Cover image for Out of order
Title:
Out of order
Author:
MacDougal, Bonnie.
Personal Author:
Edition:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Ballantine Pub. Group, 1999.
Physical Description:
393 pages ; 25 cm
Language:
English
ISBN:
9780345434449
Format :
Book

Available:*

Library
Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Status
Central Library X Adult Fiction Central Closed Stacks
Searching...

On Order

Summary

Summary

A successful career. A charismatic new husband. A bright, limitless future. Philadelphia lawyer Campbell Smith seems to have it all. But in Bonnie MacDougal's powerful new novel of suspense, beneath the thin surface of tranquillity and realized dreams, dark events threaten to throw Cam Smith's neatly arranged life profoundly--and perilously--Out of Order. On the night of a lavish party celebrating newlyweds Doug and Campbell Smith, tragedy strikes when the thirteen-year-old son of an influential senator is kidnapped. The senator--Doug's mentor--urges Cam to track the boy down. It is an offer she cannot refuse, despite her own unsettling suspicion that the statesman seems less concerned about his child than about keeping the scandal out of the headlines. But as Cam soon discovers, everyone has something to hide. With a circle of wealth and ambition closing in tightly around her, Cam penetrates layer upon layer of lies and invention. For the abduction is not what it seems. After using all her investigative skills to find the missing boy, she begins to uncover the shocking story that links him to his captor. Surprised at her deepening attachment to them both, struggling between her duty and what is best for the child, Cam starts to question her loyalties, her marriage, her priorities, even the man she thought she loved. As she pieces together an intricate pattern of abuse and cover-up; as a series of brutal murders looms ever closer, Cam is forced to make the most agonizing decision of her life--to reveal the devastating secret of her own past . . . and the shattering lie she has lived for years. The Philadelphia Inquirer called Bonnie MacDougal's last searing novel "one hot read." The San Francisco Chronicle declared it "captivating." With Out of Order, MacDougal raises the stakes--and the heat--creating a gripping, passionate thriller.


Author Notes

Bonnie MacDougal is a trial attorney who practiced law in Philadelphia; Anchorage, Alaska; and Little Rock, Arkansas. Ms. MacDougal is the author of Breach of Trust and Angle of Impact. She lives with her husband and two daughters on Philadelphia's Main Line.


Reviews 1

Publisher's Weekly Review

Political drama and star-crossed romance mix with the suspenseful action of a legal thriller and family mystery as MacDougal tackles murder, espionage, kidnapping, statutory rape and corrupt political campaigns in this followup to Angle of Impact. Beautiful newlywed lawyer Campbell Alexander fears her murky past will come to light when her husband, Doug, is named his party's (it's called the Party, with no further political ID) surprise candidate for a Delaware congressional seat, backed by formidable, deep-pocketed Senator Ash Ramsey. Cam fails to convince Doug to stay out of the political spotlight and winds up fearfully playing the loyal, supportive wife under the whip of campaign strategist and D.C. femme fatale Meredith Winters. When Sen. Ramsey's son Trey is snatched off the street, Cam is hired to find the kidnapper, who turns out to be the boy's biological father, Steve, who was tricked into giving up his son years before. A series of brutal murders linked to Cam's long-missing mother gives the secretive lawyer more crimes to worry about. As ambitious Doug descends into dirty politics and her marriage falls apart, Cam falls for Steve. Eventually, Cam's childhood secret is unearthed by one of Doug's enemies, who has secrets of his own, leading to political mayhem; the ensuing maneuvering and courtroom action are flawlessly nasty, while illicit sexual affairs provide welcome, if sometimes sappily dialogued, balance to the murderous gore. Fans of romantic suspense will relish the labyrinthine plot and the dramatic scenes of Cam and Meredith waging battle in the heart of the men's club, outsmarting the boys most of the time. (Aug.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved


