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“He and Win have experience with this type of thing.”

“Win,” she said slowly, “is psychotic.”

“Ah,” Myron said. “Then you know him well?”

Linda Coldren finally turned her attention to Myron. Her eyes, deep and brown, met his. “I haven’t spoken to Win since he was eight years old,” she said. “But you don’t have to leap into a pit of flames to know it’s hot.”

Myron nodded. “Nice analogy.”

She shook her head and looked back at her father. “I told you before: no police. We do what they say.”

“But he’s not police,” her father said.

“And you shouldn’t be telling anyone.”

“I only told my sister,” Bucky protested. “She’d never say anything.”

Myron felt his body stiffen again. “Wait a second,” he said to Bucky. “Your sister is Win’s mother?”

“Yes.”

“You’re Win’s uncle.” He looked at Linda Coldren. “And you’re Win’s first cousin.”

Linda Coldren looked at him like he’d just peed on the floor. “With smarts like that,” she said, “I’m glad you’re on our side.”

Everyone’s a wiseass.

“If it’s still unclear, Mr. Bolitar, I could break out some poster board and sketch a family tree for you.”

“Could you use lots of pretty colors?” Myron said. “I like pretty colors.”

She made a face and turned away. On the television, Jack Coldren lined up a twelve-foot putt. Linda stopped and watched. He tapped it; the ball took off and arched right into the hole. The gallery applauded with modest enthusiasm. Jack picked up the ball with two fingers and then tipped his hat. The IBM leader board flashed on the screen. Jack Coldren was up by a whopping nine strokes.

Linda Coldren shook her head. “Poor bastard.”

Myron kept still. So did Bucky.

“He’s waited twenty-three years for this moment,” she continued. “And he picks now.”

Myron glanced at Bucky. Bucky glanced back, shaking his head.

Linda Coldren stared at the television until her husband exited to the clubhouse. Then she took a deep breath and looked at Myron. “You see, Mr. Bolitar, Jack has never won a professional tournament. The closest he ever came was in his rookie year twenty-three years ago, when he was only nineteen. It was the last time the U.S. Open was held at Merion. You may remember the headlines.”

They were not altogether unfamiliar. This morning’s papers had rehashed it a bit. “He lost a lead, right?”

Linda Coldren made a scoffing sound. “That’s a bit of an understatement, but yes. Since then, his career has been completely unspectacular. There were years he didn’t even make the tour.”

“He picked a hell of a time to snap his streak,” Myron said. “The U.S. Open.”

She gave him a funny look and folded her arms under her chest. “Your name rings a bell,” she said. “You used to play basketball, right?”

“Right.”

“In the ACC. North Carolina?”

“Duke,” he corrected.

“Right, Duke. I remember now. You blew out your knee after the draft.”

Myron nodded slowly.

“That was the end of your career, right?”

Myron nodded again.

“It must have been tough,” she said.

Myron said nothing.

She made a waving motion with her hand. “What happened to you is nothing compared to what happened to Jack.”

“Why do you say that?”

“You had an injury. It may have been tough, but at least you weren’t at fault. Jack had a six-stroke lead at the U.S. Open with only eight holes left. Do you know what that’s like? That’s like having a ten-point lead with a minute left in the seventh game of the NBA finals. It’s like missing a wide-open slam dunk in the final seconds to lose the championship. Jack was never the same man after that. He never recovered. He has spent his whole life since just waiting for the chance of redemption.” She turned back to the television. The leader board was back up. Jack Coldren was still up by nine strokes.

“If he loses again …”

She did not bother finishing the thought. They all stood in silence. Linda staring at the television. Bucky craning his neck, his eyes moist, his face quivering near tears.

“So what’s wrong, Linda?” Myron asked.

“Our son,” she said. “Somebody has kidnapped our son.”

2

“I shouldn’t be telling you this,” Linda Coldren said. “He said he’d kill him.”

“Who said?”

Linda Coldren took several deep breaths, like a child atop the high board. Myron waited. It took some time, but she finally took the plunge.

“I got a call this morning,” she said. Her large indigo eyes were wide and everywhere now, settling down on no one spot for more than a second. “A man said he had my son. He said if I called the police, he would kill him.”

“Did he say anything else?”

“Just that he’d call back with instructions.”

“That’s it?”

She nodded.

“What time was this?” Myron asked.

“Nine, nine-thirty.”

Myron walked over to the television and picked up one of the framed photographs. “Is this a recent photograph of your son?”

“Yes.”

“How old is he?”

“Sixteen. His name is Chad.”

Myron studied the photograph. The smiling adolescent had the fleshy features of his father. He wore a baseball cap with the brim curled the way kids like to nowadays. A golf club rested proudly on his shoulder like a minuteman with a bayonet. His eyes were squinted as though he were looking into the sun. Myron looked over Chad’s face, as if it might give him a clue or some rare insight. It didn’t.

“When did you first notice that your son was missing?”

Linda Coldren gave her father a quick glance, then straightened up, holding her head high as if she were readying herself for a blow. Her words came slow. “Chad had been gone for two days.”

“Gone?” Myron Bolitar, Grand Inquisitor.

“Yes.”

“When you say gone—”

“I mean just that,” she interrupted. “I haven’t seen him since Wednesday.”

“But the kidnapper just called today?”

“Yes.”

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