You have no idea how long I have planned our meeting, Kate. It has been a long journey, and now the final match is upon us.
He studied the note and circled the word final several times with a steady hand.
It was a matter of time before Kate’s return home.
Her smile is sweet, and she thinks her sins are a secret. But I know them all.
San Antonio, Texas
Monday, November 27, 7:45 a.m.
Mazur stood at Gate 6 in the San Antonio airport, knowing that Dr. Hayden’s flight was several minutes early. He’d gotten home a few hours ago to shower, change, and grab a quick breakfast before coming here. Most of the night had been spent dealing with the chain of command, who were scrambling to handle a high-profile murder that they feared could go radioactive if the video clip hit the Internet.
His phone rang, and he was ready to send it to voicemail when he saw his daughter’s name. “Hey, kiddo. You ready for the math test today?”
“Yeah,” Alyssa said with a dramatic sigh.
Some of the fatigue bled away. “You sound disappointed.”
“It won’t be much of a challenge.”
He rolled his neck, feeling his vertebrae crack. “Why do you say that?”
“Because all we’ve done is go over stuff I’ve already learned. I’m not crazy about this school, Dad.”
It was an expensive private school, one of the best, which Sherry had insisted on. His pride had taken a knock because he wasn’t the one providing for his daughter, but he knew the school would be good for Alyssa. “Then I’ll talk to your teacher and get you bumped up a grade.”
“Dad, no. I’m making friends in this class.”
“You’ll make friends in the new class.” He was only half teasing.
“Dad, do not call my teacher.”
He’d have pushed the point two years ago when she was in the school he was paying for. Alyssa was smart, and he wanted the best for her. “Understood. Is Mom driving you to school today?”
“Yes. She’s getting dressed. She has a big meeting this afternoon.” His ex had warned him that San Antonio might not be her last stop in her climb up the ladder, but he’d still downshifted his career and moved south anyway.
“Good. Nice that you and Mom have this time in the morning.”
“She’s always on the phone. Her boss has already called once.”
He swallowed bitter frustration. He’d asked his ex to let Alyssa stay in Chicago with him, but she’d refused, claiming his schedule was too unpredictable. And when he pressed, she’d confessed she couldn’t lose another child. “She loves you. And things will settle down with her job.”
“Yeah, I guess. Dad, don’t change my class. No more changes right now, okay?”
The note of worry told him more than he’d expected from the call. Sherry must have made more noises about another move. She’d said nothing to him, but then communication between them had been shit since she’d moved out.
“I promise, Alyssa.”
The boarding agent opened the door to the sky bridge. “I don’t hear enthusiasm. Remember, if you frown too much you might end up looking like me. Not good, kiddo.”
“True. That would so not be good.”
He liked his kid. She was as tough as him, maybe tougher. “What about the chess tournament?”
“I’m studying moves and practicing. There’re a couple of games scheduled this afternoon at the library I might sit in on.”