ALSO BY ALEX GRECIAN

SCOTLAND YARD’S
MURDER SQUAD SERIES
NOVELS

The Yard

The Black Country

The Devil’s Workshop

The Harvest Man

Lost and Gone Forever

NOVELLAS

The Blue Girl

PENGUIN BOOKS

THE WOLF

Alex Grecian worked for an ad agency before returning to writing fiction full-time and raising his son. Alex is the author of the long-running and critically acclaimed comic-book series Proof, and the bestselling Scotland Yard Murder Squad series. He lives in Topeka, Kansas, with his wife and son.

Alex Grecian


THE WOLF

PENGUIN BOOKS

UK | USA | Canada | Ireland | Australia

India | New Zealand | South Africa

Penguin Books is part of the Penguin Random House group of companies whose addresses can be found at global.penguinrandomhouse.com.

First published in the United States by G.P. Putnam’s Sons 2018

Published in Great Britain in Penguin Books 2018

Copyright © Alexander Grecian, 2018

The moral right of the author has been asserted

Design © blacksheep-uk.com

Sky © Ryan McGinnis / Alamy

Church © RSBPhoto / Alamy

Man © plainpicture/Mark Owen

Road © Carlos Alkmin/GettyImages

ISBN: 978-1-405-92241-8

For Melanie and Kevin

“The more I get to know people, the more I like dogs.”

—HEINRICH HEINE

Part One


THE BEAST OF BURDEN COUNTY

August 1951

He came up from South America by bus. At the border between Mexico and Arizona, he bought a train ticket and rode through the night and well into the next day. A long arc through New Mexico, across the southeast tip of Colorado, and most of the way up through Kansas. He had nothing with him but his clothes and a small overnight bag.

And a new name.

He had been born Rudolph Bormann, but the name on his passport was Rudy Goodman. Rudy. A solid American name.

He kept to himself on the train, but the railroad employed a nurse, and the conductor brought her to Rudy. He had a compartment to himself, with a narrow bed that folded out of the wall. The nurse arrived as the sun was setting and pushed her way in as soon as he answered the knock at his door, overwhelming his objections with her efficiency and her aggressively sympathetic manner. She was a big woman, healthy and strong, with strawberry hair and a fetching overbite. She didn’t tell him her name, and he didn’t ask. She helped him wash up and she stitched the cut above his temple, which had been bleeding into his ear all the way north through Mexico. Six stitches and a sticky bandage. When he thanked her in his pidgin English, she shook her head and smiled.

“Sei still!” she said. Her German was slightly better than his American.

He tried to pay her, took a roll of bills from his pocket, all the money he had with him, and peeled one off the outside. He held it out to her, but she shook her head again.

When she had left, he slid the window open an inch and breathed the soot-filled air. He undressed and lay on his back, listening to the rhythmic chug of the wheels. He allowed himself to relax then, his eyelids growing heavy as the locomotive swayed beneath him, bearing him to freedom.

Later that night the door creaked open and he woke. Yellow light from the passage spilled across him, then disappeared, and a moment later the nurse climbed on top of him in the dark. The bed’s hinges creaked in protest. The scent of rubbing alcohol and cheap perfume filled his nostrils.

“Wie?”

“Sei still,” she said again, her lips brushing against his good ear.

When next he woke, a predawn glow filtered through the sheer curtains over the window, casting the compartment in flat shades of purple, and he was alone.

He disembarked in Phillipsburg, just south of the Nebraska border, and stood nervous by the tracks, which cut across a dirt road and disappeared around a curve behind a stand of stunted elm trees. The train chuffed away, taking with it the fragrant nurse and his roll of bills, which he did not miss until much later that day.

It was August, and there were no clouds in the sky, nothing between the sun and the scrubby brown grass but shimmering heat waves. Rudy’s head hurt where the nurse had stitched it, a dull throbbing pain that was almost a noise. After ten minutes, a plume of dust and blue smoke appeared in the distance, coming from the direction the train had gone, and a truck lumbered into sight over a slight rise in the earth. It was the color of mustard, battered and rusty with peeling wooden sides. It stopped in front of him with a bang and a whimper, and Rudy saw that the tailgate was wooden, too, what was left of it. A slat was missing from one side, and yellow paint peeled away from the truck’s hood.

