Chapter 32

Ten minutes later Carl Vespa's driver  -  the infamous Cram  -  met Grace two blocks away from the school.

Cram arrived on foot. Grace did not know how or where his car was. She'd just been standing there, looking at the school from afar, when she felt the tap on her shoulder. She leapt, her heart pounding. When she turned and saw his face, well, the sight was hardly a comforting one.

Cram arched an eyebrow. "You rang?"

"How did you get here?"

Cram shook his head. Up close, now that she was able to get a really good look at him, the man was even more hideous than she remembered. His skin was pockmarked. His nose and mouth looked like an animal's snout, what with the sea-predator smile locked on autopilot. Cram was older than she'd thought, probably nearing sixty. He was wiry though. He had the wild-eyed look she'd always associated with serious psychosis, but there was a comfort to that element of danger right now, the kind of guy you'd want next to you in a foxhole and nowhere else.

"Tell me everything," Cram said.

Grace started with Scott Duncan and moved on to arriving at the supermarket. She told him what the unshaven man had said to her, about him darting down the aisle, about him carrying the Batman lunchbox. Cram chewed on a toothpick. He had thin fingers. His nails were too long.

"Describe him."

She did as best she could. When she was done, Cram spit out the toothpick and shook his head. "For real?" he said.


"A Members Only jacket? What is this, 1986?"

Grace did not laugh.

"You're safe now," he said. "Your children are safe."

She believed him.

"What time do they get out?"

"Three o'clock."

"Fine." He squinted at the school. "Christ, I hated this place."

"You went here?"

Cram nodded. "A Willard graduate, 1957." She tried to picture him as a little boy coming to this school. The image would not hold. He started walking away.

"Wait," she said. "What do you want me to do?"

"Pick up your kids. Bring them home."

"Where will you be?"

Cram upped the grin. "Around." And then he was gone.


Grace waited by the fence. The mothers began to flock in, gather, chat. Grace folded her arms, trying to give off a "keep away" vibe. There were days she could participate in the clatter. This was not one of them.

The cell phone rang. She put it to her ear and said hello.

"You get the message now?"

The voice was male and muffled. Grace felt her scalp tingle. "Stop looking, stop asking questions, stop flashing the picture. Or we'll take Emma first."


Grace did not scream. She would not scream. She put the phone away. Her hands shook. She looked down at them as if they belonged to someone else. She couldn't stop the shake. Her children would be coming out soon. She jammed her hands into her pockets and tried to force up a smile. It wouldn't come. She bit her lower lip and made herself not cry.

"Hey, you okay?"

Grace startled at the voice. It was Cora.

"What are you doing here?" Grace asked. The words came out with too sharp a snap.

"What do you think? I'm picking up Vickie."

"I thought she was with her father."

Cora looked puzzled. "Just for last night. He dropped her off at school this morning. Jesus, what the hell happened?"

"I can't talk about it."

Cora did not know how to react to that one. The bell sounded. Both women turned away. Grace did not know what to think. She knew that Scott Duncan was wrong about Cora  -  more than that, she now knew that Scott Duncan was a liar  -  and yet, once voiced, the suspicion about her friend would not leave. She couldn't flick it away.

"Look, I'm just scared, okay?"

Cora nodded. Vickie appeared first. "If you need me..."

"Thank you."

Cora moved away without another word. Grace waited alone, searching for the familiar faces in the stream of children pouring through the door. Emma stepped into the sunshine and shielded her eyes. When she spotted her mother, Emma's face broke into a smile. She waved.

Grace suppressed a cry of relief. Her fingers snaked through the chain-link, gripping hard, holding herself back so she wouldn't sprint over and scoop Emma into her arms.


When Grace, Emma, and Max reached home, Cram was already standing on their front stoop.

Emma looked a question at her mother, but before Grace could respond, Max sprinted up the walk. He stopped dead in front of Cram and craned his neck to look up at the sea-predator smile.

