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The woman was good.

“Can you get me a copy of the tape the police found?” he asked.

Victoria Wilson nodded. “There is still more,” she said.

Myron was almost afraid to hear it.

“Let’s take the severed finger for a moment,” she continued as though ordering it as an appetizer. “You found it in Linda’s car in a manila envelope.”

Myron nodded.

“The envelope is the type sold only at Staples—their brand, the number ten size. The writing was done by a red Flair pen, medium-point. Three weeks ago, Linda Coldren visited Staples. According to the receipt found at her house yesterday, she purchased numerous office supplies, including a box of Staples’ number ten manila envelopes and a red Flair medium-point pen.”

Myron could not believe what he was hearing.

“On the positive side, their handwriting analyst could not tell if the writing on the envelope came from Linda.”

But something else was dawning on Myron. Linda had waited around for him at Merion. The two of them had gone to the car together. They had found the finger together. The district attorney would pounce upon that story. Why had she waited for Myron? The answer, the DA would claim, was obvious: She needed a witness. She had planted the finger in her own car—she could certainly do that without drawing suspicion—and she needed a hapless dupe to be with her when she found it.

Enter Myron Bolitar, the dupe du jour.

But of course, Victoria Wilson had neatly arranged it so that the DA would never hear that story. Myron was Linda’s attorney. He could not tell. No one would ever know.

Yep, the woman was good—except for one thing.

“The severed finger,” Myron said. “That has to be the kicker, Victoria. Who is going to believe that a mother would cut off her own son’s finger?”

Victoria looked at her watch. “Let’s go talk to Linda.”

“No, hold up here. That’s the second time you blew this off. What aren’t you telling me?”

She slung her purse over her shoulder. “Come on.”

“Hey, I’m getting a little tired of getting jerked around here.”

Victoria Wilson nodded slowly, but she did not speak or stop walking. Myron followed her into a holding room. Linda Coldren was already there. She was decked out in a bright orange prison jumpsuit. Her hands were still manacled. She looked up at Myron through hollow eyes. There were no hellos or hugs or even pleasantries.

Without preamble, Victoria said, “Myron wants to know why I don’t think the severed finger helps us.”

Linda faced him. There was a sad smile on her face. “I guess that’s understandable.”

“What the hell is going on here?” Myron said. “I know you didn’t cut off your own son’s finger.”

The sad smile remained. “I didn’t do it,” Linda said. “That part is true.”

“What do you mean, that part?”

“You said I didn’t cut off my son’s finger,” she continued. “But Chad is not my son.”


Something in Myron’s head clicked again.

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“I’m infertile,” Linda explained. She said the words with great ease, but the pain in her eyes was so raw and naked that Myron almost flinched. “I have this condition where my ovaries cannot produce eggs. But Jack still wanted a biological child.”

Myron spoke softly. “You hired a surrogate?”

Linda looked toward Victoria. “Yes,” she said. “Though it was not quite so aboveboard.”

“It was all done to the letter of the law,” Victoria interjected.

“You handled it for them?” Myron asked.

“I did the paperwork, yes. The adoption was completely legal.”

“We wanted to keep it a secret,” Linda said. “That’s why I took off from the tour so early. I went into seclusion. The birth mother was never even supposed to know who we were.”

Something else in his head went click. “But she found out.”


Another click. “It’s Diane Hoffman, isn’t it?”

Linda was too exhausted to look surprised. “How did you know?”

“Just an educated guess.” Why else would Jack hire Diane Hoffman as his caddie? Why else would she have gotten upset at the way they were handling the kidnapping? “How did she find you?”

Victoria answered that one. “As I said, it was all done legally. With all the new disclosure laws, it wasn’t that hard to do.”

Another click. “That’s why you couldn’t divorce Jack. He was the biological parent. He’d have the upper hand in a custody battle.”

Linda slumped her shoulders and nodded.

“Does Chad know about all this?”

“No,” Linda said.

“At least, not to your knowledge,” Myron said. “What?”

“You don’t know for sure. Maybe he found out. Maybe Jack told him. Or Diane. Maybe that’s how this whole thing got started.”

Victoria crossed her arms. “I don’t see it, Myron. Suppose Chad did find out. How would that have led to his own kidnapping and his father’s murder?”

Myron shook his head. It was a good question. “I don’t know yet. I need time to think it through. Do the police know all this?”

“About the adoption? Yes.”

It was beginning to make sense now. “This gives the DA their motive. They’ll say that Jack’s suing for divorce worried Linda. That she killed him to keep her son.”

Victoria Wilson nodded. “And the fact that Linda is not the biological mother could play one of two ways: either she loved her son so much that she killed Jack to keep him—or because Chad was not her own flesh and blood, she could indeed be driven to cut off his finger.”

“Either way, finding the finger doesn’t help us.”

Victoria nodded. She did not say “I told you so,” but she might as well have.

“Can I say something?” It was Linda. They turned and looked at her.

“I didn’t love Jack anymore. I told you that straight out, Myron. I doubt I would have, if I’d been planning on killing him.”

Myron nodded. Made sense.

“But I do love my son—my son—more than life itself. The fact that it’s more believable that I’d maim him because I’m an adoptive mother rather than a biological one is sick and grotesque in the extreme. I love Chad as much as any mother could love a child.”

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