The day my brother Devin showed up on my doorstep—the day, that is, that he was killed—I had just finished painting the nursery in our new house. Janie had offered to help, but I'd refused. She was eight and a half months pregnant, and I didn't want her inhaling the fumes from the paint, a pleasant shade of yellow she'd picked for its gender neutrality, having decided that we shouldn't find out the sex of the baby until it was born. Janie's contribution was to waddle to the doorway from time to time, comment upon my work with her hands propped against the small of her back, and entice me with the promise of a beer after I'd finished.
The afternoon sun was waning through the window as I slopped the last coat of yellow in place, set down the roller, and stepped back to view my handiwork, rubbing at an itch on the tip of my nose with my knuckle. Janie materialized in the doorway with an amber bottle, beads of sweat tracing their way down the glass neck, and glanced around at the walls.
"It's a little lighter than I thought it would be," she said. "It looks more like a girl color than it did in the store." She'd pored over swatches at Home Depot that morning, showing me one color after another until I thought my eyes would bleed.
I reached for the beer. I took a long pull and sighed. "Well, I'm not painting it again. If we have a boy, we can just use the girly color of his room to teach him that gender is a social construct."
Janie rolled her eyes and made a gagging sound. Years before, I'd spent a couple semesters in a Ph.D. program in literature. I dropped out soon after starting, realizing that the plum tenured faculty position I'd always dreamed of no longer existed. Now I taught ninth and tenth grade English at East Minster High, but I'd never lost the grad school jargon—and Janie had never stopped being irritated by it.
"English, motherfucker," she said. "If you teach our kid to talk that intellectual bullshit I swear to God I'll divorce you."
I laughed and set the beer on the floor, on a patch of hardwood uncovered by the old sheets I'd been using as drop cloths, then began packing up the mess. Janie leaned against the doorframe as I cleaned, her arms crossed between the twin curves of her swelling breasts and belly. When I pulled the painter's tape off the baseboards, she pointed to a streak of yellow on the varnished cherrywood.
"You missed a spot," she said, unsmiling.
I crouched and wiped the streak clean with my thumb. I put on a grin as I stood back up.
"Good as new, see?" I said, then smeared the paint from my thumb onto her face, a single yellow mark at the spot where her cheekbone crested underneath the curve of her eye. I bent my neck to give her a kiss, but she kept her head tilted down, away from me. I planted the kiss on her forehead instead, strands of her hair sticking to the wet beer still on my lips. I craned back and watched her mouth bend into a cautious smile.
At that moment the bell rang, and I walked past Janie to answer the front door. On the stoop outside, hat literally in hand, stood my kid brother, Devin.
"Dev," I said.
Had I known he'd be dead just hours later, I suppose I would have given him a hug or something. But I didn't. I just stood on the other side of the doorway, hand still on the knob.
Devin had been in bad shape the last time I saw him, but he looked worse now. He was three years my junior, but he looked older than me by half a decade at least. His skin was tanned to a leathery brown, and deep wrinkles had etched across his face like fault lines—on his forehead, his temples, bracketing his mouth. The skin under his eyes sagged, and as he cracked a sheepish smile I saw that several of his teeth had begun to turn a dying brown. He wore tattered blue jeans and a red and black flannel shirt that looked too heavy for the late May warmth he stood in. Over one shoulder was slung a blue canvas backpack, and in his two hands he held a crumpled red baseball cap turned black with grime and sweat.
I stammered. "I, I don't…Shit."
Dev sniffed a laugh. "I know. It's been, what? Two years?"
"Three," I said, then thought about it and corrected myself: "Three years in July."
"God," said Dev. "Three years. The wedding was that long ago?"
I didn't say anything to that. Seemed like more of a rhetorical question. Behind me, in the house, I heard Janie's footsteps creaking across the hardwood.
"What the fuck are you doing here, Dev?" I asked in a whisper.
He kneaded the baseball cap. "Look, I can tell that maybe this isn't the best time or something, but it's important, okay?—and I just need you to listen for a second without getting mad at me. Are you mad at me?"
"Mad?" I said, my voice rising above a whisper in spite of myself. "I'm not mad. Just a little surprised is all."
"Yeah. I know."
