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3.9 9
by Chris Jordan

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No parent believes it can happen to them—their child taken from a suburban schoolyard in the gentle hours of dusk. But as widowed mother Kate Bickford discovers, everything can change in the blink of an eye. One minute her lanky, amazing, maddening Tommy is begging for ice cream. Then in a terrible instant, he's gone.

Opening the door to her Connecticut


No parent believes it can happen to them—their child taken from a suburban schoolyard in the gentle hours of dusk. But as widowed mother Kate Bickford discovers, everything can change in the blink of an eye. One minute her lanky, amazing, maddening Tommy is begging for ice cream. Then in a terrible instant, he's gone.

Opening the door to her Connecticut home, hoping to find her son, Kate comes face-to-face with her son's abductor. He wants money. All she has. And if she doesn't follow something he calls The Method, the consequences will be gruesome.

Her comfortable life collapses as precious seconds tick by, and Kate is horrified to uncover the terrible, world-shattering secret she and her son share with a killer who will stop at nothing.…

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
When caterer Kate Bickford's 11-year-old son, Tomas, vanishes after his Little League game in Fairfax, Conn., she races home, hoping to find him. Instead, she discovers a mother's worst nightmare: Tomas's kidnapper, Capt. Steve Cutter (former Special Ops). Cutter is not only an abductor but also a ruthless liar, who frames the wealthy young widow for the murder of her son's baseball coach, Sheriff Fred Corso, whose body has been dumped in Kate's basement freezer. After delivering the ransom that Cutter demands, Kate soon discovers the kidnapper has no intention of returning Tomas, and she is the prime suspect in Corso's murder. To make matters worse, the authorities seem totally indifferent to finding her missing child, the one false note in this otherwise riveting suspense tale from Jordan, pen name for Rodman Philbrick (Freak the Mighty). Kate hires Maria Savalo, a sharp attorney, and Randall Shane, an eccentric expert in child abduction cases, and even snags assistance from two of her loyal employees to find Tomas. Jordan's full-throttle style makes this an emotionally rewarding thriller that moves like lightning. (July) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

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On a perfect day in the month of June, in a lovely field of green, my life starts falling apart. At five minutes after four in the afternoon, to be exact.

At ten of four things are still fine and dandy. I'm watching eagerly as the handsome boy with the aluminum bat steps out of the batter's box and readjusts his gloves, just like A-Rod, his big-league hero. I lean forward in the dugout, but resist the impulse to shout encouragement. My son, tall and lanky for his eleven years, doesn't mind the fact that his mom is an assistant Little League manager, but he has asked me not to shout from the sidelines like so many of the other parents. Parents who are, like, hideously uncool. His phrase. Tomas "Tommy" Bickford. My perfect, precious, truly gifted son. My amazing, maddening child. Amazing because he seems to be changing every day, sometimes from minute to minute. Maddening for the same reason, because I never know if he's going to be my sweet little boy, goofy and affectionate, or if he'll dis me with his soon-to-be-teen-stud coolness. Tommy can toggle between the two identities in the space of a heartbeat, and every time it happens it hits me like a soft blow to the belly.

At eleven he's such a guy. And somehow I never imagined my son would be, well, a guy guy. What did I expect him to be? Did I think he'd stay my baby boy forever? Clinging to my apron strings? And I do wear aprons. Aprons inscribed with the logo for my catering company. I also make cookies. A thousand or so a day, for the upscale delis and restaurants in my neck of the Connecticut woods.

I like to think of myself as a warmer version of Martha Stewart. Warmer and a lot less wealthy. But doing okay in my own small way. Katherine Bickford Catering books over two hundred events a year. Peanuts compared to the really huge commercial catering firms, but more than enough to keep my twelve employees very busy indeed. Average event, eighty-five plates. Average charge per plate, sixty-two dollars. Do the math and you'll discover that adds up to more than a million dollars gross. A million bucks! Of course, we showed a whole lot less than a million in profit, but still. And I really did start the business in my own kitchen. With a small, frightened four-year-old boy "helping" me sift the f lour.

