Dark Sins (Dark Intentions #3) - Charlotte Byrd
As soon as Mom calls that morning, Dante and I get into his car and drive all the way home without hitting any traffic. I packed my bags, much to his dismay since I wasn't sure if I was going to come back.
But I'm also not sure what I'm going to find.
The drive down is uneventful. We listen to a little bit of Bruce Springsteen and Elton John, and my mind keeps spiraling around everything I don’t know.
What could it mean?
Why would someone send a letter telling me that my brother, who has been dead for months and whose body I saw being lowered into the ground in the cemetery, did not die in an accident?
How could that accident be anything but that?
But, if it isn't, what else could it be?
When Mom opens the door, her eyes are tired and puffy. She has changed out of her robe into what she lovingly refers to as home pajamas; a casual pair of black pants, a loose-fitting sweater perfect for both home and a trip to the bank.
After a brief hello, I introduce her to Dante, and he apologizes for meeting under these circumstances.
"You didn't need to come," she keeps saying, leading us to the dining room.
The table is old and worn, and every indentation is awfully familiar since I was here for all of them.
We sit on the uncomfortable wooden chairs that have needed pillow pads for as long as I can remember. Mom thinks they’re tacky so we never had them.
The letter is nothing remarkable.
It came in a plain, thin envelope with no return address, directly to my mother's house. The stamp is of an American flag. It was mailed barely five miles outside of Elizabeth, New Jersey.
The letter itself is typed, but signed in longhand, but, the signature is difficult to read. Probably on purpose. I force myself to stay calm, as Mom carefully opens the letter slowly to keep the creases exactly the same.
She had put it back in the envelope, and opened it by cutting the top open, like she usually does, with her specialty letter opening knife. Mom has always hated the way that I would savagely attack the mail, her words not mine, and not have the intact envelope to put the letter back into for later.
"I would've been more careful with it if I’d known what it contained," Mom keeps mumbling over and over again.
I look at the envelope, which is addressed to her, with a stamp in the far right hand corner, no return address of any kind, and a little imprint over the stamp indicating when and where it was collected.
"Do you think we should be wearing gloves?" she asks when I grab the letter. "It's too late for me and you, but yeah. I think so."
She goes to the bathroom, underneath the sink, and pulls out a pair of black gloves that she wears whenever she colors her hair with box dye.
I put them on, and the two of them crowd around me, looking. I feel the touch of their breath on my shoulder as I pull the letter out and read it.
Dear Mrs. Archer,
I don't know how to put this except to just tell you that your son, Michael Archer, did not die in a car accident.
All I can say is that he was killed, and his murderer is walking around free.
I'm sorry that I cannot tell you anything else about the situation because I'm afraid that that will put my own life in danger.
I have already said too much.
There’s a scribble at the bottom.
We look closer, trying to make out any letters, but the writing is angular, tall, and sweeping. I kind of doubt that it's a name after all. Everything else is typed. Whoever sent this clearly did not want to be identified by their handwriting.
"What do you think this means?" Mom asks, looking at us after I put the letter down.
"I don't know. It could be a joke," I offer.
Mom glares at me, even Dante is taken aback.
"I mean, it's definitely a possibility," I suggest, "right? I mean, they may know that Michael died, and it was an accident."
"What did happen, exactly?" Dante asks.
I look at him as the three of us sit around the dining room table. Usually, my mom would offer me and a guest something to drink. But this situation is completely different. This is nothing that has happened before.
"He was driving at night, and he slid off the road. It was an icy, snowy