Featured Excerpt: Every Waking Hour by Joanna Schaffhausen

Every Waking Hour is the fourth book in Joanna Schaffhausen's heartpounding Ellery Hathaway mystery series, where Ellery must revisit old wounds to solve the disappearance of a 12-year-old girl. Read an excerpt here!

Chapter 1

 

Wait, you’re just going to leave us here? Alone?” Ellery Hathaway had faced down serial killers and lived to tell about it, but she felt a cold trickle of fear as she glanced at the lone child playing nearby on the grass. “I believe your ex-wife specifically forbade this proposition. In writing. With her attorney.”

Reed laid a comforting hand on her arm. “ You’re not alone. There are fifty thousand people here,” he replied, gesturing at the noisy street fair around them. “And not one of them is my ex-wife, so I don’t think you have to worry. Also, I’m getting lunch, not jetting off to Guam. It’ll be ten minutes at the most.” He nodded down the road in the direction of the taco stand they had passed earlier.

“But I don’t know anything about kids.”

“Think of Tula as having more or less the same needs as your dog, only with less fur.”

Reed’s seven-year-old daughter, Tula, frolicked with Ellery’s basset hound, Speed Bump. Bump had cheerfully gone belly-up, tail thumping in lazy fashion as Tula sung nonsense to him and scratched his barrel chest. Ellery furrowed her brow. “Do you have a leash for her?”

Reed laughed, but she was only half-joking. She’d met Tula only once before and had no idea how to talk to her or any other person under the age of ten. She’d barely had a childhood herself. She’d agreed to this outing because Reed plainly hungered for family and she had to figure out if she fit into it. One thing she was learning fast was that Tula paid attention to conversations even when it appeared she wasn’t listening. She turned guileless brown eyes up at them. “She’s right, Daddy. Mama said I shouldn’t be alone with Ellery on account that she’s got emotional problems.”

Ellery put a hand on her hip. “Your mother,” she began tartly, but Reed cut her off with a look. “Your mother is a wise woman,” she muttered instead.

Reed rewarded her with a smile and reached out to squeeze Ellery’s clammy hand. “Mama hasn’t met Ellery,” he said to Tula. “She doesn’t know her like Daddy does.” He stepped closer into Ellery’s personal space, an intimacy she still couldn’t quite believe she permitted. They had been seeing each other since their adventure in Las Vegas six months ago, but Ellery couldn’t even use the word “boyfriend” yet. Reed, meanwhile, had started adding family members to the mix. “If this is going to work,” he murmured, “you’ll have to be alone with her sometime. I promise she doesn’t bite.”

“Yeah, well, maybe I do.” Ellery turned her face away. If this was going to work, she’d have to become a different person. One who didn’t wake up breathless from a nightmare about being nailed into a closet. One who didn’t freeze up the minute someone touched her. One who was comfortable carrying the little pink sparkly purse that Reed thrust into her hands.

“Hold this. I’ll be back with tacos before you know it,” he said, pecking her cheek before disappearing into the crowd.

Ellery held the offending purse away from her body. It was surprisingly heavy. “What does a second grader need a purse for, anyway?” she asked Tula.

“For my ponies,” Tula replied as though this were an obvious answer.

Ellery risked a look inside and found a dozen plastic horses in various riotous colors staring back up at her. She snapped the thing shut again with a shudder. “So, what else does your mother say about me?”

Tula giggled as Bump’s enormous tongue licked her entire forearm. “She says Daddy’s only with you because of his God complex. On account of he saved you when you were a kid.” She tilted her head at Ellery. “What’s a God complex?”

“I, uh . . .” Ellery looked frantically through the crowd for Reed, but he’d only been gone for two minutes. There were so many people on Boston’s Common that they seemed to inch along as one giant organism, digesting all the air around them. Claustrophobia threatened to overwhelm her and she closed her eyes to block out the sea of slowly moving bodies. She took several deep breaths and reminded herself she was doing this for Reed. She had to pretend to be socially normal for at least a few hours. Smile at strangers. Not go for her gun at the sharp pop of a child’s balloon. Her heartbeat still skittered, but she pasted a smile on her face and resolved to make small talk with Reed’s daughter. When she turned around, she found a herd of redheaded children had descended upon her dog. Bump leaped to his feet, woofing and jumping between the kids. She could barely see him amid the chaos. “Hey, wait a second.” She tried to grab for the leash as the swarm of children seemed to grow around her.

