There was no going back to the way things were. Smiles and laughs and comfy evenings, those were behind us. I knew that for sure by the time we both got out of the hospital in Ingram. Whatever had happened to Dick had changed him.
He wore his leg in a cast and I drove him around, always. We found a hotel in Ingram, far from Dick’s house, and we lived there. Dick learned how to be free again, and I waited. I had already made up my mind.
I’d burst into Silvers’s hideout on October 13th; we watched the news as the police swarmed the building and arrested almost thirty people. Not Yvonne Silvers herself, of course. The woman was nowhere to be seen, and no newsreel even mentioned her name.
I never bothered to call Alison or the Baroness. Let them think I’d died. They’d hear about me soon enough.
In late October, Dick and I were eating sandwiches at a restaurant, talking about nothing. His eyes were downcast the entire time, his hands still gaunt and shaking. Out of nowhere Dick said, “Silvers had questions. She and her big guy had questions.”
Big guy? I opened my mouth then closed it again. I said, “Dick, don’t think about it. Come on. It’s behind us.”
“He asked about you,” Dick said, and tears welled up in his eyes. “He beat me and he asked about you and Bollocks and James and she asked and I told them everything, Barb.”
“It’s okay,” I said, taking his hand. “Dick. It’s okay. None of that matters to me.” So both James and Dick had spilled their guts. Silvers had sent the police after us based on that information. It seemed so long ago now. I just stroked Dick’s hand as he began to weep.
On Halloween, when I kissed Dick and tried to lay my hands on him, he shied away. He broke into tears and begged me not to touch him; the words sounded rehearsed. I stayed away, hands to myself, and we slept in separate beds that night.
In November Dick began to smile more often. He would talk for hours as his voice strengthened and he got more used to his crutches. Eventually he pointed out that he was doing all the smiling for both of us.
Last Christmas, I did nothing, just drank beer and watched movies in my apartment. It had barely registered. This Christmas Dick wanted to buy me presents, so I took him shopping in early December. He still wouldn’t go anywhere alone. Skylar visited us, and Dick laughed with her. On Christmas Eve, we ate and talked by the light of the TV. I wanted to give him until New Year’s.
I called my Dad and wished him Merry Christmas. I told him what I was going to do, and he promised to visit me. I hung up the phone with a smile on my face.
Twenty fifteen began.
“Barbara,” Dick said. I turned from the door and saw him in his pajamas, braced against the wall, his crutches left behind. “Where are you going?”
I winced and looked at the clock. Four thirty eight. I hadn’t meant to wake him. I’d meant to leave without a word.
Dick knew, by the forlorn look in his eyes. His head drooped, and he stepped over to me, putting weight on his cast for moments at a time. “You’re leaving,” he said. “I was afraid of this.”
Taking a deep breath, I said, “I’m going to the police. I’m going to turn myself in.”
Dick’s eyes widened. “You—you what?”
“That’s not what you expected?” I said.
“I thought you were leaving me!” Dick said, gripping my arm. “I thought you’d get sick of me a whole month ago. But instead you’re going to the police?”
I turned to Dick and took his hands in mine. I said, “I’m not going to tell them about you. But I’m going to confess to a lot of stuff. I’ve been planning it for months. But Dick—” I couldn’t meet his eyes when he looked at me like that. “I’m going to prison. Probably for a long, long time.”
Squeezing my hand, Dick said, “You don’t have to do this, you know.” He swung his arm and gestured to the sparse hotel room. “This—this is temporary. We can get Bollocks’s people on board, go hire some grunts, get a deal with the Baroness. The Blackbirds can be on their feet again.”
“The Blackbirds are finished,” I said, and Dick reeled back like I’d slapped him. “I’ll put the final nail in the coffin. I’ll fill in the police’s blanks, tell them whatever it takes to keep you from doing this again.”
Dick let go of my hands and staggered toward the sofa, clutching his forehead. “Why,” he said. “Why are you doing this?”
