It should have been cold and gray with a hard, wet wind that plucked at the heart—a morning to match my mood. Instead, it was one of those golden days that remind Minnesotans why they live here. The air was warm and clear, the sky a rich blue, and a light breeze made the leaves tremble with the promise of autumn.

I was in my backyard, drinking coffee, watching the ducks, trying to remember which one I had named Victoria. My muscles ached from lack of rest, and my stomach murmured uncomfortably. For some reason, when I don’t get a full night’s sleep, I feel nauseous until I’ve had something to eat. I didn’t feel up to facing a plate of eggs, so I drank my breakfast. Coffee and Jim Beam.

Several times I checked to make sure my cell phone was fully charged, several times I scrutinized my watch, several times I debated calling H. B. Sutton, all within a few minutes. I could have gone to Shelby and Bobby’s place, only I didn’t want to intrude. I might have claimed them as family, but their pain, their anguish, belonged to them alone. It was fueled by blood and couldn’t be shared.

I would have called Nina. Despite the late hours she keeps, she always rises early to help Erica get off to school. I could have caught her before she returned to bed. Only I was afraid of tying up the phone.

Eleven, H. B. had said. She’d transfer the money and call by 11 A.M. I studied my watch yet again. Three and a half hours to go. Two hundred and ten minutes. Twelve thousand, six hundred seconds. Sonuvabitch.

I convinced myself that the Dunstons would be anxious to hear from me—or at least the Feds would—so I drove over there. I parked in front of the house. It looked exactly as it had the day before. So did the park across the street, and I wondered briefly how that was possible. The kidnapping of Victoria was beyond terrible, yet the world had not changed because of it. Only Shelby’s world and Bobby’s world and my world had changed. I flashed on the lyrics of an old country-western ballad. Like Skeeter Davis, I couldn’t figure out why the sun kept on shining. It didn’t make a lot of sense to me.

I met Harry on the porch. He had changed clothes, so he must have gone home. For how long I couldn’t say.

“Anything?” he asked.

My cell phone was in my hand, and I held it up for him to see. “Any minute now,” I said. “Have you heard from the kidnappers?”


“What about Scottie?”

“He left the halfway house at seven forty, walked to University, took the bus to Dale, walked the rest of the way to work, arrived ten minutes before it opened. He’s been there ever since. Our agents don’t believe he’s used a phone.”


Harry was holding a mug emblazoned with the logo of the Girl Scouts of America. “Fresh coffee inside,” he said. “Shelby made it.”

“How’s she holding up?”

“She’s…” Harry sighed as if he were disappointed he couldn’t find the right adjective to describe her. “Yesterday there were a couple of times when I thought we might lose her. Today… today she seems to be gathering strength. Bobby’s the one I’m worried about now. He’s burning so much fuel trying to keep it together, to maintain control. I have to think the tanks are getting close to empty.”

“What can I do?”

“A couple hours of sleep would make a big difference. He hasn’t been to bed yet.”

“I’ll talk to him,” I said.

I stepped inside the house and looked for Bobby. I couldn’t locate him, but I found Katie standing on the staircase. Damian Honsa and the tech agent both said, “Good morning,” from the dining room table. I blew them off when she waved me over.

“They kept me out of school,” Katie said.

“Probably a good idea,” I told her.

“I don’t mind missing school, only we have soccer practice afterward. I hate to miss that.”

“I understand.”

“Victoria won’t mind missing practice. She’s getting bored with soccer, I think. She’ll miss going to school, though. She likes school, I don’t know why. They gave her an award, you know.”

“I know.”

“Student of the quarter. Nobody had better grades. Nobody in the entire school. Even the eighth graders. I think it’s because Victoria likes to read. McKenzie?”

I brushed the hair out of her eyes.

“They keep telling me not to be afraid,” Katie said. “They say I should stay in my room as much as I can and keep out of the way and not be afraid because they’re going to get Victoria back and she’s going to be okay and I shouldn’t be afraid. McKenzie, are you afraid?”


“I’m afraid, too.”

“I know.”

“Do I have to go back to my room?”

“Not if you don’t want to.”

“It’s just that I don’t want to wake Daddy.”

“Is your dad in your room?”

“He came in a little while ago to talk to me and he fell asleep.”

“Don’t wake him,” I said.

“Where should I go?”