"Hey," Max said to Cram.


Max said, "You were the guy driving that big car, right?"


"That cool? Driving that big car?"


"I'm Max."

"I'm Cram."

"Cool name."

"Yeah. Yeah, it is."

Max made a fist and held it up. Cram made one too and then they touched knuckles-against-knuckles in some newfangled high-five. Grace and Emma came up the walk.

"Cram is a family friend," Grace said. "He's going to help me a little."

Emma did not like it. "Help with what?" She aimed her "eeuw gross" face in Cram's direction, which, under the circumstances, was both understandable and rude, but this was hardly the time for a correction. "Where's Daddy?"

"He's on a business trip," Grace said.

Emma did not say another word. She stepped into the house and ran upstairs.

Max squinted up at Cram. "Can I ask you something?"

"Sure," Cram said.

"Do all your friends call you Cram?"


"Just Cram?"

"One word." He wiggled his eyebrows. "Like Cher or Fabio."


Cram chuckled.

"Why do they call you that?" Max asked.

"Why do they call me Cram?"


"My teeth." He opened his mouth wide. When Grace worked up the courage to look, she was greeted with a sight that resembled the mad experiment of a very deranged orthodontist. The teeth were all crammed together on the left, almost stacked. It looked like there were too many of them. Empty pockets of coarse pink where teeth should have been lined the right side of his mouth. "Cram," he said. "You see?"

"Whoa," Max said. "That's so cool."

"You want to know how my teeth got this way?"

Grace took that one. "No, thank you."

Cram glanced at her. "Good answer."

Cram. She took another look at the too-small teeth. Tic Tac might have been a more apt name.

"Max, you have homework?"

"Aw, Mom."

"Now," she said.

Max looked at Cram. "Scram," he said. "We'll talk later."

They shared another fist-knuckle salute before Max darted off with the abandon of a six-year-old. The phone rang. Grace checked the Caller ID. It was Scott Duncan. She decided to let the machine pick that one up  -  more important that she talk to Cram. They moved into the kitchen. There were two men sitting at the table. Grace pulled up short. Neither of the men looked up at her. They were whispering to each other. Grace was about to say something, but Cram signaled her to step outside.

"Who are they?"

"They work for me."


"Don't worry about it."

She did, but right now there were more pressing matters. "I got a call from the guy," she said. "On my cell phone." She told him what the voice on the phone had said. Cram's expression did not change. When she finished, he pulled out a cigarette.

"You mind if I smoke?"

She told him to go ahead.

"I won't do it in the house."

Grace looked around. "Is that why we're out here?"

Cram did not reply. He lit the cigarette, drew a deep breath, let the smoke pour out of both nostrils. Grace looked toward the neighbor's yard. There was no one in sight. A dog barked. A lawn mower ripped through the air like a helicopter.

Grace looked at him. "You've threatened people, right?"


"So if I do what he says  -  if I stop  -  do you think they'll leave us alone?"

"Probably." Cram took a puff so deep it looked like a doobie toke. "But the real question is, why do they want you to stop?"


"Meaning you must have been getting close. You must have struck a nerve."

"I can't imagine how."

"Mr. Vespa called. He wants to see you tonight."

"What about?"

Cram shrugged.

She looked off again.

"You ready for some more bad news?" Cram asked.

She turned to him.

"Your computer room. The one in the back."

"What about it?"

"It's bugged. One listening device, one camera."

"A camera?" She couldn't believe this. "In my house?"

"Yeah. Hidden camera. It's in a book on the shelf. Fairly easy to spot if you're looking for it. You can get one at any spy shop. You've probably seen them online. You hide it in a clock or a smoke detector, that kind of thing."

Grace tried to take this in. "Someone is spying on us?"



"No idea. I don't think it's the cops. It's a little too amateur for that. My boys have given the rest of the house a quick sweep. Nothing else so far."

"How long..." She tried to comprehend what he was telling her. "How long has the camera and  -  listening device, did you say?  -  how long have they been here?"

