Six Years Ago
A police officer stopped in front of the leather reading chair. The man seated there hung his head, his body angled forward in the seat. All he saw was the worn carpet and the police officer’s polished black boots.
“Donovan?” The cop cleared his throat. “Mr. Glass, there’s a federal agent asking for you outside.” Glass, a slender man hanging onto his late thirties by a fingernail, was no stranger to the worst kinds of tragedies, the ones from which people didn’t normally bounce back. When he raised his attention to the officer, his red, puffy eyes looked lost.
“Who is it? Ted Marshall? Mike Klein? Jordan Hawthorne?”
The cop cleared his throat again before nodding. “Special Agent Klein, Chicago Bureau. You want to talk to him?”
The words took a while to sink in. After a couple of seconds, Donovan Glass blinked his red eyes and then nodded. Did he have an option?
“Okay, but you have to meet with him outside. Can’t have the scene contaminated more than it already is.”
After a delay, Glass nodded again. He understood. He wasn’t a stranger to tragedy.
* * *
The Glass house was a two-story home on N Williamson Ave, a dead-end street in Oak Park. Not a bad street, although the apartment buildings a few lots down tended to get rowdy on Friday nights and especially over the long weekends. A few weeks ago, a police SWAT team had parked at the end of the street and stormed into a home a couple of blocks east, but it hadn’t affected the Williamson crew. In fact, the convoy of police cars and the Cook County Medical Examiner parked outside the Glass residence was the most action Williamson Ave had seen in awhile.
When Donovan stepped out of his house and onto the front porch, he noticed some of his neighbors standing in the gaslight from the street lamps on the other side of the street. He made eye contact, but looked away when they waved.
“Everything okay, Donovan?” Ray, one of the neighbors, asked as he shuffled from side to side, rose up on his tippy-toes as if to see if he could catch a glimpse of blood or gore, maybe even a body bag.
Raising his hand in a show of agreement, Donovan stepped off the front porch, walked past the uniformed cop standing on guard and noticed Mike Klein under the tree. He was a smoker, fifty years old and in great shape. Still, he smoked which turned his skin pale.
Turning his attention, Mike gave Donovan an upward nod. He exhaled a cloud of cigarette smoke. “Glass.”
They shook hands.
“Let me guess, you were in the neighborhood?” Donovan asked, the fake grin melting off his lips.
“Something like that.” A long suck of smoke from his cigarette before he held it in and gave a nod toward the house. “Ellie, huh?”
Donovan started with a nod, but ended up erupting into tears. They poured out of his eyes, the pain pushing up his throat and escaping in a high-pitched choking sound. Mike Klein exhaled, shook his head, and pulled Donovan into an embrace with his free arm.
“Shhh,” Klein said, his eyes twisting into a tortured frown. He patted Donovan’s back. “It’s alright.”
Catching his breath, Donovan stepped out of Klein’s hold. He wiped his face and shook his head. “This is what I came home to.”
Another upward nod from Klein. “Those aren’t the kinds of things that should get you out of the house these days, Glass.”
Knowing where Klein was headed with the conversation, Donovan snapped his pointer finger out, aiming straight at the agent’s chest. “You gave us nothing, Klein. Almost a decade later, and you, Marshall, and Hawthorne and gave us nothing.” He nearly spat the words as he rotated his accusatory finger toward the house. “That’s on you. Amelia’s on you, all of that nothing you offered us, and this is what happens.”
“What were you really doing in Detroit, Glass?” Klein asked, his voice stern.
Raising his eyebrows in a plea, Donovan stared straight into the federal agent’s soul. “You stripped away the last of our hope, Klein. Did you think this would end any other way?”
Agent Mike Klein flicked his half-smoked cigarette onto the grass and smothered it with the sole of his shoe. His jaw muscles flexed as he slapped Donovan’s arm away and brought his face closer. “I promised that I’d find your daughter, goddammit.”
