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“We’re moving on it,” Wells said. “We’ve got agents headed to that area, and the actual note is being analyzed for any trace evidence the writer might have left. You’d be surprised what we can find on a piece of paper. Or on a plastic bag.”

“It’s not real, is it?” Lilian whispered. “It’s just someone trying to get some money out of us. There’s no proof here that this person has Henley. Wouldn’t a real kidnapper have known that’s the first thing we’d question? He would have put in some of her hair, or taken a picture to show he really has her.” Tears streamed down her face.

Ava leaned closer and put a hand on her shoulder. “There are going to be jerks out there who try to take advantage. They don’t care who they hurt along the way. Do you not want us to bring this sort of thing to you until we know for certain if it’s real?” She included Lucas and Robin in her question.

“Yes, we want to see this sort of thing,” Lucas stated after exchanging glances with Robin and Lilian. “We don’t need to know every trivial thing, but something like this is big. We need to see that things are being done.” He looked at the note again. “They’re very specific about how to leave the money. Black backpack. Which bench it should be set by. Someone seems to know the area very well.”

Wells nodded. “It’s typical for them to pick a site they’re familiar with. It gives them a sense of control over the event.”

“Do you think they work or live near the area?” Robin asked.

“It’s very possible. And we’ll look into that.”

“What did you find out on the stolen minivan?” Callahan asked.

“It was taken from a park in Salem,” Wells replied. “It belongs to a family with three young kids. Mom had the kids at the park and swears she locked the van, but she couldn’t find her keys when it was time to leave. She doesn’t know if she left the keys in the van, or if they were stolen out of her purse while the kids played.

“They were pretty shook up to hear it might have been involved in Henley’s abduction. The mother was rattled to find out that her kids might have been near a kidnapper,” Wells finished.

“Nothing on the AMBER Alert?” Ava questioned.

“All sorts of stuff.” Wells lifted both brows. “We’re getting calls about every minivan in the area. Our people manning the phones are trying to weed through the responses. You’d be surprised what people will call in. We posted the plate and color, but people are calling in with different-colored vans and completely unrelated plates.”

“Everyone wants to help,” Ava said with a sad smile at the parents. “Henley’s turning into the city’s child.” She turned to Wells. “Will the ransom be discussed at the press conference?”

Wells dropped his gaze and shuffled his papers around. “We’re gonna cancel the press conference. When this came in, it took priority and all available hands to process it as quickly as possible. I don’t think we should be using that manpower on a press conference.”

Ava saw Callahan’s shoulders relax. The man had been dreading the conference. Not everyone enjoyed pubic speaking, but Ava didn’t mind it. She’d welcome the chance to get up there and inform the public about the search for Henley. Should it really be cancelled? She bit her lip, not wanting to question Wells in front of the family. Judging by his behavior, Wells hadn’t wanted to break the news to them . . . Were there other reasons to cancel the press conference, reasons he was holding back? Callahan, his razor-sharp gaze on Wells, appeared to be having the same thoughts.

What wasn’t being said?

Wells pushed back his chair. “I guess that’s it for now. I’m going to find out where they’re at on the note.”

“Are they sending it back east to their lab?” Callahan asked.

“They will. They’re using the state police lab to run some tests first.”

“That lab is notoriously backed up,” Callahan pointed out.

“OSP is making this a priority. We’ve got a deadline of seven tonight.”

Mason munched the last of his Big Mac and washed it down with a Diet Coke. He crumpled up his napkin and shoved it in the white bag, then smashed the bag into a ball. He tossed the garbage into the can outside the door of the Oregon State Police building.

He didn’t feel right raiding Robin and Lucas’s refrigerator for food, even though they expected him to eat there. There was plenty of food because neighbors had dropped off casseroles left and right. When people didn’t know what to say, they made food and brought it over. He probably could have found something healthier in one of the casseroles. One of these days, his fast-food diet was going to kill him. Preservatives. Shouldn’t those make him live longer?

The hamburger churned in his stomach as he made his way to the building’s fingerprint lab, feeling like a common crook. A walk of shame. Why in the hell did he feel guilty when he hadn’t done shit?

Something was foul in this investigation.

His fingerprints weren’t in Josie’s apartment. At least not where the investigators claimed they were. Making new prints today should clear up the confusion. He swiped his ID card through the security pad outside the fingerprint lab and pulled on the door handle. A red light flashed on the keypad. He swiped his card again. Still red.

The acid in his stomach increased.

He peeked through the narrow window in the door and knocked. Relieved that he recognized the tech on duty, Mason relaxed as Tom Hannah strode to let him in. A tall, gangly guy, Hannah always had a big smile. Seriously yellow teeth, but you forgave him because his smile was so infectious.