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How It Happened
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“And that is how it happened. Can we stop now?”
Kimberly Crepeaux is no good, a notorious jailhouse snitch, teen mother, and heroin addict whose petty crimes are well-known to the rural Maine community where she lives. So when she confesses to her role in the brutal murders of Jackie Pelletier and Ian Kelly, the daughter of a well-known local family and her sweetheart, the locals have little reason to believe her story.
Not Rob Barrett, the FBI investigator and interrogator specializing in telling a true confession from a falsehood. He’s been circling Kimberly and her conspirators for months, waiting for the right avenue to the truth, and has finally found it. He knows, as strongly as he’s known anything, that Kimberly’s story — a grisly, harrowing story of a hit and run fueled by dope and cheap beer that becomes a brutal stabbing in cold blood — is how it happened. But one thing remains elusive: where are Jackie and Ian’s bodies?
After Barrett stakes his name and reputation on the truth of Kimberly’s confession, only to have the bodies turn up 200 miles from where she said they’d be, shot in the back and covered in a different suspect’s DNA, the case is quickly closed and Barrett forcibly reassigned. But for Howard Pelletier, the tragedy of his daughter’s murder cannot be so tidily swept away. And for Barrett, whose career may already be over, the chance to help a grieving father may be the only one he has left. How it Happened is a frightening, tension-filled ride into the dark heart of rural America from a writer Stephen King has called “a master” and the New York Times has deemed “impossible to resist.”
Along for the Ride
And it would make a great story
If I ever could remember it right.
I'd never seen him before the day we killed him.
Now, Jackie, I knew her. I'd known her forever, really. We were never friends or anything, but it's a small town, so all the girls know each other. We were in the same classes, at least until high school. Then she was in the smart classes. She didn't party much either. What I remember most about her is from fifth grade, when her mom died. What made you ask me about that, anyhow? That was a long time ago, and it doesn't have anything to do with this. But up until we killed her, that's probably what I remember best, sure.
Her mom died in a car wreck. I think she slid across the center line in the snow or something. Jackie missed a few days of school, and we all had to make her cards, you know, draw pictures and write notes about how sad we were for her. She came back to school the next week and her dad walked her into the room, and he was holding her hand so tight. Like he just couldn't let her go. I watched that, and I was thinking of the cards we'd all made her, and…this will make me sound bad, but I was kind of pissed off about that. Because, sure, it was sad that her mom was dead, but she still had her dad, right? Well, I was living with my grandmother, and neither of my parents were dead, but they might as well have been. I mean, my dad never held my hand the way Howard Pelletier held Jackie's hand. Nobody ever did. So I felt bad for her, but…nobody was having the whole class write me cards, you know? Nobody gave a shit what was going on in my life. I wasn't one of the girls people cared about, I was always just…overlooked.
I can't believe she kept that card. Did she keep them all? Whatever, it doesn't matter. None of it matters. I don't understand why you brought that up, Barrett. It's got nothing to do with anything that happened last summer.
Okay, so the day that does matter was the last really hot day of the summer. It got hotter in the beginning of September than it had been all of August. I think that had something to do with it. I mean, I'm not making excuses, but I keep thinking about how it started and where we went and I just feel, like, positive we would never have been out that way if it hadn't been for the heat. And for the way the heat made everybody feel, especially Mathias. Am I supposed to say his full name in this one, like we don't all know it? Mathias Burke. You know what's funny? Your eyes get tight at the corners when you hear his full name. That's really weird. Every time I say it, I can see you tighten up. Like you're bracing for a punch. Or want to throw one. Which is it? Hey, you said to tell it in my own words, right? Careful what you wish for, Barrett.
All right…it was the first weekend that the tourists were gone, or most of them, the ones with kids were all gone and so it was a little quieter, and Mathias had gotten stir-crazy or something. That night—Friday night—he was jacked up, buzzing. He was just waiting to pop off. Like there was something living underneath his skin, looking for a way out. And he kept bitching about the heat. Cass, she was the same way about the heat, but that's because she didn't want to sweat, she had to stay just right. She always looked like a whore when she put on makeup, didn't understand how to do anything subtle, you know? Always a lot where a little would do. I know I'm not supposed to say anything mean about her because she's dead, but it's just the truth.
Oh, let me back up—I was working the day shift at the liquor store. I was off at six, and Cass was walking over to meet me and then we were just going to go into town or whatever. Maybe back to her trailer, just hang out. We didn't really have a plan. If we'd had anywhere to go, we wouldn't have ended up with him that night. But we were free.
