The lawyer licked his lips. "Third remark?"
"The defendant also said, 'I enjoyed every minute of it.' "
Before the lawyer could respond, Ty Canning, a rich young man whose manner had been impeccable throughout the trial, shouted, "The fuck I did," and pounded his fist on the table. A vein throbbed in his neck and his face swelled and reddened, the effect phallic, out of control, dangerous: one of those electric courtroom moments that happened mostly in stories. The butterfly woman recoiled. The judge banged her gavel. The marshals moved in.
There were no further questions. Petrov stepped down. One of the marshals gave him a discreet pat on the back on the way out.
The Santa Ana was blowing, hot and dry. Petrov loved the heat, possibly some reaction to his birthplace, even though he'd left Russia at the age of two and had no memories of it. But crossing the parking lot outside the county courthouse, Petrov found himself thinking of a cooling swim. Friday afternoon, a few minutes after three. He'd been planning to spend the weekend at the lake -- why not leave now, arrive in daylight, maybe do a little fishing too? He had the car door open when a woman called, "Mr. Petrov?"
She was hurrying across the lot: mid-thirties, judging by her face, although her body looked ten years younger and her clotheshalter top and mid-thigh skirt -- belonged on a teenager. Her eyes were the anxious eyes of a prospective client.
"My name's Liza," she said. She came to a stop, rocking back slightly on her high heels. "Lisa, really, but Liza professionally. Liza Rummel. It's about Amanda."
Liza Rummel shook her head, a quick side-to-side, erasing and starting over. "I saw on Court TV you'd be testifying today. That's why I came down here."
"From where? Van Nuys. We've been living in Encino but now we're in Van Nuys. Amanda liked the old place much better, come to think of it -- I wonder if that's a factor."
"Amanda's disappearance, Mr. Petrov, the reason I'm here. That's your specialty, right? Missing children?"
"Missing persons in general," Petrov said. "Is Amanda your daughter?"
"She's a good kid, despite everything."
Petrov took that for a yes. "What kind of everything?" he said.
"Normal teenage rebellion, I guess you'd say. She'll be sixteen in November. The twenty-third." Her eyes teared up a little.
"She was born on Thanksgiving."
"How long has she been missing?"
"Three days and two nights."
"When did you last see her?"
"Actually see her? Tuesday morning. She'd gone to sleep by the time I got home."
"When was that?"
"About four, four-thirty."
She looked him in the eye. "Correct."
"Did you check her room?"
"No. But her breakfast dishes were on the table when I got up."
"Did you call the police?"
"Wednesday night, when she didn't come home. But you know the cops. They think she's just another runaway. Turn up again when she gets hungry."
"Has she disappeared before?"
"Sort of. But this time I'm really worried."
"I've got a bad feeling."
A bad feeling. Petrov searched for signs of it on her face. Years ago, just starting out, he'd sketched and labeled ninety-three facial expressions. Anxiety, number sixty-one, was what he saw now. Dread, absent from her face, was sixty-eight. "Why?" he said.
The foregoing is excerpted from Oblivion by Peter Abrahams. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced without written permission from HarperCollins Publishers, 10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022
Blood at the Root
"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
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