'From the company. Whoever that is. Us, his child, even himself, I suppose. He formed a few corporations— Richard Beale this and Richard Beale that—and paid them.'

Ruby stared down at the rug. 'I'm sorry to hear that.' She meant it exactly that way. It was something she would have been better off never knowing.

'Well, I guess it doesn't matter now that the girl is gone.'

'Why would she matter?' She was irritated at him for telling her that her son had robbed his own family, and now she was irritated at him for bringing up unpleasant, irrelevant memories.

He said, 'You're forgetting about that marriage.'

'That was a fake.'

'The only thing fake about it was that the bride didn't actually say 'I do.' The witnesses signed the papers and they were filed to protect Richard's rights to the child.'

'But that doesn't give her anything.'

'In the state of California, she's his heir unless she says otherwise. Right now, half of whatever was in his name is already hers. When the death certificate is filed, the other half is, too.'

'But he stole it.'

'Some of it. Proving our dead son, the president of our company, was embezzling weakens the company, and weakens us. Nobody would lend money for projects, nobody wants to buy assets that might already have liens on them, and nobody's going to sign a contract with a company that doesn't even know if it's bankrupt.'

'What are we going to do?'

'Nothing for now. Later, we'll have the boy, Robert, declared the sole heir of Richard and Christine. I'll have to go over it with the lawyers.'

Ruby looked at the rug again. 'Let them take care of it. We've got enough without it to raise Robert, haven't we?'

Beale nodded. Into the silence came a low beeping noise. He turned to look at the lights on the keypad on the wall.

'What's that noise?'

'The alarm system on this house sounds different. That's a perimeter breach. The motion detectors outside picked up movement. It's probably just a skunk or a raccoon.'

'What if it's her?'


'That woman.' Ruby was angry. 'The one at the other house. The one who killed our son, for Christ's sake.'

'Not very likely.'

'It wasn't likely the first time.'

Andy reached into the top desk drawer, took out a pistol, and inserted a full magazine into the handle. 'I'll go check.'

'Don't,' she said. 'I'm sure it's her. We've been here for three nights and there weren't raccoons before. Just come with me, and we'll stay with Robert—lock ourselves in.'

Andy Beale kept the gun in his hand and followed her. He considered turning off the light in the office, but then he decided that if there was an intruder, darkness wasn't to his advantage.

As Ruby Beale walked quickly toward Robert's room, things began to occur to her. She hadn't heard the baby monitor for a long time. Usually there was some rustling or deep breathing or something, but she hadn't been hearing any of that. Ruby swung the door open and looked into the dimly lighted room. The baby monitor was unplugged. The window was open. Robert's crib was empty.

JANE WHITEFIELD SWUNG the black Cadillac into the last turn on the dark road and accelerated up the ramp onto the eastbound freeway. She glanced in the rearview mirror for a few seconds to be sure no headlights were following her, then passed a tractor-trailer truck and glided into the line of vehicles in the center lane, all traveling at high speed. Her car was already just one more set of taillights moving away into the night. She glanced in the rearview mirror again. From the shadowy silhouettes, she could see Christine was bent over, staring at Robert, his little body strapped in his new car seat. He already seemed to be asleep again, lulled back into slumber by the car's vibration and the quiet hum of tires on the road. As they passed an exit ramp, they came under a light. Jane sped up and got out of the glow, to be sure that Christine couldn't see her tears.


When Jane awoke it was already ten-thirty in the morning. She and Carey had stayed awake far into the night talking, and then made love while the fall wind blew leaves from the sycamore against the bedroom window. She sat up and looked for Carey, then put on her robe and went downstairs to search for him. He had said he had no surgeries scheduled. When she walked into the kitchen she saw his note on the table. 'Morning rounds are at nine. I'll be home by one or two. Love you. C.' Jane tied the sash of her robe, went out to the garage, and took four large plastic storage boxes from the top of the stack she kept there.

She carried them upstairs to the master suite, showered and dressed. Then she walked the few yards down the hall to the room she had allowed herself to think of as the baby's room.

She opened the upper two dresser drawers and took out the stacks of neatly folded baby outfits, the receiving blankets, the soft, hooded towels and washcloths, the tiny socks. From another drawer she took out the mobile she had bought to hang over the crib, the pictures she had selected for the walls, the sets of crib bumpers. Then she added the stuffed animals that had been so perfect when she had seen them in the stores that she had prudently brought them home for fear she would never find them again when the time came. Everything she had been saving for the baby went into the first three plastic storage boxes, and then Jane put on the lids and sealed them with duct tape.

The last item she carefully lifted from a hook on the wall. It was a Ga-ose-ha, a cradleboard. Jane had never made up her mind whether she would actually use it. It was a beautiful object, about two feet long and a foot wide, with the footboard and the protective bent wood bow above the place for the baby's head both carved in a diamond pattern. The fabric that was supposed to lace the baby in was black with bright beaded vines studded with white, red, yellow, and blue flowers. She had no idea how old it was. Her grandmother had told her once that her mother had put her in it and hung her to rock in the wind while she tended her garden on the Tonawanda reservation.

Jane wrapped the Ga-ose-ha in white tissue paper, set it carefully in its own plastic box, then sealed the box. It belonged in a museum anyway, she thought. Probably that was where it would end up.

She stacked the four boxes, carried them to the door at the far end of the hall, and climbed the narrow stairs to the attic. She switched on the light and took the boxes around the covered rack of winter clothes on hangers, and between four trunks full of antique china that some ancestor of Carey's had not been able to sell in his long- vanished general store. She set her four plastic storage boxes on the old leather couch with horsehair stuffing that had been stored in the attic since Carey's grandfather died. She took a last look, then went back down the stairs.

Jane went to the kitchen, poured some coffee into a silver thermos cup, screwed the top on, picked up her purse from the counter, and went out the door. She got into her white Volvo, backed out of the garage, and drove toward Deganawida.

On the Youngmann Expressway it took only about fifteen minutes to get to the small town beside the river, and another five to reach the stretch of old, narrow houses where she had grown up. As usual, Jane parked her car in the garage and rolled down the garage door to keep from being noticed. She went to the kitchen door because it gave her a chance to walk around to the back of the house and check for broken windows or jimmied locks.

She went into the kitchen and stood still for a minute, listening to the sounds of the house and smelling its familiar smells. Then she opened four windows and descended the stairs to the basement to return her remaining sets of identification cards to their hiding place. She returned to the ground floor and did some dusting, then rolled the vacuum cleaner from the front closet and vacuumed the floor. It occurred to her that on one of her next trips here she would have to wash the windows. The exact day didn't matter. There was no rush.

She carried the vacuum cleaner up the stairs to the second-floor landing, and rolled it a few feet toward the

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