Chapter 11

BETSY Hill watched her husband, Ron, pull his Audi into the garage. He was still such a handsome man. His salt-and-pepper hair had gone pretty much to salt, but his blue eyes, so like his dead son's, still shone and his face remained smooth. Unlike most of his colleagues he'd kept the gut off, worked out just enough, watched what he ate.

The picture she'd printed off the MySpace page sat on the table in front of her. For the past hour she had sat here wondering what to do. The twins were with her sister. She didn't want them home for this.

She heard the door from the garage open and then Ron called out, "Bets?"

"In the kitchen, honey."

Ron bounded into the room with a smile on his face. It had been a long time since she had seen him smile and as soon as she did, she slid the picture under a magazine and out of view. She wanted, even for a few minutes anyway, to protect that smile.

"Hi," he said.

"Hi, how was work?"

"Fine, good." He still smiled. "I have a surprise."


Ron came over, bent down and kissed her cheek, tossed the brochure on the kitchen table. Betsy reached for it.

"A one-week cruise," he said. "Look at the itinerary, Bets. I bookmarked the page with a Post-it note."

She turned to the page and looked down. The cruise left Miami Beach and hit the Bahamas, St. Thomas and some private island owned by the ship.

"Same itinerary," Ron said. "Exact same itinerary as on our honeymoon. The ship is different, of course. That old vessel isn't running anymore. This one is brand-new. I got the top deck too-a cabin with a balcony. I even got someone to watch Bobby and Kari."

"We can't just leave the twins for a week."

"Sure we can."

"They're still too vulnerable, Ron."

The smile started fading. "They'll be fine."

He wants this gone, she thought. Not wrong, of course. Life goes on. This was his way of coping. He wanted it gone. And eventually, she knew, he will want her gone too. He might hang on for the twins, but all the good memories-that first kiss outside the library, the overnight at the shore, the spectacular sun-drenched honeymoon cruise, scraping that horrid wallpaper off at their starter home, that time at the farmers' market when they started laughing so hard, tears ran down their faces-all of that was gone now.

When Ron sees her, he sees his dead son.


She nodded. "Maybe you're right."

He sat down next to her and held her hand. "I talked to Sy today. They need a manager at the new Atlanta office. It would be a wonderful opportunity."

He wants to run, she thought again. For now he wants her with him, but she will always bring him pain. "I love you, Ron."

"I love you too, honey."

She wanted him happy. She wanted to let him go because Ron did have that ability. He needed to run away. He couldn't face it. He couldn't run with her. She would always remind him of Spencer, of that terrible night on the roof of the school. But she loved him, needed him. Selfish or not, she was terrified of losing him.

"What do you think about Atlanta?" he asked.

"I don't know."

"You'll love it."

She had thought about moving but Atlanta was a long way to go. She had lived her whole life in New Jersey.

"It's a lot to take in," he said. "Let's take one step at a time. First the cruise, okay?"


He wants to be anywhere but here. He wants to go back. She would try, but it won't work. You can't go back. Not ever. Especially not when you have the twins.

"I'm going to go get changed," Ron said.

He kissed her cheek again. His lips felt cold. Like he was already gone. She would lose him. Might take another three months or two years, but the only man she had ever loved would eventually leave. She could feel him pulling away even as he kissed her.


He stopped with one hand on the stair's railing. When he looked back, it was as though he'd been caught, as though he'd just missed a chance to make a clean escape. His shoulders sunk.

"I need to show you something," Betsy said.

TIA sat in a Boston Four Seasons's conference room while Brett, the office computer guru, toyed with the laptop. She checked the caller ID and saw it was Mike.

"On your way to the game?"

"No," he said.

"What happened?"

"Adam's not here."

"He didn't come home at all?"

"He came home, he hung out in his room a little and then he took off."

"He left Jill alone?"


"That's not like him."

"I know."

"I mean, he's been irresponsible and all, but leaving his sister without supervision..."

"I know."

Tia thought a moment. "Did you try his cell phone?"

"Of course I tried his cell phone. How stupid do you think I am?"

"Hey, don't take this out on me," Tia said.

"Then don't ask me questions like I'm a moron. Of course I called him. I called him several times. I even left-gasp-messages for him to call me back."

Tia watched Brett pretend not to listen in. She moved away from him.

"I'm sorry," she said. "I didn't mean-"

"Me neither. We're both on edge."

