Three hours later, I sat in my car in the bureau parking lot, beneath a pinkening sky.
I reached for the glove box, took out the envelope Peter Franchette had given me, and broke open the flap.
Inside was a birthday card. A whale spouted sequins from its blowhole, and an elephant with a sequined trunk held up a “1.”
I opened the card. A folded check fell out into my lap.
The card’s message read It’s a Big, Big Day!
Peter had scribbled congratulations.
I unfolded the check.
It was made out to Charlotte Edison in the amount of two hundred fifty thousand dollars.
I did some math.
Amy and I might not be able to touch the money, but we could borrow knowing that future expenses would be offset.
Braces. First car. College fund.
What did a two-hundred-fifty-thousand-dollar down payment get you in the East Bay?
We’d still have to move.
It was five fifty-eight in the morning.
At or about that very moment, Dale Dormer was getting booked for murder.
At or about that very moment, my daughter was waking up for the day.
Her mother was rolling over, heaving off inertia. She was looking at the clock and telling herself that it could be worse; could be in the fours.
Swinging her legs over the side of the futon, she shuffles to the kitchenette and takes a bottle from the drying rack. The baby cries, and she glances at the microwave clock, wondering where I am, if I am safe, when I will walk in the door.
I put the check in the card.
I put the card in the envelope.
I put the envelope in the glove box and drove home to see my family.
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