Daddy's Little Girlby Mary Higgins Clark
Upon hearing that the man who murdered her sister is being granted an early release from prison, a young journalist returns to her hometown to uncover the truth. But the search for answers leads to even more questions, as she unwittingly stumbles on a treacherous political scandal involving adultery and blackmail including concrete evidence that her sister's killer… See more details below
Upon hearing that the man who murdered her sister is being granted an early release from prison, a young journalist returns to her hometown to uncover the truth. But the search for answers leads to even more questions, as she unwittingly stumbles on a treacherous political scandal involving adultery and blackmail including concrete evidence that her sister's killer has murdered more than once. And now that he's on parole, her life is in considerable danger... Once again, Mary Higgins Clark, the master of the personal crime narrative, conjures up heart-stopping suspense.
Boston Globe Clark doesn't let the reader off the hook until the very last word.
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When Ellie awoke that morning, it was with the sense that something terrible had happened.
Instinctively she reached for Bones, the soft and cuddly stuffed dog who had shared her pillow ever since she could remember. When she'd had her seventh birthday last month, Andrea, her fifteen-year-old sister, had teased her that it was time to toss Bones in the attic.
Then Ellie remembered what was wrong: Andrea hadn't come home last night. After dinner, she had gone to her best friend Joan's house to study for a math test. She had promised to be home by nine o'clock. At quarter of nine, Mommy went to Joan's house to walk Andrea home, but they said Andrea had left at eight o'clock.
Mommy had come back home worried and almost crying, just as Daddy got in from work. Daddy was a lieutenant in the New York State Police. Right away he and Mommy had started calling all of Andrea's friends, but no one had seen her. Then Daddy said he was going to drive around to the bowling alley and to the ice cream parlor, just in case Andrea had gone there.
"If she lied about doing homework until nine o'clock, she won't set foot out of this house for six months," he'd said angrily, and then he'd turned to Mommy: "If I said it once, I've said it a thousand times -- I don't want her to go out after dark alone."
Despite his raised voice, Ellie could tell that Daddy was more worried than angry.
"For heaven's sake, Ted, she went out at seven o'clock. She got to Joan's. She was planning to be home by nine, and I even walked over there to meet her."
"Then where is she?"
They made Ellie go to bed, and, eventually, she fell asleep waking only now. Maybe Andrea was home by now, she thought hopefully. She slipped out of bed, rushed across the room, and darted down the hall to Andrea's room. Be there, she begged. Please be there. She opened the door. Andrea's bed had not been slept in.
Her bare feet silent on the steps, Ellie hurried downstairs. Their neighbor, Mrs. Hilmer, was sitting with Mommy in the kitchen. Mommy was wearing the same clothes she had on last night, and she looked as if she'd been crying for a long time.
Ellie ran to her. "Mommy."
Mommy hugged her and began to sob. Ellie felt Mommy's hand clutching her shoulder, so hard that she was almost hurting her.
"Mommy, where's Andrea?"
"We...don't...know. Daddy and the police are looking for her."
"Ellie, why don't you get dressed, and I'll fix you some breakfast?" Mrs. Hilmer asked.
No one was saying that she should hurry up because the school bus would be coming pretty soon. Without asking, Ellie knew she wouldn't be going to school today.
She dutifully washed her face and hands and brushed her teeth and hair, and then put on play clothes -- a turtleneck shirt and her favorite blue slacks -- and went downstairs again.
Just as she sat at the table where Mrs. Hilmer had put out juice and cornflakes, Daddy came through the kitchen door. "No sign of her," he said. "We've looked everywhere. There was a guy collecting for some phony charity ringing doorbells in town yesterday. He was in the diner last night and left around eight o'clock. He would have passed Joan's house on the way to the highway around the time Andrea left. They're looking for him."
Ellie could tell that Daddy was almost crying. He also hadn't seemed to notice her, but she didn't mind. Sometimes when Daddy came home he was upset because something sad had happened while he was at work, and for a while he'd be very quiet. He had that same look on his face now.
Andrea was hiding -- Ellie was sure of it. She had probably left Joan's house early on purpose because she was meeting Rob Westerfield in the hideout, then maybe it got late and she was afraid to come home. Daddy had said that if she ever lied again about where she'd been, he'd make her quit the school band. He'd said that when he found out she had gone for a ride with Rob Westerfield in his car when she was supposed to be at the library.