"I mean, I guess what I am is…I'm fucking floored. I don't see you for years—nobody sees you for years—and then all of the sudden you just show up out of the blue, out of nowhere. I just…" I took a deep breath through my nose and let it leak out slowly. "I'm not mad. I just want to know what you're doing here."
"That's what I'm trying to tell you," said Dev. "But you just have to promise that you won't get mad, okay? Can you promise me that?"
Some things never change, I thought. Even as a kid, Dev wanted everyone to like him, everyone to be happy with him. He couldn't handle it if he thought someone was mad at him. And since, growing up, I was pretty much constantly mad at him—mad, irritated, annoyed—Are you mad at me, Mike? was a question I heard twenty times a day.
The truth was that while I had started out as shocked, that question—Are you mad at me?—was actually starting to make me angry, and I was about to tell Dev so, when Janie came up behind me.
"Holy shit," said Dev, a smile cracking across his face. "Janie. Jesus Christ, look at you. You're huge!"
I closed my eyes for a second with disgust at Dev's stupidity—no matter what, you never, ever tell a pregnant woman she's huge—but to my surprise I heard the sound of Janie's laughter, light and unfeigned, like the soft music of a wind chime, cascading over my shoulder and onto the stoop.
"What are you standing out there for?" she asked. "You should come in. Mike, why didn't you ask him in?"
"I didn't know you'd want to have—" I began, then stopped myself. "I was just so surprised to see him out here. I guess I forgot myself."
"Well, come in, Devin, come in."
I stood aside and held the door open as Dev walked inside. I caught a whiff of him as he passed—body odor so acrid it burned my nosehairs to smell it, the leftover-fried-chicken odor of greasy hair gone too long unwashed. I didn't know what Dev had been up to since I'd seen him last, but whatever it was, the time hadn't been kind.
Inside, Janie and Dev regarded each other for an awkward moment. Perhaps Janie had finally smelled Dev too, and regretted inviting him into the house. Or maybe she just didn't know what to say—that wouldn't be surprising, given that she'd only spoken to him once at our wedding and hadn't seen him since. Whatever the reason, after their initial show of affection at the door they didn't quite know what to say to each other, and burst out into awkward laughter simultaneously. Janie dropped her gaze and then glanced sideways to give me a pleading look.
"Maybe you'd like to take a look at the house?" I said. "We've still got a lot of work to do, but seeing as you're family we could give you the executive tour."
"Of course, I'd love to see it," said Dev. The strap of his backpack slipped down his arm, and with a shrug he hoisted it back up on his shoulder.
"Why don't I take that?" asked Janie.
"It's fine," he said. "I'd just as soon hold on to it."
"Nonsense," Janie said, advancing toward him and grasping at the blue canvas with both hands. Dev unhooked his arm and watched her slide the strap over his wrist. His eyes followed the backpack all the way to the closet next to the front door. Janie reached to put it on the high shelf above the coat hangers, her shirt sliding up to reveal the smooth underside of her pregnant belly. Dev wet his lips with a quick dart of his tongue as the closet slid closed.
I watched him. What's in the bag, Dev? What have you brought into my house, into my life?
Looking oddly bereft, Dev wiped his hands slowly up his pant legs.
"So," he said. "This tour."
"It's not much of a tour, I'm afraid," I said. This wasn't false modesty—the house was painfully small, only a shade bigger than the one-bedroom apartment Janie and I had just moved from. It needed work, too. Built back in the 1920s, the cramped stucco bungalow we'd scraped every last penny together to buy was creaky, drafty, and crumbling, with cracks inching their way up the plaster walls where the house settled into its foundations. More than once since we'd closed on the place I'd laid awake in bed listening to the house groan, wondering if we'd made the right decision. But Janie had insisted that if we were going to have a baby we'd need a yard for the pipsqueak to play in, so we scraped our money together and bought the best house we could afford.
"Why don't we start with the baby's room?" Janie suggested.
"Sure," I said, booming out an enthusiasm I didn't feel as I led Dev down the hall. In the baby's room, there on the floor was the bottle of beer I had left behind to answer the door, and I strode to the middle of the room and bent to pick it up.
From the hallway, Janie said, "Oh yeah, would you like something from the kitchen, Dev? Can I get you a beer too?"
"No, I don't think that Dev…" I began, thinking that whether or not Dev was still using, a beer for a former drug addict might not be such a great idea. Then I saw Dev and stopped talking. He was frozen just inside the door, staring an empty corner of the room.
