Last Light
Author:M. Pierce

“Very good. The boys call me Shapiro. You may do the same, if you like.” Shapiro took a seat behind the desk.


Shapiro must have been in his sixties, but his smiles were boyish and his quick eyes missed nothing. He wore a navy suit with subtle plaid and silver circle-frame glasses. His hair was gray and neatly combed.


“I won’t take much of your time,” he said, “and let me express how sorry I am for your loss, Hannah. That dear boy…”


Shapiro gazed at his lap. I watched him, trying to get a read. Dear boy. This house was full of people who knew Matt better than I did.


I, who was guarding Matt’s greatest secret, and who set the night on fire with him countless times, had known him for only nine months. And not nine solid months. Nine months of turmoil. Nine months of secrets and lies and now this—Matt’s vanishing act.


When would things be normal for us? When would it be my turn to truly know him?


“Thank you,” I said. “My condolences to you.”


“Thank you, Hannah.” Shapiro riffled through a leather folio. “So, let’s get to it. I’m pursuing this case on Nate’s behalf. The charge will be libel, defamation of character. Shall we review the facts?”


“Sure.” I fiddled with a button on my coat. “Will I have to testify at a trial?”


“Most likely not. When we present our material, after we locate the defendant—ah, the original author—he or she will surely settle.”


“But money isn’t going to change anything.”


Shapiro gave me a withering glance.


“Here we are.” He withdrew a sheet from his folio. “If you would, Hannah, correct me where you hear inaccuracies, if any. I’ll read the highlights.” His eyes skipped over the page. “The text titled Night Owl first appeared online in a forum on January first of this year, 2014, approximately seventeen days after Matthew Sky went missing.”


Shapiro paused and eyed me.


“Right,” I said.


“Very good. About two weeks thereafter, the text was uploaded to several online vendors and sold in e-book format with the author cited as W. Pierce.”


“Yeah, that’s right.”


“To the best of your knowledge, the author of the text titled Night Owl is unknown to you, and is not Matthew Sky.”


“No. I mean, yes, to my knowledge. It’s not Matt. He didn’t write it.”


Shapiro scribbled on his page.


“Hannah, have you been negatively impacted by the dispersion of the text titled Night Owl? Has your work or personal life been compromised in any way? The text is very ribald. I assume you read it, at least in part.”


I twisted the button on my coat. Shapiro’s legalese was driving me crazy. The text. The defendant. Libel.


“I read it, yes. A few people have made the connection … that I’m, you know, the Hannah in the book. Some people came to the agency wanting to meet me.” I shrugged. “They were fans of the story. They weren’t mean.”


“Readers came to your workplace?” Shapiro peered at me over his glasses.


“Yeah, but they weren’t rude or anything.”


He took more notes.


“Have you been harassed subsequent to the text’s appearance? Have you received any communications with violent or sexual implications?”


“God, no.” I glared at the floor. Where was this going? “Hey, do you know who wrote it yet? Do you know who published it?”


“Not yet, Hannah. We can’t compel the original Web site owner to divulge user information until our suit is under way. The same goes for the online vendors. We’ll subpoena the records, but first we need to build a case.”


“I see,” I said, but I didn’t see. I didn’t want to see.


Nate assumed I would help with the case and Shapiro assumed I would make the case. It was time for me to let them down.


I cleared my throat.


“To be honest, Mr. Shapiro, I feel very … overwrought, I mean with Matt’s death and all, and now the book.” I wiped at the corner of my eye. “Of course I want to protect Matt’s legacy and defend his name, but I have to protect my emotional well-being. I don’t believe I can—”


“She probably wrote it, Doc.”


I jumped at the voice. Matt!


No … Seth.


Seth Sky loped into the study. He leered at me.


“I did not write it,” I said.


“But it makes you look like such a vixen.” Seth draped his arms over the back of my chair and grinned down at me. Close, I saw that his hair was not black but a very dark brown, like mine. It moved fluidly with the tilt of his head.


“Seth, Miss Catalano and I are having a meeting.”


“Actually, we’re done.” I clutched my purse and made for the door. Seth’s intrusion was a perfect excuse to bail.


“Seth makes a fair point,” Shapiro said. “We assume the author was someone close to Matthew and close to the events described in the text.”


I paused in the doorway. My hands shook. Instinct told me to deny it again—I didn’t write Night Owl—but if Shapiro suspected me, maybe he didn’t suspect Matt.


“Whatever,” I said. “I’m done talking about this.”


“Then we’ll be in touch.”