"No way to know. That's why I dragged you out here. So we could talk freely. I know you've been hit with a lot, but you're ready to deal with this now?"

She nodded, though her head was swimming.

"Okay, first off. The equipment. It's not all that sophisticated. It only has a range of maybe a hundred feet. If it's a live feed, it goes to a van or something. Have you noticed any vans parked on the street for long periods of time?"


"I didn't think so. It probably just goes to a video recorder."

"Like a VCR?"

"Exactly like a VCR."

"And it has to be within a hundred feet of the house?"


She looked around as if it might be in the garden. "How often would they need to change tape?"

"Every twenty-four hours tops."

"Any idea where it is?"

"Not yet. Sometimes they keep the recorder in the basement or garage. They probably have access to the house, so they can fetch the tape and put in a new one."

"Wait a second. What do you mean, they have access to the house?"

He shrugged. "They got that camera and bug in somehow, right?"

The rage was back now, rising, smoldering behind her eyes. Grace started looking at her neighbors. Access to the house. Who had access to the house? she asked herself. And a small voice replied...


Uh-uh, no way. Grace shook it off. "So we need to find that recorder."


"And then we wait and watch," she said. "We see who picks up the tape."

"That's one way of doing it," Cram said.

"You have a better suggestion?"

"Not really."

"Then, what, we follow the guy, see where it leads?"

"That's a possibility."


"It's risky. We could lose him."

"What would you do?"

"If it were up to me, I'd grab him. I'd ask him some hard questions."

"And if he refused to answer?"

Cram still wore the sea-predator smile. It was always a horrific sight, this man's face, but Grace was getting used to it. She also realized that he was not intentionally scaring her; whatever had been done to his mouth had made that become his permanent, natural expression. It spoke volumes, that face. It rendered her question rhetorical.

Grace wanted to protest, to tell him that she was civil and that they would handle this legally and ethically. But instead she said, "They threatened my daughter."

"So they did."

She looked at him. "I can't do what they asked. Even if I wanted to. I can't just walk away and leave it alone."

He said nothing.

"I have no choice, do I? I have to fight them."

"I don't see any other way."

"You knew that all along."

Cram cocked his head to the right. "So did you."

His cell phone went off. Cram flipped it open but did not speak, not even a hello. A few seconds later he snapped the phone shut and said, "Someone is pulling up the drive."

She looked out the screen door. A Ford Taurus came to a stop. Scott Duncan stepped out and approached the house.

"You know him?" Cram asked.

"That," she said, "is Scott Duncan."

"The guy who lied about working for the U.S. attorney?" Grace nodded.

"Maybe," Cram said, "I'll stick around."


They remained outside. Scott Duncan stood next to Grace. Cram had stepped away. Duncan kept sneaking glances at Cram. "Who is that?"

"You don't want to know."

Grace gave Cram a look. He got the hint and headed back inside. She and Scott Duncan were alone now.

"What do you want?" she asked.

Duncan picked up on her tone. "Something wrong, Grace?"

"I'm just surprised you got out of work already. I figured it'd be busier at the U.S. attorney's office."

He said nothing.

"Cat got your tongue, Mr. Duncan?"

"You called my office."

She touched her nose with her pointer, indicating a direct hit. Then: "Oh wait, correction: I called the United States attorney's office. Apparently you don't work there."

"It's not what you think."

"How enlightening."

"I should have told you up front."

"Do tell."

"Look, everything I said was true."

"Except the part about working for the United States attorney. I mean, that wasn't true, was it? Or was Ms. Goldberg lying?"

"Do you want me to explain or not?"

Now his voice had a little steel. Grace gestured for him to continue.

"What I told you was true. I worked there. Three months ago this killer, this Monte Scanlon, he insisted on seeing me. No one could understand why. I was a low-level lawyer on political corruption. Why would a hit man insist on talking only to me? That was when he told me."