"Dev?" I asked. "What's wrong?"
"No," he mumbled to himself, eyes wide, face pale. "No, no, no. Don't. Not here."
He walked a few steps forward, toward the wall he'd been staring at. Then his body quaked and he let out a wordless shout, as if he'd touched an electrical current. He staggered back into the middle of the room, and his heel caught the lip of an open paint can.
"Oh…" Janie groaned and held out her hand out. But it was already too late. The can toppled, and a sludge of yellow spilled out onto the floor.
Dev looked down at the paint flooding around his shoes and seemed to come back to himself.
"God," he said. "God, I'm sorry. I, I didn't mean to…fuck."
"I'll get the mop," Janie said, then slipped down the hall.
I grabbed a crumpled dropcloth from the corner of the room and threw it at the spill, trying to contain the paint before it settled into the grooves of the hardwood. Dev stepped back, putting yellow shoeprints onto the floor.
"Goddammit, Dev," I snapped. "What the fuck is wrong with you?"
Dev grabbed me by the collar and pulled me close. "Can you see her, Mike?"
I shrugged Dev's grip from my shirt and pushed his hands away.
"What are you talking about?"
"The girl, Mike," said Dev. "The little girl. Tell me you see her. He hurt her, then…" His face pinched together, crumpling along the sun lines, and he let loose a sound that was part sob, part yelp.
"Something happened here, Mike. Something bad."
The first time it happened—the first time I remember, anyway—I was nine, and Dev was six. That was the first time Dev saw something that wasn't there.
We were playing in the basement of our house on the west side of town—the poor side. The house was a shabby, rambling dump, but it had one feature to recommend it: a palatial finished basement, where Dev and I could spread our toys on the ground and, since our parents rarely came downstairs, not pick them up for weeks. It was summer, I think, a few weeks before we'd both go back to school.
Neither my mother nor my father feature in the memory. This is wrong, I'm sure; they weren't the type to leave us unsupervised, so one or both of them must have been around the house. I just don't remember them being there. This is true of many of my childhood memories—in most of them, I've simply edited our parents out. In my mind, the past was mostly just Dev and me: Dev and me playing, Dev and me fighting, Dev and me reconciling, Dev and me acting out a new drama every single day.
On this particular day, I was ignoring Dev. The memory begins with me lying on my stomach with a book splayed out on the floor in front of me, Dev somewhere in the room behind me, playing sullenly with a toy truck. I can't remember what it was we'd been fighting about, but I can guess: Dev wanted to play, but I just wanted to be left alone to read. At nine, I loved to read, but Dev still hadn't mastered it yet, which made the pastime all the more appealing: it was something I could use to separate myself from him, to make him feel inferior and press my advantage as the oldest brother.
And so, when I first heard Dev's voice over my shoulder, I responded with the fierce annoyance that only an older sibling can muster.
"What is it?" Dev asked. "What do you want?"
I rolled over. "Be quiet, Dev. I'm trying to read."
But Dev wasn't looking at me.
"I wasn't talking to you," he said. "I was talking to him."
I followed Dev's eyes to the foot of the stairs. There was no one there.
"Whatever," I said, turning again to my book.
"Who is it, Mike?" Dev asked. His voice was pitched at a whisper. "Who's that man?"
I rolled my eyes but didn't turn back around. "There's no one there. Now stop annoying me."
"You can't see him?"
"The man. He's right there. That shadow man."
Something in my younger brother's words made me stop. I turned and looked at the foot of the stairs, chilled. Dev had this effect on me sometimes, unnerving me with the explosive unpredictability of his emotional reactions to things that barely phased me, with the intensity and darkness of his imagination. I might have been older, bigger, and stronger, but it didn't matter that I could beat him in a fight. Dev was still more dangerous.
My younger brother had scared me.
"Stop playing," I said. "This isn't funny. You're not being funny."
"Who are you?" Dev asked—and with a chill I knew that he wasn't talking to me and wasn't pretending, either.
Dev stood and began to move toward the foot of the stairs.
"Where are you going?" I demanded, unable to hide the fear in my voice now, to cover it over with annoyance.
"He wants me to follow him," Dev said. There was something in his voice I didn't like, a dulled, entranced quality that made it seem as though he wasn't entirely there—hypnotized, or sleepwalking, perhaps.
