When I’d said good-bye to her months ago at the airport, the thought that I wouldn’t see her alive again had never crossed my mind. Alina was as certain as the sun rising and setting. She was charmed. She was twenty-four and I was twenty-two. We were going to live forever. Thirty was a million light-years away. Forty wasn’t even in the same galaxy. Death? Ha. Death happened to really old people.
After two weeks, my teary fog started to lift a little. I didn’t stop hurting. I think I just finally expelled the last drop of moisture from my body that wasn’t absolutely necessary to keep me alive. And rage watered my parched soul. I wanted answers. I wanted justice.
I wanted revenge.
I seemed to be the only one.
I’d taken a psych course a few years back that said people dealt with death by working their way through stages of grief. I hadn’t gotten to wallow in the numbness of denial that’s supposed to be the first phase. I’d flashed straight from numb to pain in the space of a heartbeat. With Mom and Dad away, I was the one who’d had to identify her body. It hadn’t been pretty and there’d been no way to deny Alina was dead.
After two weeks, I was thick into the anger phase. Depression was supposed to be next. Then, if one was healthy, acceptance. Already I could see the beginning signs of acceptance in those around me, as if they’d moved directly from numbness to defeat. They talked of “random acts of violence.” They spoke about “getting on with life.” They said they were “sure things were in good hands with the police.”
I was so not healthy. Nor was I remotely sure about the police in Ireland.
Accept Alina’s death?
“You’re not going, Mac, and that’s final.” Mom stood at the kitchen counter, a towel draped over her shoulder, a cheery red, yellow, and white magnolia-printed apron tied at her waist, her hands dusted with flour.
She’d been baking. And cooking. And cleaning. And baking some more. She’d become a veritable Tasmanian devil of domesticity. Born and raised in the Deep South, it was Mom’s way of trying to deal. Down here, women nest like mother hens when people die. It’s just what they do.
We’d been arguing for the past hour. Last night the Dublin police had called to tell us that they were terribly sorry, but due to a lack of evidence, in light of the fact that they didn’t have a single lead or witness, there was nothing left to pursue. They were giving us official notice that they’d had no choice but to turn Alina’s case over to the unsolved division, which anyone with half a brain knew wasn’t a division at all but a filing cabinet in a dimly lit and largely forgotten basement storeroom somewhere. Despite assurances they would periodically reexamine the case for new evidence, that they would exercise utmost due diligence, the message was clear: Alina was dead, shipped back to her own country, and no longer their concern.
They’d given up.
Was that record time or what? Three weeks. A measly twenty-one days. It was inconceivable!
“You can bet your butt if we lived over there, they’d never have given up so quickly,” I said bitterly.
“You don’t know that, Mac.” Mom pushed ash-blonde bangs back from blue eyes that were red-rimmed from weeping, leaving a smudge of flour on her brow.
“Give me the chance to find out.”
Her lips compressed into a thin white-edged line. “Absolutely not. I’ve already lost one daughter to that country. I will not lose another.”
Impasse. And here we’d been ever since breakfast, when I’d announced my decision to take time off so I could go to Dublin and find out what the police had really been doing to solve Alina’s murder.
I would demand a copy of the file, and do all in my power to motivate them to continue their investigation. I would give a face and a voice—a loud and hopefully highly persuasive one—to the victim’s family. I couldn’t shake the belief that if only my sister had a representative in Dublin, the investigation would be taken more seriously.
I’d tried to get Dad to go, but there just wasn’t any reaching him right now. He was lost in grief. Though our faces and builds were very different, I have the same color hair and eyes as Alina, and the few times he’d actually looked at me lately, he’d gotten such an awful look on his face that it had made me wish I was invisible. Or brunette with brown eyes like him, instead of sunny blonde with green.
Initially, after the funeral, he’d been a dynamo of determined action, making endless phone calls, contacting anyone and everyone. The embassy had been kind, but directed him to Interpol. Interpol had kept him busy for a few days “looking into things” before diplomatically referring him back to where he’d begun—the Dublin police. The Dublin police remained unwavering. No evidence. No leads. Nothing to investigate. If you have a problem with that, sir, contact your embassy.