“Back to your interactions with the girls in camp,” Flynn says. “Are you certain there wasn’t any contact with them? Maybe you had to do some work in their cabin.”

“He installed the camera outside Dogwood,” Theo says.

Flynn writes that down in his notebook. “As you know, Mr. Schumacher, that’s the cabin where the missing girls were staying. Did you happen to see them when you were putting up the camera?”


“What about the oldest one? Miranda. I’ve been told other camp workers noticed her.”

“Not me,” Ben says. “I keep my head down. None of this camp stuff is my business.”

“What about fifteen years ago? Were you the same way back then?”


Flynn makes a move to write down the answer in his notebook. But he pauses, his pen tip a millimeter from the page. “I’m giving you another shot at the answer. Just so I don’t have to waste time writing down something that might be a lie.”

“Why do you think I’m lying?”

“One of the girls who disappeared back then was named Vivian Hawthorne. You probably remember her.”

“I remember that she was never found.”

“I was told you might have had a relationship with Miss Hawthorne. Which would be the complete opposite of minding your own business. So is it true? Was there a relationship between the two of you?”

I expect a denial. Ben gives us all a defiant look as that half smirk lifts the corner of his lips. But then he says, “Yeah. Although it wasn’t much of what you’d call a relationship.”

“It was strictly sexual in nature?” Flynn says.

“That’s right. A one-and-done kind of deal.”

Ben’s smirk grows, on the verge of a leer. Again, I resist the urge to punch him. But I can’t stop myself from saying, “She was only sixteen. You know that, right?”

“And I was only nineteen,” Ben says. “That age difference didn’t seem like such a big deal. Besides, it wasn’t illegal. I got three daughters of my own now. So I know damn well what the statutory rape laws are.”

“But you knew it was a bad idea,” Flynn tells him. “Otherwise you would have told someone about it after Miss Hawthorne and two other girls from her cabin went missing.”

“Because I knew the cops would think I had something to do with it. That’s what this is about, right? You’re all standing there thinking I had something to do with what happened to those poor girls.”

“Did you?”

Ben stands suddenly, sending the chair skidding across the floor behind him. Veins bulge at his temples, and his hands curl into fists, as though he’s about to take a swing at Flynn. He definitely looks like he wants to.

“I’m a father now. I’d be going crazy if my girls were missing. Makes me sick to my stomach just thinking about it. You should be out there looking for them instead of asking me about some dumb shit I did fifteen years ago.”

He stops, out of breath. His chest heaves, and his fists unclench. Resigned exhaustion settles over him as he retrieves his too-small chair and sits back down.

“Keep on asking your goddamn questions,” he says. “I’ll answer them. I’ve got nothing to hide.”

“Then let’s go back to Vivian Hawthorne,” Flynn says. “How did it start?”

“I don’t know. It just kind of happened.”

“Did you instigate it?”

“Hell no,” Ben says. “Like I said, I wasn’t looking for trouble. I mean, I saw her around camp. It was hard not to notice her.”

“Did you find her attractive?” Flynn asks.

“Sure. She was hot, and she knew it. But there was something else about her. A confidence. It made her stand out from the other girls. She was different.”

“Different how?”

“Most of those girls were stuck-up. Snooty. They’d look right past me like I wasn’t even there. Like I didn’t exist. Vivian wasn’t like that. The very first day of camp she came up to me and introduced herself. I don’t remember you from last year. That’s what she said. She asked me about my job, how long I’d been here. Just friendly. It felt nice having someone like her pay attention to me.”

That sounds like the Vivian I knew. A master at seduction. It didn’t matter if you were the camp groundskeeper or a thirteen-year-old girl. She knew exactly what kind of attention you needed before you even knew it yourself.

“We hung out a few times those first days of camp. During lunch, she’d come find me working and talk for a few minutes. By then, I knew what she wanted. She wasn’t shy about it.”

Flynn, who’s been steadily writing all this down in his notebook, pauses long enough to say, “How many times did the two of you engage in intercourse?”


“Do you remember the date?”

“Only because it was the Fourth of July,” Ben says. “I was working late that day, trying to milk the overtime money Mrs. Harris-White was offering. All the girls were at the campfire, and I was getting ready to go home when Vivian showed up. She didn’t say anything. She just came right up to me and kissed me. Then she walked away, looking over her shoulder to make sure I followed.”