Chapter 15

        Troy Anders had arrived at Chris DeSoto’s house at six on Thursday morning. By six-thirty he knew that Scott Monroe was missing. By seven the entire DeSoto family, save for John, were gathered in Chris’s kitchen. Libby, Brittany, and Madison were sent to the family room to eat breakfast on TV trays while watching 101 Dalmatians. The adults sat around the kitchen table. Wendy poured coffee into yellow ceramic mugs while Joanne put a platter of blueberry muffins and a plate of banana bread on the table.

        “How could Monroe just disappear?” Roy asked, as he paced the floor behind the table. “Tell me, Troy. How could he just disappear?”

        “I wish I had an answer for you, but I don’t. The last time he was seen was Wednesday morning. Monroe’s counselor dropped him off at a job interview.
He never came out of the building. When the counselor went in to find him an hour later, no one had any record of Monroe ever being there.”

        “But this counselor saw Monroe enter the building?”

        “He did.”

        “The how the hell could he--”

        “I already told you, Roy, I don’t know.”

        “Dad, calm down,” Chris urged his upset father. “It’ll be okay.”

        Roy ignored his son to once again focus on the detective. “What’s being done to keep my boy safe? To keep Chris and his family safe?”

        “To begin with we have an all-points-bulletin out on Monroe. As well, as we speak there’s an unmarked car parked across the street from this house. Chris and his family will be under twenty-four hour surveillance until I say differently.”

        “But I have to go to work,” Wendy protested. “I can’t be a prisoner in my own home.”
        “Until this is over with maybe you should take a leave of absence,” Roy said.

        “Dad, no,” Wendy shook her head. “I can’t. For one thing, I carry this family’s health insurance. I can’t risk losing my job. For another, I’m not going to let this guy control my life.”

        Roy didn’t like Wendy’s answer, but he hadn’t expected any less from his formidable daughter-in-law.

        Troy put an end to the potential argument. “I’ll have someone follow you to work, and follow you home. Is that agreeable to you?”

        Wendy nodded her head. Chris wasn’t so sure it was agreeable with him. Like his father, he’d prefer Wendy stay home until they knew something more specific about Monroe, but like his father as well, his wife’s insistence on going to her job didn’t surprise Chris.

        “What about my girls?” Chris asked. “Would it be wise for Wendy and I to send them to her parents’ house for a few days?”

        “It’s not a bad idea. Where do her parents live?”

        “Santa Barbara. They’re both retired. They’d take the girls in a heartbeat. Especially when they hear what’s going on.”

        Troy looked from Chris to Wendy. “Call them,” he instructed the red headed woman. “You arrange a place for them to meet you and the girls. I don’t want your folks coming here to get Brittany and Madison in the event Monroe is watching the house, and I don’t want to risk him following you to their home. I’ll have someone take you and the girls to the meeting point in an unmarked car.”

        “All right.” Wendy left to use the phone in Chris’s office while Joanne headed for the girls’ bedrooms.

        “I’ll start packing the girls’ clothes, and a few of their favorite toys, movies, and books,” she said to her son.

        “Thanks, Mom.”

        “What about the rest of my family?” Roy asked. “Joanne, Jennifer, Libby, and John?”

        “It would be wise to notify John and let him know what’s transpired. But I really don’t think he has anything to be concerned about. As far as the rest of you go; play it safe, Roy, but again, I’m not overly concerned that Monroe will target any of you.”

        Roy looked down at his son. “Maybe you should go to Marion and Pete’s, too.”

        Chris shook his head at the mention of his in-laws names. “No. I’m not going to let Monroe chase me out of my home, Dad. I have a business to run. I can’t just go up to Santa Barbara and sit around waiting for the all-clear signal.”

        Roy heaved a sigh of frustration. His entire family was so damn stubborn. All but him, of course. The man turned his attention to the detective again.

        “Has someone gone through Monroe’s room?”

        “No yet. We have to get a search warrant first.”

        “A search warrant! The guy’s on parole and living in a half-way house for God’s sake!”
        “I know it, Roy. But he has rights, too.”

        Roy ran a hand through his thin hair as he resumed his pacing. “I can’t believe this. I just cannot believe it. First Monroe gets my son’s e-mail address somehow. Then he makes threats against Chris. Then he disappears while on a job interview. And now you have to get a search warrant in order to enter his room! Of all the stupid--”

        “Daddy, calm down,” Jennifer said, as her brother had just a few minutes earlier. “There’s no point in getting upset over what’s already happened. Let’s find out from Detective Anders what we can now do to prevent anything else from happening.”

        It took a moment, but Roy finally took a seat at the table with his children and nodded his head. “Okay, Troy. Let’s have it.”

        “As I said, we’ll keep an unmarked car on the house at all times, and we’ll have someone follow Wendy to and from work. We’ll do the same for Chris if he needs to leave the house. Keep the doors locked, Chris, the windows locked, keep your home security system on, and carry your cell phone with you.” The detective looked from Chris to Jennifer and Roy. “That last bit of advice goes for all of you. Jennifer, do you have a home security system?”


        “Good. And your daughter stays where when you’re at work?”

        “In the morning she goes to day camp at Spring Meadows Elementary School. In the afternoon she stays with my dad. If I’m working the night shift, or get called in on my day off, she stays with my parents, too.”

        Troy nodded his approval, knowing it wasn’t necessary to tell Roy to be cautious where Libby was concerned until Monroe was apprehended. The detective had no doubts the fire chief would keep a watchful eye on his granddaughter. He did say to Jennifer, “Talk to the day camp director and make it clear that only you, your father, and whatever other family members or friends you choose to delegate, are allowed to pick Libby up.”

        “I will. I’ll do that this morning when I take Libby there.”

        Troy shifted his attention. “Roy? How about you? Do you have a home security system?”


        “You might want to consider getting one. If and until you do, keep the doors and windows locked. Make sure Joanne carries a cell phone in the car with her wherever she goes.”

        “She already does.”

        “You should carry a cell phone with you, too,” Troy said as he reached for his coffee mug.

        “I already do, too.”

        “Glad to hear it. Other than that, just stay very alert. As I said, I don’t believe Monroe is concerned with anyone else in the DeSoto family but Chris. Nonetheless; it’s better to be safe than sorry.”

        When no one asked the detective any other questions, or voiced any other concerns, Jennifer spoke up. She didn’t care that her father was in the room and probably had no desire to hear what she had to say.

        “Have you notified Uncle Johnny?” She asked Troy.

        “John Gage?”

        “Yes. Does he know that Chris received this e-mail from Monroe?”

        “Not yet. But someone will get in touch with him this morning.”

        Jennifer’s eyes flicked to her father, but Roy refused to look at her. Her eyes returned to Troy.

        “Can you give Uncle Johnny a message for me?”

        Though Troy sensed the tension in the room at the mention of John Gage’s name, he nodded his head. “Sure.”

        “Tell him Jenny Bean said to be careful.”

        Troy cocked an inquiring eyebrow at the woman.

        Jennifer’s smile spoke of nothing but fond memories. “That’s the nickname he gave me the first time Dad brought him home for dinner when I was three years old.”

        “I’ll tell him,” Troy promised.

        Five minutes later Chris was seeing Troy Anders to the door. Jennifer looked at her father, who refused to take his eyes from his coffee mug.

        “It’s not a bad thing, Daddy.”

        The man looked up. “What’s not a bad thing?”

        “For me to ask Detective Anders to tell Uncle Johnny to be careful.”

        “I never said it was.”

        “But you act like I did something wrong.”

        Roy wasn’t about to get into this discussion with his daughter. Especially not today. He pushed his chair back and stood.

        “I’m going to help your mother pack the girls’ bags.”

        Jennifer shook her head with frustration as she watched her father walk out of the room. She sighed, then stood to clear the table. When the kitchen was cleaned up she kissed Brittany and Madison goodbye, then collected Libby in order to drop her off at day camp on the way to Rampart.


        Eight things demanded Troy’s attention the minute he stepped foot in the squad room. The phone on his desk was ringing. A new stack of reports awaited his review and signature. Three of his employees wanted to talk to him. His commander requested to see him pronto, and he needed to call John Gage. As the minutes passed and that last need kept getting pushed to the back burner, he looked at Bernie Bickle.

        “Bernie, I’ve got a number in my Rolodex for a John Gage. That’s G-A-G-E. Call him and let him know Chris DeSoto received a threatening e-mail from Scott Monroe. If you can’t get a hold of Gage, talk to a police chief by the name of Carl Mjtko. M-J-T-K-O. He’s in my Rolodex, too.”

        Bernie nodded as Troy shouldered into his sport coat and rushed from the room, headed for the commander’s office. He stood as if he was going to Troy’s desk, but just as quickly sat back down in his chair after Troy had left the room. Now that Troy was back from Carmel, Bernie just had to finish out today, then he was on vacation for two weeks. He had no intention of getting caught up in a case that might cancel his plans. If Troy asked, Bernie would simply say he hadn’t been able to get a hold of either Gage or Mjtko, but had left multiple messages for both men to call Troy.

        The fat man stood and crossed to the candy machine. He put in two quarters and a dime, then pressed the number six so a Milkyway would drop. He walked out of the squad room, in search of a place to eat in peace.


        Jennifer and her parents agreed that Libby wasn’t to be told about Scott Monroe and the threats he’d made against her Uncle Chris. The girl was old enough to realize something was amiss when she was taken to Uncle Chris’s on Thursday morning before day camp, then shooed into the family room with the little girls while the adults talked to a man she didn’t know. When Libby asked her mother what was going on she was told, “Nothing for you to worry about, Peaches.” Which was exactly what her grandfather said to her that afternoon when Libby had asked him that same question, only he called her by the nickname he’d given her long ago, Button.

        Regardless, it wasn’t lost on Libby that her grandfather didn’t leave her side on Thursday afternoon while she swam in the pool with McKenzie, then played Barbie’s on his deck with McKenzie and some other neighborhood girls.

        On Friday Grandpa picked her up from day camp in his sports car. Usually he walked to the school to get her, or met her and McKenzie halfway between the school and his house. Libby thought this change in routine was strange, but when she commented on it Grandpa had said, “I had some errands to run this morning and just happened to be driving by the school when camp let out.”

        Grandpa took Libby to lunch at Rampart that day. They met her mother and Dixie in the cafeteria. Libby loved eating in Rampart’s cafeteria, even though the adults made fun of the food. She thought it was neat to slide your tray down the long counter and pick out whatever you wanted as you passed by. Filling your own glass with soda from the machine was fun, too. Especially when soda ran over the side of the glass because you’d accidentally on purpose filled the glass too full.

        When Libby’s mom and Dixie had to return to work she and Grandpa went home. The neighborhood was quiet, and Libby asked permission to go to McKenzie’s house.

        “All right,” Grandpa had agreed. “But you call me before you leave McKenzie’s to come home so I can walk over to get you.”

        “But she just lives next door, Grandpa. I’ve come home from there like a thousand times by myself.”

        “I know, but today I want you to call me before you come home.”


        “Just do as I say, Olivia Kate, and don’t argue with me, please.”

        “Okay,” Libby agreed. Even though her grandpa had used her full name, he didn’t really sound mad. He sounded worried. But why, Libby had no idea.

        Roy walked out the front door with Libby that day. He watched as she knocked on the front door of the Harris home, and was then granted permission to enter the house. He waited a few seconds longer, and when she didn’t come back out he went into his own home.

        Within five minutes of going into McKenzie’s house, Libby was leaving it again. McKenzie’s mom said she was at the school playing on the swings and slides with some other girls.

        “She tried to call you at your Grandpa’s after day camp, Libby, but no one answered the phone.”

        “Grandpa took me to lunch at the hospital. We ate with my mom and one of the  nurses...Dixie, who’s a good friend of Grandpa’s from when he was a paramedic.”

        “Well, that was a nice treat for all of you, I bet. Why don’t you go down to the school and meet McKenzie and the girls there?”


        Libby skipped out of the house. She looked at her grandparents’ home, and momentarily thought of running inside to tell Grandpa of her change in plans. But she was in hurry to meet up with the girls before they ran off somewhere else, so headed in the direction of the school.

        I’ll be back soon. I’ll invite the girls to swim in Grandpa’s pool. They never turn that down. Grandpa won’t even know I’m gone.

Libby skipped down the sidewalk in her favorite stone-washed denim shorts, her pale purple t-shirt with the narrow deep purple stripes, and her white Reebok sneakers with the purple swirls. When she was halfway to the school she changed her pace to a hop scotch jump. She paid no attention to the van slowly trailing her, nor did she hear it stop a few feet behind her. It wasn’t until the man grabbed Libby and ran with her that she knew something horrible was about to happen. She got out two healthy screams before a hand was clamped over her mouth. She was thrown in the van, and landed against something that was covered with a blanket. Before she had a chance to yell again silver tape was smacked across her mouth. Her legs lashed out at her assailant, but within seconds a thick rope was wrapped around her ankles and tied in hard knot. The same was down to her wrists.