"That he killed your sister."


She waited. They moved toward the porch furniture and sat down. Cram stood in a window watching them. He let his gaze wander toward Scott Duncan, hang there for a few heavy seconds, survey the grounds, go back to Duncan.

"He looks familiar," Duncan said, gesturing toward Cram. "Or maybe I'm flashing back to the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Disney World. Shouldn't he have an eye patch?"

Grace shifted in her seat. "You were telling me about why you lied?"

Duncan ran his hand through the sandy hair. "When Scanlon said the fire was no accident... You can't understand what it did to me. I mean, one moment my life was one thing. The next..." He snapped his finger with a magician's flourish. "It wasn't so much that everything was different now  -  it was more like the past fifteen years had all been different. Like someone had gone back in time and changed one event and it changed everything else. I wasn't the same guy. I wasn't a guy whose sister died in a tragic fire. I was a guy whose sister had been murdered and never avenged."

"But now you have the killer," Grace said. "He confessed."

Duncan smiled, but there was no joy there. "Scanlon said it best. He was just a weapon. Like a gun. I wanted the person who pulled the trigger. It became an obsession. I tried to do it part-time, you know, work my job while searching for the killer. But I started to neglect my cases. So my boss, she strongly suggested I take a leave." He looked up at her.

"Why didn't you just tell me?"

"I didn't think it would be a great opening line, you know, telling you I was forced out like that. I still have connections in the office. I still have friends in law enforcement. But just so we're clear, everything I'm doing is off the books."

Their eyes locked. Grace said, "You're still holding something back."

He hesitated.

"What is it?"

"We should get one thing straight." Duncan stood, did the run through the sandy hair bit again, turned away from her. "Right now we're both trying to find your husband. It's a temporary alliance. The truth is, we have separate agendas. I won't lie to you. What happens after we find Jack, well, do we both want the truth?"

"I just want my husband."

He nodded. "That's what I mean about separate agendas. About our alliance being temporary. You want your husband. I want my sister's killer."

He looked at her now. She understood.

"So now what?" Grace asked.

He took out the mystery photograph and held it up. There was a hint of a smile on his face.


Scott Duncan said, "I know the name of the redhead in the photograph." She waited.

"Her name is Sheila Lambert. Attended Vermont University the same time as your husband"  -  he pointed at Jack and then slid his finger to the right  -  "and Shane Alworth."

"Where is she now?"

"That's just the thing, Grace. No one knows."

She closed her eyes. A shudder ran through her.

"I sent the photograph up to the school. A retired dean identified her. I ran a full check, but she's gone. There is no sign of Sheila Lambert's existence over the past decade  -  no payroll tax, no social security number hit, nothing."

"Just like with Shane Alworth."

"Exactly like Shane."

Grace tried to put it together. "Five people in the photograph. One, your sister, was murdered. Two others, Shane Alworth and Sheila Lambert, haven't been heard of in years. The fourth, my husband, ran overseas and is missing now. And the last one, well, we still don't know who she is."

Duncan nodded.

"So where do we go from here?"

"You remember I said I talked to Shane Alworth's mother?"

"The one with the fuzzy Amazonian geography."

"When I visited her the first time, I didn't know about this picture or your husband or any of that. I want to show her the picture now. I want to gauge her reaction. And I want you there."


"I just have a feeling, that's all. Evelyn Alworth is an old woman. She's emotional and I think she's scared. I went in there the first time as an investigator. Maybe, I don't know, but maybe if you go in as a concerned mother, something will shake loose."

Grace hesitated. "Where does she live?"

"A condo in Bedminster. Shouldn't take us more than thirty minutes to get there."

Cram came back into view. Scott Duncan nodded toward him.

"So what's with that scary guy?" Duncan asked.

"I can't go with you now."

"Why not?"

"I have the kids. I can't just leave them here."

"Bring them along. There's a playground right there. We won't take long."

