Karen Young Missing Max: A Novel

ISBN 13: 9781598597264

Missing Max: A Novel

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9781598597264: Missing Max: A Novel
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When baby Max is kidnapped during Mardi Gras, Jane and Kyle Madison’s life falls apart. What their daughter, Melanie, does next is unthinkable. Max vanished into thin air while in the care of his teenage sister, Melanie. Six months later, the family is a shadow of its former self: Melanie blames herself and is acting out and rebellious; Jane is obsessed with finding Max; and Kyle, a lawyer, struggles to cope with his own grief—and a persistent suspicion that one of his cases is connected to Max’s disappearance.
With her family in turmoil and her marriage on the rocks, Jane thinks things can’t get any worse. Then when an affair and an unexpected pregnancy threaten to tear the Madisons’ lives apart, an anonymous caller leads to a break in the case. Can a second kidnapping bring their family back together?

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About the Author:

Karen Young is the author of thirty-four novels with more than 10 million copies in print. Her many accolades include the RITA Award from Romance Writers of America and both the Career Achievement and Reviewers’ Choice awards from Romantic Times magazine. She is a frequent public speaker and a teacher of the craft of writing. Currently she resides in Houston, Texas.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

1

THEY SAY SOME PEOPLE have a premonition about calamity before it strikes. But Jane Madison felt only irritation when her cell phone rang as she waited in the Mardi Gras crowd to order shrimp po’boys. Checking caller ID, she decided to ignore the call when she saw it was Melanie. Her stepdaughter probably wanted to change her order, but after standing in line for more than twenty minutes, Jane was finally up, so changing was not an option.

The man ahead of her received his order of fried shrimp, calamari, and beer. Loaded down, he turned suddenly and almost crashed into her. Not for the first time that day, Jane wished she were elsewhere. Ordinarily, she avoided Mardi Gras Day in New Orleans, but Melanie was at the age to be enthralled by the uninhibited and often near-depraved behavior all too common at the event. So Jane had reluctantly agreed to take her, even though it meant having to also bring Max. The other possibility for Melanie’s calling was that Max was awake. If he were, Christine would know what to do. Having her best friend along made the day a bit more tolerable for Jane.

Teething had made Max cranky and restless lately, but so far he’d been surprisingly docile just watching the goings-on around him from his stroller.

Her cell phone rang again. Apparently Melanie wasn’t giving up. Now loaded with two large bags and three soft drinks, Jane looked around for a place to set everything down, but there was no open spot, just hordes of people, literally a crush of humanity. Grumbling, she turned back to the vendor’s cart and with a murmured apology transferred the load to his counter and fumbled to click her phone free of her purse. Sometimes Melanie could try the patience of a saint. “What is it, Melanie?”

“Mom, Max is gone!” the girl cried. “Come quick! He was here a minute ago, and now he’s disappeared!”

Jane shifted to allow an impatient customer access to the vendor’s condiments. “What do you mean, he’s gone?”

“Just that! Didn’t you hear me? He’s disappeared.” Melanie’s voice caught on a sob. “Hurry! We’ve looked everywhere, but there are so many people!”

“How could he be gone?” She was used to Melanie’s overreacting. Even the girl’s friends called her a drama queen. “Let me talk to Christine.”

“She’s not here,” Melanie insisted. “A lady fainted and Christine went into the hotel lobby to help and Julie and Anne-Marie were here and we were talking and Max was in his stroller under the balcony just where you left him and then he was gone!” She drew a shaky breath. “Mom, I’m so scared.”

“Christine didn’t take him with her?”

“No, no! Listen to me!” Melanie’s voice went up another notch. “I’m serious, Mom. He’s gone. Someone took him and his stroller and everything!”

Jane felt the first real stirrings of alarm. “Don’t leave,” she ordered. “Stay where you are, Mellie. And don’t hang up. I’m on my way.” Food forgotten, Jane hurriedly headed back the way she’d come. People took one look at her face and shifted out of her path.

“I can’t just stand here and wait, Mom!” Melanie said in a shaky voice in Jane’s ear. “We’re going to Jackson Square.”

“Jackson—Why?”

“Don’t you remember? We saw some policemen there when we were trying to find a place to—never mind, Mom, I’m going there. It’s only a block away. I have to hurry!”

Jane barely managed to avoid crashing into a man outfitted in Native American garb, complete with a full feather headdress. With a muttered apology, she skirted around him, keeping the phone pressed to her ear. “I’m a block away, Melanie. Don’t go any farther until I get there.”

“There’s a cop on a horse! I’m going over.”

“Okay, but don’t hang up,” Jane ordered.

