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   Chapter 19 No.19

My Sister's Keeper By Bill Benners Characters: 7090

Updated: 2018-05-28 11:03

FIRST THING THE NEXT MORNING, I called Scott and left a message on his voicemail telling him what Mrs. Winslow had said about Ashleigh walking off later that Sunday night. The way I figured it, that changed everything. All my appointments for Friday had been canceled and the phones were silent all day. I set up prices for Sydney's photo packages, ran off twelve hundred order forms, and dropped them off at the dance studio on my way home. The lobby was crammed with moms gabbing noisily and tending to babies while keeping an eye on the monitors.

Sydney was teaching, so I left the forms with the receptionist. I did, however, see Sydney on one of the monitors. She and her class were moving in complete unison like a school of fish darting here and there changing directions at the same instant, controlled by the same remote. She was dressed in a black leotard with a short sheer skirt and her hair was back in a ponytail. Even on that monitor I could see the joy on her face and the love and respect the students had for her.

The place was teeming with energy and reminded me of being backstage before a live theatrical production. It was intoxicating, but the conversations around me gradually lapsed and the moms began to whisper among themselves and I could feel their gazes. I took one last extended look at Sydney and left.

The news crews were back at my house and prodded me for remarks as I drove through them. I hadn't been inside long when I spotted Ashleigh's cat on my back deck. But when I opened the door, it ran off. Searching the pantry, I found a can of tuna, spread the contents on newspaper, and left it outside.

There was nothing new about Ashleigh on TV so I turned it off, fixed a drink, and sat in a chair staring at a photograph of me and Jewell taken at the beach and realized Sydney was right there in the photograph with us. Jewell and I had gone surf fishing for croakers and had allowed Sydney to come along to get her out of her mother's hair for the day. I'd looked at that photograph hundreds of times and had paid little attention to the skinny kid in the yellow bikini squeezi

see a man inside with a flashlight standing on a table that had been moved to the center of the room. He was in his early twenties with short blond hair spiked to stand straight up and a large John-Boy mole on his right cheek. He wore straight-legged blue jeans, a Black Sabbath T-shirt, and latex gloves. He had his head up in a heater return vent in the ceiling and was shining his light in all directions, but must not have found what he was looking for. He stooped, closed the vent, jumped down, and moved the table back to its rightful place. He then came out, closed the door, reset the police seal, stripped the gloves off, and moved down the side of the drive toward the street. I followed at a distance and watched him get into a black late model Chevrolet Corvette parked a few doors down.

I wondered what this man was doing in Ashleigh's house and if he'd had anything to do with her disappearance.

Deciding to follow him, I sprinted back to my house, chose the bike over the car which had my business name displayed all over it, snapped the helmet on over my bandaged head, and pressed the starter. The engine chugged, but didn't start. I worked the gas throttle back and forth and tried it again. It coughed twice and backfired twice before coming to life. I clicked it into gear, pushed off, and spun away in search of the black Corvette. Four blocks later I eased up behind it at a stop sign.

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