A man swung a crowbar through the glass.
Will startled back into consciousness, disoriented and thirsty. It was so quiet—just the discreet drone of a computer fan and the second hand of the clock ticking in the adjacent bedroom. He found himself slouched in the leather chair at the desk in his small home office, the CPU still purring, the monitor switched into sleep mode.
As he yawned, everything rushed back in a torrent of anxiety. He’d been hammering out notes for his closing argument and hit a wall at ten o’clock. The evidence was damning. He was going to lose. He’d only closed his eyes for a moment to clear his head.
He reached for the mug of coffee and took a sip. Winced. It was cold and bitter. He jostled the mouse. When the screen restored, he looked at the clock and realized he wouldn’t be sleeping anymore tonight. It was 4:09 a.m. He was due in court in less than five hours.
First things first—he needed an immediate and potent infusion of caffeine.
His office adjoined the master bedroom at the west end of the house, and passing through on his way to the kitchen, he noticed a peculiar thing. He’d expected to see his wife buried under the myriad quilts and blankets on their bed, but she wasn’t there. The comforter was smooth and taut, undisturbed since they’d made it up yesterday morning.
He walked through the living room into the den and down the hallway toward the east end of the house. Rachael had probably come home, seen him asleep at his desk, and gone in to kiss Devlin. She’d have been exhausted from working all day at the clinic. She’d probably fallen asleep in there. He could picture the nightlight glow on their faces as he reached his daughter’s door.
It was cracked, exactly as he’d left it seven hours ago when he’d put Devlin to bed.
He eased the door open. Rachael wasn’t with her.
Will wide awake now, closing Devlin’s door, heading back into the den.
“Rachael? You here, hon?”
He went to the front door, turned the deadbolt, stepped outside.
Dark houses. Porchlights. Streets still wet from the thunderstorms that blew through several hours ago. No wind, the sky clearing, bright with stars.
When he saw them in the driveway, his knees gave out and he sat down on the steps and tried to remember how to breathe. One Beamer, no Jeep Cherokee, and a pair of patrol cars, two uniformed officers coming toward him, their hats shelved under their arms.
The patrolmen sat in the living room on the couch, Will facing them in a chair. The smell of new paint was still strong. He and Rachael had redone the walls and the vaulted ceiling in terracotta last weekend. Most of the black and white desert photographs that adorned the room still leaned against the antique chest of drawers, waiting to be re-hung.
The lawmen were businesslike in their delivery, taking turns with the details, as if they’d rehearsed who would say what, their voices so terribly measured and calm.
There wasn’t much information yet. Rachael’s Cherokee had been found on the shoulder of Arizona 85 in Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument. Right front tire flat, punctured with a nail to cause a slow and steady loss of air pressure. Driver side window busted out.
No Rachael. No blood.
They asked Will a few questions. They tried to sympathize. They said how sorry they were, Will just shaking his head and staring at the floor, a tightness in his chest, constricting his windpipe in a slow strangulation.
He happened to look up at some point, saw Devlin standing in the hall in a plain pink tee-shirt that fell all the way to the carpet, the tattered blanket she’d slept with every night since her birth draped over her left arm. And he could see in her eyes that she’d heard every word the patrolmen had said about her mother, because they were filling up with tears.
Rachael Innis was strapped upright with two-inch webbing to the leather seat behind the driver. She stared at the console lights. The digital clock read 4:32 a.m. She remembered the crowbar through the window and nothing after.
Bach’s Four Lute Suites blared from the Bose stereo system, John Williams playing the classical guitar. Beyond the windshield, the headlights cut a feeble swath of light through the darkness, and even though she was riding in a luxury SUV, the shocks did little to ease the violent jarring from whatever primitive road they traveled.
Her wrists and ankles were comfortably but securely bound with nylon restraints. Her mouth wasn’t gagged. From her vantage point, she could only see the back of the driver’s head and occasionally the side of his face by the cherry glow of his cigarette. He was smooth-shaven, his hair was dark, and he smelled of a subtle, spicy cologne.
It occurred to her that he didn’t know she was awake, but the thought wasn’t two seconds old when she caught his eyes in the rearview mirror. They registered her consciousness, turned back to the road.
They drove on. An endless stream of rodents darted across the road ahead and a thought kept needling her—at some point, he was going to stop the car and do whatever he was driving her out in the desert to do.
“Have you urinated on my seat?” She thought she detected the faintest accent.
“You tell me if you have to urinate. I’ll stop the car.”
“Okay. Where are you—”
“No talking. Unless you have to urinate.”
“You want your mouth taped? You have a cold. That would make breathing difficult.”
Devlin was the only thing she’d ever prayed for and that was years ago, but as she watched the passing sagebrush and cactus through the deeply tinted windows, she pleaded with God again.
Now the Escalade was slowing. It came to a stop. He turned off the engine and stepped outside and shut the door. Her door opened. He stood watching her. He was very handsome, with flawless, brown skin (save for an indentation in the bridge of his nose), liquid blue eyes, and black hair greased back from his face. His pretty teeth seemed to gleam in the night. Rachael’s chest heaved against the strap of webbing.
He said, “Calm down, Rachael.” Her name sounded like a foreign word on his lips. He took out a syringe from his black leather jacket and uncapped the needle.
“What is that?” she asked.
“You have nice veins.” He ducked into the Escalade and turned her arm over. When the needle entered, she gasped.
“Please listen. If this is some kind of ransom thing—”
“No, no. You’ve already been purchased. In fact, right now, there isn’t a safer place in the world for you to be than in my possession.”