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Young Chad Coldren’s smile was bright and happy.

When his fingers finished their little rumba, Chad settled back into the car to wait. He turned away from the camera for a moment. To the passenger seat. Someone was sitting next to Chad. Again Myron watched for a reaction. Linda, Jack, and Bucky all squinted, all trying to make out a face, but it was impossible. When Chad finally turned back to the camera, he was laughing. He pulled the money out, grabbed his card, leaned back into the car, closed the window, and drove off.

Myron switched off the VCR and waited. Silence flooded the room. Linda Coldren slowly lifted her head. She kept her expression steady, but her jaw trembled from being so set.

“There was another person in the car,” Linda offered. “He could have had a gun on Chad or—”

“Stop it!” Jack shouted. “Look at his face, Linda! For crying out loud, just look at his goddamn smirking face!”

“I know my son. He wouldn’t do this.”

“You don’t know him,” Jack countered. “Face it, Linda. Neither one of us knows him.”

“It’s not what it looks like,” Linda insisted, speaking more to herself than anyone in the room.

“No?” Jack gestured at the television, his face reddening. “Then how the hell do you explain what we just saw? Huh? He was laughing, Linda. He’s having the time of his life at our expense.” He stopped, struggled with something. “At my expense,” he corrected himself.

Linda gave him a long look. “Go play, Jack.”

“That’s exactly what I am going to do.”

He lifted his bag. His eyes met Bucky’s. Bucky remained silent. A tear slid down the older man’s cheek. Jack tore his gaze away and started for the door.

Myron called out, “Jack?”

Coldren stopped.

“It still might not be what it looks like,” Myron said.

Again with the eyebrows. “What do you mean?”

“I traced the call you got last night,” Myron explained. “It was made from a mall pay phone.” He briefly filled them in on his visit to the Grand Mercado Mall and the Crusty Nazi. Linda’s face kept slipping from hope to heartbreak and mostly confusion. Myron understood. She wanted her son to be safe. But at the same time, she did not want this to be some cruel joke. Tough mix.

“He is in trouble,” Linda said as soon as he’d finished. “That proves it.”

“That proves nothing,” Jack replied in tired exasperation. “Rich kids hang out at malls and dress like punks too. He’s probably a friend of Chad’s.”

Again Linda looked at her husband hard. Again she said in a measured tone, “Go play, Jack.”

Jack opened his mouth to say something, then stopped. He shook his head, adjusted the bag on his shoulder, and left. Bucky crossed the room. He tried to hold his daughter, but she stiffened at his touch. She moved away, studying Myron’s face.

“You think he’s faking too,” she said.

“Jack’s explanation makes sense.”

“So you’re going to stop looking?”

“I don’t know,” Myron said.

She straightened her back. “Stay with it,” she began, “and I promise to sign with you.”

“Linda …”

“That’s why you’re here in the first place, right? You want my business. Well, here’s the deal. You stay with me and I’ll sign whatever you want. Hoax or no hoax. It’ll be quite a coup, no? Signing the number one–ranked female golfer in the world?”

“Yes,” Myron admitted. “It would be.”

“So there you go.” She stuck out her hand. “Do we have a deal?”

Myron kept his hands by his side. “Let me ask you something.”

“What?”

“Why are you so sure it’s not a hoax, Linda?”

“You think I’m being naive?”

“Not really,” he said. “I just want to know what makes you so certain.”

She lowered her hand and turned away from him. “Dad?”

Bucky seemed to snap out of a daze. “Hmm?”

“Would you mind leaving us alone for a minute?”

“Oh,” Bucky said. Neck crane. Then another. Two of them back-to-back. Good thing he wasn’t a giraffe. “Yes, well, I wanted to get to Merion anyway.”

“You go ahead, Dad. I’ll meet you there.”

When they were alone, Linda Coldren began to pace the room. Myron was again awed by her looks—the paradoxical combination of beauty, strength, and now delicacy. The strong, toned arms, yet the long, slender neck. The harsh, pointed features, yet the soft indigo eyes. Myron had heard beauty described as “seamless”; hers was quite the opposite.

“I’m not big on”—Linda Coldren made quote marks in the air with her fingers—“woman’s intuition or any of that mother-knows-her-boy-best crap. But I know that my son is in danger. He wouldn’t just disappear like this. No matter how it looks, that’s not what happened.”

Myron remained silent.

“I don’t like asking for help. It’s not my way—to depend on someone else. But this is a situation.… I’m scared. I’ve never felt fear like this in all of my life. It’s all-consuming. It’s suffocating. My son is in trouble and I can’t do anything to help him. You want proof that this is not a hoax. I can’t provide that. I just know. And I’m asking you to please help me.”

Myron wasn’t sure how to respond. Her argument came straight from the heart, sans facts or evidence. But that didn’t make her suffering any less real. “I’ll check out Matthew’s house,” he said finally. “Let’s see what happens after that.”

13

In the light of day, Green Acres Road was even more imposing. Both sides of the street were lined with ten-foot-high shrubs so thick that Myron couldn’t tell how thick. He parked his car outside a wrought iron gate and approached an intercom. He pressed a button and waited. There were several surveillance cameras. Some remained steady. Some whirred slowly from side to side. Myron spotted motion detectors, barbed wire, Dobermans. A rather elaborate fortress, he thought.

A voice as impenetrable as the shrubs came through the speaker. “May I help you?”

“Good morning,” Myron said, offering up a friendly-but-not-a-salesman smile to the nearest camera. Talking to a camera. He felt like he was on Nightline. “I’m looking for Matthew Squires.”

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