Chapter 21

M O said, "This Huff guy's a cop, right?"


"So he won't intimidate easily."

They had already parked outside the Huff house, almost exactly where Mike had been last night before it all exploded around him. He didn't listen to Mo. He stormed toward the door. Mo followed. Mike knocked and waited. He hit the doorbell and waited some more.

No one answered.

Mike circled around back. He banged on that door too. No answer. He cupped his hands around his eyes and the window and peered in. No movement. He actually checked the knob. The door was locked.


"He's lying, Mo. "

They walked back to the car.

"Where to?" Mo asked.

"Let me drive."

"No. Where to?"

"The police station. Where Huff works."

It was a short ride, less than a mile. Mike thought about this route, the short one that Daniel Huff took pretty much every day to work. How lucky to have such a quick commute. Mike thought of the wasted hours sitting in traffic at the bridge and then he wondered why he was thinking about something so inane and realized that he was breathing funny and that Mo was watching him out of the corner of his eye.



"You got to keep your cool here."

Mike frowned. "This coming from you."

"Yep, this coming from me. You can either rejoice in the rich irony of my appealing for common sense or you can realize that if I'm ad- vocating for prudence, there must be a pretty good reason for it. You can't go into a police station to confront an officer half-cocked."

Mike said nothing. The police station was a converted old library up on a hill with horrible parking. Mo started circling for a space.

"Did you hear me?"

"Yeah, Mo, I heard you."

There were no spots in front.

"Let me circle down on the south lot."

Mike said, "No time. I'll take care of this myself."

"No way."

Mike turned to him.

"Sheesh, Mike, you look horrible."

"If you want to be my driver, fine. But you're not my babysitter, Mo. So just drop me off. I need to talk to Huff alone anyway. You'll make him suspicious. Alone I can go at him father to father."

Mo pulled to the side. "Remember what you just said."

"What about it?"

"Father to father. He's a father too."


"Think about it."

Mike felt the pain rip across his ribs when he stood. Physical pain was an odd thing. He had a high threshold, he knew that. Sometimes he even found it comforting. He liked feeling the hurt after a hard workout. He liked making his muscles sore. On the ice, guys would try to intimidate with hard hits, but it had the opposite effect on him. There was an almost bring-it-on quality that came out when he took a good hit.

He expected the station to be sleepy. He had only been here once before, to request keeping his car on the street overnight. The town had an ordinance making it illegal to park on the street after two A.M., but their driveway was being repaved and so he stopped by to get permission to keep the cars out for the week. There had been one cop at the desk and all the desks behind him had been empty.

Today there had to be at least fifteen cops, all in action.

"May I help you?"

The uniformed officer looked too young to be working the desk. Maybe this was another example of how TV shaped us, but Mike always expected a grizzled veteran to be working the desk, like that guy who told everyone "Let's be careful out there" on Hill Street Blues. This kid looked about twelve. He was also staring at Mike with undisguised surprise and pointing at his face.

"Are you here about those bruises?"

"No," Mike said. The other officers started moving faster. They handed off papers and called one another and cradled receivers under their necks.

"I'm here to see Officer Huff."

"Do you mean Captain Huff?"


"May I ask what this is regarding?"

"Tell him it's Mike Baye."

"As you can see, we are pretty busy right now."

"I do see," Mike said. "Something big going on?"

The young cop gave him a look, clearly suggesting that it was none of his concern. Mike caught snippets about a car parked in a Ramada hotel lot, but that was about it.

"Do you mind sitting over there while I try to reach Captain Huff?"


Mike moved toward a bench and sat down. There was a man next to him in a suit, filling out paperwork. One of the cops called out, "We've checked with the entire staff now. No one reports seeing her." Mike idly wondered what that was about, but only to try to keep his blood down.

Huff had lied.

Mike kept his eyes on the young officer. When the kid hung up, he looked up and Mike knew this was not going to be good news.

"Mr. Baye?"

"Dr. Baye," Mike corrected. This time maybe it would come across as arrogant, but sometimes people treated a doctor differently. Not often. But sometimes.

"Dr. Baye. I'm afraid that we are having a very busy morning. Captain Huff has asked me to assure you that he will call you when he can."

"That's not going to do it," Mike said.

"Excuse me?"

The station was pretty much open space. There was a divider that was maybe three feet high-why do all stations have that? Who is that going to stop?-with a little gate you could swing open. Toward the back, Mike could see a door that clearly said CAPTAIN on it. He moved fast, causing all kinds of new pains to sparkle across his ribs and face. He stepped past the front desk.


