Cry in the Night
by Colleen Coble
Cry in the Night A ROCK HARBOR MYSTERY
By COLLEEN COBLE
Chapter One The baby in the carrier slept peacefully, tiny fists thrust against her chubby cheeks blissfully unaware of her danger. Pia Westola clicked off the phone and sat back in her chair, gazing at the baby, sick with the awareness of this new, undesirable turn her life had taken. What had started out as a job she could believe in-even if it did sometimes drift into the law's gray areas-had just become clearly criminal. She would never have agreed to take this infant if what Florence had just told her was true.
One glance at the clock told her her boss would be here soon. Pia just had to keep the little one out of his reach. Adrenaline pulsed through her at the thought. Her decision made, she slipped on her coat, adjusted the insulating cover over the baby carrier that fit on her like a backpack, then grabbed the bottles and diapers and stuffed them in with the baby. If she could hide out long enough, maybe she could get the baby to safety.
Before she reached the garage door, she heard a car out front. Peeking through the curtains, she saw him get out. His car blocked Pia's getaway. Biting back panic, she realized she'd have to escape through the kitchen door.
She exited quickly with the baby and stood on the porch. She knew she had to hurry, but which direction? He'd see her on the road. Her only hope was through the thigh-high drifts across her backyard and into the woods. Her cross-country skis were propped against the side of the house. She shouldered into the baby backpack, slung the diaper bag over that, and then snapped on her skis.
She set out across the frozen landscape. Her muscles were warm by the time she reached the edge of the woods, and her breath fogged the frigid air. But she'd reached the path other skiers had used, and the going would be easier.
Her back aching from the weight of the carrier, she spared a glance behind her. Her spirits flagged when she caught a glimpse of him. He was on skis too. She'd forgotten he always carried them in his car. He wasn't burdened with the baby either. She was never going to make the sanctuary she'd hoped for. He hadn't seen her yet though. She hoped he'd lose her tracks on the more highly trafficked trail.
Tension coiled along Pia's spine as she whirled and looked for a place to hide the baby. There-a fallen pile of logs had enough space under it to hide the infant. She slipped out of the backpack, and a crumpled piece of paper fell from her pocket. She wedged the carrier under the logs. She layered several insulated blankets around the tiny girl. At least the child was sheltered.
Picking up a branch, she erased the evidence of her tracks to the logs. She stared down the hill at the approaching figure, then retraced her steps. She met him at a bend in the trail. She'd never known him to be a violent man-maybe she could reason with him.
His narrowed gaze nearly cut her down. "Where's the baby?"
She tipped up her chin. "I'm not going to be part of this."
He grabbed her arm and twisted it. "Where is she?"
Reeling from the shock, Pia's shoulder shrieked with pain. Still, she held his gaze defiantly. "Where you'll never find her."
"I saw you carrying her!" He slapped her, then slapped her again. Both hands moved to her shoulders and he shook her. "Where is she?"
Pia's cheeks burned. Her head flopped with the violence of the shaking. Then he shoved her, and she was falling, falling toward a broken tree limb that jutted from the ground like a giant spear.
Davy came barreling downstairs with his red hair sticking up. Bree Matthews swiped at it as he passed. "Hey, big guy, you want cereal or an egg and toast this morning?"
"Cereal," he said. He went to the table and pulled the cereal bowl toward him, then dumped Cheerios into it.
She glanced out at the sun glinting off the thick snowdrifts, then saw the clock on the stove. "Miss Florence is expecting you in twenty minutes."
"It's the start of the winter holiday, Mom. I like Miss Florence, but I'd rather go fishing with you. Can't I skip tutoring today?"
She frowned at his reluctance. She'd never known him to be less than eager to go to Florence's. "We'll go fishing this afternoon."
When had he started to call her Mom instead of Mommy? She should have noted the transition. Now she mourned it. He would be a young man the next time she blinked. Nearly eight years old. Where had the time gone? He rarely needed her help now. Not with breakfast or getting ready for school. His bed would have been made. He was the neatest kid she'd ever seen.
Just as Rob had been.
It fascinated her to consider how much of Davy's qualities she could credit to heredity and how much to environment. Even though he looked like her, he walked like Rob and he had Rob's cowlick at his forehead. He was a neatnik and he loved trains, just like his dad. His favorite color was green, and nearly every shirt he owned was a variation of that shade, as were Rob's, the ones she'd given to the Salvation Army after his death.
She snapped out of her trance when Kade walked with a heavy tread into the kitchen. He brushed a kiss across her forehead. "Morning, hon," he said before continuing on to the table. "I wish it were Saturday instead of Monday. I'd like to go fishing with you two."
"Breakfast?" she asked. "I'm in the mood to cook."
He smiled. "I'll have eggs and toast if you don't mind. I've got a busy day at work."