Excerpts

Excerpts

They moved in a pack, six young males, fit and feral, loping flank to flank with an ice fog swirling at their feet and clouds of hot steam puffing from their mouths. Berms of cindered gray snow rose up on both sides of the road, and they ran between them in perfect unspoken formation, as if cued by some pheromone only they could sniff. Cam was alone on the narrow country lane, and she slowed as one of the pack suddenly broke formation and surged toward her. He lifted something as he ran, a long ellipse that gleamed to a high polish in the moonlight, and swung it down into the curbside mailbox with a splintering crash. She flipped on her high beams. Six boys and a baseball bat stood frozen on the road before her, a tableau vivant of teenage vandalism, until a second later the headlights scattered them like a laser blast. "Kids," she muttered. She was already late, and her nerves were strung tight. She'd spent the last two hours in a frenzy of dressing and undressing, pinning up her hair and tearing it down again, carefully applying makeup only to frantically rub it all off, until at last Doug had mumbled that it might be bad form to arrive late to a party in their own honor. Cam was afraid it was even worse form to arrive separately, but finally she'd insisted that he go on ahead. Now, watching as the boys dived into the bushes and rolled out of sight, she was glad she had. If Doug saw what she just had, he would have felt duty-bound to stop and do something. It was his nature: if he could do something, he did it. And more to the point, if he knew something, he spoke it. Doug would never have remained silent about the boy who'd just broken the spine of someone's mailbox--the same boy who should have been passing canapés at the party tonight: Trey Ramsay, thirteen-year-old son of their host, United States Senator Ashton Ramsay. But keeping secrets was an old habit for Cam. She did with this information what she did with most: she filed it away. She drove on, but a moment later her headlights shone on something else: a dark van was pulled over to the side of the road, and a man stood beside it with a cell phone to his ear. Calling the police, she supposed, and felt some relief that the matter was out of her hands. He was wearing jeans and a ski jacket, respectable enough attire for a Friday night in the suburbs of Wilmington. But there was something in his stance, a dark edge to the way he turned away as she approached. Her eyes flicked up to the mirror as she passed him. For a moment he looked as fit and feral as that wolfpack; for a moment she wondered if he weren't more dangerous than they were. But only for a moment. She was on the brink of a new life, and no spoiled delinquent or mysterious stranger was going to keep her from it. She kept driving. A cold February moon shone down on the unbroken snow of the open fields and the hundred-year-old hedgerows that marked off the boundaries of the old Greenville estates. This was the château country of northern Delaware, a region settled two hundred years before by a tribe of Franco-Americans who came to establish a Utopian colony but ended up manufacturing gunpowder instead. Today, the DuPont Company was an abiding presence throughout Delaware. If only six degrees of separation existed between any two people on earth, then only one or two existed between DuPont and any son or daughter of Delaware. Cam smiled as it occurred to her that she was part of that family now, too, a daughter-in-law of Delaware. The lights were blazing at the end of the Ramsays' driveway, and she turned through the gate stanchions and drove around a circle of snowcapped shrubs to the front steps of the house. It was a decaying old manor of dingy white stucco and faded black shutters, but tonight Cam thought it shone like a palace. Tonight the Ramsays were honoring the newlyweds before what she expected to be the ionosphere of Delaware society. A valet parker trotted around the side of the house, and madly she shrugged out of her Gore-Tex parka and tossed it in the seat behind her. Her dress was a strapless ball gown of velvet and satin that cost her two months' salary. There was nothing left in the budget for an evening coat after that. "Evening, miss," the boy said and opened her door. She hesitated a second, the span of a heart skip and a quick convulsive shiver, then stepped out bare-shouldered into the cold night air. Twin pillars flanked the front door, each one carved like a headstone with the letter V--for victory, Senator Ramsay would have claimed, but first it was for Vaughn. Margo Vaughn Ramsay was the one with the money, and this was her ancestral home. Cam pressed the bell and prepared her smile, and an instant