The driver’s-side door creaked open and a man jumped down, came around the front of the truck with his hand out.

“Jacob Meyer,” the man said. He was smiling, short and wiry with thinning hair. Nearing forty but with the jittery energy of a teenager. Rudy liked him right away. They shook hands.

“I am Rudy Goodman.” It was the first time he had said the name aloud, and he said it again, listening to the cadence of it. “Rudy Goodman.” It still sounded authentically American to him.

“Sorry I’m late, Rudy,” Jacob Meyer said. “This ol’ girl picked a hell of a morning not to start. Had to change the plugs again already. I only just changed ’em in June.”

Rudy nodded, but he didn’t understand. He only wanted to be agreeable.

Jacob took Rudy’s overnight bag from him and started for the pickup truck, but stopped and turned and looked at him for a long moment, his head cocked to one side like a dog listening to its master. “You’re really him?”

“Ja.”

“I’ll be damned.” Jacob shook his head and whistled, then turned away again and dropped the bag in the bed of the truck. He hustled to the passenger-side door and held it open, slammed it shut when Rudy was safely in, then ran around to the other side and hopped up into the cab.

“Didn’t turn it off this time, so don’t have to worry about it stalling,” Jacob said. “See, I can learn, can’t I? You just see if I can’t.” He put the truck in gear and it lurched forward with a loud farting noise and another cloud of blue smoke. Jacob grinned at him, and Rudy smiled back. The dull throb in his temple had receded.

“Where are we … To where?” These weren’t quite the right words, Rudy knew, but he hoped his meaning was clear enough.

“We got a place fixed up for you out in Paradise Flats,” Jacob said. “You understand me good enough? I can talk German, but it’s better if you use English now. You’ll pick it up.”

Rudy nodded.

“Good, good,” Jacob said. “It ain’t much, the house we got for you, but it’s free and clear. Belongs to Don Veitch, but he moved into an apartment closer to the city when his wife died. Easier on his knees without all them stairs and havin’ to go up and down all the time. Anyway, he don’t live in it now, so it’s yours long as you want it.”

“How many?”

“What? I don’t … Oh, how many of us are there? Die Gemeinschaft. Well …” Jacob fell silent and stared out the dirty windshield, drummed his hands on the wheel. “I wish it was more,” he said. “Sad to say it’s just seven of us in Paradise Flats, five others besides myself and Don. Used to be more, but folks kinda drifted away over the last couple years, you know? It’s hard to keep ’em here.”

Rudy understood all too well.

The truck picked up speed, bumping over ruts and clumps of hard dried mud. A grasshopper thumped against the glass and disappeared, leaving behind a messy white smear.

Watching out the window, Rudy saw a flash of gray fur among the vegetation.

“I think I saw a wolf,” he said. “In English?”

“They’re called wolves in English, too,” Jacob said. “But there ain’t a lot of those around here. You probably saw a coyote.”

“I think it was a wolf.”

“Fair enough.”

Rudy waited again until Jacob glanced his way. “Jacob,” he said. “This is a good start.”

Rudy Goodman, formerly Rudolph Bormann, assistant administrator of the Mauthausen-Gusen concentration camp, looked out the window of the pickup truck. He looked out across infinite rolling fields and pastures, all the way to the thin black line of the horizon. He was twenty-seven years old that summer, and America stretched out all around him, a land of boundless opportunity.

Chapter One

Trooper Skottie Foster refilled her coffee and gave the counterman a nod, headed back out to her vehicle. She snugged her cup down into the well next to her and pulled her Explorer around to the west side of the 24/7 Travel Store, where a bright green Toyota pickup sat low on its back tires in the lot. She filled out a tow report form on the computer mounted between the Explorer’s seats and pulled up OpenFox, the software used by the department to run tag checks. She stepped out and approached the vehicle on the driver’s side.

Thanksgiving was three days away, and the sky was flat and gray. Dizzy snowflakes eddied about, but there was no breeze, and she was sweating under her heavy uniform jacket.

