“We’ve got to talk, Mac! There’s so much you don’t know. My God, you don’t even know what you are! There are so many things I should have told you, but I thought I could keep you out of it until things were safer for us. I’m going to try to make it home”—she broke off and laughed bitterly, a caustic sound totally unlike Alina—“but I don’t think he’ll let me out of the country. I’ll call you as soon—” More static. A gasp. “Oh, Mac, he’s coming!” Her voice dropped to an urgent whisper. “Listen to me! We’ve got to find the”—her next word sounded garbled or foreign, something like shi-sadu, I thought. “Everything depends on it. We can’t let them have it! We’ve got to get to it first! He’s been lying to me all along. I know what it is now and I know where—”
The call had been terminated.
I sat stunned, trying to make sense of what I’d just heard. I thought I must have a split personality and there were two Macs: one that had a clue about what was going on in the world around her, and one that could barely track reality well enough to get dressed in the morning and put her shoes on the right feet. Mac-that-had-a-clue must have died when Alina did, because this Mac obviously didn’t know the first thing about her sister.
She’d been in love and never mentioned it to me! Not once. And now it seemed that was the least of the things she’d not told me. I was flabbergasted. I was betrayed. There was a whole huge part of my sister’s life that she’d been withholding from me for months.
What kind of danger had she been in? What had she been trying to keep me out of? Until what was safer for us? What did we have to find? Had it been the man she’d thought she was in love with that had killed her? Why—oh why—hadn’t she told me his name?
I checked the date and time on the call—the afternoon after I’d dropped my cell phone in the pool. I felt sick to my stomach. She’d needed me and I hadn’t been there for her. At the moment Alina had been so frantically trying to reach me, I’d been sunning lazily in the backyard, listening to my top one hundred mindless happy songs, my cell phone lying short-circuited and forgotten on the dining-room table.
I carefully pressed the save key, then listened to the rest of the messages, hoping she might have called back, but there was nothing else. According to the police, she’d died approximately four hours after she’d tried reaching me, although they hadn’t found her body in an alley for nearly two days.
That was a visual I always worked real hard to block.
I closed my eyes and tried not to dwell on the thought that I’d missed my last chance to talk to her, tried not to think that maybe I could have done something to save her if only I’d answered. Those thoughts could make me crazy.
I replayed the message again. What was a shi-sadu? And what was the deal with her cryptic You don’t even know what you are? What could Alina possibly have meant by that?
By my third run-through, I knew the message by heart.
I also knew that there was no way I could play it for Mom and Dad. Not only would it drive them further off the deep end (if there was a deeper end than the one they were currently off), but they’d probably lock me in my room and throw away the key. I couldn’t see them taking any chances with their remaining child.
But . . . if I went to Dublin and played it for the police, they’d have to reopen her case, wouldn’t they? This was a bona fide lead. If Alina had been in love with someone, she would have been seen with him at some point, somewhere. At school, at her apartment, at work, somewhere. Somebody would know who he was.
And if the mystery man wasn’t her killer, surely he was the key to discovering who was. After all, he was “one of them.”
Whoever or whatever “they” were.
I quickly learned that it was one thing to think about going to Dublin and demanding justice for my sister—and entirely another to find myself standing there in the jet-lagged flesh, across an ocean, four thousand miles from home.
But standing there I was, in rapidly deepening dusk, on a cobbled street in the heart of a foreign city, watching my taxi drive away, surrounded by people speaking a version of English that was virtually unintelligible, trying to come to terms with the fact that, although there were more than a million inhabitants in and around the city, I didn’t know a single soul.
Not in Dublin, not in Ireland, not on the entire continent.
I was as alone as alone could be.
I’d had a major blowout fight with Mom and Dad before I’d left, and they weren’t speaking to me. Then again, they weren’t speaking to each other, either, so I was trying not to take it too personally. I’d quit my job and withdrawn from school. I’d drained my checking and savings accounts. I was a twenty-two-year-old single white female alone in a strange country where my sister had been killed.