Chapter 19

        Any ability Libby had to pretend she was Laura Ingalls living in the cabin described in Little House In The Big Woods had left the girl by Sunday afternoon. She had colored half the pictures in her Xena, Warrior Princess book, and she didn't even like that TV show. She had read the Baby-Sitters Club book, she had put the Barbie puzzle together three times, and she and Uncle Johnny had played more hands of Uno than either one of them could count. Their captor had been back one time so far, after night fell on Saturday. He brought them Quarter Pounders this time, along with French fries and Cokes. Uncle Johnny made a remark about dying early from something called coronary artery disease if the man kept feeding him like this. Their kidnapper had only laughed while setting their food, and a battery operated lantern, on the floor.

        “You're destined to die early anyway, Gage, so you might as well enjoy whatever I bring you. After all, beggars can't be choosers."

        "No, they can't be," Uncle Johnny had acknowledged. "But now's the time for beggars to lay their proposals on the table."

        "And exactly what does that mean?"

        "Let Libby go."

        "I think not. I haven't had any fun with her yet, Gage."

        Libby wasn't sure what the man meant by 'fun,' but the way he phrased it, combined with the way he was looking at her, scared the ten year old. Her mother had always cautioned her not to go anywhere with strangers, and Libby had vague knowledge of what those strangers, especially male strangers, sometimes did to little girls. They touched them in places they weren't supposed to, and made them do things that only a grownup does with another consenting grownup behind closed doors. Libby had grabbed Uncle Johnny's arm then and hung on tight.

        "And you're not going to have any fun with her," Uncle Johnny declared, while giving Libby’s hand a reassuring squeeze. "Look, you've got me, so what more do you want? Libby wasn't even born the night you and I did our little tango in the woods. Why do you need her here?"

        "Because I need a DeSoto."


        "Because I wanted Jennifer that night and you kept me from her. I don't like unfinished business, Fire Chief Gage. For twenty-two years it's stuck in my craw that you prevented me from triumphing. I don't intend to allow that happen again."

        "Hey, I like to win as much as the next guy. Matter of fact, Libby's grandfather would probably tell you I'm a bit on the over competitive side, so I can understand why you'd be narked off at me. But Libby has nothing to do with what occurred that night. Let her go. Let me return her to Roy. You can drive us there in your van. All I want is to see her safely to her grandfather's front yard. Then you can take off with me to wherever you wanna go."

        "You must think I'm stupid, Gage."

        "No. Actually I think you're an asshole, but I'm willing to give you the opportunity to be an honorable asshole if nothing else."

        The man had thrown back his head and laughed. "Gage, you really do amuse me. I'm going to miss you after I slit your throat from ear to ear, or put a bullet in your gut and watch you die slowly, or bludgeon you to death with a baseball bat, or however I choose to end your life."

        "If I get an opinion on the deal, I've always wanted to go in my sleep. You know, quick and painless."

        "Oh, Gage, I can promise you this. Your death will be neither quick nor painless. It will be anything but that, as a matter of fact."

        And with those ominous words hanging in the air, the man backed out of the cabin and locked the door.

        Libby had looked up at Uncle Johnny with tears in her eyes. "He scares me."

        Uncle Johnny put his arm around her and pulled her close until she could feel the heat from his fever warming her face. "Don't let him scare you, sweetheart. He's nothing but a bully like Brutus."

        "Who's Brutus?"

        "The guy who was always trying to steal Olive Oyl away from Popeye."

        "Did he ever manage to?"

        "Nope. Not even one time."

        Libby had nodded as she walked over to get their food and the lantern. "Do bullies always lose, Uncle Johnny?"

        "You bet they do," Uncle Johnny had said, though Libby didn't think he sounded too confident about that fact.

        Uncle Johnny hadn't eaten anymore on Saturday night than he had on Friday night, though he was really thirsty. After he'd drained his Coke, he'd gone to the bathroom and filled the cup with water. He drank that down, and started to push himself to his feet again, but Libby sensed his fatigue when a harsh coughing spasm gripped him and left him gasping for breath. She took the cup from his hands and filled it for him.

        "Thanks, Olive Oyl," he'd smiled at her when she placed the straw to his lips and held the cup for him. "You'll make a good nurse or doctor someday."



        "I wanna be a paramedic."

        "Libby, do me a favor and don't ever say that in front of your grandfather if I'm anywhere within one hundred miles."

        Libby's eyebrows had furrowed at Uncle Johnny's remark. "Why?"

        "Never mind. I was just teasing you. Oh, and don't tell him I called that guy a bad word either."

        "Asshole?" Libby asked as she sat back down.

Uncle Johnny seemed to choke then, as though he was holding back a laugh.

        "That's the one. If you repeat that word in front of your grandpa, don't say you heard it from Uncle Johnny."

        “Uncle Johnny, are you afraid of my grandpa?"

        Uncle Johnny had laughed at that remark. "Sometimes I am, Libby."

        Now it was Sunday afternoon. and Libby was wandering the cabin like she'd seen Uncle Johnny do at least two dozen times since they'd been kidnapped. He was always looking for a way out, but so far hadn't found one. He still tried to break through the boards that covered the windows, but wasn't gaining anything from that but bruises on top of his bruises. Libby knew he was getting sicker, too, and she was worried about him. She'd seen him cough blood into a Kleenex several times that day, and he was beginning to look haggard despite the fact that he'd shaved his whiskers off this morning using the razor and shaving cream the man had left him, and had washed his hair. He'd helped Libby wash her hair, too, and had combed it out for her just as carefully as Grandpa always did.

        "Uncle Johnny, is it time for us to yell now?" Libby asked as she came to sit beside the man leaning against the wall they'd claimed for their own.

        Johnny opened his eyes. "Sure, sweetie. But I don't think I’m gonna be able to yell without coughing, so you need to yell for both of us. Can you do that for me?"


        Libby spent the next ten minutes moving between the door and every boarded up window yelling, "Help! Help us! Help us, please!"

        The ten year old had been wearing a ‘N Sync watch when she was kidnapped. It hadn’t been taken from her, so Johnny made certain she kept it wound so he knew the accurate time. Early on Saturday morning Johnny had told Libby they needed to yell for all they were worth ten minutes out of every hour, and that they needed to listen very carefully in the event they heard voices. He hoped hikers, or bird watchers, or campers, would pass by the station during the weekend. He didn't put a lot of faith in that possibility, however. First of all, their captor was too smart to have put them in a traveled area, and second of all, Johnny knew some of these old ranger stations were in remote locations and had been used primarily as shelters for the rangers assigned to fire watch, or dispatched to search for lost hikers.

        As Libby yelled with all the gusto of a child who enjoyed being given permission to shout in an enclosed space, Johnny pondered their predicament. So far each time their captor had been in this cabin, he'd kept his gun trained on Johnny. If it hadn't been for Libby, Johnny would have thought, "Screw this," and taken his chances by rushing the guy. A quick death by a bullet to the heart beat all the other alternatives their captor had offered him so far. But there was no way Johnny could take that risk with Roy's granddaughter in his care. If the man killed him, then there'd be no one here to protect Libby. Johnny knew fully well what this man was capable of doing to little girls, what he had done to a good number of little girls in the past. Johnny would die trying to keep that same thing from happening to Libby, just like he'd been willing to die in order to prevent it from happening to Jennifer. The only way Johnny would consider fleeing was if Libby was clinging to his hand when they did so. So far that opportunity hadn't presented itself.

        Johnny's other concern was Trevor. Twenty-two years ago he didn't have a child of his own to worry about living for. But now, Johnny couldn't do anything foolhardy that might bring on his death. When his mind wasn't consumed with thoughts of possible escape attempts, or protecting Libby, then Johnny fretted about his little boy. He prayed Trevor was safe with Carl and Clarice. He knew they'd take good care of him, and it was those two people whom Johnny had designated as Trevor's guardians in his will should something happen to him before Trevor reached eighteen. Chad Gage would be eighty years old this September, so not the best candidate to become a father to Trevor. Reah's career meant her life wasn't well suited for the daily routine an eight year old needed in order to thrive. And Ashton. . .well Johnny hadn't even given her consideration. He knew fully well Ashton would be happy to discover he had made arrangements for Trevor's upbringing that didn't include her, other than the two weeks in the summer when she played 'Mom.' He couldn't bear the thought of what life with Ashton would be like for Trevor. Boarding school nine months out of the year, and summer camp for three. It would be a life so foreign to Trevor, and lacking in the love and attention he was used to getting from his father, that Johnny knew his little boy's spirit would whither and die within a week after being sent to live with his mother.

Carl and Clarice had not hesitated to say yes to Johnny's request when he had his will drawn up four years ago. Carl was a second father to the boy, and Clarice, of course, was the only mother Trevor really had. Johnny knew he could trust them to carry out his wishes of making certain Trevor had regular contact with Grandpa Chad and Aunt Reah, and could trust them to make certain Trevor’s relationship with Ashton wasn’t altered one way or another. Eagle Harbor was the boy’s home. Johnny desired that continue to be the case for his son. In the event of his death, Johnny wanted Trevor to be surrounded by the friendship, security, and love the people of Eagle Harbor had extended to them from the day they’d arrived in 1993.

        Because of his zest for life, Johnny had never been concerned that he was forty-five years old when Trevor was born. He recalled some of the guys at the Denver fire department teasing him about needing a rubdown with Ben-Gay the first time he played football with his son, or about how he’d be old enough to collect his pension when Trevor was first learning to drive. The few times Johnny ever had thought of the serious implications of being an older father they centered around dying of a heart attack, or cancer, or some other illness common to people as they aged. He’d certainly never thought a premature death would come his way as a result of being kidnapped by a guy who held a twenty-two year old grudge.

        All I ever asked for was to live as long as your Grandpa Chad has, Trev. If I can do that, then I’ll live to see you graduate from college, start your career, get married, and if I’m lucky, maybe even live to see my grandchildren. If I live as long your great grandfather did, or even come close, then all that will be possible and more. I don’t want to leave you now, son. I hope you’re old enough to realize that, no matter what happens, I never wanted to leave you, Trev.

Johnny surfaced from his sorrow-filled thoughts when he felt a body slide down the wall next to his.

        “I can’t yell anymore, Uncle Johnny,” Libby rasped.

        “That’s okay. We’ll give your throat a rest and try again later. Go get yourself a drink of water.”

        “I did.” Libby held up one of her McDonald’s cups.

        “Take a few more sips and your throat will start to feel better.”

        Libby did as the man instructed. When she’d had all the water she wanted she set her cup down next to her. If nothing else her yelling had scared the squirrel back up the chimney that continued to visit them on a regular basis.

        Libby took her fingers and scooped her long hair behind her ears. “I thought my grandpa would have found us by now. He knows lots of important people who would help him look.”

        Johnny simply nodded, which prompted the girl to cock her head and study at him with open confusion.

        “You know something, Uncle Johnny?”

        “What’s that?”

        “You’ve asked me about lots of people since we’ve been here. My mom. My grandma. My Uncle Chris. My Uncle John. Dixie. Doctor Brackett. Doctor Morton. You’ve even asked me about lots of people I’ve never heard of. But you haven’t asked me about my grandpa. Not once. And he was your best friend.”

        “He still is.”

        “He is?”


        “But you never see him. Or call him. Or e-mail him. So how can he still be your best friend?”

        “It’s just a feeling I carry inside of me, Libby. Despite the years that have gone by, it’s how I think of your grandpa - as my best friend.”

        “That’s weird.”

        “Yeah, I suppose it is.”

        “No, I mean that’s weird, ‘cause I think Grandpa has that same feeling.”

        “Oh, I doubt that, Olive Oyl.”

        “No, really. I do. Grandpa and I were looking at old pictures together the other day and he. . .he seemed sad when I asked him questions about you. Like he was sorry about something. What does he have to be sorry for?”

        Johnny gave the girl a soft smile. “Nothing, sweetheart. Absolutely nothing.”


        In order to get Libby off the painful subject of his and Roy’s friendship, and the painful way it had ultimately ended, Johnny said, “Okay, tell me, Olive Oyl. How is your grandpa these days, and what’s he up to?”

        “He’s fine. He used to be a baton chief, but now--”

        Johnny laughed at Libby’s verbal mistake. The thought of Roy in a band uniform high-stepping in a parade while a tossing a baton in the air, formed a mental picture in Johnny’s mind that bordered hilarious.

        “I think you mean a battalion chief, sweetie.”

        “Yeah, that’s what I mean. He was a battalion chief, though I’m not sure what a battalion chief does. Every time my mom took me to see Grandpa at work he was always sitting behind his desk talking on the phone, or writing up reports, or eating a Tums. That’s why he’s a little pudgy now. He did too much sitting around Mom says, and he ate too much when he was stressed out.”

