It was something, Porter told me, hunting for words, his eyes focusing on events far back in time, that he remembered from when he was a boy. Something that had stayed with him, but until he heard my mothers story and met me hadn't really made any sense.
"I remember my father coming in from work," he said, his hand touching mine, "and I remember how angry he was. My mother was sleeping on the couch - she usually did when he was working late - and he blew right past her - no hello, no kiss, no how was your day. I was at the top of the stairs - I'd been up in my room playing with a toy and my flashlight. Even that young, I didn't sleep very well, and it had been thundering. My father shouted for my mom "Gracie! Get up! Alice is gone!"
I slid my my fingers around his, noticing that his hand was cold in mine. "It sounds like your Dad was really upset when Mama disappeared, Porter. Were they friends?"
He nodded. I couldn't understand the tenseness that still flooded from him. "Why does that memory make you angry?"
"Because, Katie, my Dad didn't grab a flashlight or a bullhorn or round up my mother into a rescue posse and go beating the woods. My father told my mother to put on her dark coat and to grab the shovel."
I sat back, mouth agape, putting the pieces together, trying for a way that didn't paint Clay in a bad light, and failing.
Porter looked miserable. "I've been over this again and again in my head, Kate, trying to remember more about that night. What stands out the most is my Dad was so angry. I'd never seen him that upset. He snapped at my mother - he usually treated her like a queen - and roared at me to go back to bed when he caught a glimpse of me huddled at the top of the stairs."
I thought. Clay had always been so open, so friendly. But I had no experience with murderers, and couldn't trust my instincts. Or could I?
I listened to Porter's heart beat under my cheek. (When had I moved toward him? He was comforting and familiar and smelt like paint thinner and fresh air, and despite what he'd told me, I was relaxing in his arms.)
He kissed the top of my head. "I think" he said, angling so he could see my face, "we need to talk to my father."
I nodded. "Tomorrow."