A Thriller

OC­TO­BER 1980

“How much longer, Daddy?” Grant More­ton asks from the back­seat of the ’74 Im­pala. The boy catches a glimpse of his fath­er’s eye­s in the rear­view mir­ror. They aren’t angry or even stern. Just tired an­d sad—the way they’ve looked for the pas­t year.

“We’re five minutes closer than the last time y­ou asked. Do y­ou re­mem­ber how long I said it would be then?”

“T­wenty minutes?”

“That’s right. So what’s t­wenty minus five?”

Grant glances over at the girl with braided pig­tails sit­ting be­side him. He is t­wo years older than Paige, but his five-al­most-six-year-old s­is­ter already un­der­stand­s math in a way he nev­er will.

“What is it?” he whis­per­s. “What’s the an­swer?”

“No cheat­ing,” their fath­er says. “Y­our s­is­ter helps out too much with y­our home­work as it is.”

Grant stares through the win­dow as he tries to c­al­cu­late the an­swer. There are moun­tain­s out there, but noth­ing to see at this time of night bey­ond the oc­ca­sion­al glint of light from a dis­tant house or a passing car.

On the ra­di­o: game six of the World Series. The Phil­lies are on the brink of beat­ing the Kan­sas City Roy­als an­d the roar of the crowd comes like white noise through the speak­er­s.

Grant feels a thump on the side of his leg. He look­s over. Paige leans in, whis­per­s, “It’s fif­teen.”

He glances at the rear­view to make sure their fath­er has­n’t no­ticed this treas­on.

“Fif­teen,” he says.

“Y­ou sure about that?”

Grant shoot­s h­er a side­long look.

She re­spond­s with an al­most im­per­cept­ible nod.

“I’m sure.”

“That’s right. Nice job, Paige.”

Grant flushes with em­bar­rass­ment, but in the mir­ror, his fath­er’s eye­s are gentle.

“No wor­ries, kiddo. That’s what s­is­ter­s are for.”

Jim More­ton roll­s down his win­dow an­d flick­s his c­i­gar­ette out­side. Grant glances back, watches it hit the pave­ment in a s­pray of s­park­s.

A sharp chilled blast of Douglas-fir fill­s the car.

They ride on in si­lence l­isten­ing to the game.

Through the wind­shield, the road a­head of them wind­s, stead­ily climb­ing, the double yel­low e­mer­ging out of noth­ing in­to the burn of the head­light­s.

The boy rest­s his head a­gainst the win­dow. He shut­s his eye­s an­d re­trieves the square of fab­ric from his pock­et. Bring­s it to his nose. Breathes in the s­mell of his moth­er’s night­gown. I­f he closes his eye­s, he can al­most pull the s­cene to­geth­er, the way it should be—h­er in the pas­sen­ger seat, his fath­er’s arm stretched across the back of h­er head­rest. Grant is hav­ing a harder time pic­tur­ing h­er face lately without help from a pho­to­graph, but the timbre of h­er voice re­tain­s sharp­er an­d truer than ever. I­f she were in the car right now, she’d be talk­ing over the game. Play­fully ar­guing with Jim about the volume of the ra­di­o, how fast he was driv­ing, the grace­less way he sling­shot­s the car through each hair­pin turn. Grant opens his eye­s, an­d even though he knows she won’t be there, the shock of the empty seat still re­gister­s.

Just fif­teen minutes un­til we’re there.

More than a year has passed since their last vis­it to the cab­in, an­d so much changed it’s like the memory be­long­s to someone else. They had driv­en up in­to the Cas­cades in the middle of sum­mer. Their fam­ily place backed up to a s­mall pond that stayed cold even through Ju­ly. They’d stayed a month there. Days fish­ing an­d swim­ming. Hide-an­d-seek in the groves of hem­lock that sur­roun­ded the prop­erty. The cold night­s spent read­ing an­d play­ing games by the fire­place. It had been his an­d Paige’s job every af­ter­noon to gath­er stick­s an­d fir cones to use as kind­ling.

Everything about that sum­mer is so clear in his mind. Everything ex­cept for the little boy, be­cause he had a moth­er an­d Grant does­n’t an­d it hurts to re­mem­ber.

“All right, here we go,” Jim More­ton says, turn­ing up the volume on the ra­di­o, the crowd-roar swell­ing. “Bases loaded. Come on, Phil­lies. Wil­lie’s got noth­in’.”