“I’ve—I’ve killed fifty people for you,” I said. “I’ve committed millions of dollars in property damage and I’ve seen my friends and loved ones hurt and killed. I’m fucked up, Dick. There has to be an end to it all.”
“What about us, then?” Dick said, but he looked off to the distance. His spirit wasn’t in it. “We could start again. You and me, together. I—I’ve been wanting you to teach me how to play piano.”
I stepped up to Dick and leaned in, pressing my lips to his. For a moment nothing had changed, and we were lost in the happiest of times again. Then reality came down around our ears and I pulled away.
I held onto Dick’s chin and smiled. I said, “I love you, Richard Garrett. But I don’t need you. I’m doing this for myself, and it needs to be done. I can’t sleep at night otherwise. I can’t live with who I am.”
Dick was silent. He slumped on the couch with his chin in his hand. I let it sit.
Looking up at me, Dick said, “What are you gonna do, then? Gonna go to jail, find Jesus?”
I chuckled. “Maybe,” I said. “I grew up in church, you know, with my dad. Jesus is all about second chances, right?”
Dick blinked. Then he laughed, too. He wiped his eyes and said, “You’re one hell of a woman, Barb.”
“I know,” I said. He had taken it better than I expected. I walked toward the door and took hold of the knob. Then I reached over and took my jacket off the rack. I wouldn’t forget it this time.
“Barb,” Dick said. I turned back and he was crying again. “I’ll miss you. God, I’ll miss you. All the things I did to you, you did to me, and you saved me. God, I just—” Dick coughed and wiped his eyes. They were bright and clear when he looked at me. “Will I see you again?”
“Are you going to wait for me?” I said.
Dick nodded. “As long as it takes. If you’ll have me.”
I hadn’t considered that. Maybe, years down the line…
“I’ll let you know,” I said. When Dick realized it was the best answer he’d get, he nodded. I gave him one last lingering smile. Then I opened the door and left.
I passed through the hotel’s hallway and out to my car. I got in. Every motion was easy, automatic. There was no resistance, no conflict anymore. I was just following instinct down the only path I knew.
I would go to the police station and introduce myself as Barbara Lenton of the Blackbird Gang. I’d tell them about some of the people they’d arrested, enough to prove my story without spilling any secrets. I’d leave out Dick entirely—the man would have enough attention without me ratting on him. If Dick had any sense, he’d get out of town, maybe even get a new name.
I’d tell the police that on August 18th, James murdered Detectives Vargas and Bao, and I was powerless to stop him. For all I knew, Vargas’s death was a cold case, or they’d pinned it on me. But if the police doubted, they wouldn’t be able to prove jack shit.
I’d tell them everything I knew about James, of course. If the cops suspected him of heading the Blackbirds now, so much the better. His memory could rot with him for all I cared.
I’d call Darryl Dunson. He had Bollocks’s recommendation, and he’d helped me out on my last two arrests. With his guidance, I’d set up a plea bargain. I’d tell them about the car chase in March, a few of the arsons, and my knowledge of a few Blackbird plots.
I wouldn’t breathe a word about the people I’d killed. All the police had was stolen reports and heresay from known criminals. I hadn’t left fingerprints anywhere important. Sure, I’d left a gun in Albany, but that was tied up in the Silvers investigation, and what did that have to do with me? If Silvers accused me of attacking her base, she was an idiot. She and her people couldn’t bring up my appearance without revealing the whole war between her gang and ours, with all of the violence that entailed. No, Albany was a world away. Darryl could get me a decent plea if the police couldn’t prove anything, and I’d worked hard to make sure they couldn’t.
I was going to prison, of course, but only based on the information I chose to give up. I was selling out the Blackbirds, but only my crimes, or the crimes of people already arrested or dead. I was betraying Dick, but only to a lesser fate than what he no doubt deserved.
I was screwing the legal system, sure. I was a horrible person, sure. I wasn’t doing what was right, but what was right for me. I’d talk and spill and go to prison on no one’s terms but mine.
I grinned and started the car. It was a good enough second chance for me.