“Let’s get out of here,” said Ray. Mason’s partner had silently moved to the doorway of the closet-sized kitchen and had probably witnessed the anger on Mason’s face.
Mason shoved his hat on his head and moved past the uniform. The officer barely turned to give him room to get by.
“Nice hat,” the officer muttered at Mason’s retreating back.
Mason ignored him. He didn’t mind the occasional jabs about his hat. Or his cowboy boots. He was comfortable with his clothes. Cowboy hats were rare on the west side of the Cascade Mountain range, but when he headed back to his hometown of Pendleton on the east side of the state, they popped up everywhere.
Right now he was upset that he hadn’t checked up on Josie. Usually he heard from her about once a month with information she wanted to sell. He hadn’t heard a peep from her in three months, and she hadn’t crossed his mind.
He followed Ray out the apartment door and down the dark stairwell. They avoided the elevator in the old apartment building. The stairwells might stink of piss, but it beat getting trapped for a few hours in an old creaking elevator. It’d happened twice to other detectives in other buildings. Mason didn’t care to share the experience.
He pushed through the outer door into the bright sunshine and sucked in a breath of icy air. It was one of those rare clear winter weeks in the Pacific Northwest when residents dug out their sunglasses and pretended not to need heavy coats. Mason’s skin soaked in the sun that’d been hiding behind dark-gray rain clouds for months. He’d nearly forgotten that the sky could be such an intense blue.
A few groups of people clustered on the sidewalk, squinting in the sun and speculating as they studied the four double-parked police cars. The Portland neighborhood was made up of dozens of short apartment buildings and old houses on narrow streets. It was a neighborhood known for its population of college kids and transient adults. No one ever stayed very long. Ray glanced at his watch. “Almost noon. Want to grab a bite?”
Mason muttered that he wasn’t hungry as he pulled out his silenced cell phone. He had five missed calls from his ex-wife.
His heart sped up, and he returned the calls with abruptly icy fingers. “Something’s up with Jake,” he said to Ray. “Robin has called five times in the last half hour.”
“Is he home from college for winter break?” Ray asked.
“Robin picked him up from the airport two days ago. I haven’t heard a word from the kid except a reply to my text asking if he’d landed safely.” His son lived with his ex-wife, her new husband, and their joint young daughters. Mason had planned to reach out to his son this weekend to see if he wanted to go to the next Trail Blazers basketball game.
Just as he expected Robin’s cell phone to go to voice mail, she finally answered. “Mason?” she asked.
Almost ten years had passed since their divorce, but he knew from the tone of her voice that she was terrified.
“What happened? Is Jake okay?” he barked into the phone.
“Jake’s fine.” Robin’s voice cracked. “It’s Henley. She’s missing.” She burst into sobs.
Mason’s mind went blank. Henley? Who—
“Lucas is a mess,” Robin wept.
Aha. Henley was Robin’s stepdaughter. Mason couldn’t remember the girl’s age. Early teens? Jake rarely mentioned her, and Mason had met the girl only once or twice. She lived with her mother most of the time.
“When was she seen last? Did you call the police? How long’s she been missing?” Mason rapid-fired the questions at his ex.
“Of course we called the police. Clackamas County Sheriff. She’s been missing since this morning. She left for school, but they say she never made it.” Robin’s voice was steadier.
“School’s not out for vacation yet?”
“Today’s the last day.”
“Okay. I’ll call Clackamas County and see what’s going on. How old is she?”
“Eleven,” Robin whispered.
Crap. Mason closed his eyes. “We’ll find her.”
Mason shifted his weight from boot to boot as he waited for Lucas Fairbanks to usher him into his home. The entryway of the accountant’s suburban house was huge, with a heavy wood-and-iron door that belonged in a castle. And the home looked exactly like the other fifty homes in the suburban upper-middle-class subdivision. Mason had never been a fan of Lucas, but he respected the man for doing a decent job of helping to raise Jake. Robin had always seemed happy once she’d married the accountant.
Lucas had succeeded where Mason had failed. Robin had known she was marrying a cop when she married Mason, but she hadn’t understood how hard it would be to always come in second place to the job. Mason had tried to get home at a reasonable time each night, but it was rare. Crime didn’t work nine to five, and neither did he. During the divorce Robin admitted she’d spent years thinking of herself as a single parent to save her sanity. It was the only way she could mentally cope with his absences. Otherwise, she was always waiting and waiting. In her head it made more sense for her to never expect him; that way she was never disappointed. When he managed to walk in the door in time for dinner, it was a nice surprise.
Mason followed Lucas into his formal dining room and tried not to gawk at the flashy chandelier. The room was packed with adults. Outside there’d been three cars from the Lake Oswego Police Department, two Clackamas County vehicles, an unmarked police car, and three generic American sedans that indicated the FBI had arrived. Mason scanned the room, searching for familiar faces. He didn’t know any of the officers. Robin sat at the table, gripping the hand of another woman, who spoke with two men in suits. Both women had a well-used pile of tissues in front of them. Mason figured the other woman to be Henley’s mother, Lilian.