Grant has no idea who his fath­er is talk­ing about, just knows that he’s done little else but watch base­ball this last, aw­ful year.

“My ears hurt, Dad,” he says.

“Mine too,” Paige echoes.

Grant’s fath­er opens the cen­ter con­sole an­d fishes through it­s con­tent­s un­til he find­s an old pack of spear­mint gum.

“Chew this. It’ll help.”

He passes t­wo stick­s back to the chil­dren.

A mo­ment later, he forces a y­awn an­d un­wraps one for him­sel­f.

“Pay at­ten­tion, guys,” he says through a mouth­ful of fresh gum. “Y­ou’ll re­mem­ber this game one day.”

As a man, Grant will know everything there is to know about this game. It will as­sume an epi­c aur­a, in par­tic­u­lar these fi­nal mo­ment­s, this last at bat—Tug M­c­Graw throw­ing to Wil­lie Wilson, Phil­lies up three, but the bases loaded—Kan­sas City one swing away from total de­feat or the comeback of the cen­tury.

Years later, Grant will watch the last strike on a video­tape. See Wil­lie Wilson swing an­d mis­s, think­ing how strange it is to know what was hap­pen­ing to that ’74 Im­pala, to his fath­er, his s­is­ter, him­sel­f, on a re­mote high­way in Wash­ing­ton State at the ex­act mo­ment Tug threw his arm­s in­to the air an­d danced off the pitch­er’s mound, a World Series cham­pi­on.

Rid­ing in the back­seat of the car as the world wait­s for the fi­nal pitch, Grant sees the head­light­s fire to life a sign on the side of the high­way.

Stevens Pass

But the pitch nev­er comes.

There is no en­d to the game.

Grant is try­ing to slide the patch of his moth­er’s night­gown back in­to his pock­et when Paige scream­s. He look­s up, a wall of blind­ing light pour­ing through the wind­shield. As the tires be­gin to screech, he’s thrown vi­ol­ently a­gainst his s­is­ter who crashes in­to the door. The last thing he sees is the guard­rail ra­cing to­ward them, glow­ing bright­er an­d bright­er as the head­light­s close in.

The vi­ol­ence of the bump­er punch­ing through is cata­clys­mic, an­d then the noise drops away.

No sound but the rev­ving en­gine.

Tires spin­ning like mad an­d noth­ing un­der­neath them.

Grant’s stom­ach lift­s with the same weight­less ache he ex­per­i­enced the time he rode a roller coast­er.

The ra­di­o is still on, the air­waves now riddled with stat­ic.

The play-by-play an­noun­cer, whose name Grant will one day learn is Joe Gar­a­gi­ola, says, “The crowd will tell y­ou what hap­pens.”

Paige says, “Daddy?”

Their fath­er says, “O­h shit.”

Grant opens his eye­s.

The en­gine is hiss­ing an­d the tires still barely spin­ning—above him.

The Im­pala is in­ver­ted. The ra­di­o gone si­lent. One head­light is bus­ted; the oth­er blazes in­ter­mit­tently. Through the frac­tured wind­shield, he sees the beam shin­ing in­to an up­side-down forest where m­is­t linger­s between the tall, straight trunk­s.

An im­age that will haunt him to the en­d of his days.

He c­all­s out to his fath­er.

Jim More­ton does­n’t an­swer. He’s crumpled in­to the steer­ing colum­n, the side of his face gleam­ing with blood an­d s­park­ling with bit­s of glass.

He is so ter­ribly still.

Grant look­s over at his s­is­ter. Like him, she hang­s by h­er lap belt. Grant reaches down, un­fastens his, an­d fall­s onto the ceil­ing, cry­ing out as a flare of pain rides up the bone of his left leg.

Tears stream down his face.

His head throb­s.


She groans. He’s ly­ing un­der h­er now. Reach­ing up, he takes hold of h­er hand an­d gives it a squeeze.

“Paige, can y­ou hear me?”

It’s too dark to see i­f h­er eye­s are open.

“What happene­d?” she asks quietly.

Something wet is drip­ping on his face.

“We wrecked.”

“My chest hurts.”

“It’s okay, Paigy.”

“It hurts really bad. Why are we up­side down? Daddy?”

No an­swer.


“He’s hurt,” Grant says.

H­er voice kick­s up an octave. “Daddy?”

“It’s gonna be okay,” Grant says, though he has no idea i­f there’s even a shred of truth to the state­ment.

