Special Forces Father
Author:Mallory Kane

chapter Three

“Can’t you shut that kid up?” Bentley Woods groaned as he turned over on the narrow, lumpy sofa. “It’s hard enough to sleep on this damn fleabag couch without having to listen to him whining.” For a few seconds he didn’t hear anything except the kid’s caterwauling.

Then the bedroom door opened and Shirley stuck her straw-blond head out. “Shh!” she hissed. “If you don’t stop yelling, I’ll never get him to sleep.”

“What’s the matter with him, anyhow? I thought kids slept a lot.” Bent sat up and groped for a cigarette. He lit it with a disposable lighter and took a deep pull.

“That shows how much you know about kids,” Shirley said, slipping through the door and closing it quietly. Behind it, the kid sniffled. “Maybe he misses his mama.”

Bent snorted. “He’ll miss her a lot more if she doesn’t cooperate.”

“Oh, give me a break. You’re not going to hurt that kid or his mama.” Shirley leaned over the back of the couch and kissed his forehead.

“I will if I have to.”

“You get squeamish if you have to use your gun. Call me, you big wuss. I’ll shoot her.”

“You are good,” he said, smirking at her.

“You bet your life. Now gimme a hit on that cigarette.”

“Get your own,” he retorted.

“I can’t smoke in there. That’s not healthy for him.”

“You’re coddling that squirt. Since when are you all interested in babies?”

Shirley grabbed his cigarette and drew deeply on it, then handed it back. “Since you informed me I had to babysit one. And he’s four years old—hardly a baby.” Smoke drifted out of her mouth as she spoke.

“Four years, four months. What’s the difference?”

She laughed. “About a dozen dirty diapers a day,” she said.

“Whatever. Why don’t you give him some more cough medicine, so I can get some sleep?”

Shirley tossed her head. Her curly blond hair didn’t move. “Can’t. He’s already had a full dose. It’s easy to give a little kid like that too much. He’ll go to sleep soon.”

“Hey,” Bent said, cocking his head as he blew smoke out through his nose. “I don’t hear him. Looks like he’s happier when you’re not in the room. Why don’t you bring him out here, or make him a pallet on the floor in that back room. Then you and me can take the bedroom. I can’t sleep on this broken-down thing every night by myself. I’ll never get any sleep.”

Shirley took his cigarette and inhaled another puff, then blew it out. “Too bad. It was your brilliant idea to bring me down here to take care of this kid for you, so just shut up and let me do it. How long before we can give him back to his mama and head back to Chicago?”

“I told you, the trial’s supposed to start in ten days. Once those country bumpkins have their ruling of insanity, they’ll tell me where to leave him and pick up my money. All we got to do is make sure nothing happens to him.”

“I can take care of him,” Shirley said, her hand on her hip as she stood near the bedroom door. “I took care of three little brothers. Your problem’s going to be keeping me happy. Especially if I have to stay cooped up here all day, every day.” She pointed a finger at Bent. “Next time you go out, I want a steak. A big one. And get me a bottle of good burgundy. If I gotta do this, I’m at least gonna eat good.”

Bent put out his cigarette and turned over and pressed his nose into the couch cushions. “You eat good every day,” he grumbled. “You better watch out. One day you’re going to wake up fat.”

“Yeah. Hold your breath. No wait, don’t. You might have a heart attack, Mister ‘Bring Me a Big Mac.’” She put her hand on the doorknob. “If the kid’s bothering you, go sleep in that back room yourself. Or better yet, the car.” She eased the door open and slipped back into the bedroom, closing it behind her.

“Better yet, the car,” Bent mocked quietly. He could hear her cooing and whispering to the little boy he’d been hired to kidnap. No matter how much he complained, he had to admit that Shirley was good with the little rug rat.

Damn, he’d be glad when this backwoods job was over. He’d taken it on as a favor—well, that and for the dough. Much as he complained, he was getting good money. He ought to be, considering this hellhole. He was used to holing up in out-of-the-way places. But he didn’t think he’d ever been as out of the way as he was in this disgusting little trailer park, surrounded by people whose talk he couldn’t understand and who did things that were just plain weird. What was the deal with fishing with nothing but a pole and cockroaches? Ugh! Or digging up the nasty creatures they called crawfish.

