Starr studied his watch. “The first trucks won’t start rolling in for about an hour yet,” he said.

He gave us coffee. We didn’t drink much. It was just something to hold in our hands. The three of us soon ran out of conversation, and I began to meander through the room, pacing between the tables with my hands in my pockets. I let my mind wander—always a bad thing to do. I wondered why we hadn’t heard from the kidnappers, if Scottie knew we were on to him, if I had blown it by scouring the neighborhood for him with Karen Studder, if I had endangered Victoria’s life. I wondered if Shelby had been right, if somehow the situation was entirely my fault, and if it was, what I could possibly do to make it good. I wondered about Bobby and Shelby, about the pain they were enduring, about how all this would affect their marriage. Who knows? They may even grow stronger. I’ve seen it before. That’s what Honsa had said. God, how I hoped he was right. I wondered about Victoria, what she must be going through, if she was chained to a radiator as Honsa had suggested, what she must have been thinking. Did she still have hope, or was she filled with despair? I wondered if she had been beaten, if she had been abused. I wondered if she was still alive. All the while my heart felt like it was being twisted into the shape of various balloon animals.

Where are those goddamn trucks? my inner voice wanted to know.

This time Honsa called Harry. Harry made no attempt to hide his frustration at whatever Honsa was telling him. “No, I don’t know when we’ll be finished,” he growled into his cell phone. “We haven’t actually started yet.”

Harry listened for a few moments. He said, “No, we don’t need more agents. We’re being well taken care of here… We’re waiting for the trucks… Look, it’s too complicated to explain right now… Damian, you’re starting to piss me off… I do understand… Yes, of course. Of course… What’s happening on your end?” After a long pause, Harry said, “I agree with you. We need to wait… That’s the father speaking, not the cop… I’ll report in as soon as I have something to report… You, too.”

Harry returned the cell to his pocket. He answered my questions without waiting for me to ask them. “We haven’t heard from the kidnappers, and everyone is starting to get anxious. Meanwhile, Thomforde is taking a cigarette break. Bobby Dunston is lobbying hard to arrest him. Honsa wants to wait, and I agree. Honsa is afraid that Bobby will pull an end-around, get his detectives to make an arrest.”

“He won’t do that,” I said.

“Can you guarantee it?”

I shook my head.

“I didn’t think so.”

The first armored truck backed into a bandit trap. After it was secured, canvas bags of currency were hefted from the rear of the truck onto large carts. The carts were rolled through the remaining traps one at a time and finally wheeled into the main processing room. Bank employees began to appear as if by magic. They were all wearing old shirts and jeans, dressed as if they were cleaning out a garage. There were several containers of baby wipes on each table so they could clean off the black, waxy film that soon covered their fingers.

“It’s dirty work handling money,” Starr said. He was smiling when he said it, but then Starr was always smiling. I began to think that he was one of those rare people who never forget just how good they have it.

The bags were emptied; currency spilled out on the tables in front of the employees. Tens of thousands, then hundreds of thousands of dollars. Harry had been correct. It was a sight to behold.

According to Special Agent Damian Honsa, Scottie left his job at five thirty and walked to the bus stop on the corner of University and Dale. He waited seven minutes before an MTC bus picked him up. The surveillance team followed the bus to his stop near the state capitol building. From there he walked to the halfway house. He did nothing suspicious. Nor did his brother, Tommy, who was now eating dinner at his mother’s house. There were no phone calls to or from either man.

“How are Bobby and Shelby taking it?” I asked.

“About what you’d expect,” Harry said.

“That bad, huh?”

The money was starting to pile up. Deposits from a couple of casinos nearly took care of our need for twenties by themselves. Gathering ten thousand fifties was taking more time, but Starr assured me that it wouldn’t be a problem. “A couple of out-state bank branches have yet to make their nightly deposits,” he said. “That’ll put us over the top.” Of course, he was smiling when he said it.

My cell phone rang. I read the name off of the digital display. Karen Studder.

“Hey,” I said.

“Hi, McKenzie. I’m not interrupting, am I?”

“No. We’re just sitting around counting money.”

“The ransom money?”

“Yes. It’ll be ready soon.”

“So the girl, Victoria, she’s… she hasn’t come home yet.”

“Not yet.”

“I was hoping.”

“So was I.”

“I don’t want to bother you. I just called—”