        “Is he retired?”

        “Nope. He’s the chief paramedic instructor. He works at your old station.”

        “My old station?”

        “Station 51. It’s the paramedic-training center. A new station was built down the street to take its place.”

        Well, what do you know? After all these years, Roy’s working out of 51’s again in a manner of speaking.

“I bet that makes him happy.”

        “It does. I think he likes it lots better than he ever like being a battalion chief. He’s even a little thinner now, and he doesn’t have to take Tums anymore.”

        “Knowing your grandpa like I do. . .or at least did at one time, I would guess he does like being the paramedic instructor better than he liked being a battalion chief. He has a lot of patience, and I know he’s an excellent teacher.”

        “How do you know that?”

        “What? That he has patience, or is a good teacher?”


        “I know he has a lot of patience because he put up with me day in and day out for eleven years when we were partners at Station 51. And I know he’s a good teacher because he taught me a lot of things during our time together.”

        “He teaches me a lot of stuff, too.”

        “I’m sure he does.”

        Libby looked up into a face streaked red with fever.

        “Uncle Johnny, do you think my grandpa will find us?”

        Though Johnny’s immediate thought was, Sweetheart, we’ll be damn lucky if your grandpa even discovers who kidnapped you, let alone where to look for you. But for the girl’s sake, Johnny smiled, put his arm around her thin shoulders, and gave her a reassuring squeeze.

        “You bet I do, Olive Oyl. Your grandpa will find us.”

        Libby snuggled into Johnny’s side. She drifted toward peaceful sleep with a relieved smile on her face. “That’s what I think, too.”

        Johnny wished he had both the child’s innocence, and confidence. But he had neither, and what little sleep he got was far from peaceful.


Chapter 20

        When Roy exited his office ten minutes after entering he seemed to have gathered all the emotions tearing at his soul, in the same way Trevor Gage appeared to have gathered his emotions. Joanne was wiping the tears from the boy’s face with a Kleenex, then encouraged him to blow his nose. She tossed the Kleenex in a nearby garbage can before finger-combing Trevor’s bangs into place while gazing down at him with a fond smile.

        “You look just like your father, Trevor.”

        “That’s what everyone says,” the boy acknowledged from where he still sat on Dixie’s lap.

        “Well, everyone is right,” Joanne confirmed.

        Troy Anders was talking on the phone at a table behind the one Roy’s family was seated at. The detective waved a hand, beckoning for Roy and Joanne. As he pressed a button to put the call on speakerphone, he instructed, “Bring the boy, too.”

        Joanne held her hand out to Trevor. He jumped off Dixie’s lap and willingly went with her. Roy followed several paces behind.

        Troy placed his hands on his hips as he pinned Johnny’s son with a stern gaze. “There’s someone on the other end of this phone who would like to speak to you, Trevor.”

        Trevor had a sinking feeling he was in big trouble. “Me?” He squeaked.

        “Yes, you. Now come on. Let go of Mrs. DeSoto’s hand and come over here.”

        Trevor did as the detective ordered. He walked around the table and stood over the phone.

        “Say hello,” Troy instructed.

        “He. . .hello?”

        “Trevor Roy Gage, when I get a hold of you, young man, you. . .you. . .
you. . .well, I don’t know what I’m going to do with you, but mark my words, you won’t like it!” A female voice scolded in full volume through the phone line. “Do you know how frightened I was?”

        “But, Clarice, I left a note!”

        “And you think that makes everything all right? You think a note makes lying to me, and sneaking out of the house, and riding your bike to the airport, and stowing away on Gus’s plane, all right?”

        Trevor hung his head. “No, Ma’am.”

        “You’d better believe it doesn’t! You had us so worried. Everyone, and I do mean everyone, has done nothing but look for you since Friday afternoon. Oh, Trevor, what will your papa say when he finds out? He’ll be so disappointed. You know how much your father dislikes a liar. He’s taught you far better than this. I have a feeling when Papa gets through with you, your punishment will extend beyond being grounded from riding your horse for a day, or losing the right to watch a favorite TV program.”

        “But, Clarice, don’t you see? I had to find Papa. I had to! You wouldn’t listen to me, and I couldn’t get a hold of Carl, and no one was paying any attention to what I said, so I had to come to California. Papa’s here, Clarice! I know he is! And I’m gonna find him, too!”

        “No, Little John, you’re not,” Carl’s voice came over the phone next. “You’re going to stay right where you’re at until I can send someone to bring you home.”

        “But I’m in a fire station, Carl! Station 51, the place where Papa used to work. I don’t think I can stay here. The Phantom will get me for sure.”

        Chet looked at Marco and mumbled, “What the hell has Gage been telling this kid?”

        “Obviously the truth,” Marco quipped.

        The two men quieted as Carl spoke again. “Detective Anders, I can’t get in touch with the man whose plane Trevor hitched a ride on. He didn’t file a flight plan, and it’s not unusual for him to make a variety of stops on his way back home. I know he’ll pick up Trevor in a heartbeat, but it might be a couple days before I can get him back there. We can make arrangements to put Trev on a commercial flight bound for Anchorage as soon as one’s available, or he can be put into protective custody and go to a foster home until Gus can get him.”

        “Oh, Carl, no!” Clarice negated. “John would never, never approve of that. He’d be heartbroken if Trevor was sent to a foster home. You know how protective John is of his little boy.”

        “It would only be for a couple days, Mom. I’m sure Detective Anders will make certain Trev is well taken care of.”


        Joanne stepped up to the phone while Carl and Clarice argued in the background. To the detective she questioned softly, “Who are these people?”

        “Carl Mjtko and his mother, Clarice. Carl is the police chief of Eagle Harbor, and a good friend of John’s. Clarice is John’s housekeeper, and acts as nanny for Trevor when John’s at work. Carl’s in his office at the station. His mother happened to be there with him when I called.”

        “And Trevor’s mother?”

        Before Troy could respond with, “I don’t know,” Trevor spoke up.
        “My mother is in Paris on vacation right now. She doesn’t live with us. Most of the time she lives in New York with her husband, Franklin. She’s a heart surgeon. But that doesn’t mean we’re not a family. We’re just a family who doesn’t live in the same house Papa says.”

        “Your papa’s right, sweetie,” Joanne acknowledged, assuming Johnny and Trevor’s mother were divorced. “That doesn’t mean you’re not a family.” The woman turned her attention to the phone. “Mrs. Mjtko?”

        Clarice halted her argument with her son. “Yes?”

        “My name is Joanne DeSoto. My husband Roy worked with Johnny for many years.”

        “Oh, yes, Mrs. DeSoto. John’s spoken of your family many times to me. He thinks so highly of you and your husband, and still holds much affection for your children.”

        “And we think highly of him. You don’t need to worry about Trevor. He’ll stay with Roy and me until arrangements can be made to get him back to Eagle Harbor.”

        “Joanne!” Roy beckoned in a strangled whisper. The woman ignored her husband as Clarice said, “You’re certain? I mean, this isn’t an imposition for you? Detective Anders told my son about your. . .granddaughter. I can imagine the worry and upset you’re living with right now. Perhaps an active little boy isn’t what you need to add to that.”

        Joanne smiled as she looked into Trevor’s brown eyes that had taken on a pitiful puppy-dog look, in the same way Johnny had been able to make his eyes take on that appearance when he was trying to gain a woman’s sympathy.

        “Oh, I think an active little boy is exactly what we need at the moment. Besides, Johnny never hesitated to take care of our children when an emergency arose. We could call him any time, day or night, and he’d drop whatever he was doing to come stay with the kids. The least Roy and I can do for Johnny’s son now is to return all those favors.”

        Everyone in the room could tell Clarice was relieved that Trevor was going to be staying with the people his father had once considered to be his closest friends. Nonetheless; she was polite enough to question one final time, “You’re certain?”

        Joanne jumped in before Roy could answer. “Yes, I’m certain.

        “All right then. Thank you. Thank you so much. I’ll sleep easier tonight knowing Trevor’s with you.”

        “I understand. I’m going to sleep a bit easier, as well, knowing that Johnny. . .that he’s with our granddaughter.”

        “I’m sure you will.” Clarice didn’t dwell on that subject further. Based on what Detective Anders had told her and Carl, the prospect of John Gage or Olivia Sheridan being found alive was slim. “Trevor, are you still there?”

        The boy leaned on the table. “Yes, Ma’am.”

        “You behave yourself for the DeSotos, young man. You show them what a good boy your papa has raised. You make him proud, Trevor. You know what Papa expects of you when you’re a guest in someone else’s home.”

        “I know. I’ll be good, I promise. And, Clarice?”


        “I brought lots of clean underwear, and my boxer p.j.’s, too, in-case there’s girls around.”

        Clarice chuckled. “You’re like your papa, Trevor. Always thinking.”

        “Yep, that’s me and Papa,” Trevor touched his fingertips to his chest using another gesture he’d inherited from his father. “Always thinkin’.”

        Troy wrote down Clarice’s phone number as the woman rattled it off for Joanne. He tore the slip of paper from his notebook and handed it across the table. Joanne took the paper, promising to keep in close contact with Clarice while giving the woman the DeSoto home phone number. Carl came back on the line next to say he’d let the DeSotos know just as soon as he’d made arrangements to get Trevor back to Eagle Harbor.
        As the call was coming to an end Carl said, “Good luck, Detective Anders. Please, keep me informed of your progress. I can’t begin to tell you how worried the people of Eagle Harbor are, and how badly they want their fire chief returned to them safe and sound.”

        Chet looked from Marco to Roy. “Gage is a fire chief? Our Johnny Gage? The man who could get lost going to a fire? Someone put him in charge of fire services for an entire town?”

        Carl’s laughter came over the line. “For the past seven years; yes, someone has. And not just fire services, but paramedic services, as well as search and rescue. Also, far more than just a town, but also five thousand square miles of forest, mountains, and ocean. Allow me to assure you, we’ve never regretted that decision for even one minute.”

        “Whoever would have believed it?” Chet shook his head. He’d worked so hard just to finally pass the engineer’s exam. His rank had never risen any higher than that, and today, four years away from retirement, Chet was the B-shift engineer for Station 53 down the road. To find out John Gage had all the responsibilities Carl had listed, and was popular with the town’s people to boot, was not something Chet ever expected to hear.

        “I, for one, would have,” Dixie said. “I always knew given a little time and maturity Johnny would go far.”

        “You always were in his corner.”

        Dixie cocked an eyebrow at Johnny’s old nemesis. “With you around, Chet, someone had to be.”

        Roy might have found the banter amusing if so many conflicting emotions weren’t washing over him. Pride over Johnny’s accomplishments. Fear for the safety of Libby and Johnny. And another fear, too. Fear over the affection he was already feeling for Johnny’s boy. An affection that he told himself would only cause him more pain in the end. Just because the child was the same age Brandon would be if he were living, and just because the boy’s middle name was Roy, like Brandon’s had been, and just because the child had a disposition similar to Brandon’s - sunny, warm, and outgoing; didn’t mean Trevor had earned the right to work his way into Roy’s heart. Regardless of what happened to Johnny, this boy would be returning to his home in Alaska. There was no point in getting attached to him. Roy didn’t want Joanne getting attached to him either. That attachment would only cause them further heartache that neither one of them needed.

        Roy was barely aware of Troy Anders ending the phone call with Eagle Harbor’s Chief of Police. For the next two hours he paced the concrete floor, listening as Troy briefed the FBI agents regarding the crimes pinned to a man known only to law enforcement agents as the Kankakee Killer.

        Jennifer paced the floor with her father, her anxiety level rising with each step. She and Chris, more than anyone else in the room, knew what the Kankakee Killer was capable of. They’d witnessed it with their own eyes that Saturday night in April of 1978. If John Gage hadn’t managed to pull her away from the man, Jennifer knew she wouldn’t be alive today. She turned her back on those in the room and stuffed her fist in her mouth to keep them from hearing the whimpers that came along with her tears. That man had her daughter. Her ten-year-old daughter. He’d raped and killed so many other little girls over the years. What was going to prevent him from raping, and then killing, Libby?

        Uncle Johnny. Uncle Johnny will take care of her, Jennifer attempted to soothe her nerves with those thoughts. He’ll do his best to take care of her. Uncle Johnny’s with her and he’ll take care of her.

Jennifer shuddered as she recalled watching the man’s knife plunge into Johnny’s body. If he attacked Johnny like that again, the likelihood that the man would live was slim. The only reason he’d survived that night in April was because of a dog named Joe, and because Chris had the courage to flee down the mountain on horseback for help. The woman laid her head back against her father’s chest when she felt his hands knead her tense shoulders from behind. He kissed the crown of her head and promised softly, “It’ll be all right, Princess. It’ll be all right.”

