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“Hello?”

“Who’s the chink bitch?”

“I don’t know what—”

“You trying to fuck with me, you dumb son of a bitch? I’ll start sending you the fucking brat in little pieces.”

“Please—”

“What’s the point of this, Myron?” Linda sounded a little annoyed.

“Just hold on another second. The part I’m interested in is coming up.”

“Her name is Esme Fong. She works for a clothing company. She’s just here to set up an endorsement deal with my wife, that’s all.”

“Bullshit.”

“It’s the truth, I swear.”

“I don’t know, Jack.…”

“I wouldn’t lie to you.”

“Well, Jack, we’ll just see about that. This is gonna cost you.”

“What do you mean?”

“One hundred grand. Call it a penalty price.”

“For what?”

Myron hit the STOP button. “Did you hear that?”

“What?”

“ ‘Call it a penalty price.’ Clear as day.”

“So?”

“It wasn’t a ransom demand. It was a penalty.”

“This is a kidnapper, Myron. He’s probably not all that caught up in semantics.”

“ ‘One hundred grand,’ ” Myron repeated. “ ‘Call it a penalty price.’ As if a ransom demand had already been made. As if the hundred grand was something he’d just decided to tack on. And what about Jack’s reaction? The kidnapper asks for one hundred grand. You would figure he would just tell him fine. But instead he says, ‘For what?’ Again, because it’s in addition to what he’s already been told. Now listen to this.” Myron pushed the PLAY button.

“Never you fucking mind. You want the kid alive? It’s gonna cost you one hundred grand now. That’s in—”

“Now hold on a second.”

Myron hit the STOP button again. “ ‘It’s gonna cost you one hundred grand now.’ ” Myron repeated. “Now. That’s the key word. Now. Again as if it’s something new. As if before this call there was another price. And then Jack interrupts him. The kidnapper says, ‘That’s in—’ when Jack jumps in. Why? Because Jack doesn’t want him to finish the thought. He knew that we were listening. ‘That’s in addition.’ I’d bet anything that was the next word he was about to say. ‘That’s in addition to our original demand.’ Or ‘that’s in addition to losing the tournament.’ ”

Linda looked at him. “But I still don’t get it. Why wouldn’t Jack just tell us what they wanted?”

“Because Jack had no intention of complying with their demand.”

That stopped her. “What?”

“He wanted to win too badly. More than that—he needed to win. Had to. But if you learned the truth—you who had won so often and so easily—you would never understand. This was his chance at redemption, Linda. His chance of going back twenty-three years and making his life worth living. How badly did he want to win, Linda? You tell me. What would he have sacrificed?”

“Not his own son,” Linda countered. “Yes, Jack needed to win. But not badly enough to forfeit his own son’s life.”

“But Jack didn’t see it that way. He was looking through his own rose-tinted prism of desire. A man sees what he wants to, Linda. What he has to. When I showed you and Jack the bank videotape, you both saw something different. You didn’t want to believe your son could do something so hurtful. So you looked for explanations that would counter that evidence. Jack did just the opposite. He wanted to believe that his son was behind it. That it was only a big hoax. That way he could continue to try his hardest to win. And if by some chance he was wrong—if Chad had indeed been kidnapped—well, the kidnappers were probably bluffing anyway. They’d never really go through with it. In other words, Jack did what he had to do: He rationalized the danger away.”

“You think his desire to win clouded his thinking that much?”

“How much clouding did he need? We all had doubts after watching that bank tape. Even you. So how hard would it be for him to go the extra step?”

Linda sat back. “Okay,” she said. “Maybe I buy it. But I still don’t see what this has to do with anything.”

“Bear with me a little while longer, okay? Let’s go back to when I showed you the bank videotape. We’re at your house. I show the tape. Jack storms out. He is upset, of course, but he still plays well enough to keep the big lead. This angers Esme. He’s ignoring her threat. She realizes that she has to up the ante.”

“By cutting off Chad’s finger.”

“It was probably Tito, but that’s not really relevant right now anyway. The key thing is, the finger is severed, and Esme wants to use it to show Jack she’s serious.”

“So she plants it in my car and we find it.”

“No,” Myron said.

“What?”

“Jack finds it first.”

“In my car?”

Myron shook his head. “Remember that Chad’s key chain has Jack’s car keys on it as well as yours. Esme wants to warn Jack, not you. So she puts the finger in Jack’s car. He finds it. He’s shocked, of course, but he’s in the lie too deep now. If the truth came out, you’d never forgive him. Chad would never forgive him. And the tournament would be over for him. He has to get rid of the finger. So he puts the finger in an envelope and writes that note. Remember it? ‘I warned you not to seek help.’ Don’t you see? It’s the perfect distraction. It not only draws attention away from him, but it also gets rid of me.”

Linda chewed on her lower lip. “That would explain the envelope and pen,” she said. “I bought all the office supplies. Jack would have had some in his briefcase.”

“Exactly. But here is where things get really interesting.”

She arched an eyebrow. “They’re not interesting now?”

“Just hold on. It’s Sunday morning. Jack is about to head into the final round with an insurmountable lead. Bigger than he had twenty-three years ago. If he loses now, it would be the greatest golf collapse in history. His name would forever be synonymous with choking—the one thing Jack hated more than anything else. But on the other hand, Jack was not a complete ogre. He loved his son. He knew now that the kidnapping was not a hoax. He was probably torn, not sure what to do. But in the end he made a decision. He was going to lose the tournament.”

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