“I already spoke with the department’s psychologist. We’ll be getting her therapy, getting her help. The rest of us, too.”
“That’s later. Right now, get out of here. Go up north. Teach Victoria how to fight. Teach her how to shoot a gun. Teach her to chop down a damn tree. That clump of birch behind the shed can go. Give her a chance to regain her confidence, her self-esteem.”
“You just want us to do your yard work.”
“There’s that, too.”
“For your information, I’m taking the girls to see their grandparents in Wisconsin tomorrow morning. Hopefully, the media won’t find us there. Once Victoria was back, I guess people decided it was safe to talk about the kidnapping. The phone started ringing thirty minutes after Victoria came home and hasn’t stopped. There are TV trucks parked in front of the house right now. I’ve been directing reporters to the PR guy at the department, but they’re not satisfied with that. They want to interview Tory, and I won’t let them.”
“I wouldn’t, either.”
“The Feds want to debrief Victoria one more time; then we’re leaving. In a couple of days maybe the media’ll move on to something else and we can get back to normal.”
I didn’t think that was likely, but didn’t say so. “Did she tell the FBI anything they can use?” I asked.
“Not much. Only two men were with her. She never saw their faces; they always wore masks. She remembers hearing the name T-Man, but no others. The one called T-Man received several calls on his cell phone. Victoria thinks the caller might have been a woman because the T-Man said ‘babe.’ You know, McKenzie, she did everything right.”
“The way she looked out for her sister, that took courage. God, I’m proud of her.”
“Did you tell her that?”
“Tell her again.”
“What makes you think you know anything about raising children?”
“Because I don’t have any of my own.”
“I want the bastards who hurt my daughter.”
“Remember what we talked about in the kitchen?”
Bobby paused for a moment; I heard him sigh. He said, “I want to thank you, McKenzie. For everything.”
“I thought you already did.”
A moment later, he hung up the phone. A funny thing happened when he did. I began to weep. My hands shook, and my body trembled uncontrollably. I couldn’t stop. I understood the cause of it. The release of tension and all that. Only it seemed to go on and on, right up until Nina arrived. And then it was smiles the rest of the night and into the morning.
My auto-body man laughed when I said I wanted to bring the Audi in for an estimate. Apparently he got a kick out of repairing bullet holes— he actually seemed disappointed that there were only two this time. I told him that since my business brought him such mirth and merriment, he should give me a break on the price. He told me he’d give me a magnetic calendar for my refrigerator. I figured he might sweeten the offer, though, when I discovered a third bullet hole, this one lodged in the back of the car between the trunk lid and bumper. Funny I had missed it before, I told myself. The body shop was backed up and couldn’t service me for a couple of days, so I left the Audi in the garage and drove to the Rosedale Center in my old Jeep Cherokee.
Joley called later that morning.
I had just replaced my drowned cell phone. The aggressive young lady staffing the kiosk at Rosedale had attempted to sell me a device with enough features to manage the space program. It had e-mail, text messaging, Internet search engines, a music and video player, a camera, maps and a step-by-step navigation system, games, an address book, a calendar, a memo pad, and voice-activated dialing. I asked if it also made and received phone calls, and she looked like at me as if I were Robinson Crusoe, just rescued from a deserted island after a couple of decades. Eventually I settled on a sturdy flip-phone, even though it came with several features that I expected never to use, like the camera, and she helped me program it to accept my cell number. I designated the Johnny Mercer–Jo Stafford cover of “Blues in the Night” as the ringtone, only the first time I heard it on the tinny speaker, I decided to change it.
“Hi, Joley,” I said.
“McKenzie,” she said. Enough time passed that I thought the cell phone had already failed me, but there was a muffled sound as if she had covered the mouthpiece of her phone, followed by, “Oh, McKenzie.”
She must have heard about Scottie, my inner voice told me. I said, “Are you all right, Joley?”
“I’m… Yes, I’m fine. Could you come over? Could you come over to my house? Please?” Her voice seemed stilted and artificial; it held none of its usual seductive charm. She’s in mourning, my inner voice said.
“I can come over,” I said.