Last Light
Author:M. Pierce

I sneered. Did this asshole think I couldn’t freeze him out for forty minutes? I could freeze him out for a lifetime.

 

“Presbyterian cemetery,” he went on. I opened my eyes and watched him on the edge of my vision. He didn’t look psychotic. He looked tired and irritable and bored. He watched the road as he rambled. “Oak Grove Presbyterian Cemetery. Our parents have headstones there. Just markers. I’ve got a plot, too.”

 

Seth grinned at me suddenly. I flinched and pressed against the door. Panic flooded me. I gripped the door handle.

 

“Please.” Seth shook his head. “Don’t jump from my moving vehicle, okay? I don’t need that shit. I’ll happily let you out at the next stoplight.”

 

I swallowed.

 

“No,” I said. “Just drive.”

 

“She speaks.” He chuckled. “Happy to ‘just drive.’ Call me Chauffeur Seth. Oh—Shapiro wanted me to give you this.” He dug in his jacket pocket. “He’s leaving right after the service, otherwise I’m sure the good doc would give it to you himself.”

 

Seth produced a folded paper and tossed it onto my lap.

 

“The doc?” I unfolded the page. The car had warmed and my heart rate slowed. Maybe I was freaking out about nothing. Sure, Seth had acted crazy back at the house, but he was probably trying to scare the truth out of me. He probably really believed I wrote Night Owl and that I was turning a profit at his dead brother’s expense.

 

I would be just as harsh if someone used Jay or Chrissy like that.

 

“Yeah, the doc. Doctor Shapiro. He makes our problems go away.”

 

“Lucky you.” I scanned the printout. It listed details of the case—the time line of events, dates, and Web sites. “It must be nice to have a lawyer on call whenever you get into trouble.”

 

“Hey, whatever you say, Hannah. Maybe we have a lot of trouble.”

 

I rolled my eyes. I was about to reply—maybe you wouldn’t have so much trouble if you didn’t go around assaulting strangers—when my eyes stopped dead on the page.

 

What the hell?

 

Shapiro had listed the Web sites where Night Owl appeared—mostly blogs and forums.

 

The first line of the list read: ORIGINAL FORUM POST OF “NIGHT OWL”—themystictavern.com.

 

Seth was saying something, but I didn’t hear him. The landscape of the highway swirled into a blur. I pressed a hand to my head.

 

The Mystic Tavern was the Web site where Matt and I first met. We connected on the forums. We were strangers then, anonymous writing partners.

 

The Mystic Tavern was the beginning of everything.

 

And no one knew that except us.

 

What was happening? What did this mean?

 

“Hey, you all right, kid?”

 

With shaking hands, I pushed the paper into my coat pocket. Seth’s eyes flickered between the road and my face.

 

“Fine, I’m … I get dizzy reading in the car.”

 

“Yeah? Anything on that paper ring a bell? Shapiro is damn sure the author is someone close to you two, maybe someone who—”

 

“No. Nothing rings a bell, and I don’t want to think about it now.” I closed my eyes and leaned my head against the car door. Seth took the hint. He flicked on the radio and we drove the rest of the way to the cemetery with a meandering jazz melody filling the car.

 

*

 

“I remember our first winter ascent of Longs Peak.” Matt’s uncle leaned back as he spoke, rocking on his heels. He was a powerfully built man with salt-and-pepper hair and dark Sky eyes. “That boy loved to climb, and he was a great climber.”

 

He actually laughed, the sound ringing in the cemetery.

 

Oak Grove Presbyterian Cemetery in winter was the quietest place I had ever been. Snow muffled everything. Bare oaks surrounded our small group and drifts gathered on the graves.

 

Under any other circumstances, I would have loved that place.

 

But not now.

 

Matt’s uncle stood beside a picture of Matt.

 

Floral arrangements clustered around the stand.

 

Matt was giving the assembled mourners one of his million-dollar smiles—a little wry, a little secretive. The photo must have been candid. His dirty blond hair was wild and he looked entirely at ease, which was rare.

 

“Solo ascents,” his uncle boomed. “They test a man. They demand all a climber’s skill, all his focus. Matt soloed the Diamond twice and summited both times.”

 

I tried not to scowl as I listened to Matt’s uncle. I was getting an annoying manly-man vibe. No grief. No real memories. Just this blather about dangerous, testosterone-fueled climbs.

 

If Matt were really dead, I thought, I’d deck this guy.

 

Seth touched my shoulder and I looked at him sharply.

 

“Do you want to speak?” he whispered.

 

Matt’s uncle retook his place next to his wife, a petite woman with black hair. Was it my turn? I scanned the faces around me. Shapiro was there, a few cousins and other family members, my boss Pamela Wing, Nate and his family, and Seth. A pathetically tiny group. And almost everyone had said a word, except for me.

 

I shrugged off Seth’s hand.

 

The group parted for me and I moved to stand by Matt’s picture.