Dr. Alan Gregory and his attorney wife, Lauren, are less
than thrilled to see new neighbors arriving in the house
across the lane. Alan's good friends, both now
deceased, used to live in that house. Alan is also now the
parent of young Jonas, the son of those good friends. He is
trying his best to help Jonas through his grief and get him
back on the path to a normal life. These new people moving
into what used to be Jonas's house isn't helping things.
The newcomers themselves are less than exciting to Alan,
although his wife, Lauren, seems to be a bit elated. Mattin
Snow, an attorney turned television celebrity, and his wife,
Mimi, don't get off on the best footing with Alan. At least,
Mattin doesn't. He's bothered by the fact that Alan lets his
huge dog, Emily, run off of her leash at certain times of
the day. Therefore, their first conversation deals with
Mattin making veiled legal threats regarding the dog being
off the leash.
When the Snows hold a large and expensive housewarming (to
which Alan and Lauren are NOT invited), things begin to get
really interesting. One of their female guests, a young
widow, decides to stay overnight since she feels she has had
a bit too much to drink. She spends the night in
one of the guest rooms and wakes the next morning knowing
that something is very wrong. She has no memory of what
happened the night before past a certain point, but she has
"impressions" of some very disturbing events that convince
her she was drugged and raped.
Lauren and Alan's good friend, police detective Sam Purdy,
both know some things that they are absolutely not allowed
to share with Alan. However, it turns out that Alan stumbles
onto his own avenue of information purely by chance.
Therefore, as Alan learns more and more regarding the
strange events at the housewarming, it is actually he that
understands more about what really happened.
On top of this, Jonas has some secrets of his own. These are
secrets that could threaten his life and that of Alan, who
will do anything to save his son.
Stephen White has been writing amazing mysteries for years
and this isn't the first one to feature Dr. Alan Gregory.
His past writing speaks for itself but THE LAST LIE is a
book of, not only the lies that people will tell to save
themselves, but of changes. The mystery of what is really
going on is neatly wrapped up in the final pages of the
book, but the facts do end up being just as shocking as they
My only issue with THE LAST LIE is that there were a couple
of passages that seemed to go on longer than it seemed
necessary, but those sections turned out to be important to
the overall development of the plot. This is a book that
will hold you spellbound and refuse to let you go until you
have finished that last page.
In The Last Lie, White returns to his Alan Gregory series
roots with the popular characters and Boulder setting that
first launched him onto the bestseller lists and attracted
legions of fiercely loyal fans.
Shortly after Alan and Lauren welcome their affluent new
neighbors — a legal legend in women's rights law and his
beautiful wife — the couple hosts a housewarming party that
ends in quiet disaster. One of their guests, a young widow,
elects to spend the night after indulging in too much wine,
only to wake the next morning with no memory beyond getting
ready for bed. Was she drugged? Raped?
Lauren, a deputy district attorney, and detective Sam Purdy
are both privy to facts they can't share with Alan, but Alan
soon discovers that he has a most unusual perspective into
what truly happened after the housewarming. Before Alan can
discover all the pieces to the puzzle, an important witness
to the events is murdered. Alan fears that other witnesses —
people he loves — will be next.
Surveillance cameras indicated that a woman drove her
2005 Hyundai Santa Fe to the front of the Boulder Police
Department at 7:43 on Saturday morning. The car entered the
frame from the south, which meant the driver had turned onto
33rd Street from Arapahoe before she pulled to a stop at the
curb opposite the main entrance. The SUV ended up on the
wrong side of the road, where the woman sat almost
motionless behind the wheel in the
don't-even-think-about-parking-here zone for over eleven
A uniformed officer striding toward his patrol vehicle
in the lot adjacent to the building noted the car with the
engine running. He tapped on the glass of the driver's door
with the tip of his key. The woman at the wheel did not
acknowledge him at all. Not at first.
The officer told the detective later that he was
thinking the woman was waiting for someone who had business
inside. The officer raised his voice so he could be heard
through the glass. He instructed the woman to move her car.
