next move is already planned out. In two hours, my daughter and I can be over the border and in Mexico with new identities. Our passports, with new names, are already tucked away in my suitcase.
We should have left by now. We should not have waited this long.
But how do you convince a fourteen-year-old girl to move away from her friends? Tari is the problem; she does not understand the danger we’re in.
I pull open the nightstand drawer and take out the gun. It is not legally registered, and it makes me nervous, keeping a firearm under the same roof with my daughter. But after six weekends at the shooting range, I know how to use it.
My bare feet are silent as I step out of my room and move down the hall, past my daughter’s closed door. I conduct the same inspection that I have made a thousand times before, always in the dark. Like any prey, I feel safest in the dark.
In the kitchen, I check the windows and the door. In the living room, I do the same. Everything is secure. I come back up the hall and pause outside my daughter’s bedroom. Tari has become fanatical about her privacy, but there is no lock on her door, and I will never allow there to be one. I need to be able to look in, to confirm that she is safe.
The door gives a loud squeak as I open it, but it won’t wake her. As with most teenagers, her sleep is akin to a coma. The first thing I notice is the breeze, and I give a sigh. Once again, Tari has ignored my wishes and left her window wide open, as she has so many times before.
It feels like sacrilege, bringing the gun into my daughter’s bedroom, but I need to close that window. I step inside and pause beside the bed, watching her sleep, listening to the steady rhythm of her breathing. I remember the first time I laid eyes on her, red-faced and crying in the obstetrician’s hands. I had been in labor eighteen hours, and was so exhausted I could barely lift my head from the pillow. But after one glimpse of my baby, I would have risen from bed and fought a legion of attackers to protect her. That was the moment I knew what her name would be. I thought of the words carved into the great temple at Abu Simbel, words chosen by Ramses the Great to proclaim his love for his wife.
N EFERTARI, FOR WHOM THE SUN DOTH SHINE
My daughter, Nefertari, is the one and only treasure that I brought back with me from Egypt. And I am terrified of losing her.
Tari is so much like me. It’s as if I am watching myself sleeping. When she was ten years old, she could already read hieroglyphs. At twelve, she could recite all the dynasties down to the Ptolemys. She spends her weekends haunting the Museum of Man. She is a clone of me in every way, and as the years pass there is no obvious trace of her father in her face or her voice or, most important of all, her soul. She is my daughter, mine alone, untainted by the evil that fathered her.
But she is also a normal fourteen-year-old girl, and this has been a source of frustration these past weeks as I’ve felt darkness closing in around us, as I lie awake every night, listening for a monster’s footsteps. My daughter is oblivious to the danger because I have hidden the truth from her. I want her to grow up strong and fearless, a warrior woman who is unafraid of shadows. She does not understand why I pace the house late at night, why I latch the windows and double-check the doors. She thinks I am a worrywart, and it’s true: I do all the worrying for both of us, to preserve the illusion that all is right with the world.
That is what Tari believes. She likes San Diego and she looks forward to her first year in high school. She’s managed to make friends here, and heaven help the parent who tries to come between a teenager and her friends. She is as strong-willed as I am, and were it not for her resistance, we would have left town weeks ago.
A breeze blows in the window, chilling the sweat on my skin.
I set the gun down on the nightstand and cross to the window to close it. For a moment I linger, breathing in cool air. Outside, the night has fallen silent, except for a mosquito’s whine. A prick stings my cheek. The significance of that mosquito bite does not
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