The hand-drawn map accompanying
the ransom note looked clear
enough. Drive up Lonesome Hill and continue down the other side. At Crisco
Pass, make a left, drive for one mile. The computer-generated instructions at
the top of the page said a cabin, on the right, stood back from the road. A
sign was by the mailbox: “Lonesome Hill Lodge.”
Gaye didn’t need the map.
Her parents took her there for dinner on
special occasions, but it had been closed for years. Just as well. The
particular memories of those outings were not all pleasant—the bickering had
become old by the time she turned twelve. But at least they were more subtle
about it when out in public. At home, the dishes and insults flew in about
equal measure. Was she bitter about her childhood? Yes.
She thought about Josh. How
was he holding up? How did it feel to
be big, strong, and helpless? She wondered if he was wounded, and if so, where.
She wondered if he was alive.
Pushing those thoughts away,
she had to make a decision about how
to handle this. Meet the kidnapper’s demand not to notify the police? Just pay
the ransom and hope for the best? Or go up there and rescue Josh on her own?
The irony was, she no longer
loved Josh. He’d become predicable,
uninteresting. Gaye craved excitement and risk. Should she risk her life now?
For someone she didn’t even love? It was against everything she believed in to
pay the ransom.
What did she owe Josh? She knew
he’d stayed with her for the
lifestyle, not for love. He seemed to like her okay, laughed at her jokes,
humored her dark moods, and made her favorite cocktail. But any gigolo would do
the same. It was all so trite. Rich, slightly older—okay, quite a bit
older—woman, and young, handsome lifeguard—lifeguard! Yes, he was going to
college to earn a degree in, what was it? She couldn’t remember. After they
met, he dropped out to jet around with her.
Now he’d got himself kidnapped.
She looked at the note again. There
was something about it . . .
Gaye drove up the big hill with
the top down on her red Mercedes, a
stuffed Kate Spade satchel in the trunk. She sang along with Billy Joel, tapping
time with her fingers on the steering wheel. The drive was spectacular—tall white
birch trees, the occasional deer, and the scent of pine needles in the air.
When she arrived, she was saddened
to see the dilapidated lodge.
Someone stood in the doorway and watched her climb the stairs. He had a Glock
in his left hand and a bandana over the lower part of his face.
Gaye’s long, blonde hair
was pulled tightly back into a ponytail
and her own gun nestled in its holster under her left arm. The satchel felt
heavy in her hand, and after the two of them entered, she set it down by the
“I see you didn’t
call the authorities.” The voice was low and
“How do you know they’re
not hiding in the trees?”
“I tracked all your phone
calls. And your movements.”
“Phone GPS? I could have
left it somewhere and walked away. You wouldn’t
He shook his head. “I
followed you and bugged your house. And your
She didn’t like that,
but she shrugged. “You kidnapped Josh all by
The corners of his hazel eyes
crinkled, so she knew he was smiling.
“Where is he?”
“In there.” He pointed
with the Glock toward a closed door to the
“Is he all right?”
“He’s okay. You
lead the way. Bring the bag.”
She picked it up and walked
to the door, opened it, and looked
Josh sat behind a desk, his
arms pulled toward his back as if
handcuffed. A bandana was tied around his mouth. His eyes pleaded with her for
Gorgeous eyes. Hair all in place.
His yellow golf shirt looked as
fresh as when she saw him three days ago. She turned to the other man. “Take
off the gag. I need to talk to him.”
don’t give the orders
here. The gag stays until our transaction is done.”
“The bag doesn’t
get unlocked until I decide to unlock it. And
you’ll never find the key. So, take the gag off. Now.”
He squinted at her. “I’ll
shoot the lock off if necessary.”
She sighed and dropped the bag
to the floor. “Josh, what are you
When the man turned to look,
his gun hand lowered slightly. Gaye
pulled out her Smith and Wesson and shot him in three easy shots to the neck.
He’d stood way too close to her. He fell to the floor in a heap.
Josh pulled the bandana away
from his mouth, stood up and staggered
around the desk.
“Stay where you are, Josh.”
He stopped short, looking shocked.
She bent down to get the other
man’s gun, holstered her own, and
pointed the Glock at Josh. “You should have finished your coursework at college.
Maybe it would have smartened you up.”
“What are you talking
about?” His voice sounded strained and weak.
“You thought you were
being so clever. You forgot you’d drawn a map
to this place back when we first met after I told you about it.”
He started shaking his head
and couldn’t seem to stop. “No. You’re
Her gun hand didn’t waver.
“No, I’m not. You made the same mistake
on both of the maps. You spelled Lonesome wrong. It has two e’s. You weren’t
majoring in English, were you? I forget what it was.”
Still shaking his head, he stepped
backward. “Criminal Justice,” he
She laughed. Then she shot him
in the heart and watched him fall.
She wiped the Glock with a handkerchief she had in her pocket and placed the
gun in the other man’s hand. Did the same with her own, untraceable one, and
put it in Josh’s hand. Then she picked up the satchel full of bricks and left
“Won’t be going
back there,” she said as she climbed into her BMW. “Full
of bad memories.”
Halfway down the hill, a sudden
thought hit her. Had she put the gun
in the other man’s right hand or left hand? She couldn’t remember. Too
dangerous to go back. Dread engulfed her as she drove on. Maybe she should
finish her own college degree. If she didn’t end up in prison. She doubted they
taught criminal justice there.
Was that a siren she heard,
or only a sound in her head? She
guessed she’d soon find out.