“His ears are so long!”

“I want a puppy like this.”

“Hey, he ate my icecream cone. Dad! This dog stole my icecream!”

A man came huffing over the hill, his round face red like a lobster. “Kieran, Solange! Get away from that dog. Boyd, you know you have allergies.” The small one with the freckles increased his carping about the icecream cone.

“He ate it! He ate it in one gulp.”

The man confronted Ellery. “Did your mutt steal my son’s icecream cone?”

Ellery eyed Bump, who sat amid the children grinning with his tongue hanging out, a satisfied gleam in his eyes. “I’m going to go with ‘yes.’”

“You shouldn’t bring him around people if he isn’t better trained.”

“I could say the same thing about your kids.” One of them had placed Bump in a headlock. Before the man could wind up his outrage even further, Ellery put up her hands. “Look, I’ll give you the money for another cone, okay?” Anything to make the noise and grabby hands go away.

The man took in the pink sequined bag Ellery had slung over her shoulder. “Fine. It was five dollars.”

“Five dollars. For a kiddie cone?” Ellery followed his gaze to the purse as she groped in her back pocket for her wallet, which she stopped doing the moment she realized she’d lost sight of Tula. She called the girl’s name, but no brown head popped up amid the sea of red. “Tula,” she said more sharply. She started sifting the children bodily as she searched out Reed’s daughter. “Tula!”

“Hey, what about my money?” the man demanded as Ellery jogged off, Bump hot on her heels. The street fair filled up all areas of the Boston Common, booths jammed together and throngs of people in front of each one. Ellery threaded her way through the crowds, peering at each child for any sign of recognition. Tula had worn a bright orange T-shirt, and Ellery searched for any flash of it as she pushed onward. Her panic rose with each passing second.

She yelled Tula’s name as loud as she could, the rising fear in her throat making her voice turn shrill. People turned to stare. Her heart seemed to go liquid inside her chest, it was beating so fast. She doubled back in case Tula had reappeared by the trees where they’d been waiting, but there was no sign of her. Ellery felt dizzy as she tried to think of what to do next. Go find Reed? Alert the police? She was the police. “He’s going to kill me,” she said to Bump, who whined and sat on her feet. Desperate now, Ellery nudged him off and went to stand on the nearest bench to get a better view. The crowd looked like a slow-moving river. Tula was small, only about four feet high. Ellery would never be able to see her like this.

Bump barked up at her with enthusiasm, as if asking why she had grown so tall. “Tula,” she told him. “ We’re trying to find Tula.”

He woofed again and wagged his tail. His considerable nose dropped to the ground and he began to snuffle. Watching him, Ellery seized on a slim hope. Bump was no trained working dog, but he’d been born with a nose that wouldn’t quit. “Tula,” she told him again, jumping down from the bench and shoving the purse under his nose. “Find Tula.”

She grabbed his leash and her arm jerked as he set off resolutely in a northward direction. He took a meandering route directly through the crowds. She hoped like hell that he was on the scent of the little girl and not a hot dog. He veered behind some garbage cans, past a water fountain, and into some bushes. He crashed his large front paws right through the branches, leaping up and barking. “Ha, ha! You found me! Good boy.” Tula sprang up with delight, accepting the dog kisses on the side of her face, and Ellery sagged with relief.

“Yes, good boy. You, however . . .” Ellery grabbed the girl’s arm and dragged her out of the brush. “You scared the crap out of me. What are you doing running off like that?”

“We’re playing hide-and-seek, him and me,” she said as she patted Bump’s head.

“Not without telling me first, you’re not. Come on, let’s go find your father before he literally does call in the rest of the FBI.”

Tula stood firm. “ You’re not the boss of me.”