        By the time Libby realized how grave her situation was, the van was speeding out of her neighborhood, and she was looking into the face of her Grandpa’s best friend.


        When Libby hadn’t called Roy by four-thirty, he looked up McKenzie’s phone number in the small address book Joanne kept attached to the bulletin board with a thin gold chain. The girl’s mother answered on the third ring.

        “Hi, Dawn. It’s Roy DeSoto. Would you tell Libby I’m going to walk over and get her now?”


        “Yes. She’s there with McKenzie, isn’t she?”

        “No, Roy, she’s not. She stopped by around one-thirty, but I told her McKenzie and some of the other girls were playing at the schoolyard. She headed off in that direction.”

        “Oh.” Roy did his best to keep the anger out of his voice at his granddaughter’s disobedience of his directive. “Well, are they still there? I can drive down in the mini-van and pick them up.”

        “McKenzie’s right here. She came back about an hour ago or so. Just a minute. Let me ask her where Libby went.”

        Roy waited while his neighbor talked to her daughter. He could hear their muffled conversation, but couldn’t pick up any words.


        Roy immediately sensed something was wrong simply by Dawn’s tone of voice.

        “Roy, McKenzie says Libby never showed up at the school.”


        “She never showed up there, Roy. McKenzie hasn’t seen Libby since this morning at day camp.”

        Roy’s reply was terse as he tried to hide both his anger and fear.

        “Thanks for your help, Dawn. I’ll go out and look for her now.”

        “I’m sure she’s just playing at someone’s house. Check at Sarah’s. If she’s not there, try Brianna’s or Zoe’s.”

        “I will.”

        “Oh. . .hang on. McKenzie said you could try Gretchen’s house, too.”

        “Gretchen?” Roy didn’t even know any Gretchen.

        “The new family who moved into the Perkins’ home a few weeks ago. Remember, it was rented out this winter to that free-lance photographer?”

        Though Roy had never met the renter Dawn was referring to, he’d caught an occasional glimpse of the man during the winter months leaving or entering the neighborhood in his black Ford Explorer.

        “Yeah, I remember. The guy isn’t the person who bought the place?”

        “No. He left in early April. Gretchen and her family moved in just as the school year was ending.”

        “All right. Tell McKenzie thanks for the tip.”

        “I will. And give me a call when you find her.”

        “You’ll probably know when I find her.”

        “How so?”

        “I’ve never spanked any of my grandchildren before, but you may just hear that little girl howling as my hand gives her bottom a few good whacks.”

        Dawn chuckled. “I understand. But still, let me know, okay?”


        Roy hung up the phone and headed for the door that would take him to the garage. He dug his car keys from the pocket of his jeans and climbed in the mini-van. He could feel his panic rising, but kept telling himself he was being foolish. More than likely Libby had wound up at little girl’s house in the neighborhood and had lost track of time. Well, when he was through with her Libby would realize that what Grandpa said when he was in charge of her was the law.

        An hour later Roy was no longer angry with his wayward granddaughter, he was worried sick. He’d been to the school yard, and then to the home of every friend Dawn and McKenzie had named. He’d driven around the neighborhood three times, and even gone to Jennifer’s house in the off chance he’d find Libby there for some reason. When he ran out of places to look, Roy drove back to his own home. He parked the van and ran for the door, fumbling with his keys until he got them to turn in the lock. He flew through the living room and with trembling hands picked up the phone in the kitchen. His eyes went to a business card of Troy Anders’ that was pinned on the bulletin board He dialed the man’s direct line and was relieved when Anders picked up on the second ring. Roy babbled out an explanation that he was amazed the detective could make sense of. But the man must have made sense of it, because Troy said, “I’ll be right over,” before hanging up the phone.

        The next call Roy had to make was the most difficult one of his life. When the Rampart receptionist picked up the phone he closed his eyes and requested softly, “May I speak with Doctor DeSoto, please? This is her father. It’s. . .it’s an emergency.”

Chapter 16


        It wouldn’t have been easy for Johnny to escape considering his hands and feet were bound, but the minute the panel door on the van slid open he would have tried had it not been for one thing. Roy DeSoto’s granddaughter. Even if an escape attempt had been possible for himself, Johnny would have never left the child behind. Johnny suspected his captor knew this. He was grabbed by the shoulders and spun around before he got more than a glimpse of the landscape beyond the van. A red bandanna was tied around his eyes and knotted at the back of his head. The tape was yanked off his mouth in one tug, making it all Johnny could do not to yelp in pain. But he’d never do that. He wouldn’t give this bastard the perverse satisfaction it would bring him to know he’d hurt his captive.

        “We’re going for a stroll, Uncle Johnny. You, me, and this sweet little girl here. If you try to run, I’ll kill her. You got that?”

        It took Johnny a moment to find enough saliva to answer the man. When he did, his voice came out in a harsh croak he barely recognized. “I got it.”

        The ropes binding Johnny’s ankles together were untied. He was wrenched from the van, his head slamming against its frame. Despite the bandanna, he momentarily saw stars. Within seconds he felt a warm trickle of blood running down the side of his face.

        “Ooops. Sorry about that. Didn’t mean to hurt you.”

        “I bet,” came Johnny’s dry retort.

        The man laughed. “Gage, there’s one thing I like about you, and that’s your sense of humor. I don’t like much else about you, but your sense of humor does amuse me.”
        The bandanna prevented Johnny from seeing what was happening, but there was nothing wrong with his hearing. When Libby started sobbing again he growled, “Keep your hands off her, you bastard. If you hurt her--”

        “I’m not hurting her. Or at least not yet. I’m simply untying the ropes around her ankles. I told you we’re taking a little stroll.”

        Evan tied a length of rope around Libby’s waist, and another length around Johnny’s. He gave both ropes a tug.

        “I would hope both of you realize attempting to run would be an effort in futility. If either of you is still unwise enough to try it, I promise I’ll kill the one left behind. Do you understand me, Gage?”

        “I understand you,” Johnny answered, though he wondered where the man thought he’d run to anyway, considering his hands were bound behind his back and he was blindfolded.

        “And you, Miss Sheridan? Do you understand?”

        Libby’s voice wasn’t louder than the squeak of a frightened mouse.
“Ye. . .yes.”

        Evan shouldered into a large backpack, then grabbed the McDonald’s bag and drink tray. Libby’s hands were bound in front of her so he thrust the food at her. “Here. Carry this.”

        Johnny was prodded with a push between his shoulder blades. “Get moving, Fire Chief Gage. Walk straight ahead.”

        By Johnny’s estimate they traveled half a mile from the van until they reached the point where their kidnapper brought them to a halt. But how accurate his estimation was, Johnny was far from certain. He’d stumbled over logs and rocks, and walked into trees throughout this trek, much to the delight of the man who was sponsoring this game of Blindman’s Bluff. Johnny didn’t waste time feeling humiliated over what the man was doing to him, instead he listened to the sounds around him and paid attention to what he was traveling over. Leaves crunched beneath his Nike running shoes, and twigs snapped as he walked. Within minutes he knew they were in a heavily wooded area and climbing upward. He couldn’t hear any traffic, or any other noises that indicated human life was nearby, but he did hear the call of birds, and every so often heard something small scamper ahead of him like a squirrel or chipmunk.

        Johnny tripped going up a set of steps. His feet finally came to rest on what he guessed might be a front porch.

        “Gage, I’ve got my gun trained on the girl. Therefore, you’d better cool your heels while I open this.”

        Johnny nodded, though he had no idea what was being opened. His head was pounding from where he’d whacked it on the frame of the van, and he estimated his temperature was holding fairly steady at around one hundred and one. He wasn’t in shape at the moment to do much more than cool his heels. An escape attempt, if it was to come, couldn’t be wasted. Between the blindfold, and how he was feeling, Johnny knew an attempt to flee right now would be wasted. He’d be caught before he’d run three feet. Besides, there was still the little girl to think of. If he did get the chance to flee, she was going with him.

        Johnny was pushed into a building of some sort. He felt the rough wooden floor beneath his tennis shoes, and smelled years worth of dust and cobwebs. He heard a door close, then felt the rope around his waist being removed. The blindfold was removed next. Using his gun, the man gestured for Johnny to move to a far corner of the large room.

        “Sit down over there, Gage.” Evan looked at Libby next. “You too, Little Miss. You sit down next to your Uncle Johnny.”

        Libby did as the man instructed her. She slid down the wall on shaking legs, trying not to upend the food she was still carrying. When she was seated, the girl leaned into Johnny’s body without even realizing she’d sought that form of comfort and protection from this man she’d never met before, and was only a face in her grandfather’s photo albums.

        Johnny looked around the room. It was bare of everything but an old stone fireplace with a wide hearth, and a waist-high counter of some sort along one wall. The floor was wood like he’d suspected, and dotted with rodent droppings. The four windows it contained were boarded over with plywood. A doorway led to a smaller room in the rear of the structure. Johnny couldn’t see enough of that room to know whether or not it contained windows, but if it did he was certain he’d discover they were boarded over as well.

        Evan shouldered out of his backpack while being careful to keep his gun aimed at Johnny’s chest. The green zippered pack dropped to the wood floor with a thud.
        “There’s some things in here you might like to make use of.”

“What things?” Johnny asked.

         “Toothbrushes. Toothpaste. A razor. Shaving cream. Some odds and ends to keep the girl entertained. Things like that. Think of it as a care package from me to you, Uncle Johnny.”

        Johnny didn’t know what was worse. Expecting to die quickly, as he had been since the moment he’d realized who his captor was, or now coming to the realization that the man was playing some sick mind game with not only Johnny, but more than likely with the police as well. He wanted his captives alive and relatively comfortable, which meant when he finally killed them the joke would be all the more cruel.

        Evan pointed to a back room. “Around the corner there’s a bathroom of sorts. Make yourselves at home.” The man smiled at Johnny. “You might want to clean up a bit, Gage. You know; shave, brush your teeth, comb your hair. . .make yourself look presentable again.”

        “Why? You got a hot date lined up for me? If you do, keep in mind I’m a leg man, the longer the better. And at my age a woman about twenty years younger would be appealing.”

        Evan laughed. “There you go again with that sharp wit you possess.” Crammer shook his head. “No, Uncle Johnny, no date. Actually, if you must know the truth, I want them to recognize your body when they find you. After all, an important man such as yourself should have a proper burial, wouldn’t you say?”

        And with that, Evan backed out of the cabin. The thick door was shut, and Johnny heard a padlock snap into place. Within seconds, the tears that had been silently running down Libby’s face changed to sobs. Because his hands were still tied Johnny couldn’t pull the girl into his arms when she burrowed her face against his left biceps.

        “Sweetie, don’t cry. Don’t cry, kiddo. Come on now, we’ve got some things we need to accomplish if we’re going to get out of this situation.”

        “Get. . .get out. . out of it how?” Libby hiccupped into Johnny’s shirtsleeve.

        “I don’t know the answer to that question just yet, but I do know I need your help in order to find the answer.”

        Libby peeked up at the man. “My help?”

        “You bet.”

        “How can I help?”

        “First of all, we’re going to untie each other’s hands. Were you blindfolded like I was when we were brought here?”


        “Good. Then you’re going to tell me everything you noticed about this place, about the area around us, while we walked.”

        “But I was pretty scared. I. . .I didn’t notice much.”

        “Oh, I think you noticed more than you’re giving yourself credit for.”

        Libby thought a moment. “There were lots of trees. So many you couldn’t see anything else.”

        “Good girl. You’ve already got the hang of it. But first let’s get untied and see if there’s a way out of this place.”

        “There’s a big lock on the door. It’s on the outside. The man had to use a key to open it.”

        “I figured as much.” Johnny nodded at the food in Libby’s hands. “Set that stuff down, kiddo, then let me see if I can untie you.”

        Libby did as Johnny instructed. He turned his back and told her to place her wrists next to his hands. “Okay, you tell me how I’m doin’ ‘cause I can’t really see what’s going on.”

        “You don’t have eyes in the back of your head like my grandpa does?”

        Johnny chuckled at the child’s comment and what it implied, as well as at hearing Roy referred to as ‘Grandpa.’

        “Sometimes I do. Or so my son, Trevor, thinks.”

        “How old is Trevor?” Libby asked, while Johnny’s fingers fumbled with the knots at her thin wrists.


        “That’s how old Branny would be if he was still alive.”


        “My brother. Brandon. Brandon Roy Sheridan. He died two years ago of a brain tumor.”

