And some time after midnight on that clear October evening, Noah was overcome with longing. He looked like an old man now, like someone who’d aged a lifetime in just a couple of hours. He bent over in his rocker with tears in his eyes.
He didn’t know how to stop them.
LON HUNG up the phone. He had called at seven, then at eight thirty, and now he checked his watch again. Nine forty-five.
Where was she?
He knew she was where she had said she would be because he had spoken to the manager. Yes, she had checked in and he had last seen her around six. Going to dinner, he thought. No, he hadn’t seen her since.
Lon shook his head and leaned back in his chair. He was the last one in the office as usual. That was normal with an ongoing trial, even if the trial was going well. Law was his passion.
He knew he would win the case because he mastered the law and charmed the jury. He always did, and losses were infrequent now.
But most of his success came from hard work. He had always paid attention to details, especially when he’d begun his practice. Little things, obscure things, and it had become a habit now.
And now, a little detail bothered him.
Not about the case. That was fine. It was something else. Something about Allie. The little detail. Detail… Something insignificant? Something important?
Think… Damn, what was it?
His mind clicked. Something… something… something said?
Something had been said? Yes, that was it. But what was it? Had Allie said anything on the phone? That had been when it started, and he ran through the conversation again. What had she said? Her trip was good; she had checked in, had done some shopping.
Yes, that was it. He closed his eyes and thought for a second.
The thought popped into his head. Yes. New Bern. That was it. The little detail or part of it. What else, though?
New Bern, he thought again, and knew the name. He knew the town a little, mainly from a few trials he had been in. Stopped there a few times on the way to the coast. Nothing special. He and Allie had never been there together.
But Allie had been there before.
Allie, New Bern… and… something at a party. A comment from Allie’s mother. What had she said?
Lon paled then, remembering. Remembering what Allie’s mother had said so long ago. It was something about Allie being in love one time with a young man from New Bern. Called it puppy love. So what, he had thought when he’d heard it, and had turned to smile at Allie. But she hadn’t smiled. She was angry. And then Lon guessed that she had loved that person far more deeply than her mother had suggested. Maybe more deeply than she loved Lon.
And now she was there. Interesting. Coincidence? Could be nothing. Could be exactly what she said. Could be stress and antique shopping. Possible. Even probable.
Yet… what if? Lon considered the other possibility, and for the first time in a long while, he became frightened. What if she’s with him?
He made up his mind then that he would do anything it took to keep her. She was everything he’d always needed, and he’d never find another quite like her.
So, with trembling hands, he dialled the phone for the fourth and last time that evening.
And again there was no answer.