He gestured at the NO PARKING signs. There were so many of
them, they could have been part of a public art installation.
Over an after-shift beer he would freely admit to
another cop that he had little patience with citizens who
acted as though simple rules—STOP, YIELD, NO PARKING—didn't
apply to them. He considered the citations he wrote for most
misdemeanor violations to be nothing more than come-uppance
for violating gotta-get-along karma. He thought there should
be a catchall municipal code violation for misdemeanor
assaults on karma.
In Boulder, he felt, an ordinance like that was
possible. He held out hope. Not for the current city
council. But maybe the next one.
The shift he was finishing that morning hadn't been a
good one. Before coming back to the department to get some
guidance from his sergeant on another matter, he had
answered three domestic calls in a row. One right after the
friggin' next. A double-wide off Valmont, a decent
split-level with a great view below the Flatirons, and a
gazillion-square-foot McMansion out near the golf course.
Domestics are equal-opportunity calls. Old, young. Makes
millions or uses food stamps. Domestics happen to them all.
He hated domestics, especially weekend,
middle-of-the-night domestics. Every last one of them felt
like Russian roulette to him. His domestic call mantra was
"Knock on the door and fuckin' duck."
After the three consecutive domestics, the young cop's
patience was just about exhausted for that shift. By the
time he tapped on the window of the SUV, his tolerance for
karma-violation bullshit had pretty much expired too, like a
gallon of milk three weeks after the date on the cap.
A half second before the patrol cop reached for his
citation book, the woman in the parked car lowered her
window and turned her head toward him. She did not, however,
look at his face. He instructed her to remove her sunglasses.
She hesitated a beat too long before she pushed the
shades up onto her forehead. Lady, he said to himself, I've
had a bad night. Don't fucking push me. His usual partner,
Missy, counseled him to have conversations with himself
before he had them with citizens. He thought she would be
pleased when he told her later that he'd been acting on her
advice, though she wouldn't be thrilled with the exact
nature of the internal dialogue.
"Progress," she would say. "Baby steps."
His first thought when he looked at the woman's face
after she pushed the glasses up to her hairline was that
someone had hit her in the eye. His adrenaline surged at the
possibility that he had just stumbled onto his fourth
domestic in a row. That would have been a personal record.
But further examination caused him to conclude that the
woman looked more like someone who had started to remove her
makeup and had stopped halfway through the process. That's
what left her with smudged mascara and half-removed
eyeliner. And that's why he'd initially thought she looked
so bruised. Some tears were mixed in, too, he thought.
So. This woman had stopped removing her makeup without
completing the job, and then she'd driven to the police
station. She'd parked in a no-parking zone on the wrong side
of the street with her engine running. And then she just sat
He tried to make sense of that progression but drew a
He was wishing he had just kept on walking to his
cruiser. Hadn't bothered to tap on her window. If he'd kept
on walking, she would eventually have gone inside and spoken
to Ruth Anne at the desk. Ruth Anne was, like, unflappable.
Or the woman would have just driven away, no one the wiser.
The woman's breathing changed suddenly and audibly.
That got his attention. It started coming in rushed little
inhales that were paired in twos followed by long silent
exhales. He mistook the pattern for hiccups. The officer's
ex-wife got hiccup jags that sounded similar.
The presence of the hiccups caused him to lean in a
little closer to the open window. He expected to detect the
telltale aroma of alcohol on the woman's breath. DUI? DWI?
Or his recent favorite catchall, DWO—Driving While
Oblivious. Texting, iPods, Big Macs, mascara, whatever. DWO
was a small addition to state motor vehicle law that he felt
was long overdue.
Had the woman been drinking? Maybe yes, maybe no. He
wasn't sure. He decided to give her the benefit of the
doubt. It wasn't a compassionate gesture. He just wanted her
to move her damn car half a block down the street—on the
other side, so it was pointed in the right direction—so he
could finish his shift and go on home.
He said, "You know you can't park here, right?" He
gestured again at the signs that were all over the place,
not pretending to hide his exasperation. She didn't react.
