“Could Henley have thrown it?” Mason asked.
Wells nodded. “We think so. Maybe she was trying to leave something behind as she was being snatched. It doesn’t make a lot of sense for a kidnapper to try to leave something so obvious.”
“Are you sure it’s hers?” Mason asked.
“It matches the description the mothers gave us. They sent me a photo of it, but the actual box is on the way to the lab for printing.” He showed Mason a picture on his phone of a pink lunchbox made from synthetic fabric, with a top that folded over and buckled closed. “I’ll send it to you, and you can show the parents.”
“What was inside? Does it match what Robin said was packed?” Mason’s brain spun. Who threw it? Henley or her kidnapper?
“It practically pinpoints where she was grabbed. He wouldn’t have left something like that behind on purpose,” Ava muttered, shaking her head.
“It held what Robin had listed,” Wells answered. “And I know what you mean, Ava. It makes no sense. My best guess says that she threw it as he grabbed her.”
The three nodded in agreement.
“What about vehicles spotted on the home security cameras?” Mason asked.
Wells nodded. “We’re working on enhancing some images they caught.”
“Anything else I need to know?” Mason asked.
“Just reassure them we’ll be working through the night. Three members of the CARD team landed already. You met the one from BAU. Three others will be here within a few hours.”
“What do they bring to the case?”
“Experience. One is a hostage negotiator, another is evidence recovery, and there’s a computer-forensics expert. A few more agents from BAU.” Wells glanced at McLane, who nodded again.
“No indication yet that this will be a hostage situation?” Mason asked.
“Not yet,” answered Ava.
“I almost wish it was,” mumbled Mason. “Then maybe we’d know she’s . . .”
Ava’s gaze softened. “We’ll deal with whatever arises.” Her gaze went past Mason. “How’re you holding up, Lucas?”
Mason turned. Lucas looked like hell.
“Fine. Is everything okay?” He looked from Wells to Ava.
“I’m just updating Special Agent McLane and Detective Callahan. I’ll let them relay what I’ve said. I’ll say good night now. I’m going back to the command center.”
He shook hands with them and vanished out the heavy front door. A small rumble could be heard from the pack of reporters.
“What gives?” Lucas asked.
“They found Henley’s lunch box not too far from the bus stop,” Ava said gently. “It looks like it was hurled up into a tree. It could have been done by Henley or the kidnapper.”
Lucas scowled. “I don’t get it.”
Mason nodded. “Join the club.” He pulled up the image Wells had sent and handed Lucas his phone. “Does that look right?”
Lucas stared at the image. “I honestly don’t know. I think so. I’ll show it to Robin.”
“Maybe when they check the prints we’ll have a better lead,” Ava said. “The best thing you can do is get some rest.”
“But it’s something, right? At least they found something.” Lucas clutched the phone with white fingers, looking at Mason and Ava with hope in his eyes, and ran a hand through his mussed-up hair. He didn’t seem interested in resting.
“It helps,” Ava said noncommittally. “Why don’t you go ask Robin and Lilian? And then try to convince them to get some sleep. I’ll wake them if I hear anything else.”
Lucas nodded and left.
Mason held Ava’s gaze. “What else? What are you not saying?”
She sighed and smoothed her ponytail. “There’s a heated email exchange on Lucas’s work account from two weeks ago. They’re interviewing the client tomorrow.”
“Lucas mention that in his interview?”
“Wells had to bring it up. Lucas brushed it off. Said that’s how that client always communicates. Sounds like he’s a bit of an asshole, and Lucas took a strong stance to deal with him. Lucas claims that there’s no bad blood there, but we’re looking into it.”
Ava simply looked at him. She was finished. If she knew more, she was keeping it to herself. For now.
Mason glanced at his watch. “It’s late. I’m going to bed. Good night, Special Agent McLane. I hope tomorrow’s a better day.”
“You and me both,” she whispered.
23 HOURS MISSING
Mason woke to the vibration of his work phone. It echoed through the wood of the little white nightstand next to him, sounding like a jackhammer next to his head. He snatched it off the table and glanced at the digital princess clock. Six thirty. “Callahan.”
“Mason. You up?” Ray Lusco’s voice barreled through the line.
“I am now.” Mason rubbed his eyes. “What’s up?”
“Schefte call you this morning?”
“Not yet.” Mason pulled the phone from his ear and touched the screen, blurrily checking for any missed calls or texts, knowing he couldn’t have missed anything vibrating on that little table. He was tired, but not that tired.
“There’s some weird evidence in Josie’s case,” Ray said.
The morning shifted into crystal-clear focus. “How weird?”