later Margo threw the door open. "Campbell, darling!" she cried, and scanned the street a moment before she pulled her inside. "You're here at last!" Margo was wearing yards of green and gold brocade cut something like a kimono, and her steel-gray hair was gathered up in a topknot and shot through with a lethal-looking ivory rod. The first time Cam met her, she'd worn Mao-style silk pajamas, a curious look for Christmas Day, but later Doug explained: Margo spent her childhood in the Far East with her State Department father, and she continued to maintain an affection for all things Asian. "Mrs. Ramsay, I'm so sorry I'm late--" "Nonsense. No one's late but Ash." Margo's black eyebrows arched up over flinty gray eyes and high-cut cheekbones. "The train. Again." Doug had also explained this: the Senator kept a monk's cell on Capitol Hill and commuted home by Metroliner on the weekends. The Tuesday-to-Thursday Club was the derogatory term for such legislators, although, according to Doug, Ramsay adhered strictly to a Monday-through-Friday schedule. "Everyone!" Margo called. "It's Campbell! At last!" A buzz of voices rose up, and as the bodies began to spill out into the center hall, Cam felt a stab of her old insecurity. The men were all in tuxedos, and the women in ash-blond pageboys and severe black gowns, while there she stood in a dazzling white ball gown with her hair tumbling long and loose down her back. Once again she'd dressed wrong, once again she was out of place. But quickly she reminded herself: she was the bride and the guest of honor here tonight; this time it was proper to stand out. A pianist was playing Gershwin in the living room to the left, and a babble of voices still came from the library to the right, while here in the hall, a swarm of guests pressed in close around her. "A pleasure, young lady," someone said. "A pleasure." "Best wishes to you both!" A wiry woman seized Cam by both hands. "Oh, I've been so anxious to meet you!" she cried. "Campbell, Maggie Heller," Margo said. "Doug's told us so much about you!" the woman gushed. She was overanimated and overthin, as if a hypercharged metabolism was burning off calories faster than she could stuff them into her mouth. "And you know we all adore him, and we wish you all the best!" "And here's someone you must meet." Margo pulled her free from Maggie Heller and steered her in the other direction, toward a man with pocked skin and deep vertical creases through the hollows of his cheeks. "Norman Finn." "Congratulations!" he said, stepping forward with the stench of tobacco smoldering from his tuxedo. Cam shook his hand briefly, repelled by the reek of cigarettes and by that word--congratulations--that always struck her as double-edged. "How do you do, Mr. Finn?" "No, just Finn. Everybody calls me Finn." "Finn," she repeated doubtfully, then gave a start as a man behind her leaned in too close. She turned to find a video camera zooming in on her face. Strange, she thought, turning away; the society pages could only use stills. Margo continued to pull her along, and Cam continued to clasp hands and murmur greetings as the faces whirled past and the pianist played "'S Wonderful." "What a wonderful occasion!" the next woman said. "We only wish you'd had your wedding here." "Yes, why were we cheated out of a wedding?" someone else asked. Cam smiled and explained. Since she had no family and Doug's mother couldn't travel, they'd kept it a simple affair, a civil ceremony in Florida with only Doug's mother and aunt as witnesses, followed by a honeymoon on St. Bart's. "I'm sure it was all lovely," Margo said. "But Ash and I decided: if we couldn't have a Delaware wedding, we'd at least have a Delaware wedding reception!" "Good thing, too," said the pock-faced man, Norman Finn, just Finn. "Gives us a chance to look you over." Cam gave him an uncertain glance. She didn't know what he meant, nor even what he was doing here. There was something disquieting about him, an undercurrent of crude power, as if he were a plantation overseer or a casino boss. "Campbell," said the overeager woman, Maggie Heller. "That's such a lovely name!" "Thank you." A second later Cam winced--wrong response--though appropriate enough if they knew the truth. "You're a lawyer in Philadelphia?" "Yes. With Jackson, Rieders and Clark." Finn announced to the crowd, "That's the outfit that acquired Doug's firm last year." Cam's lips curved in a coy denial. "Oh, not acquired, Mr. Finn. Our firm merged with Doug's." "I'd say it's a merger now," he said with a coarse laugh. "Are you planning to sit for the Delaware bar?" another man asked. "I already did, last summer. Passed, too!" she added pertly. "What's your specialty?" "Oh, I'm just