Chapter 13

NINE P.M. Darkness had fallen over the Huff house.

Mike pulled up to the curb across the street. There were lights on inside. Two cars were in the driveway. He thought about how to play this. He stayed in the car and once again tried Adam's phone. No answer. The Huffs' phone number was unlisted, probably because Daniel Huff was a cop. Mike didn't have the son, DJ's, cell phone.

There was really no choice.

He tried to think about how he could explain his being here without tipping his hand. He couldn't really think of one.

So now what?

He considered heading home. The boy was underage. Drinking was dangerous, yes, but hadn't Mike done likewise when he was a kid? There had been beers in the woods. There had been shot parties at Pepe Feldman's house. He and his friends weren't heavily into the dope scene, but he had hung out at his buddy Weed's house-clue for parents: If your kid is nicknamed "Weed," it probably has little to do with legitimate gardening-when his folks were out of town.

Mike had found his way back. Would he have grown up better adjusted if his parents just barged in like this?

Mike looked at the door. Maybe he should just wait. Maybe he should let him drink, party, whatever, and stay out here and then when he came out, Mike could watch him, make sure he was okay. That way he wouldn't embarrass him or lose his son's trust.

What trust?

Adam had left his sister alone. Adam refused to return his calls. And worse-on Mike's end-he was already spying like mad. He and Tia watched his computer. They eavesdropped in the most invasive way possible.

He remembered the Ben Folds song. "If you can't trust, you can't be trusted."

He was still debating how to play it when the Huffs' front door opened. Mike started to slide down in his seat, which truly felt foolish. But it wasn't any of the kids he saw leaving the house. It was Captain Daniel Huff of the Livingston police force.

The father who was supposed to be away.

Mike was not sure how to handle this. But it really didn't matter much. Daniel Huff paced with purpose. He paced on a straight line toward Mike. There was no hesitation. Huff had a destination in mind.

Mike's car.

Mike sat up. Daniel Huff met his eye. He did not wave or smile; he didn't frown or look apprehensive either. It might have been Mike's knowledge of Huff's occupation, but he looked to Mike very much like a cop who'd pulled him over and was keeping his face neutral so that maybe you'd just admit you'd been speeding or had a stash of drugs in the trunk.

When Huff got close enough, Mike rolled down his window and managed a smile.

"Hey, Dan," Mike said.


"Was I speeding, Officer?"

Huff smiled tightly at the poor joke. He came right up to the car. "License and registration, please."

They both chuckled, neither finding the joke particularly humorous. Huff put his hands on his hips. Mike tried to say something. He knew that Huff was waiting for an explanation. Mike just wasn't sure that he wanted to give him one.

After the forced chuckles died out and a few uncomfortable seconds had passed, Daniel Huff got to it. "I saw you parked out here, Mike."

He stopped. Mike said, "Uh-huh."

"Everything okay?"


Mike tried not to be annoyed. You're a cop, big deal. Who approaches friends on the street like this except some superior know-it-all? Then again, maybe it did seem weird to see a guy you know doing what looked like surveillance in front of your domicile.

"Would you like to come in?"

"I'm looking for Adam."

"That's why you're parked out here?"


"So why didn't you just knock on the door?"

Like he was Columbo.

"I wanted to make a call first."

"I didn't see you talking on your cell phone."

"How long were you watching me, Dan?"

"A few minutes."

"The car has a speaker phone. You know. Hands-free. That's the law, isn't it?"

"Not when you're parked. You can just put the phone to your ear when you're parked."

Mike was getting tired of this dance. "Is Adam here with DJ?"


"You're sure?"

Huff frowned. Mike dived into the silence.

"I thought the boys were meeting up here tonight," Mike said.

"What made you think that?"

"I thought that was the message I got. That you and Marge were going to be away and that they were going to meet up here."

Huff frowned again. "That I was going away?"

"For the weekend. Something like that."

"And you thought I'd allow teenage boys to spend that kind of time in this house unsupervised?"

This was not going well.

"Why don't you just call Adam?"

"I did. His phone doesn't seem to be working. He forgets to charge it a lot."

"So you drove over?"


"And sat in the car and didn't knock on the door?"