        Jennifer simply nodded. She couldn’t hurt her father by reminding him that she was no longer nine years old, and his words couldn’t chase away every fear and worry. Instead, she patted his right hand and whispered, “I know, Daddy. I know.”

        It didn’t take long for Trevor to make himself at home in Chris’s lap. He was fascinated by the wheelchair and wanted to know how fast Chris could make it go, and if he ever popped a wheelie in it, and if he ever raced anyone. Chris wasn’t put off by Trevor’s questions, but rather welcomed them. He’d rather have someone ask him about his disability than pretend it didn’t exist. When Trevor pulled his musher video game out of his backpack it was Chris he shared the pleasure of playing it with. They alternated turns at the controls and kept score on a piece of paper Dixie dug out of her purse. Despite that fun, Trevor was attentive to the goings-on in the room. He’d tense up each time a phone rang. When the call didn’t result in positive news about his father’s whereabouts Trevor’s shoulders would slump with defeat. His eyes kept track of every movement Troy Anders made. It quickly became apparent to anyone who was observing that Trevor was trying his best to overhear the man’s conversations with the other law enforcement officials in the room. By the time four o’clock arrived Joanne decided Trevor’d had a long enough day, and that he needed the opportunity to relax, clean-up, and eat something besides the Fruit Roll Ups he’d brought out of his pack and offered to everyone at the table before eating two himself. Joanne approached her husband who was standing by himself in a far corner of the room.

        “Let’s go home now, Roy.”

        “I’m not ready to leave.”

        “Honey, we didn’t go home at all last night. We haven’t slept since Thursday night. We’ve done all we can here for today. Trevor’s tired and hungry. We need to take him to the house.”

        “If he’s tired and hungry it’s his own fault. He should have stayed in Alaska where he belonged.”
        “Oh, for heaven’s sake, Roy. He’s eight years old and worried about his father. Give the child a break, would you, please?”

        “He shouldn’t be coming with us, Joanne. It’s not our place to take him. He should. . .he should go into foster care like that police chief suggested. It’ll only be for a couple of days.”

        Joanne’s eyes flashed with anger as her hands went to her hips. “I can’t believe I’m hearing those words from you. If this situation was reversed, and that little boy was one of our children, who would have been the first person to take care of him, Roy? Huh? You tell me. Who would have taken our kids home with him and never, never in a million years, ever suggested they go into foster care until you, or I, or a relative, was able to pick them up?”

        When Roy refused to answer Joanne said, “John Gage. That’s who. And you damn well know it. Now come on, we’re taking Trevor home.”

        “Joanne, I’m telling you, this isn’t a good idea. Look. . .he seems to get along well with Chris. Let Chris and Wendy take him home.”

        “I will not.”

        “Then Dixie--”



        “Roy, just what are you so afraid of?”

        “Nothing,” the man stepped around his wife to see a pair of brown eyes latched firmly on him. Even though he and Joanne were at the other end of the station, and Chris was trying to distract Trevor, Roy knew the boy had just been privy to every word of their exchange. “Nothing. I’m not afraid of anything. I’m simply making a request of you. But fine. If you don’t want to comply with that request then we’ll leave.”

Roy used two fingers to beckon to Trevor. “Come on, young man. Get your things together. We’re going.”

        Trevor hesitated a moment, not so sure he wanted to go anywhere with this gruff person he had for so long wanted to meet. Uncle Roy wasn’t anything like Trevor had expected him to be. He wasn’t at all the soft-spoken, easy-going man his father had often described.

        “I said come on!”

        Trevor hopped off Chris’s lap while Roy stormed from the room. He quickly gathered his things into his pack. Jennifer stopped his movements by placing a gentle hand atop his.

        “Sweetheart, don’t let my father scare you. He’s just tired right now, and very worried about Libby and your da. . .papa.”

        Trevor nodded. He didn’t trust himself to speak for fear he’d start crying. He’d rather face Clarice’s wrath than go home with Roy DeSoto. Jennifer must have sensed this because she kissed the top of Trevor’s head and gave his thin shoulders a firm squeeze.

        “Your father was a very special man to me, Trevor. I loved. . .love him very much. Did he tell you that my brothers and I always called him Uncle Johnny?”


        “It makes me feel better knowing that he’s with my daughter. I know he’ll take good care of her.”

        “He will, Jennifer.” Trevor looked up at he doctor. “Papa takes real good care of me, and he takes care of everyone in Eagle Harbor. When Mr. Larson gets drunk, and Mrs. Larson won’t let him in the house, Papa lets him sleep off his bender in the fire station even though some of the people on the Police and Fire Commission don’t ‘prove of it. But that’s a secret, so don’t tell anyone.”

        “I won’t,” Jennifer promised with a smile. “That sounds just like your father, Trevor. He feels very deeply for people.”

        “Yeah, he does.” Trevor handed Jennifer the get-well card she’d made for Johnny so many years ago now. “Here. You keep this until Papa and your daughter. . .Libby? Is that her name?”

        “Yes, it is.”
        “You keep this until Papa and Libby come home. It will help you remember Papa’s taking good care of her.”

        “Yes, it will. Thank you, Trevor. Thank you so much.”

        “You’re welcome.”

        Trevor said goodbye to those people to whom he’d been introduced. Dixie made him promise to see her again before he left for Alaska, and Kelly Brackett promised him a tour of Rampart Hospital if that could be arranged before he went home. The group smiled as the boy approached Chet. Just like his father, Trevor had a forgiving heart.

        “Mr. Kelly, I’m sorry that I kicked you.”

        “Oh, you are, huh?”

        “Yep. I shouldn’t have done that, but you grabbed me and it made me mad.”

        “I see. So, how much will you pay me not to tell your pops?”

        Trevor thought a moment before reaching in the front pocket of his jeans and pulling out a five dollar bill. “Is it worth this much to you?”

        “Geez, kid, Johnny must really make you tow the mark.”

        “Well. . .I’m not supposed to hit anyone, so that probably means kicking, too. Papa gets pretty mad at me if I break a rule. I might even get a swat on the behind. Maybe two. So here, take it.”

        As Chet reached for the money Dixie, Marco, and Joanne scolded, “Chet!”
        The Irishman snatched his hand back. “I was only teasing the kid. I wasn’t really going to take it.”

        Marco rolled his eyes. “Yeah, sure, Chet.”

        Chet squatted down in front of Trevor. “Look, kid, we’ll call it even, okay? You apologized, so I won’t rat on you to your. . .papa? Is that what you call him?”


        Chet smiled. “That expression alone is gonna earn your papa weeks of teasing.”


        “Because it sounds funny.”

        “But that’s what everyone in Eagle Harbor calls their father.”

        “Still sounds funny.”

        Trevor shrugged. “Not if you live in Eagle Harbor it doesn’t.”

        Chet held out his hand and Trevor shook it.

        “Okay, Little Pigeon, now we’ve got ourselves a deal.”

        “Little Pigeon?”

        Chet patted Trevor’s head as he stood upright. “Let’s just say I see a lot of your old man in ya’, kid, and leave it go at that.”

        Joanne gathered Trevor up then and scooted him toward the kitchen. She was well aware Roy was in there, and had been observing the goings-on. She hoped he was ashamed of himself for yelling at the child. God knew Johnny had never raised his voice to any of their kids.

        Roy led the way out of the station. He opened the side panel door on the mini-van and ordered Trevor to get in. He took the boy’s pack and set it on the floor.

        “Make sure you buckle up,” Roy instructed as he slid the big door shut.

        Trevor did as Roy said, but not without thinking the man was even grouchier than the Grinch. He considered voicing that opinion, then thought better of it. After all, it wasn’t wise to make someone mad who was going to put a roof over your head and warm food in your stomach.

        If it hadn’t been for Joanne the ride home would have been made in stony silence. She sat half-turned in her seat, asking Trevor questions about Eagle Harbor as Roy drove. By the time they pulled in the DeSoto driveway Joanne had a picture in her mind of an idyllic small-town where people greeted one another by name, where old-fashioned Mom and Pop stores were still the norm, where the number of children in an entire school grade was half the size of a typical classroom in a Los Angeles public school, and where John Gage had carved out the happy life for himself that he so richly deserved.

        Trevor’s eyes scanned the interior of the DeSoto house as Joanne led him to the bedroom that used to be Chris’s. He nodded his approval at the decor.

        “I like The Lion King.”

        “I’m glad to hear that,” Joanne said as she assisted Trevor in unpacking his bag and putting his clothes in an empty dresser drawer. “My grandchildren like it, too. I decorated this room just for them. When they visit, this is where they stay.”

        “How many grandchildren do you have?”

        “Three. Three little girls. Olivia, Jennifer’s daughter--”

        “The one who’s with my papa?”

        Joanne gave the boy a sad smile. “Yes, sweetie, the one who’s with your papa. She’s ten years old. Then Chris’s two girls are Brittany and Madison. They’re four and two. They’re staying with their Grandma and Grandpa Adams right now. We had. . .we had a grandson, too. Brandon. He was Libby’s little brother. If he was still living he’d be your age.”

        “What happened to him?”

        “He passed away from a brain tumor. Do you know what that is?”

        “Is it like cancer?”

        “Then I kinda know what it is. Grandpapa Jim. . .he’s Dylan and Dalton’s grandpa. . .they’re my best friends. . .well anyway, Grandpapa Jim had that, only he got better. It’s like when bad stuff grows inside you.”

        “Yes, that’s what it’s like. In Brandon’s case the medicine the doctors gave him was only able to help him for a little while.”

        “I’m sorry. You must be very sad. I was sad when Pacachu died.”

        “Gray Wolf? Your great grandfather?”


        “When did he die, sweetheart?”

        “Mmmm, a couple years ago. I was in kindergarten.”

        “He lived to be quite old then, didn’t he?”

        “Yeah. He was close to one hundred. Like ninety-seven or ninety-eight. I don’t remember. Papa can tell you.”

        “I’m sure he can.” Joanne put Trevor’s backpack in the closet, then sat on the bed closest to the door. “And your Grandpa Gage, how’s he?”

        “Grandpa Chad?”


        “He’s fine. He and Grandma Marietta travel around in this big bus-like thing they have.”

        The last Joanne knew Chad Gage was a widower. Roy and Johnny had taken her and the children to White Rock, Montana on vacation in June of 1982. She had vague memories of meeting a woman name Marietta who ran a cafe there, and who had been Johnny’s mother’s best friend from girlhood on. She assumed the ‘Grandma Marietta’ Trevor now referred to was the same person.

        “A motor home?” Joanne asked for clarification.

        “Yeah, that’s it.”

        “Are they traveling now?”

        “Yep. That’s why Carl can’t find them. He wanted to tell them about Papa, but he doesn’t know where they are.”

        “What about your Aunt Reah?”

        “She lives in New Finland.”


        “Yeah. Newfoundland. That’s where she lives. She delivers babies for women who can’t get to the hospital. Clarice tried to call her, and Carl sent her an e-mail, but we haven’t heard from her yet. She travels far from her house sometimes.”

        “I see,” Joanne said, beginning to realize that, for the time being, the only connection Trevor had to Johnny was herself and Roy. This knowledge made her doubly glad that she hadn’t allowed him to stay with anyone else.

        Joanne stood and held out her hand. “Come on, Trevor. I’ll show you where the bathroom is and let you clean up. Then we can get supper on the table.”

        “I can set it for you.”

        “Pardon me?”

        “The table. I can set it for you. It’s one of my jobs at home. Papa would expect me to do it while I stay here if you want me to.”

        “Well now, that would be a big help. You wash your hands, then come into the kitchen. Can you find it from here?”

        “Sure. Your house is easy to find places in. It’s not nearly as big as our house, and it doesn’t have an upstairs.”

        “No, it doesn’t, does it?” Joanne smiled. “All right then, I’ll meet you in the kitchen in a few minutes.”

        “Okay.” Trevor shut the bathroom door and made use of the facilities. When he was finished he washed his hands with warm water and soap like he’d been taught to do at home. He opened the door, took a left into the hall, and headed for the kitchen.

        The boy kept an eye out for his Uncle Roy, but didn’t see the man as he set the table for Joanne. When a salad had been tossed, and a glass pan of lasagna had been warmed in the microwave, Aunt Joanne walked to a door that opened into the garage. She called, “Roy, supper’s ready!” and within a minute the man appeared.

        Joanne pointed to a seat at the table. “Trevor, you can sit here. This is the exact chair your father used to sit in whenever he ate with us.”



