“T onight?” Lazer repeated.

“Yes.” The kidnapper’s voice was low. “Someone will be in touch with you about the time.”

“But you said noon,” Lazer pleaded. “You said we could have our daughter back at noon.”

“Plans changed.”

Lazer grasped the phone. “Please, let me speak to her. Let me just hear her voice.”

“You’ll hear her voice when I say you’ll hear her voice.”

Lazer’s tone hardened. “How do I know you haven’t hurt her? How do I know she’s even… alive?

“You’ll just have to take my word for it.” There was a click and the line went silent.

Lazer hung up the phone.

Officer Maxwell exhaled noisily. “I didn’t expect that.”

“Neither did I. Why did they push it off until tonight? We were ready to make the exchange.”

The officer shook his head. “It’s puzzling.”

Lazer’s shoulders slouched. “How do we know she’s alive?”

“The odds are still in our favor, Mr. Glenner. We can’t lose hope.”

“What am I going to tell my wife?”

The officer took out his pipe from his pocket. “At this point you can only tell her the truth.”

*

Mr. Renard was dizzy. Maybe it was a rash decision to go after Idy. His arm throbbed terribly, but worse was the burning. Although the wound was near his shoulder, his arm ached down to his fingertips.

He tugged on the reins of the horse with his good arm, leading him into the small stream that cut through to town. He’d be there in a matter of minutes, and stop at the General Store for some rubbing alcohol and pain medication.

*

“Where did you get all that money?” the shopkeeper demanded of Idy.

Idy dropped the money as if it were on fire. “It was in m-my jacket.”

The shopkeeper picked up the soiled jacket from the floor and held it up by the shoulders. “Doesn’t look like your jacket. Looks like a man’s jacket.”

“Yes. I-it was a-a man’s jacket. He… he gave it to me.”

“I don’t believe you. You’re a thief and a liar!” He headed for the door. “I’m going for the police. You stay here, ma’am and keep an eye on the girl. Who knows what she’s done to the owner of the jacket? You should have seen how she looked when she came in here. She was covered in mud like she’d been in a struggle. Seems like she fared better than the poor fellow whose jacket this was.”

The woman’s eyes caught Idy’s and held them. “You go ahead, sir. I’ll see to it that justice is done.”

The shopkeeper rushed outside, the door slamming behind him.

Idy trembled. “Please, ma’am, I didn’t hurt anyone, honest. I don’t even want the money. I-I didn’t know it was in the jacket. I only took it because I was cold.”

The woman bent down and picked up the money. “That’s quite a lot of bills.”

Idy lowered her head. “What will the police do to me?”

The woman placed her hand under Idy’s chin and lifted her face. “What’s your name?”

“I-Idy.”

“Where are your parents?”

“I haven’t any.”

The woman’s eyes filled with pain. “My name is Mrs. Sommers. My wagon is right outside. Let’s go.” (Excerpted from Mishpacha Jr., Issue 667)