"Hey, Dan, I know you're a cop and all, but give me a break, will you? I'm just looking for my son."

"He's not here."

"How about DJ? Maybe he knows where Adam is."

"He's not here either."

He waited for Huff to offer to call his son. He didn't. Mike did not want to press it. This had gone far enough. If there had been a drink-n-drug fest planned for the Huff residence, it was off now. He didn't want to follow up anymore with this man until he knew more. Huff had never been his favorite and even less so now.

Then again, how do you explain the GPS locator?

"Good talking to you, Dan."

"Same to you, Mike."

"If you hear from Adam..."

"I'll be sure to have him call you. Have a great night. And drive safely."

" 'WHISKERS on kittens,' " Nash said.

Pietra was back in the driver's seat. Nash had her follow him for approximately forty-five minutes. They parked the minivan at a lot near a Ramada in East Hanover. When it was found, the first assumption would be Reba had vanished there. The police would wonder why a married woman was visiting a hotel lot so close to her home. They would think maybe she had a liaison with a boyfriend. Her husband would insist that it was impossible.

Eventually, like with Marianne, it might be straightened out. But it would take time.

They took the articles Reba had bought from Target with them. Leaving them in the back might give the police a clue. Nash went through the bag. She had bought underwear and books and even some old family-friendly movies on DVD.

"Did you hear what I said, Reba?" He held up the DVD case. "'Whiskers on kittens.'"

Reba was hog-tied. Her doll-like features still looked so dainty, like porcelain. Nash had taken the gag out. She looked up and groaned.

"Don't struggle," he said. "It will only make it hurt more. And you'll be doing enough suffering later."

Reba swallowed. "What... what do you want?"

"I'm asking you about this movie you bought." Nash held up the DVD case. " The Sound of Music.A classic."

"Who are you?"

"If you ask me one more question, I will start hurting you immediately. That means you will suffer more and die sooner. And if you annoy me enough, I will grab Jamie and do the same to her. Do you understand?"

The little eyes blinked as though he had reached out and slapped her. Tears sprang to them. "Please-"

"Do you remember The Sound of Music, yes or no?"

She tried to stop crying, tried to swallow the tears away.



"Yes what?"

"Yes," she managed. "I remember."

Nash smiled at her. "And the line 'whiskers on kittens.' Do you remember it?"


"Which song was it from?"


"The song. Do you remember the name of the song?"

"I don't know."

"Sure you do, Reba. Stop and think."

She tried, but fear, he knew, could have a paralyzing effect.

"You're confused," Nash said. "That's okay. It's from the song 'My Favorite Things.' Remember it now?"

She nodded. Then remembering: "Yes."

Nash smiled, pleased. " 'Doorbells,' " he said.

She looked totally lost.

"Do you remember that part too? Julie Andrews is sitting with all these children and they had nightmares or were scared of the thunder or something and she's trying to comfort them so she tells them to start thinking about their favorite things. To take their mind off the fear. You remember, right?"

Reba started crying again, but she managed a nod.

"And they sing, 'Doorbells.' Doorbells, for crying out loud. Think about that. I could probably ask a million people to list their top five favorite things in the world and not one- not one!-would say doorbells. I mean, imagine: 'My favorite thing? Well, obviously doorbells. Yes, siree, that's my very favorite. A friggin' doorbell. Yep, when I really want to get happy, when I want to get turned on, I ring a doorbell. Man, that's the ticket. You know what gets me hot? One of those doorbells that make a chiming sound. Oh, yeah, that does it for me.' "

Nash stopped, chuckled, shook his head. "You can almost see it on Family Feud, right? Top ten answers up on the board-your favorite things-and you say, 'Doorbell,' and Richard Dawson points behind him and goes, 'Survey says...' "

Nash made a buzzing noise and formed an X with his arms.

He laughed. Pietra laughed too.

"Please," Reba said. "Please tell me what you want."

"We'll get to that, Reba. We will. But I will give you a hint."

She waited.

"Does the name Marianne mean anything to you?"



"What about her?"

"She sent you something."

The look of terror multiplied.

"Please don't hurt me."

"I'm sorry, Reba. I'm going to. I'm going to hurt you very badly."

And then he crawled into the back of the van and proved good to his word.