The Pied Piper

The Pied Piper by Ridley Pearson

Book: The Pied Piper by Ridley Pearson Read Free Book Online
Authors: Ridley Pearson
    â€œWith sick people. LaMoia calls the kidnapped children thumb-suckers. One of the Feds, a guy named Hale, he calls them ‘milk cartons,’ because their pictures used to be on the sides.” He saw a dying mother, not a sick woman—this happened occasionally. “You don’t need to hear this.”
    â€œYou could use some sleep,” she said kindly.
    He couldn’t take sympathy coming from her.
    She needed the sleep, not him, the insomnia having come with the bed rest, the bed rest with the treatment, the treatment with the disease. She refused the pills. She gladly accepted his reading to her, if and when his schedule allowed, which depended on Marina’s schedule. Lately, everything depended on something. Nothing stood alone: Even the grandest of trees anchored itself in the earth.
    â€œDid you see the kids at all today?” she asked in a tone that bordered on accusation.
    He answered with silence, for he would never lie to her. He devoted every spare minute to his two children, but to a mother in a hospital room this would seem like too little.
    She suggested, “Maybe if you drove them to day care instead of Marina.”
    â€œI’ll bring them by to see you tomorrow night after dinner.” He drove them to day care three days a week. Argument had no place here. He and his wife had fallen deeply in love again. If only he might be given a second chance. ...
    â€œCan I read to you?” he asked.
    He dug around on her cluttered end table looking for the Mahfouz novel she had been reading.
    â€œNot there. Here.” She strained to her right, fingers searching. Her nightgown fell open and he saw the broad freckled skin of her back. Her ribs showed. He didn’t know that back. It belonged to a different woman.
    He subscribed to the belief that two could solve their individual problems better than one person alone. He felt terrified by the thought he might lose her.
    â€œRead this,” Liz said, handing him a leather-bound Bible that Boldt had never seen. Numbered metal tabs marked sections. “Start at seven. The text is marked in chalk.”
    Sight of the Bible sent a shiver through him. Did she sense the end? Had she spoken with her doctor? Panic flooded through him.
    â€œAnything you want to tell me?” he asked, his voice breaking, the Bible shaking slightly in his hands.
    â€œNumber seven,” she said. “It’s marked.”
    He fumbled with the book. He had ridden this roller coaster for months; he wasn’t sure how much longer he could endure it.
    He cleared his throat and read aloud, his voice warm and resonant. She loved his reading voice.
    Liz closed her eyes and smiled.
    Some things were worth the wait.


    The Town Car stuck out, black and gleaming, showroom fresh. It was parked out front of Boldt’s home, beneath a street light, ostentatious and isolated, as if none of the other neighborhood cars, unwaxed and dull from a winter of rain, wanted to socialize with it. Boldt slowed the Chevy as he drove past, turned into his drive and pulled to a stop.
    Gary Flemming sat at the kitchen table with Miles on his lap, speaking Spanish to Marina who was doing dishes. Sarah, in an outrigger high chair, had a cherub face smeared in pulverized pears. Caught in the midst of a euphoric laugh, Marina glanced toward Boldt, registering disappointment as if he’d spoiled the party.
    Flemming put down Sarah’s baby spoon—it was Boldt’s joy to feed his daughter in the evenings—and met eyes with Boldt, who immediately felt uncomfortable in his own home. He wished Miles would get off the man’s lap. Sensing this, Flemming eased the boy down to the floor. Miles ran for Boldt’s leg and attached himself. Flemming wiped Sarah’s chin with her bib.
    â€œMr. Flemming with FBI,” Marina explained, eyes to the dishwater.
    â€œYes, we’ve met,” Boldt

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