"Tell me this, you waiting for someone?"
The woman considered his question for a good ten
seconds, which was out near the frontier of the cop's
patience "No," she said finally. "There's no one."
Either a simple yes or no in reply would have been fine
with him, though he had a bias toward yes, because that
would have indicated that another human being might soon
arrive to spare him this situation.
But the woman had answered with something existential.
In the officer's cumulative experience with Boulder's
citizens—a cohort that was more prone to existential retorts
than most—eight in the morning was a tad too early for
The officer took a deep breath while he admitted that
the situation confronting him was not a simple karma
violation. He was not that lucky a cop. He thought about
what his patrol partner, Missy Abrams, would have said were
she with him right then.
Missy—he told her at some point almost every shift when
conversation dragged between them—was like the all-time
worst cop name ever. Every time he told her that she called
him an asshole. "You're an asshole, Heath. Period. End of
He knew what Missy would want him to say right at that
moment. So that's what he said: "Are you all right, ma'am?
Do you require some assistance?"
He was hoping she'd reply yes to the first question, no
to the second. But he wasn't holding his breath.
"Assistance," the woman repeated after a perplexed
interlude. "Help?" she then said, pondering aloud as she
completed some translation of his trailing question. She
puffed out her cheeks for a second as though the combination
of questions completely stumped her. She finally said, "I'm—
There's— Sometime . . . last night?" She punctuated each of
the fractured sentences with interruptions of the
gasp-gasp-silence breathing melody.
"Take your time," the officer said. It was another
useful phrase that he'd learned from Missy.
It was Missy who had convinced him that there was a
subset of citizens who were not inclined to speed up their
cooperation under insistent verbal pressure from a large man
with biceps the size of two-liter Coke bottles, who was
wearing a uniform, and who also happened to be armed with a
handgun and a baton.
Some citizens, that set of facts motivates. Other
citizens, that set of facts flusters.
Missy would say "discombobulates."
That this particular citizen fell into the
"discombobulates" category, the officer had absolutely no doubt.
"Good call on that one, Heath," is what Missy would
The woman in the Hyundai spread the fingers of her left
hand, palm up, so her manicured nails jutted just out the
open window. "Last night? Well, yeah, it had to be. No,
maybe early this morn— I— That's . . . no. It had to be— No.
No. The time part is so hard. Why is it all so . . . See . .
. okay, okay, I've been—" she said.
She pulled her hand back, curled it into a fist, and
shook it like it was her turn with the bones at a craps
table. But her expression made clear that she wished she
could shake the fist in someone's face. Someone in particular.
The cop noted the absence of a wedding band on her ring
finger. Since his own divorce, final only five months
before, he had started noticing women's ring fingers. At
first, it was the weirdest thing for him, like suddenly
discovering women had noses.
He didn't think she noticed him noticing her ring
finger. She had something else on her mind. "There's been
a—" she said, once again spreading the fingers of her left
hand. "I'm pretty sure— Yes, I am, I am pretty, pretty sure.
I am," she said. "Or . . . I wouldn't be here, right?" She
flattened her lips.
He said, "That's not for me to say, ma'am. Why you're
here. That's what we're trying to determine."
But his reply seemed to puzzle the woman. "Well, of
course. Why would— I didn't . . . No, no, I did not," she
said. "I haven't at all, with— Not since, oh God, not since
that day. That very morning, if you can believe it. Lord.
But even then I didn't . . . give him—" Her shoulders
sagged. "Lord. I wish I had. Even if . . . It wasn't usual
for us, far from it. Morning? On a Sunday? On a golf Sunday?
But . . . last night? I didn't. I did not. And I certainly
didn't give . . ." Her voice trailed off. "But he . . . did.
He did it. It's not that I really remember but— I mean, but
how else? Right? I can tell. I just can. Other women? Maybe
not. I've never had that conversation. Maybe I should have
had— But, it doesn't matter, because I can tell." She paused
for a couple of quick gasps and one long exhale. She did it
one more time. Then she briefly touched the side of her
face, on the right side. "I can. I know."