Donovan’s eyes filled again. “And so did Jordan and Ted!” This time, when the tears dropped down his face, they did so with the same rumble of anger that had erupted with his words. “She’s been missing nine years, Klein. And now, she’s probably…” He couldn’t finish. Staring down at his feet, Donovan spun away from the agent and started back up toward the house.
* * *
Three days later, the upstairs bathroom sparkled. Removing the latex cleaning gloves from his swollen hands, Donovan stared at the tub from the doorway. That was where he’d found his wife, nearly twenty-four hours after she’d cut her wrists in a vile and horrific display of human rage and grief. She’d bled everywhere while he was out; one wrist, the one inside the tub, had discolored the water while the other wrist dangled over the edge and bled out onto the cold tiles. His wife’s life had pooled onto the floor before crawling into the grooves and wandering through the pathways between those tiles. He’d had to use bleach to scrub the red tint out of the grout.
Although Donovan hadn’t heard the footsteps creeping up the stairs and into the hallway behind him, he recognized the gruff, smoker’s voice.
“Walk me through the scene, Glass.” It was Klein.
“Just in the neighborhood again?” Donovan didn’t even bother to turn around.
“Just me and you, pal. No locals to give me that look that asks me to go away.”
“No smoking in the house.” Klein reeked, a smell that contended with the sting of bleach.
Donovan grunted, wiped a finger across his upper lip and pointed at the tub. “Why do people slice themselves up in the tub, Klein?”
The federal agent stepped past Donovan and stopped just inside the doorway. There was a baby blue toilet on the wall to the right, next to a laminate vanity with a matching blue sink. The soaker tub would’ve been fashionable, except its blue veneer made it too old to be retro. Small space, but it had served the Glass family well. Even before Elizabeth had been abducted, the house worked well for a young family of three. The teenage years might’ve complicated things a little, would’ve forced a bathroom schedule upon the trio, but there was a stand-up shower in the basement and a two-piece on the main floor. It would have worked, and if it hadn’t, they would have moved someplace bigger.
“Donovan.” Klein was snapping his fingers in front of Donovan’s nose. “I know it’s tough, but what else can you tell me? What time did you get home, anything else that stands out in here, that sort of thing.”
Donovan nodded, the questions too familiar from nearly a decade prior. “It was four-thirty when I got home form Detroit. Where’s Jordan? He used to come around a lot.”
Klein swallowed and looked away, running a finger along the countertop. “Agent Hawthorne is no longer with the Bureau, Donny. Now, let’s focus on the scene, okay? Tell me about the Detroit trip, before the Wayne County boys put your fun to an end.”
Swallowing the dryness in his throat, Donovan gave a nod. “Left at nine the day before, drove straight there.”
“Myself. I was by myself. And there was no fun.” He shook his head, frowning and looking away. The agent placed a hand on his shoulder, but Donovan shrugged it away. He didn’t want Klein’s empathy; the whole thing with Detroit pissed him off. Maybe that was what Klein wanted, so he nodded at the tub again. “Got home at four-thirty, and she was in here, already dead.” He explained how he’d found her, the bit about one arm in the tub, the other dangling over the edge, the blood on the floor. “And a few tea candles, all of them burnt out by the time I got here.” He nodded at the vanity. “Pictures of Elizabeth, one of her tutus—I mean, one of her teddy bears.”
Another difficult swallow. Donovan nodded. “I can’t blame her, Klein.”
The agent reached inside his suit jacket and produced a pack of cigarettes.
“No smoking in the house.”
Klein grinned as he pushed the cigarettes back into the pocket, and Donovan wanted to punch him in the face. “What do you mean, you ‘can’t blame her’?”
“Not for killing herself, that was just another bad decision on her part. But for wanting her daughter with her when she died.” Donovan choked on the last word. There’d been so many nights in the years since his daughter’s abduction that he and Amelia would reminisce about the nights she would squeeze into their bed and rub their backs, or forearms, soothe them back to sleep before they could drag her back to her own bedroom, just down the hall. “She wanted to feel those nights again,” Donovan said, except he hadn’t explained to Klein what “those nights” had meant to his dead wife.
