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Authors: Patricia MacDonald

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Stolen in the Night

BOOK: Stolen in the Night
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Stolen in the Night

Patricia MacDonald

USA (2007)

 When Tess DeGraff was nine years old and on a camping trip in New
Hampshire with her family, a stranger kidnapped and killed her sister
Phoebe. Thanks to Tess's eyewitness testimony, a man named Lazarus
Abbott was arrested and convicted for the heinous crime. But twenty
years later, a test reveals that Abbott's DNA does not match that of
Phoebe's murderer. Driven by her fear that she may have sent an innocent
man to his death, Tess and her adopted son, Erny, return to the New
Hampshire town in which it all happened years ago.

Stone
Hill, New Hampshire, is still an idyllic New England town. Tess's
courageous mother, Dawn, who suffered the violent loss of her daughter
and the early death of her heartbroken husband, now runs the charming
Stone Hill Inn. Tess's older brother, Jake, lives nearby with his wife, a
local girl he fell in love with during the trial of his sister's
killer. While Tess's family stands by her account of the crime, nerves
are frayed throughout Stone Hill, and others in town accuse her of lying
and view her as a murderer.

In a race against time to
untangle the truth about her sister's murder, Tess encounters an
anti-death penalty lawyer, Ben Webster, who infuriates her but who also
might open her eyes and her heart; a biased police chief related to the
Abbotts; and an unknown killer who has Tess and Erny in his sights.

Stolen in the Night
ALSO BY PATRICIA MACDONALD

Married to a Stranger

The Girl Next Door

Suspicious Origin

Not Guilty

No Way Home

Stranger in the House

The Unforgiven

A Division of Simon & Schuster, Inc.
1230 Avenue of the Americas
New York, NY 10020

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are
products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to
actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

Copyright © 2007 by Patricia Bourgeau

All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book or portions thereof
in any form whatsoever. For information address Atria Books Subsidiary Rights Department,
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

MacDonald, Patricia J.
Stolen in the night / Patricia MacDonald.

p. cm.

ISBN-13: 978-1-4165-4627-6
ISBN-10: 1-4165-4627-8

1. Mother and sons—Fiction. 2. Executions and executioners—Fiction.
3. Recombinant DNA—Fiction. I. Title.
PS3563.A287S76 2007
813’.54—dc22
2007008590

ATRIA
BOOKS
and colophon are trademarks of Simon & Schuster, Inc.

Visit us on the World Wide Web:
http://www.SimonSays.com

To the Boggle girls:
Anne, Carmen, Craig, Harriett, Kate, and Terryl—
for the pleasure of your company

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

A
writer needs all kinds of help. Special thanks to Anne McKenna for explaining the
language of Molière. Thanks to M.J. for finding me that dress. Thanks, always, to
Art, who gives me the bad news and forgives me the fallout.

Stolen in the Night
CHAPTER 1

H
olding her breath, nine-year-old Tess DeGraff ascended toward the shimmering green
light, sparkling strands of bubbles streaming in her wake. She broke the surface and
let out a shriek that was half yelp of pain, half pure exultation.

“Tess, Phoebe, swim closer to the dock,” Dawn DeGraff called out to her daughters
from where she sat on a blanket on the grassy bank. Dawn was cradling her youngest,
three-month-old Sean, and talking with another couple who had arrived at the lake,
their toddler in tow. But her attention never wandered far from her children.

Tess looked around and caught the eye of her thirteen-year-old sister, Phoebe. Phoebe’s
wet blonde hair was plastered to her head. The bliss in her eyes mirrored Tess’s.
They exchanged a conspiratorial glance and both began to dog paddle ineffectually
in the direction of the dock.

All of a sudden, Tess felt something tugging her ankle, dragging her down, and she
screamed. The tug gave way, and her father surfaced beside her with a wide grin.