"Don't worry, I know the way."

He opened the latch and started hurrying toward the captain's office.

"Stop right now!"

Mike didn't think the kid would shoot, so he kept moving. He was at the door before anyone could catch up to him. He grabbed the knob and turned. Unlocked. He flung it open.

Huff was at his desk on the phone.

"What the hell...?"

The kid officer at the front desk followed quickly, ready to tackle, but Huff waved him off.

"It's okay."

"I'm sorry, Captain. He just ran back here."

"Don't worry about it. Close the door, okay?"

The kid didn't look happy about it, but he obeyed. One of the walls was windowed. He stood there and looked through it. Mike gave him a quick glare and then turned his attention to Huff.

"You lied," he said.

"I'm busy here, Mike."

"I saw your son before I got jumped."

"No, you didn't. He was home."

"That's crap."

Huff did not stand. He didn't invite Mike to sit. He put his hands behind his head and leaned back. "I really don't have time for this."

"My son was at your house. Then he drove to the Bronx."

"How do you know that, Mike?"

"I have a GPS on my son's phone."

Huff raised his eyebrows. "Wow."

He must have already known this. His New York colleagues would have told him. "Why are you lying about this, Huff?"

"How exact is that GPS?"


"Maybe he wasn't with DJ at all. Maybe he was at a neighbor's house. The Lubetkin boy lives two houses down. Or maybe, heck, he was at my house before I got home. Or maybe he just hung out nearby and thought about going in but changed his mind."

"Are you serious?"

There was a knock on the door. Another cop leaned his head in. "Mr. Cordova is here."

"Put him in room A," Huff said. "I'll be there in a second."

The cop nodded and let the door close. Huff rose. He was a tall man, hair slicked back. He normally had the cop-calm thing going on, like when they'd met up in front of his house the night before. He still had it, but the effort seemed to drain him now. He met Mike's eyes. Mike did not look away.

"My son was home all night."

"That's a lie."

"I have to go now. I'm not talking about this with you anymore." He started walking to the door. Mike stepped into his path.

"I need to talk to your son."

"Get out of my way, Mike."


"Your face."

"What about it?"

"Looks like you've already taken enough of a beating," Huff said.

"You want to try me?"

Huff said nothing.

"Come on, Huff. I'm already injured. You want to try again?"


"Maybe you were there."


"Your son was. I know that. So let's do this. But this time we go face-to-face. One-on-one. No group of guys jumping me when I'm not looking. So come on. Put away your gun and lock your office door. Tell your buddies out there to leave us alone. Let's see just how tough you are."

Huff gave a half smile. "You think that will help you find your son?"

And that was when Mike saw it-what Mo had been saying. He had been talking about face-to-face and one-on-one, but what he really should have been saying was what Mo said: father to father. Not that reminding him of that would appeal to Huff. Just the opposite. Mike was trying to save his kid-and Huff was doing the same. Mike didn't give a damn about DJ Huff-and Huff didn't give a damn about Adam Baye.

They were both out to protect their sons. Huff would fight to do so. Win or lose, Huff wouldn't give up his child. The same with the other parents-Clark's or Olivia's or whoever's-that was Mike's mistake. He and Tia were talking to the adults who'd jump on a grenade to protect their offspring. What they needed to do was circumvent the parental sentinels.

"Adam is missing," Mike said.

"I understand that."

"I spoke to the New York police about it. But who do I talk to here about helping me find my son?"

"TELL Cassandra I miss her," Nash whispered.

And then, finally, at long last, it was over for Reba Cordova.

Nash drove to the U-Store-It on Route 15 in Sussex County.

He backed the truck into the dock of his garagelike storage unit. Darkness had fallen. No one else was around or looking. He had placed the body in a trash can on the very outside chance someone could see. Storage units were great for this sort of thing. He remembered reading about an abduction where the kidnappers kept the victim in one of these units. The victim died of accidental suffocation. But Nash knew other stories too-ones that would make your lungs collapse. You see the posters of the missing, you wonder about the missing, those kids on milk cartons, the women who just innocently left home one day, and sometimes, more often than you want to know, they are kept tied and gagged and even alive in places like this.

Cops, Nash knew, believed that criminals followed a certain spe- cific pattern. That may be so-most criminals are morons-but Nash did the opposite. He had beaten Marianne beyond recognition, but this time he had not touched Reba's face. Part of that was just logistics. He knew that he could hide Marianne's true identity. Not so with Reba. By now her husband had probably reported her missing. If a fresh corpse was found, even one bloodied and battered, the police would realize that the odds it belonged to Reba Cordova were strong.