an associate," she said airily. "I do whatever they tell me to do." "But what department are you in?" the man pressed her. Her smile dimmed. "Family law," she said after a beat. "Ahh." He gave a too-knowing nod. "We called that domestic relations in our firm. Until one of our clients thought that meant her husband was having an affair with the maid!" "I remember that case, Owen," put in a man behind him. "And damned if she wasn't right!" Cam gave a strained smile through the crowd's laughter. "No, wait a minute," Finn said. "Doug told us you're an asset-finder." "Yes," she said, brightening. "I do a lot of that. Executing on judgments, and tracing assets the defendant might have stashed away." "Oh, I see the connection," a woman remarked dryly. "Since nobody conceals assets better than a man heading for divorce court." "Damn, is that what asset-finding means?" Finn said. "Here I was hoping it meant Campbell could help us with our fund-raising." She gave him a confused look as another round of laughter broke out. He stepped closer and brought a vapor of cigarette stench with him. "Margo, let me take over the introductions here. I got some folks Campbell needs to meet." "By all means, Finn." Margo relinquished Cam's arm and turned at once to work the crowd. "Why, there you are!" she cried. "How long has it been? Oh, I know--the train! Again!" More names and faces scrolled past Cam as Finn pulled her along through the hall. Owen Willoughby; Webb Black; Carl Baldini--you know, Baldini Construction?; Chubb Heller--you met his wife, Maggie, already, didn't you; Ron March--as in the U.S. Attorney Ronald March?--that's right; John Simon, because every party needs a friendly banker. Cam nodded and smiled and felt a ripple of unease. None of these names was familiar to her, though she'd been following the Wilmington society pages for months. She tried to tune into the snippets of conversation around her. It was the usual party banter that month--the latest movies at the multiplex, the latest White House sex scandal, the latest showdown with Saddam Hussein. A sharper exchange sounded behind her. Numbers look good. You see that poll yesterday? Yeah, but without the cash, what can he do ...? Margo's voice sounded distantly, its pitch dropping in Doppler effect as she moved to the back of the house. "Yes, Jesse's waiting at the station for him. Trey ...? I don't know--he must still be upstairs. He's probably trying to find something to wear. He's been growing out of everything! He's all wrists and ankles these days!" Finn veered off course and pulled Cam through a cluster of people to reach an old man slumped in a wheelchair. "Jonathan, this is Doug's bride," he announced loudly. "Campbell, meet Jonathan Fletcher." At last, a name she'd expected to hear tonight. Jonathan Fletcher was a member of Delaware aristocracy, a third- or fourth-generation millionaire. "How do you do, Mr. Fletcher?" The old man looked up with a squint under woolly white eyebrows and said nothing. "Campbell--" spoke a woman behind the wheelchair. "Is that a family name?" "Yes." Cam watched peripherally as Margo picked up the telephone on a console table by the stairs. "It was my mother's maiden name." "Sounds Scotch," the old man said in a deep rumble that shivered the loose flaps of his jowls. Cam lip-read as Margo spoke into the phone across the hall: "... wondering if you've seen Trey anywhere tonight ...?" "Hundred proof," Cam quipped. "You don't look Scotch," Fletcher said with a suspicious growl. "More Irish maybe." She tossed her head and sent her hair cascading down her back. "Aahh, go on with ye," she said in a brogue that brought a loud burst of laughter from the crowd. The alert pianist made a quick segue into "They All Laughed." Twenty feet away Margo hung up the phone. The bones showed in her face for a second before her flesh slackened into a smile once more. "Where do you hail from, Campbell?" someone asked. "Pennsylvania. Lancaster County?" "Oh, but tell the rest!" Margo charged across the room so fast that the gold threads sparked in her gown. "Campbell was raised by her grandmother after her parents died in the Philippines. Can you imagine?