“Listen, bad things can happen to kids who go off without their grown-ups. You have to stay with me, at least until your father comes back.”

Tula tilted her head with interest. “Is that what happened to you? How you got those marks on your arm?”

Ellery regretted wearing the T-shirt that showed off her scars. She was trying not to hide them as much, trying not to care. Wearing her violent history on her body gave the rest of the world license to look and ask questions she’d rather not answer. She sure as hell didn’t want to be having this conversation with a seven-year-old.

“There you are!” Reed appeared, tall and lanky, no sweat visible on him. The man defied the laws of physics. He held a paper sack of food and a cardboard tray of drinks.

“Daddy!” Tula ran up and hugged him. “Ellery and I played hide-and-seek.”

“You did? That’s wonderful.” Reed grinned and looked so pleased that Ellery pursed her lips and said nothing. Her terror was just starting to fade, evaporating off her like the sheen of perspiration that had covered her body during the frantic search. She had for the first time a taste of what her mother must have felt when Ellery disappeared and the acid at the back of her throat said this parenting gig was not for her.

Reed set up a picnic for them on a spare patch of grass and Bump eagerly dragged Ellery toward the scent of more food. She took a careful seat some distance from the father-daughter duo, tuning out their chatter as she tried to calm her frazzled nerves enough to choke down a taco. “Ellery?” Reed furrowed his brow at her. “Are you okay?”

She opened her mouth, not sure of what might come out, but before she could say anything, a woman came running past them, screeching at top volume. “Help! She’s gone! Someone, please help me!”

Reed leaped up like some superhero and dashed after her. Ellery saw him catch up to her, show off his FBI credentials, and begin walking her back to where she and Tula sat with the lunch. “If that lady lost her daughter, my daddy’ll find her,” Tula said to Ellery. “He can find anyone.”

“I know he can.” The entire city of Chicago had turned out to look for Ellery, but Reed was the one who found her, three days gone and half-dead on the floor of Coben’s closet.

“Her name is Chloe. Chloe Lockhart,” the woman was saying. Her face was streaked with tears and her chin wobbled as she spoke. “I’m her nanny—my name is Margery— but she calls me ‘Mimi’ just like my grandbabies do. Oh, I don’t know how I’m supposed to tell her parents about this.”

Ellery rose to join Reed.

“Where and when did you last see Chloe?” he asked Margery.

“Almost an hour ago, way over on that side of the Common,” she replied, pointing. “She wanted to buy a pretzel and it was just a few trucks down from where I was sitting on the bench. I said I’d go with her, but she begged me to let her go alone and I didn’t want to give up our spot. She said she’s not a baby, and I didn’t see the harm so I said okay. Why, why, why didn’t I just go with her?”

“Probably she’s just wandered off to watch the acrobats or listen to the band,” Reed said. “But we can organize a search.”

“No, I don’t think so. I think something’s happened to her.” Margery waved her cell phone at him. “I’ve been calling and texting, and she hasn’t answered. That girl’s phone lives in her left hand like it was born attached. Plus, she knows better than to ignore me.”

“Some areas are awful loud right now,” Ellery said, her own voice raised over the din. “She may not hear the phone. What is Chloe wearing today?”

Margery sniffed. “ Here, I can show you.” She called up a picture of a blond girl wearing jean shorts with silver stars studded on them, a pale pink T-shirt, and Teva sandals. A beaded bracelet encircled her left wrist. “Please, I’ll do anything. Just help me find her.”

Reed looked to Ellery. “ Will you stay with Tula while I make some calls?”

This was her territory, not his. “How about you stay with Tula and Bump while I make some calls?” She handed him the leash and took out her shield to show Margery. “Detective Hathaway, Boston PD. This is a local matter right now, and our officers are best equipped to handle it. Agent Markham is just visiting from Virginia.” Reed frowned at her but didn’t argue as she began leading Margery away.

“Tell me more about Chloe. If she were to run off, where would she go?”

Margery looked perplexed. “She wouldn’t run off. She’s only twelve. Besides, Chloe’s a good girl.”

