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The Singer Elizabeth Hunter 2022/7/22 11:38:37

“Why do we think so?” he asked. “Or why would he hide them at all?”

“He named his only daughter the same name as his mother. Do you think that is a coincidence?”

Rhys took the turnoff, concentrating on passing a large truck and ignoring Malachi’s comment. “I hadn’t considered that,” he said after traffic had cleared. “You’re right, a coincidence like that is highly unlikely.”

“So Jasper Reed knew his biological mother’s name. And he had money before Ava was born. He’d already made several records at that time. He would have had the money to make her records disappear if he wanted to and knew the right people.”

“And from what I’ve heard, there is more than one person in his employ who has a questionable relationship with the law.”

Malachi said, “So he knew his mother’s name and she has disappeared from the public record. It’s not hard to make the connection that it was deliberate.”

“So the other ‘why’ remains? Why would he hide it? I’ve read interviews with him. He’s very open about being raised in the foster system. Even seems proud of it, in his own way.”

“Maybe she was a criminal.”

“She blackmailed him?” Rhys offered. “And he didn’t want anyone to know?”

“Is she even still alive?”

“The secrecy doesn’t seem consistent with his public persona.”

Rhys nodded. “He’s very well-known. Most of his adult life has been lived in the public eye, and he’s notoriously unstable. He’s been arrested. Publicly intoxicated. Repeated stints in rehabilitation clinics for drugs and alcohol. He doesn’t seem to hide anything.”

“Except…” Malachi’s voice dropped when he realized what Rhys had missed. “Except Ava.”

“Ava. He hides Ava. Have you ever heard of him having a daughter?”

Rhys thought for a moment. “No. He doesn’t speak about her in interviews.”

Malachi grudgingly acknowledged, “He seems to be very protective of her, as far as keeping her out of the spotlight. And from what you’ve said, it was his money and his influence with Ava’s mother that kept her independent.”

“Ava said her father was adamant that nothing was wrong with her mentally. Even…” The car slowed as Rhys’s thoughts drifted. He was blasted to awareness by an angry honk behind them. “Blast.”

“Do you want me to drive?”

“No. I’m not tired. I was just thinking of something Ava told me once.”

“Her father set up an independent trust fund for her to access when she was twenty-two. Her. Only her. Her mother had no access, though she had other child support while Ava was growing up. But it was the trust fund that made Ava independent. She even owns a house in Los Angeles that Reed bought her in the hills near Malibu. Very private. She never stays there, but he bought it for her.”

“Reed knew her as a child. She thought he was only a family friend, but she knew him. Quite well. And Ava said he was one of the few people who never treated her any differently, even when she had massive anxiety and mood swings. Even when the doctors were telling her mother to commit her. At her worst—which sounded like puberty—Reed was one of the few adults in her life that Ava said she didn’t have to guard herself around.”

The light began to dawn. “You think he knew she heard voices? Did she tell him?”

“No. But if his mother was Irina, maybe he did know, Malachi. Maybe in some way, he knew his mother was different. Knew his daughter was different in the same way.”

“He named his daughter after his mother, then hid both of them from the world.”

Rhys nodded. “We know what he was hiding with Ava. Or maybe what he thought he was hiding.”

“Maybe he hid his mother for the same reasons.”