Still, Klein nodded, turning his face away from Donovan as he surveyed the small bathroom. After a brief silence, Klein pointed to the tub, and then to the vanity. When he turned his attention to Donovan, his chin looked heavy, numb.
“Suicides like these, the vic’s sending a message, Glass.” He gave a nod that said he was one-hundred percent certain about it, too. “You were out, chasing down a lead about Elizabeth that got you arrested, and your wife’s in here thinking she’s a lot closer to finding your daughter than you are.”
It came two days after his missing daughter’s twenty-third birthday—the knock that changed Donovan Glass’s life forever. His front door. It was a heavy knock for ten o’clock in the morning, loud enough to distract him from the newspaper he was reading in the kitchen, at the back of the house.
Placing his reading glasses on the breakfast bar, where he ate most of his meals these days, Donovan tucked in his plaid shirt and made sure the zipper of his jeans was drawn shut. Pushing into the second half of his mid-forties by now, he was old enough that he didn’t always check those things before going out, but he was still young enough to remember to check at all.
At the front door, he glanced through the peephole and discovered a young woman with purple hair. She wore glasses and had a pierced nose, a classy diamond stud that could be easily overlooked.
The young woman seemed anxious, shifting from one foot to the next on the front porch. When she turned her attention back to the door, Donovan unlatched the lock and pulled the heavy slab open. He even tried to smile, but the sudden motion of that door swinging open had startled the young, purple-haired woman, and he felt that smiling at this point might come across as creepy.
“I’m sorry,” Donovan said. “I didn’t mean to scare you.”
She blinked hard and seemed to assess him. It took a long time.
She held out her hand, and Donovan noticed that it held a trembling cup of Barney’s specialty coffee.
She nodded, pushed the cup toward Donovan’s hands, so he took it.
“So can I, uh, help you?”
The young woman eyed the coffee. “It’s a dry, double-espresso cappuccino. Lactose-free milk,” she said, and her voice came out as choppy, possibly rugged from nervousness. “They don’t sell the butterfly cookies anymore, haven’t in years.”
The mention of his preferred espresso drink was surprising all by itself, but the butterfly cookies set him off, and the cup began trembling in Donovan’s grip just like it had in hers. He used his other hand to steady the shaking, and then he scrutinized the young woman. Before he could say anything, she took a deep breath and stared right back into his eyes with an apologetic stubbornness in her gaze. It didn’t last long. Her lips quaked and she stared down at her feet. Her shoulders hunched forward, and Donovan watched her nostrils flare.
“I’m sorry, Mr. Glass, but Lizzy—Elizabeth—your daughter, she’s dead.”
Donovan’s stare jumped from the young woman to the Barney’s cup. When he removed the steadying hand, he noticed that the cup no longer trembled. Moving his attention back to the young woman on his porch, Donovan understood that his heart ached for her, for the pain this visit must have caused her in spite of all the preparation she’d done.
“Who are you?” Donovan asked, his voice coming out hoarse and raw. As much as he’d feared this day would come, shouldn’t Special Agent Klein or Marshall be the ones telling him about his daughter’s death?
When the young woman looked up, Donovan saw that she’d been crying; her eyeliner had smeared across her cheeks. “My name is Monica Russell. I was your daughter’s last friend.” Her nostrils flared as she wrestled her own demons. “I promised her I would come and tell you about how she lived…and died.”
The cup in his hand began shaking again, but he didn’t drop it. Instead, his knees gave out, and Donovan Glass, a true grown man at forty-five years of age, collapsed in front of a young woman that looked more like a punk-band groupie than a friend to his dead daughter, and he sobbed into his open palms.
“Mr. Glass? I don’t mean to come across as insensitive, but do you think I can come in?”
Kneeling in the foyer, Donovan nodded, noticing Monica’s leather boots with the studs rising up the back seam as she stepped past him, tried to pick him up and move him out of the way so she could shut that door and close out the prying stares of the neighbors.
Those first impressions painted a kind image of Monica Russell, the way she eventually helped him to his feet and tossed his arm over her shoulder before walking him to his now-ratty leather reading chair in the front room.
