Part 1 of this set of posts outlined a scenario in which a plucky country girl named Emma put up a Craigslist ad asking for an affluent intown Atlanta couple to adopt her so she could get away from rural dysfunction and into a better high school. Part 2 gave the typical tropes that such a story would often contain; Part 3 gave a number of elements the plot of my story would contain. Yesterday, I gave the first half of the outline. This is a two-part story, not unlike my story L’appel du vide, where the first half of the story is from the POV of a character and the second from that of the detectives. I summarized the second half of the story as follows:
But then when Diana is doing the paperwork, it comes up that Stepmom, Stepdad, Emma and the dead brother are not biologically related: Stepson’s widowed father married Stepmom, then later died, long before Stepdad came along. Diana calls her sister Fiona, laughing about how their own family doesn’t seem quite so weird, and Fiona makes some remark that gets Diana thinking about things a little more. I’ll explain this half in tomorrow’s post.
She looks up the cousin and his mother and brother and quickly finds a) that they’re Emma’s aunt and cousins on her mom’s side, but unrelated to any of the others, b) the middle brother died in a gun-safety accident a couple of months ago, and c) the cousins’ father also died in a gun-safety accident, one that is to her much more clearly a suicide than the middle brother’s. She chases down the cops who wrote up the cousins’ dad’s report and soon learns that the dad was about to be arrested for molesting his oldest son, the one Emma helped move. But the cousins’ mom is pretty clear that Stepdad and Emma were around at the time of Stepson’s death: she stayed with them in the old house. And their phones indicate they stayed there. Emma is an emancipated minor (or taking steps to become one) but her own mom isn’t that far away.
Diana tracks down Stepson’s exGF and his boss, and neither one describes him as despondent. Then she interviews Stepmom and Stepdad, the latter of whom is distinctly nervous because he thinks Diana’s trying to probe his alibi, when in fact she’s just curious about why Emma is living with them. She finds out that Stepdad is paying Cousin’s community college tuition. She interviews Cousin, who’s pleased and grateful, then Emma’s mom and her boyfriend, who come off as exactly the sort of people who you’d place an ad on Craigslist to get away from, but who say they went over to the old house that night and only the cousin’s mom was there, not Stepdad or Emma.
So now Diana is able to put the puzzle together: Emma went to Cousin and confirmed that yes, his own dad molested him. She came back and told Stepdad that the twins were being molested by Stepson, and he wanted to hear the story first-hand, so he came back down with her to Cousin’s place, and the three of them hatched the plot: Cousin is the alibi and they’re going to pay him back with college money. They left their phones at the house while they drove back to Atlanta, killed Stepson and made it look like a suicide, then went back to get the panicked phone call from Stepmom. Diana thinks she can nail them by not just looking at phone transponders, but car ones; but Cousin’s mom drives an old enough car that it doesn’t have one.
At the end, Diana finally gets to meet the twins, and wonders what lengths she’d go to in order to protect her own child. And that, folks, is a story.