“Dad, you scared me!” Tessa cried, pummeling his broad chest with her small fists.
Rob DeGraff laughed and caught both of his slippery, squealing daughters up in his
arms. For a moment the three of them clung together, suspended in the cold waters
of the peaceful lake. Tess could see gooseflesh on Phoebe’s downy arms, and the pink
beginnings of a sunburn across her nose. Phoebe smiled, keeping her lips together
to cover her braces. But her eyes gleamed and danced.

“My beautiful fishies,” Rob said.

Phoebe, too old at thirteen to linger long in a parental embrace, wriggled free and
began to do the backstroke across the dark surface of the lake. Her long blonde hair
floated around her like golden tentacles.

Tess redoubled her grip on her father’s neck and surveyed the mirrored surface of
the icy lake waters, reflecting the jagged, deep green trees of the forest on the
mountainside. Above them the August sun was bright and the air as hot as it ever became
in New Hampshire’s White Mountains. Her gaze traveled the shoreline and came to rest
on a group of teenagers, girls in bikinis and boys in swim trunks or blue jean shorts,
clustered on boulders at the water’s edge. They all seemed to know one another except
for one, good-looking, muscular young man, Tess’s sixteen-year-old brother Jake. A
beautiful blonde girl in the group gasped with delight, and an overweight, red-haired
kid led the jeers as Jake swung out over the lake on a rope tied to a tree branch,
let go with a whoop, and pulled off an aerial somersault before plunging into the
sparkling water. On the other side of the lake a few fishermen in boats floated on
the placid surface. Otherwise the whole beautiful expanse of Lake Innisquam seemed
to belong only to her.

“I love it here,” Tess whispered in her father’s ear.

“Me, too, Tess,” Rob said contentedly as they hung linked together in the water, their
legs treading.

They had left their apartment in Boston early that morning eager for the journey.
They were a family with more energy and curiosity than money, and camping was their
travel and vacation solution. Rob and Dawn had married when they were both students
at Boston University. Now Rob was an assistant professor of physics at MIT. The family
still lived in the sunny, book-filled, rambling apartment on Commonwealth Avenue that
the couple had once shared with an assortment of roommates. Dawn had her own business
making whole-grain baked goods for a university co-op, and the children were used
to negotiating city life, but they were also experienced campers.

Today they had arrived at their National Forest campsite a little after noon and set
up their area with an efficiency born of experience. This year Dawn was occupied with
the baby but the girls were able to take up the slack. While Tess and Phoebe pumped
up air mattresses and gathered wood for the campfire, Rob enlisted his grumbling sixteen-year-old
son to help him set up the tents. Jake had reached a rebellious age. He showed no
interest in his studies, despite the fact that academics were so important to his
father, and he could hardly be persuaded to come along on this trip. He had a summer
job on a constuction crew and he insisted that his boss couldn’t spare him. Only Dawn’s
pleas that he come with them on one last camping trip had finally elicited a begrudging
grunt of acquiescence.

Rob and Jake pitched two tents alongside each other.

“Why do I have to sleep with those two?” Jake had complained.

“So that Sean won’t wake you kids in the night. And so that the girls will have you
there to look out for them.”

Jake continued to grumble, but his father did his best to ignore the mutterings.

By the time Dawn had pronounced their campsite homey and served lunch on the red cedar
trestle table, everyone was tired, sweaty, and in a hurry to get to the lake. They
tramped through the woods to the lakeshore together, but as soon as they arrived,
Jake spotted the group of teenagers and boldly headed in their direction.

Tess looked over again at the boulder that Jake was scrambling up, wresting another
turn at the rope from a pale-skinned boy with black hair. “How come Jake’s over there
with those kids?” Tess asked. “He doesn’t even know them.”

“He just wants to be with kids his own age,” Rob said.

“How come he’s screaming like that?” Tess asked.


Cherchez la femme
,” Rob said, smiling.

“What does that mean?”

“I think he’s trying to impress the girls,” said Rob.