        “Oh.” Pain pricked Johnny’s heart at the thought of Jennifer losing a child. “I’m so sorry to hear that.”

        “It made everyone very sad. Especially my grandpa. He. . .Grandma said it still hurts him to talk about Branny. My dad. . .my dad left after Branny died. I guess it hurt him bad, too. He lives in Ohio now. He has a new wife. They just had a baby a couple months ago. A boy. His name’s Garrett Daniel. I haven’t met him yet even though he is my brother. I might someday though.”

        “I’m sure you will.”

        “Maybe. Dad. . .he doesn’t call me much. And it takes him a long time to answer my e-mails. He’s a surgeon. An orthopedist. You know what that is, right?”

        “Yes, I do.”

        “Some people don’t, but I figured you did beings you were a paramedic with my grandpa and all. Are you still a paramedic?”

        “Among other things, yes, I am.” As the ropes around Libby’s wrists came loose, Johnny turned around. The girl was flexing her hands, trying to work out the kinks and get the blood flowing again. “But how do you know me?”

        “I heard that man call you Uncle Johnny. That’s when I stopped being so scared and really looked at your face. You’re lots older now than you were in the pictures Grandpa has in his photo album, and you’re not quite so scrawny, but I knew it was you right away, Uncle Johnny. My mom’s told me lots and lots about you.”

        Johnny smiled to himself. There was no doubt this forthright child belonged to Jennifer. “Good stuff I hope,” Johnny teased.

        “Good stuff? It was great stuff, Uncle Johnny. Exciting stuff. Funny stuff. Neat stuff.”

        Johnny shook his head as Libby scooted behind him and started untying his hands. Even after all these years, and all that had happened, he could still count on Jennifer for a little hero worship. “Your mother’s opinion of me is slightly over-elevated.”

        “Uh huh.”

        “What makes you say that?”

        “She told me all about you, Katori. I know the story. I know how you saved her from that bad man. And now a bad man has kidnapped me, and I know you’ll save me, too.”

        Johnny wished it were that easy. He wished being a hero to a little girl was as simple as Jennifer’s daughter made it sound. Johnny ignored the pins and needles sensation in his hands as the ropes fell away from his wrists and he pushed himself to his feet. Nor did he pay attention to the blood still trickling down the side of his face and soaking into his shirt collar. He held out a hand to the child. “Come on, let’s look around this place and see if there’s a way out.”

        Libby smiled up at the man. “If anyone can find a way out, Uncle Johnny, it’ll be you.”

        In an effort not to build up the child’s hopes, Johnny changed the subject.

        “You know my name, so it’s only fair you tell me yours. How about it, kiddo?”

        “Libby. Well, actually, Libby is my nickname. My real name is Olivia. Olivia Kate Sheridan.”

        Johnny turned away to cough, resisting the urge to clutch his chest as he did so. When he turned back to face Libby, he tweaked her nose just like he used to do to her mother. And just like he had done to her mother so many years ago now, Johnny christened the little girl with a nickname of his own.

        “Come on, Olive Oyl, let’s go exploring.”

        Libby giggled at that man. Her mother was right. Uncle Johnny was fun. Fun and nice both. She was still a little afraid, but not very much. Uncle Johnny would help her get back home.


        If Libby was disappointed that Johnny didn’t find a way out of their prison she didn’t show it. But then she was perceptive for ten years old and realized he was disappointed enough for both of them. The thick plywood boards over the windows were held in place by screws, making it impossible for Uncle Johnny to pull the boards away even though he’d tried so hard his fingers had bled. He’d tried to kick the boards in, too, and then he’d thrown his shoulders against them until he winced with pain. He tried using the same methods on the front door, but to no avail. When he finally slid down the wall he was coughing so hard it scared Libby. She watched as sweat mixed with the blood from the gash on the top of his head and ran down his face. She picked a Coke up from the drink tray.

        “Here, Uncle Johnny. Take a drink.”

        Though the Coke was watered down with little ice left in it, Johnny gratefully took a long sip through the straw. Libby sat next to him and opened the food bag. The Big Macs and fries were cold, but she was so hungry she didn’t care. She spread the bag on the floor, then laid the food on top of it. She bit into a French fry and took a drink of her own soda.

        “I wish we had a microwave.”

        Johnny smiled. “Yeah, that would be nice. Your grandpa and I had more cold meals than I can count when we worked together. We would have killed for a microwave oven in the station back then.”

        “Couldn’t the fire department afford one?”

        “I suppose it could have, but microwaves weren’t invented yet.”

        “Wow! I didn’t know you and my grandpa were that old.”

        Johnny feigned outrage. “I think I’ve just been insulted by a munchkin.”

        Libby giggled, then took a bite out of her Big Mac.

        Johnny broke some sesame seed bun from his sandwich. He had no appetite, but knew he had to eat what he could in order to keep his strength up. He couldn’t very well protect Libby if he was unable to stand. “Libby, remember when I told you that you could help me?”


        “Good. ‘Cause now I need you to tell me everything you recall about our journey here.”

        “I already told you there were lots of trees.”

        “I know. But what else? What did you see?”

        “Just trees,” Libby shrugged. “Lots and lots of trees.”

        “Oh, come on, Olive Oyl, you can do better than that. Close your eyes and concentrate. Think about what was out there.”

        Libby closed her eyes and thought really, really hard for no other reason than because Uncle Johnny asked her to. A full minute passed before she spoke.

        “Trees. Lots of trees. And no houses. I didn’t see any houses, or any people at all. We climbed. The path we were walking on was really steep. There was a gate. A big gate that had a sign on it that said, Keep Out.
        Johnny sat forward. “A gate?”

        “Yeah. Like. . .” Libby scrunched her eyes together and thought really hard. “Not like a fence, but just a gate. . .a metal bar shaped like a triangle that the man made us walk around. Pretty soon, we were here.”

        “Where’s here?”

        “Here. In this house.”

        “Does this look like a house from the outside?”

        “Kinda. More like a cabin I guess. It’s small.”

        “Is there a front porch?”

        “Yeah. A front porch with a wooden railing.”

        Their captor’s words from earlier echoed in Johnny’s head as the clues Libby was providing him with began to come together in his mind.

        Well, Uncle Johnny, we’re on our way to ending it where it all began.

        The mountains! Johnny’s brain screamed at him. We’re in the San Gabriel mountains! That’s what he meant. This is a ranger station. An old, unused ranger station they’ve boarded up. This would have been the main room that visitors could come in to get information or directions, and the back room was the ranger’s office.

Johnny mulled this revelation over as he watched Libby moved away from the food to the backpack their captor had left behind. How their assailant had gotten a key to access the padlock on the door Johnny wasn’t certain, but he surmised the man had been up here in the recent past, cut the original padlock off with bolt cutters, and replaced it with a new padlock of his own.

        Libby’s voice interrupted Johnny’s thoughts as she unzipped the pack. “Should I see what’s in here?”


        The first things the girl pulled out would come in useful for the tiny bathroom off the back office. The toilet was nothing more than a hole that plunged right to the ground with a toilet seat mounted on top. The hole wasn’t big enough for Libby to climb down, if she’d even been willing, let alone big enough for Johnny to slither through. When the station had been open Johnny knew chemicals meant to dissolve human waste would have been liberally dumped down that hole on a frequent basis. Whether those chemicals still had any power, Johnny figured they soon find out. Especially if they were kept here more than a few days. There was also a sink in the room with a hand pump that still provided water, albeit water that was a bit on the rusty side.
        Libby held up a roll of toilet paper, two green hand towels, two green washcloths, a comb, a plastic bottle of shampoo, and a bar of Zest soap. “Guess these are for the bathroom.”

        “Guess so.”

        “Here’s a box of Kleenex, too.”

        Without Johnny having told her he was sick, Libby knew. She slid the box of Kleenex across the floor to the man who was suddenly seized by another round of tight coughs. It took Johnny a minute to quiet the coughing and catch his breath.

        “Thanks, Olive Oyl.”

        “You’re welcome. And can I ask you something?”

        “You can.”

        “Who’s Olive Oyl?”

        Johnny smiled. “A character from a cartoon called Popeye. Ever see it?”


        “Then I’ll have to speak to your mother about that fact because it was one of her favorites. I watched about as many hours of that with her as I watched hours of Sesame Street.”

        “Who was your favorite? On Sesame Street, I mean?”

        “Bert and Ernie.”

        “Mine, too. ‘Cept I’m too old for Sesame Street now.”

        “I can see that. How old are you, by the way?”


        Libby continued to dig through the pack. She came up with a bag that contained two toothbrushes, a tube of Crest, a disposal razor, and shaving cream.

        “More stuff for the bathroom,” she said, as though they were simply staying in the cabin for a weekend of fun, as opposed to being held here by a man whose name Johnny didn’t even know, but who would kill them both without blinking.

        Just goes to prove she’s as resilient as her mother. Jennifer was just this strong, this tough, the night I was attacked by this guy in these very same mountains.

Libby pulled out a box of Ritz crackers next, along with a box of Quaker Chocolate Chip Granola Bars, four apples, and a flashlight. She pushed the button on the flashlight to see if it worked. It did. The beam shone off the wall above Johnny’s head. There was no electricity in the cabin, so as soon as the sun went down it would be black as night in here. Johnny assumed that’s why they were given the flashlight, though it mattered little to him one way or another.
        “Shut it off for now, Libby. We don’t wanna waste the batteries.”

        Libby nodded and did as Johnny instructed. Though the room was dim, there was still enough light seeping in through tiny cracks in the walls to give some visibility. Johnny guessed in thirty minutes or so they’d be in complete darkness.

        The last few items Libby pulled out were evidently intended to keep her occupied. A Baby-Sitters Club book, a coloring book, crayons, a one hundred piece Barbie puzzle, and a deck of Uno cards.

        “I like the Baby-Sitters Club books. Have you ever read any of them?”

        “No. My son would tell you they’re for girls.”
        “They are, I guess. Does Trevor like to read?”

        Johnny laid his head back against the wall and took another sip of watered down Coke. The top of his head still hurt in the area of the gash, but at least the bleeding had stopped. “Yep. Right now Harry Potter is his current favorite. He loves the Goosebumps series, too, as well as the Hardy Boys. And any book that contains a horse, a dog, a fire truck, or a baseball team.”

        “He’s a typical boy then.”
        “He is. Two hundred percent boy as my housekeeper says.”

        Libby flipped through the Xena, Warrior Princess coloring book, then set it aside. She took the items to the bathroom that belonged there before returning to the central room to pull the last item out of the pack. She held up the blue blanket that had been covering Johnny when he’d laid down to take a nap in his home however many days ago that had been. The fire chief had lost all track of time thanks to the chloroform and his illness.

        “Here,” the girl walked across the room and spread the blanket over Johnny. “I think you need this.”


        Libby returned the food to the backpack and zipped it closed, then put the flashlight and the gifts their captor had packed for her in a neat pile against the wall. She started cleaning up their litter from supper. “Don’t you want to eat some more? You hardly touched anything.”

        “I’m not very hungry, sweetheart. Go ahead and put it all in the bag except the drinking cups. We can fill those with water from the pump in the bathroom.”

        “Good idea.”

        “Every so often I have one, despite what your grandfather might have told you.”

        Libby didn’t understand what Johnny meant, but she did pick up on the dry humor behind his remark.

        “My grandpa’s never told me anything about you, Uncle Johnny.”

        “I can’t say that surprises me,” Johnny murmured so softly that Libby couldn’t hear his words, though she did hear the pain that came out with them.
        When Libby had finished her housekeeping duties she sat down next to Johnny. He lifted the blanket, inviting her to cover up as well. She snuggled close to the man once again, and patted the blanket in place over them.

        “Libby, what day is it?”

        “It’s Friday.”

        “Write that down in the front page of that coloring book he gave you, okay? And the date, too.” Johnny quickly calculated the correct date. “June 16th.”


        “Just so we can keep track of the passing time.”

        “All right.” Libby reached for the coloring book and box of crayons. She opened the box that held sixteen different shades of the rainbow and faced it toward Johnny. “What color do you like best?”

        “Sunset orange.”

        Libby smiled. “You’re good at this.”

        “My son likes to color. He ropes me into coloring with him whenever he can.”

        Libby plucked out the color Johnny had chosen. With a careful hand she wrote the word Friday in the front cover of the book. Next to it she wrote June 16th. When she had set the book and crayons aside Johnny asked, “Do you know about what time it was when he. . .when the man grabbed you?”

        “I guess around one-thirty, maybe quarter to two. Me and Grandpa went to the hospital and had lunch with my mom and Dixie. Then--”

        Johnny cocked an eyebrow. “Dixie still works there? At Rampart?”

        “Yep. Only just some hours, not lots of hours.”


        “Yeah. Part-time. She’s my mom’s favorite nurse.”