“I’m sure she is. I just want to know what her interests are—favorite foods, music, that sort of thing?” Boston at that moment was a veritable buffet of sights, smells, and sounds. Ellery wanted to narrow her search.

“I—I don’t know. Normal girl stuff. She loves her dog, Snuffles. Video games. Makeup that she’s not supposed to wear. She’ll eat any kind of junk food.” The woman turned helplessly in a circle at all the vendors with their ice cream, candy, and deep-fried meat on a stick. Nearby, a toddler began wailing as his red balloon escaped into the sky. “I’m gonna call her again,” Margery said, pulling out her phone.

“Wait, take my number first. Text me her photo. If you make contact with her, let me know. I’m going to alert the officers on duty here to be on the lookout for her, okay?”

“Thank you. Thank you so much.”

Ellery found the nearest unit and the two guys standing by. She knew one of them by sight and the other not at all. When she explained the problem, they agreed to put word out on the radio and to assist her in tracking down Chloe Lockhart. “I’m going to head to the west perimeter by the Public Garden,” Ellery said. Over by Newbury Street, with its allure of fancy shops and eateries. Just the place a twelve-year-old on her own might go.

Ellery searched the faces of passersby as she went. She didn’t feel the same abject terror as she had earlier when Tula disappeared on her watch, but there was a tense knot in her gut nonetheless. Most missing kids, she knew, turned up within a few hours. Most of them just lost track of time and forgot to call home. Or they deliberately orchestrated a scheme for freedom, returning when they ran out of money or got hungry. But Francis Michael Coben had stolen sixteen girls and butchered them all before he got to Ellery, so her mind went to him first, last, and always. She picked up her pace as she reached the Public Garden, jogging past the beds of purple and white flow-ers, the idling swan boats, and the waving willows.

At the intersection to cross to Newbury Street, she waited impatiently for the light to change, bouncing on the balls of her feet like the runner she was. The walk sign flashed, but a strange sound—a kind of stuttering laugh—drew her up short. She waited and heard it again. She zeroed in on the sound and traced it to the nearest trash can. Inside on top of a pile of garbage lay a cell phone making the Porky Pig signature trill “That’s all, folks!” instead of a regular ring. Ellery’s cold fear returned in force when she saw the caller ID.

“Mimi.”

Chapter 2

 

Normally when there was a missing child, people sent for Reed Markham with the singular blazing focus and desperation of Gotham City with its Bat signal. As a young agent, Reed had found the most infamous missing girl of all, Ellery herself, and then many others since then. His pedigree in this area was unrivaled, which was why he hung around Boston PD waiting for them to realize it. He lingered like a wallflower in the precinct hallway, dodging file cabinets, shuffling backward periodically to peek at Tula in the break room. She sat at the table coloring, her short legs not quite touching the floor where Speed Bump lay snoozing. Reed’s ex-wife, Sarit, would have him thrown in the basement jail if she could see them now. They only fought about two issues, both of them Reed’s shortcomings, according to Sarit: his obsession with his work and his relationship with Ellery, and here he was mixing both together.

He knew he should take Tula back to the hotel. The longer she remained at the police station, the more likely she was to relay the adventure to Sarit, complete with the part where Ellery was down the hall, which would be the narrative equivalent to setting the story on fire. Is this some sort of midlife crisis? A temporary insanity? Sarit had asked when she learned he was seeing Ellery. Your manic pixie dream girl dances with death more than she tangos with you. Half the time you’re with her, you wind up nearly shot to death. Reed didn’t have a satisfactory answer to this jab because he knew it to be true.

He crept forward again to eavesdrop on the investigation into Chloe Lockhart’s disappearance. The room vibrated with a tense energy he recognized as the mobilizing fear that accompanied a missing child. Phones rang, seemingly without end. Chloe’s unsmiling face beamed out from all the computer monitors. Reed studied the photo, remembering the moodiness that had gripped his older sisters when they were on the cusp of puberty. Mama would compliment a hairstyle or outfit choice, and the wearer would stomp back to her room and change immediately. Chloe’s refusal to light up for the camera—or whoever was behind it—could be mere adolescent pique or a sign of something more troubling.

