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Catherine Morrissey punched the numbers into her cell phone for the fifth time since she'd opened her eyes on the worst day of her life. A tiny Care Bears nightlight glowed above the dresser but cast no light in the room she had shared with Blair when they were kids. She could almost hear them giggling together in the dark, picture Blair's blond pigtails lifting like wings beside her face each time she bounded up on the mattress, calling out, "Jump over the river, Cathy!" Feel herself leaping between the twin beds, grabbing onto Blair's flannel nightie, both of them tumbling, limbs tangled, laughing and laughing...
She closed her eyes again. Tears leaked out the corners and ran down the sides of her face onto the pillow.
Blair is dead.
Still the images came.
Blair running beside her, holding onto the handlebars and seat of Catherine's first two-wheeler, hollering and clapping when she let go and her little sister rode all the way to the end of the block without tipping.
She and Blair lying on their bellies in front of the fire playing Monopoly and drinking orange soda after their parents went to bed.
At twelve, helping Blair roll Daddy's car down the driveway so the fourteen-year-old could teach her to drive.
Spotting Alan's VW parked outside Blair's flat at two in the morning after hours of worry.
Creeping up the steps, hearing the unmistakable sounds of sex...
"Why, Blair?" she whispered through the lump in her throat.
But she would never get an answer. Blair had tried to explain, but she had cut her offcut her out of her life completely. For five years she had held onto the anger with a death grip, as though hating her ex-husband and her sister could somehow made her stronger and less vulnerable. As though pretending her sister didn't exist could fill the gaping hole left by her loss.
How wrong she had been.
Pick up, Joe. Please.
Joe's cell phone rang two more times before voice mail kicked in.
"You've reached the voice mail of Joseph Rossi at the Washington Herald. I'm unavailable to take your call. If this is an emergency, please call my work number at"
She clicked off and held the phone over her heart. Of all the people she knew, the one person whose voice she needed to hear right now belonged to a man she had never met.
When did you become so important to me, Joe?
The digital clock across the room said 4:43 a.m. Less than twenty-four hours had passed since the police in Washington, D.C., had called to confirm what they all had fearedthat Blair's dental records matched the skeletal remains found on Theodore Roosevelt Island.
Catherine's father had been in tears when he called in the middle of her biology class and asked her to come home. She'd called Joe on the way to her parents' house, and she was crying so hard he'd insisted she pull over so she didn't have an accident. That was Joesweet, sympathetic and caring. Just as he'd been over the long months since Blair had disappeared without a trace.
Wake up, Joe. Call me.