Chris glanced at Dylan’s window, but it was dark, which made sense since it was 4:15 A.M. The kid had to sleep sometime. Chris picked up his phone, thumbed to the camera function, enlarged the view, and took a picture, reviewing what he knew about Dylan’s family. The father, David McPhee, was a workmen’s comp lawyer in town who had no website and little social media. His mother was a dental hygienist, also in town, but she had no activity on social media, and the other kids were younger, Michael, age ten, Allison, age nine, who had been in the local newspaper for winning a spelling bee. There were two cars in the driveway; a green Subaru Outback and a new Honda Fit, a shiny eggplant color.
Chris had a bad feeling about the McPhee family, not because of anything he saw, but because of what he didn’t. It was strange that even the mother wasn’t on social media, especially with kids who had academic and sports success. It struck him as secretive, and he’d also noticed that the family only rarely went out, except to church on Sundays, attending United Methodist in Central Valley. Chris had been making the rounds to different churches, temporarily becoming the religion his suspects were, but so far, it had been impossible to keep track of everybody on Sunday morning, which was why he needed more manpower.
Suddenly, he spotted something in motion behind the hedges at the house next to the McPhees’. It was moving fast, maybe a deer. He reached inside the glove box, retrieved his binoculars, and aimed where the shadow had been. It took him only a second to focus the lens, and he saw something race across the McPhees’ driveway behind the cars.
Chris watched through the binoculars, astonished. It was a person, and in the next minute, a figure climbed on top of the stucco wall and walked along the edge to the house, climbed a trellis affixed to the wall, and used it like a ladder toward the window. It had to be Dylan, because in the next minute, the boy reached his window and scrambled inside.
“Holy shit,” Chris said under his breath. He kept his binoculars trained on the window as Dylan closed the sash. A moment later, the bluish light of the laptop screen went on, and the boy appeared in view, his profile silhouetted as he sat down at his desk.
Chris tried to make sense of what he had seen. He’d been here many nights and seen Dylan at the computer, but there had never been any suspicious activity. Dylan had obviously sneaked out somewhere, which didn’t fit his nerdy profile. It wasn’t inherently suspicious that Dylan was sneaking out, but the questions were obvious.
Chris kept an eye on the window, and Dylan stayed on his laptop. Chris wished that he could legally get inside the kids’ computers, but again, the law thwarted him. He didn’t have probable cause for a subpoena and even the Rabbi wouldn’t let him go phishing, that is, sending the boys a false link to hack into their computers. Again Chris understood the reason for the law, but it kept thwarting him when he was trying to save lives. He would just have to keep investigating the old-fashioned way, around the clock.
Chris waited, watching, and in the next few minutes, Dylan got up from his desk and disappeared from view. The laptop screen blinked to darkness, and the window went black. Chris stayed waiting and watching, just in case anything else happened. After twenty minutes, he turned on the ignition, pulled out of the space, and left the street, heading home with another set of questions to answer.
The anniversary of the Oklahoma bombing was less than three days away.
Mindy reached the door to Evan’s room, listening. No sound came from inside, so she twisted the knob as quietly as she could and entered. Moonlight shone through the open window, and she could see the familiar form of her son, his breathing soft and regular. Evan’s iPhone was recharging on his night table, and she tiptoed over, unplugged it, then backed toward the door, and slipped outside, closing it again.
She hurried across the hall into Paul’s home office, then ducked into its bathroom, and closed the door behind her. She didn’t know Paul’s phone password, but she knew Evan’s—and Evan didn’t even know she knew. She had been curious who he was texting all the time, so one day, when he didn’t realize she was looking, she’d watched him plug his password into his phone. A not-so-dumb housewife, after all.
She sat on the toilet lid and touched the phone screen, then plugged in the passcode 0701, the birthday of their old Lab, Sam. The passcode worked, revealing the home screen, a photo of Miley Cyrus in a wacky outfit, with her tongue out and showing a dream-catcher tattoo on her side. Mindy thumbed to the text function and scanned the list. The boys’ names jumped out at her because there were so few of them and they were his teammates—Jordan, Trevor, Raz. Mindy didn’t bother to look at those texts because Evan wasn’t buying presents for his teammates. Then she had a second, scary thought. What if Evan was doing drugs and buying them from one of the boys? She didn’t know Jordan or Trevor very well, but Raz was a wacko and his brother had just been arrested.
Mindy was just about to take a screenshot of the people Evan texted with, but she realized that if she did that and sent it to herself, Evan could tell from his Sent email box, so she got her phone and took a picture of the screen, then scrolled down and took another picture, then another, and finally a fourth, until the names finally started to repeat. She couldn’t believe how many people Evan texted with. It was a miracle that he got anything else done.
Mindy started with the girls, opening the text from the first girl, Brittany, and reading the text bubbles:
Brittany: where r u? i thot u were coming over
Brittany: why not? what r u doing?
Brittany: w who? r u w maddie rn
Brittany: wht about after? wanna come over?
Mindy paused. Brittany seemed needy, and Evan never had liked that kind of girl. Mindy used to worry if he’d find a long-term girlfriend, but high school wasn’t the time for that, anyway. In any event, Mindy didn’t get the impression that Evan was buying Brittany any presents. To double-check, she scrolled backwards, trying to get closer in time to the cash withdrawal in March, but there were so many damn texts it was taking forever to load and she didn’t want to get caught.
She thumbed to the other girls Evan texted, and touched the screen on the next girl’s name, which was Maddie:
Maddie: i thought we were going to rita’s
Evan: cant make it