--they were missionaries there." Jonathan Fletcher's shaggy eyebrows rose. "Died how?" "In a Muslim massacre," Cam said. When everyone's faces froze in horror, she added, "But this was almost thirty years ago. I was only a baby." Finn bent down close to Fletcher's ear. "That's eighteen carat stuff, you know." The old man nodded and finally pulled his rheumy eyes from Cam to demand of Margo, "Where's that husband of yours?" "I told you, Jonathan. The train--" "Where's that husband of mine?" Cam said, almost as querulously as the old man. She won another laugh from the crowd as Finn pointed her toward the library. It was a dark-paneled, heavily draped room furnished in a jarring blend of Chesterfield sofas and Japanese silk screens, a dim and dreary room during her previous visits here. But tonight a fire crackled on the hearth, lamps shone from tabletops and wall sconces, and Doug Alexander glowed incandescently in the center of it all. On any objective tally of looks, he would tot up as average bordering on nondescript. Everything about him could be summed up as medium: medium brown hair, medium brown eyes, medium height, medium build, albeit with a slight professorial stoop to his shoulders. But there was something about him that lit up a room, and he was lighting this one up now. From the piano came the strains of one of their favorite songs, "Someone to Watch Over Me." Doug's head came up, and when he spotted Cam in the doorway, he sent her a signal with his eyebrows--You okay?--and she sent one back to him with a smile--Fine, wonderful! Standing there, gazing at him, she was. She'd been a loner all her life, but she was half of a couple now, part of a unit, united, and she never had to be alone again. An arm suddenly slipped around her waist and a voice spoke in her ear. "Watch out, babe. You almost look besotted." "I got news for you, Nathan," she retorted, pivoting in a swirl of white satin. "I am besotted." She rose up on tiptoe to hug the tall black man, then stepped back to regard him with a suspicious squint. "What in the world are you doing here?" "Me?" He feigned affront as he straightened his red bow tie. "I was about to ask you." But that was exactly her point. Nathan Vance was as much a nobody as she was. That was the basis of their friendship. They'd drifted together in law school the way misfits always do--Cam a poor white orphan girl, and Nathan the son of a family that was black in color only. "No, really," she insisted. "How'd you ever get invited here?" "Okay, one, I went to school with you." He ticked off the points on his fingers. "Two, I used to work in Philadelphia with you. Three, now I work in Wilmington with Doug. And finally, four, I'm the only one in the world who can claim friendship with both the bride and groom. Thus, I respectfully submit, no one deserves to be here more than me." It came to her then, the source of all her unease tonight. This was no gathering of Wilmington society. There was no one here from the Beaux Arts Ball committee or the Winterthur point-to-point races or the symphony board. She looked back to the library to see a strange man clapping Doug on the shoulder as another whiff of conversation came her way. See that trade policy paper he did? A lot of prime stuff in there. Nathan's gaze went past her and his shoulders went straight, and Cam turned to see Norman Finn bearing down on them. "Oh, Finn," she said. "I'd like you to meet my friend, Nathan Vance--" "Hell, I know Nathan. How's business, young man?" "Fine, sir. Good to see you tonight." Lawyers, Cam thought as they shook hands. Of course, they must all be lawyers. It was a logical enough guest list for a party in honor of the marriage of two lawyers, hosted by a former attorney general of the state. But she caught another fragment of conversation: Yeah, registrations are up, but the fund-raising levels-- Her bare shoulders shivered as a blast of frigid air shot through the hall, and she turned around as Senator James Ashton Ramsay burst through the front door, larger than life. "Margo!" he roared as the crowd turned his way. "When's dinner? I'm starved!" A cheer went up, and Cam squeezed back against the wall as the rest of the crowd pressed forward, everyone clamoring for an up-close and personal view of the Senator. He was an imposing figure, tall and barrel-chested, with a hawkish nose and a flowing mane of yellow-white hair that lent him his nickname: the Lion of New Castle County. He peeled off his overcoat and tossed it over a bamboo-backed chair, then pitched himself into the throng. "Hello, Finn! Owen, Sarah, good to see you! Maggie, my girl, how are you? Ron! How're you doing?" "Welcome home, Senator!" Finn shouted. The other guests picked up the cry, as if Ramsay didn't appear in the same place every Friday night. "Welcome home, Senator! Welcome home!" "Good to see you!" he boomed to them all in return. "Thanks for coming!" At last Cam understood. These were what Doug called the Party people--by whom he meant not people who liked to party, but rather the people who worked for the Party. She should have realized. The Party was close to a religion for Doug: he tithed, attended regular services, and took an awful lot on faith. He was working his way toward her through the crowd, and she