Ellery stood across the room, deep in conversation with a man who Reed deduced must be her captain. The man had a roll of ant-acids in his hand, and he was chewing through them like they were candy. Reed wondered whether this was an old habit or a new one acquired when he began to supervise Ellery this past summer. She’d survived her suspension from active duty, and now Boston was giving her a tryout as a detective. No one could argue that she didn’t get results. But her track record of dead bodies and near misses, coupled with her infamy from the Coben case, rendered her radioactive within the department.

As though she felt him staring, Ellery looked up at Reed and waved him over to her. Reed tried not to appear too eager to join the loop as he strode over to stand near Ellery’s side. She angled her body away from him. “Captain, this is Special Agent Reed Markham.”

The captain stuck out one beefy hand. “James Conroy,” he said as he gave Reed a firm shake. “Hathaway told me you happened to be at the fair today when the Lockhart girl went missing. How about our good fortune that the FBI’s number-one child finder is vacationing here in Boston. I hope you can help us out.”

Reed looked sideways at Ellery, whose face, as usual, betrayed nothing of her thoughts. “I’m happy to help if I can,” Reed said mildly.

“Good. Great, even. The Lockhart girl has been gone almost five hours now. What do you think about putting out an Amber Alert on her?”

Amber Alerts went out to the general public in cases of child abduction or endangerment. In Reed’s opinion, they did not have enough information yet to know whether Chloe was in danger. More than 90  percent of missing kids were runaways, and most returned home within a day or two. “It’s the cell phone in the trash can that concerns me,” Reed said, glancing at the clock on the wall. “Most kids Chloe’s age would need surgical amputation to remove their phone from their hands, let alone willingly toss it in the trash. But I would wait to put out the alert until you’ve interviewed the parents.”

“ We’re working on that. Her mother’s a surgeon at Mass General, and she’s in the O.R., apparently. We have an officer waiting to pick her up as soon as she’s free. The father is some bigwig at Fidelity. Chloe’s nanny, Margery Brimwood, reached him on the golf course. He’s on his way down here now.”

“What about Chloe’s friends?”

“According to Margery, her best friend is a kid named McKenna MacIntyre,” Ellery said glancing at her notes. “Margery contacted McKenna’s nanny, who explained about Chloe’s disappearance to McKenna’s parents. They’re bringing her down for an interview.”

“I know Judge MacIntyre,” Captain Conroy said. “ He’ll appreciate the gravity of the situation.”

Ellery twitched with obvious impatience. “If we wait on the alert, aren’t we killing valuable time?” Reed knew it had taken more than a day before law enforcement accepted that Ellery was abducted and not a runaway. Her family was poor, her home life chaotic, and Ellery’s time hadn’t been closely supervised or monitored. She’d been out alone on the streets of Chicago the night she went missing, and her mother had admitted, shamefaced, that this situation was not unusual.

“The BOLO went out as soon as we received the report. We’ve put out a description of her to every officer in the city.” Conroy looked to Reed. “More eyeballs couldn’t hurt, though. Push all the buttons you got, yeah?”

“It’s your call. Eyeballs help, yes, but they are most useful when trained in the right direction. Knowing more about Chloe’s habits is crucial at this stage.”

He didn’t have to guess the roots of Conroy’s indecision. The named players in this drama so far included two nannies, a judge, a surgeon, and some financial poobah. All this added up to the fact that Chloe came from money, and money knew how to make noise. A misstep either way would be bad for the Boston PD. Sound the national alert for a kid who’d just run off to make trouble for one afternoon and they could be airing a wealthy family’s dirty laundry for all to see. Keep quiet about a girl who’d been abducted and the fallout could bring all the local parents down to headquarters, demanding answers and impeding any further investigation.

A commotion near the front doors halted their conversation and a silver-haired man in khaki shorts came striding into the precinct. “Where’s my daughter? Who’s in charge here?”

“Mr. Lockhart?” Conroy asked.

“I’m Martin Lockhart, yes. Where is Chloe?”

