“I am so, so sorry,” I told her.

She thanked me for my concern and offered coffee, which I accepted. I watched as she poured. Mrs. Thomforde was old-school, like my father. Time and experience had draped a cloak about her shoulders, the same cloak worn by many of her generation. She wore it to keep the hurt to herself, so as not to burden others with it. Any tears she had for her youngest son were shed in private. At the same time, there was a great tenderness to go with the reserve. I saw it in her eyes when I mentioned Scottie’s name.

“I wish,” she said, stopped, started again. “I think when you look back on your life, you’ll find that there are one or two moments that change everything, that set you down a path that you just can’t get off of. You don’t recognize these moments at the time they take place. Sometimes you won’t even know that they took place at all until years and years later. Like with Scottie. I should never have bought him that drum kit. If he hadn’t played the drums, he would have kept playing hockey and baseball with you. He wouldn’t have met Dale Fulbright. He wouldn’t have gone to prison. He wouldn’t have… I don’t want to believe it, McKenzie. I know it’s true what they say about Scottie. That poor little girl and Bobby Dunston—I never liked him, but for this to happen, for Scottie to be involved. I just don’t want to believe it.”

“I don’t want to believe it, either.”

“People keep asking questions. The police. The FBI. Who were Scottie’s friends? What did he do? Where did he go? I don’t know the answers, McKenzie. I don’t know anything. He wasn’t staying with me. He was at the damn halfway house. They should be asking questions over there. The person who runs it. Roger something…”

“Roger Colfax?”

“Even he was here asking questions about where Scottie went and who he knew. If he doesn’t know the answers, how am I supposed to? If Scottie had been staying here, if he had been with me, maybe, maybe… I don’t know.”

Mrs. Thomforde didn’t say anything for a few moments, just stared into her coffee mug. Finally I spoke. “They can’t find Tommy.” I said “they,” not “we”—I wanted to maintain the illusion that I was merely a family friend offering my condolences. “Do you know where he is?”


“Do you think maybe Tommy was involved in the kidnapping?”

“I don’t know what to think.”

“Mrs. Thomforde, when we were at the Silver Bucket the other day, Karen Studder said that Scottie went out to a bar the Saturday night he was supposed to be at your house. You said it wasn’t true. It was true, though, wasn’t it?”

She nodded.

“Do you know who he went with?”

“Tommy,” she said. “He went with Tommy. I thought it would be all right, two brothers having a beer together. I thought Tommy would take care of him. I thought…”

“That night at the Silver Bucket, right after Karen and I left, you made a call on your cell phone.”

“How did you know that?”

“Who did you call?”

“Tommy. Why?”

I didn’t say. Mrs. Thomforde closed her eyes. When she opened them again, she said, “You never know when those moments will sneak up on you, McKenzie. You never know when a decision will change your life.”

I called Harry as soon as I left Mrs. Thomforde and repeated what she had told me. Turned out she had already confessed pretty much the same thing to him earlier. Still, he thanked me for the information. Then he told me to go home. “You’re interfering with an ongoing criminal investigation,” he said.

Like I haven’t heard that before.


I found Nina in her office at Rickie’s, sitting behind her desk, her elbow planted on the blotter, her chin resting in her hand, a pair of readers perched on her nose as she tapped a pen on top of the intimidating sheaf of papers in front of her. She looked up when I entered, grinned, dropped the pen, and slid the glasses off and into her top desk drawer so deftly that only a semiprofessional investigator might have noticed it.

Nina came around the desk and gave me a soft, moist kiss. “Hey,” she said. “What’s the surprise?”


“You said not to leave until you arrived.” Nina raised and lowered her eyebrows Groucho Marx style. “You have something in mind, big boy?”

“Yeah, about that. I was thinking that you’re due for a nice vacation. You’ve been working much too hard lately.”

“Hmmm.” Nina raised her eyebrows again and smiled brightly. “You know, Erica is going off on her band trip tomorrow. Toronto. Five days.”

“You should go with, listen to her play.”