So change the MO: Don't let the body be found at all.

That was the key. Nash had left Marianne's body where they could find it, but Reba would simply vanish. Nash had left her car in the hotel lot. The police would think that she had gone there for an illicit tryst. They would focus on that, work that avenue, investigate her background to see if she had a boyfriend. Maybe Nash would get extra lucky. Maybe Reba did have someone on the side. The police would zero in on him for certain. Either way, if no body was found, they would have nothing to go on and probably assume that she had been a runaway. There would be no tie between Reba and Marianne.

So he would keep her here. For a while at least.

Pietra had the dead back in her eyes. Years ago, she had been a gorgeous young actress in what used to be called Yugoslavia. There had been ethnic cleansing. Her husband and son were killed before her eyes in ways too gruesome to imagine. Pietra was not so lucky-she survived. Nash had worked as a military mercenary back then. He had rescued her. Or what was left of her. Since then Pietra only came to life when she had to act, like back in the bar when they grabbed Marianne. The rest of the time there was nothing there. It had all been scooped out by those Serbian soldiers.

"I promised Cassandra," he said to her. "You understand that, don't you?"

Pietra looked off. He studied her profile.

"You feel bad about this one, don't you?"

Pietra said nothing. They put Reba's body in a mixture of wood chips and manure. It would keep for a while. Nash did not want to risk stealing another license plate. He took out the black electrical tape and changed the F to an E-that might be enough. In the corner of the shed, he had a pile of other "disguises" for his van. A magnetic sign advertising Tremesis Paints. Another that read CAMBRIDGE INSTITUTE. He chose instead to put on a bumper sticker he'd bought at a religious conference entitled The Lord's Love last October. The sticker read:


Nash smiled. Such a kind, pious sentiment. But the key was, you noticed it. He put it on with two-sided tape so he could easily peel it off if he so desired. People would read the bumper sticker and be offended or impressed. Either way, they'd notice. And when you notice things like that, you don't notice the license plate number.

They got back in the car.

Until he met Pietra, Nash had never bought that the eyes were the window to the soul. But here, in her case, it was obvious. Her eyes were beautiful, blue with yellow sparkles, and yet you could see that there was nothing behind them, that something had blown out the candles and that they would never be relit.

"It had to be done, Pietra. You understand that."

She finally spoke. "You enjoyed it."

There was no judgment. She knew Nash long enough for him not to lie.


She looked off.

"What is it, Pietra?"

"I knew what happened to my family," she said.

Nash said nothing.

"I watched my son and my husband suffer in horrible ways. And they watched me suffer too. That was the last sight they saw before dying-me suffering with them."

"I know this," Nash said. "And you say I enjoyed this. But normally, so do you, right?"

She answered without hesitation. "Yes."

Most people assumed that it would be the opposite-that the victim of such horrific violence would naturally be repulsed by any future bloodshed. But the truth was, the world does not work that way. Violence breeds violence-but not just in the obvious, retaliatory way. The molested child grows up to become the adult molester. The son traumatized by his father abusing his mother is far more likely to one day beat his own wife.


Why do we humans never really learn the lessons we are supposed to? What is in our makeup, in fact, that draws us to that which should sicken us?

After Nash saved her, Pietra had craved vengeance. It was all she thought about during her recuperation. Three weeks after she was discharged from the hospital, Nash and Pietra tracked down one of the soldiers who'd tortured her family. They managed to get him alone. Nash tied and gagged him. He gave Pietra the pruning shears and left her alone with him. It took three days for the soldier to die. By the end of the first, the soldier was begging Pietra to kill him. But she didn't.

She loved every moment.

In the end, most people find revenge to be a wasted emotion. They feel empty after doing something so horrible to another human being, even one who maybe deserved it. Not Pietra. The experience just made her thirst for more. And that was a big part of why she was with him today.

"So what's different this time?" he asked.

Nash waited. She took her time, but eventually she got to it.

"The not knowing," Pietra said in a hushed tone. " Neverknowing. Inflicting physical pain... we do that, no problem." She looked back at the storage unit. "But to make a man go through the rest of his life wondering what happened to the woman he loved." She shook her head. "I think that is worse."

Nash put a hand on her shoulder. "It can't be helped right now. You understand that, right?"

She nodded, looked straight ahead. "But someday?"

"Yes, Pietra. Someday. When we finish this up, we will let him know the truth."