cut ahead to meet him. "Honey ...?" she called. "Hold on," he said, smiling, and brushed past her. "There's my boy!" Ramsay yelled and held an arm out to Doug. A path parted, and another cheer went up as the two men pounded each other's shoulders. The front door opened again and another chilly blast of air came in, this time admitting an unnatural blonde in a lustrous black mink coat. "Ahh, here's Meredith now." Ramsay pulled the woman front and center before him. "Everyone--I want you to meet Meredith Winters. I coaxed her up from Washington for the weekend, so you folks be sure and show her a good time." Jesse Lombard, the Senator's longtime factotum, slipped in the door behind them and was there to catch the woman's mink as she poured it off. "Who is she?" Cam whispered to Nathan as Jesse unobtrusively bore the coats up the stairs. "Political strategist. Used to read the news in San Francisco. Now she's running Sutherland's campaign in Maryland." "Wow." Phil Sutherland was a name even a political agnostic like Cam could recognize. He'd been the commander of the armored division in Desert Storm, author of a bestselling autobiography, host of a hugely popular radio talk show, and founder of a Baltimore inner-city mentoring project so successful it was now the model for a dozen similar efforts across the country. His bid for the Senate was the most closely watched race in the country. "But isn't it kind of early for Ramsay to be interviewing campaign consultants?" Cam asked. "It's more than four years before he has to run again." Nathan only looked at her. "Margo!" Ramsay bellowed. "Where are you? And would somebody please put a glass of something in my hand so I can make a toast here?" On cue, four white-gloved waiters materialized from out of the kitchen and came through the crowd bearing trays laden with flutes of champagne. Margo appeared on their heels and swept to her husband's side. He kissed her with a resounding smack, then snatched a glass off the nearest tray. "All right, attention, everybody," he said. When the buzzing didn't dwindle, he went to the staircase and climbed up a few steps. The piano music cut off, but there were another few moments of excited humming as the crowd jostled into a semicircle around the base of the stairs. The man with the video camera positioned himself carefully in the front line and kept the tape rolling. "Good evening, friends," the Senator said as silence finally fell. "I'm glad to see you all here tonight on this wonderful occasion, and I'm proud, too, and I'll tell you why. You all know Doug Alexander. Some of you also knew his father, Gordon Alexander, a man I was lucky enough to call my best friend. We lost Gordon too soon. Way too soon. And when Dorothy got sick and Doug was only a half-grown boy, there he was, facing adversity that most of us couldn't cope with as adults. But he never let it get him down. He took good care of Dorothy. No mother could've asked for a better son. His teachers loved him, his coaches couldn't do without him, and as for me, if I didn't see him at my dinner table every Sunday, I didn't call it a good week. "Doug grew up into the kind of man who never gave second best and never settled for it, either. He got himself through the best schools, he was hired by the best law firm in town-- Sorry, Owen," he said to a man who gave a gracious shrug. "Yours is good, too, but I have to speak my mind here--and he's done nothing but first-class work since he passed the bar. There hasn't been a major real estate development deal in the state that Doug hasn't been a part of. This new waterfront development, every industrialization project that got off the ground in the last decade--they all had Doug Alexander working feverishly behind the scenes to make it happen. The people of this state owe an awful lot to him. And I don't have to tell the people in this room how much the Party owes to him. He's been a good and loyal member and a tireless worker for our candidates. "But there's always been a missing element to this young man. And it's made Margo and me despair about him more than once." A few of the guests exchanged uncertain glances. "But you see, it was the way he was made," Ramsay went on. "He wouldn't settle for second best in a wife, either." A burst of relieved laughter sounded as Cam's face began to burn. "But guess what, folks? It turned out he didn't have to! It took him a while to find her, but he got himself a dilly." He peered down into the crowd. "Whoa, hold on. We're missing the bride here. Campbell, where are you?" "Go on up," Nathan hissed in her ear. A smattering of applause sounded as she was propelled through the crowd to Doug's side at the foot of the stairs. "There she is," Ramsay