But even then, as Donovan settled into his chair, he couldn’t help but wonder what kind of predator he’d allowed in his house.
Monica helped herself to the bottled water in the refrigerator and brewed Donovan a cup of Nespresso. For a middle-aged man whose full head had more pepper than salt, Donovan was behaving like a geriatric bum. At least, that was how he felt. Taking the Nespresso with both hands, he allowed a smile to curl onto his lips as Monica remained standing.
“Sorry about the Barney’s,” he said as he took a hesitant sip. “I know it’s not cheap.”
Twisting the cap off of the water like a brute, Monica shrugged. “Lizzy said Barney’s was your favorite.” She took a sip and placed the bottle on the coffee table that separated Donovan’s reading chair from the loveseat. Her comment about Barney’s added legitimacy to her claim about knowing his abducted daughter, being her last friend in the world before she allegedly died.
Donovan had to remind himself that nobody would know that kind of detail about his espresso preferences. Barney’s had been his Saturday morning treat with his daughter—cappuccino for him, decaf latté and a butterfly cookie for Elizabeth. He hadn’t gone back to Barney’s very often after Elizabeth went missing, and definitely never again since Amelia took her own life.
“Besides,” Monica added, snapping him out of his own thoughts, “I’m sure it was cold.”
Donovan nodded and kept smiling. As a widower, he’d become something of a recluse, captivated by his own thoughts about a hopeless death, alone. At least Amelia had known he would find her in the tub after she cut her wrists; Donovan had nobody except for the occasional friend and his brother-in-law that might stop by. It would be that friend who would detect the smell of rotting flesh once he failed to answer the door.
“This is her,” Monica said, standing at the bookshelf against the wall, her finger on one of the photos of Elizabeth. “She’s so beautiful.”
Looking up, Donovan recognized the picture. It had been taken the weekend prior to her abduction. They’d gone for a walk and stopped in front of a Frank Lloyd Wright home, right there in Oak Park and not very far from this very house. Elizabeth had asked for him to take her picture, so he obliged. She smiled, the gap between her top teeth obvious in the photo, but Elizabeth had never been self-conscious about it, not with him anyway.
“She never mentioned this day. But, man, she looks so happy here,” Monica said, moving along the shelf as if to stop the cracking in her voice. She stopped at the next photo, a school portrait. “This is the one they published in the papers.”
The papers. Of course. After Elizabeth had been kidnapped, the security officers at the Navy Pier had involved the police. A search had ensued. Press conferences a day later. Pleas, the desperate kind with sobbing parents at the podium, begging for their nine-year old daughter’s safe return.
Everyone had known about Elizabeth Glass.
And for a few weeks, everyone had looked for Elizabeth Glass. Entire neighborhoods had set out to find the missing young girl. Businesses had pledged to help fund recovery efforts. The FBI had promised to meet any ransom requests, but none were ever made.
Monica snapped her fingers, stepping toward him, getting in his face. “I said, is that an urn?”
Donovan wiped the sweat off his forehead.
“You okay?” Monica brought her smeared eyes closer to his as she frowned and scrutinized him. “You don’t look so good.”
“I’m fine.” He rose from his chair and paced.
“So, is that your wife’s urn?” It was difficult to place her tone—impatient, abrupt?
Blinking hard, Donovan turned his attention back to the bookshelf and Amelia’s polished urn with the fancy design etched into its curves. “Yes, she—”
“Killed herself,” Monica said, finishing for Donovan. “I know. That was in the papers, too. I was still a prisoner back then, so I didn’t know about it until I escaped and went through everything.”
“Was Elizabeth still alive?” Donovan cleared his throat. “Six years ago, was she with you then?”
Monica seemed to take a long time to answer. Maybe it was difficult for her, Donovan thought, maybe she hated to think about Elizabeth’s death as much as he hated to. Or maybe she was a con artist, so full of shit that she needed to think long and hard about the simplest questions so that she didn’t trip herself up.
At last, Monica gave her head a subtle shake and looked away. “She was already gone.”
Elizabeth would have been seventeen. Already gone? She hadn’t even experienced her teen years.
