“Shelby was born on June twenty-seventh,” he told me.

“Honestly, McKenzie,” Shelby said. She was behind me and moving toward the table. “How long have we known each other?”

“At least I got the month right.”

All three cases were open, and Bobby, Honsa, and the tech agent joined Harry and me in admiring all that cash. Only Shelby seemed unimpressed.

“I thought there would be more,” she said. “I thought it would be bigger. It should be bigger.”


Once I delivered the money, I figured that my part in all of this would be over, that I’d be like Karen and H. B. and the president of my bank, all waiting for the final curtain, hoping someone would tell us how the play finally ended. Except Bobby asked me to stay close. And while Shelby didn’t actually say anything, the way she looked at me prompted my inner voice to repeat the words she spoke earlier—I need all my men to be strong. Honsa thought it was a good idea, too. “It’s possible that the kidnappers want more from you than just money,” he said. That’s why I was in the Dunston home early the next morning when Honsa’s cell phone rang.

“Godammit!” Honsa said. His reassuring smile disappeared. “Godammit. Where the hell did you get your training? The goddamned CIA?”

His outburst caused both Shelby and Bobby to rise from their chairs at the dining room table. They reached for each other the way a tired swimmer reaches for the ladder at the end of a pool.

“I apologize,” Honsa said. “That was inappropriate.”

“What happened?” Bobby asked.

“It’s not as bad as it sounds.”

“What happened?”

“Our agents lost Scottie Thomforde.”

“Butterfingers,” I said.

“Our agents had watched Thomforde catch the bus on University Avenue and head for work,” Honsa said. “When he didn’t get off at his regular stop, the agents followed the bus all the way into Minneapolis. When he still didn’t disembark, the agents boarded the bus. Thomforde wasn’t on it.”

“Which means he got off the bus and your agents didn’t see him,” Bobby said. “Which means your agents are incompetent or somehow Scottie managed a disguise.” Honsa nodded helplessly. “Which means he knew we were watching.”

“Not necessarily.”

Bobby cut loose with a long list of profanities interspersed with several personal epithets that he never, ever would have allowed his daughters to use. Honsa, to his credit, just stood there and took it. While Bobby vented, Shelby’s entire body sagged. She closed her eyes and gripped the edge of the dining room table as if she were trying to keep from falling. Harry interrupted Bobby’s tirade.

“Mrs. Dunston?” he said. “Shelby?”

She opened her eyes and searched his face, looking for something, anything, that she might hold on to besides the furniture.

“This is a good thing,” Harry said.

Bobby wanted to know, “How do you figure?”

“He’ll call us now.”

You wouldn’t think that hearing from the man that kidnapped your twelve-year-old daughter would be a cause for celebration, but from the expression on Bobby’s face when the phone rang, I was sure he was ready to break out the champagne. Shelby not only stopped trembling, she began looking around her as if she were thinking she should pick up the house, maybe display the good china. I felt relieved myself, although the feeling didn’t last long.

“Yes,” Bobby said into the phone.

“You got the money,” the electronically altered voice said. It wasn’t a question. He spoke as if it were a confirmed fact.

“I have it.”

“See, that didn’t take long, did it? Now listen carefully. What I want you to do—”

“I’m not going to do anything until I have proof that Victoria is alive.”

Bobby and Honsa had discussed this moment at length, even engaged in some role-playing to make sure Bobby was comfortable with what he was demanding. Only it was apparent that the kidnapper had not planned that far ahead. He hemmed and hawed and tripped over his tongue.

“Proof of life,” Bobby said. “I need to know my daughter’s alive.” Not want, need. “I want to hear her voice.” Not need, want. Bobby and Honsa had agreed they would negotiate this point, maybe have the kidnappers ask Victoria a question only she could answer. The voice on the phone didn’t recognize the nuances.

“I’m giving the orders here,” it said.

“You want the money. I want to hear my daughter’s voice. I want proof that she’s alive. You don’t get dollar one until I know that she’s alive.”

“I’m giving the orders,” the voice repeated.

“You want the money. It’s sitting right here waiting for you. Three nice, shiny suitcases full of cash. But first I’m going to speak to my daughter.”