        Roy sat at the head of the table with Joanne across from him. Trevor was in-between them on Roy’s left and Joanne’s right.
        Like his father, Trevor had the amazing ability to eat and talk non-stop at the same time, and generally with his mouth full since Clarice wasn’t here to remind him to swallow first. He chattered about things he’d observed in Joanne and Roy’s house, about things he’d observed on the ride to their home like palm trees and pink houses, and about the swimming pool he could see right outside their patio doors.
        “I’ve never been in an outside swimming pool before. Only the inside one at the YMCA in Juneau. We live by the ocean, so I guess we could swim in it, but its too cold to swim in even during summer.”

        “It is?” Joanne questioned.

        “Yep.” Trevor forked off another chunk of lasagna. Like his father also, he had a healthy appetite. “Eagle Harbor’s on a peninsula. Do you know what that is?”

        “It’s a piece of land that juts out into the water.”

        “You’re right!” Trevor raised one hand in the air as if to signal a victory. “You get a gold star, Aunt Joanne. Lots a’ people don’t know that believe it or not.”

        Joanne laughed at the boy’s enthusiasm. She tried to catch Roy’s eye, but he refused to look at anything but his plate.

        “Say, this is really good lasagna. It tastes like Joanne DeSoto’s lasagna. Papa has her recipe on a card, and he makes it sometimes. It’s so easy even he can’t screw it up.”

        “Trevor, I’m Joanne DeSoto.”

        The boy stared at Joanne, then grinned as it collated in his eight-year-old mind that Aunt Joanne, and Joanne DeSoto, were one in the same woman. “Oh, so you’re that Joanne DeSoto.”

        Joanne laughed again. “Yes, sweetie, I am.”

        “Then you make good sloppy joes, too. And really, really good chicken and rice.”

        “Well, thank you. Perhaps I can make those things for you while you’re staying with us.”

        “That would be nice, but whatever you wanna make is okay with me. I like to eat.”

        “And talk,” Roy cut-in. “You like to talk. Doesn’t that mouth of yours ever stop moving?”


        Trevor’s fork dropped to his plate. His head dropped with it as his lower lip quivered and tears filled his eyes.

        “Roy, that was totally uncalled for!”

        “It wasn’t if I want to eat my supper in peace!” Roy pushed back his chair, threw open a patio door, and stormed out of the house. Joanne stared after him, her mouth set with fury.

        When the woman managed to get a rein on her anger she turned to the child crying silent tears. She stood, walked over to him, crouched down, and wrapped her arms around his thin body.

        “He didn’t mean it, sweetheart. Your Uncle Roy is very concerned. . .very upset, about our granddaughter and your father. He hasn’t slept since Thursday night. I know that’s not an excuse for what he just did, but he’s tired and he’s worried. You understand, don’t you?”

        Trevor nodded. His voice was muffled when he said, “Sometimes Papa loses his temper when he’s tired. But later, he always says he’s sorry.”

        “And your Uncle Roy will say he’s sorry, too.” Joanne looked out the glass doors to see her husband standing at the edge of the yard with his back to her. “Believe me, your Uncle Roy will say he’s sorry.”


        Stars twinkled from the dark night sky when Joanne slid a patio door open and stepped onto the deck. After she’d gotten Trevor’s tears wiped away he’d helped her carry the plates and glasses to the dishwasher, then willingly taken a hot shower and changed into his pajamas. Joanne pulled from a closet shelf the old Operation game that used to be Chris and Jennifer’s. Trevor had never played the game before, and was excited to learn how. He and Joanne played three rounds together on the floor in the computer room. When the sun had set Joanne offered the boy a bedtime snack that he readily accepted. She took him back to the kitchen and had him climb on a stool that sat in front of the breakfast bar. Roy hadn’t made an appearance in the house since supper. That fact didn’t change as Joanne gave Trevor two cookies and a glass of milk. After he’d eaten she had him make a pit-stop at the bathroom to brush his teeth and empty his bladder one last time, then met him in the bedroom that would be his until he returned to Eagle Harbor.

        Joanne tucked the boy in while handing him the Harry Potter book she’d taken from his backpack.

        “No,” Trevor shook his head. He reached over and set the book on the nightstand positioned in-between the twin beds. “Poppy and I read that one together.”

        “Oh. Well, I saw another book in your pack. Do you want it?”

        “Not tonight.”

        “Okay, then.” Joanne bent and kissed the boy on the forehead. “Sweet dreams, honey. I’ll see you in the morning.”

        “Will my papa and Libby come home tomorrow?”

        Joanne smoothed Trevor’s dark hair off his face. “I wish I could answer yes to that question, but I won’t lie to you, Trevor. I don’t know if they will or not.”

        “I hope they do.”

        “So do I, hon. So do I.”

        Joanne stood from the bed and shut the light off as she passed the wall switch. She bent and turned on the Simba shaped night-light that was plugged in an outlet. She didn’t know if Trevor normally slept with night-light or not, but since he was in a strange room she thought he might find it comforting. With one last look at Johnny’s child, Joanne had shut the bedroom door three quarters of the way and went in search of Roy.

        Roy was standing on the deck looking up at the stars when Joanne approached him from behind. He didn’t turn around, but she knew he was fully aware of her presence.

        “Where did you go?”

        “I took a walk.”

        Joanne joined her husband at the deck’s railing. It wasn’t unusual for him to take a walk after sunset. It was a habit he’d started the day Brandon died. She didn’t know if those after-dark journeys gave him the opportunity to cry for the grandson he’d loved so much, or if they were simply an escape from the pressures of the everyday world where so many people; from herself, to Jennifer, to Libby, to Chris, looked upon him as the man they could lean on when the going got tough.

        Joanne knew their neighborhood, like Chris’s neighborhood and Jennifer’s street down the block, was surrounded by FBI agents in unmarked cars. Their phones had been tapped, too, in the event the kidnapper called any of them.

        “Did the agents try to stop you?”

        “From walking?”


        “One of them advised me not to leave the yard, but there wasn’t much he could do when I chose to ignore his advice. It’s not like we’re under house arrest, Joanne.”

        “I realize that. I just don’t think it’s wise for you to be out walking alone right now after dark.”

        Roy simply shrugged. That action told Joanne the subject was closed, so she took the opportunity to open another one.

        “I believe you owe Trevor an apology.”

        “For what?”

        “You know for what. For raising your voice at him.”

        “I can’t raise my voice at him when he deserves it?”

        “If he had deserved it, then yes, I guess you could. But he didn’t deserve it, Roy, and you know it.”

        “He shouldn’t be here. I told you he should have gone home with Chris. Or Dixie. Or we should have let Troy put him in a foster home.”

        “Don’t start that again. Trevor’s not going to a foster home. He’s staying here with us. With you and me, Roy DeSoto.”

        The man finally made eye contact with his wife.

        “He’s not ours to keep, Joanne. He’s Johnny’s son. He doesn’t belong to us. Just because he’s the same age as Brandon would be if he were living, and just because Johnny chose to give the kid ‘Roy’ as his middle name. . .why, I can’t fathom, but that’s Johnny for you, always full of surprises. But that not withstanding, the boy’s not Brandon. He can’t replace Brandon.”

        “I never said he was, or that he could.”

        “Well, you’re not acting like it.”

        “Oh, really? Gee, Roy, I thought it was the other way around. I thought it was you who was seeing the similarities between Brandon and Trevor. I thought it was you who was touched by the fact that your best friend used your name as his son’s middle name. And that’s what this is really all about, isn’t it?”


        “Why you’re so mean to Trevor. Why you had to leave the table tonight. Why you didn’t come back home until you knew I’d have him tucked in bed. You’re afraid to get close to him, Roy. You’re afraid, that if you get close to Trevor, he’ll be taken from you like Brandon was.”

        “That’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard you say.”

        “No, it’s not. You’re afraid to get attached to Trevor. You’re afraid that each time you see a little bit more of Johnny in him, and that ‘little bit more’ causes your heart to open wider, that in the end you’ll be hurt when Trevor leaves us.”

        Roy chose to ignore his wife’s very accurate assessment. Instead he growled, “What about his grandfather? Chad? Why can’t he go stay with Chad? Or Reah? We’ve still got their phone numbers in the address book. Call one of them and see if they can come get the boy.”

        “Evidently that police chief. . .Carl, is trying to get in touch with Chad, but hasn’t been able to. According to Trevor he’s traveling in a motor home with ‘Grandma Marietta.’ I take it she’s the woman we met who ran the cafe in White Rock?”

        “I suppose.”

        “It sounds like they’re married. And it sounds like they can’t be reached. As far as Reah goes, Trevor says she lives in Newfoundland. Again, Carl tried to get in touch with her but hasn’t been able to.”

        “Then his mother. The boy should go stay with his mother.”

        “I’m sure if Carl thought that was an option he would have mentioned it. Evidently Johnny has custody of Trevor. Since we don’t know what that custody agreement entails, it’s hardly up to us to put that child on a plane to Paris.”

        Roy blew out a long, tense breath of air. “Only Johnny could screw his life up like this.”

        “That’s an unfair statement! You don’t know the circumstances surrounding Johnny’s break-up with Trevor’s mother, and if you want my opinion he’s done a wonderful job of raising that little boy on his own. I don’t think Johnny’s screwed his life up at all, and deep down inside, you don’t think that either. I saw the pride on your face when Carl said Johnny is Eagle Harbor’s fire chief. And I also saw how you scowled when Chet made fun of that fact.”

        Amongst the things a thirty-six year marriage brought Roy DeSoto, was the fact that his wife knew him too well. Nonetheless, that didn’t keep him from silently denying what he had no desire to admit to.

        When Joanne realized her husband wasn’t going to make a verbal response, she laid a hand on his shoulder and lightly squeezed.

        “I’m so scared, Roy,” she whispered. “I’m so scared for Libby. . .and for Johnny. Like Jennifer, knowing Johnny is with Libby makes me feel a little better but I’m. . .I’m just so frightened when I think of what that man did to all those other little girls.”

        Roy put his arms around his wife and pulled her to his chest. He kissed her temple while hugging her as hard as he dared.

        “I know, Jo, I know. I’m scared, too. And. . .and like you and Jen, I’m glad Johnny’s with Olivia. If I can’t be there myself, then at least I’m glad to know she has him by her side. Even if he doesn’t realize who she is in relationship to us. . .to Jennifer, I know he’ll do his best to keep anything from happening to her.”

        “But do you think his best will be good enough this time?”

        “I don’t know,” Roy confessed softly as he thought of the horrific injuries Johnny had incurred the last time he’d encountered his captor. “I just don’t know.”


         Roy was too restless to consider going to bed when Joanne headed in that direction. Forty minutes after she’d left his side, Roy finally entered the house. He secured the lock on the patio doors, then made sure the other doors leading into his home were locked. He flicked the light on over the kitchen sink to let it burn all night as was the norm in his household. As he walked past the wall switch for the overhead kitchen light he shut it off.

        The man headed down the hallway for the master bedroom. A dim light shown through the partially open door of the room Trevor was sleeping in. If the hour hadn’t been so late, and the house hadn’t been so quiet, Roy would have never heard the sound of a little boy’s muffled sobs.

        Roy briefly thought of getting Joanne, but then chastised himself for being so foolish. After all, when his own children were growing up he’d never failed to comfort them when he found one of them crying late at night because of a bad dream, or feelings that had been hurt by a thoughtless remark from a schoolmate, or because they were sick with a cold or the flu.

        The paramedic chief hesitated a moment longer, then pushed the door open. The night-light illuminated the room in a soft, yellow glow. Roy could see Trevor was in the bed farthest from the door, the same bed Brandon used to sleep in when he stayed overnight. He wondered if Joanne had done that by design or accident, then decided that either way, it really didn’t matter.

        The boy’s back was to Roy as he lay curled in the fetal position. Roy quietly approached the bed. He kept his tone low and gentle when he beckoned, “Trevor?”

        Johnny’s son didn’t answer Roy, but rather curled up even tighter if that was possible while stifling his sobs. Whether Trevor was afraid of him, or angry with him, Roy wasn’t certain. He supposed he deserved either one of those emotions. Carefully, so as not to startle the child, Roy sat on the edge of the bed.

        “Trevor? Trevor, are you all right?”

        “Ye. . .yes,” came the nasally response.

        “You don’t sound all right.”

        “I’m. . .I’m okay.”

        “Why don’t you turn over on your back so I can take a look at you, son.”

         “How. . .how come?”

        “Because I want to make certain you’re not sick.”

        “I’m not sick,” came the response that was muffled by the fact that half of Trevor’s face was buried in his pillow. “And I’m not a crybaby either, in case that’s what you’re thinking.”

