“They don’t have to be back in their hole by a specific time?” Bobby asked.

“They don’t live in holes,” Karen said. “They live in a limbo between prison and real life, and we cut them slack when there’s slack to cut them. Scottie has been in compliance all the time I’ve had him. Never a problem. That earns him some leeway. We don’t freak out if he’s not back immediately after work. Maybe he stopped for coffee with his co-workers, maybe he’s visiting his mother, maybe he’s with a girl…”

Bobby took a photograph off the wall and thrust it into Karen’s hands. “Maybe he’s with a twelve-year-old girl,” he said.

Karen studied Victoria’s photograph and stole a quick look at Shelby, who was watching intently from her spot on the staircase. She shook her head. “No,” she said. “No. There’s nothing in his jacket that indicates sexual crimes.”

“We don’t think it’s a sex crime,” Honsa said. “It’s a kidnapping for ransom.”

Karen said she didn’t believe it. Bobby told her she had better.

“What do you want from me?” she said.

“You’re an officer of the court,” Honsa reminded her.

“You want me to take Scottie into custody? I don’t do that. If you want a warrant, I can call a judge. If we can’t find a judge, I’ll issue an apprehension and detention order myself. But I don’t arrest people. I work for the Minnesota Department of Corrections. We have rules.”

“Bend them,” said Bobby.

“Bend them?”

“What do you do when an offender is in violation?” I asked.

“I call the police and have them execute the warrant.”

“Ms. Studder,” Honsa said. When he had her full attention, he said, “Calm yourself.”

“I am calm.”

“Ms. Studder, we do not wish to arrest Thomforde at this time. We merely wish, if possible, to learn his current location.”

“You want me to find him?”

“Yes, Ms. Studder. After that, we’ll take over.”

“Just find him?”

“You do do that, don’t you?” Bobby said. “You do look in on your parolees?”

“Yes,” said Karen. “We call them home visits. Kind of like a pop inspection. We look in on them at home, at work, find out who they’re hanging with. I’ve done it twice with Scottie already.”

“Then he won’t be suspicious if you do it again,” Bobby said. “I’ll go with you.”

“No,” said Honsa. His voice was combative, his reassuring smile gone. “We’ve discussed this before. Just the sight of you might cause Thomforde to panic. We’ll send one of my agents.”

“You don’t think seeing the FBI won’t make Scottie freak?” Bobby said.

“I’m not going alone,” said Karen.

This went on for about thirty seconds until Bobby conceded in a loud voice. “All right, send McKenzie.”

Honsa shook his head.

“McKenzie knows the neighborhood,” Bobby said. “He knows more people than Larry King. He’ll know where to go when she”—he gestured with his thumb toward Karen—“runs out of ideas.”

Honsa shook his head some more. “I don’t think that’s a good idea,” he said. His voice was suddenly neutral. “The man who took your daughter knows McKenzie as well as he knows you. I am deeply concerned about what might happen if Thomforde saw him.”

“Thomforde will be suspicious if anyone goes looking for him,” Harry said. “But McKenzie”—Harry waved a finger—“isn’t the cops. He isn’t us. If Thomforde discovers that McKenzie is looking for him, he’ll think it’s just McKenzie and not law enforcement. He’ll still believe that he has the upper hand. He’ll still think he’s in charge. He won’t panic.”

Honsa stared at Harry as if he were looking at a traitor. “No,” he said.

“We need to send somebody,” Harry said.

“I’m not going alone,” Karen repeated.

“No,” Honsa said.

“Yes,” Shelby said. “Victoria is my daughter. I say yes.”

We all turned toward her. She was still sitting on the staircase, still peering through the posts. I had forgotten that she was there.

“Mrs. Dunston, it’s against my better judgment,” Honsa said. “If Thomforde sees McKenzie coming…”

I felt the weight of Shelby’s eyes fall on me.

“Hey, Scottie,” I said.

Honsa pivoted toward me. I walked up to him, slipped my arm around his shoulder, hugged him close. “Scottie. Man, you gotta help me. For old time’s sake. I know you don’t like Bobby Dunston cuz of what happened. I don’t blame you. But someone just took his kid. Someone kidnapped his little girl, man, and we can’t tell the cops. You gotta help me. You’ve been around. You know people. You can ask questions, okay? You gotta help me find her. Will you help?”

Honsa stared at me for a moment as if I were drunk, dangling car keys in his face.

“I don’t like this,” he said.

You think I do? my inner voice replied.

“Be careful,” Honsa said.