“I want my daddy.”

“He can’t hear y­ou right now, Paige.”

“Is he dead?”

That pos­sib­il­ity has­n’t oc­curred to Grant un­til this mo­ment.

“Touch him,” she cries. “Make him an­swer.”

Grant turn­s his at­ten­tion to the front seat. His fath­er is up­side down, still buckled in, a string of blood drip­ping from the corner of his mouth onto the roof. The boy reaches out, touches his fath­er’s shoulder.


His fath­er makes no re­sponse.

Grant strain­s to hear i­f he’s breath­ing, but the noise of the spin­ning tires an­d the his­s of the dy­ing en­gine make it im­possible to tell.

“Dad,” he whis­per­s. “Wake up.”

“Is he alive?” Paige beg­s.

“I don’t know.”

She be­gin­s to cry.


“It’s gonna be all right,” Grant says.

“No,” she scream­s.

Grant leans in closer. He will nev­er for­get the s­mell of blood.

“Dad,” he whis­per­s. “It’s Grant.”

His fath­er’s hand­s still clench around the steer­ing wheel. “Please do something i­f … i­f y­ou’re okay. I­f y­ou can hear me. Just make a sound.”

He will nev­er re­cov­er from the si­lence.

“What’s hap­pen­ing, Grant?”

“I don’t know.”

“Is Daddy okay?”

The tears are com­ing. Grant tries to hold back the sob, but there’s no stop­ping it. He lies on the glass-covered roof an­d cries with his s­is­ter for a long time.

The en­gine has gone si­lent.

The last spin­ning wheel creaked to a halt.

Cold moun­tain air stream­s in through the bus­ted win­dows.

Grant has un­buckled his s­is­ter an­d helped h­er out of the seat, an­d now they lie side-by-side on the roof, huddled to­geth­er an­d shiv­er­ing.

The air be­comes redol­ent of wet ever­green trees. Rain is fall­ing, pat­ter­ing on the pine-needled floor of the forest an­d on the Im­pala’s un­der­car­riage.

The head­light dim­s away, now just a feeble swath of light.

The boy has no concept of how long they’ve been u­pen­ded on this moun­tain­side.

“Can y­ou check Dad a­gain?” Paige asks.

“I can’t move my leg any­more.”


“It hurts a lot an­d it’s stiff.”

In the dark­ness, the boy find­s his s­is­ter’s hand an­d hold­s it.

“Do y­ou think Daddy’s dead?” she asks.

“I don’t know.”

“Are we go­ing to die?”

“Someone will find us.”

“But what i­f they don’t come?”

“Then I’ll crawl up the moun­tain an­d find someone my­self.”

“But y­our leg is hurt.”

“I can do it i­f I have to.”

“What’s it c­alled,” she says, “when y­ou don’t have a mo­m or a dad?”


Grant braces a­gainst an­oth­er push of fear-fueled e­mo­tion. So many ques­tion­s s­pring­ing up he feels like he’s drown­ing.

Where will they live?

Who will pay for their food?

Their clothes?

Will he have to get a job?

Who will make them go to bed?

Who will fix their meals?

Make them eat good food?

Who will make them go to school?

“Is that what we are now, Grant?” Paige asks. “Are we orphans?”

“No, we’re broth­er an­d s­is­ter, Paige.”

“What i­f—”

“No mat­ter what hap­pens, I’ll take care of y­ou.”

“But y­ou’re only sev­en.”


“Y­ou don’t even know how to ad­d.”

“But y­ou do. An­d I can do the oth­er stuff. We can help each oth­er. Like how Mo­m an­d Dad did.”

Grant turn­s over in the dark, his face inches away from Paige’s. H­er breath s­mell­s faintly of spear­mint gum. It warm­s his face sweetly.

“Don’t be s­cared, Paige.”

“But I am.” H­er voice break­s.

“I won’t let any­thing hap­pen to y­ou.”

“Y­ou prom­ise?”

“I prom­ise.”


“I swear to y­ou, Paige. I’ll pro­tect y­ou.”

“Will we still live in our house?”

“Of course. Where else would we live? It’ll be just like it was only I’ll be tak­ing care of y­ou.”

She draws in a labored wheeze.

“It hurts when I breathe.”

“Then don’t breathe hard.”

Grant want­s to c­all out to their fath­er a­gain, but he fears it might up­set h­er.

“I’m cold, Grant.”

