At Mistle’s suggestion, he, Ivey and Meredith headed with the toolbox toward the aquarium.
“What’s our plan?” Meredith asked in a low voice.
“Let’s just get down there and check it out,” Ivey said with impatience.
Arriving at the front entrance, they found general chaos associated with a group of children having a birthday party.
Surveying the scene, Ivey noticed a door marked “Aquarium Staff Only.” Nearby, kids messed around with fins and snorkels.
“Follow me,” Ivey told the other two.
Ivey pushed the door open, triggering a screeching alarm that pierced their ears. Momentarily panicked, Mistle issued a command.
“Move,” he said, ushering the trio down a narrow hallway. By the time he looked up, they were practically face to face with two staff members, arms folded across their chests, blocking their path.
“Can we help you?” the smaller of the two said. Mistle noticed his smirk.
* * *
Holly and Kayla spent what seemed like an hour cruising every aisle of every level of both massive parking ramps. After pointing out nearly every black car she saw, Kayla zeroed in on the black sedan she and her mother were hunting for.
"That's it!" Kayla said with a scream of delight. It took another 10 minutes to find an open stall for their own Volkswagen Bug.
Holly and Kayla entered the mall and, for a moment, Holly was taken aback by the sights, sounds and smells.
Have I lost my mind? she thought. Here I am with my daughter, trying to find a needle in a haystack, and I don’t even have my cell phone.
Deciding she wasn't about to win any mother-of-the-year awards with this behavior, she thought about aborting the mission and dealing with her husband later.
Tim already made his choice, she thought. This crisis probably wasn't even real, and he's so willing ditch his own wife and daughter over it.
Holly stopped, put her hands on Kayla's shoulders and turned to look in her eyes.
“Honey, when daddy left this morning, did you overhear anything else about what they were talking about?”
"You mean when they said they were coming to the mall?" Kayla asked.
"Yes, honey, but anything else?"
Kayla glanced around, as if the answer would materialize before her on the floor of the mall.
“Kayla, don’t worry about it, we’ll just—” Holly started to say. Then Kayla let out a squeal.
“Fishes!” Kayla said pointing at a sign advertising the aquarium. “They said something about fishes.”
“C’mon,” Holly said to Kayla, taking her daughter's hand and breaking into a jog. “Nice job.”
As they made their way through the people and closer to the aquarium, Holly heard the jarring sound of an alarm. Holly picked up the pace, wondering what she was getting herself and her daughter into.
At the entrance, they found a crowd of confused people and the unfazed rowdy birthday party crew. Holly quickly pushed Kayla through and blended in with the birthday party. Holly marched with intent, past the exhibits of sea turtles and tropical fish, alert for any sign of her husband, Ivey or Meredith.
Holly became distracted by several people speaking German. When she turned her head to look, she noticed one of the German delivery men in a baby-blue jumpsuit.
She momentarily froze in recognition. That's the guy I almost hit.
Jorgen turned to meet Holly's gaze, returning it with a glare that sent a cold shiver up Holly's spine.
Who are these people? Holly thought, frantically. And where’s Kayla?
As Jorgen moved toward her, Holly spotted Kayla—behind him, speaking to a woman in a blue jumpsuit.