For Ethan, Sunday morning is marked by a string of unlucky breaks.

The police arrive just as the housekeeping truck pulls away (unlucky break number one), which even Ethan admits looks suspicious. When his doorbell rings he assumes a cleaner has a question so he doesn't bother to put on a shirt, only to find himself face-to-face with flashing police badges.

“Mike!” Ethan greets the older one warmly, recognizing his buddy's father. “What brings you here?”

“Nice boxers, son,” Mike intones. “Is that a cleaning service pulling out of your driveway?”

“Housekeeping comes every Sunday.” They actually come on Wednesdays, but what does it matter? The officers ask to come inside and Ethan obliges because (and this is the one lucky thing) all evidence of the party last night has been scrubbed. Rooms smell like bleach and pine needles. Throw pillows no longer reeking of booze lay in neat piles, so Ethan spreads them out as he follows the officers from room to room. All the fluffing and straightening seems to annoy Jennifer, though Ethan's not sure why. He's doing it for her benefit, after all. How ungrateful. “What exactly are you looking for?” He scrolls through a mental checklist of where the group might find marijuana as they make their way around the first floor and out into the backyard. His stash is upstairs but the lawn could be problematic; Ethan cleaned it up himself less than an hour ago in a hungover stupor—just throwing shit in big plastic bags, not paying any attention to what he tossed, taking the easy route per usual.

Mike surveys the grounds. “Really like the placement of these hydrangeas.”

Jennifer reappears, without Ethan having noticed her absence, bearing a pair of hot pink panties in a skimmer net. “Found these floating in the pool.” The sight of this unremarkable-looking woman holding underwear strikes Ethan as absurd bordering on hilarious. He stifles a snicker.

Mike squints at the pink bundle. “Crazy party last night, son?”

“It was pretty good. Derek dominated at foosball.”

The mention of his son doesn't deter the police chief. “Do you know who these belong to?”

“Nope, sorry.” But Ethan is pretty sure the thong belongs to Mae Brady. He remembers wrapping his fingers around elastic and tugging, but that's his own personal sex life and nobody else's business. “There were a lot of people here last night, you know.”

“Do you remember if a girl named Mae Brady was here last night?”

“Who?” Ethan's thoughts swirl. He wonders if Mike's kid knows Abby Giles; the latter left in a huff right about the time he found Mae tipsy by the kitchen sink. Would Abby sic cops on him out of jealousy?

The younger cop spells Mae's name. “Her mother reported her missing this morning. Do you know where she might be?”

“I have no idea. We're not going out.” The last person Ethan wants to think about is Mae. He has a sudden desire to text Abby. His legs feel like they are filling with water.

“She was last seen here. Do you remember the last place you saw her, maybe who she was with?”

“I don't.” By the pool. Definitely by the pool. “Inside, maybe. In the kitchen?” But Ethan chokes on apprehension, because he remembers grabbing Mae's thighs. The recollection churns in his stomach.

The younger officer kicks Ethan's trim lawn with her big ugly toe. “If you see your friend, let us know. Your parents aren't home?”

“She's not my friend.” Ethan tastes vomit in the back of his throat. He might throw up. The sun bathes the world in harsh light. A now-familiar headache forms at his temples. Its tentacles strain toward his forehead. “My parents went to visit my aunt. Should be back any minute now.”

“In that case, why don't you give us the grand tour?”

“Jesus fucking christ. Aren't you forward?”

They traipse around upstairs, and even make him unlock the cellar. Mike admires the Harringtons' extensive liquor selection. Is it typical for cops to poke around like this, to explore with no boundaries, and look wherever they want and ask whatever they want? The process is so violating.

Alone again, Ethan peers out the window to watch the officers go, and (in unlucky break number two) sees his father's car snake up the drive. The two vehicles slow. His mother hops out, rushes wildly toward the cop car. Mike will tell her everything. Ethan may as well ground himself now. This should be awhile.

The fridge is where the cops should have looked, because it contains the most evidence of last night's antics. Beer cans in the crisper. An open bottle of vodka on its side across the middle shelf, blanketing the lower two in invisible goo. No use in hiding it all now, he thinks sadly, thumbing through colorful lids for something salty. His phone rings; it's his buddy Jayden. Sorry, Jayden. It's last meal time.

His parents go at it before they manage to shut the door. “What the hell went on in here?” Marc bellows. “What'd you tell those officers?”

Ethan smothers hot sauce over cold mashed potatoes. “I told them I didn't know anything.”

Angela's face trembles in what might be a head shake of disapproval. “The police?” Then, “You talked to the police in your boxers?”

“And this business about a missing child!” Marc finally puts down his overnight bag. Tosses it, really. “We're not going to find this girl asleep in our bed or anything, are we?”

“How many times do I have to say this? We're not dating.”

Angela whispers something into her husband's ear. Marc roughly translates: “Your mom wants to know if you had intercourse with this girl.”

“I don't think so. I dunno, last night was pretty fucked up.”

Marc erupts into an almost comically angry version of himself: red face, white palms, bugged-out eyes. “Fucked up is right! An unauthorized party with drugs and alcohol and now a missing person. It doesn't sound like a normal party to me! It sounds like a catastrophe.” Marc's eye twitches. Ethan bites his tongue to keep from laughing. “I wish I could say I don't expect this from you, but no matter what you've done in the past this really takes the cake, it really takes the cake!”

Ethan's not sure what else there is to say. “Everyone makes mistakes.”

“Well, let's hope your mistakes weren't too heinous, but I guess we'll have to wait to see about that since you can't even remember if you had sex with a missing person. Convenient, very convenient. Are you checking your phone?”

“My friend is texting me.” Jayden won't stop. His latest panicked message doesn't even make sense: not stopping til you answer. get jasper to take it down. not kidding around.

Before Ethan can comprehend, Marc yanks the phone away. Adult men confiscating his phone is apparently a new trend. “No need to be so violent. Even the fools at school are more polite.”

Angela paces about, drawing all the curtains closed. “I'll call the lawyer,” she says. 


chapter thirteen