Cram came to the door now. He beckoned with his hand for Grace. She said, "Excuse me" and headed toward Cram. Scott Duncan stayed where he was.

"What is it?" she asked Cram.

"Emma. She's upstairs crying."

Grace found her daughter in classic cry position  -  facedown on her bed, pillow over her head. The sound was muted. It had been a while since Emma had cried like this. Grace sat on the edge of the bed. She knew what was coming. When Emma could speak, she asked where Daddy was. Grace told her that he was on a business trip. Emma said that she didn't believe her. That it was a lie. Emma demanded to know the truth. Grace repeated that Jack was just on a business trip. That everything was fine. Emma pushed. Where was he? Why hadn't Daddy called? When was he coming home? Grace made up rationales that sounded pretty believable in her ears  -  he was really busy, he was traveling in Europe, London right now, didn't know how long he'd be gone, he had called but Emma had been sleeping, remember that London is in a different time zone.

Did Emma buy it? Who knew?

Child-rearing experts  -  those namby-pamby, lobotomy-voiced Ph.D.s on cable TV  -  would probably tsk-tsk, but Grace was not one of those tell-kids-everything parents. Above all else a mother's job was to protect. Emma was not old enough to handle the truth. Plain and simple. Deception was a necessary part of parenting. Of course Grace could be wrong  -  she knew that  -  but the old adage is true: Kids don't come with instructions. We all mess up. Raising a child is pure impromptu.

A few minutes later she told Max and Emma to get ready. They were going for a ride. Both children grabbed their Game Boys and piled into the back of the car. Scott Duncan moved toward the passenger seat. Cram cut him off.

"Problem?" Duncan said.

"I want to talk to Ms. Lawson before you go. Stay here."

Duncan snapped a sarcastic salute. Cram gave him a look that could have held back a weather front. He and Grace stepped into the back room. Cram closed the door.

"You know you shouldn't go with him."

"Maybe not. But I have to."

Cram chewed on his lower lip. He didn't like it, but he understood. "Do you carry a purse?"


"Let me see it."

She showed it to him. Cram pulled a gun out of his waist. It was small, almost toylike. "This is a Glock nine-millimeter, model 26."

Grace held up her hands. "I don't want that."

"Keep it in your purse. You can also wear it in an ankle holster but you'll need long pants."

"I've never fired a gun in my life."

"Experience is overrated. You aim for the middle of the chest, you squeeze the trigger. It's not complicated."

"I don't like weapons."

Cram shook his head.


"Maybe I'm mistaken, but didn't somebody threaten your daughter today?"

That made her pause. Cram put the gun in her purse. She did not fight him.

"How long are you going to be gone?" Cram asked.

"Couple of hours, tops."

"Mr. Vespa will be here at 7 P.M. He says it's important that he speaks to you."

"I'll be here."

"You sure you trust this Duncan guy?"

"I'm not sure. But I think we're safe with him."

Cram nodded. "Let me add a little insurance on that front."


Cram said nothing. He escorted her back. Scott Duncan was on his cell phone. Grace did not like what she saw on Duncan 's face. He finished up his call when he spotted them.


Scott Duncan shook his head. "Can we go now?"

Cram walked toward him. Duncan did not back down, but there was definitely an understandable flinch. Cram stopped directly in front of him, stuck out his hand, wiggled his fingers. "Let me see your wallet."

"Pardon me?"

"Do I look like the kind of guy who enjoys repeating himself?"

Scott Duncan glanced at Grace. She nodded. Cram still had the fingers wiggling. Duncan handed Cram his wallet. Cram brought it over to a table and sat down. He quickly rifled through the contents, taking notes.

"What are you doing?" Duncan asked.

"While you're gone, Mr. Duncan, I'm going to learn everything about you." He looked up. "If Ms. Lawson is harmed in any way, my response will be"  -  Cram stopped, looked up as though searching for the word  -  "disproportionate. I make myself clear?"

Duncan looked at Grace. "Who the hell is this guy?"