        “No, no. I’m not thinking that,” Roy assured in his most serious tone. “A boy who is as brave as you are. . .who stows away on a plane in order to travel to a strange city to search for his father, is certainly no crybaby in my book.”

        “Oh. Well. . .well, that’s good,” Trevor bluffed in the same way Johnny used to when Roy said something that caught him by surprise, yet he didn’t want to acknowledge that was the case. “ ‘Cause I’m not. . .a crybaby that is.”

        “Trev. . .is it okay if I call you that?”

        “I. . .I guess. That’s what Papa calls me lots of times.”

        “Then Trev it is. Trev, your father was. . .is, a very good friend of mine. My best friend actually. And if you’re sick, and I don’t take care of you, I’ll be doing him a disservice.”

        That remark caused Trevor to roll onto his back and look up at the man. He swiped at his tears with one arm. “What’s that mean? Disservice?”

        “It means I won’t be honoring his friendship in the way I should be. It means I won’t be properly repaying him for all the times he took care of my children when I wasn’t available to do the job.”

        “Disservice,” Trevor repeated. “I like that word. I’ll remember it and use it every chance I get.”
        Roy chuckled as he laid his open right palm on Trevor’s forehead. He couldn’t detect any fever.

        “Do you have a stomachache?”


        “A headache?”


        “A sore throat?”

        “Mr. DeSoto, before you ask anymore questions, I’m not sick. I don’t have none of that stuff, and I don’t have gout, arthritis, or irritable bowel syndrome either.”

        Roy couldn’t help but laugh at this child and his funny ways.

        God, Johnny, there’s no doubt this little boy belongs to you.

“Now just where have you heard about gout, arthritis, and irritable bowel syndrome?”

        “Clarice’s sisters; Nana Marie, Nana Josephine, and Nana Colette - they have all those things and lots more.”

        “Oh, I see.”

        “But I don’t have any of them, Mr. DeSoto.”

        “I would hope not.” Roy plucked a Kleenex from the box on the nightstand. He handed it to Trevor so the boy could wipe his nose and eyes. When Trevor had done just that he leaned up on one elbow and tossed the tissue into the Simba garbage can. “And what’s with ‘Mr. DeSoto’ all of a sudden? What happened to ‘Uncle Roy?’ ”

        “I thought maybe you didn’t want me to call you that anymore. You. . .I guess you’re mad at me for coming here, huh?”

        “No, Trevor, I’m not mad at you,” Roy assured as the boy laid back down. He tucked the covers around Trevor’s shoulders, then gave his arm a fatherly pat.

        “But you said I should go live with the Fosters.”


        “The Fosters. I heard you tell Aunt Joanne I should stay with them, but I don’t know any Fosters. I don’t think they were friends of Papa’s.”

        “No, they aren’t,” Roy said, shame rising within him. “They aren’t friends of your papa’s, but your Aunt Joanne and I are. So you’ll stay right here until you return to Eagle Harbor.”

        “But I don’t wanna go back unless Poppy comes with me. I came here to find him.”

        “I know you did, son, but--”

        “I’m not going back without him. I’m not.”

        “Trevor, you’re as stubborn as your father, do you know that?”

        “Aunt Reah says so sometimes.”

        “Well, your Aunt Reah is right.”

        “I can earn my keep if that’s what you’re worried about.”

        “Earn your keep?”

        “Yeah. While I’m here. I can make my bed, set the table, take out the garbage, feed your horses--”

        “I don’t have any horses.”

        “Oh. Well, do you have a dog?”


        “A cat?”

        “Not a one.”



        “Yeah. I have two rabbits at home. Happy and Hoppy. So if you have rabbits, I can take care of them.”

        “I see,” Roy thoughtfully stroked a thumb and two fingers across his chin as though he had to mull over whether or not he owned any rabbits. “Well, no, now that you mention it I don’t have any rabbits, but I’ll tell you what, I do have the swimming pool you can help me clean.”

        “Can I swim in it after I help clean it?”


        “Okay. And I can weed flowerbeds. I saw you have some of those. I do that job for Mrs. Karbenoff in town. She lives a couple blocks from the fire station, and she’s pretty old, and I weed her flower beds and run errands for her when she needs me to.”

        “It sounds like you’re a very industrious young man.”

        “If by that you mean I work hard, I do. Papa says you don’t get something for nothing, and he sure is stingy when it comes to my allowance.”

        Roy laughed again when he thought of the cheapskate reputation Johnny often had around Station 51. Which just went to prove, as much as some things changed, others stayed the same.

        “And while I’m here I’ll try not to talk so much,” Trevor promised, recalling the upset at the dinner table. “Or flirt with your wife.”

        Roy’s eyes widened at this last remark. “What did you say?”

        “Aunt Joanne. I’ll try not to flirt with her so much, ‘cause I know it probably upsets you. It’s a problem I kinda have. I see a pretty face, and I just can’t stop myself. It’s the ‘Gage charm at work’ Grandma Marietta says.”

        Roy didn’t know when the last time was he’d laughed this much. “Well, now, I guess I would appreciate it if you held off on the flirting with your Aunt Joanne. After all, I wouldn’t want to risk her leaving me for a younger man who has so much to offer what with his horses and rabbits.”

        “And two dogs and fifteen cats.”

        “Fifteen cats?”


        “What’s your da. . .papa say about fifteen cats?”

        “You really wanna know?”
        “And I won’t get in trouble if I tell you?”

        “Not from me you won’t.”
        “Okay.” Trevor pitched his voice low as he did his best to imitate Johnny’s tone. “Damn cats! Get out from under my feet!”

        Roy laughed again. Oh, Johnny, am I going to have my fun when I see you. I’ll finally get to enjoy a little pay-back for all the times my kids blabbed family secrets to you.

        Just as quickly as that thought came to him Roy sobered. Would he ever see Johnny alive again? Would he be lucky enough to get Libby and Johnny back free of harm?

        Trevor must have sensed the man’s worries. He wormed his right hand into Roy’s palm and squeezed. Roy squeezed back as he smiled down at the boy.

        “You go to sleep now, Trevor.”

        “Will you. . .can you. . .can. . .”

        Roy guessed at what the boy was trying to ask him. “Do you want me to stay here with you until you do?”

        “Yes. Please, Mr. DeSoto. If that’s okay.”

        “It’s fine, son.” Roy ran his free hand through the boy’s thick, black hair. “And how about if we go back to you calling me Uncle Roy, rather than Mr. DeSoto?”

        “Are you sure?”

        “Yes,” Roy smiled and winked at the child. “I’ve very sure.”

        “I think Papa would like that better.”

        “You do? Why?”

        “ ‘Cause he told me that’s what I was supposed to call you if I ever met you.”

        “He did?”

“Yeah, not that long ago when we were looking at some of his old pictures. He said if I ever met you I was supposed to call you ‘Uncle Roy’ out of respect for all you had meant to him.”

        “Oh. I see.” Roy had a hard time getting those words out. “Well. . .well then, we wouldn’t want you to go against your papa’s wishes, now would we?”

        “Uh huh. Take it from me, Uncle Roy, when a kid does that, he can find himself in big trouble.”

        Trying to picture Johnny as a disciplinarian was difficult for Roy. Considering Johnny used to instigate trouble with the DeSoto children more often than not, it was hard to imagine him being stern with a child of his own. Knowing Johnny like he did, Roy readily guessed it wasn’t always easy for his old friend to be firm with Trevor.

        Joanne’s right. Johnny’s doing a heck of a job raising this little guy on his own. I always figured if Johnny ever married again and had kids, his wife would be disciplining him right along with the children.

        Roy watched as the eight year old’s eyes closed, then opened, closed, then opened, until Trevor finally lost the battle to stay awake. Just as the boy was starting to sink towards deep sleep, he did something that caused Roy’s heart to constrict. He brought his left arm up and covered his eyes.

        Roy sat beside the child a few minutes longer, unable to believe how much of his best friend he could see in this little boy. From his sense of humor, to his penchant to run-on at the mouth, to the position he slept in.

        What have I lost? Roy wondered. What have I lost by not having Johnny as part of my life these past fifteen years?

        Roy’s last thought was the most bitter one of all. And is it too late to gain any of it back? Did I wait too long, Johnny? Did I wait too damn long to tell you I’m sorry?

As Roy stood to leave the room he feared that just might be the case. That he’d waited too long to tell John Gage he was sorry, and that when the opportunity came for him to voice that regret, he’d only get to say it to a corpse.

Chapter 21

        At the same time Roy DeSoto was sitting beside Trevor Gage watching him fall asleep, Johnny was putting the only plan he had for escape into action.
        If their captor kept to his habit from Saturday night, he wouldn’t show up until ten o’clock with their food. Throughout his years as a paramedic, Johnny had attended several seminars on human psychology. Though far from an expert on the subject, Johnny did recognize a compulsive personality when he saw one. There was no doubt the man who had kidnapped him and Libby had been planning that action for many months. The success he’d had in spiriting them away in the first place, and now keeping them hidden together for over forty-eight hours, spoke of nothing but a meticulous, highly-calculating, and highly-intelligent mind. Johnny gave an internal shudder as he wondered just how long he’d been watched before the man made his move. With as organized and precise as their captor was proving himself to be, Johnny was willing to bet money that supper would once again arrive at ten p.m.

        At nine-fifteen, Johnny halted the game of Uno he and Libby were playing.

        “But neither of us has won yet, Uncle Johnny.” Libby looked at the back cover of her coloring book where they were keeping score. “We’re almost tied. I’ve won twenty-six games, and you’ve won twenty-four. You said you hate to lose. You told me it would drive you crazy if you didn’t come out ahead in the end.”

        “I know, sweetheart, but we’re gonna stop playing for now. I wanna talk to you about something important, Libby, and you need to listen very carefully to what I have to say.”

        Libby’s eyes lit up as she put the Uno cards back in their box. “Is it about how we’re gonna get out of here and get back to my grandpa’s house?”

        “Yes,” Johnny smiled. “Yes. That’s exactly what it’s about.”

        Though the plan was weak at best, it was the only one Johnny had. In some ways, he didn’t like having to execute it after dark, but in other ways that darkness might provide them with the cover they’d need if things didn’t work out quite the way he wanted them to.

        Libby was sitting with her legs crossed, so rested her elbows on her knees and leaned forward indicating she was ready, willing, and able. “I’m listening.”

        “Okay. Here’s what we’re going to do. I’m guessing he’ll show up at ten o’clock with our food. When he walks through that door we’re going to be waiting on the other side of it.”

        “And do what?”

        Johnny pointed to the heavy, battery powered lantern sitting between them.

        “I’m gonna hit him on top of the head as hard as I can. Meanwhile, you’ll be standing next to me holding onto the flashlight. If I knock him out, which I certainly intend to do, I’ll get the keys to his van. He must park it fairly close to this building when he comes up here at night. We’ll run out the door, hop in it, and drive away.”

        Libby grinned. “That’ll work for sure.”

        “It might or it might not,” Johnny stated with complete honesty. “But one way or another we’re getting out of here. If I only manage to knock him off his feet, but he remains conscious, it’ll be too dangerous for me to try to get his keys unless he drops them. In that case, we’re going to run out of here as fast as we can. Now, you have four jobs you have to do for me, Olive Oyl.”


        Johnny counted off on the fingers of his right hand. “Number one; you’re going to be the keeper of the flashlight. When we get out of here we’ll need it in order to see where we’re going. Number two; you watch to see if he drops the keys to his van. He might have them in a pocket, or he might be carrying them. If he’s carrying them, he’ll likely drop them when I hit him. You need to see where they fall so you can point them out to me.”

        “I can scoop ‘em up.”

        “No. You’re gonna stay right by the door.”


        “Honey, I can’t take the risk that he’ll get his hands on you. You have to listen to me on this one, Libby, and you have to obey me. Do you understand?”

        Libby nodded. Uncle Johnny had yet to be stern with her, but there was no mistaking the firmness to his tone. “I understand. I’ll just point to where the keys are.”

        “Good girl,” Johnny nodded. He turned his head to cough. He had long ago given up on not clutching his chest when that action occurred. As soon as he got some air back into his congested lungs he continued. “Number three. When I grab your hand you hang on tight. If we have the keys, we’re heading straight out the front door and looking for the van. If we don’t have the keys. . .well, I’m not sure where we’re going yet, but I’ll figure that out once I determine where we’re at.”

        “Where we’re at?”

        “When your mom was younger than you are now, I lived on a ranch in the foothills of these mountains. At one time I knew them very well. If I can figure out where we are, I’ll know how to get us to a road, or at least to a place where we can hide until daybreak.”

        “The Pow-Wow cave?”

        Johnny was surprised that the girl would mention the old cave he and Roy’s kids used to spend time in. “Yeah. Have you ever been there?”