He grunted and wriggled, looking for a comfortable position on the dilapidated couch. There wasn’t one. He hated the South. He hated Louisiana. He hated this damn ugly trailer park. The whole county smelled of fish, mud and sweat. Still, he figured he could stand anything for another ten days. Especially at this price tag. He laughed harshly as he lit another cigarette. Good thing they weren’t spending too much money on accommodations.

All he had to do was keep an eye on the mom. It was Shirley’s job to watch the kid. Bent would be spending all day and evening watching the doctor, making sure she didn’t try to go to the police, and all night trying to sleep. As soon as the doctor testified that some blustery old politician was crazy, they could give the kid back and get the hell out of this sweat-hole.

The man who had hired him had a vested interest in keeping the old guy out of prison. Bent didn’t know what that reason was and he didn’t care. He just wanted his money in his pocket and his tires back on the road to Chicago—for good.

He squinted at his watch. Almost one o’clock in the morning. He wiggled around again, cursing under his breath. He hadn’t had a good night’s sleep since he had gotten here three days ago. Holding his breath, he listened. Damn if the kid hadn’t quieted down. Maybe he could get some shut-eye now. He sighed and closed his eyes.

Then, through the closed door, Bent heard the kid yell, “I want my mom-eeee...!”

Groaning, he grabbed a throw pillow and jammed it over his head.

* * *

THE FIRST THING Kate thought when she woke up was that the horror of the day before had just been a bad dream. Then she opened her eyes and realized that she was not in her bed. She was on the couch in the living room and there was someone beside her.

For a few seconds, she tried to ignore her senses. Tried to stay in that netherworld between asleep and awake, where everything was just as it should be. Where Max was snuggled up beside her, safe and secure.

Max. She fell out of the dream world with a jolt. The nauseating fear that roiled up from her stomach like bile was no dream. It was all too real.

It wasn’t Max next to her. Her sweet baby was in the hands of strangers, scared and alone, crying for her. Probably thinking she’d gone off and left him. Her eyes, still swollen and sore, stung anew with tears. She pressed her hand against her chest, where her heart felt ripped to shreds. How was she going to bear the pain until this was all over? She had no one she could go to, no one to look to for help. She knew what would happen if she told anyone.

The person beside her breathed deeply, drawing her attention. She remembered. It was Travis. What miracle had brought him to her door the night before?

She didn’t know why he was here, but she did know he could help her. He was strong and smart. And he was a Green Beret. There was nothing he couldn’t do.

She didn’t want to wake him, so she shifted carefully, until she could look at his face. She hadn’t paid much attention to how he’d looked last night. She’d had a hard enough time coping with the shock of seeing him on top of the shock of finding out her child had been abducted.

Now she studied him. The best thing she could say was that he looked awful. She couldn’t see his dark eyes, since he was asleep. But his ridiculously long eyelashes, which his son had inherited from him, rested on the purple circles below his eyes. His cheeks were hollow, where Max’s were adorably plump, but there was no doubt that they were father and son.

She scanned his long, lean body. He was so thin. Of course, he’d never been bulky. At six feet one inch, he had the body of a basketball player or a swimmer. Lean but rock hard.

He must have lost twenty pounds. Had he been sick? She had no idea where he’d been or what he’d been doing for the past five years. He could have been sitting pretty behind a desk or stuck in a dark prison for all she knew.

Then she noticed a red line above his right eyebrow. Was that a scar? Now that she was looking for them, she spotted other small marks on his face—at the corner of his lip, on the curve of his jaw, at his hairline.

He opened his eyes. Kate gasped in surprise. She’d leaned forward as she studied his face, and now their lips were less than three inches apart. He lifted a hand and touched her hair.

Something happened inside her chest. A fluttering. She recognized it. She’d felt that same sensation every time he’d touched her back in college, and nothing had changed since she had seen him five years ago during his furlough.

The years fell away and her brain was suddenly sending her screen shots of all their good times together. Then Travis pushed his fingers through her hair and pushed all thoughts out of her head. He tugged gently, pulling her head down until he could reach her lips. “Morning, Kate,” he murmured, then kissed her lightly.

She swallowed. “Morning,” she said, looking into his dark eyes. His gaze held hers for a moment, then slid downward to look at her lips. He leaned forward again and touched her mouth with his. She closed her eyes. It felt so familiar, his hands in her hair, his mouth on hers.