“That’s what we’re trying to determine, sir. It would help us if you could—”

“Where’s Margery? Margery was supposed to be watching her.”

“ We’re interviewing Mrs. Brimwood now, sir.”

“I want to talk to her. She’s paid fifty thousand dollars a year to watch one little girl. How the hell does something like this happen?”

“Martin, let’s hear what he has to say, okay?” Another man, slightly younger, with black shorts and expensive running shoes, stepped forward to put his hand on Lockhart’s shoulder. He flashed a set of white veneers at the officers. “We all want the same thing here.”

“I didn’t get your name,” Conroy said.

“Stephen Wintour.”

“He’s my attorney,” Lockhart said, and Reed and Ellery exchanged a look that asked what kind of father stops to bring a lawyer along when his daughter’s gone missing. Lockhart must have sensed the question in the awkward pause. “Stephen was also my golf partner for the afternoon. He was with me when I got the call.”

“I’ve known Chloe almost since birth,” Wintour added. “Anything I can do to help, just let me know.”

“Jeffries, could you show them to interview room two, please? I’ll be right with you.” As Lockhart and Wintour were led away, Conroy turned to Reed. “Look, it isn’t every day we get the FBI to weigh in without going through the official rigmarole. Would you mind taking a listen while I talk to this guy and giving us your opinion?”

“Of course not.”

Boston’s setup was old enough that they still utilized a one-way mirror. Reed stood with Ellery outside the interview room while Conroy sat with Lockhart and his buddy at a metal table that had been bolted to the floor. Conroy had a legal pad on which to take notes, and Reed was intrigued to see the lawyer pull out a pad of his own. Conroy had an officer round them up bottles of water, and while this was happening Reed looked to Ellery.

“Your captain doesn’t know about us,” he murmured.

Her lips curled in an ironic smile, but she did not look at him. “The whole world knows about us, Agent Markham. I think the USA channel just ran a new movie last week.”

“I don’t mean the Coben case.”

He waited. “Do you always tell your boss who you’re sleeping with?” she asked.

“I think all my trips up to Boston speak for themselves on that point.” He’d made the journey at least once a month, but Ellery had yet to come stay with him in Virginia since they had consummated their relationship. He’d envisioned her at his family holidays or playing board games at the kitchen table with Tula. He wanted to play the piano for her and show her around D.C. He’d even sent her links to a dog park near his condo. Bring the hound, he’d texted her. He can size up the local squirrel population. Ellery always demurred: Maybe someday. As the months flew past and he lived his half of their relationship out of a roller bag, Reed felt more keenly the pieces of himself he left behind to be with her and wondered whether Ellery would ever want to see them.

“You don’t need to stay here on my account,” she said steadily, her gaze fixed on the men inside the interview room.

“At the moment, I’m here for Chloe.” He leaned over and turned up the volume to hear the conversation more clearly.

“How old is Chloe?” Conroy was asking, even though they knew the answer to this. Reed approved of the technique: when facing a distraught or combative witness, start with easy questions with concrete answers.

“She’ll be thirteen in two weeks. The end of August.” Lockhart swallowed visibly. “The day she came into the world was the happiest of my life.”

“I feel the same way about my kids,” Conroy replied. “What about Chloe—any brothers or sisters?”

An odd pause. “No, it’s just Chloe. Her mother and I had her later in life.”

“I see. Where does Chloe go to school?”

He looked confused. “It’s summer. School’s out.”

“But when it resumes, where will she go?” He named a school Reed was not familiar with and indicated Chloe would be starting eighth grade in the fall. “A tough age,” Conroy allowed. “Kids want more independence, start keeping some parts of their life secret.”

“Not Chloe.”

Ellery gave a small snort of disbelief. At thirteen, Reed knew, she’d been roaming the streets of Chicago, begging for pocket change. Reed thought of Tula singing to herself, legs swinging under the table as she colored a rainbow pony, and he feared for his future. “Did you ever think about running away?” he asked Ellery.

She folded her arms. “ Every damn day of my life.”