declared, pointing. "You can all see for yourselves her obvious attractions, but folks, I'm here to tell you that she's also smart and sassy and she's gonna keep this boy on his toes for the rest of his life!" Doug gave her hand a squeeze as the guests laughed and applauded. "We couldn't be prouder of Doug Alexander if he were our own son," Ramsay said. "But we also know that our proudest day still lies ahead. For tonight it's my honor and privilege to announce to you--and I thank you, Norman Finn, for letting me be the one to announce it--that Doug Alexander is the Party's choice for this November's election to the United States House of Representatives!" Cam almost buckled at the knees. Doug's hand slipped free, and she looked up through swimming eyes to watch him shaking hands and beaming a thousand-watt smile through the crowd. Ramsay pulled him up beside him on the stairs and threw an arm around his shoulders. "Friends, I give you Doug Alexander!" He held his glass high. "Our next United States Representative!" "Doug Alexander!" the crowd roared. Cam's fingers clenched on the stem of her glass as the guests tossed back their champagne. "Better get up there with him," a voice said out of a cloud of floral perfume. Cam turned and looked into the sharp features of the blond woman, Meredith Winters. "Go on," she said, and pried the glass out of Cam's hand. "These photo ops don't come cheap." Cam stumbled toward the stairs, and when Doug reached a hand down, she grabbed it and held on like a woman overboard. He made a speech, and even in the ice fog swirling around Cam, she could tell that he'd written and rehearsed it in advance. He was lavish in his thanks to the Senator, whom he'd come to regard as a second father. No one could have grown up with a finer role model than Ash Ramsay. He was warmly appreciative of Margo, who'd never failed to make him feel welcome in her home. He was deeply moved and honored by the trust and confidence the Party was showing in him tonight. He singled out Norman Finn and thanked him for the many opportunities to be involved in the Party's work, to make a real difference in the lives of Delawareans. Nothing could make him prouder than to continue that work in Washington. "As most of you know," he said, "my number one priority is full employment for the people of Delaware. And by full, I don't mean moving names off the unemployment roll and onto the McDonald's payroll. I mean real jobs, with real benefits. Jobs that require the best of your abilities. The kind of job you can spend your life in and raise a family on." He paused to give a disarming smile. "But much as I'm for full employment, there's one citizen of Delaware who's been employed too long and too far beyond his abilities. And sadly, I think it's time for him to get on the unemployment roll. And the man I'm talking about is ..." He raised his arms like an orchestra conductor, and the entire crowd shouted out in unison: "Hadley Hayes!" Doug waited with a grin until the laughter and applause died down, then said softly: "You know, I thought the happiest day of my life was the day this incredible woman here beside me consented to become my wife. But then I realized I was wrong, because the happiest day of my life came two weeks ago Wednesday when she looked up at me and said 'I do.'" Cam looked up at him now, astounded that the man who barely stammered through his marriage proposal was broadcasting his feelings to a houseful of strangers. "But now, with my wife here beside me, and all of my friends here before me, I realize I was wrong both times, and that the happiest days are those that lie ahead of us--as we win this race and march on to Washington!" Nathan Vance brought his hands together in a rhythmic, hollow clap, and it caught and swelled into a deafening round of applause. Doug turned to Cam and kissed her, long and lustily, while the cheers echoed through the narrow hallway and roared inside her head. Outside and a mile away a long, loose line of boys was ambling aimlessly down Sentry Bridge Road. The adrenaline rush of the mailbox-bashing was over, and now they were laughing and stumbling and sticking their legs out to try to trip each other. At the head of the line, Jon Shippen dug his hand in his pocket and turned around with a grin to show the rest. "All right, Ship!" went up the cheer when they saw what he had: a joint pilfered from his brother's stash. He lit it and took a drag, and the sickly sweet odor rose up and swirled through the smell of wood smoke that already hung heavy in the crisp night air. Trey breathed it all in as he waited for the joint to reach him at the back of the pack. This was his favorite time, after the spree, when all of his senses came alive. Everything seemed sharper to him now. There was an edge to the light that let him see the things he usually missed: the faint quivering of the pine needles; the road slush crystallizing into ice as the nighttime temperature plunged; the hundred different shades of black in the sky. If he could paint this night, he'd use greens so deep and dark they'd blend to black. He'd call it--what else?