But what was she doing? Her Max was gone. She pulled away, shaking her head, her eyes filling with tears.

Travis let go of her and sat back. “How’d you sleep?” he asked, his gaze roaming over her features.

She bit her lip and blinked against the tears.

“I was dreaming about Max. When I woke up, I thought he was here, snuggled up against me. I thought that yesterday was the bad dream.”

He nodded solemnly.

She got up. “Do you want some coffee?” she asked.

“Yeah,” he said as he pushed himself to his feet. “Please.”

Kate watched him walk across the living room and into the hall, headed for the bathroom. He moved stiffly, like a patient weak from surgery. But still, his long bones and sleek muscles gave him the unconscious grace and dignity that was so familiar to her.

She felt stiff herself. Her back ached. Obviously, sleeping half sitting, half lying down on a couch was not good for a body. By the time Travis came back into the living room, Kate had the coffee going. He sat at the kitchen counter.

“Tell me about this court case,” he said as she held out a steaming mug. To her surprise, his hands trembled as he took it. She glanced up at his face, but his eyes were on the coffee. He lifted it to his mouth and took a cautious sip. “Mmm. It’s funny, the things you miss the most. That’s good. Chicory?”

“Of course,” she answered, smiling. “And boiled milk, plus plenty of sugar for you.” She picked up her coffee mug and came around the counter to sit on a stool beside him.

“So who is it you’re supposed to evaluate?”

“Myron Stamps. You should recognize the name. He’s been in the legislature since forever.”

“Stamps?” He shrugged. “I never paid much attention to politics. Seems like I’ve heard of him.”

“What about Freeman Canto?”

“Oh sure. He and my granddad were big political rivals and friends back in the day.”

“Right. Well, Canto was murdered a little over a year ago. His granddaughter was at home and heard the attack. She claims that the men who broke in kept repeating three names—Ernest Yeoman, Senator Stamps and Paul Guillame.”

“Paul?” Travis laughed. “They yelled Paul’s name? For what? Because I’ll personally testify that Paul couldn’t beat up a teddy bear.”

“Your brother Harte caught the case. Oh—” She gasped, suddenly remembering Harte’s injury. “Travis,” she said, laying a hand on his forearm. “Harte was shot. In the chest!” At Travis’s look of horror, she quickly amended, “I’m sorry. Of course he’s fine. Almost as good as new.”


She nodded. “He was shot by Yeoman’s men, after he and Dani had been running and hiding from them all night during the storm.”

Travis shook his head tiredly. “What? I’m totally lost. What’s been going on and what does it all have to do with you—and your son?”

“I’m not sure I understand it all yet myself, but here’s all I know. Your brother was holding Danielle Canto in protective custody until time came to testify in the trial of a local businessman named Ernest Yeoman. She had heard the men who killed her grandfather say Yeoman’s name, as well as Stamps and Paul Guillame.”

“Why were the men talking about Stamps and Paul?” Travis asked, still looking bewildered.

“The theory is that Stamps and a couple other local politicians were accepting bribes to keep the tariffs on imports low, to help smugglers. Apparently Yeoman has been suspected of smuggling in illegal imports for years.”

“That doesn’t explain Paul.”

Kate shrugged. “I can’t explain that. But the Friday before Yeoman’s trial was to start, there was a huge storm—wind, lightning, flooding. Someone threw a Molotov cocktail and a smoke bomb through the window of the bed-and-breakfast where Danielle was staying, so they had to run. They ended up—”

“Wait. Who had to run?”

“Harte and Danielle. After hiding and running all night, they ended up at Paul Guillame’s house. Apparently Harte was shot before they got to Paul’s house. Once they were in the house, a shoot-out ensued and Stamps shot Paul. Yeoman was convicted of conspiracy to commit murder in Freeman Canto’s death. I suppose Danielle’s testimony about hearing Stamps’s name wasn’t enough to link him to the murder. But he’s coming to trial for shooting Paul Guillame.” She spread her hands. “Personally, I’m not completely clear on why the D.A. is pushing this so hard. I mean, Guillame even says it was an accident. But the D.A. is determined to prosecute Stamps. He wants me to tear down the defense’s claim of temporary insanity. Now whoever is pushing for him to get off on a temporary-insanity plea has stolen my baby.” Her breath hitched. She didn’t know how much longer she could live without knowing whether Max was okay.

