The old biddy nearing him in the supermarket aisle looked sharp-eyed and cranky. He didn’t recognize her, but still averted his face. After she passed, he studied the candy selection. Dolly craved bright-looking treats with wild colors. A lollipop of swirled blue and pink drew his gaze, the candy disk as big as his palm. Dolly would want it. The concert in the park started at seven o’clock. He would try to hold off until 7:15 before he gave Dolly her treat. Hard to resist those big green eyes.
A shopping cart rattled. He looked toward the sound. A young mother approached. Her daughter clutched at the woman’s leg, the girl’s fingers scrabbling without success along the skin-tight denim. The mother brushed away the girl’s hand, her attention focused on the package-lined shelves.
Another brainwashed drone who thought she could buy the ingredients for happiness. He knew better. Happiness didn’t nest in material things.
The woman moved away, pushing her basket toward the frozen food section. Her daughter trailed behind. He lingered by the candy display, peering at them through mirrored sunglasses, unobtrusive in his studies. Little girls, age five or six, moved like young deer, awkward and graceful by turns. This one’s sticklike legs made him think of a fawn first learning to run. Lovely. Vulnerable. The vibrations began to rise inside him.
“No!” The little girl spun away from her mother. “You promised candy.” She ran straight at him.
No sudden moves. Remain calm. The girl neared. He strolled from the candy aisle toward the baked goods section.
“Brittany. Get back here. I don’t have time for this.” The woman abandoned her half-full cart, marched after the girl and grabbed her shoulders. “Want candy? Then behave. Don’t make me chase you all over the damn store.”
The girl stared at the array of sweets. Her lower lip and voice trembled. “You promised.”
“Jesus Christ. We’ll pick something out when we’re done shopping. Now, come on.” The woman tugged her daughter’s hand.
The girl’s lower lip retreated. “OK.” She sniffed then trotted along beside her mother. The two returned to their shopping cart.
He stared after them. The young mother so confident she and her daughter had nothing to worry about except wasted time. Foolish – like most mothers. He took a deep breath, trying to quiet the hum inside his brain. He needed to stay focused for tonight. Nothing could go wrong. Stick to the plan. Make it happen.
Tonight he would offer Dolly her treat. When Dolly saw it, she’d smile and come to him.
Dollies always did.
"If you like Harlan Coben novels you will definitely be happy with this read. I'm looking forward to Rothschild's next book."