"I don't mind," she said, her spirits deflating. She'd hoped he would remember her doctor appointment without being reminded. He'd change his plans and go with her if she asked, but he'd been so distracted lately she hated to add to whatever burden he wasn't sharing with her.
He ruffled Davy's hair. "Looking forward to your winter holiday?"
Bree turned to the stove and whipped him up an omelet-his favorite kind, with spinach, mushrooms, ham, and cheese. The coffee aroma filled the kitchen, and then the pot beeped. Bree poured him a cup and handed it to him. He grunted a thank-you from behind his newspaper.
She would not cry. She turned back to the stove and flipped the omelet over. These days she felt on the verge of tears most of the time. Probably the fertility drugs. Sliding the omelet onto a plate, she placed it in front of Kade.
He looked up. "Thanks, babe." He caught her hand and kissed her palm.
The love in his gaze soothed her. Were they ever going to have their own baby? They'd both been devastated when she miscarried three months ago. Glancing at the calendar again, she started to ask him about going with her today, then shut her mouth. No, it wasn't a big enough deal.
When Kade pulled her close before he left for work, she almost changed her mind. If the news was bad today, she might need his strength. It took all her determination to nuzzle her face in his neck and keep back the words.
Once Kade was out of the house, she grabbed her keys. "I'll run you to Miss Florence's." She snapped her fingers, and her search dog, Samson, got up and came to her. His dark eyes were eager, and he ran to the door.
Driving to the cottage at the edge of the vast tract of forest where Florence Hawkins lived, Bree glanced at her son several times. "You okay, buddy? You're quiet this morning."
"I dreamed about Daddy last night," he said. "He told me to watch for him, that he was coming."
Bree hid her wince, but her fingers tightened on the steering wheel as she navigated the icy curves in the road. "You know that's not possible, Davy." He scowled. "Don't call me Davy," he said. "I'm not a baby."
He'd always be her baby. "Your daddy is in heaven. He'd come for you if he could, but he can't."
Her boy's mouth turned mutinous. "Maybe he could come see me as a ghost. I wouldn't be afraid. I heard a cry outside the window last night and got up to look. I thought it might be him."
Bree stopped the Jeep in the driveway behind Florence's bright yellow convertible. "Maybe you were dreaming. You know there are no ghosts. Your daddy didn't want to go to heaven when he did, but you have to accept he's gone, son."
She'd thought these discussions were long past. Rob had been gone for almost four years. She and Kade had been married for two, and Kade had been such a good father to Davy. His visits to the psychologist had tapered off to a couple per year, and they'd all thought her boy had made the adjustment. Now she wasn't so sure.
There was no more time to talk now. Florence met them at the door. In her fifties with dyed red hair, she was a kid magnet. She'd been a teacher for years, and she tutored children in town. Davy's grade in math had come up to an A since Bree hired her.
Davy glanced up at his tutor. "Miss Florence, did you find the baby?"
Florence's smile faltered.
Bree frowned. "Baby?" she asked Florence.
The older woman waved her hand. "I think he means the doll I keep for the little girls. I couldn't find it last week." She turned to face the street. "Oh, here comes Timmy," she said.
Davy turned on the stoop. "Yay!" he yelled as Naomi O'Reilly, Bree's best friend, pulled up in her minivan. The van stopped and Timmy climbed out. The boy lugged his backpack and joined Davy on the stoop.
Naomi stuck her head out of the window, and her long braid slipped along her shoulder. "Hey, can Dave come for a playdate this afternoon?"
Davy's smile beamed. Even Naomi remembered he hated to be called Davy. "Sure, after we go fishing, right Dave?" Bree said. She glanced at her son as he ran back to Florence.
Florence touched the knitted cap on Davy's head. "You ready for your lessons, boys?"
"You bet!" the two boys said in chorus. They scampered into the house and toward the kitchen.
"Work hard and we'll go fishing this afternoon!" Bree called after him. Samson pressed against her leg, and she plunged her cold fingers into his warm fur.
"They're doing so well," Florence said. "You can be very proud of your boy." She closed the door.
Bree jogged to the idling van to talk to Naomi. She smiled at Naomi's toddler in the backseat. Matthew's gummy smile made her own widen. "Is something wrong?" Naomi asked.
"Just a weird day. I've been thinking about Rob, and Davy was talking about him this morning. It made me sad for a minute."
Matthew wailed. Naomi flipped her braid behind her and pulled her head back into the car. She turned to the backseat and gave him a toy before facing Bree again. "You've got nothing to regret, Bree. You were a good wife to Rob, but he's gone. You've got Kade now, and a better man has never walked the face of the earth. Other than my Donovan, of course," she said, smiling.
"Of course." Bree returned her friend's smile, feeling the weight fall from her shoulders. "We landed our Westleys."
"'Wuv, twue wuv,'" Naomi said, mimicking the Impressive Clergyman in The Princess Bride, their favorite movie.
They both burst into giggles. "I'll be praying for you!" Naomi shouted before running up her window and pulling away in the van.