Travis shook his head as if shaking it would help all the information settle into his brain. “You’re sure Harte’s all right?”

She nodded. “He brought some papers over to my office yesterday morning. He said he was sore and tired but was feeling good otherwise.” Then she smiled. “By the way, I’m pretty sure he and Danielle Canto are quite the item, after spending that entire night together hiding from the bad guys.”

“Looks like I’ve missed a lot these past five years.”

Kate’s breath stuck in her throat. He had no idea how true his words were.

Travis finished his coffee and set the mug down. She noticed that he clasped his hands in front of him, probably to hide their trembling. She was a good doctor, but she didn’t need a medical degree to see that something terrible had happened to him. The signs were obvious—weight loss, trembling, the weakness and the sunken eyes. He was suffering from PTSD, maybe brought on by the rigors of some dangerous mission or supersecret operation.

Back in college, when he’d walked out on her to join the army, she’d figured it was an empty threat. She had thought he’d come back, apologizing for blowing up at her, as he had so many times. But he hadn’t. He’d not only joined the army, he’d qualified for the Special Forces division.

And now, looking at him, she knew he’d been captured or injured, and not long ago. He had not even recovered. She also knew he’d walked out again—this time from the hospital, against medical advice. She realized she was staring at him when he raised his gaze to meet hers. She blinked and looked down at her mug.

“So what are you going to do this morning?” he asked.

Suddenly the beautiful caramel color of the café au lait was about as appealing as mud. She pressed her knuckles against her mouth, hoping to quell the sobs building in her throat. Max was gone. Nothing else mattered. “I don’t know,” she said in a small voice.

Travis sent her an assessing look. “You need to go in to work,” he said.

She immediately shook her head. “No. I couldn’t concentrate. I couldn’t talk to anyone without breaking down—” Her throat closed on the last word. She swallowed and blinked against the sudden haze in her eyes. She gestured toward her face. “See? Everybody would know that there is something very wrong with me.”

“You’ve got a full schedule?” he asked.

She shook her head. “No. I cleared my schedule so I could prep for the trial. It starts in ten days and I haven’t even finished reading the witness statements, much less interviewing the senator and whoever else I feel I need to talk to.”

“Then that’s what you should do. You go in and work on the trial. Isn’t that what the kidnappers want you to do? You can’t get your son back until the trial is done and it goes the way they want it to go. It would be good for you, make you feel like you’re actually doing something to get him back. If you sit around here, you’re just going to make yourself crazy.”

Kate thought about it. What Travis said made a lot of sense. It was exactly something she’d have told a patient if the situations were reversed. But they weren’t. She couldn’t think like a shrink right now. She was thinking like a mother whose child was in deadly danger. “But—what if something happens? What if they call me?”

“You’ve got your cell phone—” He stopped, a thoughtful look on his face. “Your office number is published, right?” he asked.

She nodded. “Of course.”

“What about your home number?”

“No. I don’t like to publicize it or my cell.”

“But the kidnapper called your cell, right?”

Kate thought about dropping the phone and having to scramble around to find the battery and the back. “How did they get my number?”

“Good question. Although I guess a lot of people have it.”

Kate pressed her lips together. “Yes. Too many. I’ve probably been too lax with giving it out. It’s just so much easier than trying to juggle the office and the home phones.”

“So, are you going to go into work?”

“I don’t—” She pushed her fingers through her hair. “I can’t decide. All I can think about is Max.”

Travis watched Kate. She’d always been the most levelheaded, together person he’d ever known. He’d loved that about her. His childhood had bordered on chaos, until his dad had suffered his first stroke. If his dad and mom weren’t yelling at each other, one of them was yelling at the kids. And occasionally his older brother Lucas and Dad would get into it. Those fights were legendary—and terrifying to Harte and Cara Lynn, the two youngest. Travis had long ago appointed himself as their guardian, but he knew he hadn’t been a good one. He’d always had too much of his dad inside him.

During the time they’d dated in college, Kate had taught him that life wasn’t about bouncing from one argument to the next. She’d always represented quiet and security to him, until that night he’d finally pushed her too far.

Could he reverse the roles? Could he be her security for once? He had no idea. But at least he could try.

He put a hand on her shoulder. “Think about Max. That’s good. Think about him and what you can do that will get him back to you the soonest.”