Mathias came in at…I want to say it was five thirty? A little before quitting time for me. I've known him for years, but we never dated or anything. We didn't really hang out, even. So I was surprised when he asked what I was doing that night. I never knew Mathias to party much. He was always working, it seemed like. If you saw him drinking, it was in the winter. In the summer, he was, like, twenty-hours-a-day working. I told him Cass and I were supposed to go out to the bars, and he seemed kind of disappointed, and for a moment there, I wondered if he actually was hitting on me. But then he just shifted gears when Cass showed up.
He was telling us about this client's house he had access to. Some rich bitch who used the place only two weeks a year or something, but it was a real special spot and he wanted to go out there and drink and swim. I was kind of interested, but then he said he knew he could get a score too, and that put me off because I'd been trying to get clean. But Cass was all about it.
We went out into the parking lot because I'd finished my shift. We drank some booze out there—I think it was like a six-pack of Twisted Tea and a couple forties of beer, and Cass had some vodka. One of the flavored kinds, apple or raspberry or something. We sat on the tailgate of his truck and smoked cigarettes and drank. Oh, this was his work truck. Not the one we were in when we killed them.
Mostly we were talking about the heat. That's why I remember that it seemed to bother him. Because he was looking up at the sun and talking about it like it was personal. As if the sun had come up hot that day looking only for him, like somebody picking a fight.
We chilled for a little while and then he said he had a good place to party and that he'd made a score, and he'd share it if I gave him a ride back to his truck. I was like, You're sitting on your truck, genius. But he said the truck he wanted was at a client's house, so he needed a ride out there. You know he's a caretaker, so he has all these summerhouses he's always working on.
Now, I hadn't done much all summer but drink. Maybe a little weed, but that was about it. I mean, I guess a few pills. But nothing serious, because, you know, people kept dying last summer, even before Cass. It was all over the news. There was bad heroin somebody brought up from Washington, DC. A black guy, I think. Or maybe he was Mexican. But I know it was from DC, because people kept calling it that. It was moving around like a fever that summer. People were dying without even OD'ing because of what it was cut with, some chemical thing I never really understood. I just knew it was bad shit and people were dying, more people that single summer than had died in Maine the entire year before from drugs, I think. Maybe that's not a fact, but it's what I heard.
So, like I said, I was trying to get clean, but if Cass and Mathias left together, it would've been just me, right? Just me and a friggin' six-pack of Twisted Tea on a Friday night. Who wants that? So I just…you know how it goes. You give in. You never think anything bad is going to happen. I said I'd go along but I didn't want to do any drugs, and Mathias just kind of winked and said, We'll see.
We left, and I was driving and he was shotgun and Cass should've been in the backseat but she crawled up into the middle, and she was basically sitting on his lap. Annoying, but that was just Cass. Only thing that surprised me was that Mathias seemed to be going along with it. He'd never struck me as the type who'd…how do I say this? He was just a more serious type of dude, right? Always kind of locked into his own thing, so it was strange to see him act like that.
That's when I figured he was riding something more than a beer buzz.
Anyhow, I was driving and focused on his directions, because I didn't want to get pulled over. He was telling us that once we got to his truck, he'd take us down to this summer person's house that he had access to, telling us how great it was, really hyping it. I was picturing something different than where we ended up, something fancier.
His truck was at a house somewhere on the Archer's Mill Road. I honestly don't remember the spot all that well. He just told me to pull into a driveway, and I did. His truck was parked down at the bottom of the driveway, and you couldn't see it from the road. There was a tarp over the hood, and I asked what that was about, and he gave this big grin and was like, Check this shit out, and pulled the tarp off.
He'd painted the hood real bright white, and then in the center there was this black cat, a bad drawing of one, like a little kid would do of a Halloween cat, you know? Fur sticking out, back arched, tail up. All these black squiggles.
It was getting dark by then, and he was using his cell phone to light it up for us, and when I got closer, I saw that he'd painted the cat's eyes red. The whole thing was strange, but there was something about the eyes that didn't match the rest. It sounds dumb, but for some reason the eyes bothered me.
I didn't understand why he was proud of that truck. It was just…dumb. This cartoon black cat with red eyes painted in the middle of the friggin' hood against that white paint that was so bright it was kind of hard to look at. The paint job was dumb and the truck was pretty shitty.