He walked up the stairs, and in spite of my fear, I followed him past the ground floor and up a second set of stairs to the long hallway where our bedrooms were. Dev moved into our parents' bedroom, a few steps ahead of me.
"Hey!" I hissed at him. "We're not supposed to go in there. Dad will be mad at you if he catches you. Come out or I'll tell."
But Dev just ignored me. He went to the foot of the bed and looked to the closet. Slowly, he moved toward it. I stepped inside the bedroom just as he put his hand on the knob and pulled the closet open. The door swung wide, whining on its hinges, and as it did Dev's eyes bulged.
He screamed, staggered back, and fell against the foot of the bed.
I rushed forward and pulled him up by his arm.
"Be quiet!" I whispered.
Dev's legs were limp on the floor beneath him, his shoulder up under his ear as I clutched him hard just above his elbow. Our faces were only inches away from each other, but Dev wouldn't meet my eyes. He looked past me, his eyes wide and glassy with fear.
"You have to help him," Dev whimpered. "You have to help him, Mike. He's going to die if you don't."
I let go of Dev's arm and turned to follow his gaze. I looked into the closet.
It was empty. Nothing there except my mother's clothes, rows of blouses and pants and dresses hanging above shoes lined neatly on the floor below.
"Help him!" Dev yelled.
I turned and shoved him back onto the bed. "I told you to shut up! There's nothing there."
Dev's face was red. Tears streamed down his cheeks. The breath came fast in his chest.
"You can't see him?" Dev pleaded.
"The man. The necktie man."
A ball of ice formed in my stomach and grew.
"He's hanging. His tie is wrapped around his neck and he's hanging, and he needs someone to help him. His eyes are so big and they're coming out of his head, and he's grabbing at his tie, but I can't help him because I'm too little, Mike—it has to be you. You're bigger."
I turned once more to the closet, half-hoping that this time I'd see what Dev saw. Still there was nothing. I moved forward, stepped inside the closet, and ran my hands through my mother's clothes, parting the hangers here and there to see if there was anything hiding between the garments.
I let out a breath, certain that Dev was playing and now he'd drop the goof, but when I looked back at him he was scrambling backward on our parents' bed, his legs kicking out in front of him as he tried to get as far away from the closet as possible. He didn't stop kicking even when his back hit the headboard. Underneath him, the bedspread bunched under the soles of his shoes and slid toward the end of the bed.
"He's dying, Mike!" he screamed, his voice getting louder and more panicked. "His face is turning gray. Close the door, I don't want to see him anymore!"
He grabbed the edge of the bedspread and pulled the covers over his head.
Since coming in the room, a kind of paralysis had overtaken me. But now, seeing my brother hide under the covers and fearing that my parents would hear and come in to find us snooping in their room, their bed in disarray, my paralysis turned into rage, and my fists clenched at my sides.
I ran to the head of the bed and, reaching under the covers, yanked Dev out. He came sliding sideways and fell with a thud on the floor.
"Don't," he pleaded, his eyes clamped shut. "I don't want to see it."
I crouched and hit him twice in the chest with my fist. Hard. Dev yelped and I clamped my hand down over his mouth, put my mouth close to his ear.
"I told you to be quiet," I hissed. "If you don't shut up Mom and Dad are going to come in here and they're going to see the mess you made and you're going to be in so much trouble."
Underneath my palm, I felt Dev's mouth open and his teeth moving, trying to find purchase, some loose flesh to bite down on.
I snatched my hand away from his mouth, and Dev, freed, scrambled backward to his feet and stood staring at me.
"Dumbass!" I shouted, wiping my hand on my pants. "Just run away if you're so scared, you stupid baby."
I put a hand on my knee as I stood, then turned away from Dev to begin fixing the bed.
I paused and looked back at Dev, who was still rooted to the floor, his whole body quaking. His eyes were fixed on me but he glanced occasionally back to the closet door. It was almost as if he was afraid to move, as if some invisible thing were holding him where he stood.
"I told you to get out of here!" I yelled. I dropped the folds of the bedspread back to the bed and rushed forward to push Dev away, out of the room.
I only gave him a single shove. A push to get him moving, to get him out of the room so I could turn back to the job at hand: cleaning up our parents' room, removing all traces of our having been there.