Andrea loved being in the band; last year she'd been the only freshman chosen for the flute section. But if she'd left Joan's house early and gone to the hideout to meet Rob, and Daddy found out, that would mean she'd have to give it up. Mommy always said that Andrea could twist Daddy around her little finger, but she didn't say that last month when one of the state troopers told Daddy he'd stopped Rob Westerfield to give him a ticket for speeding and that Andrea was with him at the time.
Daddy hadn't said anything about it until after dinner. Then he asked Andrea how long she'd been at the library.
She didn't answer him.
Then he said, "I see you're smart enough to realize that the trooper who gave Westerfield the ticket would tell me you were with him. Andrea, that guy is not only rich and spoiled, he's a bad apple through and through. When he kills himself speeding, you're not going to be in the car. You are absolutely forbidden to have anything to do with him."
The hideout was in the garage behind the great big house that old Mrs. Westerfield, Rob's grandmother, lived in all summer. It was always unlocked, and sometimes Andrea and her friends sneaked in there and smoked cigarettes. Andrea had taken Ellie there a couple of times when she was babysitting her.
Her friends had been really mad at Andrea for bringing her along, but she had said, "Ellie is a good kid. She's not a snitch." Hearing that had made Ellie feel great, but Andrea hadn't let Ellie have even one puff of the cigarette.
Ellie was sure that last night Andrea had left Joan's house
early because she was planning to meet Rob Westerfield. Ellie had heard her when she talked to him on the phone yesterday, and when she was finished, she was practically crying. "I told Rob I was going to the mixer with Paulie," she said, "and now he's really mad at me."
Ellie thought about the conversation as she finished the cornflakes and juice. Daddy was standing at the stove. He was holding a cup of coffee. Mommy was crying again but making almost no sound.
Then, for the first time, Daddy seemed to notice her: "Ellie, I think you'd be better off in school. At lunchtime I'll take you over."
"Is it all right if I go outside now?"
"Yes. But stay around the house."
Ellie ran for her jacket and was quickly out the door. It was the fifteenth of November, and the leaves were damp and felt sloshy underfoot. The sky was heavy with clouds, and she could tell it was going to rain again. Ellie wished they were back in Irvington where they used to live. It was lonesome here. Mrs. Hilmer's house was the only other one on this road.
Daddy had liked living in Irvington, but they'd moved here, five towns away, because Mommy wanted a bigger house and more property. They found they could afford that if they moved farther up in Westchester, to a town that hadn't yet become a suburb of New York City.
When Daddy said he missed Irvington, where he'd grown up and where they'd lived until two years ago, Mommy would tell him how great the new house was. Then he'd say that in Irvington we had a million-dollar view of the Hudson River and the Tappan Zee Bridge, and he didn't have to drive five miles for a newspaper or a loaf of bread.
There were woods all around their property. The big Westerfield house was directly behind theirs, but on the other side of the woods. Glancing back at the kitchen window to make sure no one had seen her, Ellie began to dart through the trees.
Five minutes later she reached the clearing and ran across the field to where the Westerfield property began. Feeling more and more alone, she raced up the long driveway and darted around the mansion, a small figure lost in the lengthening shadows of the approaching storm.
There was a side door to the garage, and that was the one that was unlocked. Even so, it was hard for Ellie to turn the handle.
Finally she succeeded and stepped into the gloom of the interior. The garage was big enough to hold four cars, but the only one Mrs. Westerfield left after the summer was the van. Andrea and her friends had brought some old blankets to sit on when they went there. They always sat in the same spot, at the back of the garage behind the van, so that if anyone happened to look in the window, they wouldn't be able to see them. Ellie knew that was where Andrea would be hiding if she was here.
She didn't know why she felt suddenly afraid, but she did. Now, instead of running, she had to practically drag her feet to make them move toward the back of the garage. But then she saw it -- the edge of the blanket peeking out from behind the van. Andrea was here! She and her friends would never have left the blankets out; when they left, they always folded them and hid them in the cabinet with the cleaning supplies.
"Andrea..." Now she ran, calling softly so that Andrea wouldn't be scared. She was probably asleep, Ellie decided.
Yes, she was. Even though the garage was filled with shadows, Ellie could see Andrea's long hair trailing out from under the blankets.
"Andrea, it's me." Ellie sank to her knees beside Andrea and pulled back the blanket covering her face.