We've both come so far in the last seven years that it sometimes takes my breath away. Especially when I admit to myself that when we started out I was even more terrified than the four-year-old. Terrified of suddenly having to raise a child on my own. Terrified I would never get over the grief of losing Ted, the love of my life, my sweet husband. Terrified that I would simply vanish into the black hole of despair if I stopped moving or stopped mothering for even a minute.

Even now, seven years later, just thinking his name gives me a Ted-size pang of melancholy. Like a low, mournful note on a cello, quietly sounding in the deepest part of me. But the anxious fear is gone. Over time the grief has become regret, for all the things poor Ted has missed. Tommy on his first bicycle — Don't touch me, Mom, I can do it all by myself! Tommy on his way to first grade, fiercely insisting that he not be accompanied into the school — the bravest kid in all the world that day.

Amazing boy. For the first month or so after Ted died, he came to our bed — my suddenly lonesome bed — and slept at my side in a fetal position, reaching out in his sleep as if he thought I, too, might vanish from his life. And then one day at breakfast he quietly announced that he was "too big" to sleep in his mommy's bed. Hit me two ways, that one. Fierce pride that at four he had such a strong sense of self. And regret that he didn't seem to need me quite as much as I needed him. At least while he slept.

How many hours did I stand in Tommy's bedroom door that first year after Ted passed, watching him sleep? More than I care to admit. And yet just watching him helped me. As watching him now helps remind me of who I am. My first and most important identity: Tommy Bickford's mom. Proud to be, even if he doesn't want me shouting his name from the dugout.

What the hell, let him deal with it. "Come on, Tommy! Clean stroke! Good at bat!"

Stepping back into the batter's box, he shoots me a glare. Also a grin, like he knows Mom can't help herself.

The pitcher, a husky kid who looks as if he's been taking steroids — hasn't, I'm sure, but he has that beefy look — peers in for the sign, f lings back his arm and delivers the ball. Not exactly a fastball — I'm guessing 70 mph or so on his dad's radar gun — but straight and true and heading right for the catcher's mitt.

Tommy steps into the pitch with his bat level, swinging slightly up, and bonk! He's made contact. The ball carries over the short-stop's outstretched glove and rolls all the way out to where the left fielder waits, then scoops it up. Drops the ball, gets it again, makes a wobbly throw to the cutoff. Cutoff drops the ball but keeps it in front of him, very good. By which time Tommy is sliding into second — an unnecessary act of daring, but the boy loves to get his uniform dirty — and the winning run has crossed the plate.

Pandemonium. Our players throw their gloves in the air, letting out war whoops and girlish cheers, and Fred Corso, our bullnecked manager — he's also the Fairfax County sheriff — punches his fist in the air and then strides out of our cinderblock dugout.

"Yes! Way to go, Tomas! Good hit, son!"

I keep forgetting, Tommy wants to be called Tomas now. Probably hasn't reminded me more than a million times in the last two weeks, but good old Fred has remembered. Feeling a little chastened, and resisting the impulse to run out on the field and give my boy a hug, I remind his excited teammates that it's time to line up and shake hands. Congratulate the opposing team, the Fairfax Red Sox, on a game well played.

We're trying to instill sportsmanship and doing a pretty fair job of it, if I do say so myself. The losers look sheepish, slapping five without much enthusiasm, but everyone is polite and they get the job done.

I catch Tommy from behind and lift the hat off his head. Give his raven-black hair a scoodge — his word — and face him, grinning. "Nice going, Tommy! You really smacked it!"

"Thanks, Mom." But he's already backing away, afraid I'll spoil his moment of manly triumph with a kiss. Then he stops, sidles up next to me, looking deeply serious. "You know what, Mom?"


"I think I deserve an ice-cream sundae."