He got the drugs out then. First time anyone shot up was down there where he'd left his truck, and it was just him and Cass. I said no, thanks, I was good with beer. I don't know how long we stayed down there. They shot up and drank and I just had a couple cigarettes and a beer or two. Maybe a hit of vodka. I was still sober when Mathias said it was time to go to the pond, and he was going to drive us in that dumb truck.
There was no extended cab, only a bench seat in front. I usually get stuck in the middle because I'm small, right? But Cass took the middle that night. She wanted to be close to Mathias.
But, hey, before I keep going, I want to make one thing clear, okay?
I was just along for the ride.
You know what the Archer's Mill Road is like, all those curves. Mathias was drunk and messed up and driving too fast, and it seemed like something could go wrong easy. He was playing some sort of bad rock-country music. Not like Nickelback-bad, but still pretty awful. I looked over and saw Cass had her hand on his crotch, and then I wished I hadn't gone along. It's better to be alone than third-wheeling it in a truck with crap like that going on right next to you. But that's how she would get when she was using. When Cass was messed up, she was easy. You don't need to take my word for that; ask around.
When we got out to the camp, though, I felt better. It was just like he'd said—there was a dock and a raft and it was warm and there were a million stars. I remember the stars real well, because after Mathias and Cass got in the water and swam out to the raft, I just lay on my back on the dock so I didn't have to listen to them out there. That was the first time I hit any of the heroin. Only reason I did that was because I didn't want to listen to them doing whatever they did out there, and it was just…it was just so pretty out. All those stars.
I might have passed out for a while. I guess I must have, because I don't remember much between the stars and the sun. Cass and Mathias were out of the water and dressed again. She came down to the dock and had a beer with me—the beers were all warm by then—and I told her I'd like to have a place like that camp someday. It wasn't so much, you know, but it was real pretty and peaceful and I've never felt like I needed all that much. There was a lot of room for my animals. My dogs, Sparky and Bama, they'd have loved a place like that. I think Cass wanted me to ask about her and Mathias, but I wasn't going to. I didn't give a shit what they'd done. I figured I'd find out about it when I took her to the clinic at some point down the road.
Everything was pretty chill but then Mathias was rushing all of a sudden, and he couldn't find his keys. He said he'd lost them when he and Cass swam out to the raft. So he's cussing like crazy and blaming her and splashing around in the water like he's actually going to find his damn keys, and she was shouting back, and I was just trying to get away from it all, so I went to sit in the truck. That was when I saw the keys were still in the ignition.
I thought that was funny, you know? He's losing his mind out in the pond, and the keys are in the friggin' ignition. I told Cass, and I was laughing, but by then her temper was up, and so she got the keys and held them up and shouted at him, telling him what a dumb son of a bitch he was. Then she got in the truck and started it, so I got in too. Mathias came running up, soaked, and that was the first time I saw the knife.
Cass was behind the wheel. She could've just driven off. But he was holding the knife up and punching the truck and saying how he'd kill her, and he—well, this is the thing—I was going to say he scared her. But I'm not positive about that. For whatever part of her he scared, he excited some other part. Because the thing to do would be to get out, but she just slid over and opened the door.
I've thought about that a lot. What if she gets out? What if we both get out?
Instead, she stayed, and she told me not to leave. I didn't know what to do. I just wanted him to keep focused on her, I guess. He opened the door and told us to get out, that we were walking home. Cass told him to go to hell, she wasn't getting out of the truck and neither was I. I never spoke for myself. It was so intense right then…she was almost like a shield, you know? I didn't want to call attention to myself. And I was scared for what he'd do to her if I left them alone. I was scared, period.
So he gets in and says, Fine, you bitches will get what you want. And right then I'm thinking I've got to get out of the truck with or without her, but he peeled out. After that, there was no getting out.
We were going way too fast by then.
He came out of the camp and turned right instead of left, and I thought he'd turned in the wrong direction, but I wasn't going to say that to him, not the way he was. He kept punching the dashboard and saying how we'd get what we wanted now. He was driving fast, crazy fast. We were all over the road. The worse the curves, the faster he took them. I was afraid he was going to lose control. Considering what happened, pretty dumb thought, right? But that memory is crystal to me. What I was afraid of, back then, was that he'd roll the truck.
Mostly what I remember from that ride is staring at the cat. It started to look a little crazier to me on that ride. The night before it had been dumb, right? But when we were flying down the road that morning, it looked…mean.