Andrea had a mask on, a terrible monster mask that looked all sticky and gummy. Ellie reached down to pull it off, and her fingers went into a broken space in Andrea's forehead. As she jerked back, she became aware of the pool of Andrea's blood, soaking through her slacks.
Then, from somewhere in the big room, she was sure she heard someone breathing -- harsh, heavy, sucking-in breaths that broke off in a kind of giggle.
Terrified, she tried to get up, but her knees slid in the blood and she fell forward across Andrea's chest. Her lips grazed something smooth and cold -- Andrea's gold locket. Then she managed to scramble to her feet, and she turned and began to run.
She did not know she was shrieking until she was almost home, and Ted and Genine Cavanaugh ran into the backyard to see their younger daughter burst out of the woods, her arms outstretched, her little form covered in her sister's blood.
Copyright © 2002 by Mary Higgins Clark
With the exception of when his team practiced or had a game during the baseball season, sixteen-year-old Paulie Stroebel worked in Hillwood's service station after school and all day Saturday. The alternative was to help out during those same hours at his parents' delicatessen a block away on Main Street, something he'd been doing from the time he was seven years old.
Slow academically, but good with things mechanical, he loved to repair cars, and his parents had been understanding of his desire to work for someone else. With unruly blond hair, blue eyes, round cheeks, and a stocky five-foot-eight frame, Paulie was considered a quiet, hardworking employee by his boss at the service station and something of a dopey nerd by his fellow students at Delano High. His one achievement in school was to be on the football team.
On Friday, when word of Andrea Cavanaugh's murder reached the school, guidance counselors were sent to all the classes to break the news to the students. Paul was in the middle of a study period when Miss Watkins came into his classroom, whispered to the teacher, and rapped on the desk for attention.
"I have very sad news for all of you," she began. "We have just learned..." In halting sentences she informed them that sophomore Andrea Cavanaugh had been killed, the victim of foul play. The reaction was a chorus of shocked gasps and tearful protests.
Then a shouted "No!" silenced the others. Quiet, placid Paulie Stroebel, his face twisted in grief, had sprung to his feet. As his classmates stared at him, his shoulders began to shake. Fierce sobs racked his body, and he ran from the room. As the door closed behind him, he said something in a voice too muffled for most of them to hear. However, the student seated nearest the door later swore that his words were "I can't believe she's dead!"
Emma Watkins, the guidance counselor, already stunned by the tragedy, felt as though a knife had gone through her. She was fond of Paulie and understood the isolation of the earnestly plodding student who tried so hard to please.
She herself was positive that the anguished words he shouted were "I didn't think she was dead."
That afternoon, for the first time in the six months he'd been working at the service station, Paulie did not show up, nor did he call his boss to explain his absence. When his parents got home that evening, they found him lying on top of the bed, staring at the ceiling, pictures of Andrea scattered beside him.
Both Hans and Anja Wagner Stroebel had been born in Germany, and they immigrated to the United States with their parents when they were children. They had met and married in their late thirties and used their combined savings to open the delicatessen. By nature undemonstrative, they were fiercely protective of their only son.
Everyone who came into the store was talking about the murder, asking each other who could possibly have committed such a terrible crime. The Cavanaughs were regular customers at the deli, and the Stroebels joined in the shocked discussion that Andrea might have been planning to meet someone in the garage on the Westerfield estate.
They agreed that she was pretty, but a bit headstrong. She was supposed to be doing homework with Joan Lashley until nine o'clock, but had left unexpectedly early. Had she planned to meet someone, or had she been waylaid on the way home?
Anja Stroebel acted instinctively when she saw the pictures on her son's bed. She swooped them up and put them in her pocketbook. At her husband's questioning glance, she shook her head, indicating that he was to ask no questions. Then she sat down next to Paulie, and put her arms around him.
"Andrea was such a pretty girl," she said soothingly, her voice heavy with the accent that became stronger when she was upset. "I remember how she congratulated you when you made that great catch and saved the game last spring. Like her other friends, you are very, very sad."
At first it seemed to Paulie that his mother was talking to him from a distant place. Like her other friends. What did she mean?
"The police will be looking for anyone who has been a particular friend to Andrea, Paulie," she said slowly but firmly.
"I invited her to a mixer," he said, the words coming haltingly. "She said she would go with me."
Anja was sure her son had never asked a girl for a date before. Last year he had refused to go to his sophomore dance.
"Then you liked her, Paulie?"
Paulie Stroebel began to cry. "Mama, I loved her so much."