But, as mothers have been telling older brothers for ages, I didn't know my own strength, and I must have pushed Dev harder than I intended to. My younger brother didn't just move; he positively flew across the room from my hands, staggering backward through the door and into the hallway, beginning to stumble as his heels reached the edge of the stairs.
The memory ends with him teetering at the top of the staircase, with the panic that flooded my body as I watched my younger brother's eyes bulge, with the moment his center of gravity shifted and he began to fall.
What happened next I recall only in flashes: my parents suddenly materializing from wherever they'd been all along, the panic as we rushed Dev to the hospital, my growing dread of what I'd done and what my punishment would be as I sat in the waiting room, crying in bed that night after a spanking longer and harder than any I'd ever receive at my father's hands.
The other details I'd glean later from the dozens of times my parents retold the story of The Time Michael Broke Devin's Leg: the fall had fractured his tibia in three places. We didn't have insurance. My parents practically had to clear out their savings.
But what they didn't know—what Dev and I never told anyone—was what had led up to the accident in the first place. Dev's hallucination, the first sign of his sickness, was buried underneath the crisis of his broken leg. As it was, it would be years before my parents finally allowed themselves to see that there was anything wrong with him.
If only we'd known earlier, my mother would say in later years. If only we'd known, maybe then we could've done something.
The bone didn't set properly. Even after the cast came off, Dev had a limp—a limp he still had with him when he climbed the steps of our house that day so many years later.
The day his demons finally caught up with him and killed him for good.
After we'd cleaned up the mess in the baby's room, Janie suggested Dev take a shower, and then maybe a bit of supper afterward. Dev accepted—grateful, I suppose, for an excuse to leave the room where he'd been ambushed by one of his hallucinations.
Now, the pipes in the walls shrieked as I worked over the stove in our kitchen. I was making our easiest meal: pasta with Italian sausage and red sauce from the jar. Janie stood in the doorway, leaning against the jamb and glancing down the hallway to the closed bathroom door, behind which Dev was taking his shower.
"Do you think he's in trouble?" Janie asked.
I shrugged. "This is my brother we're talking about. He's always in trouble."
"Yeah, but what kind of trouble?"
I stood back from the stove and leaned against the refrigerator in our tiny galley kitchen.
"Nothing real, I'm sure. Mostly it's all in his head."
Janie shot me a scolding look.
"I'm serious, Janie. You don't know Dev like I do. It's all made up—dreams, hallucinations, voices. You know what he told me when we were kids?"
"No," she said, standing up a little straighter, her eyes taking on a flicker of curiosity. "You never tell me anything about your brother."
I sighed and stepped forward to stir the boiling pasta, make sure it wasn't sticking.
"Well, I'm telling you now. You want to hear or not?"
"Tell me," she said.
My eyes wandered up past the stove hood toward the ceiling as I recalled.
"There was a man. A man no one else could see. Dev called him the Shadow Man. Said he showed him things, fucked-up things like dead bodies and people being murdered and raped and tortured."
"Jesus," said Janie, a dull shock in her voice. "I had no idea. When did this start? How old was he?"
"I don't remember. Young. He started seeing things when he was six, but for a long time we just thought he was making things up. He always had an active imagination. Things didn't really start getting bad until he was older—nine or ten. By then, my parents knew something was wrong."
Janie shook her head, her eyes gone blurry. "I don't understand how a boy…how someone that age could even have that kind of stuff in their head."
"It got worse," I said. "Toward the end—before he ran away—he started seeing…I don't know, demons, I guess. Voices that talked to him through the TV. Black birds that came and pecked at him in his bed. Bees that flew out of the sink and stung him all over."
"God," Janie said. "It must have been awful."
I nodded. "It was. It practically destroyed my parents. It wasn't easy for me, either. The house was like a war zone sometimes. Nights were the worst. Two in the morning, Dev would start screaming about some crazy thing, and we'd all be up. Even when things were good and it seemed like Dev was normal we'd be anxious, waiting for the next blow-up."
Janie was silent for a moment. I glanced up at her.
"What?" I asked.
"For Dev," Janie said. "That's what I meant. It must have been awful for Dev."
"Oh," I said, and looked back down to the stove. "That too. I'm sure it was."
At that moment, the pipes stopped their shrieking and I heard the sound of the shower curtain being pulled back. Janie walked into the kitchen and sidled up next to me.