        Johnny smiled with fond memory. “She’s my favorite nurse, too.” Johnny sobered. “And your mom? Is she a doctor?”

        “Yep. She works in the emergency room at Rampart. Doctor Morton is her boss. Do you know him?”

        “Oh, yeah. Lucky her.”

        Libby wasn’t sure what Johnny meant by that sarcastic remark. Doctor Morton was always nice to her whenever she visited the hospital.

        “Does Doctor Brackett still work there?”

        “Uh huh. He’s the admin. . .admin. . .I can never get that word right.”

        “Administrator. The hospital administrator?”

        “Yeah. That’s it.”

        Johnny nodded. It didn’t surprise him to discover that Brackett had risen that far. Johnny always had a great deal of respect for the man. It was because of Brackett, and Roy, that Johnny had become a paramedic in the first place. The by-the-book Brackett had frustrated the hell out of the young, rebellious John Gage thirty years ago, but the reason he was still a paramedic today was because of all he learned from Kelly Brackett back in 1971. Johnny’s love of emergency medicine and trauma care came directly from that man’s influence.

        “Is Doctor Early still there?”

        “I don’t know. I don’t know him”

        Johnny nodded. If Joe Early were still alive he’d be over eighty years old. The likelihood that he yet worked at Rampart was slim.

        Johnny and Libby fell silent as they watched a squirrel appear from the fireplace. The little animal looked startled to see his home occupied by intruders. He raised up on his hind legs, watching Libby and Johnny a moment before turning around and scurrying up the chimney. Johnny could hear the squirrel’s tiny feet scampering across the roof.

        “Libby, I need you to make me a promise.”

        “If something happens. . .if an opportunity comes that you can escape, if I can keep the man occupied so you can run out the door, you have to do that, do you understand?”

        “You mean by myself? You mean run through the woods by myself and leave you here?”

        “That’s exactly what I mean. I wish I could tell you how to find a road from here, sweetheart, but I can’t, because I’m not exactly sure where here is. I can tell you we’re in the San Gabriel Mountains. Do you know where those are?”
        “I’ve been by them in the car.”

        “But you’ve never camped up here?”

        “No. We don’t go camping.”

        Johnny couldn’t say that news surprised him. Though Roy and his kids had camped with Johnny a number of times twenty-five years ago, Roy was more inclined to rent a cabin and have a certain amount of amenities available whenever he went fishing, or spent a few days away from the city with his family.

        “If you can get out of here, Libby, you have to run until you come to a highway, or until you come across other people. Then you have to tell them who you are, and that you need them to call the police. Tell them you were kidnapped. I’m sure the police are already looking for you.”
        “Probably. I wasn’t supposed to leave McKenzie’s. Grandpa said not to. But Mrs. Harris, McKenzie’s mom, said McKenzie and the other girls were at the school playground. I was only going that far, but then the man. . .the man. . .he took me. Grandpa will be really mad. He might even spank me. He’s never done that before, but I think maybe he will this time.”

        Johnny put an arm around the girl, ignoring the pain that movement caused his bruised shoulder. He was getting too old to try to break through plywood with his body.

        “Don’t worry about it, Olive Oyl. I don’t think your grandpa will spank you. Besides, I’ll put in a good word for you.”
        “You will?”


        “You think it will help?”

        “Let’s put it this way, it got your mom out of some spankings on several of occasions.”
        “That must be why my mom likes you so much.”

        Johnny smiled. “Yeah, maybe.” He cupped the girl’s chin and forced her to look into his weary eyes. It was getting harder to talk without coughing. All he wanted to do was get a couple hours sleep. If he did he’d feel better. Stronger. And then maybe he could somehow help Libby escape. “Now remember. If I tell you to run you’re outta here as fast as your legs can carry you. If it’s dark, you scoop up that flashlight and take it with you. Don’t worry about the man coming after you. I promise I’ll do everything I can to keep that from happening. And remember that we’re in the San Gabriel Mountains. When you get to a police officer, or your grandfather, tell them we were being held in the San Gabriel Mountains at a boarded up ranger station. Can you do all that for me?”

        “Yes,” Libby said, though in truth it sounded scary. She didn’t think she could run through the woods by herself, especially after dark, but then she remembered that Uncle Chris hadn’t been much older than she was now when he’d had to leave Uncle Johnny to get help. “I guess. . .I guess I can do it. Like Uncle Chris did when he rode Cody down the mountain to get help for you a long time ago.”

        “Exactly like that. Exactly like your Uncle Chris did. How. . .how is your Uncle Chris?”

        “He’s fine. Him and Aunt Wendy bought a real nice house last year. I go there a lot to play with Brittany and Madison.”

        Johnny recalled that Chris had been dating a red headed beauty named Wendy Adams back in 1985. Evidently they’d gotten married.

        “Brittany and Madison?”

        “My cousins. Uncle Chris’s kids. They’re only four and two, but I have fun with them anyway. Sometimes I baby-sit for them when Uncle Chris is busy working in his office.”

        “What’s he do?”
        “Makes stuff on the computer.”

        “Makes stuff?”

        “Designs Web sites. Mom says he’s gonna get rich doing that. He’s really smart, you know.”

        “Yes, I know.”

        Johnny was so happy to hear that Chris had gone on to make a life for himself despite his injury, that he barely heard Libby rattling on about her Uncle John. By the time he tuned into her words Johnny was being told about John’s career as a forest ranger at Yellowstone, and about his girlfriend named Shawna who no one had met yet, but who Grandma was sure Uncle John would marry someday.

        “That sounds just like your grandma.” Johnny’s tone held nothing but affection for Joanne DeSoto. “Always trying to marry us bachelors off.”

        “Did she do that to you?”
        “On several occasions, yes.”

        “Did it work?”

        “No,” Johnny chuckled. “Much to her disappointment it never did. How is your grandma?”

        “She’s good. She works at a bank. Me and Grandpa go visit her there sometimes. She’s the nicest grandma ever.”

        “I’m sure she is. She was always one of my favorite people, I can tell you that.”

        If Libby noticed Johnny didn’t ask her about her grandfather she didn’t comment on that fact. Her chatter died away, and she soon wound down enough to allow sleep to claim her. She snuggled even farther into Johnny’s side as exhaustion took over. Not even the movement of Johnny’s chest each time he coughed disturbed the girl’s slumber.

        It took Johnny another hour to join Libby in sleep. The things she had told him about the DeSoto offspring, and especially about Chris, brought him a large measure of peace. Not to mention satisfying his curiosity in regards to what career paths they had chosen, and how their lives had turned out. It made him sad to think of Jennifer having lost a child, and having suffered through the break-up of her marriage, but Johnny, better than anyone else, knew you didn’t travel the road of adulthood without experiencing some devastating times along the way. He wished he could have spared the little girl he used to call Jenny Bean those heartaches, but he knew that was a foolish notion.

        Johnny looked down at the golden haired child wrapped in his arms. He couldn’t spare Jennifer her past heartaches, but he vowed he’d do everything he could to spare her a future one.

        I’ve got to get Libby out of here. Somehow, I’ve got to get her out of here.

And that was the fire chief’s final thought before he fell into a fitful sleep.

Chapter 17

        Trevor Gage wandered his home, aimlessly moving from room to room in his stocking feet. His papa had been missing for two days now. Clarice kept smiling at Trevor, telling him things would turn out just fine, and that Papa would be coming home soon. Nonetheless, Trevor saw the worry in her eyes, and the way her smile transformed to a sad frown when she thought he wasn't looking.

        By Thursday afternoon, just twenty-eight hours after John Gage had been kidnapped, most of the people searching for him had left the Gage property and surrounding area. The men from the crime lab in Juneau were gone, too. They'd dusted for fingerprints in the bedroom Carl had immediately cordoned off after discovering Gage was missing. Aside from the blanket and box of Kleenex, the only other item that appeared to be absent was a pair of Nike tennis shoes gone from the closet floor according to Trevor. The men spent hours walking back and forth in every room of the house, using infrared goggles to look for clues not readily seen by the naked eye. As Thursday drew to a close and Trevor watched vehicle after vehicle pull out of his driveway, he fought back tears and ran to find Clarice.

        "Clarice, where's everyone going? How come they've quit looking for Papa?"

        "They haven't quit looking, love. It's just that they've searched everywhere they can around the house. Carl will have them look other places now."

        "What other places?"

        "I don't know, sweetie. But don't you worry about it. Carl's taking care of everything. Papa will be home soon."

        "How soon?"


        "But how soon?"

        "Soon, love."

        "But when?"

        “Very soon.”

        “But how--”

        Before Trevor could finish his question the phone rang. It had been ringing constantly since word of his father's disappearance had gotten out. People were calling to ask Clarice if she'd heard anything about Papa yet, but her answer was always a quiet, "No. Nothing yet."

        Rather than upset Trevor anymore than he already was, Clarice was staying at the Gage home with him as opposed to taking him to the home she shared with her son in Eagle Harbor. If they didn't find John soon that situation would have to be rectified, but for the next few days at least she would keep the child in the only home he remembered living in.

        Trevor paused behind his father's deep blue Lazy Boy as he walked a big circle around the great room. He knew it wasn't right to eavesdrop, but he stopped when he heard Clarice talking in the kitchen about Papa to her sisters. The women were here for the afternoon helping Clarice cook dinner. Carl, and at least two-dozen other people ranging from law enforcement officers to citizens assisting with the search for John Gage, would stop by later to grab a bite to eat. Trevor knew Clarice's sisters well. Nana Marie, Nana Colette, and Nana Josephine treated him like a grandson; which only made sense considering they'd known him since he was twelve months old, and he went to school with a good number of their grandchildren.

        "I'm just so worried about him," Clarice said as she rolled dough on the work island counter in the center of the big room. "I. . .John's like another son to me."

        The woman's sisters nodded their heads and made soft clucking noises that Trevor took to mean they understood how she felt.

        "Has anyone contacted John's father?" Nana Marie asked while sifting more flour over the dough that would soon be shaped into corkscrew noodles.

        "Chad. . .John's father, Chad and his wife are touring the country in their motor home. Trevor has a postcard John received nine days ago that said they were headed for Niagara Falls. Carl got their license number from the Montana DMV, and has notified various police agencies in the Northeast, but so far he hasn't heard anything. For all we know they could be in Canada, or could have changed their itinerary completely and headed in an entirely different direction."

        "What about John's sister?" Nana Colette stood at the sink washing dishes. "Reah? Is that her name?"

        "Yes. I've been trying to call her, but I can't get an answer. She's a midwife in northern Newfoundland. It's not unusual for her to be out of touch for several weeks at a time because of her practice and how far she sometimes travels. Or so John has told me. Trevor knew that John had her e-mail address so Carl got on the computer and sent her a message, but she has yet to respond to it."

        "And Trevor's mother?" Nana Marie questioned softly while throwing a glance over her shoulder. Trevor ducked down behind Papa's chair. He wanted to hear what Clarice said since no one had mentioned his mother to him up until this point.

        Clarice threw her hands in the air as if dismissing that subject before it even began. "She's in Paris. She and that rich husband of hers. It took us a while to track her down, but Carl started with the hospital where she works, and finally got in touch with her parents. Ashton. . Trevor's mother, called here last night after Trevor was in bed. She's worried about John, but not worried enough to cut her vacation short and fly back home to be with her son. I'm sure she doesn't want to be inconvenienced in any way."

        "What John ever saw in that woman I'll never know," Nana Josephine shook her head. "He deserved so much better than the way she treated him, and Trevor deserves better, too."

        "Don't ever say that to John," Clarice cautioned. "And most especially don't ever say it in front of Trevor. Despite the reasons behind their breakup, John is fiercely loyal to her where Trevor is concerned."

        "That's because he puts the needs of his son first," Nana Marie said. "Unlike her."

        Trevor wasn't certain who the 'her' was Nana Marie was talking about. He understood enough of the conversation to sense that Clarice was mad at his mother for some reason, but since his mother had never been to Eagle Harbor, and since his parents hadn't lived together since Trevor's birth, it was hard for the boy to fathom his mother flying here now. After all, she lived in New York, and he and Papa lived in Alaska. Papa said that still made them a family, only like a family who lived far apart from one another like they lived far apart from Grandpa Chad and Aunt Reah.

Nana Colette turned from the sink to face her sisters. "What will happen to Trevor if John. . .if John isn't found?"

        Trevor peeked over the chair, curious as to what the answer would be. Clarice caught sight of a mop of dark hair and said quickly, "He'll be found. Don't you worry about that." She smiled at Trevor while wiping the flour from her hands with a dish towel. She set the towel down and headed toward the great room.

        "What are you doing back there, love?" Clarice motioned for the boy to come out. She bent and tucked the tails of his blue chambray shirt into the thin waist of his Wrangler jeans.