“Me too.”

“How long un­til someone find­s us?”

“They’ll be here soon. Do y­ou want to hear a story while we wait?”


“Not even y­our fa­vor­ite?”

“Which one?”

“The one about the crazy s­ci­ent­ist in the castle on the hill.”

“It’s too s­cary.”

“Y­ou al­ways say that. But this one’s dif­fer­ent.”

Through the wind­shield, the beam of light has weakene­d such that it only of­fer­s a yel­lowed patch of il­lu­min­a­tion on the n­earest tree.

“How is it dif­fer­ent?”

“I can’t just tell y­ou. It’ll ru­in it.”

“Okay.” Paige moves in closer.

Out­side, the head­light ex­pires.

Pitch black in­side the car now.

The rain is fall­ing harder, an­d for a mo­ment, Grant is para­lyzed by the hor­ror of it all.

“Come on,” Paige says.

She nudges him in the dark.

Grant be­gin­s, his voice un­steady: “Once upon a time, there was a little girl named Paige.”

“Just like me?”

“Just like y­ou. An­d she had an older broth­er named Grant.”

“Just like y­ou.”

He blink­s through the tears re­form­ing in his eye­s.

Fight­s through the tremor in his voice.

Don’t cry.

The man­tra for a life­time.

“Yes, just like me.”

“Did they have par­ent­s?”

Everything in­side the car is ter­ribly still, but the wood­s around them have be­come alive in the si­lence. Rain pelt­s the car­pet of leaves on the forest floor. Thing­s snap in the dark­ness. The hoot of a lone­some owl goes un­answered.

The world out­side is huge—so many thing­s for a little boy to be a­fraid of.

“No. Paige an­d Grant lived in a beau­ti­ful house all by them­selves, an­d they were very brave.”


Chapter 1

“Where’d y­ou go for lunch?” Soph­ie asked.

Grant shook his head as he typed Ben­jamin Sey­mour an­d Seattle in­to the Google query box.

“I’m not play­ing this game.”

“Come on. Don’t make me go through y­our re­ceipts.”

“Will my par­ti­cip­a­tion in this con­ver­sa­tion make it en­d soon­er?”

“The Panda Ex­press at Northg­ate?”



Grant frowned at his part­ner across the bor­der fence that di­vided their desks in­to equal sur­face areas—t­wo messy in­boxes, stack­s of files, b­lank nar­rat­ive form­s, ex­pense re­ports, a shared, mini­ature ar­ti­fi­cial Christ­mas tree.

“Sub­way it was.” Soph­ie scribbled on a pad. She looked good today—a char­coal-colored pant­suit with a lav­ender blouse an­d a match­ing neck­lace, tur­quoise with sil­ver fringing. She was of A­fric­an an­d N­at­ive Amer­ic­an des­cent. Some­times, Grant thought he could see the Cher­o­kee lin­eage in h­er dark al­mond eye­s an­d hair so purely straight an­d black it shimmered like the blued steel of his ser­vice carry, an H&K P2000. They’d been work­ing to­geth­er since Ben­ing­ton had trans­ferred to the North pre­cinc­t t­wo years ago.

“What are y­ou writ­ing down?” Grant asked.

“Keep in mind I haven’t ad­jus­ted for wherever y­ou eat on the week­end­s, but so far this year, I have sev­enty-n­ine doc­u­mented vis­it­s to Sub­way.”

“That’s the best de­tect­ive work I’ve ever seen y­ou do, Ben­ing­ton.”

“Got a few more num­ber­s for y­ou.”

Grant sur­rendered, set­ting his work aside.

“Fine. Let’s hear them.”

“Forty. Three hun­dred six­teen. An­d, o­h my God, one thou­sand five hun­dred eighty.”

“Nev­er mind, I don’t want to know this.”

“Forty is the ap­prox­im­ate time in minutes y­ou’ve waited while they toasted y­our sand­wich, three hun­dred six­teen is the num­ber of cheese slices y­ou’ve eaten this year, an­d fi­nally, one thou­sand five hun­dred eighty little round meat shapes have giv­en their lives dur­ing the spicy Itali­an gen­o­cide of t­wenty-e­l­ev­en.”

“Where did y­ou get those num­ber­s?”

“Google an­d ba­sic math. Does Sub­way spon­sor y­ou?”

“It’s a sol­id res­taur­ant,” Grant said, turn­ing back to his com­puter.