Grace was already moving toward the door. "We'll be fine, Cram."

Cram shrugged, tossed Duncan his wallet. "Have a delightful drive."

No one talked for the first five minutes of the ride. Max and Emma used their headphones with the Game Boys. Grace had bought the headphones recently because the beeps and buzzes and Luigi shouting "Mamma Mia!" every two minutes gave her a headache. Scott Duncan sat next to her with his hands in his lap.

"So who was on the phone?" Grace asked.

"A coroner."

Grace waited.

"Remember how I told you that I had my sister's body exhumed?" he said.


"The police didn't really see a need for it. Too expensive. I understand, I guess. Anyway I paid for it myself. I know this person, used to work for a country M.E., who does private autopsies."

"And he's the one who called you?"

"It's a she. Her name is Sally Li."


"And she says she needs to see me right away." Duncan looked over at her. "Her office is in Livingston. We can hit it on the way back." He turned back away. "I'd like you to come with me, if that's okay."

"To a morgue?"

"No, nothing like that. Sally does the actual autopsy work at St. Barnabas Hospital. This is just an office where she does her paperwork. There's a waiting room we can stick the kids in."

Grace did not reply.

The Bedminster condos were generic, which, when you're talking about condos, is something of a repetition in terms. They had the prefab light-brown aluminum siding, three levels, garages underneath, every building identical to the one to its right and to its left and behind it and in front of it. The complex was huge and sprawling, a khaki-coated ocean stretching as far as the eye could see.

For Grace, the route here had been familiar. Jack drove by this on his way to work. They had, for a very brief moment, debated moving into this condo development. Neither Jack nor Grace was particularly good with their hands or enjoyed fix-the-old-home shows on cable. Condos held that appeal  -  you pay a monthly fee, you don't worry about the roof or an addition or the landscaping or any of that. There were tennis courts and a swimming pool and, yes, a playground for children. But in the end there was just so much conformity one could take. Suburbia is already a subworld of sameness. Why add insult to injury by making your physical abode conform too?

Max spotted the complicated, brightly hued playground before the car had come to a complete stop. He was raring to sprint for the swing set. Emma looked more bored with the prospect. She held onto her Game Boy. Normally Grace would have protested  -  Game Boy in the car only, especially when the alternative was fresh air  -  but again now did not seem the time.

Grace cupped her hand over her eyes as they started moving away. "I can't leave them alone."

"Mrs. Alworth lives right here," Duncan said. "We can stay in the doorway and watch them."

They approached the door on the first level. The playground was quiet. The air was still. Grace inhaled deeply and smelled the freshly cut grass. They stood side-by-side, she and Duncan. He rang the bell. Grace waited by the door, feeling oddly like a Jehovah's Witness.

A cackling voice not unlike the witch in an old Disney film said, "Who is it?"

"Mrs. Alworth?"

Again the cackle: "Who is it?"

"Mrs. Alworth, it's Scott Duncan."


"Scott Duncan. We spoke a few weeks ago. About your son, Shane."

"Go away. I have nothing to say to you."

Grace picked up an accent now. Boston area.

"We could really use your help."

"I don't know nothing. Go away."

"Please, Mrs. Alworth, I need to talk to you about your son."

"I told you. Shane lives in Mexico. He's a good boy. He helps poor people."

"We need to ask about some of his old friends." Scott Duncan looked at Grace, nodded for her to say something.

"Mrs. Alworth," Grace said.

The cackle was more wary now. "Who's that?"

"My name is Grace Lawson. I think my husband knew your son."

There was silence now. Grace turned away from the door and watched Max and Emma. Max was on a corkscrew slide. Emma sat cross-legged and played the Game Boy.

Through the door, the cackling voice asked, "Who's your husband?"

"Jack Lawson."


"Mrs. Alworth?"

"I don't know him."

Scott Duncan said, "We have a picture. We'd like to show it to you."