        "I. . .I was looking for my Lego fire truck. I thought I left it behind Papa's chair."

        "No, I don't think so. I vacuumed in here today and I didn't see it."

        "It must be in your room. Did you look in your toy box?"

        "No, but I will."

        "Are you sure you don't want me to take you to your Little League game?" Clarice glanced over at the grandfather clock in the corner to see it was one-thirty. "It starts in half an hour."

        "No. Not unless Papa will be there. He's supposed to help coach today."

        Clarice gave Trevor a soft smile. "I'm sorry, sweetheart, but Papa won't be there today."
        Trevor dropped his eyes to the carpeting. "That's what I thought."

        "Is there something else you'd like to do? Someone's house you'd like to go play at? Or we could invite someone over here. How about the twins?"

        "No. They'll be playing baseball anyway."

        "What about your friend Caleb from school?"


        "How about Matthew, or Emily? I bet Emily would like to come over and play with Happy and Hoppy."

        "Not today."

        Clarice walked over to the boy and cupped his chin in her hands. "Trevor, Papa would be hurt to see you so sad."

        Trevor fought to keep his tears from falling. He moved his face from Clarice's grasp. He didn't want to play with anyone, and he didn't want to hear Clarice and her sisters saying bad things about his mother, or wondering where he was going to stay if Papa didn't come home. Papa was going to come home so whether or not his mother flew to Eagle Harbor, or whether or not his grandfather or Aunt Reah were located, didn't make any difference as far as Trevor was concerned. Papa would be back. Papa would never leave him.

        Like his father, Trevor knew how to deflect an emotional moment he didn't want to be a part of.

        "Can I play a game on the computer?"

        "You may. But don't go on the Internet," Clarice reminded Trevor of his father's rule. He wasn't to be on the Internet unless Papa was in the office with him.

        "I won't."

        Clarice sighed as she watched the boy shuffle to his father's office with slumped shoulders. Trevor never shuffled anywhere. He bounded. He ran. He skipped. He hopped. He danced. But shuffle? Never. Just that subdued action alone told the woman how devastated the child was over his father's disappearance. She turned around and headed back for the kitchen. Not for the first time in the past two days, she prayed for John Gage's safe return.


        Trevor had sought the sanctity of his father's office to be alone, more than for the desire to play a game on the computer. He wandered around the room just like he had wandered the great room, attempting to absorb the essence of his father in each item he touched. He finally sat down in Johnny's soft leather chair with the back that rose high above his head.

        The boy kicked his feet a few moments from where they hung over the edge of the maroon seat. He used a foot to push off the desk and twirl the chair around, but it wasn't much fun doing that when Papa wasn't here. Papa would spin him real fast until Trevor was dizzy and he laughed and begged Papa to stop.

        When the chair was facing the front of the clean desktop again Trevor scooted forward. He leaned down and pulled open the bottom right hand drawer. He got on his knees, allowing the right arm of the chair to support his middle as he bent for the photo album. With a quiet grunt, the boy hoisted the album up to the desk.

        Maybe I can help Carl find Papa. Maybe if I look real hard I'll see Papa's friend from California in one of these pictures.

        Trevor wasn't certain how the nameless man who had been driving the white van fit into his father's disappearance, but everyone had sure gotten upset after Trevor had mentioned him on Wednesday night. The boy slowly turned each page, carefully studying every face in every photo. He whispered names aloud as he correctly identified people his father had pointed out to him many times.

        "Mike Stoker. Captain Stanley. Marco Lopez. Chet Kelly. Uncle Roy. Dixie McCall. Doctor Brackett. Doctor Early. Doctor Morton."

        Trevor started over each time he came to a new picture. But on only rare occasions did a face show up he couldn't identify by name. Yet even then, none of those faces were of the man who had questioned Trevor at the end of his driveway.

        Soon pictures of firemen, and of doctors and nurses, gave way to photos of the DeSoto family. Again, Trevor correctly identified each member.

        "Aunt Joanne. Chris. Jennifer. John. Uncle Roy. Aunt Joanne. Chris. Jennifer. John. Uncle Roy."

        Trevor repeated the names in whatever order the person appeared in a photo. When he came to the end of the book he gave a frustrated sigh. Nowhere did he spot the man he was looking for.

        The boy's eyes wandered the room a moment before focusing on the open desk drawer again. Two legal sized manila envelopes Trevor had never seen before had been under the photo album. The boy bent over the arm of the chair again and snared them. He brought them to the desk, pushing the photo album out of the way.

        Trevor turned the envelopes over and undid the metal clasps that held them closed. Neither envelope was sealed, so he tipped one upside down and let its contents spill out on the desk.

        The eight year old pawed through his find. Pictures from coloring books, children's drawings, thank you notes printed in crayon, and homemade cards crafted by young hands was what the envelope contained.

        Trevor looked at each item, unconsciously immersing himself in a part of his father's past. The DeSoto children who had always been faces in a photo album, now took on a life of their own for Trevor. There was a Crayola colored picture of someone named Fred Flintstone with words written beneath the fat cartoon character in red. 'Yaba Daba Do, Uncle Johnny! Love, Chris." There was a folded paper thank you note with a stick horse drawn on the front. Inside were printed the words, 'Uncle Johnny, Thanc U for the Tonka trucks for my birthday and for taking me to lunch and for leting me ride Shyann all day long. Love, John.' Then there was get well card after get well card. 'I'm sory you broke your arm, Uncle Johnny. Get wel soon. Love, Jennifer.' 'I'm sory your broke your leg, Uncle Johnny. Get wel soon. Love, Jennifer.' 'I'm sory you broke your other arm, Uncle Johnny. Get wel soon. Love, Jennifer.'

        "Boy, Papa, you sure were clumsy," Trevor said, as he continued leafing through the cards and drawings that indicated how much the DeSoto children had loved his father.

        When Trevor had thoroughly studied the many items that envelope contained he pushed everything aside. He tipped the remaining envelope upside down. Newspaper clippings slowly floated to the desk.

        Trevor shuffled through the clippings, facing everything right-side up so he could read them. Some of them contained pictures of his father, or Uncle Roy, or both men, but a lot of them were just words with no pictures. Trevor skimmed the clippings, quickly coming to the conclusion they were all about fires or rescues his father had been a part of, even though his father's name wasn't always mentioned. When the boy came to the last clipping in the pile his eyes widened and he let out a soft gasp.

        "Oh, Papa."

        By the length of his father's hair Trevor knew the picture had been taken a long time ago. Papa appeared to be asleep, and was hooked up to all kinds of medical equipment, including a tube that came right out of his mouth. He was lying in a bed, and wasn't wearing a shirt. Whether or not he had pants on Trevor couldn't tell because the picture stopped at mid-stomach. The headline above the picture was printed in bold letters.


        Trevor read the article beneath his father's picture. Papa had never told him this story before. Papa was a hero. The paper even said so. He'd saved a little girl the paper didn't name from a kidnapper, and he'd gotten hurt really bad while doing that, but he'd never told Trevor anything about it.

        Trevor read the article a second time, then he caught sight of a final piece of paper beneath it. He set the article aside and picked up the police artist's sketch of Evan Crammer. Trevor squinted as he stared at the man's face. There was something about him that was familiar. The face was rounder, and the hair thicker, but. . .it was him! It was the man who had stopped Trevor to ask about Papa! This was him!

        Trevor read the words beneath the sketch that had been circulated to police departments throughout the state of California in April of 1978.

        Wanted In
The Attempted Abduction Of Jennifer DeSoto. White Male. Approximate Height: 6 feet 6 inches. Approximate Weight: 300 pounds. Age: Early 30’s
        The boy dropped the sketch back on the desk and ran for the kitchen.

        "Clarice! Clarice! Papa's a hero!"

        Clarice looked up from her baking. "Yes, love. He is."

        "No, I mean a real hero! I found a newspaper article, and a picture, and I think the

        Before Trevor could finish the phone rang. He danced from foot to foot as Clarice talked.

        "Clarice," the boy stage whispered while tugging on her elbow. "Clarice, I need to tell you--"

        The woman put her hand over the mouthpiece. "Trevor, your papa has taught you far better manners than this. You know you're not to interrupt when I'm on the phone."


        "No, buts. Now go back and play on the computer."


        "Trevor Roy, what did I just say?"

        The boy turned to Clarice's sisters as she started talking on the phone again.

        "Nana Marie, it's true! Papa is a hero! Come look at what I found!"

        "In a minute, honey. I have to finish these noodles."


        "If you've gone through your father's personal papers you'd better put them away," Nana Josephine scolded. “No good ever comes to a nosy boy.”


        "Trevor, why don't you let me take you to play with Zach for the afternoon?" Nana Colette suggested, making reference to her seven-year-old grandson.

        Trevor should have known women would never understand. This was guy stuff. This was the kind of thing he needed to talk to Carl about. He turned and left the room without answering Nana Colette. Once again the women made those soft clucking noises.

        "He's so upset."

        "He misses his papa so much."

        "Poor dear. He'll be lost if they don't find John."

        Trevor hugged the wall in his father's office, listening until he heard Clarice's phone call come to an end. He crossed to his father's desk and picked up the phone there. He didn't know the number in Carl's office at the police station, so like he'd done on Wednesday, he dialed his father's number at work.

        This time one of the female firefighters picked up on the sixth ring.

        "Eagle Harbor Fire Department. Firefighter LaDon speaking."

        "Monique, can I talk to Carl please?"


        "Yeah. It's me. I need to talk to Carl."

        "What?" The woman teased. "I'm not good enough for my favorite boy today?"

        "No. I mean, yes. I mean I just need to talk to Carl please."

        "All right. I get it. It's a guy thing, right?"

        Trevor could hear the amusement in the woman's voice. She wasn't going to take him seriously either. "Right. That's what it is. A guy thing. Please, Monique."

        "Okay, Little Chief, keep your turn-outs on. I'll see if Carl's here."

        Trevor waited on hold five minutes. Just when he was about to hang up and call back, Monique's voice came over the line.

        "Carl's not here, Trevor."

        "What about Chief Baklonov?"

        "Nope. He's not here either."

        " about Sergeant Miners?"

        "Nope. Gee, kinda makes ya' wonder who's protecting Eagle Harbor, huh?"

        Trevor rolled his eyes. Normally he loved Monique's sharp wit, but today he wasn't in the mood for it.

        "Do you want me to leave a message for Carl to call you?"

        Trevor thought a moment. He turned and glanced at the clock on the wall behind. Gus's plane left in two hours. There wasn't time for any messages.

        "No. That's okay. Thanks, Monique."

        Trevor hung up before he heard the woman's reply. He knew who had his father, and knew where the man had taken him. California. He must have taken Papa to California so he could kidnap Jennifer DeSoto again, too. Trevor had read lots of Hardy Boys books. He knew all about mysteries, and what bad men did to people, and how you went about tracking those men down.

        The boy gathered up the things he'd left on Johnny's desk. He grabbed a photo out of the album, one of his father and Uncle Roy smiling while leaning against the open compartment doors of Squad 51. Then he plucked up some of the things the DeSoto children had made for his father, and grabbed the newspaper article about the kidnapping along with the police sketch. He shoved everything else back in the envelopes where they belonged, put the envelopes in the desk drawer, then tossed the photo album on top of them. He pushed the drawer shut with his foot, grabbed the items he'd left on the desk, and ran from the room.

        If everyone was too busy to listen to him, then Trevor would find Papa by himself. As he flew up the stairs to his bedroom, Trevor had one destination in mind. California. He was going to California, the Golden State.

Chapter 18

        Roy rubbed a hand over his bloodshot eyes as he paced the cement floor of Station 51 at eleven o’clock on Sunday morning. As soon as word had gotten out about his missing granddaughter, fire department headquarters volunteered their services to the L.A.P.D. in whatever capacity they could be used. Troy was in need of a command post, and the paramedic-training center that was idle until August fit the bill.

        After Roy hung up the phone from speaking with Jennifer Friday afternoon, he placed a call to Dixie, who was off work that day. He was fortunate to reach her at home. Dixie kept busy and wasn’t always easy to get in touch with. Roy had made Jennifer promise she wouldn’t try to drive by herself. She anxiously waited at Rampart until Dixie picked her up. Roy himself waited at his home until Troy arrived to take his statement.

        The remainder of that afternoon and evening passed with a flurry of activity, just as had occurred in John Gage’s house on Wednesday night. Roy made phone calls to Chris, Wendy, and Joanne, summoning his family home. Police detectives interviewed McKenzie and her mother, then canvassed the neighborhood speaking to every person who answered their door. At some point that night, when it was well after dark and apparent to all concerned that Libby hadn’t simply gone to someone’s house to play and lost track of time, Joanne placed a call to John in Wyoming. He wanted to take the next flight home, but Jennifer got on the phone and urged him to stay where he was for the time being. For one thing, the doctor didn’t want anyone else in the family to be put in a situation that might prove dangerous. They didn’t know where Monroe was, or who he might focus his wrath on next. For another thing, there wasn’t anything John could do that wasn’t already being done.

