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The early afternoon passed without surprises. Shad Johnson cussed out the chief of police for arresting Drew, but he did nothing else about it. The whereabouts of Cyrus White remained unknown. My father spoke to Quentin Avery, but the famed civil rights lawyer did not promise anything beyond giving some thought to your sons situation. I picked up Annie from school at three and drove her to softball practice at Liberty Park. I often stay and watch her practices, when Im not drafted into coaching myself.

Shes hitting well today, but her fielding is less than spectacular. The coach ends practice early for some reason, and Annie walks over with a dejected expression on her face. Im about to console her when my cell phone rings. The ID says its my father.

Hey, Dad. Whats up?

Quentin Avery just called me.

A fillip of excitement runs through me. Yeah?

He says hes bringing a lawyer by my office, one whod be perfect for defending Drew. He wants you to meet him. Can you get away?

Hell, yes. What time?

Daddy, youre cursing again, Annie reminds me.

I smile and tug on her ponytail. What time?

Now. Quentin already had an appointment to get his foot checked, so I guess he figured hed kill two birds with one stone.

Whos the lawyer?

He didnt say.

Okay, fine. Im on my way. I just have to drop Annie off.

Was that Papa? Annie asks when I hang up.

How did you know?

By the way you talk to him. Its different than when you talk to me.

Annie has more intuition than I ever did. Youre just like your mother, girl.

All the humor goes out of her face. Am I really?

You are. Just like her.

After we get in the car and start toward the highway, Annie says, You and Caitlin havent been talking much lately, have you?

No. Shes pretty busy up in Boston.

Annie mulls this over. It sure seems like it. But I thought shed come down and visit us more often.

I did, too, punkin. So did Caitlin. Work is something adults dont have a lot of choice about sometimes. Although in this case thats not true.

Can I ask you something personal, Daddy?

Sure, Boo.

Is Mia too young for you?

The question leaves me speechless.

I mean, I know she is, Annie goes on, but she seems really mature for her age, and I really like her a lot. She doesnt seem at all like the other high school kids, you know? She reads the same kind of books you do, and shes really pretty, and-

Annie.

My daughters eyes go wide, as though shes hoping for good news but expecting bad.

I reach over and squeeze her hand. Mias got a lot to do before its time for her to settle down, baby. She has to go to college and figure out what shes going to do with her life. Just like you will in about ten years.

Nine years, Annie corrects. Ill be eighteen in nine years. I just thought shed be a cool mom, thats all. For somebody, you know?

I think youre right. I lean over and hug her to my chest so she cant see the tears welling in my eyes. My daughter so desperately needs a maternal figure, and I have failed to provide one. Right now-for the first time, really-I feel true anger at Caitlin for spending so much time away. I dont think she was honest with me or with herself when she took her latest temporary assignment.

I need to run down to Papas office for a while, Boo. Ill see if I can get Mia to sit, okay?

Okay, she says in a bored voice, as though seeing Mia holds no excitement whatever.

I take out my cell phone and speed-dial Mias number.


Chapter 18 | Turning Angel | Chapter 19