        “No. But my mom and Uncle Chris talk about it a lot. That’s where they hid the night the man hurt you.”

        “That’s right, that’s where they hid. If we have to hide there, as well, then we will.”

        “What’s number four, Uncle Johnny?”


        “You said I had to do four things. That I had four jobs, but you only named three.”

        “That’s because number four will be the most difficult of all for both of us.”

        “Why? What is it?”

        Johnny never took his eyes from the girl’s face. “Libby, if I don’t get out of this cabin, if the man fights me and manages to keep me here, you have to run, sweetheart. You have to run as fast and as far as you can.”


        “We’ve talked about this before, kiddo. I know it’s scary, and I’ll try my very best not to make you have to go out that door alone, but if that is what happens, Libby, you have to be brave and run for me. You have to run until you get to a road. We’ve talked about this remember? By now I’m certain your picture and name have been all over the television. All you have to do is tell anyone who stops that you’re Olivia Sheridan, the girl who was kidnapped on Friday. Tell that person to call the police, Libby.”

        “But what about you?”

        Johnny smiled as he reached out to cup the side of the girl’s face with his right hand. “I’ll be fine, sweetie. This guy tangled with me once before and I lived to tell the story. Believe me, I’ll live to tell it again.”


        “No more buts.” Johnny dropped his hand from Libby’s face. “You have to do just what I said if it comes to that. You have to get out of here, Libby. You have to get yourself to safety.”

        “But what will I tell my grandpa?”

        “Tell him about what?”

        “About you?”

        Johnny thought a moment, then said, “Tell him Junior says hello.”

        Libby didn’t know what Johnny meant by that phrase, but she nodded as she committed it to memory. Maybe it was a secret code of some sort that would help Grandpa find Uncle Johnny. She leaned forward and wrapped her arms around the man’s neck.

        “I only wanna go if we can go together, Uncle Johnny. I promise I’ll do what you said. . .run from here by myself if that’s the way things turn out, but I don’t wanna leave you behind.”

        Johnny hugged the girl to his chest. “Don’t worry, Olive Oyl. I’ll do my very best to see that we get out of here as a team. You’re a brave girl, as brave as your mother and your Uncle Chris were the night they ran and hid in the Pow-Wow cave. I’m very proud of you. Tell your grandpa. . .make sure you tell him how proud Uncle Johnny is of you.”

        “I will.”

        Libby stayed wrapped in Johnny’s arms until he said it was time for them to hide by the door. She clung to his hand, trying to will her legs to stop shaking. She briefly wondered if her mother had been this scared the night Uncle Johnny had fought the man while trying to save her. Before Libby had time to mull that over further, a key was turning in the door’s padlock.


        As Evan Crammer approached the cabin he immediately noticed the glow from the lantern didn’t appear to be coming from the far northwest corner of the room like it had the previous night. Instead, it appeared to be suspiciously close to the door. Though just a bare amount of light seeped through cracks in the cabin’s walls, it was enough to tip the man off that Johnny was up to something. Evan smiled at his own intelligence. A man of lesser abilities, a man who paid only scant attention to his surroundings, would have never realized the light was in a different spot.

        Evan set the cardboard McDonald’s food tray he was carrying on the porch. He slipped a key into the door’s padlock with his left hand, and readied his gun with his right.

        When the lantern swung for Evan’s head the man countered its motion by lifting his right arm. Because he’d been anticipating the blow it didn’t hurt nearly as much as it would have otherwise. The lantern bounced off Evan’s forearm and hit the floor with a clatter. That didn’t stop John Gage, however. He was on the man before the lantern completed its journey through the air. Johnny was sick, but his will to get Libby to safety overrode his body’s weakness. He landed a punch to Evan’s jaw that knocked the man backwards. Evan stumbled, but remained on his feet. When Johnny charged him again Evan flipped the gun around and used the heavy handle to give the fire chief a powerful whack on the top of his head.

        Johnny saw stars as he dropped to his knees. He’d been hit in the same spot where he already had a gash from the van’s doorframe. That tender gash, so recently closed by mother nature’s healing powers, broke open. The room spun widely as blood poured down Johnny’s face. That didn’t keep him from diving for his assailant’s ankles while yelling, “Run, Libby! Run!”

        Because of the blood running into his eyes Johnny’s grab for his attacker was as ineffective as a blind man’s. Evan laughed while easily side-stepping the motion. As the terrified Libby bolted for the door Evan scooped her up as easily as most men would scoop up a two year old. Libby dropped the flashlight as she kicked and screamed, “Let me go! Let me go!”

        “Oh, no, little angel. None of that. No kicking.” Evan hugged Libby’s legs with one arm. “Your mother was a kicker. I remember. I remember things about all my girls most people would forget.”

        Johnny wiped the blood from his eyes. “Let her go!”

        “Let her go? Gage, come on. I haven’t had any fun yet.”

        “I said let her go!”

        Evan laughed again as he put one hand on Libby’s chest, right where her breasts would be if she was just a few years older, while the other hand went in-between her legs. Libby started crying and pleading, “No, no,” as she felt the man attempt to poke his fingers into places he shouldn’t be touching. “Uncle Johnny, please. Please help me,” the girl sobbed when Evan rammed his hand into her crotch.

        Despite the fact that the room was still spinning Johnny scrambled to his feet and raced for Libby’s attacker. Johnny would kill the man, or the man would kill him, but one way or another the assault on Libby was going to end.

        “Uncle Johnny, please.” Tears ran down Libby’s face as she bucked her hips away from Evan. “Please make him stop.”

        Before Johnny could reach the man Libby was thrown at him. The force of the girl’s body against Johnny’s caused them both to tumble to the floor. Johnny took the brunt of the fall, with Libby landing on his chest.

        Crammer pointed a warning finger at the fire chief. “Don’t fuck with me again, Gage, or next time, she really will get hurt.”

        The door was slammed and locked. Johnny heard the man pause on the porch as though he was picking something up, then heard him running down the steps.

        Johnny ignored his head injury to instead get to his feet and gather the sobbing Libby in his arms. Fortunately the heavy denim shorts she was wearing had prevented her assailant’s fingers from entering her. Nonetheless, the experience had terrified her, and rightfully so. Though Libby wasn’t able to put into words why what he’d done had frightened her, she simply knew it had, and that his actions weren’t right. That a normal man didn’t do those kinds of things to little girls.

        Johnny carried Libby back to their corner of the room. He wrapped her in his blanket, the slid down the wall with her in his arms. He rocked her back and forth while running one hand over her hair.

        “Shhh. Shhh, sweetheart, it’s all right. It’s all right now, Libby. He’s gone. He’s gone, and I won’t let him hurt you again.”

        Libby never brought her face out of Johnny’s blood stained shirt collar. “I was so. . .so scared, Uncle Johnny. I didn’t like. . .I didn’t like the way he was. . .was touching me.”

        “I know, sweetie. I know. What he did wasn’t right. I won’t let him do it again.” Johnny kissed the top of the child’s head. “I promise I won’t let him do it again.”

        “I want my grandpa. I wanna go home. I want Grandpa.”

        “I know,” Johnny whispered as they continued to rock. “I know. Believe me, Libby, right about now I’d like to see your grandpa, too.”

Libby’s tears soaked Johnny’s shirt with all the fear that could be bottled up inside a ten year old. As the girl cried, Johnny watched their squirrel. . .the one Libby had recently christened Acorn, scamper from the back room, across the fireplace hearth, and up the chimney.         

Johnny hated that damn squirrel. More than that, he hated its freedom. A freedom he’d wanted so badly for the sobbing child in his arms, and a freedom he’d die trying to give her.


Chapter 22

        Aside from Roy DeSoto and his immediate family, there were a number of people who hadn’t slept since Libby Sheridan disappeared, among them, Troy Anders. It was times like these when Anders wondered if he’d survive another decade until retirement. Or at least survive while doing police work. His eyes were bloodshot from lack of sleep, his stomach protested each time he poured another cup of coffee into it, he had a headache that showed no signs of letting up despite the Excedrin he’d been downing on a regular basis since Saturday, and his throat was sore and scratchy from multiple briefings and phone conversations.

        As the sun came up on Monday morning they were no closer to finding Olivia Sheridan and John Gage than when it had set on Sunday night. If nothing else they now knew who had the pair, or at least had a strong suspicion as to who had them, but the main problem was that the man’s identity was still an unknown.

        By eight a.m. Station 51 was filling up with law enforcement officials, a TV news crew, and the DeSoto family. Troy scanned the crowd, but didn’t see Wendy or Joanne DeSoto this morning. He’d overheard the women say they were going to give some limited hours to their jobs this week, despite the fact Troy was certain they would both have been granted a leave of absence had they requested it. But, Troy didn’t fault them for trying to juggle their commitments to their jobs and their families. After all, wasn’t that what women had been doing ever since they’d entered the work force in record numbers back in the 70’s? Plus, Troy knew that in many ways, they were better off at work. What could they do here that hadn’t already been done except wait and worry, like Chris, Jennifer, and Roy were currently doing.

        It was after eleven o’clock on Sunday night before Jennifer had consented to going home with her brother and sister-in-law. Brittany and Madison DeSoto remained in Santa Barbara in the care of their maternal grandparents, and would until Chris and Wendy felt it was safe for them to return home, meaning Chris’s house was a quiet haven for Jennifer right now. She was back at Station 51 with Chris at seven on Monday morning. She didn’t look to be in any better shape than Troy himself was. She was pacing the floor with a Styrofoam cup of coffee in her hands while never taking her eyes from Trevor Gage. The boy had arrived that morning holding onto Roy DeSoto’s right hand, while carrying a shopping bag filled with snacks, games, and toys that had been brought from the DeSoto home in his left hand. Whatever had transpired between Roy and Trevor overnight had evidently been positive. Trevor was now very much at ease with the man he called Uncle Roy, and openly affectionate towards him. That affection on Trevor’s part was returned in kind by DeSoto. Jennifer seemed to take comfort in the boy’s presence, though whether that was because he reminded her of John Gage, or because being near such a happy child brought her some kind of peace where thoughts of her own daughter were concerned, Troy wasn’t certain.

        At eight-thirty an e-mail arrived for Troy from Carl Mjtko that had a picture attachment. Troy printed the color picture out, then walked it across the engine bay to where the DeSotos were seated.

        “Here, Jennifer. This will be shown on the news broadcasts along with the photo of Libby we’ve shown previously.”

        “Poppy!” Trevor cried when the picture was laid in the center of the table.

        The photo of John Gage was taken at the Eagle Harbor Fire Department just one month earlier. Though it only showed him from the ribcage up, you could tell he was seated at a desk.

        “Carl said this was taken about four weeks ago in John’s office for the Police and Fire Commissions’ Annual Report booklet.”

        Jennifer smiled as she studied the picture. She’d often heard women say, with considerable envy, that men aged well. In John Gage’s case she’d have to agree. Though her love for the man had never gone beyond the innocence of a little girl’s crush, and in later years really was the type of love a niece would have for a favorite uncle, she couldn’t deny that he was a very handsome man. Even handsomer than he had been in his younger days now that his boyish good looks had given way to a more mature appearance.

        “Except for the short hair he looks the same,” Chris said as he peered over his sister’s elbow. “A little gray around the temples, a few lines around the eyes, but pretty much the same.”

        “He looks like his father.” Roy flipped the picture around to see Johnny grinning up at him in a way that was so familiar it immediately erased fifteen long years of separation. “He looks just like Chad did the first time I met him.”

        Trevor hiked himself to his knees on his chair and leaned across the table. “When was that, Uncle Roy?”

        “When was what, Trev?”

        “The first time you met my Grandpa Chad?”

        Roy didn’t go into any details surrounding that first meeting, but simply said, “Oh, about twenty-two years ago.”

        “A long time then, huh?”

        Roy smiled while giving Trevor a pat on the back. “Yes. A long time.” He looked over at his son and daughter, suddenly seeing the children they had been. He remembered the enormous pride he’d felt over all they’d done to keep Johnny alive, and the enormous gratitude he’d felt for all Johnny had done in an effort to keep Jennifer from her attacker’s clutches. “Though in some ways, Trev, it seems like yesterday.” Roy looked back down at the picture of the man who appeared to be almost as lean as he had been the last time Roy had seen him, then at his own slight paunch. “I’ll be darned, but he hasn’t gained more than a few pounds either. And those were pounds he needed to gain. ”

        Chris and Jennifer chuckled at their father’s remark.

        “But he eats a lot,” Trevor contributed.

        Roy shook his head. “I’m sure he does. He always did. That’s what makes it even more disgusting to an overweight grandpa like me.”