"You liked her, Paul," Anja said insistently. "Try to remember that."
On Saturday, composed and quietly apologetic for not showing up on Friday afternoon, Paulie Stroebel reported for work at the gas station.
Early Saturday afternoon, Hans Stroebel personally delivered a Virginia ham and salads to the Cavanaugh home and asked their neighbor Mrs. Hilmer, who answered the door, to convey his deepest sympathy to the family.
Copyright © 2002 by Mary Higgins Clark
"It's a shame Ted and Genine are both only children," Ellie heard Mrs. Hilmer say a couple of times on Saturday. "It makes it easier when there's a lot of family around at a time like this."
Ellie didn't care about having more family. She just wanted Andrea back, and she wanted Mommy to stop crying and she wanted Daddy to talk to her. He'd hardly said a word to her since she came running home and he grabbed her up in his arms and she managed to tell him where Andrea was and that she'd been hurt.
Later, after he'd gone to the hideout and had seen Andrea, and all the police came, he'd said, "Ellie, you knew last night she might have gone to the garage. Why didn't you tell us then?"
"You didn't ask me, and you made me go to bed."
"Yes, I did," he admitted. But then later she heard him say to one of the cops, "If only I had known Andrea was there. She might still have been alive at nine o'clock. I might have found her in time."
Somebody from the police talked to Ellie and asked her questions about the hideout and about who else went there. In her head Ellie could hear Andrea saying, "Ellie is a good kid. She's not a snitch."
Thinking about Andrea, and knowing that she'd never come home again, made Ellie begin to cry so hard that the police stopped questioning her.
Then on Saturday afternoon a man who said he was Detective Marcus Longo came to the house. He took Ellie into the dining room and closed the door. She thought he had a nice face. He told her that he had a little boy exactly her age and that they looked a lot alike. "He has the same blue eyes," he said. "And his hair is just the color of yours. I tell him it reminds me of sand when the sun is shining on it."
Then he told her that four of Andrea's friends had admitted they went to the hideout with her, but none of them had been there that night. He named the girls, then asked, "Ellie, do you know any other girls who might have met your sister there?"
It wasn't like snitching on them if they had already told on themselves. "No," she whispered. "That was all of them."
"Is there anyone else Andrea might have met at the hideout?"
She hesitated. She couldn't tell him about Rob Westerfield. That would really be telling on Andrea.
Detective Longo said, "Ellie, someone hurt Andrea so much that she isn't alive anymore. Don't protect that person. Andrea would want you to tell us anything you know."
Ellie looked down at her hands. In this big old farmhouse, this room was her favorite. It used to have ugly wallpaper, but now the walls were painted a soft yellow, and there was a new chandelier over the table and the bulbs looked like candles. Mommy had found the chandelier at a yard sale and said it was a treasure. It had taken her a long time to clean it, but now anyone who visited admired it.
They always ate dinner in the dining room, even though Daddy thought it was silly to go to all the fuss. Mommy had a book that showed how to set the table for a formal dinner. It was Andrea's job to set the table that way every Sunday, even when it was just them. Ellie would help her, and they would have fun putting out the good silver and china.
"Lord Malcolm Bigbottom is the guest of honor today," Andrea would say. Then reading from the book of etiquette, she'd place him at the seat to the right of where Mommy would sit. "Oh, no, Gabrielle, the water glass must be placed slightly to the right of the dinner knife."
Ellie's real name was Gabrielle, but no one called her that, except Andrea when she was joking. She wondered if it would be her job to set the table that way on Sunday from now on. She hoped not. Without Andrea it wouldn't be a game.
It felt funny to be thinking like that. On one hand, she knew that Andrea was dead and would be buried Tuesday morning in the cemetery in Tarrytown with Grandma and Grandpa Cavanaugh. On the other hand, she still expected Andrea to come into the house any minute, pull her close, and tell her a secret.
A secret. Sometimes Andrea met Rob Westerfield in the hideout. But Ellie had crossed her heart and promised not to tell.
"Ellie, whoever hurt Andrea may hurt somebody else if he isn't stopped," Detective Longo said. His voice was quiet and friendly.
"Do you think it's my fault that Andrea is dead? Daddy thinks so."
"No, he doesn't think that, Ellie," Detective Longo said. "But anything you can tell us about secrets you and Andrea shared may help us now."
