Harlan Coben
all likelihood, they had never intended to let Tara come home. She might even have been dead before the first ransom call. Her death may have been accidental. Maybe they just panicked or were strung out. Who knows? I certainly don’t.
    And, ah, there’s the rub.
    I cannot, of course, be certain that I am not responsible. Basic science: For every action, there is a reaction.
    I do not dream about Tara—or if I do, the gods are generous enough to not let me remember. That is probably giving them too much credit. Let me rephrase. I may not dream about Tara specifically, but I do dream about the white van with the mix-and-match license plate and the stolen magnetic sign. In the dreams I hear a noise, muffled, but I’m pretty sure it is the sound of a baby crying. Tara, I know now, was in the van, but in my dream, I don’t go toward the sound. My legs are buried deep in that nightmare muck. I can’t move. When I finally wake up, I cannot help but ponder the obvious. Was Tara that close to me? And more important: Had I been a little braver, could I have saved her then and there?
    The referee, a lanky high-school boy with a good-natured grin, blew the whistle and waved his hands over his head. Game over. Lenny shouted, “Woo, yeah!” The eight-year-olds stared at one another, confused. One asked a teammate, “Who won?” and the teammate shrugged. They lined up, Stanley Cup hockey style, for the postgame handshakes.
    Cheryl stood up and put a hand on my back. “Great win, Coach.”
    â€œYeah, I carry this team,” I said.
    She smiled. The boys started rambling back toward us. I congratulated them with my stoic nod. Craig’s mother had brought a fifty-pack of Dunkin’ Donuts Munchkins in a box with a Halloween design. Dave’s mom had boxes of something called Yoo-hoo, a perverse excuse for chocolate milk that tastes like chalk. I popped a Munchkin in my mouth and skipped the washdown. Cheryl asked, “What flavor was that?”
    I shrugged. “They come in different flavors?” I watched the parents interact with their children and felt tremendously out of place. Lenny came toward me.
    â€œGreat win, wasn’t it?”
    â€œYeah,” I said. “We’re the balls.”
    He gestured for us to step away. I complied. When we were out of earshot, Lenny said, “Monica’s estate is almost wrapped up. It shouldn’t be too much longer now.”
    I said, “Uh-huh,” because I didn’t really care.
    â€œI also have your will drawn up. You need to sign it.”
    Neither Monica nor I had made up a will. For years, Lenny had warned me about that. You need to put in writing who gets your money, he’d remind me, who is going to raise your daughter, who is going to care for your parents, yadda, yadda, yadda. But we didn’t listen. We were going to live forever. Last wills and testaments were for, well, the dead.
    Lenny changed subjects on the fly. “You want to come back to the house for a game of foosball?”
    Foosball, for those of you who lack a basic education, is that tabletop bar game with the soccer-type men skewered on sticks. “I’m already champion of the world,” I reminded him.
    â€œThat was yesterday.”
    â€œCan’t a man revel in his title for little while? I’m not yet ready to let go of the feeling.”
    â€œUnderstood.” Lenny headed back to his family. I watched his daughter, Marianne, corner him. She was gesturing like mad. Lenny slumped his shoulders, took out his wallet, peeled out a bill. Marianne took it, kissed him on the cheek, ran off. Lenny watched her disappear, shaking his head. There was a smile on his face. I turned away.
    The worst part—or should I say the best part—was that I have hope.
    Here was what we found that night at Grandpa’s cabin: my sister’s corpse, hairs belonging to Tara in the Pack ’N Play (DNA confirmed), and a pink

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