        John was reluctant to abide by his big sister’s wishes, but finally agreed, knowing she didn’t need additional stress or worry. Before John said good-bye to Jennifer he told her he loved her, and that everything would turn out just fine, and that Libby would come home safe and sound. Then he asked to speak with his parents. He made Roy and Joanne promise to keep him updated. Joanne agreed to that promise. It wasn’t lost on either her, or John, that Roy hadn’t been able to speak until he pushed forth a quiet, hoarse, “Goodbye, son. Be extra careful, please.”

        The next phone call went to Jennifer’s ex-husband in Ohio. Once Dan was told Libby was missing he started yelling at Jennifer, accusing her of being a neglectful mother. Chris took the phone from Jennifer’s trembling hands. He let his former brother-in-law know he was out of line with his accusations, and that if he wanted to do something positive for the daughter he hadn’t seen in two years, then he needed to fly out to Los Angeles and aid in the search for her. Chris hung up on the man, and they hadn’t heard from him since.

        On Saturday morning a representative from fire department headquarters picked up two thousand fliers from a printer’s office that Troy Anders personally approved. Libby’s school picture was blown up on the front. Above it in large, bold print were the words, Have You Seen This Child? Below the picture the flyer read; Missing: Olivia Kate Sheridan Nickname: Libby Age: 10 Hair: Blond Eyes: Blue Height: 4 feet 5 inches Weight: 60 pounds. Libby Sheridan is a 10 year old female with a slender build. She was last seen in her Carson Heights neighborhood at 1:30 p.m. on Friday afternoon, June 16th, 2000. If you have any information regarding Libby, please call Detective Troy Anders, the Los Angeles Police Department, or the Los Angeles Fire Department Paramedic Training Center, now being used as the Libby Sheridan Command Post.

        Phone numbers were listed for all the above, but as of yet no one had called with any solid leads. On Saturday afternoon another e-mail came into Chris’s home. This one from Toys R Us.

        I have your angel. Sined, Your Old Friend.

The desks in the training center had been pushed aside to be replaced by tables and chairs. A bank of phones rested on one long table, with volunteers from the fire department sitting in front of them willing them to ring. Though phone calls came in, none of them proved to be helpful as of yet. Either the child the caller described seeing had the wrong hair color, or was much younger than Libby, or in one case was even a boy. Troy had warned the DeSoto family these types of calls would come in. Some would prove to be hoaxes, while others were simply citizens eager to assist in any way they could who, in their zeal to helpful, ignored the detailed description on the fliers.

        It was volunteers from the fire department, and the company that Wendy worked for, who distributed the fliers throughout the city. Employees from the bank where Joanne worked kept bringing food by the command center for the army of police officers, FBI agents, and volunteers there, and were also taking turns manning the phones. Old friends were helping in whatever way they could, too. Marco and Chet were present on this Sunday morning, as were Kelly Brackett and Dixie. The foursome had been out putting fliers in business windows all around the city. Mike Stoker, who was a battalion chief himself now, had called Roy to offer whatever help was needed. Hank Stanley and his wife had moved to the ocean-side community of Monterey after his retirement from the fire department. That distance didn’t keep Hank from calling Roy and also volunteering his services if needed once the news reached him.

        “Thanks, Cap,” Roy said softly into one of the phones. Despite the passing years, Hank would always be ‘Cap,’ to the men who had served under him at Station 51. “But right now everything is being done that can be. I appreciate you calling though. It means a lot to me.”

        “Grace and I are praying for Libby, Roy. You tell Joanne and Jenny that for me, too.”

        “I will. Thank you.”

         Roy spent most of the morning walking the long floor in the station house where the big engine used to sit when he worked here. He jumped each time a phone rang, and held his breath until the call ended. His guilt only intensified with each passing minute that brought no word on Libby.

        I should have been watching her more closely. I shouldn’t have let her go to McKenzie’s. I should have kept her in the house with me. Oh, God, why didn’t I keep her in the house with me?

Roy looked over at the table where Jennifer sat with her head resting in her palms. Chris was on one side of her in his wheelchair, rubbing a hand up and down her back. Dixie was on the other side of Jennifer, with Wendy and Joanne seated across from them. Roy’s daughter was holding up remarkably well considering the circumstances, but Roy knew that was only a facade. Jennifer had already buried one child. What would it do to her if she had to bury another?
        The paramedic chief walked up behind his daughter. He ran a hand over her hair, then let it fall to her shoulder. Without turning around Jennifer reached up and squeezed her father’s fingers.

        “I’m sorry,” Roy whispered, not for the first time since Friday afternoon.

        “Daddy, please don’t say that any more. You didn’t do anything wrong.”


        “You watched Libby go into McKenzie’s house. You told her not to leave McKenzie’s without calling you first so you could come get her. She disobeyed you, Dad. She was just. . .she was just being a normal little girl who wanted to go find her friends. It’s me who’s at fault. I should have told her about Monroe and the threats he made. I should have explained why we all had to be cautious. I just. . .I didn’t want to scare her. I thought I was doing the right thing by keeping it from her.”

        Jennifer’s understanding words didn’t soothe the ache in Roy’s soul. If Libby wasn’t returned to them healthy and whole he’d never forgive himself. He’d go to his grave knowing he was the one responsible for not keeping his granddaughter safe. He wondered if there was even a remote possibility he could live with that overwhelming guilt.

        When Roy couldn’t bear to look down at his daughter any longer, his eyes traveled the room, landing directly on the picture of John Gage on the wall across of him. Now he knew how Johnny had felt the night he fought so hard to protect Jennifer in the San Gabriel Mountains. Roy recalled Johnny telling him twenty-two years ago, how he would have never been able to forgive himself had something happened to Jennifer while she was under his care. Roy took a shaky breath, sucking in his lower lip as the desire to have Johnny here by his side grew so strong it was almost overpowering. Johnny, better than anyone else in this room, would have been able to offer Roy the comfort he needed. Johnny, the incessant talker who could ramble on for hours about whatever his current pet peeve was. Johnny, the impulsive man who so often leaped before he looked. Johnny, the man for whom the term ‘common sense’ might as well have been spoken in Greek on many occasions. And Johnny, the best friend who could grow remarkably quiet, calm, supportive, and level headed, when he sensed that’s what Roy needed from him.

        Damn, Johnny, but I wish you were here.

For the first time in fifteen years those people closest to Roy; his wife, his children, Dixie McCall, and Kelly Brackett, heard him speak John Gage’s name without disdain or detachment. This time they heard the name spoken with a hint of worry Roy tried, but failed, to hide as he turned to look at Troy Anders.

        “John Gage?” Roy asked.

        “What about him?”

        “Has anyone gotten in touch with him?”

        “No. One of my men has left messages for him, but he has yet to return our calls.”

        “That’s because he’s not worried,” Roy said.


        “Johnny. He’s not worried. He thinks he’s invincible. That nothing can happen to him. He’s fifty-three years old now, and probably still faces the world with the gusto of a teenager on most days.”

        “Maybe so. I really don’t know.”

        “Where’s he at?”

        “I can’t tell you, Roy. As I told Chris, John asked me not to.”

        “What’s he do? For a living, I mean? Is he still with a fire department somewhere?”

        “I can’t tell you that either. John prefers that you don’t know.”

         “Fine,” Roy snapped, embarrassed for harboring feelings of friendship for Johnny. Especially since those feelings evidently weren’t reciprocated considering the request Johnny had made of Troy. “If that’s the way he wants it, then that’s the way it will stay. Whether Gage is safe, or in danger, isn’t my concern anyway. I’ve got enough problems right now without worrying about a grown man who could never stand in one place for more than two minutes, and who always seemed to attract trouble without even trying.”

        Joanne knew now was not the time to point out to her husband it was him who had wanted things this way. It was him who had said he didn’t want to know where Johnny was. She always knew there’d come a day when Roy regretted severing all ties with Johnny, but she’d never imagined it would be under such dire circumstances.

        If Roy had anything else to say on the subject of John Gage it was cut-off when a young detective ran into the building through the kitchen with a piece of paper in his hand.

        “Troy, I was told to bring this to you right away. They found it in Monroe’s mattress at the half-way house.”

        Troy unfolded the paper the man handed him. He studied it a long moment before bringing it over to the table where the DeSoto family was gathered. He laid it out for all of them to see. They already knew this was found in Monroe’s room, so there wasn’t much more Troy could say.

        Jennifer gasped, then started to sob. Tears of shock and despair poured down the faces of Joanne and Wendy. Roy could feel tears welling up in his own eyes. Though Scott Monroe had been the prime suspect in Libby’s kidnapping from the start, this DeSoto family tree he had drawn only cemented everyone’s belief that he had the little girl in his clutches. For over and over again, the name Olivia was circled in pencil by the hand of the man who had wanted revenge so badly against Chris, that he had evidently grabbed the most convenient target - an innocent child who was unable to protect herself.

        Tears spilled over Chris’s eyes. He pulled his sister to him and allowed her to cry into his chest. He felt his father place a hand on his shoulder, and saw the other hand go to Jennifer’s shoulder. Then his father’s cheek was placed atop both their heads. Together, as a family, they cried for the little girl they silently doubted would ever be returned to them alive.


        Trevor Gage was quite pleased with himself as he sat at a McDonald’s in Los Angeles, California on Sunday eating lunch. Leaving his home undetected Friday afternoon hadn’t been as difficult as he thought it might be. As he bit into his hamburger, Trevor’s mind reviewed his journey from Eagle Harbor.

        After leaving his father’s office Trevor had gone up to his room and pulled his black Scooby Doo backpack from his closet. Scooby was dressed in yellow turn-outs, wearing a helmet, and driving a big red fire engine with the rest of the Scooby gang clinging to the truck’s sides.

        To the distant sound of the women talking in the kitchen below him, Trevor thought about what to take with him on his journey. He knew California was far away, and he wasn’t sure how long it would take him to get there on Gus’s plane, or how long he’d be staying once he arrived. He went to his dresser and pulled out two pairs of blue jeans and two T-shirts, one red, and the other green with the name of his Little League team on it. He grabbed two pairs of boxer shorts and two pairs of socks from another drawer. Combined with what he was already wearing, Trevor figured that would be enough clothing. He debated whether or not to take his summer boxer p.j.’s with him - knee length white boxer style shorts with red fire engines on them, and a short sleeve pajama top to match, then decided he should. After all, he wasn’t sure yet where he’d be staying. If there happened to be girls there, he didn’t want to be caught sleeping in his underwear. The boy went to his closet next and pulled out his denim jacket, hiking boots, and his Los Angeles Dodgers baseball jersey. He might need to wear the boots when looking for Papa, and the baseball jersey would help him fit in where he was going. No one would expect a kid from Alaska be to be wearing a Dodgers jersey.
        Trevor ran out into the hall and grabbed his Harry Potter book from the shelf, along with a new Goosebumps he’d gotten for his birthday that he hadn’t read yet. He scurried back to his room, thinking for a moment about what else he’d like to take. The problem with going in search of Papa was not knowing how long you’d be gone, or what you might need to keep yourself entertained while you waited for clues to come your way. The boy opened his toy box, pondering its contents a long moment. He finally took out his Buzz Lightyear action figure, his carrying case with his fire department Legos, and a battery operated video game of mushers racing in the Itidarod.

        Papa likes this game. I’ll bring it in case he wants to play it after I find him.

Trevor went to his bank next. He opened the bottom and started pulling out bills. Papa normally made him put half of any money he earned, or received as a gift, in his savings account at the Eagle Harbor National Bank. But Papa hadn’t taken him to the bank since school had gotten out which meant Trevor had quite a bounty. His mother had sent him ten dollars for every A on his report card, and since Trevor had earned all A’s, that alone garnered him sixty dollars. She also sent him ten dollars for every Excellent he got in his citizenship grades. He’d earned three of those. The only one that was marked Needs Improvement was the one where Miss Hillman wrote, ‘Trevor must remember to raise his hand and not speak out of turn so often. He also must learn to sit still.’

        Trevor’s mother had overlooked his transgressions and sent him ten dollars for that mark anyway. In the note she’d enclosed she’d written, ‘You did wonderful, Trevor. Mom’s so proud of you. And don’t worry about needing improvement in your ability to sit still and be quiet. The lack of that ability on your father’s part was what made me fall in love with him in the first place.’

