Sherry opened her eyes. Soft blue light was beginning to filter into the bedroom. She turned her head to check for Parker’s small tousled head of hair. His head was almost entirely under the covers, just a lock or two poked out. He had wandered into her bed during the night, something he often did. Sherry eased herself out of bed, pulled on a cotton robe, and checked her watch. Five o’clock. Did he come in last night?
She closed the blinds on all the windows to encourage Parker to sleep in and tiptoed out to the kitchen.
The scene was static and unbroken. No briefcase, no tie tossed on the sofa table or black socks balled up on the rug. The glass-topped coffee table had one glass of wine, half drunk, just where Wills had left it.
With a quick nervous movement Sherry tucked her hair behind her ears. What was not there was causing something deep down in the recesses of her stomach to begin to bubble. Craig had not made it back. She ran to the door just to be sure.
She opened it. The silky wet cool lake air hit her in the face with a soft caress. Sherry had always loved the air at the lake. Full of life-giving oxygen, she would say. Full of energy. Now it made her shiver.
Her car, a squarely clunky SUV, sat alone in the driveway. Its black shininess reflected the intensifying light.
She shut the door and stood with her back to it, heart racing. Something was wrong. Craig would be here.
She closed her eyes for a moment and pictured him. She had met him six years ago. At work. Sherry had married the boss.
How excited she had been to land the job. An accounting graduate, Sherry did not want to move far away. She liked Yellow River, despite its tiny size and provincialism. It was home. And after her father had been diagnosed, she couldn’t leave. Not then.
So she met Craig Ross. Five years her senior, smart, driven. Craig was an Ohio boy, a suburban boy, who loved boats and bucks he told her. He wanted a job that was fun every day. He wanted to build boats.
He had impressed her that day not with his dark good looks and intense brown eyes, but with his energy and his vision. Sherry was not a dreamer; she liked getting things done. Craig could do the dreaming for them both.
Sherry came abruptly back to the present. She looked at her watch. Five-thirty. She made a cup of coffee in the microwave, grabbed her cell phone, and opened the sliding door to the expansive deck. She had to do something.
The lake was smooth and still like a huge plate of silver glass. Birds chirped with abandon. It promised to be a beautiful day. A thirty-foot speedboat, pontoon, and 17-foot sailboat, a fleet of Boat Company boats, bobbed on the water. Kayaks, canoes, and skidoos were stored nearby. The Ross cabin was a lake lover’s paradise.
She took a sip of the too hot liquid and burned her tongue. Tears filled her eyes. She let one course its way down her cheek.
She checked her watch again. Five forty-five. She picked up the phone and dialed. “Mom?” Her voice was strained, foreign sounding.
Carol Kneifer had been stirring milk into her morning coffee when the phone rang. “Sherry? What is it, honey?”
“Is he sick?”
“I don’t know.” Her voice broke.
“What Sherry! What is it?”
“I don’t know where he is.” She started to talk, stringing her sentences together in a flat monotone voice, feeling strangely as though she were watching herself talk on a movie, or on the news.
Carol listened to the sequence of events. “Honey, call Dan. He’s the company lawyer. He’ll know what to do. You can trust him you know. You haven’t been so sure about the others.”
“Do you think it’s too early?” The sun was the color of an egg yolk and moving higher into the sky. It was six o’clock.
“He’ll talk to you. Call him.”
Anne was in bed when the phone rang. She was in her second trimester and was feeling good, but tired.
She pulled the covers up over her head when the ring pierced the silence of her bedroom. Air-conditioned air made the room comfortably cool in the huge Victorian house. She tried to snuggle back down under the covers but curiosity overcame her. Who calls at six on a Saturday? Anne doubted that even her in-laws, Renata and Carl Stillman, were awake this early.
She pulled on a zip-front duster and ran her fingers through her shoulder-length red hair. Then, suppressing a yawn, she made her way down the back stairway to the kitchen.
“O.K. Back up Sherry. Exactly what did VanHorn say?”
Sherry? Anne fingered the handle of the coffee mug she had picked up. She would drink her morning orange juice in the mug. It was the next best thing to drinking coffee. Well, she told herself that anyway.
Dan stood, back to her, at the kitchen phone. He was writing on a notepad. “O.K. I’ll call Howard and get back to you. Try not to worry Sher.” Dan hung up.
“What was that about?” Anne held her orange juice mug between her palms. She was carefully curious.
“That was Sherry. Sherry Ross. Have you met her?” Dan almost looked embarrassed.
“Noooo. You know I haven’t met her. Why is she calling you at dawn?”
“I don’t know. Well I mean I know, but I don’t know what the real explanation is.” Dan grinned. “Sorry, but that confidentiality thing gets in the way again. Gotta go see Lou Howard at the police station. Hang tight, I’ll be back.” He grabbed his keys and made his way out the door.
Anne patted her tummy. “I do a bit too much hanging these days.” She sighed and sat at the oak table in the large airy kitchen. The sun was already filling the rooms from the east, getting ready to make its circuitous trip around the south and west facing windows in the course of the day. Anne sipped her juice and traced the pattern of the wood grain on the table. Sherry Ross. Dan’s high school flame. Calling him at dawn on a Saturday. What did she make of that?
When Sherry got Dan’s call she was ready. She grabbed her keys, Parker still in his pajamas, and Katie, changed, fed, and strangely quiet, and walked out the door. She left a note on the kitchen counter.
“Wills, I’m running to the local police station to fill out a report. We need answers. You know where everything is. If you hear from Craig, call me ASAP. Here’s my cell number.”