Author’s Note: The scene where the locket is introduced is one that needs to be inserted during editing; it’s Henry’s anchor and though Lizzie usually carries it with her, Henry convinced her to leave it behind while she went to Darlington so he could continue to investigate.
I had hoped my trip home would settle me, but I left Darlington more apprehensive than when I arrived. Mom and Dad were on the Case of the Disappearing Ghosts now, but they hadn’t made any breakthroughs. Three heads working on the problem was certainly better than one, but in the meantime school wold start again, we’d all three get busy, and there was no guarantee the disappearances wouldn’t continue. Then there was Adelaide and her secret, and the still-unsolved mystery of Emily’s possession. And final exams.
I was so distracted, as I debarked at Grand Central and fought through the crowds toward the subway, that it took me a minute to realize that my phone was ringing. I fumbled it out of my pocket – didn’t recognize the number – and swiped to answer just before it went to voicemail.
For a moment I heard nothing but high-pitched breathing. “Hello?” I repeated.
“Lizzie?” A girl’s voice, breathy and birdlike.
“Emily?” I had told her to call me if she needed me. “Are you okay? Did something happen?”
“I’m scared, I-” A sharp indrawn breath.
I stopped dead in the middle of Vanderbilt Hall. Affronted tourists and angry commuters bumped past me; I ignored them. “Emily? Em, where are you, honey?”
Panting — no, crying. “I want mommy,” she whimpered.
“Emily, sweetheart, you need to tell me where you are.”
Still nothing – just the white-noise static that meant the call had been cut off.
“Shit,” I muttered, drawing a shocked look form a passing mother dragging three little boys behind her. Your youngest child is on a leash, I didn’t say. You’ve got no call to criticize. Also, I had bigger problems.
Trying to call Emily back got me straight to voicemail. Tellingly, there was no recorded message — so she wasn’t calling from her home, or from her babysitter’s or mother’s cellphones. It was Sunday evening so she wouldn’t be in school. Unfortunately, that left be with zero idea where she was. I dialed her mother’s number.
Straight to voicemail. Damn.
“Hi Caroline, it’s Lizzie…sorry to bother you on the weekend, but I just got an odd call from Emily and wanted to make sure everything is okay. Um, let me know if you need anything.”
I hung up and descended into the bowels of the subway system, deciding I’d spent the long ride across- and uptown planning my next moves — check in with Father Thomas? Or…I had another idea, but I didn’t want to try it. I would, though, if I couldn’t think of anything else.
Forty minutes later I emerged from the subway with no plan, but 4 missed phone calls from Caroline Lawlor. I called her back. I could hardly understand her when she answered — she was crying too hard.
“Elizabeth, Emily — Emily’s missing.”
I dragged my suitcase up the stairs in a state of shock, hardly hearing her as she described taking Emily to the playground, turning around for a second — just one second! — and losing her. The police were involved. Emily’s father (her ex husband) was flying back from his new home in California. Soon they’d issue an Amber Alert.
This was so above my paygrade.
I turned my key in the door, pushed it open, still murmuring reassurances at Caroline Lawlor–
“What the fuck!”
Caroline drew in a shocked breath. “Elizabeth?”
I couldn’t breathe. A vise was constricting my chest. The bottom dropped out of my stomach. “I– I– someone broke into my house.”
“I’m fine, sorry, I need to go. I’ll — I need to go.” I hung up the phone and set it down on the side table before my numb fingers could drop it.
Everything in the apartment had been ransacked. Everything. Drawers pulled out and their contents emptied to the floor, cabinets stripped of their contents, pillows and cushions cut open, stuffing strewn among the pieces of my life laid bare.
I left the front door open and my suitcase in the hall. Dazed, I stumbled toward the bedroom. I didn’t call for Henry. I think I knew he wouldn’t be there.
Clothes, underwear, socks, scattered everywhere. My jewelry box dumped out onto the bed. It was all still there — this wasn’t a robbery. Well, not that kind of robbery.
My sock drawer had been totally removed from the dresser, and the little packet I’d duct-taped to the outside was gone. I ran my fingers along the spot where it had been, still slightly gummy from the residual adhesive.
The locket was gone.