There's that orchard on the Archer's Mill Road, and we passed that doing, I don't know, maybe seventy. Felt like a hundred. We passed the orchard and then there's the cemetery. The old one. Nobody goes out there except at Halloween or maybe tourists to take pictures. Cass and Mathias were screaming at each other and all of a sudden he says something like, If you want to die, I'll take you to the right place. Then he drove right—well, to me, it felt like he drove right off the road. But there's actually this old dirt path that goes through that cemetery, goes all the way down to the water almost. We bounced through the ditch and ended up on that path, and the tombstones were flying right by us. I was sure he was planning on driving us into the biggest one. What do they call those things, the ones that look like forts for ghosts or something? Not museums but a word like that. Museums for the dead. There's a big one in there, about halfway back, up on this little rise with a view of the water. I think he was aiming for that. Crash into it and kill us all, just because he had a bad high and the sun had been too hot for him the day before. There was no reason for anything that was happening.
The path through there is real rough, rocky. We were bouncing like crazy—my ass was literally in the air half the time, and Mathias was barely in control of the truck, and I was glad he'd turned off the paved road, because there wasn't anybody else to hit. At least whatever happened, it was only going to happen to us.
That was the last thought I had before I saw Jackie.
She was standing in the middle of the path, facing the water. The sun was coming up. Everything was pink and gold. We flew up over the hill and she turned and she was smiling. I remember her face changing, and that seemed slow. You know those blinds where you turn the rod and they shut the light out? It was like that.
I don't think she ever quite…comprehended it. I mean, we didn't belong there, right? I think she was confused the whole time. Like, What is going on?
She moved either too early or too late, depending on how you want to look at it. She tried to avoid us and Mathias tried to avoid her and they both went the same direction. Well…let me stop. I think he tried to avoid her. I want to believe that. Because otherwise it means that when he swerved…you know, he was trying.
When he hit her, she popped up in the air and hit the windshield hard enough that it cracked, and then she was gone and Mathias slammed on the brakes and we spun and that's when the back of the truck hit one of the old stones. The one that split right in half, that you all took pictures of and put in the paper and people were saying it was a satanic cult killing or whatever. Really, it was just that the bed of the truck hit that stone when we spun.
There was a moment when it was real still. Real quiet. Nobody was even breathing, it seemed. I was just staring through the windshield at the hood and there was more red on it now, and I knew that was blood but somehow it blended in, almost. Like it was part of the design with the cat. Like it had always belonged there.
I started to get out of the truck to go help her, right? Mathias got out too. Cass stayed in a little longer. I could see where Jackie had landed and then I saw him too. Ian Kelly. Didn't know his name then, of course. He was just a guy. He was coming down the path behind us, but as fast as we'd been going, we must have passed him and missed him. It was easy to do. We were driving so fast and heading right into the sunrise.
He was up above us a little bit. Standing there, staring. Jackie's body was between us. It was like a standoff. Then he started shouting. He was shouting What the hell are you doing? and I had this weird thought that it was a strange question, because it had already happened, you know? It wasn't, like, in progress. Not something we could stop.
He started walking toward us. He wasn't running, just walking. Mathias was moving too, and I saw he had something in his hand. This bar or pipe or something. And they're walking toward each other, Jackie right in the middle, her blood all over the place. Cass was finally out of the truck by then and I was kind of frozen. I didn't want to go near all that blood. The guy kept walking toward us, and he was sort of in shock.
They were almost right beside her body when Mathias hit him with the pipe. He just swung it once, right at the guy's head, and the guy never so much as got a hand up. I remember the sound it made. It was like a fist going through drywall. Wet drywall.
I screamed then. I was still screaming when Mathias turned around and looked at me, and then I stopped real fast. The way he looked at me…I knew he would kill me.
He walked back to us and he looked at us and told us to help him put them in the truck. Everybody in the world will say, Why did you do that? Why didn't you say no, why didn't you run, why didn't you call the police? But no one saw the way he was looking at us. It was do what he said or die. That was clear. That was the choice.
I only half remember picking them up. Mathias got in the truck and backed it up and got these tarps out of the bed. Not tarps, but the clear kind, like they put over broken windows. And then we, um…sorry. I need a second. Sorry.