“I’m sorry.” She grabbed the laminated image from Amelia’s memorial service. “Your wife was pretty, Mr. Glass. I can see why they ran a story about her, not just a regular obituary.”
True. It had been more than just an obituary. The Trib had brought a bit of life back to Elizabeth’s kidnapping by covering Amelia’s suicide. That had been six years ago. In that time, Donovan had come across just one real lead, making for two leads in total over the course of fifteen years.
“You found her, didn’t you?”
Donovan nodded. That part hadn’t been in the paper, the part where he’d walked in on Amelia. “She was tired,” Donovan said, walking to the bookshelf. He felt the eyes of his daughter and wife staring at him from the photos. Six years ago, those stares had been accusatory. Now, they waited for him to do something.
“I was out the day she did it,” Donovan said, “following up on a lead. I’d spent a lot of time preparing for it, which meant Amelia had spent a lot of time planning her day alone. She didn’t believe me, but I thought I’d figured out a way to get Elizabeth back. Amelia said she was already dead.” Donovan swallowed the lump. “It sounds like a mother always knows.”
Monica nodded, sighing. “Do you still have her bedroom, Mr. Glass?”
“Bedroom?” It seemed like an odd request, the kind that aroused a bit of suspicion unless Monica was planning on summoning Elizabeth’s spirit, and Donovan simply didn’t believe in mediums, considered them frauds.
“Yes,” Monica said. “Often, parents of missing kids will keep their bedroom exactly as it was before the child disappeared. I think it’s as much an act of self-preservation as it is an effort to maintain hope and provide a familiar place for when the child returns.” Monica turned her eyes back to Donovan. “I just want to get a better feel for how my friend lived before…”
It seemed like an odd request. Looking away, Donovan shook his head. “I’m sorry. But Amelia was clearly disturbed by the abduction. It drove her nuts. So five years ago, we converted the bedroom.” He lifted his shoulders. “It was getting tired, old. We wanted something fresh, something new, so we turned it into a hobby room.”
There was something of a hesitation in Monica, but she agreed with a nod. “That was probably a smart move.”
“It was.” Except Donovan already realized that he’d screwed up. Five years ago, Amelia was dead. If Monica had picked up on it, she didn’t let on. Donovan cursed himself for the sloppy oversight, blasted himself for not paying better attention to these details. “So,” he said, “why don’t you tell me what you know about the day she was taken?”
The way Monica told the story, Donovan could almost smell the air at the Navy Pier from fifteen years ago. It was June, it was hot, and it was busy that weekend. They’d stayed hydrated, drinking water during the L-train commute into downtown. He remembered Elizabeth’s big eyes as she’d stared out the windows.
“At the end of the day, you were all going to take a second ride on the Ferris wheel, and your wife went to the bathroom,” Monica said. She was sitting now, her elbows on her knees as she leaned forward.
He nodded, remembering how Amelia had sworn that if she boarded the Ferris wheel without going to the bathroom, she’d have an unpleasant accident. So while she ran off to the women’s washroom, Donovan had dropped to one knee.
“You said now was your chance to buy the overpriced cotton candy.” Monica smiled as if she’d been there. “Her mother wasn’t a fan of the sugar, or the cost, but you had a plan. The cotton candy came in blue and pink; you’d eat the blue, and she would eat the pink. You’d share it. It would be gone before your wife returned. Of course Elizabeth agreed to it, she’d wanted a treat since she first saw the cotton candy stand.”
It was all true. Donovan didn’t know how Monica could know all of those details if she hadn’t spoken with Elizabeth. He’d taken Elizabeth’s hand and together they had walked to the cotton candy vendor. While Donovan had waited in line, Elizabeth had stepped up to the railing overlooking the water. He kept glancing back to check on her, and the last time he’d seen her, she’d hooked her arms over the top of the railing and was watching him, a big smile on her face that had melted Donovan’s heart.
“She remembered your striped shirt; cream with blue vertical lines. Some were thick, some were narrow. You had jean shorts, with a rolled-up cuff at the bottom.”