        Papa had gotten a sad look on his face when he read that part of Mom’s note, but what that sad look meant Trevor wasn’t certain. When Papa noticed Trevor staring at him he smiled softly and said, “Your mother spoils you. Now get on the computer and send an e-mail to her and Franklin thanking them for the money.”
        Between the money Trevor’s mother had sent, what he had in his bank from his allowance, and what he’d earned when he’d run some errands for an elderly lady in Eagle Harbor last week, Trevor had one hundred and twenty dollars. He scooped it all up and shoved it in the right front pocket of his jeans.

        Trevor ran to the bathroom next and got his toothbrush. He found an unopened tube of Colgate in the medicine cabinet and took it, too. He hurried to his bedroom where he began to pack. He had camped often enough with his father that Trevor had the skills to load his backpack neatly and efficiently. He zipped it closed, then slipped the things he’d taken from his father’s office in one of the smaller compartments. He zipped that closed as well.

        Trevor opened the bedroom window that faced the backyard. He leaned out as far as he dared and tossed his backpack with enough force that it cleared the deck attached to the rear of the house. He breathed a sigh of relief when the pack hit the grass with a soft ‘plunk.’ Had it hit the wooden deck the noise might have been enough to alert Clarice.

        The boy headed down the stairs. He entered the kitchen and opened the drawer where the plastic grocery bags were kept.

        “I’m going pretend camping, Clarice. Can I pack some snacks?”

        Clarice was so happy to see Trevor smiling that she wouldn’t think to say no.

        “Sure, love. You pack whatever you want.”

        The four sisters, who were still busy putting a big meal together, paid little attention to the boy. Trevor took three bananas out off the fruit bowl on the counter and placed them in his bag. He opened the refrigerator, using his body to shield the fact that he grabbed four Motts Apple Juice boxes. He crossed to a cabinet and swiped an entire box of Fruit Roll Ups, then slipped three oatmeal granola bars from their box. He considered the logistics of fitting a bag of Oreo cookies in his pack, but decided it would be full enough once this much food was added.

        Trevor made sure to keep his bag in front of him as he turned his back on the women.

        “I’m goin’ outside now.”
        “Where will you be?” Clarice asked as the boy opened the door that would take him to the laundry room.

        “Where will I be?” Trevor echoed.

        “Yes. Where will I be able to find you?”

        “Well . . um. . .,” Trevor stammered as he tried to think of a believable lie. And tried not to think of what his father would do to him for lying. Papa didn’t like liars, and had always told Trevor that no good came from telling a fib.

        Sorry, Papa, but I have to lie this time.

        “I’ll be. . .I’ll be behind the barn setting up my campsite. Yep, that’s exactly where I’ll be.”

        “All right. Don’t go any farther than that without telling me.”

        “I won’t.”

        Trevor had closed the laundry room door with that promise. He bent and put his tennis shoes on, making quick work of tying them. He ran out the back door, down the steps of the deck, and over to his backpack. He scooped it up and raced for the barn with Nicolai and Tasha at his heels.

        The boy stopped when he reached the garage. He went in the side service door since Carl had shut the overhead door. For now, both the Land Rover and Durango were parked in the garage. Trevor unzipped his pack and placed his food bag inside, then led his dogs to the barn. He hated locking them up, but knew he had no choice. They’d follow him otherwise and ruin everything.

        Trevor made sure there was water for the dogs, then opened a cabinet and took out a pad of paper and a pen. He pressed down hard as he printed a note in his childish hand.

        Carl and Clarice,

        I went to look for Papa. Don’t worry about me. I will be fine. I have money, food, and clean underware. Carl, please feed the animals for me while I’m gone. I will pay you my alloance for it. Papa and I will be back soon.

        Trevor Gage

        Trevor placed the note over a nail hanging on the wall, gave his dogs a long hug, then exited the barn. He shut the door behind him, then ran for his backpack. He picked it up and shouldered into it. He swiped at the kickstand on his bike. He rolled the bike to the service door, peering out at the house. When he saw no signs of movement in the backyard he rolled the bike out of the garage and shut the service door.

        Once in the open Trevor had taken a deep breath, grasped the handlebars of his bike, and ran for all he was worth toward the thick trees on the opposite side of the yard. If Clarice, or any of her sisters, happened to look out a back window he was doomed.

        The boy sighed with relief when he made it to thick woods without hearing, “Trevor Roy, where do you think you’re going?” shrieked out the back door.

        Trevor climbed on his bike at that point and started pedaling. He steered around trees and over logs until he came to the road. Under normal circumstances he knew he’d be in big trouble if his papa caught him out here without permission. But Papa wasn’t around to be mad, and Trevor hoped Papa would be so happy to see him that he’d forget to punish him for all the rules he was going to break today.

        The boy had turned his bike in the opposite direction of the Tierman home. As soon as he could he turned off onto a logging road that was rarely traveled. Almost everyone in Eagle Harbor knew who he was. He couldn’t risk being seen if he could avoid it.

        Twenty minutes of hard pedaling brought Trevor to Eagle Harbor’s small, private airport. The airport had just eight aircraft hangered there permanently, and five were owned by August Zimmerman, including a helicopter. Because Papa sometimes brought Trevor here to watch Gus’s plane take off, the boy knew Gus flew to California every other Friday during the summer months with produce for a farmer’s market. He made stops along the way with other cargo, but Trevor wasn’t exactly sure where those stops were made, or what other cargo he carried.

        Trevor rode his bike through the groves of pine trees adjacent to the airport. He hopped off the bicycle three feet from a tool shed and hid it behind the building. He stayed secluded behind the shed, too, watching and waiting until he determined it was safe to make a run for the old World War II era cargo plane Gus flew on these trips.

        When five minutes passed and Trevor didn’t see signs of anyone, he took off at a run, his backpack bumping against his head each time his feet hit the ground. Gus was tall and lean like Trevor’s father, and had rusty red hair that was turning gray, and a rusty red mustache that was speckled with gray as well. He was a friend of Papa’s, and flew people to Juneau in his helicopter who Papa said were critically injured and needed more care than the small hospital on Eagle Harbor could provide them. Trevor had been on Gus’s plane before with Papa, so he wasn’t afraid as he raced up the open stairway now. He’d flown before by himself, too. The last two summers when he went to New York to visit his mother Papa hadn’t come with him. A flight attendant had been in charge of Trevor once Papa put him on the plane in Anchorage, and stayed with him until he was deposited safely in his mother’s arms at the airport in New York City. The reverse was true when he was sent back home to Papa two weeks later.

        Trevor had smiled when he’d seen wooden crates of sealed cargo stacked high in the plane, and filling its entire width. He slithered his way along one wall to the rear, then hunkered down behind crates that rose five feet above his head.

        Ten minutes after Trevor had hidden he heard Gus trotting up the stairs. Trevor didn’t move or make a sound while the man went through is preflight check. He put his hands over his ears when the old engines roared to life. He closed his eyes as the plane taxied down the runway, and he smiled as it started lifting ever so gracefully into the air. At that moment Trevor felt calm for the first time in two days. He was finally doing something productive as he started the journey to find his father.

        Now, as he sat in McDonald’s eating his lunch, Trevor knew the hard part was just beginning. Gus had made several stops on his way to Los Angeles, but Trevor had slept through most of them except the times he’d been forced to sneak off and make use of a tree, or other secluded spot, for a bathroom. Where Gus had stopped Saturday evening Trevor didn’t know, but he heard a man greet Gus and talk about them going to dinner and then back to the man’s house. Trevor had looked out of the plane’s windows after Gus had left, but didn’t see any lights that would indicate to him he was in a big city. He decided to stay put for the time being. It was scary spending the night on the plane, but the thought of being reunited with his father kept the boy’s fears under control. Besides, if Papa was brave enough to fight off a kidnapper who had stabbed him so many times, then Trevor couldn’t be a baby about spending one night alone on an airplane.

        At eleven-thirty on Sunday morning Gus landed at a private airport in Los Angeles. The only reason Trevor knew they were in Los Angeles was because he heard a man say, “Welcome to L.A. again, Gus.”

        Trevor held his breath when the man asked Gus if he wanted to unload the remaining cargo first, or get a bite to eat.

        Please say you wanna eat. Please, please, please.

“Oh, let’s get something to eat. I don’t work too good on an empty stomach, and breakfast was awful early this morning.”

        Trevor had sighed as the men walked away from the plane. He counted to one hundred, then peered out. This airport was a lot busier than the one in Eagle Harbor, but no one seemed to notice him as he scurried down the stairs. As soon as he was away from the plane he simply strolled over the airport’s grounds as though he belonged there. It was when he got off the airport’s property that he spotted the McDonald’s down the block. Trevor’s stomach was hungry for something other than Fruit Roll Ups, and he longed to wash his hands and face at a bathroom sink and brush his teeth, which Clarice would never believe in a million years.

        Trevor had straightened his backpack on his shoulders as he walked in the restaurant. No one here seemed to think he was out of place either, like would have happened in Eagle Harbor. At home, every person in the place would have asked Trevor where his papa was and why he was by himself in town. But not one person questioned him as he strolled to the bathroom to wash up and change out of his chambray shirt and into his Dodger’s jersey. Nor did the teenage girl behind the counter seem to care that no adult stood with him when he placed his order a few minutes later. He paid her four dollars for the Happy Meal he asked for, and held out his hand when she gave him his change.

        As Trevor sipped the last of his Coke he wondered how he’d get to Station 51. He was pretty sure that was the best place to look for Papa first. If Papa had gotten away from the man, then he would have gone to see Uncle Roy as long as he was in Los Angeles and all. Trevor supposed he could take a taxi. He’d ridden in taxis in New York several times, and knew you had to pay money based on the distance you traveled. But, Trevor had no idea how far Station 51 was from here, and how much it might cost him to get there. He thought some more, then hit upon an idea when he caught sight of two young men walking out of the building wearing Los Angeles County Fire Department uniforms.

        Trevor grabbed his backpack from the floor. He threw his garbage in a container as he passed by without even saving the Happy Meal’s toy, and ran out of the restaurant. He trailed the men as they headed for a shiny red squad similar to the one his papa and Uncle Roy had ridden in twenty-five years earlier.

        “Excuse me! Excuse me!”

        The men turned, both of them smiling down at Trevor.

        “What can we do for you, son?” One man asked. “Do you have an emergency?”

        Trevor could tell he was being teased in the same way Papa liked to tease him sometimes.

        “Kind of.”

        The man crouched down in front of Trevor. “What’s the problem? Are you hurt somewhere?”

        “No, I’m okay.” Trevor thought a quick second, fishing for another believable lie. Boy, Papa was going to be really angry with him for all this fibbing, but Trevor hoped his father would understand the lies were for a good cause.

        “See, it’s like this. I stayed overnight at my friend’s house, and his mom dropped me off here because this is where my baby-sitter is supposed to pick me up. Only she hasn’t come yet and I’ve been waiting a long time. I even tried to call her, but I can’t get any answer. Sometimes she’s forgetful. She’s kinda old. . .and her hearing’s pretty bad, too, so maybe she didn’t hear the phone ring. Anyway, my papa is visiting at Station 51 today. I was wondering if you could take me there.”

        “Your papa, huh?” The man said, chuckling at the phrase the boy used for the term ‘dad.’


        “Well, Station 51 is a training center now. What would your da. . .papa, being doing there?”

        “Visiting my Uncle Roy.”

        The man looked up at his partner. They knew Roy DeSoto’s granddaughter was missing, and that the training center was being used as a command post. This boy’s father was quite likely one of the volunteers who was helping out or, since he’d referred to Chief DeSoto as his uncle, maybe the kid’s dad was a relative of DeSoto’s.

        “Sure, we can take you there,” the man agreed. He stood up and placed a hand on Trevor’s shoulder. “Come on, climb in the squad.”
        Trevor scrambled to the center seat and laid his backpack on the floor in front of him. The other paramedic, who had yet to speak to Trevor, climbed in the passenger side. He noticed Trevor’s unusual Scooby Doo pack.

        “Where’d you get that?”

        “At a store in Juneau.”

        “As in Juneau, Alaska?”

        “My son would love to have one like that. How’d you get a backpack all the way from Alaska?”

        Trevor gave a nonchalant shrug. “I’ve got friends there.”

        The boy was quite proud of how he made small talk with the men without revealing how far he’d traveled. When they pulled in the rear parking lot of what Trevor took to be Station 51, he picked up his pack. The man sitting on his right, who had introduced himself as Jason, got out. Trevor scrambled out behind him.

        “Thanks a lot for bringing me here. My papa thanks you, too.”

        Jason reached for Trevor’s hand as his partner climbed out from behind the wheel.

        “We’ll take you inside just to make sure your father’s here.”