We…uh, we…kind of…folded them up. Wrapped them up. I was trying not to look. Mathias was yelling at us to hurry before somebody came along. We're in an old cemetery out of sight of the road and it's like six in the morning—who is going to come along? That was the first time I wondered what they had been doing out there. So early too. Then later, it was all over the news, of course. That made me feel even worse, knowing why they'd gone out there. I mean, that was real sweet, you know? That was a real sweet thing. I never dated a guy who'd get up so early to do something like that. Shit, I've never even met a guy like that.
We got them in the bed of the truck, and Mathias told us to get back in. I don't think either Cass or I had said a word. I couldn't stop crying. I was having trouble breathing. I was just going to do everything Mathias told us to do until it was over. I was more scared of him than anything. I hadn't even thought of you guys yet, to be honest. Hadn't thought about anything bigger than that little stretch of road. That was the whole world right then. The world was gone and it was just that road and the truck and Mathias. That's all that was left.
People won't understand that.
Cass asked where he was going, and he said we had to hide them. He drove away like he knew exactly where he wanted to go. He was driving fast but not the same way he had been before. Under control, staying in his lane. He said we were going to dump them and get the hell out of there and clean the truck, bleach it down. Then he said that if either one of us told anybody, he'd kill us. That was the first time he said it, but it didn't really have any impact because we already understood that. At least I did.
He took us back to the camp by the pond. Pulled us all the way down to the water, right where he'd been looking for his keys just a few minutes earlier.
When I found them in the ignition.
We took her first. I couldn't see much of her face. There was too much blood. Mathias used duct tape to wrap some of those pipes he had in the truck bed around her. So she would sink. When I realized we were going to put them in the water, I thought it was a real dumb choice. Because if we'd just walked fifty yards or so down from where we'd hit her back at the cemetery, we'd have been at the tidal flats. It was high tide too. Wouldn't have had to go far. And then with the current…they'd have been carried right out. All the way to the ocean. Unless somebody pulled them up with a lobster trap or something, nobody ever would have found them. If we'd done that, I could tell you exactly how it went, and you'd still never find them. But instead, Mathias panicked, and we took them away from the ocean and back to a pond. That was pretty stupid, when you think about it. And he put them in the truck. He didn't have to do that either. All we would have had to do was drag them down to the tidal flats and let the current do what it does.
Instead, we went back to that camp, and that pond. We waded out until it was up to my neck and then he swam a little farther, dragging her out toward the raft. Then he let her go. She sank pretty easily. I remember you could see some blood in the water, but it was gone fast.
Then we went back for the guy.
We had him out of the truck before we realized he was moving. I think I felt it first, but I didn't want to believe it. Then I looked up…I remember that when I looked up at where his head was, the plastic sucked in and moved out and then sucked in again, and I realized he was breathing. Trying to breathe, at least.
Cass said, Oh, shit, then. That was all, just Oh, shit.
And Mathias stabbed him. I never even saw him get the knife out. I just saw him lean over and stab him through the plastic, right where his heart had to be.
I started to freak out. Mathias stood up and looked at me and he held the knife out. I kind of jumped back, because I expected him to cut me. Kill me. And he said—his voice was calm; I'll never forget how steady his voice was, like he was explaining the rules to a game—he said, You're both going to do that too. Because we are all in this together now.
He was waiting on me, but Cass took the knife. She…she didn't really hesitate. She just stabbed him. He wasn't moving anymore then. The plastic over his mouth wasn't moving either.
She held the knife out to me. She looked at me and said, Kimmy, we gotta hurry. Mathias was watching. I didn't take the knife, and he said, Either you do it or you go into the water with them. Make a choice, Kimmy.
So I…um, I took the knife. I dropped it, because I was shaking so bad. I got down on my hands and knees and picked it up and I…I reached out and jabbed it in there and then I crawled away. Mathias picked the knife back up and said I hadn't done it hard enough. He told me to do it again.
So I did it again.
We took him out into the water. Same way, same place. As far as I can wade up to my neck, and I'm five one, and then Mathias swam him out maybe ten feet farther. They're down there between the raft and the dock. Closer to the raft. You'll find them there. I don't know how deep. They aren't down there very far, though. It's just dark water, and a lonely place.
You'll find them easy.
Mathias drove us back to my car. The whole time he was giving us instructions, what to do with our clothes and how to wash the shower with bleach and use rags with bleach on everything we touched, and also threatening us, promising us he'd kill us if we
- On Sale
- May 15, 2018
- Page Count
- 512 pages
- Little, Brown and Company