Skottie had been with the Kansas Highway Patrol for nearly six months, transferred in from Illinois. She’d grown up in Kansas, had left at the first opportunity, started her career and a family in Chicago. Now she was back, living in her mother’s house and hoping for a fresh start, for a stable environment for her daughter, for some distance from everything that had recently gone wrong in her life.

She had been required to go through twenty-two weeks of retraining after returning to Kansas, and she had used the time to adjust to her new circumstances. Back on active duty, she had been surprised to discover she was one of only a handful of female troopers in western Kansas, and one of three African Americans, but despite the usual stumbling blocks that came with any new position, she had encountered very little hostility or disrespect. She was tall, five feet nine inches, and slim, with skin the exact shade and color of her eyes. She kept her carefully braided hair pulled back low against her neck so that she could position her hat properly when regulations demanded that she appear in full uniform.

She had been watching the Toyota for two days as she made her rounds and had seen no one approach it. The wheel wells were crusted with rust and the paint had peeled off along one side, leaving a dappled surface like a bruise. There was a toolbox tucked up under the back window in the bed of the truck, big and heavy, long enough to hide a body inside.

She peered through the window to make sure the cab was empty. The driver’s-side door was unlocked, and she pulled it open, releasing a heavy odor of must and disuse. The radio had been pulled from the dash, the mats had been taken from the floor, the glove box was open and empty. She wrote down the VIN from the inside of the door and closed it, then walked around to the back and flipped open the toolbox. An ancient ball-peen hammer, a length of bicycle chain, a cheap pair of rusty pliers, blue rubber crumbling away from the handles. She closed the box and went back to her vehicle.

She plugged the tag number into OpenFox and it spit out the VIN, which she checked against her notes, and the name of the truck’s registered owner: Wes Weber. She unhooked her radio and called the information in to Sarah, the dispatcher in Norton.

A small stack of postcards was clipped to the back of the Explorer’s sun visor. She pulled one off the top and filled it out with Wes Weber’s address and a short note, letting him know his truck was being towed from the rest stop and where he could claim it. A moment later, Sarah called back.

“Norton to One-Eleven?”

“Here,” Skottie said.

“Wrong case number on that.”

Skottie frowned and checked her notes. “I see it.”

“Go ahead with the last three.”

She read off the corrected case number and hung the handset back up, set the postcard on the seat beside her, and put the Explorer in gear. Sarah would call the tow company and Skottie would drop the postcard in a mailbox at the end of her shift. She guessed Wes Weber would not show up to claim his property. The Toyota wouldn’t bring much at auction and was undoubtedly destined for a scrap yard somewhere.

She headed toward the westbound ramp to the highway, but slowed when she saw a vehicle parked on the shoulder, its hazards blinking. She pulled in behind it and lit up the blue and red array atop her Explorer. A little boy waved at her from the back window as she put her hat on. She walked up to the driver’s side, where a Hispanic woman was already rolling down the window, a sheepish grin on her face. A baby crawled across the back seat, clutching a french fry in one chubby fist, a stringer of drool dangling from its chin. The little boy was yelling at the baby in Spanish.

“Sorry, Officer,” the woman said.

“What’s the trouble?”

“Just need a second.” The woman turned her head and yelled at the boy. “Hurry up and get her in her seat.” She turned back to Skottie. “She got out. Wanted a fry.”

Skottie nodded, watching the boy wrestle the baby girl up into the car seat behind the driver. The baby was oblivious, eyes only for the mangled french fry that circled her open mouth, waiting patiently for contact. Fast food as incitement for developing motor skills.

She leaned forward and caught the boy’s eye. “What’s your name?”

He looked up, his eyes wide, as if he’d been caught in a criminal act, and the french fry went up his nose. The baby started to laugh, and the boy looked at her and smiled. He looked back at Skottie, the fry still dangling. “My name is Miguel.”

“You take care of your sister, Miguel.” The fry dropped into his lap and the baby laughed again.

“She’s not my sister. She’s my niece.”

Skottie looked at him.

“But I’ll take good care of her, ma’am,” Miguel said.

Skottie saluted him and turned back to his mother, or maybe she was his sister. “Don’t proceed until the children are secured, okay?”