I fork out the necessary money and he runs off to the snack trailer, which is parked next to the field for the games. Runs by Karen Gavner and her husband, Jake, who have twin girls on the team. Not especially gifted athletes, but good kids. Connecticut blondes, both of 'em, and studying to be heartbreakers. I've seen the way they look at Tommy, but if he's discovered girls he hasn't let me know about it. Which he might not, come to think of it. "Meet me at the van!" I shout at his back.

He acknowledges with a bob of his head and then vanishes into the milling crowd of parents and players, high-fiving as he goes.

And that's the last I see of him.

The hated minivan. My poor Dodge Caravan has recently become the object of Tommy's scorn. Am I not ashamed to be seen in the pathetic "Mini-Vee," as Tommy calls it? What does it tell the world about me, to drive such a totally boring car? Actually, his phrase is "hideously boring," not totally boring. Totally was last year's favorite modifier. Everything is hideous now. Just the other day he ticked off all the reasons I should trade in the hideous Mini-Vee for a really cool Mini-Cee. Of course I bite. "Mini-Cee," it turns out, is Tommy-talk for Mini Cooper.

"You mean that funny little car?" I asked him. "The one at the circus where all the clowns get out?"

"It's made by BMW, Mom," he informed me. "It's not funny looking. It's way cool. It would look good on us, trust me."

It would look good on us. Where did that come from, the idea of a car as a fashion accessory? Of course I know exactly where it comes from. TV, Internet, magazines, the neighborhood, in roughly that order. Beemers and Audis and Mercs are the vehicles of choice in our part of the world, but I'm aware of the Mini Coopers that Tommy so admires, because there are two of them just down the street, prominently displayed in the Parker-Foyles' driveway. His and hers, color coordinated.

"No chance," I told him. "Put it out of your mind. I'm a Caravan kind of girl."

At which point his eyes rolled so high I thought they might get stuck in the back of his head. And that makes me laugh in recollection. Hey, I remember being embarrassed about the car my mother drove, too. My mother's stodgy old Ford Fairlane station wagon, how embarrassing. And shame on me for thinking so at the time.

So I lean against the van on a perfect summer evening, waiting for my son. Scanning the field and parking lot for Tommy. Not seeing him.


For the first few minutes I'm not terribly concerned. There'll be a line at the snack trailer. Friends to talk to. More hands to slap, kudos to receive. But then traffic clears enough for me to see the snack trailer, and there's Jake Gavner closing the window, shutting down — sold out, no doubt — and my mom radar is drawing an empty screen. Can't seem to pick up Tommy. Did he run back into the school to use the boys' room? Unlikely. We're ten minutes or so from home and I happen to know Tommy prefers to use his own bathroom whenever possible.

So I'm trying not to act overly concerned as I walk over to the closed-up snack trailer and rap my fist on the back door.

"Yo!" from inside.

"Jake! It's Kate Bickford."

The door swings open and Jake is there, f lashing a quizzical smile. Nice-looking man with slight rosacea on his cheeks and a comfortable paunch he never tries to hide. Great with kids — somehow he remembers all the names, and who belongs to who.

"Hey, Kate! Dogs are gone."

"Excuse me?"

"Hot dogs. We're out. No slumming for you today."

He winks. For the life of me I can't think why Jake Gavner would be winking at me, and then I get it. The hot-dog conversation. Couple of weeks ago I was starving and ordered a dog with extra kraut. As I chowed down, we chatted about comfort food. Joking around that if any of my customers saw me eating hot dogs I'd lose business. Either that or they'd be expecting cheap tinned sausages as appetizers at the gala banquets. Wasn't exactly a scintillating conversation, come to think, but apparently something about it stuck with Jake.

"No, no, I'm fine," I tell him. "By any chance, did you notice where Tommy went?"

"Tommy? Nope. You lose him?" He looks around sharply, eyeing the empty field, the near-empty parking lot.

