BY: NANCY A. HUGHES
It was supposed to be the kidnappers’ last job, snatching the infant of a poor single mother for an unsuspecting wealthy client. But the kidnappers grab the wrong baby—Billy, the son of high-profile bankers, Kingsley and Todd Henning—from their employer’s secure daycare. Realizing their mistake, the kidnappers plant evidence to implicate the parents and dismantle their operation. No ransom call comes. Detectives, convinced the parents are guilty, interrogate relentlessly as they uncover planted evidence.
The parents can’t face the mosaic of guilt, blame, and despair or help each other. On day ten, they are called to the morgue. The deceased is not Billy—this time. Shaken, they recommit to each other and vow to find him themselves. They scrutinize the bank’s security footage for incongruities only insiders might spot and follow the flimsiest clues into the murderous underworld of illegal adoptions. As novice detectives, they are exposed to extreme danger, skirting the law while keeping one step ahead of the villains and the police.
But is it too late? Will the kidnappers eliminate all trace of the baby? Or are they no match for two angry, determined parents?
TAYLOR JONES SAYS: In Vanished ~ A Trust Mystery ~ Book 3 by Nancy A. Hughes, Kingsley and Todd Henning have just had a baby boy, which they entrust to the new daycare center at the bank where they work—a daycare center that is supposed to be as secure and safe as any place can be. But when their baby is kidnapped, the local police blame Kingsley and Todd, who are outraged and determined to find the baby themselves, without the help of the police if need be. But as they dig for and get closer to the truth, they discover that the kidnappers will do just about anything to make sure they don’t get caught, and Todd and Kingsley might be endangering not only themselves, but their baby.
Well written in Hughes unique and intriguing voice, this one will keep you glued to your seat all the way through. A really great read.
REGAN MURPHY SAYS: Vanished by Nancy A. Hughes is the third book in her Trust Mystery series. In this episode, Kingsley and her husband Todd Henning leave their new baby at the daycare center at the bank where the two of them work. However, kidnappers, intent on stealing a single, struggling young mother’s baby, end up kidnapping the Henning’s baby by mistake. Since Todd and Kingsley are well to do and have powerful friends, the kidnappers fear they will be discovered, and they plant evidence to make the local police think the parents are responsible for their son’s disappearance. When the police fail to find their son, and don’t even seem to be trying, Todd and Kingsley start their own investigation, determined to find their son at any cost. But they are not dealing with everyday kidnappers, a fact they soon discover as the case becomes more and more bizarre.
With Hughes marvelous character development, a solid plot, and an intriguing mystery, Vanished is sure to be one that mystery fans will love. I thoroughly enjoyed it.
The attorney and his subordinate scrutinized the details that delineated their final operation. Volumes of research, patiently culled from weighty documents, lay in orderly stacks on the massive oak table, summary sheets topping each pile. “The prospective parents–have we a winner?” he asked.
She said, “There was a problem with the couple in Erie. Turns out he does business in France, which gives him European connections. I recommend we drop them. He could investigate our European operation, or lack thereof.”
He nodded agreement and pushed that folder aside. “Next.”
“Also a bust. The husband checked out negative for military connections, but we overlooked his wife. Turns out she served overseas in the army.”
“Nice save. She could have numerous contacts. Zero risk is our tolerance level. How about the third couple?”
She thumped a finger on that file. “They’re perfect! Both only children with no living relatives. He’s a self-educated CEO who made a fortune in doc.com technology and got out before the shit hit the fan. They tried to get pregnant for years, failed three times at in vitro, then adopted a baby who was reclaimed two years later by the teenage birth mother. They mounted a huge legal battle, but the judge ruled for the birth parents. Seems the father never signed off. Now in their mid-forties, they’re out of options.”
Pulse quickening, he motioned for her to pick up the pace. “The husband’s a match with our model,” she continued. “Adores his socialite wife and would pay anything to make her happy, but couldn’t give her what she wants most. Here’s a bonus–he’s an egotistical social climber who lives for the country club life. He insists the baby must be a perfect white male and didn’t bat an eyelash at four hundred fifty thousand dollars for the right kid. And we can milk him for additional expenses.”
“Did they agree that, due to the risk of embarrassing foreign governments, they could never know the baby’s nationality? And that the birth certificate says he’s American, which protects everyone’s interests?”
“They were especially excited about that. They’ll do whatever it takes to never lose a baby again.”
“Did you get any sense that either is idealistic, deeply religious, or apt to raise ethical questions somewhere down the road?”
She grinned. “He’s a narcissist who won’t tolerate losing or not getting his way, in spite of his finely-honed public persona. He may come from poor white trash, but you’d never know it now. There are claws in his golf gloves.”
The attorney smiled with lazy contentment. “Tell them we’ll approach our European connections immediately on their behalf then make the deal. Now–about the birth mother.”
Rifling through her impeccable Coach briefcase, she extracted the summary sheet and slid it across the table to him. “She’s a perfect match. Bright, pretty, and spunky. Ran away at sixteen from a dysfunctional family in Chicago. There’s been no contact since. She found work in LA, juggled several minimum wage jobs while getting her GED, then started community college. Met some jerk who abused her. As soon as she realized she was pregnant, she fled the state, ending up in southeast Pennsylvania.”
“She has a back-office job at Keynote National Bank and goes to community college part time. Baby stays in the bank’s ground-floor daycare, which abuts a large parking lot. Bank’s right on a highway with no traffic lights to impede a smooth getaway. Better yet, there’s an abandoned gravel road behind the daycare’s parking lot that leads to a small subdivision. The asphalt’s decaying, but passable. Locals have forgotten it’s there.”
“How about the girl’s resources?”
“She has no money to hire a PI and no family to help her. She lives week to week.”
The attorney turned to the building’s blueprints. “Have any trouble getting these without arousing suspicion? And how much did they cost?”
“Not one cent. The owner of that defunct high tech company was adamant that he had been cheated–foreclosed upon prematurely by the same bank that now owns his building. I let him pick my brain for free legal advice then told him I’d consider his suit.”
“Does he have a case?”
“Of course not. The lender had been exceptionally lenient. The owner spent like the faucets gushed money. Went with whatever the architect loved. Talk about excess! Furnishings belong in a sheikhdom. And they paid way too much for obsolete technology.”
“And he just gave you these drawings?”
“He had a bunch of them strewn all around. After a pint of Glen Fiddich he was in no shape to count them. If he complains, well hell, I did say I’d consider his case.”
He smoothed each sheet, delighted with the areas that interested him most. He traced the various routes the kidnappers would take while she followed his drift. “These floor plans look pretty straightforward,” he said. “Enlarge the lobby, the connecting corridors that lead to the daycare, and the stairwells, along with the security, plumbing, and wiring diagrams. Have copies ready for our people at our planning session.”
The man rocked back in his swivel chair, his manicured fingers laced behind his head. He grinned at his lovely associate. “As usual, you’ve done excellent research. I’m comfortable giving the order. Who knows–maybe we’re doing this gal a favor, eliminating an obstacle in her career path. While that’s in the works, I’ll wrap up the practice.”
“Do we have other business pending?”
“Nope. My temp secretary knows to turn down all prospective clients. In just three more weeks, with this completed, I will retire.”
© 2018 by Nancy A. Hughes