A smile still pulled at Bree's lips when the car disappeared around the curve. The stiff wind blew snow into the tracks left by Naomi's vehicle. Life seemed to be doing the same to Bree, the winds of change obscuring the path she'd seen so clearly a few years ago.
As she left Rock Harbor, she saw people parked along the frozen shoreline. They stared and pointed out across the frozen water. What had captured everyone's attention? Then she saw it.
An ice volcano. Sometimes high surf slamming against the face of the ice shelf created a cone formation resembling a volcano. The ice built up, and the surge of waves erupted through the cone like lava through a volcano tube. It was always a sight to see, so she drove slowly and did her own amount of staring until she left Rock Harbor's city limits behind.
Driving to Houghton, where her doctor's office was located, she felt the knot in her belly tighten with every mile. She'd handled worse than this by herself. Turning on her CD player, she cranked up her favorite Elvis album, Elvis in Concert, and fast-forwarded to "Can't Help Falling in Love." In her mind that was Kade's song, and the lyrics strengthened her.
The music blared loud enough to drown out the fears. She left Samson in the Jeep when she parked. All eyes turned to look when she walked into the ob-gyn office. Most of the women were pregnant, and Bree saw their eyes drop to her belly. She swallowed her hurt and smiled as she checked in at the window, then sank into a black leather chair nearby. If nothing else, it was good to be out of the cold. She slipped off her coat and laid it across her knees.
She'd barely had time to warm up when the nurse called her name. Her pulse ratcheted up a notch as she followed the nurse down a long hallway lined with pictures of smiling mothers holding newborns. She kept her gaze firmly latched on to the nurse's back. It hurt too much to see those photos. The nurse led her to an examination room, then took her blood pressure and pulse before leaving Bree behind the closed door to await the doctor.
Bree had waited here too many times, just like this with her heart in her mouth. Maybe she would give it up. This path was so difficult.
The door opened, and Dr. Zook walked in. About fifty, the female doctor had been Bree's ob-gyn ever since Bree moved to the area. The stylish pumps, khaki slacks, and red-and-khaki striped blouse she wore fit her slim frame impeccably. Her pageboy blonde hair swung in a perfect curtain to her chin. Bree always felt dowdy in her doctor's presence.
"Good morning, Bree," the doctor said. She carried a manila file. Perching on a stool, she flipped it open and studied the top sheet of paper. "How are you feeling?"
"Fine. No problems. I started my period last week." She couldn't keep the disappointment from her voice. "I've been on Clomid two months. This will be the last month you said I should take it."
Dr. Zook closed the file, crossed one crisp pant leg over the other, then laced her fingers together on her knees and smiled at Bree. "I have the test results back. There's no obvious reason why you aren't conceiving."
That sounded like good news. "What do you suggest?" "We could try another few months of Clomid, but you might want to jump directly to in vitro."
Bree suspected in vitro was way too expensive for them. "I got pregnant before."
"And miscarried at seven weeks," Dr. Zook said. "The problem may be genetic. With in vitro, we could maximize your chances and have fifteen or so fertilized eggs to test for problems."
Bree shook her head. "I'd want to implant every fertilized egg. It's for God to decide the outcome." Dr. Zook's face remained impassive, but Bree knew the doctor didn't agree with her stand. "How much does it cost?"
"About five thousand dollars a month. I'd guess we might have success the first month."
Bree winced. "I'll need to talk to my husband." How on earth could they afford something like that? Tears hovered dangerously close when the doctor left Bree alone. Maybe she and Kade would never have a child together.
He claimed to love Davy like he was Kade's own flesh and blood, and Bree knew it was true. But she saw his stares at small children and the way he fielded questions from kids who came through park headquarters. If ever a man was cut out to be a father, it was Kade Matthews.
She gathered up her purse and slipped on her coat in a daze. Clutching her purse, she walked back down the hall and through the waiting room. A newborn baby mewled in her mother's arms as Bree neared the exit. She had to look, and her heart melted at the sight of a rosebud mouth and smooth, perfect skin. The Native American baby had the biggest thatch of black hair that Bree had ever seen.
"She's precious," she said.
The mother smiled and thanked Bree, who quickly escaped into the harsh wind that scoured the tears from her face.
Kade glanced out his office window into the back lot. There were no baby animals in the rescue area that he was so proud of, but come spring, the pens would be full.
Judith Kettrick stuck her head in the door. "You hear the report?" The ranger-brown of her uniform accentuated her sallow complexion.
Kade turned from the window. "What report?" He hoped she hadn't gotten her pink slip. The place was becoming a ghost town since the budget cuts.
"A woman on the reservation reported her baby was taken by a windigo."
Kade raised an eyebrow. "Windigo? Why would she say that?" Windigos were the Ojibwa Indians' version of a vampire. The evil spirit was said to have an insatiable hunger.