"He came over to get an ice cream," I tell him. "Chocolate with chocolate sauce, hold the nuts. Thought you might have noticed if he wandered off with some other kids."

"Tommy, huh? Nope. No ice cream for Tommy, that I recall."

"He never showed?"

"I'd remember, Kate. The kid won the game. I'd have comped him a sundae. Always do that for game winners, if they try to pay."

"Really? That's nice of you. Um, maybe Karen served him?"

He shakes his head. "I had the counter and the coolers. Karen was on the grill."

"Is she around?"

"She took the extra coolers home. Got to get the stuff back in the freezer, you know?" Jake studies me, senses my anxiety. "Call her. Maybe she saw him. But he probably went home with somebody else, is my guess."

"Yeah," I say. "Thanks."

And turn away thinking, he wouldn't dare. Not my son. Take off without telling me? Not Tommy. At the same time, the comment about game winners getting free ice cream bothers me. Did Tommy know? And if so, why hit me up for three bucks? Did he have other plans? Plans that included a little pocket change?

Meet the Author

Chris Jordan grew up on the New England coast and has been writing novels since the age of 16. His books have won many awards and have been translated into numerous languages. One of his novels was adapted into the film The Mighty, starring Sharon Stone. He and his wife, journalist and writer Lynn Harnett, divide their time between Maine and the Florida Keys.

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Taken 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 9 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Guest More than 1 year ago
This was my first book I read of this author, it keeps you interested. However, I know the book if fiction but it would have been nice had the author did a little research on pneumothorax. They dont put a tube down your throat to inflate your lung. The tube is inserted into the chest to inflate the lung and you dont go chasing bad guys the moment you wake up. This part of the book totally turned me off and I would have stopped reading from there if it wasnt that I want Tommy to be found.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I found this book on the shelf at a store for a very low marked down price, so I was thinking it must not be anything great. The first half of the book was the best I'd ever read. Everything tied together so well, the writing and plot were both very clever. The momentum just doesn't carry over, and makes the second half of the book a let down. The characters are very good, the writing was excellent. I would pass this book on to someone, because the first half was just that strong. ...
Guest More than 1 year ago
A marvelously-crafted story, which would make a superb movie script. I couldn't put it down!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Too predictable! I began reading this and was disappointed. The plot had no twists and the characters didn't seem to develop. There are many loose ends that drag the story down. I unfortunately had to finish the book for an assignment. It has to be one of the most terrible books I've read all year.
harstan More than 1 year ago
In Fairfax, Connecticut, widow Kate Bickford watches her eleven years old son Tomas stroke the winning hit in a Little League game. Afterward he goes to purchase a sundae while his mom goes to their minivan to wait for him. Her child never shows up. When a few minutes pass and no one knows where he went, a stunned Kate heads home assuming a communication mix-up, but Tommy is not who greets her. --- Inside her home waiting for her is Tommy¿s kidnapper, former Special Ops officer Steve Cutter, who coldly explains how to get her son back before he departs. Complicating matters for the frantic mother is Cutter has left her a mess in her basement freezer the murdered corpse of Sheriff Fred Corso, the coach of Tommy's baseball team. The police believe Kate killed Fred in a probable lovers¿ quarrel and do little to search for Tommy as they do not believe her that her son is in trouble. Kate knows she needs professional help on her two-front war. She retains attorney Maria Savalo to deal with the cops and child abduction recovery expert Randall Shane to deal with Cutter she needs both to rescue Tommy. --- Chris Jordon pens a tense character driven chilling tale that grips the audience from the moment that Kate meets Cutter who has already TAKEN her son, invaded her home, and murdered the sheriff. Readers initially believe that the kidnapper is only after some easy money and willing to kill to obtain it, but soon realize that his motive is much stronger and deeper than cash. Though the behavior of law enforcement seems odd with the alerts on child abductions, fans will consider this one of the short list novels for thriller of the year. --- Harriet Klausner