No One You Know

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Book: No One You Know by Michelle Richmond Read Free Book Online
Authors: Michelle Richmond
Tags: Fiction, General, Mystery & Detective, Crime
more I wanted to ask.
    “Cerrado,” she said again, indicating with her hands that it was time for bed.
    “Por favor,” I said, but it was no use. As McConnell and I stood to go, Maria smiled and winked at me. She must have believed she was doing me a favor, sending me off into the night with the handsome American.
    Moments later, McConnell and I were standing on the dirt road in front of the café. He was wearing the baseball cap again, pulled low on his forehead. The effect was to make him look younger than he was. He had been seven years Lila’s senior; that put him at about fifty. The book that he had been reading in the café was tucked under his arm. I had glimpsed the title as we got up to leave: Faraday’s The Chemical History of a Candle.
    The village was silent, deserted. The white buildings shone in the moonlight.
    “You shouldn’t be wandering around alone at this hour,” he said. “I’ll walk you back to your hotel.”
    If I hadn’t been so frightened, I might have laughed at the absurdity. “You can’t be serious,” I said, looking back at the closed door of the café. “Anyway, I do it all the time.”
    “You shouldn’t.”
    I reached into my bag, feeling for my tryer. It’s a basic tool of the coffee trade, a long, scooped metal object with a sharp point on one end and a small cylinder on the other, which tapers into a handle. To take a random sample, you jab the sharp end into the burlap coffee sack, and beans slide along the stem into the cylinder. With one hand, I slid the tryer out of its leather case.
    My hand shook, my pulse sped up. I’d spent so many years believing McConnell to be a monster, capable of the most terrible crime. But I’d also spent that time wishing I could confront him, wishing I could discover the truth, however painful, about Lila’s death. I didn’t want to be left wondering, for the rest of my life, about the end of hers. At that moment, what I wanted was to keep talking, to make McConnell tell me everything. My desire to know what had happened to my sister was even greater than my fear.
    The dust rose around our feet as we walked down the narrow path to the main road. Each time he moved closer, I inched away. “If it’s true that you weren’t breaking up with her, why was she so upset?”
    “You know what kind of person Lila was. The entire time we were together, she felt horribly guilty. She hadn’t wanted me to tell Margaret about us, didn’t want to be responsible for all that. I tried to make her realize it wasn’t her fault, it was mine, and that my marriage had been over long before I met her.”
    We arrived at an intersection, where a small white church sat sentry. A life-size Virgin Mary with a broken glass eye gazed out at us from a roadside altar. The gravestones in the churchyard looked like giant slabs of white soap in the moonlight.
    Suddenly, McConnell reached out and grabbed my elbow, pulling me toward him. I jerked out of his grasp and took two steps back. I pulled the tryer out of the bag and held it in front of me. I was trying to find my voice, wondering if anyone would even hear me, when he pointed to a long snake lying in the path a few inches from his foot. The snake was still, its body covered with dark green diamonds.
    “It’s a fer-de-lance,” he said quietly, stretching his arm toward me. “Give me that.”
    I had no choice but to trust him. I handed him the tryer. He grasped the handle with his right hand, and with one swift, powerful motion, brought the sharp end down a few inches from the snake’s head, severing it from the body. The long green body slithered and shook for a moment, then lay still. The yellow mouth gaped open.
    McConnell stood, visibly shaken, and wiped the tryer on his pants before handing it back to me.
    “If it bites you, you bleed to death internally.”
    “I’m sorry, I—”
    “It’s okay,” he said. He stepped over the dead snake and looked back at me. “If you want, I’ll turn around

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