Tess frowned disapprovingly at the shrieking teenagers. She glanced up at her mother
on the hillside, her tanned legs extended in front of her as she chatted with the
woman on a neighboring blanket while the woman’s husband, looking pirate-like with
long black hair, stood nearby, watching their toddler play at the water’s edge. “Who
are those people Mom’s talking to?” Tess asked.

“I don’t know. Probably some other campers. Hey, what do you say we give Mom a chance
to get in the water?” Rob suggested.

Tess nodded, and she and her father pointed themselves toward shore and began to swim.

On the blanket, under the shade of a maple tree, Sean was dozing while Dawn and the
other young woman, a fair-skinned blonde, chatted. Tessa and Rob came up the grassy
bank to where they sat.

“Hey, you two,” said Dawn, her broad smile lighting up her face. “Annette, this is
my husband, Rob, and my daughter Tess. Annette and her husband, Kenneth, own that
inn we passed near the entrance to the campground.”

“Oh really,” said Rob, reaching out to shake her hand. “You run the place yourselves?”

“I run it, mainly,” said Annette. “Ken’s trying to write, so when my parents left
us the inn, we decided to move up here so he could have more time to work.”

“I think that’s everybody’s fantasy, to own an inn like that,” said Dawn.

“It’s a lot of work,” said Annette with a small sigh.

The black-haired man strode to the water’s edge, swung his protesting toddler up in
his arms, and climbed the grassy hill to rejoin the adults. “Kenneth Phalen,” he said,
setting the toddler on the ground and extending a hand to Rob.

“And Lisa,” his wife reminded him, pointing to the little girl.

“Nice to meet you both,” said Rob. “Your wife says you’re a writer. What do you write?”

Ken shook his long hair back. “Well, I’ve had a couple of short pieces published in
magazines. But now I’m working on a novel.”

He seemed ready to launch into a long explanation but Annette interrupted, turning
to Rob. “Dawn tells me you’re a professor at MIT? That’s impressive.”

“Assistant,” Rob demurred.

“Still,” she said.

Bored with their grown-up conversation, Tess was watching the pink-cheeked Lisa as
she began to lurch, in the toddler’s side-to-side gait, across the grass. Tess wished
she had her camera to take a picture of her. She was cute as a doll, her ringlets
shining in the hot afternoon sun. Tess squinted up at the puffy clouds gathering in
the sunny afternoon sky. Soon the beautiful day would be over. She looked over at
her mother beseechingly and caught her eye.

“What is it, Tess?” she asked.

“Will you come in the water, Mom?” she pleaded.

Dawn smiled at her, bemused. “Is it cold?”

Tess shook her head, wide-eyed. “No. Really.”

“Go ahead, hon,” Rob said. “I’ll keep an eye on Sean.”

Dawn was not the sort of person who needed to be coaxed to have fun. As Rob toweled
off and flopped down on the blanket beside his new son, Dawn took Tess’s hand. “Okay,
let’s go,” she said, tucking her dark brown hair behind her ear and smiling. “’Scuse
us.”

Tess waded back into the water, leading the way. Phoebe stood up, waist high in the
lake, and began to splash.

“Honey, don’t splash me,” said Dawn. “It’s going to take me a minute to adjust.”

Phoebe shrugged but desisted. Tess slipped back into the cold lake like a seal, but
her mother entered more gingerly, rubbing her arms and saying “brrr” until suddenly
she inhaled a deep breath, extended her arms, and dove in, emerging a few moments
later out past where Phoebe stood, laughing. Dawn waved to Rob and the other couple
on the shore and they all waved back.

Tess swam to her mother’s arms. Dawn glanced over at the group of teenagers. Jake
was seated among them on the boulders now, loudly joining in the chatter. The pretty
blonde was seated right beside him.

“Dad says he’s trying to make the girls like him,” Tess informed her mother.

Dawn smiled a little wistfully. “He’s growing up on us.”

“Well, I think he should stay with his family,” Tess said.

“Oh, it won’t be long till it’s you over there,” Dawn said.

“Not me,” Tess insisted. “I’d rather be with you.”