“I won’t, Officer. Don’t worry,” the woman said. “It’s why I’m pulled over in the first place.”

Behind her, a black Jeep Wrangler zoomed down the ramp. She caught a brief glimpse of a man behind the wheel and someone in the passenger seat that she first thought was another big man wearing a fur coat. Staring at the license plate—it was a rental—she belatedly realized the passenger wasn’t human.

Skottie focused her gaze on the woman in front of her and the two struggling children. Miguel had stuck the french fry back in his nose, but his niece was no longer amused.

“All right, ma’am,” Skottie said. “Travel safe now.”

She walked quickly back to her vehicle and turned off the array, pulled around the woman’s idling car, and accelerated out onto I-70. She saw the Jeep again five minutes later, parked at a rest stop west of Russell. A man in a gray peacoat was standing near the passenger side with the door open. Skottie pulled into the lot and coasted along the low wooden fence that bordered a tree-lined oasis with restrooms, a few vending machines, and a big grassy field for drivers to stroll and stretch their legs. There were no other vehicles in sight, but a dog was running back and forth at the far end of the field. It was hard to gauge the dog’s size from a distance, but it had a bushy black mane and looked for all the world like a lion.

When he saw her, the man stepped back from the Jeep and smiled. He put his hands out at waist level and stood very still. He might have been a statue, something carved out of marble. He was very tall and very thin. His face was angular and unlined, and she would have guessed he was roughly thirty-five years old, except for his carefully tousled gray hair. He wore a light gray cardigan under his coat, charcoal slacks that matched his hair, and black shoes polished to a sheen.

Skottie flicked on the array and stopped behind the Jeep, blocking it from pulling out. She put on her wide-brimmed hat again and adjusted the strap under her chin, then opened her door and stepped down onto the pavement. “Move away from the vehicle please, sir.”

The man took one more step backward. “There is a weapon in my vehicle, Officer, but I have a license for it.” His voice was deep and guttural, barely more than a whisper.

She glanced through the open passenger door and saw a handgun lying on the seat, a semiautomatic pistol. She put her hand on the butt of her Taser.

The dog was approaching fast, and the man lowered his left hand, extending his index finger. The dog saw the signal and came to an abrupt halt. Up close, Skottie could see it was huge, easily a hundred and forty pounds of muscle and fur and long yellow teeth.

“Do you have a leash for that animal, sir?”

“I do, Officer. Inside the Jeep.” The man kept his hands where Skottie could see them, but inclined his head in the direction of his rental car.

“Is your ID in the Jeep, too?”

“No,” the man said. “That is in my wallet.” He raised his eyebrows and held his hands farther out from his body, silently asking permission.

“Go ahead,” Skottie said.

The man slowly took his wallet from the breast pocket of his coat and found three laminated cards, held them out for Skottie to take. “License for the firearm is there, too.”

“Is that gun loaded?”

“It is, but it has a grip safety. I have two spare magazines for it in the back of the Jeep.”

“Thank you, sir. State law requires you to have your dog on a leash at all times.” She stood at the back of the Jeep where she could easily see the pistol on the seat. She kept one hand on the butt of the Taser on her belt.

“Bear is very well trained. The dog’s name is Bear. He needed to run. Between the flight here and the car ride, he has been rather cooped up all day.”

“I understand that, sir,” Skottie said. She shifted from one foot to the other. “Good-looking animal. Pretty.”

“He prefers to be thought of as handsome,” the man said. He stole a glance over his shoulder at the dog, who had crept forward while they were talking. Skottie judged that Bear was now just outside the range of her Taser. There was no way she was fast enough to draw her weapon before the massive dog could reach her. The man made another small motion with his left hand and Bear stopped moving.

“Can you make him lie down?”

“Certainly,” the man said. “Bear, suben.”

Bear immediately dropped to his belly. He was panting hard, showing his fangs, but when he looked up at Skottie, she was impressed by the intelligence in his clear brown eyes.

“Trust me, you have nothing to fear from Bear. He respects the law.”

“Then he ought to wear a leash,” Skottie said. She glanced at the driver’s license. “I’ll be right back, Mr. Roan.”

“It’s Doctor.” He smiled at her. “Technically I am Dr. Roan. But please call me Travis.”