        “You’re not fat, Uncle Roy. I think you’re just right the way you are.”

        “Well, thank you,” Roy said as he pulled the child to him in a side-ways hug. “Thank you very much.”

        Jennifer and Chris exchanged glances. They were both happy to see that Uncle Johnny’s son had won their father’s heart, and won it in a very large way, because God knew the boy had certainly won their hearts, and their mother’s heart as well.

        Thirty minutes later Jennifer was making another impassioned plea in front of a TV camera for her daughter’s safe return. This plea was slightly different; however, from the previous plea taped on Saturday morning. This plea included asking for the safe return of John Gage as well, and was directed at the man FBI Agent Quinn Dailey was certain had the fire chief and Roy DeSoto’s granddaughter.

        At sixty-one years old Dailey could now be resting on his laurels, enjoying his government pension while sunning himself on a Florida beach. But he wasn’t interested in resting on his laurels, nor working on his tan. He still lived in northern Virginia, where winters could be cold and snowy, and was now the head of the Bureau’s Child Abduction And Serial Killer Unit, or CASKU. Dailey had been after the man known only as the Kankakee Killer for thirty years now. What he knew about the man based on past profiles done he’d already shared with Troy Anders. IQ in the genius range. Unmarried. No immediate family to tie him down which, in part, contributed to his mobility. Endless money. Or at least that last was an assumption based on the ease this man had in hiding himself.

        “He’s smart, and he’s wealthy,” Quinn had told Troy while they rode together from the airport in Troy’s car on Sunday night. “Actually, he’s very smart and very wealthy. Two deadly combinations as we’ve seen proven time and time again where he’s concerned.”

        Agent Daily wrote the statement Jennifer gave to the press. “We’re going to feed his ego, Doctor DeSoto. This guy gets a natural high from believing he’s smarter than everyone else. From believing he’s outwitted the law all these years. His ego will cause him to make a mistake if we play our cards right. It happened twenty-two years ago, and we can make it happen again.”

        “What do you mean it happened twenty-two years ago?” Jennifer asked.

        “We’ve always surmised he spent many hours up in those woods watching you that weekend you were camping with your brother and John Gage. He decided he had to have you, and that he wasn’t leaving that mountain without you. He never anticipated how hard Mr. Gage was going to fight to keep you from him. He never anticipated that Mr. Gage would be willing to die in order to keep you free from harm. You were the first victim, and as far as we know the last victim, he ever tried to kidnap while being fully aware an adult was right next to her. When he wasn’t successful he left behind three very important things.”

        “What were those?”

        “Witnesses, Jennifer. You, your brother, and John Gage. As a result of that we at least had a face to put to the crime. Now, because of Mr. Gage’s son and that old picture, we know who has your daughter.”
        “We know who has her, but will we get her back? Her and Uncle Johnny both?”

        The agent had nodded as he vowed, “I’ll do everything in my power to make that happen. I’ve got a score. . .a very old score, to settle with this bastard. I want him, Jennifer. Believe me, before I turn in my badge and start collecting my pension, I’m going to get his guy.”

        Jennifer heard the commitment in the man’s tone, and had no doubts that he’d go to his grave trying to keep the promise he’d just made to her. But Quinn Dailey had been after the Kankakee Killer for thirty years. If he hadn’t caught the man by now, what guarantee did any of them have that event would ever come to pass?

        As the morning wore on Quinn and Troy sat at a far table quietly discussing how Scott Monroe had played into this case. They immediately drew several conclusions, the first being that it was a convenient coincidence that Monroe’s unstable mind had evidently fixated on Olivia Sheridan. Whether he would have actually carried a crime out against the girl neither of them could guess. Based on what Monroe’s counselor had discovered when Scott’s room was searched, they knew the man hadn’t been taking his medication in the dosages he should have. It still remained somewhat of a mystery as to how the real abductor of Libby and John Gage knew to use Monroe as a red herring, though Dailey suspected he’d hacked into police files in some way, and had several experts from the Bureau’s Electronics Crime Division going over the LAPD’s computer files with painstaking precision.

        “So you suspect it was him. . .the Kankakee Killer. . .God, I hate that name, - who was sending the e-mails to Chris DeSoto all along?” Troy asked.

        “Yes, I do.”
        Troy nodded. He now suspected the same thing. Detective Anders’ suspicions were confirmed at ten-thirty that morning when he received a phone call. He turned his back on those in the room. When he hung up five minutes later he looked at Quinn Dailey. Quietly, he said, “They found Monroe’s body. He’d been shot once in the head and stuffed behind a Dumpster in an alley five miles from where he’d gone to interview for a job. When an old woman who was taking her trash out noticed a smell she thought was a little stronger than normal garbage, she looked behind the Dumpster and saw him.”

        “How long has he been dead?”

        “Until the autopsy is done they can only speculate, but a doctor from the Medical Examiner’s office is guessing since around eleven on Wednesday morning.”

        “The same day he disappeared.”

        “And the same day Chris received his first e-mail. Only Chris’s e-mail came in at what time?”

        “Three o’clock in the afternoon.”

        “So if Monroe was killed on Wednesday morning, then as I’ve suspected all along, he didn’t send that e-mail.”

        “No, he didn’t.”

        “Which means?” Roy asked from across the room.

        “Which means, Mr. DeSoto, that the man we’re looking for is just as intelligent and cunning as I’ve always thought. But, as soon as he sees Jennifer on the news broadcasts, he’ll realize we know who really has Libby and Mr. Gage.”

        “And is that good or bad?”

        “It’s good. Believe me, it’s good. You see, to him this is all a game. Now the stakes have been raised. He’ll realize Monroe is no longer that ‘red herring.’ When that old sketch of his face appears on TV, he’ll know it’s him we’re looking for. And that’s when he’ll quite likely get careless.”

        Roy wanted to say, “Or maybe not. He’s outwitted you for this long, what’s going to prevent him from killing Libby and Johnny, and then going on to outwit you for years to come?” But because Trevor and Jennifer were hanging onto every word of this conversation, Roy simply nodded his head. He looked at his children and John Gage’s little boy, while doing his best to smile.
        “It’ll be okay,” Roy assured. “I know things will be okay. I know Libby and Johnny will be returned to us safe and sound.”

        God, Roy hated a liar. Even more so when the liar was himself.


        Dixie McCall sat alone in the nurses’ lounge eating a sandwich and drinking a cup of coffee while watching the twelve o’clock news. The lead story was about Libby and Johnny. The nurse glanced up when the door opened. She arched an eyebrow at Kelly Brackett. It wasn’t often that the hospital administrator had time to visit this lounge on the ER floor.

        “I thought I might find you here,” Kel said as he poured himself a cup of coffee and then moved to sit with Dixie at the table. Brackett was still the same self-assured, confident man he had been when he was head of the emergency room twenty-five years ago. The only things the passage of time had brought him was some gray hair, a collection of expensive suits, a large salary, and the stress that came with managing an entire hospital, as opposed to just one department within it. “Anything new on Libby and Johnny?”

        “Not much. There was a breaking story about Scott Monroe a few minutes ago. They found his body in an alley. Evidently he’d been murdered. But other than that they haven’t said anything we didn’t learn yesterday after Trevor arrived at. . .”

        Dixie let her sentence trail off as she and Kel watched the tape of Jennifer pleading with her daughter’s kidnapper to release Libby and John Gage.

        Libby’s picture flashed on the screen for several long seconds, then Johnny’s. Johnny’s picture stayed there while the anchorman’s voice filled the viewing audience in on who he was, his past connection to the alleged assailant, and why law enforcement officials surmised the same man who attacked John Gage in 1978 had recently kidnapped him from his home in Eagle Harbor, Alaska, and then kidnapped Olivia Sheridan from a sidewalk in her grandparents’ neighborhood.

        When the portion of the news devoted to Johnny and Libby came to an end Dixie aimed the remote control at the TV and shut it off. She pushed the remainder of her sandwich aside, no longer interested in eating. Brackett studied her a moment, then said in reference to the photograph that had been shown, “Johnny looks good.”

        “Yes,” the nurse nodded while gazing down at the black liquid in her cup. “The years have been kind to him. Shorter hair. . .as hard as that is to believe considering how obsessed he was with keeping it long. A little gray. A. . .maturity about his features that wasn’t there the last time I saw him, but he’s still sporting that same old grin that tells me he’s up to no good.”

        Kelly smiled. “I hope he never loses that grin. Every time I think of him, he’s wearing it.”

        “I know what you mean.” Dixie brought her eyes to the man’s. “You’re proud of him, aren’t you?”

        “Very. Considering what Trevor told me yesterday about Johnny’s job responsibilities in Eagle Harbor that makes him the only one of our paramedics from the class of ‘71 who’s still working in the field. You know what they say, Dix, it’s a young man’s job. Or more politically correct these days, a young person’s job. Most of our paramedics leave the program by the time they’re thirty-five. The stress, the erratic hours, the mediocre pay. . .all contribute to them moving in other directions within the fire department, or resigning from the department altogether to pursue other career paths. To know that Johnny, in his capacity as fire chief, is still a practicing paramedic. . .well, it means a lot to me. He and Roy were our best team. We’ve said that time and time again. Remember the last day they worked together before Roy started his new position as captain. . .the little party we had here for them in this very lounge?”
        “I do. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house, including theirs.”

Brackett nodded. “It was a difficult day for all of us. After the party had wound down Johnny and I stood over in that corner talking.” The man pointed to a far corner next to the soda machine. “He told me he wouldn’t stop being a paramedic until he retired. I told him I didn’t believe that. That eventually he’d move on to bigger and better things. He simply shook his head and said, “Doc, there’s nothing bigger and better than this. Nothing.”

        “He loved the work,” Dixie said. “More so than Roy even. It doesn’t surprise me to discover he’s found a way to move up within a fire department, while still being able to use the skills you taught him almost thirty years ago now.”

        “We taught him, Dix.”

        “Okay. We taught him.” Dixie reached a hand across the table. Kelly met it halfway with one of his own. When their hands clasped, Brackett gave the woman’s a light squeeze. “What are the chances they’ll find Johnny and Libby alive, Kel? What are the changes they’ll get away from this guy?”

        Brackett shrugged. “I don’t know, Dix, but I’ll tell you this. If that guy had kidnapped any other man but John Gage, I’d say the chances are slim to none. But Johnny. . .well, if he’s still ‘our Johnny,’ which I suspect a good deal of him is, then he’s just unorthodox enough, and enough of a free spirit, to somehow get himself and Roy’s granddaughter to safety.”
        “The last time this happened, and he got Jennifer to safety, it almost killed him.”

        “You’re right, it did. I hope it doesn’t come to that this time, but if it does, you know the staff at this hospital will do everything in our power to get him through whatever injuries may bring him to us.”

        “If he gets out alive this time,” came Dixie’s grave reminder.

        The administrator nodded. “You’re right, Dix. If he gets out alive.”

        Brackett gave the woman’s hand a final squeeze before he stood to exit the room. Dixie was left with his coffee cup to wash as well as her own, which seemed to be the story of her life around this hospital. Today she didn’t silently complain, however. Instead, she used the quiet time in front of the sink to pray for John Gage and Libby Sheridan.

Chapter 23

        Joanne DeSoto arrived at the paramedic training station at one o’clock that afternoon with a mini-van full of pizzas. The hungry volunteers, cops, and FBI agents were grateful for the hot food. It took all Joanne’s persuasive skills as a mother to get Jennifer to eat a few bites of one piece. Jennifer was a thin woman to begin with, and didn’t need to lose any weight. Joanne was certain her daughter had shed several pounds since this ordeal began. She didn’t want to see her shed any more.

        Like the previous day, Roy and Joanne left with Trevor in tow at four o’clock. By then Wendy had arrived from work, and quietly promised Joanne she’d do her best to get Jennifer to come home with her and Chris by six.

        “Jenny needs a night of decent rest,” Joanne quietly told her daughter-in-law. “I hope she’ll take the tranquilizer Doctor Morton prescribed for her so she can sleep.”

        “She wouldn’t last night,” Wendy said. “I heard her walking the floor in the guest room until I got up to get ready for work. But maybe I can convince her to take a dose this evening. Chris is going to make a home cooked meal for us. He says he’s tired of all this take-out stuff we’ve been having since Friday. I’m hoping we can get Jen to eat, then go to bed.”

        “I hope you can, too, sweetheart. Thank you.” Joanne gave her daughter-in-law a firm hug. “I don’t know what we’d do without you, Wendy.”

        Wendy returned the hug, then laid a light hand on Joanne’s arm as they broke apart. “You and Dad try to get some sleep, too.”