Melanie gulped and burst into wild sobs. “Mom, I don’t know how it happened! We were all just watching the floats and—”

“Just calm down, Mellie. You can tell me when I get there.” Surely there was a logical explanation. Babies didn’t just vanish, although in a teeming crowd, it would surely be easier to kidnap— She stopped herself. She would not go there. She would not think the unthinkable. “Can you see Christine?”

“Not really. I told you, she went into the lobby. I mean, I saw the EMTs trying to get through. The lady who fainted is inside and so is Christine.”

Christine was the practice manager for a team of internists. Although she’d had no formal training as a nurse, she would certainly know what to do if someone fainted. “I can see the EMT unit now, Mellie. I’m going to stop and talk to Christine just to be sure she didn’t take the stroller.”

“We saw her run over to the lady, Mom! She didn’t take Max.”

“I’ll just double-check.”

The sidewalk was choked with people, but Jane finally reached the hotel where the ambulance was now loading the woman inside. Spotting Christine, she tried forcing her way through the crowd, but she was quickly blocked by an EMT.

“Ma’am, you’ll have to stay back and let us do our job.”

“I understand, but I have to talk to—”

“I’m sorry, but you can’t talk to anyone just now.”

Jane craned her neck to look around him and managed to catch Christine’s eye.

Christine’s gaze went wide with surprise. “Jane. What is it? What’s wrong?”

“Do you have Max?” Jane called over the EMT’s shoulder.

Christine looked confused. “Max? No. What—”

“He’s gone.” Frantically, Jane surveyed the sidewalk fronting the hotel where she’d left them. It was still choked with people cheering madly as the parade floats lumbered past. There was no sign of Max or his stroller.

“Where are you headed now?” Christine asked. “I need to get my things inside the hotel and I’ll come over.”

“Melanie is at Jackson Square. Hurry, Christine.”

“I will.”

Turning, Jane headed in a rush toward Jackson Square, a full block away. In the distance, the three tall spires of St. Louis Cathedral reached high into a sky that was so clear and blue, it almost hurt to look at it. She put a hand to her heart. Please, God, don’t let this be happening.

As she pushed through the reveling crowd, she told herself Melanie had to be overreacting. Still, she had a sick feeling in her stomach. The possibility that Max really had disappeared was simply too frightening to be real.

Finally, on reaching the square, she drew a desperate breath, searching for Melanie. How would she find her in this crowd? She pressed the phone to her ear. “Melanie, where are you? Talk to me.”

“I’m on the steps of the cathedral, Mom. Look, over here with the cops. You can see the horse. And I’m waving.”

With a rush of relief, she spotted Melanie standing with three uniformed policemen. Jane quickly headed toward them.

One cop held the reins of a horse, which stood patiently, unfazed by the chaotic goings-on. Melanie’s friends hovered near her, looking frightened, their eyes scanning the crowd. As Jane approached, she saw a female officer speaking to one of the cops—issuing orders? With a nod, he quickly mounted, cut through the crowd, and disappeared in the direction of the river. Jane did not want to think of that dire possibility.

Melanie was crying, gesturing with her hands as she talked while her eyes anxiously searched the area. Jane’s hope that this was all a mistake faded. Down the block on Bourbon Street, floats lumbered past, but in the parklike square, teeming with hundreds of people, how would they be able to find a baby, even in a stroller?

Like Melanie, her frantic gaze swept up and down the square. But there were so many people, so much confusion. Shops were closed, sidewalks jammed. Streets leading off the square were blocked off to accommodate the crowds. Balconies groaned with the weight of those lucky enough to have access. There was an occasional stroller, Jane noted, but none was a familiar blue with yellow-and-blue-plaid trim. With her heart beating frantically in her chest, she approached Melanie and the cops, two men and one female officer.

“I’m here,” she said, as Melanie launched herself into Jane’s arms. Looking over the girl’s head, she asked, “What can you tell me about my baby?”

The policewoman spoke. “Are you Mrs. Madison?”

“Yes, yes.”

“Mom, I’ve told them we shouldn’t waste time talking! We need to be looking for Max!”

Jane caught Melanie’s arms and angled back enough to see her face. “Mellie, be calm for a moment. Please. Let me talk to these people.”

“I’m Officer Cox, Mrs. Madison,” the woman said, extending her hand. Jane shook it, nodding mutely. “We’ve talked to Melanie, trying to get details of exactly what happened. She says she and her friends have thoroughly searched the immediate area where the stroller was parked. Meanwhile, NOPD officers have fanned out looking. But maybe there’s a logical explanation. She tells us that there was another adult—”

“Christine O’Brian,” Jane said, nodding. “I just spoke to her. She’s over there.” She waved her hand vaguely. “Some kind of medical emergency. She did not take Max with her.”

“And there was no one else with you today? No one who might have felt it okay to tak...

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9781416587491: Missing Max: A Novel

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ISBN 10:  1416587497 ISBN 13:  9781416587491
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Howard..., 2010
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