Jeez, how did she remember those details; even Donovan had forgotten about the outfit he’d worn. But now that he’d heard Monica describe the shorts and shirt, Donovan remembered them precisely.
“The last time you looked at her,” Monica went on, but now her face had gone heavy and a little pale, “you crossed your eyes and stuck your tongue out the side of your mouth. She laughed, she always laughed at how goofy you could be with her.”
Donovan felt his throat tightening. He’d known his daughter wouldn’t always appreciate his puerile tactics, but until she stopped, he’d promised himself to make her laugh at least once a day. It was more for his own sanity than for Elizabeth’s; the sound of his daughter laughter was all the medicine he’d ever need.
Monica straightened her back and swallowed what appeared to be a difficult lump. “That was when Roger grabbed her. Elizabeth was still smiling, watching you step up to the vendor to place your shared order, and then—snap. He had her and he was walking away. Not running, she said, just walking, and while she kicked and tried to scream through his big, meaty hand that he’d clasped over her mouth, she kept watching you and hoping you’d just turn around again, just take one more look and then you’d have seen her, she said, and she knew you’d have dropped everything.”
Donovan struggled to keep his composure. He’d already lost it once this morning, he didn’t want to lose it again. Wrestling the emotion, he frowned and shifted in his chair. “The other people, they probably thought she was just another brat who didn’t want to leave the Pier.”
Monica nodded, agreeing with him, and that was when Donovan realized that little responses like that would only allow her to add credibility to her claim of knowing Elizabeth. Deep down, he didn’t trust this girl, no matter what color her hair or how soft her eyes, or how much detail she added to a story he seemed to have half-forgotten.
“When I saw that she was gone, I panicked. She could’ve been standing right in front of me, and I wouldn’t have seen her.”
Nodding some more, Monica reached for her bottle of water and took a sip. She seemed to struggle with swallowing it. “She saw you, Mr. Glass. Saw how you stepped away from the vendor cart and just stopped dead in your tracks when you realized she was gone. She said you ran to the railing and looked over, as if you thought she’d fallen into the water. You called her name a couple of times, then interrupted a couple at the railing, but they weren’t standing there when Elizabeth was watching you.”
Shaking his head, Donovan admitted, “Nobody saw anything.”
“Because they hadn’t,” Monica said.
“What else did she say?” He wanted to hear more.
“She watched the panic twist your face and swore you’d made eye contact right before she disappeared for good. And in that passing moment, when she thought your eyes locked, all she remembered thinking was that she wasn’t going to cry, and neither should you.” Monica stopped herself and grabbed her water. Donovan noticed how her hand didn’t shake, not even slightly. She was calm and deliberate. She’d clearly rehearsed her lines a million times, probably even more. “She knew you’d miss her, but she took comfort in knowing she would see you again, Mr. Glass. You, your way with her, that gave her strength to survive everything that Roger put her through.” She paused, just long enough for a heartbeat. “And that was more than any person could ever fear.”
Right before Monica’s cell vibrated, she asked Donovan the kind of question that would normally trigger alarms. She wanted to know if he trusted her, the type of question that Donovan felt only untrustworthy people ask. If they were trustworthy, his logic suggested, they would allow their behavior to speak for itself.
Plus, he reasoned, it was one hell of a loaded question. Monica knew details that nobody but Elizabeth could’ve known. Yet, she had purple hair, black nails, dark eyeliner, and a curiosity that aligned with the checklists the local police left at senior’s homes about elder fraud.
“Of course,” he said, nodding a little too vigorously while Monica checked a message on her phone’s display. In the press release issued by the police and reiterated later by the FBI, Donovan had gone to buy ice cream for his daughter, not cotton candy. The error had been deliberate, Agent Klein had explained, and it would help them isolate true suspects once they started making arrests. Only someone at the Pier that day would know you were buying cotton candy, instead of ice cream.
“She was lactose intolerant,” Monica said midway through tapping her response, and her remark startled him.
“Pardon me?” Donovan reached for his Nespresso, but the cup was bone dry.