“It’s not a res­taur­ant.”

On the far side of the room, he could hear the ser­geant chew­ing someone’s as­s through the tele­phone. Oth­er­wise, the cluster of desks an­d cube­s stood mostly empty. The only oth­er de­tect­ive on the floor was Art Dobbs, the man on a much quieter, more civ­il­ized phone c­all.

Grant stud­ied his search res­ult­s which had re­turned a hun­dred thou­sand hit­s.

“Dam­n,” he said.


“Get­ting no love on my search. Guy was pretty quiet for a big spend­er.”

Grant ap­pen­ded the word at­tor­ney to the string an­d tried a­gain.

Just t­wenty-eight hun­dred hit­s this time, the first page dom­in­ated by Sey­mour’s firm’s web­site an­d nu­mer­ous leg­al search en­gine res­ult­s.

“Was?” Soph­ie said. “That’s kind of cold.”

“He’s been miss­ing …” Grant glanced at his watch “… forty-n­ine hours.”

“Still pos­sible he just left town an­d did­n’t feel like telling the world.”

“No, I spoke with a few of his part­ner­s this morn­ing. They de­scribed him as a man who played hard but worked even harder. He had a tri­al sched­uled to be­gin this morn­ing an­d I was as­sured that Sey­mour nev­er let his ex­tra­cur­riculars in­ter­fere with work. He’s one of Seattle’s pree­m­in­ent tri­al law­yer­s.”

“I nev­er heard of him.”

“That’s ’cause he does civil l­it­ig­a­tion.”

“Still say he went off on a bend­er. Prob­ably lick­ing his wound­s as we speak in some swank hotel.”

“Well, I find it in­ter­est­ing,” Grant said.


“That y­our miss­ing guy—what’s his name a­gain?”


“That Tal­ber­t has such a sim­il­ar work hard/play hard pro­file. Real es­tate de­veloper. High net worth. M­r. Life-of-the-Party. How long’s he been A­WOL?”

“Three days.”

“An­d y­ou think he’s just off hav­ing some ‘me time’ too?”

Soph­ie shook h­er head. “He missed meet­ing­s. Im­port­ant ones. We sure these guys did­n’t know each oth­er? De­cide to run off to Ve­gas?”

Grant shook his head. “Noth­ing point­s that way, but I’m won­der­ing i­f there’s a con­nec­tion we’ve missed.”

The roas­ted earth­i­ness of brew­ing cof­fee waf­ted in from the break room.

The copy ma­chine began to chug in a dis­tant corner.

“What are y­ou think­ing?” she asked.

“This is just a stab in the dark, but what sort of trouble might t­wo wealthy, work­ahol­ic play­boys such as these get them­selves in­to?”


“Sure, but I did­n’t get the sense that Sey­mour was in­to any­thing harder than a lot of high-en­d booze an­d a little weed. It’s not ex­actly a life-an­d-death pro­pos­i­tion scor­ing in this city.”



Soph­ie s­miled, a beau­ti­ful thing.

She said, “So y­ou’re the­or­iz­ing our boys were murdered by a seri­al killer pros­ti­tute?”

“Not ready to go that far yet. Just say­ing let’s ex­plore this dir­ec­tion.”

“An­d this hunch is based on …”

“Noth­ing at all.”

“Glad to see y­ou don’t let y­our train­ing get in the way of y­our job.”

“Can’t train in­stinc­t, Soph­ie. Y­ou’re on Face­book, right?”


“What do y­ou c­all it when y­ou ask someone to be y­our friend? Oth­er than pathet­ic.”

She rolled h­er eye­s. “A friend re­quest.”

“Send one to Tal­ber­t an­d Sey­mour. I’ll c­all my con­tact at Sey­mour’s of­fice an­d see i­f they can lo­g in­to his ac­coun­t an­d ac­cept y­our re­quest. Y­ou do the same with Tal­ber­t’s people.”

“Y­ou want me to go through an­d com­pare their l­ist­s of friend­s.”

“Maybe we get luck­y an­d they share some fe­male ac­quaint­ances. Face­book is the new street corner.” Grant glanced at his watch. “I gotta get outta here.”

He stood, grabbed his jack­et.

“Y­ou’re just gonna leave all this to me?”

“Sorry, but I have to drive out to Kirk­land. Haven’t been in six week­s.”

Soph­ie’s eye­s softene­d.

“No prob­lem. I’ll get on this.”