Pretty Girls by Karin Slaughter Read Online (FREE)
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When you first disappeared, your mother warned me that finding out exactly what had happened to you would be worse than never knowing. We argued about this constantly because arguing was the only thing that held us together at the time.
“Knowing the details won’t make it any easier,” she warned me. “The details will tear you apart.”
I was a man of science. I needed facts. Whether I wanted to or not, my mind would not stop generating hypotheses: Abducted. Raped. Defiled.
That was the sheriff’s theory, or at least his excuse when we demanded answers he could not give. Your mother and I had always been secretly pleased that you were so headstrong and passionate about your causes. Once you were gone, we understood that these were the qualities that painted young men as smart and ambitious and young women as trouble.
“Girls run off all the time.” The sheriff had shrugged like you were any girl, like a week would pass—a month, maybe a year—and you would come back into our lives offering a halfhearted apology about a boy you’d followed or a friend you’d joined on a trip across the ocean.
You were nineteen years old. Legally, you did not belong to us anymore. You belonged to yourself. You belonged to the world.
Still, we organized search parties. We kept calling hospitals and police stations and homeless shelters. We posted flyers around town. We knocked on doors. We talked to your friends. We checked abandoned buildings and burned-out houses on the bad side of town. We hired a private detective who took half of our savings and a psychic who took most of the rest. We appealed to the media, though the media lost interest when there were no salacious details to breathlessly report.
This is what we knew: You were in a bar. You didn’t drink any more than usual. You told your friends that you weren’t feeling well and that you were going to walk home and that was the last time anyone ever reported seeing you.
Over the years, there were many false confessions. Sadists rallied around the mystery of where you’d gone. They provided details that could not be proven, leads that could not be followed. At least they were honest when they were caught out. The psychics always blamed me for not looking hard enough.
Because I never stopped looking.
I understand why your mother gave up. Or at least had to appear to. She had to rebuild a life—if not for herself, for what was left of her family. Your little sister was still at home. She was quiet and furtive and hanging out with the kind of girls who would talk her into doing things she should not do. Like sneak into a bar to hear music and never come home again.
On the day we signed our divorce papers, your mother told me that her only hope was that one day we would find your body. That was what she clung to, the idea that one day, eventually, we could lay you down in your final resting place.