“Dr. Roan, go ahead and get your leash. But leave the weapon where it is on the seat.” Skottie walked back to her vehicle with the cards.

Travis Roan walked around the front of the Jeep to the driver’s side, where Skottie could still see him and where the gun was out of easy reach. Keeping things civilized, keeping her happy. She guessed he’d had plenty of experience with the police, and she wondered which side of the law he’d been on. While she watched, Roan reached behind the seat and came out with a tether, which he held up for her to see. He motioned to Bear, who trotted over and accepted the leash with grace. Roan leaned against the side of the Jeep and Bear settled down on the blacktop at his feet, and they waited while Skottie called in the rental’s license plate and ran Travis Roan’s ID on the dash-mounted computer.

After several long minutes she opened her door. Bear jumped up, but Travis put a hand out, palm down, and the dog sat again, his tongue lolling. Skottie watched Bear from the corner of her eye as she approached them.

“Everything looks in order, Dr. Roan,” she said. “Can I ask what you’re doing in Kansas?”

“Hunting.”

“What’re you after?”

Roan hesitated. “Deer,” he said. “Maybe some pheasant, if it is in season.”

“Sir, I don’t know what it’s like where you’re from, but a handgun isn’t the best weapon for hunting deer. Or birds, either.”

“I do not like traveling with a rifle or a bow. It requires extra preparation and creates difficulty. I am hoping to purchase a proper weapon when I reach my destination.”

“And where’s that?”

“I have yet to decide. I thought I might see the sights while I am here.”

“What sights are those, sir?”

Roan looked down at his dog as if Bear might remember something about the state they were visiting. “Dodge City?”

“Are you asking me, sir?”

“No,” Roan said. “Dodge City, Kansas. Historic cowboy town, right? I am a fan of American Westerns. Dodge City is where Gunsmoke was set, is it not?”

“I wouldn’t know,” Skottie said. “Never saw it. But if you wanted to see Dodge City, you probably should’ve turned south on 156 a few miles back.”

“I missed my turn?”

“If you were going to Dodge City.” She fixed him with a hard stare.

Roan hesitated again, and his smile disappeared. “Very well then. May I get something from my bag? It might help matters here.”

She was both amused and mildly alarmed by his formal way of speaking. “Your bag?”

“From the back of the Jeep.” He inclined his head toward the rental. “Not a weapon. Nothing to alarm you. But it may be easier to explain what I am doing here if I show you some documentation.”

“Sir, I’m not interested in anything except making sure you travel safe and don’t present a danger to anyone else.”

“Exactly,” Travis said. “I can see that I have misjudged you, and now you think it possible that Bear and I present a danger. So long as I remain in your jurisdiction—”

“My zone.”

“Yes, your zone. I am afraid that, even if you allow me to continue through your zone, you will alert the next man down the line and I will eventually have to explain myself to someone. More police will stop me. Am I wrong?”

“I can’t speak for anybody else, sir.” She rested her palm on the butt of her Taser again.

“I had planned to present myself to the authorities when I got where I am going, but I had hoped for more time to gather information. You have forced my hand.”

“What kind of information?”

He shrugged.

“You can get your bag,” Skottie said, “but move very slowly. Be careful here.”

“Of course. I mean you no harm.” He moved to the back of the Jeep and opened the hatch door. He looked back and raised his eyebrows at Skottie, then leaned slowly inside, unzipped his bag, and reached into it without taking his eyes off her. Skottie was watching the dog. Bear’s reflexes would be faster than Roan’s. She was ready to zap the dog first. But Bear licked his muzzle and grinned up at her, and Roan turned around and showed her a thick manila file folder.

“See?” he said. “Only paper.”

Skottie withdrew her hand from the Taser and took the folder from him. She opened it and glanced at the top sheet, which was a letter of introduction from the Noah Roan Foundation in San Diego. There was an insignia embossed in silver foil at the top of the page: the letters N, R, and F, all intertwined in a cursive script. She looked back up at him.

“Same as your name,” she said.

“My grandfather started the Foundation. I suppose you might call me a legacy.” He smiled, but didn’t get a smile from her in return. “Your name is Foster?”