Placing her phone in her lap, she met his gaze. “You just said the reports were that you were buying ice cream, not cotton candy. But here’s the thing; statistically, most children are abducted by someone they know, right?”
“Ah, but Elizabeth’s case was different,” he said, his eyes narrowing. “It wasn’t a spousal dispute over custody, or anything like that. It was—”
“Different,” Monica said, cutting him off as her phone vibrated once again. She picked it up, scowled at the screen, and then returned her attention. “Anyone who knew Elizabeth would know of her intolerance. If the feds had arrested them, they’d have explained the lactose intolerance.” Now Monica returned to the phone and started tapping again.
“You said she was abducted by someone named Roger.” Donovan paused, ran some quick calculations. “I’m not related to a Roger. Not on my side, not on Amelia’s.”
“His real name probably isn’t Roger.” She was barely paying attention, too caught up in the rapid-tapping until she finally sighed and stood up. “I’m sorry, Mr. Glass, but I promised someone I would be somewhere. I have to leave, but I’ll come back tomorrow after work, I’ll tell you everything you want to know, and I bet there’s a lot. Being held captive with your daughter for all those years, we shared almost every thing.” She pushed a smile onto her face, the kind that a fraudster would give…or someone who’d indeed been subjected to the type of captivity and abuse that Monica claimed. “At least a million times.”
Watching her—do you trust me, Mr. Glass?—Donovan smiled back and walked her to the door. While she tied her leather boots with the studs up the back seam, he offered to drive her wherever she needed to be.
“Thank you,” she said, her head bent forward while she tightened her laces. “But I drove. I have my own means.” When she finished with her boots and straightened her back, Monica stood there. It became awkward; the foyer area wasn’t very big, and they’d just met, so their goodbye didn’t call for a hug.
“Thank you for stopping by,” Donovan said at last. He opened the door for her.
“I’ll be back tomorrow, I promise.”
As she skipped across the front porch and then down the stairs and across the front lawn, Donovan admitted to himself that he had some serious doubts about Monica keeping any kind of promises at all. But he stepped out behind her anyway, and watched her hurry down the sidewalk to a Ford Mustang with custom rims and tinted windows with glitter in them. It was an older model, loud, and it seemed out of character for a young woman with purple hair like Monica.
Something didn’t fit, Donovan realized. As the Mustang drove past and turned around at the end of the street, he waved and told himself he should get on the phone right away. Call Agent Klein. Tell him about this strange young woman.
But by the time he retreated into the house, locked his front door and found the agent’s business card, he knew he couldn’t hand Monica Russell over just yet. Maybe not ever. Because once he did that, he’d lose the only lifeline he had to his allegedly deceased daughter.
And, like any father, Donovan just couldn’t do that.
His inability to sleep had started after Elizabeth’s abduction. Any parent in his situation would suffer from a touch of insomnia; that he hadn’t slept a full eight hours in roughly fifteen years didn’t surprise Donovan, his friends, even his family doctor in the least. His sleeping struggles only worsened after Amelia’s suicide, and for the past six years or so, his average night consisted of two hours staring at the ceiling and unwinding, four or thereabouts hours of actual sleep, another hour of trying to get back asleep after a pee break or some impromptu noise on the street woke him up, and another hour waking up and figuring out his day.
The day he’d met Monica Russell for the first time, Donovan had slept less than two hours, and at five-thirty in the morning, he reached for the cordless phone on his end table and called Eric, Amelia’s older brother. At fifty, Eric was a partner in one of the big firms downtown. He would be awake. He would be ready to head downtown. He would agree to coffee.
“Donovan,” Eric said soon as he picked up the phone. “Everything okay?”
“Do you still hang out at the Starbucks on Randolph?”
“I will this morning. When are you leaving your place?”
“See you in twenty.”
They hung up. Donovan changed out of his starch-crisp pajamas and into a clean pair of jeans and a long-sleeved shirt, the kind with a collar and buttons up the front. Almost as professional as Eric, he assessed before heading downstairs, finding the keys to his Chevy Impala, and leaving the house.