“That’s Kira,” Karen said, studiously keeping her eyes on the Beltway traffic.
“Should I?” Sharon asked.
“May as well,” Karen said, obviously trying not to freak out.
Sharon dove for the phone sitting in a small well beneath the dashboard of Karen’s car.
“It’s an email,” Sharon said. “Do you want me to read it?”
Karen gritted her teeth. “I should probably pull over, but I can’t wait. Go ahead.”
“Hoo-kay.” Sharon swallowed. “It says, ‘Dear Mom; We’re safe and with a friend who’s over 18 and has Dad’s written permission to have us. Don’t want to say more, just in case. Love, Kira.’”
“Safe?” Karen gasped. “What the hell is that supposed to mean?”
Sharon frowned and pulled out her own phone. “I’m not sure, but I’m willing to bet I know someone who does.”
“Jodi?” Karen asked.
“Yep.” Sharon dialed and put the phone on speaker.
“Uh, hi, Aunt Sharon,” came Jodi’s voice after a couple rings. It was filled with hesitation.
“Am I right in guessing that you know why I’m calling?” Sharon asked severely.
“I don’t know, specifically,” Jodi said.
“I see,” said Sharon. “You wouldn’t happen to know where Kira and Allie are, would you?”
“Um. I can’t say?”
“Really. And why not?”
“Um, because we need to give their mom plausible deniability. Makes it harder for their dad to say she kidnapped them?”
“I see.” Sharon waited.
“Uh, can I go now?” Jodi asked.
Sharon glanced over at Karen, who nodded. “Sure. But please keep me up to date on what you can’t say. Dr. Tanaka is worried.”
“I know. Thanks, Aunt Sharon.”
Sharon clicked off the call, then looked at Karen.
“Plausible deniability,” Karen grumbled. “I wonder whose bright idea was that?”
Sharon sighed. “If I had to hazard a guess, I’d say either Rebecca or Matt. But really, it could have been any of them.”
“So’s who’s the over-18 friend?”
“I have no idea.” Sharon glared at her phone. “I could try to find out.”
“No.” Karen shook her head, then flipped off a driver that had cut her off. “Sorry about that. Look. The girls are right. It’s better that I don’t know. I just have to trust them.”