She looked down at the name tag on her uniform: S. M. Foster. She indicated the folder. “What is this?”

“There is a woman—”

“The short version, please,” Skottie said. She wasn’t looking at the paperwork, but up at him. His smile didn’t touch his eyes, but she didn’t sense any malice. She hoped she was as good a judge of people as she thought she was.

“A few weeks ago, a woman saw someone here in Kansas, someone she had not seen in seventy years.”

“Long time. People change.”

“The circumstances … This woman—her name is Ruth Elder—she was in Germany during the Second World War. A camp there. The man she saw earlier this year was at the camp, too. But he was not a prisoner.”

“A guard?”

“Something like that. Administration, she thinks. A paper-pusher.”

“A Nazi,” Skottie said.

“Yes. If it is indeed him, he was a Nazi.”

“I guess I assumed they were all dead by now.”

“He would be in his nineties now, at least, but it is possible he is still alive.”

“And she’s sure it was him. Like I said …”

“Yes. You are quite right. Often people are mistaken. They think they see a ghost from their past, but it is their memory playing tricks on them.”

“And that’s why you’re here? To take a look and make sure it’s really him?”

Travis held out his hand, his index finger and thumb an inch away from each other. “There is something more.”

“You’re here to kill him,” Skottie said.

“Kill him? No.”

“Wait. You said she saw him weeks ago.”

“Approximately.”

“And it took you this long to come out here to make sure?”

“That is the other thing. I am not the first person the Foundation has sent here. Another came before me. He has not communicated with anyone in more than a week.”

“Something happened to him?”

“That is what worries me. Why I wanted more information before talking to the authorities.”

“Have you filed a missing person report?”

“With whom would I do that? He is a grown man. If he wants to stop talking to us, that is his prerogative, is it not? Besides, I do not know what he was doing when he vanished, or where he was. Somewhere in Kansas, but where? Should I contact the police in Topeka? In Wichita? How would they help me? What could they do?”

“How long was he here before he disappeared?”

“Three days. Not longer than that.”

“So it still took a long time before anyone came out here to see if we have a Nazi on our hands.”

“It is a process. There are legalities and there is paperwork that must be filed. And there are not a lot of us left in the field, not a lot left who actually track these … these bad people. I was in Africa when Ruth Elder saw a Nazi here. It took me some time to extricate myself. Otherwise it might have been me who came first. Perhaps I would have vanished.”

“You were hunting Nazis in Africa?”

“No,” Travis said. “It is as you say. There are not many Nazis left alive. Not enough to make it a full-time job.”

“So you hunt Nazis for a hobby?” Skottie raised one eyebrow.

“Not a hobby, no. But I must do other things, find other bad people when there are no Nazis to look for.”

Skottie handed the file folder back to him without having looked past the topmost page. “Look,” she said, “I can’t let you run around playing Batman. You’re not breaking any laws by being here, not yet, but—”

“I am not a vigilante,” Travis said. He set the file folder down next to his bag in the back of the Jeep and raised his hands again in a placating gesture. “I am not here to hurt anyone, not even a Nazi. I must find my … my colleague. And I must talk to Ruth Elder. Hopefully she will lead me to both of the missing people.”

Skottie took a deep breath and looked away, out at the highway. Cars and trucks zoomed past, some of them slowing noticeably when they saw the cruiser parked at the rest stop with its lights flashing. She didn’t look at Roan when she finally spoke. “So I guess you’re not headed to Dodge City. Where are you going?”

“Up near Phillipsburg. The place is called Paradise Flats. It is where my … where the first man from the Roan Foundation was going. I am planning to stay somewhere along the way tonight, and I ought to arrive there fairly early tomorrow.”

“That’s right on the Nebraska border,” Skottie said. “I know the sheriff up there. He should be put in the loop on all this.”

“You think he will give me any trouble?”

Now Skottie turned her head to look at him. “I’m not your friend,” she said. “I’m not here to make things easier for you.”

“I apologize,” Travis said. “I did not mean to presume.”

She shook her head. “But to answer your question, yeah, I do think he’s gonna give you some trouble.”

“All right.”

“I’m not his friend, either. But you lied to me.”