Inside, Conroy marched Lockhart through a series of questions that did not help Reed feel more comfortable in his role as an absentee father. Who were Chloe’s friends? Not sure. Maybe he’s heard the name Jenna a few times. What were her favorite stores to shop in? “Ask Margery. She knows.” The name of Chloe’s doctor? They would like access to her medical records, if permitted. Teresa makes those appointments, not him. With obvious pride, Chloe’s father could name his daughter’s accomplishments—first place in a piano concerto competition, straight A’s, a talented forward on her soccer team—but he had no idea what her typical day was like.

“I don’t get home until almost eight. Her mother sometimes much later. Chloe is often in bed by then and we don’t want to disturb her. Children need sleep, right?” He seemed to be looking to Conroy for validation, and Conroy gave it.

“My teenagers couldn’t get enough of it, but they wanted to do it all in the daylight hours. They’d sleep past noon if we let ’em. Chloe’s not a night owl?”

Martin seemed to be searching for answers. “She has a television in her room. Video games. Sometimes I see the light flickering under her door at night. I’m sorry, I don’t see what these questions have to do with finding my daughter.”

“We have every available officer out looking for her.”

“How many abducted-kid cases have you worked?” Ellery asked Reed, still not looking at him.

Inside the room, Lockhart had his head in his hands. “Twenty-four.” Reed didn’t have to do the math. The children he always remembered.

She nodded to herself. “How many did you bring home?”

He hesitated. “Nineteen.” A high average, but the gap gnawed at him on the nights when his own sleep proved elusive.

“Alive?”

He didn’t want to say. Not to her.

Ellery persisted, turning and pinning him with her stare. “How many came back alive?”

He hesitated another beat. “Three.”

Ellery turned around again, her mouth set in a grim line. “I know this is difficult,” Conroy was saying. “ We’re just trying to cover every angle. Is there anyone at all you can think of who might have wanted to hurt Chloe?”

“H—hurt her?” Lockhart’s face twisted. His mouth opened and a wheezing sound emerged, like a deflating balloon.

The lawyer, Wintour, spoke for the first time since the interview began. “You mean like someone with a grudge? She’s a little girl.” He laid a hand on Lockhart’s arm. Wintour might have made the gesture to comfort him, but to Reed, it looked like a caution: Don’t say anything. Let me handle it.

“You might be surprised at the complexity of a middle schooler’s life these days,” Conroy replied. “What about it, Mr. Lockhart? Anyone who might have wanted to help Chloe disappear, even if only for a few hours?”

“Disappear?” His chin quivered. His voice was hoarse when he answered. “No. There’s no one. Are we done yet? Shouldn’t you be out looking for Chloe rather than asking me all these questions?”

“He’s lying,” Ellery remarked to Reed. “Or at least there’s something he’s not telling us. His kid is missing—why hold back information now?”

Wealthy families, he knew, weren’t used to answering questions they didn’t care to answer. Reed had lived for decades with an explosive secret right within his DNA. However, he’d seen enough of his father’s infidelity over the years to have a guess as to what Martin Lockhart might be hiding.

“Detective Hathaway?” A uniformed officer poked her head around the corner. “The mother just arrived. What do you want me to do with her?”

“I’ll handle it. Thanks.”

Curious about Chloe’s other parent, Reed trailed Ellery out to the bullpen to get a glimpse of Teresa Lockhart, who stood trembling amid the chaos. She was tall, with close-cropped blond hair worn in a trendy, almost spiky ’do that Reed was surprised to see on a married, fifty-something surgeon. Her blue eyes were darker than her daughter’s striking aquamarine hue, and they were wet with tears. Ellery introduced herself and the woman collapsed into the nearest chair.

“You haven’t found her? I prayed the whole way here it wasn’t true.”

“We’re looking everywhere. I promise you.”

Teresa Lockhart didn’t seem to hear her. She accepted the box of tissues that Ellery passed to her and took a fistful as the tears welled up inside her once more. “Not again,” she said. “This can’t be happening again.”

 

Copyright © 2020 by Joanna Schaffhausen


 

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Comments

  1. Escaper

    HMM interesting. Where can I buy?

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