Chapter 25

Now what?

Grace was starved for one thing. She drove over the George Washington Bridge, took the Jones Road exit, and stopped to grab a bite at a Chinese restaurant called, interestingly enough, Baumgart's. She ate in silence, feeling as lonely as she had ever felt, and tried to hold herself together. What had happened? The day before yesterday-was it really only then?-she had picked up photographs at Photomat. That was all. Life was good. She had a husband she adored and two wonderful, inquisitive kids. She had time to paint. They all had their health, enough money in the bank. And then she had seen a photograph, an old one, and now...

Grace had almost forgotten about Josh the Fuzz Pellet.

He was the one who developed the roll of film. He was the one who mysteriously left the store not long after she picked up the pictures. He had to be the one, she was sure, who put that damn photograph in the middle of her pack.

She grabbed her cell phone, asked directory assistance for the number of the Photomat in Kasselton, and even paid the extra fee to be directly connected. On the third ring, the phone was picked up.


Grace said nothing. No question about it. She would recognize that bored yah-dude slur anywhere. It was Fuzz Pellet Josh. He was back at the store.

She considered just hanging up, but maybe, somehow, that would-she didn't know-tip him off somehow. Make him run. She changed her voice, added a little extra lilt, and asked what time they closed.

"Like, six," Fuzz Pellet told her.

She thanked him, but he had hung up. The check was already on the table. She paid and tried not to sprint to her car. Route 4 was wide open. She sped past the plethora of malls and found a parking spot not far from the Photomat. Her cell phone rang.


"It's Carl Vespa."

"Oh, hi."

"I'm sorry about yesterday. About springing Jimmy X on you like that."

She debated telling him about Jimmy's late night visit, decided now was not the time. "It's okay."

"I know you don't care, but it looks like Wade Larue is going to get released."

"Maybe it's the right thing," she said.

"Maybe." But Vespa sounded far from convinced. "You sure you don't need any protection?"


"If you change your mind..."

"I'll call."

There was a funny pause. "Any word from your husband?"


"Does he have a sister?"

Grace changed hands. "Yes. Why?"

"Her name Sandra Koval?"

"Yes. What does she have to do with this?"

"I'll talk to you later."

He hung up. Grace stared at the phone. What the hell was that all about? She shook her head. It would be useless to call back. She tried to refocus.

Grace grabbed her purse and hurry-limped toward the Photomat. Her leg hurt. Walking was a chore. It felt as though someone were on the ground clinging to her ankle and she had to drag him along. Grace kept moving. She was three stores away when a man in a business suit stepped in her path.

"Ms. Lawson?"

A weird thought struck Grace as she looked at this stranger: His sandy hair was nearly the same color as his suit. It almost looked liked they were both made from the same material.

"May I help you?" she said.

The man reached into his coat pocket and pulled out a photograph. He held it up to her face so that she could see it. "Did you post this on the Web?"

It was the cropped mystery photograph of the blonde and the redhead.

"Who are you?"

The sandy-haired man said, "My name is Scott Duncan. I'm with the U.S. attorney's office." He pointed to the blonde, the one who'd been looking up at Jack, the one with the X across her face.

"And this," Scott Duncan said, "is a picture of my sister."