“Sometimes people are warned that I am coming before I am able to find them. They run. The more people who know what I am doing here, the greater the chance I will fail. And it is possible that my colleague was betrayed by someone here.”

“Don’t lie to the police anymore. You’ll need to be on your best behavior when you meet Sheriff Goodman.”

“Is he that bad?”

Skottie shook her head again and smiled. “Sheriff Goodman isn’t going to like having a stranger running around in his backyard. Like I say, you’d better be straight with him and not surprise him in any way.” She thought for a moment and then added, “Won’t do you any good to drop my name with him, either, so don’t bother.”

“All right,” Travis said. “I will get in touch with him as soon as I arrive tomorrow. Thank you. Is Hays a decent place to stay the night?”

“It’s all right. I live there.”

“Anywhere you would recommend for dinner?”

“The usual chains. Red Lobster, Applebee’s, but there’s a decent steakhouse that’s local. The Roundup. If you eat red meat, it’s probably the best spot.”

“I do not, but Bear does.”

“Good luck,” Skottie said. “I hope you find your friend.” She handed Roan’s ID and license back to him. “Doctor, I’m gonna ask you to keep that handgun holstered or put away in the back of your vehicle while you’re traveling.”

“I will,” Roan said.

Skottie tipped her hat and turned away. “Stay out of trouble, Dr. Roan.” She walked back to her Explorer, pulled out, and rolled away. She parked on the ramp and watched the lot behind her in the mirror.

Bear got back to his feet and shook himself all over, his loose skin rippling up across the solid muscle beneath, his mane bristling. Roan reached down and unclipped the leash, threw it on the back seat. Bear jumped up into the Jeep and Roan followed. He waved in the general direction of the cruiser and accelerated past her, back onto I-70.

Skottie didn’t wait until he was out of sight. She set her hat on the seat beside her and picked up the handset, keeping her eye on the dwindling black Jeep as she pressed the send button.

“One-Eleven Norton.”

A moment later, Sarah’s voice crackled over the radio’s speaker. “Norton here.”

“Hey, is Paradise Flats in Phillips County?”

“Nope. It’s over in Burden.”

“Do me a favor then—put me through to Burden County. I wanna talk to the sheriff.”

“Will anyone do?”

“That’d be Goodman up there, right?”

“Him?”

“I know. Just do it, would you, please?”

“Got it,” Sarah said. “Give me a minute.”

Skottie hung up the handset and pulled the cruiser around. She waited for a break in traffic, then nosed out onto the highway and followed along in Travis Roan’s wake.

Her cell phone rang and Sarah’s name appeared on the screen. She wasn’t using the radio, which meant she was calling back with a personal matter.

Skottie hit the green button. “You get through to Goodman?”

“Not yet,” Sarah said. “Maddy’s school just called.”

“She okay?”

“I think so. She got in a fight.”

Skottie sighed. Another fight. “They want me there?”

“The principal’s got her in the office. Wants a word with you when you pick her up.”

“Tell him I’m on my way.”

“You still want me to raise Goodman?”

Skottie hesitated. “Can you get him a message? Tell him to be on the lookout for a rented black Jeep?”

“I can try.”

“He’ll figure it out from there. Thanks, Sarah.”

“No problem. And don’t worry. Maddy’ll calm down after a while. It’s an adjustment’s all it is.”

Skottie ended the call and tossed her phone onto the passenger seat. Since they had moved to Kansas, there had been some new kind of trouble every day. Maddy’s grades were suffering and she wouldn’t speak to her mother anymore, responding only in grunts and prolonged silences whenever Skottie attempted a conversation.

Skottie found a turnaround in the median and headed back toward Hays. Someone else would have to deal with the mysterious Dr. Roan. As serious as she felt about her job, her first priority would always be her daughter.

August 1951

The clapboard house was small but solid, and it had recently been painted. Its outside walls were blinding white with red shutters, and there was a garden in the front where someone had planted Taglilien and Glockenblumen. He did not know the English words for the flowers. The red roof rose at a steep angle and flattened out at the side to form a carport, where Jacob Meyer parked the truck. Meyer gave Rudy a key to the front door and fetched his bags from the back of the truck. Inside, the walls were smooth plaster and the hardwood floor was tightly joined.

