“We’re running out of time." said Mike Karr to Ron Christopher in Mike's study at home in a Monticello suburb. "You have to query Barrington to find out where they’re keeping Laurie Ann.”
“Mike, if I do that Barrington is bound to get suspicious. I’m sorry, Mike. That’s irrational. It's totally out of the question.”
"Then appeal to Barrington’s ego. I don’t care. Ron, I'm desperate. We haven’t another choice.”
Ron threw his hands up in the air helplessly and got up from the armchair in front of Mike’s desk. He sighed pushing his hands in his pockets and crossing the room to a narrow window opposite Mike's desk. A flower bud from a stunted shrub trembled in pebbles of ice in front of the window pane. The bud would never know the meaning of a spring flower, he thought. It was as dead as winter. As dead as Ron expected to be after crossing Eric Barrington. On one hand he bargained with Barrington, the devil's helper, the other Mike, a so-called saint. A crusader. That was Mike Karr who put the lives of his family and friends in mortal danger against criminals. That's what Louise Capice believed vehemently. That's what Ron didn't want to believe. He laughed inwardly to keep from crying out loud and breaking into pathetic little bits in the presence of unrelenting Mike. He rubbed his hands over his slick greased-back black hair and shook his head knowing he already knew the truth. The outcome and terrible climax, too. After confronting Barrington, he was bound to be beaten into a viscous pulp the same way the loan shark henchmen had beaten Phil Capice to near death and into a coma.
“You listened to the call,” Ron shivered at hearing Mike again like a broken record and not really wanting to hear another maddening supplication from Mike Karr. Not tonight when all he wanted was to scream. “Yes," he gritted his teeth, remembering Laurie Ann's desperate cries over the phone. Cries for the right to live. He turned around glaring at Mike with his mouth half open. "Laurie. Dear God. Mike, she was scared to death."
“Ron, you’re our man on the inside. The ticket to Laurie Ann's freedom…Her life. Think about Nancy. Think about Cookie if you re-"
“Okay,” Ron finally blurted out, listening to a sudden wind knocking the bud back and forth against the window pane. The wind made the bud alive after all, so there was hope. He closed his eyes thinking of Cookie’s reaction if he refused to help save Cookie's sister's family. Cookie would be devastated, would never forgive him for that. She might even refuse marrying him after Nancy Karr reminded Cookie he was a coward and a traitor. “You win, Mike,” he said trembling as he looked into Mike's eyes. “You win. I'll ask Barrington point blank Laurie's location.”
* * *
In the living room after Ron left to find a downtown bar to get drunk, Nancy Karr argued with her husband Mike. They were the parents of kidnap victim Laurie Ann Karr.
“But Mike, don't you see if Ron asks too many questions Barrington is sure to be suspicious?" Nancy reminded Mike. "Don't you remember it was Ron Christopher who got you tied up in this from the beginning with Barrington and loan sharks and this undercover charade and poor Phil Capice's near death. I emphatically hold Ron Christopher responsible for all of this and Laurie's kidnapping.”
“Nancy, I assure you Ron Christopher is our best chance, our only option getting Laurie Ann home to us safely. There's no other way.”
Nancy's green eyes widened in soundless horror. “You believe Laurie Ann will be killed, don’t you?" She battled back tears trying hard not to cry...but a tear fell down her cheek uncontrollably for a daughter that she had accepted as her own. "Even if we cooperate fully. That no matter what we do. No matter how much we comply Barrington isn’t going to allow our daughter returned to us alive. That’s what you’re really telling me, isn’t it?”
"I didn't say that."
"But your eyes say differently," Nancy said softly. "Mike, I'm your wife. I know you..."
"Nancy I..." Mike turned away from Nancy rubbing his chin in frustration. He wanted to tell Nancy everything because they shared everything as man and wife. It had always been that way. Nancy Karr. The good wife. The trusted ally always in his corner. His most loyal confidante, biggest supporter. The mother of his daughter Laurie Ann. Nancy Karr was life for the both. He shuddered thinking how devastated Nancy would be if he was killed mercilessly while attempting to save Laurie Ann. No, he could not tell her. Not now.
"I know you never expected I could love this child, your child, as my own," Nancy said. "But I do. Laurie Ann is my child, too. Her pain, your pain is my pain. I must know everything even if you're planning to defy Barrington and rescue Laurie Ann yourself and not telling me to keep me from worry..."
Startled by Nancy's awareness Mike turned around and faced the wife he could no longer keep in the dark.