        Panic began to build within the eight year old. He only wanted to peek inside. If Papa wasn’t here, then he had to leave and start looking other places. He thought Rampart hospital might be a good place to go if Papa wasn’t at Station 51. But if these men found out Papa wasn’t here, and figured out that Trevor was traveling alone, they might call the police. Trevor knew that meant he’d be on a plane back to Alaska before the day was over.

        Before Trevor could negate Jason’s suggestion with a believable lie, a ‘beep, beep, beep,’ came from the squad’s radio. The men paused to listen.

        “Squad 36, man down at 2265 Salsmen Drive. 2-2-6-5 Salsmen Drive. Time out; 13:05.”

        Jason reached for the mic. “Squad 36, 10-4.” He pointed at Trevor as he climbed back in the squad. “Are you okay from here?”

        Trevor gave Jason and his partner the charming Gage grin and a big wave. “Sure. I’m fine. Thanks a lot!”

        “You’re welcome.”

        With sirens blaring and lights flashing the squad roared onto the street.

        Trevor turned to face the brick building and saw a back door. He picked up his pack, carrying it by the straps. When Trevor reached the door he carefully turned the knob. He opened the door just a crack and peered inside. He didn’t see anyone, so opened it a little farther.

        The boy immediately recognized that he was viewing a combination kitchen/day-room. The Eagle Harbor Police and Fire Station had one similar to it, only bigger. He stepped inside the empty room, easing the door shut behind him. He could hear voices coming from somewhere in the center of the building. He hugged the wall and moved in their direction.

        Trevor was almost to the doorway that looked into the old engine bay when Chet Kelly walked into the kitchen. He spied the startled child and yelled, “Hey, you!” as Trevor turned to run. Chet blocked Trevor’s path for the door, leaving the boy no choice but to flee in the other direction. Chet chased Trevor into the makeshift command center.

        “Hey, kid! Get back here!”

        Trevor raced around the tables with Chet Kelly at his heels. The rest of the adults watched with a mixture of curiosity and amusement, not certain what drama was unfolding that only Chet could be the center of.

        “Kid, you’d better stop running right now!”

        “Get away, Phantom! You’re not gonna play mean tricks on me!”

        Chet made a grab for Trevor, getting a hold of one sleeve of his baseball jersey. Trevor had never kicked anyone before in his life. In an effort to free himself he drew back his foot and he gave Chet a solid whack to the shin.

        “Ouch! Why, you little. . .”

        “What’s the matter, Chet?” Marco teased. “Can’t handle one lively little boy?”

        “The kid’s a monster! He kicked me!”

        Trevor stopped at the far end of the table where Chris DeSoto was seated in his wheelchair, but out of arms reach of any adult in the vicinity.

        “I am not a monster! But you started chasing me without even asking me why I’m here, or who I am, and I know you were gonna play a trick on me! I came a long ways to look for Papa, and I don’t wanna be hit by one of your stupid water bombs, or flour bombs, and you aren’t putting itching powder in my clothes either!”

        Chet stood there dumbfounded, shaking his head. He looked at Marco.

        “Who the hell is this kid?”

        “I don’t know. You were the one chasing him. What did he do?”

        “Well . . .nothing I guess. He was just standing in the kitchen peering around the corner looking at everyone in here. I wanted to know what he was up to, but before he gave me a chance to ask he took off running.”

        “Perhaps hollering, “Hey, you!,” and chasing him wasn’t the most productive way of getting that information,” Dixie intoned dryly.

        Troy approached the boy who took a wary step backwards. Roy circled from Trevor’s right side, while Kelly Brackett approached from the rear. Trevor’s eyes darted from one man to the other, then to other semi-familiar people in the room. Everything was so confusing. Some of these people he knew from Papa’s pictures, but while they looked the same in some ways, in other ways they didn’t. None of them seemed as friendly as Papa said they were. No one greeted him with a smile and warm hello like he thought they would, even though some of them appeared to be getting a good laugh at his expense, which only made Trevor angrier. He’d heard his Aunt Reah say more than once that he had Papa’s temper. It was all that stupid Phantom’s fault. He’d only wanted to see if Papa was here, then be on his way if Papa wasn’t. He didn’t have time to be delayed. A bad man had Papa. It was up to Trevor to find him.

        Trevor weighed his options. He wasn’t quite certain who his Uncle Roy was; the man sitting in the wheelchair, who looked just like the pictures Papa had of Uncle Roy, or the man slowly approaching on his right, who looked like an older version of Uncle Roy. Trevor looked from Chris to Roy.

        “Which one of you is Uncle Roy?”

        Roy had no idea why this skinny, headstrong child had phrased his question that way, but he answered with, “I’m Roy DeSoto. Do you have a message for me?”

        Troy Anders nodded his head at the paramedic chief. He, like Roy, strongly suspected Scott Monroe had sent this boy to them bearing a message of some sort about Libby.

        “No, I don’t have a message. I’m just looking for my papa. I thought he might be here with you. Have you seen him?”

        “I don’t know who your papa is, son.”

        At that denial on Roy’s part tears sprung to Trevor’s eyes. He’d traveled so far, and taken so many chances, only to have his father’s best friend deny knowing him. Maybe Papa had been gone so long from California that none of these people remembered him, or would even care that he’d been kidnapped. At that point the temper Trevor inherited from his father blew.

        “You do too know who he is!”

        “Son, I’m sorry, but I don’t.”
        “You do too, and I’ll prove it.”

        “Be my guest,” Roy invited. He wasn’t in the mood to play host to a child who was in bad need of a spanking. If the kid had news about Libby, then Roy wanted that news and he wanted it now.

        At Roy’s words Trevor squared his shoulders and marched over to the table where Roy’s wife, children, daughter-in-law, and Dixie were still seated. He stopped at Dixie’s elbow and plopped his pack on the surface of the table with an angry thud. He unzipped a small pocket and started pulling things out. Troy, Chet, Marco, Doctor Brackett, and Roy gathered near. Trevor’s eyes flew from man to man, their proximity scaring him.

        “Oh, would you men back off,” Dixie scolded in the same tone she’d used when she was head nurse of Rampart’s ER. “He’s just a little boy for Heaven’s sake.”

        “Maybe a little boy with a message from Scott Monroe,” Troy reminded. “Maybe a little boy who even knows where Monroe is.”

        Trevor flinched at the name ‘Scott Monroe.’ That was the same man Carl had asked him about.

        “He flinched!” Chet pointed a finger. “Did you see that? He flinched. He’s guilty as sin.”

        “Guilty of what, Chet?” Dixie asked. “Beating you at a foot race?”

        The corners of Trevor’s mouth curved into a tiny smile. He looked at the woman and declared, “I already like you as much as Papa does.”

        “Well, sweetie, I’m happy to hear that,” Dixie smiled, though like Roy, she had no idea who this child was talking about when he kept referring to “Papa.”

        Roy had no patience for delays prompted by a boy no older than eight intent on flirting with Dixie.

        “I thought you were going to prove something to me,” Roy demanded. “That I know who your dad is or some such nonsense.”

        “He’s not Dad. He’s Papa. And it’s not nonsense. It’s the truth.”

        “You certainly are stubborn,” Roy remarked. “Can we get on with this please?”

        At Roy’s insistence Trevor began laying his treasurers face down on the table. “I don’t know why Papa thought you were such a good friend. You’re kind of grouchy. Like the Grinch Who Stole Christmas in my Doctor Seuss book.”

        Despite the gravity of the last two days, Joanne was forced to choke back a laugh at what the child said. Her subdued laughter ended, to instead be replaced by wide-eyed shock at the familiar items the boy was now turning face up on the table one by one.

        Trevor pointed to the first item as Jennifer and Chris leaned forward in their chairs, their surprise as great as their mother’s. Trevor’s words were directed at Roy.

        “This is Papa and you in front of Squad 51 right here in this station. You almost never let Papa drive, but that’s okay, because he didn’t really want to anyway. He just liked giving you a hard time about it. And these,” Trevor pointed to the colored picture of Fred Flintstone, a homemade get well card, and a thank you note with a stick horse drawn on the front, “were to my papa from Chris, and Jennifer, and John.”

        Trevor wasn’t sure why the room had suddenly grown so quiet, and everyone standing around the table had their mouths agape. They should have been looking for Papa all along. Didn’t they know who had him?

        The boy fought to bite back his tears as he flipped up the old newspaper clipping that proclaimed John Gage a hero. “I found this at the bottom of Papa’s desk drawer on Friday, but no one would listen to me when I said I knew who had taken Papa.”

        “Who had taken Papa?” Troy questioned.

        “Yeah,” Trevor nodded. “From our house on Wednesday. The man stopped me at the end of the driveway when I was goin’ to play with the twins. Dylan and Dalton. They’re my best friends. The man stopped me on my way to their house and asked me if Papa was home. I said yes, but that he was sleeping ‘cause he had a cold and didn’t feel good. The man said he’d only stay and visit a few minutes, and that he was Papa’s friend from California. I asked him if he knew my Uncle Roy, and he said he did. But I still didn’t know who the man was. I didn’t recognize him from any of Papa’s pictures. He wasn’t Mike, or Cap, or Marco, or Chet, or any of the doctors or nurses from Rampart. Then. . .then when I came home later in the afternoon. . .Papa. . .Papa was gone.”

        Dixie rubbed a hand up and down the boy’s back as Trevor’s tears started to fall. With trembling fingers Trevor turned his last picture over. He held up the police artist’s sketch of Evan Crammer and fought to keep his voice steady.

        “This was him. This was the man who took Papa from our house in Eagle Harbor. That’s real far from here in Alaska. But no one would listen to me when I tried to tell them, so I hid on Gus’s plane and flew here. I came to find Papa, and to tell Uncle Roy that maybe the man will try to take Jennifer, too, so she needs to be real careful.”

        Jennifer’s whispered, “Oh my, God,” was the only sound in the room as the realization of who had actually kidnapped Libby sunk in. Everyone gathered around the table stared at Trevor in stunned silence until Troy Anders murmured, “Shit. Oh, shit.”

        The detective ran for a phone while barking orders at one of the FBI agents present to get in touch with an agent named Quinn Dailey.

        “Tell him it’s about a man dubbed the Kankakee Killer! He’ll know exactly who I’m talking about.”

        As activity in the room started to speed up again Trevor was sure he’d done something wrong. Everyone seemed so upset, when all he was trying to do was get them to understand he came to find Papa. He looked at Dixie.

        “You mean my papa isn’t here after all?”

        “Honey, why don’t you tell me your name before I try to answer that question.” Dixie’s hand moved in a circle over Trevor’s back now. Based on the evidence they’d just seen, Dixie knew everyone standing around this table was well aware of who this handsome little boy with the mop of coal black hair and dark brown eyes belonged to, but she thought Roy needed to hear it said out loud.

        “Sweetheart,” Dixie urged again. “Your name?”

        “Trevor,” the boy said softly. “Trevor Gage.”

        And with that Trevor collapsed into Dixie’s open arms and cried for the father he’d tried so hard to locate. He was a long way from home, and no one seemed very happy that he was here, and now he knew it had been a mistake to leave Eagle Harbor. Where was he going to stay? Who was going to take care of him?

        “Papa,” Trevor murmured into Dixie’s shirt collar. “I want my papa.”
        Dixie pulled the boy into her lap. She’d never imagined she’d be comforting a child of John Gage’s, but she loved Johnny like a woman would love a pesky little brother, and couldn’t help but immediately feel love and admiration for this determined boy who had somehow traveled so far in search of his father.

        Dixie’s eyes met Roy’s as she rocked Trevor back and forth in her lap while cooing soft words of comfort. Roy simply shook his head.

        “Only a kid of Johnny’s could pull a stunt like this.”

        “You’re right, Roy,” Dixie agreed as she ran a hand over Trevor’s hair. “Only a kid of Johnny’s would have a heart big enough to travel from Alaska in search of his father, and in an effort to warn you that your daughter might be in danger. In light of all that, I’d say this little boy is one pretty special guy, wouldn’t you? Kind of like his father in that respect.”

        Roy turned away, but not before everyone gathered at the table heard him reply, “Yeah. . .yeah, kind of like his father, Dix.”

        Roy walked over to the wall and stood in front of Johnny’s picture. He reached out and touched the image of his smiling friend with a light finger.

        Exactly like his father, as a matter of fact. Stubborn, short-tempered, runs on at the mouth, paranoid of the Phantom, full of energy, life, and a sense of adventure. Funny, loyal, and big hearted. That about describes John Gage to a T. And now the man who tried to take Jennifer twenty-two years ago, and who injured Johnny so severely in the process, has my granddaughter and my. . .my best friend. And there’s nothing I can do about it. Not one goddamn thing.

        Without saying another word to anyone, Roy fled for the isolation of his office, leaving Trevor to cry out his grief in Dixie’s arms.


Part 4