“Work on the case,” she muttered, and he could tell by her expression that she was considering the idea. “I should be working on proof that Stamps was temporarily insane when he shot Paul Guillame.”

Travis smiled wryly. “That’ll be a whole lot easier than you might think. Anyone who knows Paul knows that within about a half hour, he can make you feel one—” he held up a finger “—like you want to shoot him and two, like you’re going insane.”

“That could make it easy,” she replied, a small smile lightening her face.

He squeezed her upper arm, his fingers savoring the delicate bones and the warm, firm skin. It was all he could do not to lean over and kiss that tiny, pretty bump right above the curve of her shoulder.

* * *

“BUT WHAT ABOUT my secretary?” Kate asked, her brow creasing with worry. “She’ll know something’s wrong.”

Travis took her hand. “Think about it, Kate. You trust her, right? With all the confidential information about your patients?”

She nodded. “Of course. She’s the most discreet person I know.”

“Maybe you should talk to her. She might be the perfect person to confide in. She’d never betray your secret, right?”

“That’s right. Never.”

“There you go. Why don’t you get dressed and I’ll clean up these dishes.”

“It’s still early. What about you?” she asked, trying to sound casual. “What are you doing today? Are you going to see your parents?” she asked.

“No. I don’t want to see them right now. I came to see you.”

Kate’s heart thudded. She knew that. What she didn’t know was why. So she asked him. “Why right now?”

He shrugged, his lean broad shoulders looking bony beneath the pullover shirt he wore. “I had some leave and I wanted—” He paused and took a breath. “For the past few months I’ve been thinking about you.” He waved a hand impatiently. “It doesn’t matter. We’ve got bigger things to worry about, like why it’s so important to these people to get a temporary-insanity defense on this Stamps guy.”

She wanted to make him talk about himself, about what had happened that had taken such a toll on him, physically and emotionally. But her fear for Max overrode her curiosity about Travis. If telling him everything she knew could get Max back, then she was happy to let him change the subject.

“Why didn’t they just claim it was an accident?” he continued. “You said Paul was shot in some kind of a shoot-out? There must have been bullets flying everywhere.”

“True, but from what Harte told me, Stamps threatened Paul right before all the shooting began, and despite what Paul claimed about being hit by a stray bullet, Stamps’s gun was missing only one round.” She turned to look at the clock on the stove. “It’s seven-thirty. Do you think I should wait here until they call?”

“Until who call?” But as soon as the question left his lips, she could see that he knew the answer.

“The people who have my son,” she said, letting impatience tinge her voice.

Kate felt panic rising in her chest. “Why don’t they call? I have no way of reaching them. I’ve got nothing but that awful voice on the phone, telling me if I talk, he’ll be gone forever. Oh, Travis, I am so scared,” she said.

Travis stood and came around the counter. He pulled her into his arms. She laid her head against his shoulder for a brief moment. It was strange. She’d never liked being held when she was upset. It made her feel claustrophobic. But right now she thought that she could stay here forever, sheltered by Travis’s strong arms. But of course she couldn’t. Her child was missing, and being held in Travis’s arms would not bring her one step closer to getting him back. She pulled away.

He shook his head as she stepped away from him.


“You would never let me hold you when you were upset,” he said, echoing her thoughts.

She almost smiled. “Maybe because I was always upset with you.”

“Not always. Not now. You just don’t like feeling out of control, and letting someone give you comfort or support was always an alien concept to you.” He turned and walked over to the couch and sat down, then stood again and dug into the couch cushions. He came up with a red toy car made out of wood.

“So this is what was digging into my back all night,” he said, looking down at it. He spun the wheels with a finger and watched until they slowed to a stop. There was an expression on his face that Kate had never seen before. The chiseled planes of his jaw and cheeks and chin were soft, as were his dark eyes. “I’m surprised I didn’t dream I was back—” He stopped.

Kate stepped over and took the toy from him as casually as she could. She didn’t want to act too interested in what he’d almost said. “Back where?” she asked.

He didn’t answer.

She turned the car over and over in her hands. “This is Max’s favorite toy. He likes to drive it up my arm and across my shoulders and down the other arm and down my leg and onto the floor—” Her throat closed.

“I had a car almost exactly like that when I was little,” Travis said.

She didn’t quite catch what he’d said. “What?”

