The story begins with Outline of Murder. It continues with When
the Snow Melts.
Although retired from the force, when Brad Schrader’s best
friend, Joe Harms’ wife is missing, he helps the local sheriff with
By chance, Brad discovers Valerie Harms’ dead body, and in an
attempt to get him off the case, the killer kidnaps Brad’s five year
old son, Adam, turning the case personal.
“By any chance, Mr. Wyckoff,” I said, “have you seen my son, Adam?”
He stopped what he was doing and thoughtfully looked at me. “To tell you the
truth, Mr. Schrader, I don’t rightly re-member.” He frowned. “So many children
come in after school.”
I could empathize with him. Bundled in winter snowsuits, small boys have a
tendency to look alike. “His friend said he was coming here to by a comic book.
Does that help you any?”
“Oh, yes.” He smiled on remembering. “The little tyke counted his change.”
“That sounds like him.” I smiled. “Have you any idea as to what time he left here?”
“Nice boy...well mannered, but you shouldn’t give him so much money to carry
around with him.”
I listened politely to Mr. Wyckoff’s lecture on the perils of small children carrying
too much money. I wholeheartedly agreed while inching my way toward the door.
“Thank you,” I said, hand on the doorknob.
“And if I rightly remember, he bought a package of these,” he added, holding up a
yellow snack package of M&M’s chocolate peanuts, Adam’s favorite.
“How long ago would you say that was?” I asked.
“Reckon it must have been well over an hour and a half ago.”
“Thank you,” I repeated, and lit out the door. If Mr. Wyckoff was right, Adam should
have been home before I left the house.
I heard the sound of blasting music before I even noticed the dark car that came
zooming around the corner. To avoid being splattered by slush, I jumped back
onto the curb. I wasn’t fast enough. From the knees down my trousers were
swashed and I swore at the teenage motorist on feeling the wet coldness of my
pants touching my legs. I leaned over to brush at them and like the easy sighting
of a red cardinal in the snow, the brilliance of a lonely green M&M candy stared up
I stared back for a second and that’s when I noticed an-other M&M candy just a
few feet away, only this one was orange. The orange one led to another that was
green and the trail ended curb side in the middle of the block. A coincidence, I told
myself; a small undetected hole in a bag of candy. Besides, it was in the wrong
direction, and Adam knew better than to cross a street in the middle of the block.
I headed for my car, remembering the afternoon I had spent teaching Adam how to
safely cross the busy intersection. Several times, without his knowledge, I had
watched him go-it-alone just to put Melissa’s mind at ease, as well as my own.
No sooner had I pulled into our driveway and climbed out of the SUV when I heard
the backdoor bang open.
“Brad…come quick,” Melissa called to me. The strange shrill in her voice sent the
hairs on the back of my neck rising in fear. I sprinted across the driveway and up
the porch steps and into the house. “What’s wrong?” I breathlessly asked.
“Oh God, Brad... Oh God,” she cried, hands clutching at the front of my jacket.
“Someone has taken Adam.”
“What are you talking about?”
It was the white, stricken face and terror-ridden eyes looking up at me that held
the answer. I felt my stomach flip over and my knees suddenly went weak.
“How...how do you know?”
“A...man called.” She swayed against me.
I managed to back her into a kitchen chair and was down on my haunches in front
of her. “Can you remember what he said, Melissa?”
With shaking hands, she wiped at the uncontrollable tears that streamed down her
face. “He...he wanted to speak to you,” she sobbed. “I…I told him that I was
expecting you any minute.” She drew in a ragged breath and continued to cry.
“Then...then he said he’d call back later. And you’re not to call the police... Oh
God, if...if we want Adam back.
Why...why is he doing this to us?” she cried.
Her head fell to my shoulder as she wept bitterly. I was too numb to think.
|When the Snow Melts
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