Once upon a time, I killed a little boy. I had to shut him up. But mostly, I wanted to see if I could
get away with it.
“Were you burning the midnight oil with Kelly again last night,” Reilly asked as he appeared in
the kitchen doorway.
“You’re home,” Mary gasped, rushed into her husband’s arms and planted a big kiss on his lips.
He gave her a second gentle squeeze and moved out around her to Jena, sitting in the high
chair, arms extended toward him.
Mary watched him lift the two-year-old from the seat and give her a hug, followed by a kiss on
the forehead and each cheek. If all goes as planned, Reilly would soon be Jena’s real daddy.
“Did you miss me?” Reilly asked and tickled Jena’s belly.
Jena giggled as he danced around the kitchen with her in his arms.
Mary continued to smile as she carried Jena’s cereal bowl to the sink, then lost the smile.
“Reilly, I haven’t seen Kelly in days. What made you think he was here last night?”
He stood still. His glowing expression instantly dimmed. “The muddy footprints on the front
The morning sun coming through the kitchen window of their cottage that stood on the river
bank had filled Mary with warmth after three cloudy days with off and on rain showers. As she
rushed toward the front door, the warmth was replaced with an ice cold chill that scooted up
She inhaled deeply and opened the door.
A few muddy footprints were near the doorstep, but several were smeared near the area
outside the living room window.
Reilly moved in next to her. “I’m guessing they’re not yours.” Mary grabbed Jena from his arms
and held her tight in spite of the child’s protest. “Mare, talk to me. What’s going on?”
“We need to put her crib back into our bedroom. No one is taking her again.”
She swept around him and headed toward the hallway and bedrooms.
Inside Jena’s room, she put the child down next to the toy box and moved to the crib. Her
daughter’s bed would not fit through the doorway and needed to be disassembled to be moved
to the master bedroom.
Reilly’s hand closed over hers as she began removing the musical mobile Jena still loved.
“Leave it and talk to me.”
“Daddy play,” Jena said and extended her hands that held building blocks.
Reilly smiled down at her. “How about you build a big tower while Mommy and I go talk a
“Okay. Me make a great big one.”
Mary reluctantly allowed Reilly to guide her to the living room couch. “I never should’ve let you
talk me into putting her in her own bedroom.”
Reilly sat next to her and took her hand in his. “Those footprints could be yours. Your car’s
parked next to a mud puddle. Maybe yesterday you stepped in it and tracked mud on the
Mary glared at the large picture window to her left. “There’s only one explanation for the ones
outside the window.”
“I’ll sleep on the floor in Jena’s bedroom for a while if it will make you feel better. But I won’t
move her back into ours.” Mary attempted to pull her hand away from his. He held tight. “We
can’t do that to her, Mare. Not after the big deal we made about her having her own room.”
Reilly released the hold on her hand when she swung her arm away from him and jumped up.
She glared at the window. “I know you’re right, but it’s better to keep her safe.”
He stood and slid his arm around her waist and drew her close. “She is safe. And we’ll figure
out where those footprints came from.”
“I suppose Kelly could’ve been here when I was bathing Jena and I didn’t hear him knock. He
might’ve looked in the window, didn’t see us and left.”
“We’ll check with him.”
Jena burst into the room clapping her hands. “Daddy-Mommy come look.”
Reilly smiled wide, kissed Mary’s cheek, and scurried after Jena.
Mary’s grin at seeing her daughter’s excitement disappeared. As much as she wanted to follow
them into Jena’s bedroom, she hurried into the kitchen instead.
She grabbed her cell phone off the counter, located Kelly Rogers’ number and placed the call.
With each unanswered ring, the tension built. Pick up, screamed inside her head until his voice
mail came on.
“Rogers here. You know what to do.”
“Kelly, it’s Mary. I need to talk to you right away.”
She no sooner ended the call and her phone rang.
“Were you at my house last night?”
“Been out of town a couple days. What’s wrong?”
She couldn’t breathe.
“Mary. You there?”
“I’m here. Are you home now?”
“Not for another day or two.”
“Okay, I’ll talk to you when you get back.”
She hung up because she didn’t want him to accuse her of being paranoid again if she told him
about the muddy footprints. But she wasn’t being paranoid now or before. She wished she had
never agreed to do that television interview. Creepy phone calls had followed. Changing her
number had stopped them. Now she wondered if one of those callers had discovered where
Copyright © 2017 by Debra Lee