Rudy took his bags from Jacob and thanked him. “Danke, Jacob.”

“Bitte,” Jacob said. “You are most welcome, Mr. Goodman.”

When Jacob had gone, the truck farting away down the street, Rudy walked through the house and took stock. The kitchen was little more than a wide corridor at the back of the house, but it had been fitted with a new stove and an icebox. There was a cellar with a dirt floor and shelves along one long wall. Someone had left a dozen jars of stewed tomatoes. Rudy remembered that there were tornadoes in Kansas and a cellar was an essential safety feature. He wondered what tornadoes looked like and how much warning they gave before striking.

Upstairs there were two bedrooms, and Rudy set his bags down on the floor in the smaller one. Sleeping did not require much space. The bigger room would be his office, as soon as he relocated the bed that was in there. He found a pencil and a tablet of yellow paper in his smaller bag and began a list of the things he would need for the house. At the top he wrote the word desk. After a moment’s thought, he skipped down a line and wrote map. He used the English words, sounding them out as he wrote and repeating them to himself, mimicking Jacob’s flat Midwestern dialect.

There was a comfortable old sofa in the living room, and he moved it so he would have a good view of the street through the front window. He walked through the kitchen and out the back door. Three steps led down to a stone path that petered out twenty feet behind the house at the edge of the tall grass. Someone—Jacob, perhaps?—had recently mowed, stopping at Rudy’s property line. He breathed in the fresh green smell of the lawn and then sneezed, wiped his nose on his sleeve. Beyond the grass was a dense tree line, and Rudy knew from the drive in along winding country lanes that there was nothing beyond the trees but mile after rolling mile of farmland.

Only a week before, Argentina had loomed over him: tall pale buildings that hid thick jungle behind them in every direction, a multitude of brown people who had smiled at him for no reason, birds of every color that squawked at him from parapets and lampposts. Even the air had pushed him down, made him feel small, smothered him under a steaming blanket of perfume.

Kansas—at least this part of Kansas on this particular afternoon—was flat and gray. The people—judging by Jacob Meyer—were solid and white. He straightened his shoulders. Gray and solid were good qualities. They were the qualities of clay, unformed and malleable. Rudy Goodman felt a certain kind of power as he looked out across his newly acquired land at the shadows of trees. He felt free.

From somewhere nearby, he heard a dog bark and an answering whistle, high and sharp. He held himself motionless and watched the treetops as they swayed back and forth in some light breeze that Rudy couldn’t feel. The scraggly bushes that marked the tree line rustled and a head popped up over the top of the grass. A child of perhaps ten or twelve stared at Rudy from several yards away. Dark hair and a round pink face under a sunburnt forehead.

“Hello,” Rudy said. “You look very pretty.”

“Who are you?”

“My name is Rudy. What is your name?”

“Nobody lives here,” the child said. Rudy could barely make out her voice. “That house is empty.”

“I live here now. Come closer so I can hear you.”

The child disappeared, her head sinking beneath the shimmering brown surface of the field.

“I think I saw a wolf,” he said. “Not far from here.”

He watched for signs of motion in the grass, but saw nothing.

“Where did you go? Come back. I won’t hurt you.”

“Where are you from?” The faint sound of the child’s voice was carried by the breeze in every direction so that Rudy couldn’t pinpoint her location.

“I am from a place very far away. To the south of here, and the east. Do you know your directions on a map?”

“No.”

“Where are you from?”

“Over there.”

“I can’t see you, little girl. I don’t know where you are talking.”

There was no answer. Rudy stood there, waiting, for another quarter of an hour, but the grass didn’t move and the child made no sound. He considered wading out and looking for her, but she was probably long gone, and he was tired. He wondered if the dog he had heard was a companion to the child, and he wondered whether it would attack him if he managed to find its young mistress out there in the trees. He licked his lips and smiled.

He turned and went back inside, closed the door on the late afternoon sunshine. The child would come again. He knew that. She was curious about him.

And Rudy was a very patient man.

This isolated place would be a suitable home for him. He decided it was time to begin moving his money northward.