Rob Westerfield, Ellie thought. Maybe it wouldn't really be breaking a promise to tell Detective Longo about him. If Rob had been the one who hurt Andrea, everybody should know it. She looked down at her hands. "Sometimes she would meet Rob Westerfield at the hideout," she whispered.
Detective Longo leaned forward. "Do you know if she was going to meet him there the other night?" he asked. Ellie could tell that he was excited to hear about Rob.
"I think she was. Paulie Stroebel had asked her to go to the Thanksgiving mixer with him, and she said yes. She didn't really want to go with him, but Paulie had told her he knew she was sneaking off to meet Rob Westerfield, and she was afraid he would tell Daddy if she didn't go with him. But then Rob was mad at her, and she wanted to explain to him that that was why she agreed to go out with Paulie, to keep him from telling Daddy. So maybe that's why she left Joan's house early."
"How did Paulie know that Andrea was seeing Rob Westerfield?"
"Andrea said that she thought he sometimes followed her to the hideout. Paulie wanted her to be his girlfriend."
Copyright © 2002 by Mary Higgins Clark
The washing machine had been used.
"What was so important it couldn't wait until I got back, Mrs. Westerfield?" Rosita asked, her tone a touch defensive, as though fearful she had left a task undone. She had gone out of town to visit her ailing aunt on Thursday. It was now Saturday morning, and she had just arrived back. "You shouldn't bother yourself with wash when you have your hands full decorating all those houses."
Linda Westerfield did not know why a sudden alarm bell went off in her head. For some reason she did not respond directly to Rosita's remarks.
"Oh, every once in a while, if I'm checking on the decorative painting and touch it up myself, it's just as easy to run the paint cloths through the machine as to leave them around," she said.
"Well, judging from the amount of detergent you used, you must have had a whole heap of them. And Mrs. Westerfield, I heard about the Cavanaugh girl on the news yesterday. I can't stop thinking about her. Who would believe that kind of thing could happen in this little town? It breaks your heart."
"Yes, it does." It had to be Rob who used the machine, Linda thought. Vince, her husband, would certainly not have used a washing machine at any time. Probably didn't even know how.
Rosita's dark eyes glistened, and she dabbed her hand over them. "That poor mother."
Rob? What would be so important for him to wash?
It was an old trick of his. When he was eleven, he'd tried to wash the smell of cigarette smoke from his play clothes.
"Andrea Cavanaugh was the prettiest thing. And her father a lieutenant in the state troopers! Somehow you'd think a man like that would be able to protect his child."
"Yes, you would." Linda was sitting at the counter in the kitchen, going over the sketches she had made for window treatments for a client's new home.
"To think that anybody would smash that girl's head in. Had to be a monster. I hope they string him up when they find him."
Rosita was talking to herself now and didn't seem to expect a response. Linda slipped the sketches into the portfolio. "Mr. Westerfield and I are meeting some friends at the inn for dinner, Rosita," she said as she slid off the stool.
"Will Rob be home?"
A good question, Linda thought. "He went out for a run and should be back any minute. Check with him then." She thought she detected a quiver in her voice. Rob had been agitated and moody all day yesterday. When the news about Andrea Cavanaugh's death flashed through the town, she had expected him to be upset. Instead, he'd been dismissive. "I hardly knew her, Mom," he said.
Was it simply that Rob, like many nineteen-year-olds, could not confront the death of a young person? Was it that somehow he felt as though his own mortality was threatened?
Linda went up the stairs slowly, suddenly weighted down with a sense of impending disaster. They had moved from the townhouse on Manhattan's East Seventieth Street to this pre-Revolutionary house six years ago, when Rob went away to boarding school. By then they both knew that the town where they'd traditionally summered at Vince's mother's home was where they wanted to live permanently. Vince had said that there were great opportunities to make money here, and he had begun investing in real estate.
The house, with its sense of timelessness, was a continuing source of quiet pleasure to her, but today Linda did not pause to feel the polished wood of the banister under her hand or stop to enjoy the view of the valley from the window at the top of the stairs.
She walked directly to Rob's room. The door was closed. He had been gone an hour and would be back from jogging any minute. Nervously she opened the door and stepped inside. The bed was unmade, but the rest of the room was oddly tidy. Rob was meticulous about his clothing, sometimes even pressing slacks fresh from the cleaners to sharpen the crease, but he was downright careless about discarded garments. She would have expected to see the clothes he had worn Thursday and yesterday thrown on the floor, waiting for Rosita's return.
