When the session was over and Ren was driving back to work, she could feel her anxiety drifting away. She smiled.

Helen’s room always felt like the furthest room from the crazy house.


Ren walked back into the bullpen, took off her jacket and put her purse on the floor.

‘Did you all go out to lunch?’ she said.

‘Yup,’ said Cliff. ‘Someone’s got to feed these investigative brains.’

Ren pointed to a brown paper bag at his feet. ‘Did you get anything wrapped to take home to your dog that you would now be willing to hand over to one of your hungry colleagues?’

Colin rolled his eyes. He reached out to answer the phone on his desk.

‘Yes, as a matter of fact,’ said Cliff. ‘It’s half a steak sandwich.’

‘I owe you,’ said Ren.

She looked down at her file tray. ‘Hey, what’s this?’

‘I left it there for you,’ said Cliff. ‘It’s Francis Gartman’s alleged lady friend…’

‘Slash woman of the night.’ Ren looked at the picture, scanning the details.

‘Yup,’ said Cliff. ‘We need to find her.’

Ren nodded. ‘Sure, I’ll take a look at this.’ She rested her left hand on the neatly folded waxed wrapping of the sandwich. She could smell steak.

‘She’s running scared,’ said Cliff.

‘Did someone call in?’

‘Yes,’ said Cliff. ‘Her broken-hearted mama.’

Ren sucked in a breath. She looked down at the photo of Natalie Osgood, the pretty African-American girl with the bruised, vacant eyes and the tousled red wig. ‘Sweetheart, let me find you before that piece of shit does.’ Ren pushed her finger under the fold in the paper and slid the sandwich toward her.

‘Ren,’ said Colin. ‘Line three. Sounds like your El Paso woman again.’

I am not meant to eat today.

‘Hello,’ said Ren.

‘This is Catherine Sarvas again.’

‘Ms Sarvas—’

‘Mrs. I’m…married.’

‘Mrs Sarvas,’ said Ren. ‘Are you all right?’

The woman let out a sob. She was struggling to breathe.

Please don’t hang up.

‘I’m so sorry,’ said Catherine. ‘I’m so sorry for this.’

‘Please,’ said Ren. ‘There is no need to apologize. Please, take your time. I’ll listen to you whenever you’re ready to talk.’

Catherine sucked in a breath. ‘Thank you.’

Seconds passed.

‘I saw your Most Wanted list on the internet,’ said Catherine. ‘And I wanted to let you know…’ She started to cry. ‘Oh, God…I was raped.’

Ren had heard women say that they were raped before and no matter how many times she heard it, it caused a visceral reaction – a recoil.

‘He is number five on your list,’ said Catherine.

Number five. Ren glanced up at the board, for a moment forgetting the new order. Oh my God.

‘Erubiel Diaz,’ said Ren. ‘Number five, Erubiel Diaz.’

‘I recognize his face.’

His hideous face. Ren’s hand hovered over the page. Every phone in the office seemed to be ringing. It felt disrespectful, the wrong place to listen to what Catherine Sarvas had to say. Ren pressed the phone to her ear. ‘Take your time, Mrs Sarvas.’

Eventually, Catherine Sarvas spoke again. ‘Maybe you’ve heard about my family. My husband is Gregory Sarvas?’

‘I’m sorry, ma’am,’ said Ren. ‘I’m not familiar with your husband.’

‘Oh…’ Another pause. ‘Eight months ago, my husband, Greg, was shot dead near our home in El Paso. He had been driving our sons home from school.’ She paused.

Ren waited, but all she could hear was Catherine Sarvas’ breathing. ‘I’m so sorry to hear that.’

She quietly typed Gregory Sarvas’ name into Google. Hundreds of hits. She did an image search. She clicked on one of the photos. It was a wide shot taken from behind a pale gold SUV with all its doors open. There was something beautiful and artistic in the angles and the light. Then the headlines: Murder. Shooting. Shot dead. Cold blood. Gunned down. The beauty and light of the photo was quickly gone.

‘Our sons…Luke and Michael…were in the SUV with Greg,’ said Mrs Sarvas. ‘They’re still missing…’

‘I’m so sorry, Mrs Sarvas.’ She glanced at one of the articles. Luke, 17, Michael, 15.

‘I can’t even…I can’t talk about my family right now,’ said Catherine ‘I…just wanted to…help.’

‘OK,’ said Ren. ‘So…were you also there in the SUV? You were raped?’

‘No, no. It was two weeks before that.’ Catherine sucked in a breath. ‘I saw the photograph of that man on your list and I had to call. I came across it by accident. But I knew it was him, right away.’

‘Did you report the rape at the time?’

‘No, I couldn’t bear it. I was…’ Catherine started to sob.

‘That’s OK.’

‘It was so terrible,’ said Catherine. ‘He was waiting in the…it was so…’

Ren waited for her to finish the sentence, but she couldn’t.

‘You mentioned your husband,’ said Ren. ‘Did you tell him about the rape?’

‘Yes. He was devastated. He was always talking to me about staying safe. Our house had a lot of security. I still don’t know how that man got in…’

‘How did your husband react? What did he do?’

‘He…was so good to me,’ said Catherine. ‘He took care of me, he did everything he could. And…when I was feeling a little more up to it, I asked him to report the rape to El Paso PD. I couldn’t bring myself to do it before then. I didn’t want to be…I didn’t want doctors…anyone examining me.’

‘I understand,’ said Ren. ‘And when did he report this?’

‘The week he died.’ Catherine began sobbing harder. ‘You never think it’s going to happen to you. None of this feels like it’s my life. We’re a regular family. Greg’s a lawyer, we live in a very nice neighborhood. We have two boys who go to a good high school and have bright futures ahead of them.’

Husband – dead. Sons – missing. And she just used the present tense.

‘I think my boys are still alive,’ said Catherine, as if she was reading Ren’s mind.

Ren could sense Catherine Sarvas’ rising panic. She had just revealed her terrible secret to a stranger and had heard for the first time how her story sounded out loud. Catherine Sarvas’ surge of courage had hit its peak and was starting to waver. She was like a bird paused in mid-flight.

‘Please, can you help me?’

Ren paused. ‘Mrs Sarvas, I am so sorry to hear what you’ve been through. I can’t imagine what it’s been like for you. And we will do everything we can to apprehend this man.’

‘And my boys?’ said Catherine. ‘My children. The rape doesn’t even seem important compared to getting my boys back.’

‘Are you happy to make a full statement? Would it be easier for now to get the statement your husband made to El Paso PD?’

‘I can talk now,’ said Catherine. ‘I can talk to you. I don’t know who else to turn to. I’m not comfortable going

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