        “We will. I slept on and off last night. It wasn’t nearly as much as I need, but at least it was a couple hours here and there.”
        “What about Dad?” Wendy said, as she glanced at Roy who was helping Trevor put the Sorry game pieces back in their box.

        “He didn’t sleep at all. He came to bed for a while sometime around ten-thirty or so, but he tossed and turned until he finally got back up at midnight. He went to the living room and tried to read, but I don’t think he had any success in keeping his mind on his book. I found him early this morning in the computer room going through the photo albums.”

        “What was he looking at?”

        “Pictures of Johnny and himself taken during the years they worked together out of this station.”

        Wendy nodded. She hadn’t known John Gage that well, but she was certainly aware of the important place he had in her husband’s heart, and in the hearts of Jennifer and John as well.

        “He and Dad were very close, weren’t they?”

        “It’s an old cliché, but I’ll use it anyway. They were like brothers. Even more so because neither of them has a brother of their own. I really think Johnny filled that void for Roy, and likewise, Roy filled it for Johnny.”

        Joanne and Roy said goodbye to their children soon thereafter, gathered up Trevor and his bag of toys, and headed for their home.

        While Trevor helped Joanne set the table and get dinner ready, Roy set the VCR to tape the six o’clock news. He wanted to see it, but he didn’t want to watch it in front of Trevor. After the boy went to bed he and Joanne would sit down together and view it. Not that Roy was expecting to learn anything he didn’t already know, but nonetheless, there was always the hope within him that something regarding this case would break wide open.

        Joanne was grateful for Trevor’s constant chatter as they worked together in the kitchen. It took her mind off darker concerns. When Brandon was so ill Joanne thought she’d learned the meaning of the phrase ‘living through hell.’ But even that, for as horrible and heartbreaking as it had been, didn’t compare to this. She wondered how long a family put their lives on hold for a missing loved one. What if Libby was never found? Did you eventually hold a memorial service so some kind of conclusion was offered to those left behind; or without a body, or proof of a death, did you go on living hour after hour with the hope that she’d one day be returned to you? Joanne couldn’t imagine how families who’d been through similar situations - the kidnapping of a child or grandchild - coped with the uncertainty. But now she was one of those families, and she had no idea how they’d cope long-term either. Eventually she and Wendy would have to return to their jobs full-time, or risk being fired. For Joanne and Roy that wouldn’t necessarily be a major hardship, especially since John was now through college. But since Wendy carried her family’s health insurance benefits it could spell financial disaster for her and Chris. Under the Family Medical Leave Act Jennifer could take as much as twelve weeks off. Between unused vacation days and sick days she’d be paid for a portion of it, but when those twelve weeks came to an end she, too, would have to return to work or face financial ruin. If Libby wasn’t found by then, or if. . .if all Jennifer was given back was the body of her eldest child, how would she survive the emotional devastation? Where would this tragedy leave her? She’d already lost one child, and been through a painful divorce as a result. Libby was Jennifer’s whole life. That little girl was the reason she’d been able to go on after Brandon’s death and Dan’s abandonment. What would this ultimately do to her?

        Joanne wiped at the tears threatening to run down her face. She knew she was only making things harder on herself by thinking ahead, but how could she not think ahead? For all they knew Johnny and Libby might already be dead. In all likelihood, they probably were.

        Joanne was startled out of her reverie when a small hand was placed a top hers.

        “Aunt Joanne, are you crying?”

        Joanne looked down at the boy standing next to her.

        “No, sweetie, I’m not. It’s just these. . .onions.”

        “But you haven’t even started chopping them yet.”

        “I know. But just standing over them like this brings tears to my eyes.”

        “Oh,” Trevor said in a tone that broadcast his disbelief. “You wanna know something?”

        “What, hon?”

        “Poppy says some of the best times he ever had were right here in this house. Your house.”


        “Really. He liked it here a lot. So ‘cause he liked it here so much, I know he’s gonna come visit you. And that means one of these days real soon he’ll walk in your front door with Libby.”

        Joanne caught Roy’s eyes as he came around the corner from the living room. By the look on Roy’s face she knew he’d heard everything Trevor had said.

        Joanne returned her attention to the child. “He will?”

        “Sure. Only well. . .maybe he’d knock first I guess.”

        Joanne smiled at the boy. “Trevor, if we see your papa and Libby coming up that sidewalk together, believe me, we won’t give them time to knock.”

        “And then can we have a party?”

        “You bet we can. We’ll have the biggest party this family has ever seen.”

        “Good. I like parties. Especially if there’s cake. Chocolate cake with chocolate frosting and lots of cold milk to wash it down with. And that’s a hint, okay?”

        Roy laughed as he picked the boy up and swung him to his hip. “Gee, I wonder why it doesn’t surprise me to find out you like chocolate cake and cold milk, young Mr. Gage?”

        “ ‘Cause those are Poppy’s favorites, too?”

        “Yes. Because those are Poppy’s favorites, too.”

        Joanne wished the homecoming would be just as Trevor described. She’d look out the front window to see Johnny and Libby running hand in hand up the sidewalk. Then they’d have a party complete with chocolate cake and cold milk. Unfortunately, her grown-up heart knew Trevor’s words were nothing but a child’s fantasy. The look on Roy’s face said he knew it as well.


        Tonight it was Roy who kept Trevor occupied after supper. Joanne found a pair of baggy-style swimming trunks in a dresser drawer that used to belong to Brandon. With the help of the drawstring at the waist, they fit the skinny, slight-framed Trevor as though they’d been made for him. Roy and Trevor went swimming in the DeSoto pool once the dishes were cleared from the table. Joanne looked out the patio doors several times to see Trevor laughing as he rode on Roy’s back in the water, his arms loosely wrapped around the man’s neck.

        After the pair entered the house and changed clothes they ate a snack, then Roy saw Trevor off to bed. Joanne listened in the hallway as her husband told Trevor a bedtime story in the form of an actual rescue he and Johnny had been on together many years ago. When Roy’s story came to an end, and it was time to tuck Trevor in and turn out the light, the boy sat up and gave Roy a long hug and then a kiss on the cheek. Joanne saw the look on Roy’s face as he returned the hug while planting a firm kiss on the top of Trevor’s head. She knew then, that what she had to tell her husband was not going to be well-received.

        Once the bedroom door was shut, and Roy and Joanne were in the living room and seated on the couch, she said quietly, “I talked to Carl while you and Trevor were in the pool. That

pilot. . .Gus Zimmerman is his name, will be here on Thursday afternoon with Clarice to pick Trevor up.”

        “He doesn’t want to go,” Roy said. “He wants to stay until they find Johnny.”

        “I realize that, Roy, but I don’t think that’s possible. Or wise.”

        “But last night you--”

        “I what? I wanted to give Trevor a home until the time came for him to return to Eagle Harbor?”

        “Yes. You fought me in regards to sending him anywhere else.”

        “I did. And with good reason. But we knew it was only going to be for a few days, honey. We knew he’d be going back to Alaska. . .and most likely without Johnny, long before either one of us was ready to see that happen.”

        “Johnny would want him to stay here.”

        “No, he wouldn’t, Roy.”

        “Yes, he would. He’d want--”

        “Roy, Carl told me that Johnny has it stated in his will that he. . .Carl and his mother, are to be Trevor’s legal guardians should anything happen to Johnny before Trevor turns eighteen. They’re the people Johnny trusts to raise his son. Therefore, in Johnny’s absence, it’s up to them to decide when Trevor should return home.”

        Roy gave a heavy sigh as he laid his head against the back of the couch. “If things had turned out differently fifteen years ago it would be us.”

        “It would be us what?”

        “We’d be Trevor’s guardians, and he could stay here until Johnny is found.”

        “Maybe. Maybe not. If things had turned out differently maybe there wouldn’t have been a Trevor. If Johnny had stayed in California, then maybe he wouldn’t have met Trevor’s mother. Things turned out. . .well, how they were supposed to, I guess.”

        Joanne barely caught the tiny nod Roy gave. She wondered how many regrets were running through his mind at this moment, but the look on his face told her it was best not to ask. They clasped hands as Roy aimed the remote at the television set. He hit the ‘play’ button, and they watched together as the six o’clock news broadcast began.


        Evan Crammer watched the six o’clock news live that evening in his hotel room. The tape of Jennifer DeSoto’s plea to him was shown again. Evan had caught it at noon as well, along with the report that Scott Monroe’s body had been found. Money could buy Evan anything, even another man’s abduction and murder. He had known Monroe’s body would be found eventually. Of course, he hadn’t anticipated that they’d figure out quite this soon that Monroe had nothing to do with the disappearance of Libby Sheridan and John Gage, but thanks to Gage’s son, they had.

Evan leaned back against the pillows on his bed, laughing at the old picture they were showing of him. He didn’t look much like that sketch now, so he had to give the Gage kid credit for his sharp eye.

        “I probably should have killed the little bastard while I had the chance, but what the heck, I like a smart kid. Smart and polite. You’ve done a good job with the boy, Fire Chief Gage.”

        When the news ended Evan pushed himself to his feet and shuffled into the bathroom. Despite the fact that he’d slept most of the day he was tired. That scuffle with Gage the night before had taken more out of Evan than he wanted to admit. He looked at the pill bottles lined up on the counter, checked his watch, then reached for the medications it was time for him to take.

        In large part Evan’s one hundred pound weight loss over the past two years came as a result of his illness. Cancer was cruel. She didn’t care who she took, or how young you were when she struck. Evan had the money for the best possible care. He’d gotten it, too, at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. But shortly before the new year began it became evident that the treatments holding Evan’s cancer at bay would not keep him alive indefinitely. He’d undergone three surgeries to remove growths from his liver and intestines. He’d undergone multiple chemotherapy treatments as well. For a while, he was better. He grew stronger, and it appeared as though he had the Big C, as John Wayne used to refer to it, licked. But then it came back last December, and Evan was told he might live a year at the outside. Rather than mourning the loss of his life at an early age, Evan had gone home and immediately started plotting the revenge he had for so long wanted to put into action. If Evan was dying, then sure as hell John Gage would beat him to death’s doorstep.

        Evan downed four pills with a glass of water. It was all just a game really. And it sure had been fun. For over thirty years now he’d outsmarted everyone from small town cops, to big city police detectives, to the infamous Quinn Dailey. Evan knew full well he’d go to his grave with secrets. Those secrets contained little girls’ names, and burial locations, and the what’s, where’s, and why’s he’d never reveal to anyone. It would drive Dailey nuts knowing that, in the end, Evan Crammer had come out on top.

        The man pondered the news broadcast as he walked back into the main room of this old Howard Johnson’s motel - or ‘Motor Inn’ as its aging sign out front read. Certainly he could afford far better, but he’d learned over the years that the staff of motels like this one asked few questions of a person passing himself off as the proverbial traveling salesman. They didn’t find it strange that he kept odd hours, they didn’t pay attention to his comings and goings, they were simply happy to get his cash. He always made certain his room was on the ground floor and in a far corner. The nice thing about a motel was the separate outside entrance each room contained. Evan didn’t have to walk through a lobby when he left after dark, or returned during the early morning hours.

        Evan sat on the edge of his bed and rubbed a hand over his aching stomach. It was the cancer growing. He swore he could feel it getting bigger by the second. He hated to see his game of cat and mouse come to an end so soon, but he had to finish Gage off while he still had the strength. Evan knew exactly where he was going after Gage was dead. There was a beautiful little spot on Reindeer Lake up in Manitoba, Canada, where he’d purchased a log cabin. After he’d killed John Gage, Evan would return to his cabin and wait to die. He wasn’t afraid of death. Or at least he wouldn’t be once everything he needed to accomplish was finished.

        The man thought of Olivia Sheridan next. It’s too bad that his illness, and evidently his medications, had taken away his desire for little girls. Or maybe he was just getting old and soft-hearted. God knew she was a beautiful child, just like her mother had been. But really, what use did he have for her? He should probably kill her tonight and get it over with. Wouldn’t that act alone totally destroy Gage? Evan smiled briefly at the thought, yet a John Gage who had no desire to live, who wasn’t willing to put up a fight, sure wasn’t going to be much fun. Actually, Evan had a better idea. His research had given him a vast amount of knowledge about Gage’s personal life. He knew Gage had long been on the outs with his best friend, the man who was Libby’s grandfather. Evan knew Gage would fight for Libby Sheridan’s life, but would he fight for Roy DeSoto’s?

        Mmmmm, interesting thought.

Evan sat on his bed another hour putting his newest plan into motion. Then he walked over to the laptop sitting on the room’s desk and accessed his e-mail program. He typed a message, then saved to his draft folder. Within twenty-four hours he’d send it, and shit, would Quinn Dailey look like a fool.


Part 5