The officer still thought she had hiccups.
She spread all ten fingers, both palms facing up. Her
makeup-stained eye went wide. "I was not that . . ." She
shook her head. "Not at all. To drive? I wouldn't have, of
course. I'm careful about that. It doesn't take that much,
but I'd eaten. Tired, sure, but— Not like— Not at all like—
"He did it," she said again. "He did it. To me."
The officer was not hearing alarm in her voice. Most
people he dealt with in stressful situations, their
demeanors were like I-70 in the mountains—all curves and ups
and downs. But this woman's affect and her tone were like
1-70 in eastern Colorado. On the plains. Heading to Kansas.
Other side of Limon. Flat and straight.
By the time she pulled up in front of the department,
all of the terrible feelings and all of the momentum that
had got her going that morning were spent. What was left of
this woman's recent awful experience—whatever that might
have been—was blunted. The officer later told Detective
Davenport that the woman reminded him of his mother when she
was really upset. Not bad-day upset. Holy-fuck upset. Like
the morning a couple months before when she got the results
of the pap smear.
She'd managed just one crazy-making call, to her only
son. After the call to Heath—there were times he really
wished his sister hadn't moved to Tucson to be near her
wiseass boyfriend with all the friggin' tats—he had rushed
right over to his mother's house in Louisville. He sat with
her at the kitchen table for five minutes while she petted a
cat purring contentedly in her lap. He didn't recognize the cat.
She finally asked him if he knew that Louisville had
been voted the best small town in America.
Heath said he did not know that. He didn't say what
else he was thinking, which was that he didn't even remember
the question being on any ballot. He waited. He knew more
was coming. He spent the dead time trying to place the cat.
Was his mother taking in strays? That would be a bad sign.
Minutes later, in the same bland tone she'd used to ask
the question about America's best small town, she asked him
if he knew that his mother had cervical cancer. Not "Do you
know I have cervical cancer?" but "Do you know your mother
has cervical cancer?"
His mother's tears didn't actually start flowing for
another ten minutes. That's how long it took for her to
leave the flat behind.
"Would you like to come inside?" the officer said to
the woman in the Hyundai Santa Fe at the curb. "Talk to
someone about what happened last night—or, or early this
morning—maybe? With that man? The one you're talking about
who did . . . something? I'm thinking, maybe you could talk
to a detective, to help clear up . . . your thinking."
She reacted by reaching over to the center of the car
and lifting a big cup of Starbucks coffee from the cup
holder on the dash. Her sudden motion caused the officer to
take an involuntary step away from the vehicle.
Pure instinct had him getting ready to fall to a
crouch, slide to one side, and shift an open palm nearer his
The string of damn domestic calls earlier in the shift
had Heath on edge. "Jitter in a jar" is what Missy called
domestics. When she said that to him while they were walking
up to a house—"Here we go, jitter in a jar"—"Yep, knock and
fuckin' duck," is what Heath would say right back at her.
Missy hated it whenever Heath said "fuckin' duck." For
some reason he didn't understand, that was fingernails on a
blackboard for Missy.
"I haven't even had a sip," the woman said. "Of this.
My latte? It's pumpkin. I just got it. Over by King Soopers?
That Starbucks. I thought of stopping at the one on
Baseline—you know that one?—but this one is closer. Maybe
not as convenient, though. You think? I had to turn around."
"Ma'am?" he said, not eager to get into a discussion
about expensive coffee or how to get from point A to point B
in Boulder. Like arguing evolution with his aunt.
She said, "Not one sip. Because . . . I didn't know. I
mean, I just did not know. I didn't want it to . . . mess
things up? Do you know what I mean? In the lab? Later? I
couldn't decide if it would or it wouldn't . . . I tried to
remember if I'd seen anything like it on CSI. About coffee,
after. Or coffee before, even, I guess." She paused to give
it some more thought. "I don't think I have seen it. Have
they done a show on that? Did I miss it? I must have missed
it. Do you know? Is it okay? Maybe it was on Law & Order.