“Come here and sit down,” he said, sitting on the couch and patting the space beside him.

“I can’t.” She held the toy car to her chest and paced. “He’s out there alone. He doesn’t have any pull-up pants or juice or allergy medicine. What if they’re not taking care of him? What if they haven’t given him any food or taken him to the bathroom? Oh, dear God, I can’t—”

“Come on, Kate. You’ve got to calm down. You’re already exhausted and it’s only been one day. Didn’t you say the trial is what—ten days away? You have got to take care of yourself. It’s not doing you or Max any good for you to worry yourself sick. Sit down here and tell me how it happened. Where was he? Where were you?”

She ignored his hand patting the couch cushion. “He was at day care. It was around four o’clock and I was getting ready to leave to pick him up. Right after I got the call telling me they’d taken him, the day care called. Their fire alarm had gone off and they’d smelled smoke. So they took all the children outside. But when they started back to the classrooms, nobody could find Max.” She spread her hands. “How could they let those people take him?” She turned and flung the wooden car against the wall.

“Hey, hey.” Travis stood and pulled her to the couch. He urged her to sit, then sat beside her. “So the people who took him set off a fire alarm and grabbed him while the day-care workers were trying to keep up with a bunch of kids outside? What did the lady say when she called you?”

“She asked me if I’d picked Max up early.”

“And what was your answer?”

Kate shrugged. “What could I say? I tried to act normal. I said I had picked him up. Travis, they told me they’d kill him.” Why did Travis keep asking her what she’d done? She’d done just exactly what they’d told her to do. She didn’t dare do anything else. “The girl didn’t even ask any questions. She was so relieved that he was all right.” She laughed harshly.

“She believed you?”

“She’d have believed me if I’d told her he was picked up by aliens who were taking him to Disney World. That’s how desperate she was.”

Travis patted her hand. For some reason the inane gesture was comforting. She relaxed a little.

“Tell me about Max. How old is he? Don’t you have some pictures?”

Kate stiffened, any semblance of relaxation swept away by his words. “He’s four. And, sure, I suppose there are pictures around here somewhere.”

He looked at her oddly. “You suppose?”

She shrugged, trying to think of something to say to take that odd, suspicious look off his face. Even Travis knew that a mother would have photos of her children everywhere. A part of her wanted to distract him, to stop this train of thought, but she had no idea how. So she sat there, her feet riveted to the floor. Would it make a difference if he knew? Would he be more—or less—inclined to help her?

She had no idea what the man—or boy—she’d known back in college, the enraged, scary boy who’d stormed out of her apartment and her life at the mere mention of marriage, would do. He’d been furious when she’d brought it up. He hadn’t given her even a moment to explain. She knew how badly she’d handled that conversation.

She should have started by telling him she thought she was pregnant, instead of leading with the idea of getting married. She’d known how he felt about marriage. He’d talked enough about how miserable his parents were. But she’d been so nervous and she’d blurted the first thing she could think of to say, and he’d yelled and stormed out.

It wasn’t until a week later that she’d discovered she wasn’t pregnant after all. If she’d only waited. If only she hadn’t mentioned marriage.

She waited now, wondering how he’d handle what he was destined to find out and berating herself for being a coward for not just telling him outright.

Travis stood and glanced around the living room. Kate cringed internally. The newest portrait she’d just had made was at the framers, but there was a scrapbook in the bookcase filled with photos of Max, and her bedroom was filled with framed snapshots of him.

Travis stood still, his gaze sweeping the area, then he stepped over to the shelf beside the television. Kate squeezed her eyes shut. Travis picked up the packet, shot her a glance, then lifted the flap and pulled out one.

For a long moment, he stood staring at it. Kate saw in her mind’s eye what he was seeing. She’d worn a red dress and she’d dressed Max in a red plaid shirt with a little red bow tie. The portrait was beautiful. But the most interesting thing about it was how much Max looked like his dad. He had the same dark eyes, the same slightly wavy hair, the same long dark lashes.

Travis raised his head and pinned her with his gaze. He held up the photo. It trembled in his hand. His face was drained of color except for two pink spots that stood out in his cheeks. His eyes were penetrating. If they’d been laser beams, she’d be cut in half.

“Kate?” he said, walking over and standing over her where she sat on the couch. He held up one of the photos. “When were you going to tell me that Max is my son?”