Dawn gave her a kiss on the forehead. “Hey, come on. Let’s catch Phoebe. Pheebs,”
she cried, “we’re coming to get you.”

Phoebe, who was floating on her back, gazing at the brilliant blue sky and the puffy
clouds, righted herself in the water. The sun flashed off the shiny surface of the
“Believe” medallion, which she always wore on a silver chain around her neck. It had
been a birthday gift from their godmother, and Tess had one exactly like it. She never
wore hers swimming, however, for fear of losing it. “What?” Phoebe said.

“We’re getting you,” Tess threatened.

Phoebe’s laughing eyes widened and then she screamed and began frantically to paddle
away.

 

Jake returned to the campsite shivering as the sun was setting, and changed into dry
clothes as Rob started the campfire and Dawn managed to find everyone a stick long
enough to toast marshmallows after their skillet dinner had finished cooking on the
camp stove. Their faces burnished by the lantern light, they ate their dinner hungrily,
agreeing that the food at home never tasted this good, the same thing they said on
every camping trip. After dinner they huddled around the campfire while sparks flew
up like a cloud of orange bees, and the mountain evening air grew chilly. The kids
sat on logs and tree stumps, their parents on folding camp chairs, and they all toasted
their impaled marshmallows over the campfire.

Rob told a couple of ghost stories so familiar that the girls’ screams anticipated
the punch lines. Afterward, as the fire died away, there were good-night kisses all
around. Phoebe and Tess wore socks, sweatpants, and fleece hoodies because of the
cold night air. They ducked into their tent and crawled into sleeping bags, propping
their long-handled flashlight on the ground between their air mattresses.

Tess reached into her backpack and fished around until she pulled out the camera she
had begged for, and received, on her ninth birthday. She turned the lens on Phoebe,
who was brushing out her tangled, golden hair.

“Pheebs,” she said.

Phoebe looked up at her sister and Tess snapped the photo.

“Put that down,” Phoebe commanded her. “I hate having my picture taken.”

“But you look cool with that big shadow behind you,” said Tess, gazing at her sister’s
silhouette, large and dark as a thundercloud against the tent wall.

“I don’t care. Stop doing that.”

In response, Tess snapped another picture and Phoebe threw her hairbrush at her younger
sister, hitting her in the forehead.

“Ow,” Tess yelped, lowering the camera.

“Put it away,” said Phoebe.

Tess stuck out her tongue, but placed the camera carefully back into her knapsack
just as Jake entered the tent. He had wide shoulders, even features, and beautiful,
golden brown hair that was curly again now that it was dry. He crouched just inside
the door of the tent wearing boots, jeans, and an MIT sweatshirt.

“Hurry up and take your boots off and get in your sleeping bag,” said Phoebe. “So
we can turn out the light.”

Jake pulled back the flap on the tent and peered out at the quiet campsite, the embers
of the fire still glowing. He began to chew on his thumbnail absently. “I’m going
to go out for a little while,” he said.

Tess stared at him in disbelief, but Phoebe sat up and protested. “Go out? Where?”

“I’m going to walk into town. Into Stone Hill. There’s a dance tonight,” said Jake.

“You can’t leave here,” Phoebe protested. “Does Dad know about this?”

Jake glared at her. “No. And don’t you tell him, you little brat. I’ll be back in
a couple of hours. It’s no big deal.”

“If it’s no big deal, why don’t you ask Dad if it’s okay?” Phoebe insisted.

“I don’t have to get his permission for everything I do,” said Jake irritably.

“He’ll be so mad if he finds out,” Phoebe warned.

“If you two keep your mouths shut, he won’t have to find out, will he?”

Tess and Phoebe exchanged a glance, Tess looking frightened, Phoebe looking angry.
“You’re supposed to stay here with us,” said Phoebe.

“Don’t be such a baby. You’re two feet from Mom and Dad. I’ll be back before you know
it.”

BOOK: Stolen in the Night
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