Jane’s jaw tightened. “Do you know who that is?”

“No. But it sounded like I was supposed to. You know: Mister.”

Jane stopped listening, but the girl didn’t notice. “So I left the suitcase there on the bed where they could see it, and left my clothes and everything, and I put my money and ID and my mother’s picture and stuff in my jacket pockets. After daybreak, most of them left. There were only three of them searching the closets and the attic, and one in the back yard. I went out the sliding door off the patio on the side, went over the wall, and walked to the bus stop … ”

Jane watched the girl’s lips move, and she knew she should be listening, or should tell the girl to stop because she would have to hear it all. The girl didn’t know that she was thinking about the husband she loved so deeply, and that her eyes weren’t focused on the kitchen window because she was concentrating on the story. She was looking at it because she was getting used to the idea that she might never see it again. The girl didn’t know that she had said the only word that had needed to be said: Delfina.

After a moment, Jane turned and switched off the burners on the stove and closed the window, then walked through the house checking the others. When she came back the girl was standing beside the table, her skinny arms now crossed on her chest so each hand gripped the opposite elbow as though she were protecting herself from the cold. Jane said, “Does anyone besides Celia Fulham know you came here?”

“No,” said the girl. “I never heard of you before yesterday, and I didn’t get off the bus until I got to Celia.”

“What about after that? Where did you sleep last night?”

“A hotel.” She reached into her pocket, pulled out a pack of matches, and handed it to Jane. “I kept those so I’d know my way home.”

Jane’s eyebrows knitted as she looked at the matchbook. The girl had called it home, and it was probably as much of a home as anywhere. Jane knew the hotel, and it wasn’t the sort of place she had expected. It wasn’t a cheap, obscure cluster of wooden buildings on a little-used highway. It was a big, respectable hotel. Jane returned the matchbook. “I know where it is. What name did you use to rent the room?”

“My name?” It was a question.

Jane needed to be sure. “You used your own name. Rita Shelford.”

“Well, almost. My mother called me Anita, and that’s what it says on my birth certificate. Her name is Ann, and she decided I was like a miniature her. Really dumb, huh?” She didn’t detect a reaction from Jane. “So that’s what my credit card says too.”

Jane hid her uneasiness. “Have you checked out yet?”

“No,” said Rita. “I had to have some place to sleep in case I didn’t find you. And I brought some stuff with me that I didn’t want to carry around, because I might lose it.”

“Is it important?”

The girl hesitated, confused.

“Let me explain,” said Jane. “If it’s anything that money can replace, or that you can live without, it’s not important. If finding it will tell someone who you are and where you went next, it’s very important.”

The girl looked down at her feet, then at Jane. “It’s important.”

Jane picked up her purse from the little cloakroom off the kitchen and checked to be sure her keys were in it. “Let’s go get it and check you out.”

“Now?” The girl had sensed the urgency.

“Now,” said Jane. She stopped to scribble a note on the pad stuck to the refrigerator where she had written shopping lists. “Something came up. Dinner’s ready on the stove. Just heat it. I’ll call you later. Love, Jane.” She considered writing “Don’t worry,” then put the note as it was on the dining room table. It was hard to imagine how lying to Carey would make it any easier for him to accept what she was going to have to tell him.


Rita sat in the front seat beside Jane and let the rush of air blow over the half-open window to cool her. She wanted to feel as though it was over now, and she was safe. The tall, thin, black-haired woman beside her seemed to do everything with a kind of quiet competence. Whenever Rita noticed the cold blue eyes turned toward her, she saw no doubt or indecision, nor any hint of that sloppy, apologetic look her mother had that showed her that a decision had been made and Rita wasn’t going to like it. But Rita saw no softness in them either, and that was probably not good news. She supposed that, once again, it was wrong to think that anything might be going well. On the balance, she judged that the appropriate thing to do was cry, but the air and motion and having her feet off the pavement felt too much like progress to be anything but good.

Jane took the bridge over the Niagara and drove across a flat island so big that Rita needed to remind herself that an island was what it was, then another bridge, and Rita began to recognize the outskirts of Niagara Falls.

Jane drove to the hotel, but Rita didn’t feel the seat belt pulling against her to signal that the car was slowing down. “That’s it,” she said. “You’re going past it.”

“I know,” said Jane quietly. “I like to get a look at a parking lot before I drive into it, and I don’t like that one. There’s only one way out, and I don’t want to get stuck if we have a problem. We’ll park on the street.” Jane turned the next corner onto a smaller street that had a few souvenir shops and a liquor store, and stopped the car.

She turned to Rita. “Now we’ll walk in. If you see anyone inside that you remember from Florida, don’t look into his eyes, and don’t nudge me. Just tell me in a normal voice and keep walking at the same speed. We’ll go right through to another exit and make a run for the car.”

“Okay. What if I don’t see anybody?”

“We’ll go to your room, get what you left, and go down to check out. The way we do that is—”

“I used to work in a hotel,” she interrupted. “I know how to check out.” Jane could hear a slightly offended tone. “Anyway, it seems like standing around at the front desk will just give people more chance to notice me.”

“I know,” said Jane. “But I’m hoping nobody learns you’re here in time to see you. When you checked in, you used your credit card. Usually they take an impression of it and file it. They don’t actually notify the credit card company of the charge until you check out. So we’ll transfer the bill to one of my cards.”

“Why?” Now she was sure she should be offended. “I told you I have money. I work.”

“It’s not about money,” said Jane. “You don’t seem to know why Frank Delfina wants you. But I know that the easiest way he has to find you is to request a credit check on you every hour or so and look for new charges. Yours is in your own name, mine isn’t.”

“Oh,” said Rita. Her mouth was a little o.

Jane walked with her to the hotel entrance, chatting cheerfully about nothing, but kept her eyes moving, glancing ahead to detect someone waiting for Rita, then watching Rita’s face for the expression to change from tension to alarm.

As they entered the lobby, Jane’s eyes scanned the loitering places—the armchairs along the side walls, the entrance to the bar, and the gift shop. She turned suddenly toward the gift shop. “Just a second,” she said.

“What’s wrong?” Rita whispered.

“Nothing,” said Jane. She went into the shop and pretended to study the souvenirs and supplies for a moment while Rita stood beside her, but she was using the time to watch the lobby through the glass. Finally she went to the counter, picked up a newspaper from the pile, and bought it. As they returned to the lobby Jane said, “If somebody I didn’t see had been watching from outside, he would have followed us in. This looks like a good time. We’ll check you out and then go up. Here. Hold this.” She handed Rita the newspaper and went to the counter.

Jane gave the clerk her Kathleen Hobbs credit card, asked her to charge the bill to it, and checked Rita out while Rita stood beside her, staring at the newspaper.

They walked toward the elevator, and Jane could tell Rita wanted to say something, but she whispered, “Wait.”

When the elevator bell rang, they stepped inside, Jane pushed the close door button, and they were alone. “What floor?”

“Fifth,” said Rita. She was staring at the newspaper, her eyes wide. She held it up anxiously. “This is it!” she said. “That’s the house!”

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