- Chapter One
Investigative reporter Maxine Revere couldn’t explain what drew her toward a particular investigation. She couldn’t articulate why she wasn’t interested in a cold case across the city, but would jump on a cross-country flight to pursue an even colder case.
She appreciated the fact that she didn’t have to explain herself to anyone.
Independently wealthy, she could pursue any lead that caught her attention. For her news articles, she’d conduct a preliminary investigation to decide if she wanted to spend the time solving the case, then write a proposal and send it to one of three editors she liked to work with. They’d give her the flexibility and the credentials to follow through, and she’d submit her report when she was done. Sometimes—most of the time—she went ahead with the full investigation even before anyone wanted the story. For her books, she immersed herself in a community with the people who were affected, hoping not only to tell the story of the crime—victims, survivors, perpetrators—but also understand everyone involved.
She couldn’t imagine doing anything else with her life.
Because of the success of her true crime books and the popularity of her in-depth reports, she received hundreds of letters every month from families and friends of victims who wanted her to look into a violent crime, most often a disappearance or a homicide. Letters from killers claiming they were innocent rarely appealed to her, nor did the claims of innocence by loved ones who believed—or wanted to believe—that their mother/husband/boyfriend/daughter/friend was railroaded by the system.
Though she couldn’t explain to anyone else why she was going to Colorado to investigate the disappearance of Scott Sheldon from his college campus, as soon as she read the letter from his mother, she knew she was going.
First, she called Scott’s mother, Adele Sheldon. She rarely pursued an investigation without the blessing of one of the family members. In this case, Adele was both surprised and relieved that Max had called her. Max listened to the mother talk about her son and his disappearance, repeating most of the information from the letter, but adding an important detail: search and rescue had only last week actively started to look for his body. Adele gave her the contact information of a detective in Colorado Springs, someone at the Park Service, the head of campus police, and Scott’s former college roommate. It was a good start.
Max made contact with the detective, who wasn’t helpful, because both the college and the campground Scott went missing from were out of her jurisdiction. The campus security chief didn’t take her call—supposedly out of the office—but Max left her contact information. She briefly spoke to the head of the park service search team, Chuck Pence, who confirmed the pertinent details. She wanted to talk to him further when she arrived in Colorado Springs. Max read all newspaper and online reports on Scott’s disappearance, but there wasn’t much written.
After the preliminary research, Max called Adele again to confirm that Scott’s mother still wanted her help. The woman sobbed.
“Y-yes,” she said. She took a deep, audible breath. “I need to know what happened to my son. I need the truth.”
Truth. Most people thought they were strong enough for the truth, but sometimes they resented Max for digging into their life, their family, their friends. Max always believed the truth was better than not knowing, and not everyone concurred with her philosophy.
“It might not be what you think, Mrs. Sheldon. We might learn things about your son you wished you didn’t know.”
“I don’t care,” she said. “Not knowing what happened, not having his body to bury, is worse than anything you might learn. My son was a good boy. Smart. Shy. Trusting. He never forgot my birthday; he cared deeply for his sister, Ashley. I love him. I want to say good-bye. Maybe you don’t understand.”
She understood exactly how Mrs. Sheldon felt. Max hadn’t lost a child, but she’d lost people close to her.
She said, “I’ll be there.”
Max booked a flight without checking her calendar. When she looked at her schedule the next morning, she saw that she was supposed to have lunch with Ben Lawson.
Max dialed his number, glad that this time she had a legitimate excuse to cancel. She’d canceled on her old college friend twice already. The first time, he’d been understanding; the second, he was irritated.
Third time? He would be irate.
“Don’t you dare cancel on me,” he said before she could even get a soothing hello, how are you? out of her mouth.
“It’s work, Ben.”
“It’s always work.”
“I’m a busy woman.”
“You’re an impossible woman. We’re having lunch.”
“My flight leaves at three, I need to be in a cab by twelve forty-five.”
“Meet me right now.”
“I need to pack.”
“You’re not canceling on me again, Maxie.”
“Do not call me that, Benji.”
He let out an exasperated sigh. “I need to talk to you about something. It’s important.”
“Everything with you is important.” Ben always had something going on. He worked in film, had done something out in L.A. for a few years after he graduated from Columbia, and now worked for a television station here in New York City. Max had no idea what he actually did, only that he had three phones and never stopped talking.
“I’m serious, Max. Please.”
Ben never said please. Now Max was curious. “Eleven thirty, same place.”
“I’ll change the reservation. Thank you.” He hung up quickly, as if she might change her mind.
She stared at the phone. A please and a thank you? Now she was not only interested, but suspicious, too.
She didn’t have much time before she had to meet Ben. She packed a large suitcase plus her overnight bag, which should be enough for the four or five days she planned to be in Colorado Springs. If she decided to stay longer, she’d ask her neighbors—who took care of her place during her frequent travels—to ship out anything she might need.
Max left her luggage with her doorman so she didn’t have to lug it to the restaurant. She lived in TriBeCa, on Greenwich Street, and Ben lived on the Upper West Side. That he would come all the way down here to have lunch at the Tribeca Grill was partly because of the good food, but mostly because he wanted something from her. Ben was a schmoozer and glad-hander, but he was also busy and selfish. He expected people to come to him.