"So what should we do?"

"What can we do?" Mike said. "I'll wait here."

"And if he doesn't come home?"

There was a pause.

"I don't want him at the party," Mike said.

"I agree."

"But if I go over and stop him..."

"That would be weird too."

"What do you think?" he asked.

"I think you should go over and stop him anyway. You can try to be subtle about it."

"How would that work?"

"I don't know. The party won't start for a couple of hours probably. We can think about it."

"Yeah, okay. Maybe I'll get lucky and find him before that."

"Did you try calling his friends' houses? Clark or Olivia's?"


"Right, of course you did. Should I come home?"

"And do what?"

"I don't know."

"Nothing you can do here. I got it under control. I shouldn't have even called."

"Yes, you should have. Don't try to protect me from stuff like this. I want to be kept in the loop."

"I will, don't worry."

"Call me when you hear from him."


She hung up.

Brett looked up from the computer. "Problem?"

"You were listening?"

Brett shrugged. "Why don't you check his E-SpyRight report?"

"Maybe I'll tell Mike to do that later."

"You can do it from here."

"I thought I could only get it off my own computer."

"Nah. You can access it anywhere you have an Internet connection." Tia frowned. "That doesn't sound secure."

"You still need your ID and password. You just go to the E-SpyRight page and sign in. Maybe your kid got an e-mail or something."

Tia thought about it.

Brett moved to his laptop and typed something in. He spun it toward her. The E-SpyRight home page was up. "I'm going to, like, grab a soda downstairs," he said. "You want something?"

She shook her head.

"All yours," Brett said.

He headed for the door. Tia slid into the chair and began typing. She brought up the report and asked for anything that came in to- day. There was almost nothing, just a quick instant-message conversation with the mysterious CeeJay8115.

CeeJay8115: What's wrong?

HockeyAdam1117: His mother approached me after


CeeJay8115: What did she say?

HockeyAdam1117: She knows something.

CeeJay8115: What did you tell her?

HockeyAdam1117: Nothing. I ran.

CeeJay8115: We will discuss tonight.

Tia read it again. Then she took out her cell phone and hit the speed dial. "Mike?"


"Find him. Find him no matter what."

RON held the photograph.

He stared at it, but Betsy could tell he had stopped seeing it. His body language was beyond troubling. He twitched and stiffened. He put the picture on the table and crossed his arms over his chest. He picked it up again.

"What does this change?" he asked.

He started blinking rapidly, the way a stutterer might when he's trying to get out a particularly difficult word. The sight terrified Betsy. Ron hadn't done that rapid blink in years. Her mother-in-law had explained that Ron had gotten beaten up a lot when he was in second grade and hid it from her. That was when the blink started. It had gotten better as he'd gotten older. It barely surfaced now. Even after they heard about Spencer, Betsy hadn't seen the blink.

She wished that she could take the picture back. Ron had come home and tried to reach out and she'd slapped his hand away.

"He wasn't alone that night," she said.


"Didn't you hear what I said?"

"Maybe he went out with his friends first. So what?"

"Why didn't they say anything?"

"Who knows? They were scared, maybe Spencer told them not to, or maybe, probably, you got the date wrong. Maybe he saw them briefly and then went out. Maybe this picture was taken earlier in the day."

"No. I confronted Adam Baye at school-"

"You what?"

"I waited until school ended. I showed him the photograph." Ron just shook his head.

"He ran away from me. There was definitely something there."

"Like what?"

"I don't know. But remember Spencer had a bruise by his eye when the police found him."

"They explained that. He probably passed out and fell on his face."

"Or maybe someone hit him."

Ron's voice grew soft. "No one hit him, Bets."

Betsy said nothing. The blinking got worse. Tears started spilling down Ron's cheeks. She reached for him but he pulled away.

"Spencer mixed pills and alcohol. Do you understand that, Betsy?"

She said nothing.

"Nobody forced him to steal that bottle of vodka from our cabinet. Nobody forced him to take those pills from my medicine chest. Where I left them. Just in view. We know that, right? That was my prescription bottle that, yes, I just left out. The ones I kept asking for renewals when, really, I should have been over the pain and moved on, right?"

"Ron, it's not..."

"Not what? You don't think I see it?"

"See what?" she asked. But she knew. "I don't blame you, I swear."

"Yeah, you do."

She shook her head. But he never saw it. Ron was up and out the door.