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“Detective Callahan? This is Derek Alward with Internal Affairs.”

Mason bit his tongue so he wouldn’t swear out loud. “I thought I might hear from you guys.” Jake went and sat on his bed. He watched Mason on the phone, not trying to hide that he was listening. His son’s eyes looked like they belonged to someone much older.

Am I treating him like a child?

“I’d like to set up an appointment for us to chat, Detective Callahan.”

Chat? Like on Oprah?

“Tomorrow is Christmas. It’s the one day I really don’t like to report downtown.”

Alward laughed like he’d never heard anything so amusing. “Neither do I. How about the day after?”

“Now, that’s not giving me much of a holiday,” Mason drawled, and Jake narrowed his eyes at him. “How about next Monday?”

Alward coughed. “We’d really like to chat with you sooner than that, Detective Callahan.”

Mason suddenly developed a strong dislike for the word “chat.” “Well, tell you what. I’ve been helping my family out because we’ve got a little girl missing. I’m sure you’ve heard about it. When we find the asshole who kidnapped her, then I’ll be available to chat. But right now, I’m a bit tied up. Merry Christmas.” He ended the call and turned his phone off.

“Who was that? A reporter?” Jake asked. “You only talk like that when you’re really pissed or think someone’s being an idiot.”

“Talk like what?”

“Real slow, as if you’re a hick.”

Mason thought about it. “I guess you’re right. He was being an idiot, and I was talking slower so he’d understand me.” He turned his focus back to his son and put Internal Affairs out of his head. “Why don’t you come back downstairs and have one of your mom’s cinnamon rolls? It’ll make her feel better.”

Jake made a face. “She’s turned the kitchen into a bakery. I’m sugared out.”

“Yeah, she does that.”

“Dad, tomorrow’s Christmas.”

“I know, son.”

“Henley’s present was in my suitcase. That pillow pet thing.” Jake looked about to cry. “I haven’t been able to go shopping and replace it. I don’t want her to think I didn’t get her anything.”

Mason pulled his son up off his bed and enveloped him in a deep hug.

He didn’t know what to say.

He had the wrong dream again. Wyatt hadn’t visited him in his dreams for a few nights, and usually his visits were calm and happy. He dreamed of his son at the playground near their first house or jumping the waves during a trip to the ocean. He enjoyed his nighttime visits from his boy. Except when they went back to the grocery store where his son had been viciously ripped from his life.

He abruptly sat up in bed, sweating, his heart trying to escape from his chest. He stood and paced the room, trying to slow his breathing, recognizing the panic attack. He’d learned to deal with them over the years, but some nights he wanted to climb out the window to find enough air to breathe. The bedroom walls seemed too close, and he strode to the bathroom for a drink of water. Under the harsh light of the bathroom, he leaned on his hands on the counter and stared into his bloodshot eyes, softly counting backward from fifty.

When he had the upper hand, he faced the dream and let it flow through him. This time the memories were under his control, and he could safely explore the familiar territory.

The lights of the grocery store had been ultrabright. He and Wyatt had made a late-afternoon trip for last-minute items for Christmas Eve. His wife wanted more whipping cream and a particular dessert wine.

He grabbed the whipping cream and stopped in the wine aisle.

“Dad, can I go look at the magazines?” Wyatt asked, bouncing from foot to foot. Kent nodded and let him go, not taking his gaze from the labels of wine bottles.

“I’ll come find you when I’m ready to go,” he tossed after his twelve-year-old, not looking to see if the boy heard him. He scanned the labels, looking for the brand his wife wanted. Spotting it, he grabbed two bottles and wished they were cold. Perhaps he could find a cold one in the refrigerated area. He tucked the bottles under his arm and continued to browse, smiling at the wines that had humorous labels.

Christmas music played over the loudspeakers, and wine-bottle-shaped stockings hung along the wine aisle, tempting buyers to dress up their bottles before giving them as gifts. He touched one, wondering if he should grab it to gift a bottle to his boss.

A woman screamed, and Kent froze.

Jesus Christ. She sounded like she’d been murdered.

“Wyatt?” Kent said. Ice shot up his spine as he glanced around for his son.


He spun on a foot and headed out of the wine aisle. Male shouts made his feet move faster. Another woman screamed, and he started to jog. “Wyatt?” he shouted. He ran across the back end of the aisles, glancing down each one to find the books and magazines. More shouting sent his heart rate escalating. “Wyatt!” he shouted again.

He slid to a stop at the end of an aisle. Magazines.

No Wyatt.

He swallowed hard. Maybe he was looking at the magazines by the check stands.

He ran down the magazine aisle to the front of the store and scanned the check stands. Employees and shoppers were gathered at the front of one aisle. A male employee ran past him, his face alarmed.