She walked quickly across the room and looked into the hamper in his bathroom. That, too, was empty.
Sometime between Thursday morning, when Rosita left, and early this morning, Rob had washed and dried the clothes he'd been wearing Thursday and yesterday. Why?
Linda would have liked to go through his closet but knew she risked having him find her there. She wasn't prepared for a confrontation. She left his room, remembering to close the door, and went down the hall and around the corner to the master suite she and Vince had added when they expanded the house.
Suddenly aware that she might be feeling the onslaught of a migraine, she dropped the portfolio onto the sofa in the sitting room, went into the bathroom, and reached in the medicine chest. As she swallowed two prescription pills, she looked into the mirror and was shocked to see how pale and anxious she looked.
She was wearing her jogging suit because she had planned to go for a run after she'd worked on the sketches. Her short chestnut hair was held back by a band, and she hadn't bothered with makeup. To her own hypercritical gaze, she looked older than her forty-four years, with tiny wrinkles forming around her eyes and the corners of her mouth.
The bathroom window looked out over the front yard and the driveway. As she glanced out, she saw an unfamiliar car driving up. A moment later the doorbell rang. She expected Rosita to use the intercom to let her know who it was, but instead Rosita came upstairs and handed her a card.
"He wants to talk to Rob, Mrs. Westerfield. I told him Rob was out jogging, and he said he'd wait."
Linda was nearly eight inches taller than Rosita, who was only a shade over five feet, but she almost had to grab the small woman to support herself after she read the name on the card: Detective Marcus Longo.
Copyright © 2002 by Mary Higgins Clark
Wherever Ellie went, she felt in the way. After the nice detective left, she tried to find Mommy, but Mrs. Hilmer said that the doctor had given her something to help her rest. Daddy spent almost all the time in his little den with the door closed. He said he wanted to be left alone.
Grandma Reid, who lived in Florida, came up late Saturday afternoon, but all she did was cry.
Mrs. Hilmer and some of Mommy's friends from her bridge club sat in the kitchen. Ellie heard one of them, Mrs. Storey, say, "I feel so useless, but I also feel as though seeing us around may make Genine and Ted realize they're not alone."
Ellie went outside and got on the swing. She pumped her legs until the swing went higher and higher. She wanted it to go over the top. She wanted to fall from the top and hit the ground and hurt herself. Then maybe she'd stop hurting inside.
It had stopped raining, but there still was no sun and it was cold. After a while, Ellie knew that it was no use; the swing wouldn't go over the top. She went back into the house, entering the small vestibule off the kitchen. She heard Joan's mother's voice. She was with the other ladies now, and Ellie could tell that she was crying. "I was surprised that Andrea left so early. It was dark out, and it crossed my mind to drive her home. If only..."
Then Ellie heard Mrs. Lewis say, "If only Ellie had told them that Andrea used to go to that garage that the kids called 'the hideout.' Ted might have gotten there in time."
"If only Ellie..."
Ellie went up the back stairs, careful to walk very quietly so they wouldn't hear her. Grandma's suitcase was on her bed. That was funny. Wasn't Grandma going to sleep in Andrea's room? It was empty now.
Or maybe they'd let her sleep in Andrea's room. Then, if she woke up tonight, she could pretend that Andrea would be coming back any minute.
The door to Andrea's room was closed. She opened it as quietly as she always did on Saturday mornings when she'd peek in to see if Andrea was still sleeping.
Daddy was standing at Andrea's desk. He was holding a framed picture in his hands. Ellie knew it was the baby picture of Andrea, the one in the silver frame that had "Daddy's Little Girl" engraved across the top.
As she watched, he lifted the top of the music box. That was another present he had bought for Andrea right after she was born. Daddy joked that Andrea never wanted to go to sleep when she was a baby, and so he'd wind up the music box and dance around the room with her and play the song from it, singing the words softly, until she dozed off.
Ellie had asked if he did that with her, too, but Mommy said no, because she was always a good sleeper. From the day she was born, she'd been no trouble at all.
Some of the song's words ran through Ellie's head as the music drifted through the room. "...You're daddy's little girl to have and to hold...You're the spirit of Christmas, my star on the tree...And you're daddy's little girl."
As she watched, Daddy sat on the edge of Andrea's bed and began to sob.
Ellie backed out of the room, closing the door as quietly as she had opened it.
Copyright © 2002 by Mary Higgins Clark
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