"Here, let me," she said. "You should be there to talk to him when he comes out. Find out what's going on, why he's here."
"But the food—"
"I can take care of it."
I raised an eyebrow. "Are you sure? Maybe you shouldn't be on your feet."
Janie elbowed me aside. "Cook meat, boil pasta, warm sauce. I think I've got it. I'm not a fucking invalid, you know."
"I never said you were—"
"Scoot," Janie said. "Go talk to your brother. I'll call when dinner's ready."
Banished, I wandered down the hallway and hesitated just outside the bathroom door. At that moment, the door swung wide, a puff of steam emanating into the hallway as Dev stood framed in the doorway, bright white light gleaming off the tiles behind him.
Dev's hair was still wet, and he was wearing some of my clothes—old blue jeans and a T-shirt that Janie had rooted from the bottom of one of my dresser drawers.
"Hey," he said, clearly surprised to find me lurking just outside the bathroom door.
I felt myself redden, heat rising from the curve of my collar right through the top of my head.
"Sorry. I wasn't spying or anything, I just—" I waved back down the hallway toward the kitchen and cleared my throat. "Janie's working on dinner. It won't be too much longer. Maybe we could…" I trailed off and nodded toward the other end of the hallway, to the small dining area.
"Sure," Dev said. "Sure." He followed me into the dining room.
"So," I said when we'd sat.
"You're probably wondering—"
"Yeah, I am."
"Wondering what I'm doing here. Right?"
"Right," I said, and waited.
"And I'm going to tell you, but first I need you to promise that you're not going to be mad at me, that you're going to listen to me and not just tell me that I'm crazy."
I sighed. "See, Dev, when you say shit like that it doesn't make me not mad at you. It makes me think that I'm going to be mad at you, and so I start to get pissed in anticipation, and—I mean, are you even on your meds right now? Are you in the middle of some kind of episode?"
Dev's face began to turn red. "This is exactly why I tried to tell you not to be—"
"I mean, Jesus, Dev, we had no idea where you went, you know that? Mom's been worried sick about you for the past three years, ever since the wedding. She thought you might be dead. Hell, I thought you might be dead."
"Would you just listen for a second?" Dev asked. "Look, I'm in trouble, Mike," Dev hissed, sounding frantic even as the volume of his voice settled to a whisper. He hunched over the table.
"What kind of trouble?"
"Someone—some thing—is trying to kill me."
I closed my eyes and let a silence draw out, pressing my lips together and pushing a slow breath out through my nose.
"Dev, I want you to listen to me," I said. "Your medication. Just answer me. Are you on your—"
"This has nothing to do with that!" Dev shouted. He slammed his hands on the table and sat up straight as if an electrical current was running through his back, drawing all his muscles tight. His eyes bulged.
I'd seen that look in my brother's eyes a hundred, a thousand times when we were kids. There was danger in that look. That look told me that Dev was close to snapping, close to an all-out breakdown. But I didn't care. I wasn't going to be dragged into his madness. Not again. Not with a new house to fix up and a baby on the way. Dev could ruin his own life if he wanted to. But I'd be damned if he took me down with him.
"Look, it's going to kill me, understand?" Dev said. "It's coming after me. I thought I could stop it, but I can't, and now I've made it mad and I swear to God I'm more afraid than I've ever been. It feeds on pain, Mike. It's killed so many people already, and now I'm next."
Thinking back on it now, I'm sickened at my indifference to what Dev was going through. Whether I believed him or not—and at that point I didn't, not even close—something was obviously tormenting him, and he needed me. He was sitting in front of me with madness in his eyes, pleading for help from his big brother.
But all I did was shrug. God help me, I shrugged.
"So what do you want from me?" I asked. "What am I supposed to do?"
"Give me a place to stay," Dev said. "Someplace safe until I can find a way to get out of town. That's all I need. One night. Maybe two."
I gnawed at a piece of cracked skin on my lower lip as I thought.
"A couple nights, huh?" I asked.
Dev spread his hands. "That's it. I swear, Mike. You won't even notice me."
"I doubt that," I mumbled. "Just answer me one thing."
There was the trace of a flinch in the sun-browned skin around Dev's eyes. "What?"
"What did you see back there? In the baby's room."
Dev sat back slowly and his chair and shot a wary look at me from the corner of his eye.
"That…that wasn't anything," he ventured. "I didn't see—"