The door opened. Mrs. Alworth wore a housedress that couldn't have been manufactured after the Bay of Pigs. She was in her mid-seventies, heavyset, the kind of big aunt who hugs you and you disappear in the folds. As a kid you hate the hug. As an adult you long for it. She had varicose veins that resembled sausage casing. Her reading glasses dangled against her enormous chest from a chain. She smelled faintly of cigarette smoke.

"I don't have all day," she said. "Show me this picture."

Scott Duncan handed her the photograph.

For a long time the old woman said nothing.

"Mrs. Alworth?"

"Why did someone cross her out?" she asked.

"That was my sister," Duncan said.

She flicked a glance his way. "I thought you said you were an investigator."

"I am. My sister was murdered. Her name was Geri Duncan."

Mrs. Alworth's face went white. Her lip started to tremble. "She's dead?"

"She was murdered. Fifteen years ago. Do you remember her?"

She seemed to have lost her bearings. She turned to Grace and snapped, "What do you keep looking at?"

Grace was facing Max and Emma. "My children." She gestured toward the playground. Mrs. Alworth followed suit. She stiffened. She seemed lost now, confused.

"Did you know my sister?" Duncan asked.

"What does this have to do with me?"

His voice was stern now. "Yes or no, did you know my sister?"

"I can't remember. It was a long time ago."

"Your son dated her."

"He dated a lot of girls. Shane was a handsome boy. So was his brother, Paul. He's a psychologist in Missouri. Why don't you leave me alone and talk to him?"

"Try to think." Scott's voice rose a notch. "My sister was murdered." He pointed to the picture of Shane Alworth. "That's your son, isn't it, Mrs. Alworth?"

She stared down at the strange photograph for a long time before nodding.

"Where is he?"

"I told you before. Shane lives in Mexico. He helps poor people."

"When was the last time you spoke with him?"

"Last week."

"He called you?"



"What do you mean where?"

"Did Shane call you here?"

"Of course. Where else would he call?"

Scott Duncan took a step closer. "I checked your phone records, Mrs. Alworth. You haven't gotten or made an international call in the past year."

"Shane uses one of those phone cards," she said too quickly. "Maybe the phone companies don't pick those up, how I should know?"

Duncan took another step closer. "Listen to me, Mrs. Alworth. And please listen closely. My sister is dead. There is no sign of your son anywhere. This man here"  -  he pointed to the picture of Jack  -  "her husband, Jack Lawson, he's also missing. And this woman over here"  -  he pointed to the redheaded girl with the spaced-out eyes  -  "her name is Sheila Lambert. There's been no sign of her for at least ten years."

"This has got nothing to do with me," Mrs. Alworth insisted.

"Five people in the photograph. We've been able to identify four of them. They're all gone. One we know is dead. For all we know, they all are."

"I told you. Shane is -"

"You're lying, Mrs. Alworth. Your son graduated Vermont University. So did Jack Lawson and Sheila Lambert. They must have been friends. He dated my sister; we both know that. So what happened to them? Where is your son?"

Grace put a hand on Scott's arm. Mrs. Alworth was staring out now toward the playground, at the children. Her bottom lip was quivering. Her skin was ashen. Tears ran down both cheeks. She looked as if she'd fallen into a trance. Grace tried to step in her line of vision.

"Mrs. Alworth," she said gently.

"I'm an old woman."

Grace waited.

"I don't have nothing to say to you people."

Grace said, "I'm trying to find my husband." Mrs. Alworth was still staring at the playground. "I'm trying to find their father."

"Shane is a good boy. He helps people."

"What happened to him?" Grace asked.

"Leave me alone."

Grace tried to meet the older woman's gaze, but the focus was gone from her eyes. "His sister"  -  Grace gestured toward Duncan  -  "my husband, your son. Whatever happened affected us all. We want to help."

But the old woman shook her head and turned away. "My son doesn't need your help. Now go away. Please." She stepped back into her house and closed the door.