“Now. Yesterday. But I told the client tomorrow.”

I took a sip from my own glass of scotch. “Can’t do it.”

“I just offered you a permanent position with this firm, and you’re already being difficult?”

“I had no idea this was in the wind. I had to take a case to put food on the table. I can’t walk away in the middle of it.”

He gave a slow, that-doesn’t-concern-me blink. “How long before you can divest yourself?”

“Couple more days.”

“That puts us at Christmas.”

“Yeah, it does.”

“So let’s say you free up by Christmas, can I tell our client you’ll close his case”—he pointed at the folder—”by New Year’s?”

“If I’m done with my current case by Christmas, sure.”

He sighed. “How much they paying you, your current client?”

I lied. “A fair wage.”

I came home with flowers I couldn’t afford and Chinese takeout I couldn’t afford, either. I took the shower I’d been fantasizing about all afternoon and changed into a pair of jeans and a T-shirt from Pela’s one and only concert tour, then joined my family for dinner.

After we ate, we played with Gabby. Then I read to her and put her to bed. I came back into the living room and told my wife about my day.

Once I’d finished, Angie went straight to the porch for an American Spirit Light. “So the Russian mob has your driver’s license.”

“Yes.”

“Which means they know our home address.”

“Said information usually appears on a driver’s license, yes.”

“And if we tell the police they kidnapped a young girl . . .”

“They would be perturbed with me,” I agreed. “Did I mention the part where Duhamel offered me a permanent position?”

“A thousand times,” she said. “So you’re going to walk away. As in, right now.”

“No.”

“Uh, yes.”

“No. They kidnapped a seventeen—”

“—year-old girl. Yes. I heard you. I also heard the part where they shot the shit out of a car you were driving and took your license so they could come here if they felt like it and kidnap our child. So, I’m sorry about the seventeen-year-old girl, but I’ve got a four-year-old girl right here who I’m going to protect.”

“Even at the cost of another life.”

“You’re damn right.”

“This is bullshit.”

“This is not.”

“Yes, it is. You asked me to take this case.”

“Lower your voice. Okay, yes, I asked you to—”

“Knowing what it did to me the last time I searched for Amanda. What it did to us. But you were all about the greater good. And now that the greater good is biting us in the ass and another kid is in danger, you want me to pack it in.”

“We’re talking about our daughter’s safety.”

“But that’s not all we’re talking about. We’re in this now. You want to take Gabby and go see your mom, I think that’s a great idea. They’re dying to see each other. But I’m going to find Amanda and I’m going to get Sophie back, too.”

“You’d choose this case over—”

“No. Don’t try that shit on me. Do not.”

“Volume control, please.”

“You know who I am. You knew the minute you convinced me to do what Beatrice asked that I would never stop until I found Amanda again. And now you want to tell me it’s over? Well, it’s not. Not until I find her.”

“Find who? Amanda? Or Sophie? You can’t even differentiate anymore.”

Both of us had reached one step below atomic and we knew it. And we knew how bad it would get if we took the next step. Marry an Irish temper to an Italian temper and you often get broken dishes. We’d done a little counseling just before our daughter was born, to help us keep our hands off the nuke button when the air in the silo got too tight, and most times, it helped.

I took a breath. My wife took a breath and then a drag off her cigarette. The air on the porch was cold, bracing even, but we were dressed for it and it felt good in my lungs. I let out a long breath. A twenty-year breath.

Angie stepped in close to my chest. I wrapped my arms around her and she placed her head under my chin and kissed the hollow below my throat.

“I hate fighting with you,” she said.

“I hate fighting with you.”

“Yet we manage to disagree fairly often.”

“That’s because we like making up so much.”

“I love making up,” she said.

“You and me both, sister.”

“You think we woke her?”

I went to the door that separated our bedrooms and opened it, watched my daughter sleep. She didn’t sleep on her stomach so much as on her upper chest, head turned to the right, butt sticking up in the air. If I looked in two hours from now, she’d be on her side, but pre-midnight, she slept like a penitent.

I shut the door and came back to bed. “She’s out.”

“I’m going to send her.”

“What? Where?”

“To see my mom. If Bubba will take her.”

“Call him. You know exactly what he’ll say.”

She nodded. It was barely a question, really. Angie could tell Bubba she needed him yesterday in Katmandu and he’d remind her that he was already there. “How’s he going to get weapons on a plane?”

“It’s Savannah. I’m quite sure he has connections there.”

“Gabby’ll love to see her nonnie, that’s for sure. She’s been talking about it nonstop since the summer. Well, that and trees.” She looked over at me. “You good with that?”

I looked at her. “These are bad fucking people I’m going to take on. And, like you said, they know where we live. I’d put her on a plane tonight, if I could. But what about you? You’re going to put the spurs on again, join me on the wagon trail?”

“Yeah. Might speed the process up.”

“Sure. But what’s the longest you’ve been away from Gabby since we had her?”

“Three days.”

“Right. When we went to Maine and you whined about missing her the whole friggin’ time.”

“I didn’t whine. I stated the obvious a few times.”

“And then restated it. That’s called whining.”

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