I didn’t know what to think; didn’t know how to think. Everything became mumbled and jumbled, and for a moment I felt like that guy on TV who locked himself inside a fishbowl for eight days, breathing out of a tube. Sensory deprivation, they call it. I felt disconnected from the world. Sight, sound, smell, taste, touch, gravity, and heat were lost to me. Even time became distorted. I could have been slumped against the wall for ten seconds or ten minutes.

I had not felt like that before. Not when my parents had died, not when I found dead bodies lying on the floor, not when people were shooting at me. I bent at the waist, my hands on my thighs, and stared at my shoes; my stomach felt hollow. Victoria was mine. I had adopted her the moment I first saw her at Midway Hospital. Bobby was showing her off while Shelby smiled brightly from the hospital bed. “My daughter,” he had said. “My daughter.” Like it was a benediction. “My daughter, too,” I decided. I had no family, had no intention of building one. Bobby and Shelby had been my family. And now Victoria. Before the week was out I had made her my heir. Since I was now worth millions, she was worth millions. And her sister, Katie, too. And Shelby. And Bobby. Everything I had, anything I could borrow or steal was theirs.


Bobby’s voice was low and firm. He must have been hanging on by his fingernails, only you wouldn’t have known it to look at him. I had no idea what emotional strength it took for him to keep it together. The least I could do was make an effort.


There are five stages of grief. Somehow I had skipped directly to the fourth stage, depression. I had to get back to stage two—anger. Anger was good. Anger was motivation. You could work with anger.

“We’re going to kill that sonuvabitch,” I said. I glared at all four law enforcement officers in the room. None of them offered an argument.

I grabbed Harry’s forearm and used him as a crutch to straighten up. The nausea was now in my throat. I forced it back down.

“You need to hear the entire tape,” Bobby said.

“Tell me what happened first.”

He did. When he finished it occurred to me that I hadn’t seen any cars parked in front of Bobby’s house when I drove up. Or anyone above the age of fourteen loitering at the park across the street.

“We have someone in the back and two agents in the front watching for anyone who might be watching the house,” Harry assured me. “All the license plates are being checked, including those in the lot at the park. So far our biggest problem has been keeping the St. Paul Police Department away. Everyone wants to help.”

“We’re canvassing the neighborhood,” Honsa said.

“You’re what? You’re not supposed to be here,” I said.

“We’re not,” Honsa said. “McKenzie, we don’t wear black suits and sunglasses. We don’t drive Lincolns with U.S. government license plates. Canvassing around the abduction point is covert. It’s discreet. We know what we’re doing.”

I nodded in agreement, more than a little embarrassed. TV and movies always got it wrong about cops and federal agents. There was very little animosity, jealousy, and distrust between them—probably because there were actually very few FBI agents who were arrogant, imperious, incompetent jerks with my-way-or-the-highway attitudes and even fewer rogue cops who played by their own rules. Especially these days with mutual need—and budget cuts—resulting in so many joint task forces. Maybe things were different in New York or Miami or Washington, D.C. In the Twin Cities everyone got along pretty well. Still, I watched a lot of TV and movies, and sometimes it was hard to shake off the fiction.

“The van was reported stolen two weeks ago,” Honsa said in case I required more convincing. “We have a team on the owner. However, we do not consider him a suspect at this time. The description of the van and the license plate number are being circulated using hard messaging systems—MDT screens in squad cars, briefings during shift changes— so it won’t be intercepted by someone’s police scanner. Our own lines are encrypted, of course.”

I nodded some more.

“Young Ms. Katherine did well getting us the plate—all the numbers were correct. Very smart, very brave.” That last part was for Bobby.

“She blames herself for leaving Tory,” he said.

“Where is she?” I asked.

“Upstairs with Shelby.”

“May I see them?”

“Listen to the tape first.”

They started it from the top.

“Yes?” Bobby said.

“Dunston?” asked the caller.


“Victoria’s fine, your daughter’s fine, okay? I didn’t hurt her. She keeps struggling against the ropes, and I tell her to quit it. Other than that there’s not a mark on her. I’m telling you so you shouldn’t worry, okay? We’re not sexual deviants or anything like that, okay? As long as you do what you’re told, as long as you don’t call the Feds, the girl’ll be fine.”

“I want to talk to her.”


“I want—”

“Shuddup and listen. Are you listening?”

“I’m listening.”

“I don’t want no shit from you, Bobby.”

He knows Bobby, my inner voice informed me. They have a relationship.

“Your girl’ll be fine long as you do what I say.”

“What do you want?”

“Did you call the cops, call the Feds?”