The sex one. I don't watch that one all the time. I miss a
lot of those." She looked in the direction of the officer's
bewildered face, not quite making contact with his eyes. "Do
you watch CSI?"
He did not want to have a conversation with this woman
about CSI. He hated conversations with civilians about
television cops. To his continuing dismay, a surprising
number of civilians tried to initiate those kinds of
discussions with him.
If Missy were in the right mood, sometimes she would go
ahead and engage in those conversations. Drove Heath crazy.
Missy knew all the fake cops' names, even the ones on cable.
He picked one of the woman's other questions and tried
to answer that. "Is it okay to have coffee?" he said.
"That's what you want to know? If you can take a sip?" He
was once again thinking this must all be part of some
complicated domestic. His cop radar was telling him he'd
just stumbled onto some potentially toxic jitter in a jar
right there in front of the damn headquarters building.
The woman's husband didn't want her to be drinking
coffee, or was pissed that she spent too much at Starbucks,
or maybe it was the pumpkin she'd added to her latte.
Sometimes it was something nuts like that—the pumpkin she
added to her friggin' latte.
Trainers were always telling patrol officers responding
to domestics to identify the precipitating event. This time?
Heath was thinking the precipitant was a pumpkin latte.
Didn't feel right, though. His caution nerves were
continuing to fire.
The woman made the most puzzled face before she leaned
closer to him and lowered her voice to an almost-whisper. "I
haven't even peed yet," she said. "I really, really need to
pee. And now, talking about it—about peeing—is making it
even worse. I was doing okay about that, before."
Heath guessed right then what was going on. When she
said she hadn't even peed.
He spread his feet and he set his jaw. For him, anger
always came before sadness. Resolve before compassion.
Widening his stance and setting his jaw helped him keep the
rage where it needed to be.
"May I have some of my coffee?" she asked. "Do you
think that's okay? Or maybe I could pee first. What do you—"
She stopped herself midsentence.
His voice was softer when he spoke next. "How about you
bring the cup of coffee inside with you, ma'am? The
detective I'll introduce you to will know the answer to your
question. All your questions. I'm sure about that. Do you
think I could see your driver's license? The registration
and insurance card, too? Please? Then you can come with me.
We'll go inside. Together."
She noticed the name tag on his chest as though it was
suddenly illuminated. Locked onto it for a few seconds. She
then made eye contact with him for the first time. "Do you
have a woman?" she asked him. "Officer Heath Wade."
Oh shit, he thought. His ring finger, like hers, was
naked. He closed his left hand. He immediately recognized
that the fist could present a problem. He opened it back up.
"Ma'am?" he said.
"A woman detective?" she said. "I think I would like to
talk with a woman detective."
Officer Heath Wade waited for the woman to find the
papers he requested. He waited for her to open the car door.
Even in trying circumstances, he was a meticulous cop.
Anything he didn't have to touch, he didn't want to touch.
Another one of Missy's favorite sayings on patrol was "You
never know." He tried not to touch things he didn't have to
touch because "you never know."
After the woman had climbed out of the driver's seat,
he took the license and registration and insurance card from
her hand and slid them into his shirt pocket. He directed
her to stand on a spot on the sidewalk about ten feet out in
front of the car. "Please wait there, right there," he said.
She didn't move. He had to guide her to the spot.
He pulled a latex glove from a pouch on his belt,
stretched it onto his right hand, reached inside the car,
switched off the ignition, and removed her wad of keys. He
kept an eye on her the entire time.
He used his gloved hand to shut the car door. He found
the button on the key fob that locked the doors. He said,
"About what, ma'am?" not really expecting a straightforward
answer. "Do you want to talk with a woman detective?"
"The rape," she said. "The . . . rape. What else?"
The damn housewarming took place in Spanish Hills on
the Friday evening just after Halloween.
I had no way to know it at the time, but a strand of
silk from the tangled web of that party had begun spinning
my way long before the first guests arrived.