--Greenville Night. Jason had the bat, and he was dragging it in the snow behind him, leaving a track like an animal with a wounded leg. He passed it over to Trey when the joint reached him. It was down to half an inch by then, and he had to hold it with the precision of a watchmaker to get it to his lips. Trey dragged the bat the same way Jason had and looked behind at the trail it left. For fifty feet, he imagined, a crippled animal had been following them through the night. His gaze drifted upward, to the car that was rolling slowly behind them with its headlights off. "Shit," he hissed and grabbed Jason by the arm. Abruptly the headlights flashed on, the siren screeched awake, and the lights started spinning on the roof. The boys in front of him took off, and Trey dove over the berm and rolled across the snow, then scrambled on all fours through the undergrowth of the hedges. He tore through to the other side, jumped to his feet, and went into a flat-out run across the field. He heard Jason huffing behind him and slowed a second to let him catch up, then side by side they ran on, their boots crunching loudly through the snow until they reached another hedgerow. On elbows and bellies they inched forward through a tangle of branches. Trey raked his hair back out of his face and peered through to the other side. Martins Mill Road lay below them, deserted. "We lost 'em," Jason said with a panting laugh. Trey scanned the road. The sirens were still wailing distantly, but there were no cop cars here. He rolled to his side and looked back the way they'd come. The tracks they'd left in the snow looked like a line of black ants marching over white sand dunes. Jason flopped onto his back, fished a cigarette out of his pocket and lit it. "Want one?" he asked, dragging deep. Trey didn't answer. The sirens cut off abruptly, and he crawled forward for another look at the road. To the right, where Martins Mill crossed Sentry Bridge, he could see the dim outline of a car. It was waiting there, halfway between him and home, which meant he'd have to go back the way he came, across the field, pick up Sentry Bridge down below, then circle around Chaboullaird and come out farther down on Martins Mill. He was up on his haunches, ready to start the run back, when a quick beam of light swept over their footprints in the field. Trey wheeled one way and Jason the other. As Trey burst through the hedges, the headlights flashed on from the cop car at the corner. He spun left and galloped along the shoulder of the road, but it was no use. The snow was dragging at his feet, and the sirens were closing in behind him. "Hey! Over here!" Trey's head swiveled left. A man stood beside a van parked in a driveway. The side door was open, and the man was waving him in. Trey didn't stop to question. He tore up the driveway and dove into the van, and the door slid shut with a crash behind him. He was in a cargo compartment, and there was a wire mesh screen separating it from the seats in the front. A minute later the driver's door opened and closed, and the man ducked his head down low behind the wheel. He didn't speak, and neither did Trey. The sirens crescendoed to their highest pitch, and for a few seconds the flashing lights of the cop car reflected in a dancing array of red and blue against the sheet metal interior of the van. Trey crouched down low on the floor, until at last the lights passed by and slowly the sound of the siren faded away in the distance. "Whew." Trey came up on his knees on the carpeted floor. "Thanks, man. I owe you one." He reached for the handle on the sliding door. "Wanna pop the locks?" The man turned the ignition, and the engine started with a low growl. "Hey!" Trey didn't know whether he should say more. The neighbors were always going out of their way to do favors for his family; the guy was probably just giving him a lift home. But when the van backed out of the driveway, the wheels cut the wrong way. "Hey!" Trey lunged for the rear doors, but they were locked, too. He scrambled forward and yelled through the wire mesh. "Hey! Do you know who my father is?" The man looked back over his shoulder and locked eyes with Trey. "Yeah," he said. "I do." Excerpted from Out of Order by Bonnie Macdougal All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

Google Preview