An eBook Mystery by Elena Santangelo



Thursday, October 18 — Tucson, Arizona

      My own scream woke me up. I found myself sitting bolt upright in my desk chair, terrified, heart pounding, lungs straining, as if I'd raced up four flights of stairs.
      A dream, I told myself, letting my gaze sweep around the familiar walls of my office in the University of Arizona Psych Department to bring myself back to reality.
Definitely a dream and not much of one at that. Except for yelling my sister's name at the end, I remembered nothing but pure emotion. Fear. And powerful enough that my fight-or-flight instincts kicked my adrenal glands into red alert. Fear, somehow linked to my sister. My twin, Sara.
      My computer monitor suddenly went black, making me jump as it switched from screen saver to sleeper mode.
      Taking a deep breath, I gave the mouse a shove and the personality analysis I'd been working on when I dozed off reappeared.
      The case was chronic vandalism inside a corporate headquarters. Mustaches drawn on portraits, stuff like that. Tucson's Finest had given me the case to profile because none of them wanted to waste time on it. The only reason I'd been wasting time on it was so I could procrastinate the grading of Intro to Psych midterms due back to my students Monday (part of my full-time day job, after all). Served me right for falling asleep and having a scary dream.
      The clock in the corner of my PC screen read 7:56 PM, so it was pushing ten in Pennsylvania. No, eleven—the East Coast was still on Daylight Time. Arizona was on Mountain Standard Time year-round, so the difference was three hours.
      Was Sara asleep yet? Didn't matter. I reached for my cell phone and punched in the number at home.
      That's when it hit me, I was actually calling my sister. Calling her. Sara and I hadn't so much as exchanged a greeting card in over five years, not since the summer after we graduated college. What would I say to her? "Hey, sis. Just wanted to see if you're in any kind of danger." Sara would figure the whole thing for a bad joke. Our relationship, dysfunction-wise, didn't need the extra boost.
      To my relief, the machine picked up. My sister's recorded voice, saying, "You've reached the home of Sara Ziegler. Please leave a message when you hear—"
      I hung up and prayed she didn't have caller I.D. I'd changed my cell number when I moved, but she'd see the Tucson area code. She'd know it was me.
      I thought about trying her cell phone. "No," I said aloud. "Just a stupid dream." My voice sounded like an unconvincing scam artist. Would I buy a used car from someone with a voice like that? Conflict avoidance, pure and simple.
      After that, I spent the rest of that night—Thursday—trying on various styles of common sense:
First, the Scientific Look, which consisted of me spouting erudite statements like, "Clairvoyance is a bunch of hooey."
      Too tight around the brain. I didn't like to label anything "hooey" unless I had proof.
Next came the Not-In-My-Backyard Look. I couldn't speak for the rest of the world, but I knew I wasn't psychic.
      That I could call hooey. Or at least basic denial. Ever since Sara and I were kids, I'd always known when she was in trouble. When her appendix burst, when a vicious dog chased her, the car accident in high school...every time my sister had felt threatened, I'd have a kind of panic attack. Not wanting to be branded a freak, I'd kept the episodes to myself. Tonight would be no exception. I was a criminal psychologist, not a 1-900-PSYCHIC operator.
      I settled for the Off-My-Shoulders Look. Why should I drive myself crazy trying to find out if Sara was all right? If anything serious had happened to her, someone would get in touch with me. I wasn't that hard to track down. Sara and hubby Rick both knew I'd come to the University of Arizona to do my grad work. All Rick had to do was check the U. of A. website. I was listed on the faculty, complete with college email address.
      Of course, that was assuming he would, which was based more on wishful thinking than on what I knew of human nature. During our first three years of college, Rick and I had been...well...and then he married my sister.
      Truth was, unless my signature was needed for some legal document, communication from the other side of the continent wasn't likely. If Sara wanted to sell the house, which was still half mine, I'd hear from her. No, I'd hear from her lawyer.
      Fine. Let my twin handle her own problems.
I'm usually a whiz at spite, but this time it didn't work. By the next morning, the memory of the fear in my dream had morphed into a fixation. I couldn't concentrate on my teaching, couldn't even finish my analysis of the vandal case. My plan had been to grade those Intro exams on my lunch hour, but instead, I tried to call home again.
       Three rings, four....I was ready if the machine picked up this time. I'd just say, "It's Gen. Call me," and leave the number. Six.... That way I didn't actually have to come up with a reason to be phoning until she called back. If she called back. Eight rings, nine....
      After a dozen rings, I finally hung up. I tried her cell number, but that was disconnected. Like me, she apparently had a new one.
      Sure, I knew other ways to check up on her. Run an Internet search, see if her work email was listed, check the social networks. She used to be on more than one, with thousands of friends. Sara was the social butterfly in the family. I was the hermit.
      Still, I knew that only the sound of her voice would tell me she was truly all right. I wished that I'd left a message the night before.
      Thinking that, I remembered the sound of Sara's voice on her machine, and remembering it, my jaw dropped a good two inches.
      "The home of Sara Ziegler," she'd said. Not "the home of Richard and Sara Davis," or even "Richard Davis and Sara Ziegler."
      A new wrinkle, which made up my mind for me. Time to go home. Not permanently, of course. I was thinking more along the lines of closure. Anyway, that's what I told myself.
      Within forty minutes, I'd found an empty seat on a red-eye to Philadelphia for that night.
      Then, so I could get away for the weekend with a clear conscience, I graded my Intro midterms.

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