A psychotherapy supervision session I'd had a few days
before the party had been far from routine. I remembered
many details. Topics had included vacation time, desert
rituals, plastic surgery, an eighteen-foot-long bridal
train, naked breasts, fluorescent Crocs, and quality embroidery.
Supervision? I've been practicing my craft in Boulder,
Colorado, for so long that my longevity alone had qualified
me to enter the realm of experienced clinicians who attract
the attention of young psychotherapists eager for
professional guidance. Occasionally, I succumbed to a plea
I've never thought that supervision was the right word
for the complex professional relationship during which most
of the actual training of psychotherapists occurs. But
supervision is what it's been called as long as I've been in
I first heard the word used in that context during
graduate school. I was a first-semester graduate student in
clinical psychology when my academic adviser informed me
that the time had arrived for me to begin psychotherapy.
I was initially taken aback at the presumption of his
suggestion, even suffering a transient how-dare-he moment of
personal offense. As my defensiveness waned and the reality
of my questionable mental health seeped into my awareness, I
thought, I could probably use the help. I nodded to my
adviser. I said, "Okay."
He stared back at me with an expression on his face
indicating that he had not been seeking my assent about
anything. He then proceeded to inform me who my supervisor
was going to be at the start of the coming semester.
My supervisor. The psychotherapy my adviser wanted me
to start involved my functioning in the therapist role, not
the patient role. I had a little trouble with the concept.
Seeing clients? Me? Already? He told me that some
unsuspecting freshman English major would probably be cast
in the patient role.
I could hardly have been more surprised at the news
that I was about to start being a therapist. I could only
guess how the freshman English major was going to feel.
My guide on the perilous journey to becoming a
functioning psychotherapist was my "supervisor," a
well-practiced clinician who would educate, guide, inform,
instruct, confront, critique, cajole, explore, and do
whatever else he or she determined was necessary in order to
help me develop the knowledge, the skills, the maturity, the
self-awareness, and the sensitivity necessary to be an
I thought it then and I continued to think it:
Supervisor is not the right word for the role. Not even
close. But it's the label we have.
For the next ten years or so—five more in graduate
school, a year of clinical internship, a couple of years
prelicensure, a few more postlicensure—I had supervisors. A
few were good; a couple were very good. One was so skillful
that he elevated the game to another level. Two or three
others? I could have learned as much about psychotherapy by
talking with a random customer about snow tires in a 7-Eleven.
I'd become an experienced therapist. I was a
supervisor. One of the clinicians I was supervising was a
young Boulder psychologist named Hella Zoet, Ph.D. We'd
known each other professionally for a while. She had been
one of the advanced graduate students from the university
that I had supervised in previous years. After graduate
school she'd gone off for her internship year in L.A., then
had worked briefly in Grand Junction, across the Rockies on
the Western Slope, before returning to Boulder as a
full-fledged Ph.D. Hella had a freshly framed Colorado
psychologist's license hanging on the wall of her private
practice office a few blocks from mine.
Hella had asked me to supervise her practice while she
established herself professionally in town. She wasn't
required to seek postlicensure supervision. It was something
she'd chosen for professional development.
Hella was a wisp of a woman. She was maybe five feet
tall, with bright blue eyes and straight, fine blond hair
that she wore mostly down. Her ears always poked through the
hair on each side of her head. I'd never asked her age, but
during her student years I had guessed she was a few years
older than most of the department's clinical graduate
students. I guessed that she was older because of her
maturity, not because she looked anywhere close to her
actual age. She was doomed, or blessed, to be carded by
bartenders until she was forty.
Hella was skillful, smart, intuitive, imaginative, and
compassionate. I had no doubts about her diagnostic acumen
or her therapeutic talents. If she ultimately decided to set
down roots in Boulder—I wasn't sure she would; my gut told
me that Hella had some vagabond in her—I expected to be
referring cases to her for years to come.
Hella favored long skirts. She also favored sitting
during supervision with her legs crossed or folded beneath
her. So those long skirts served a purpose.
As we walked from the waiting room to my office, she
greeted me with a caution. She said, "We have some things to
talk about today."