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Authors: Mary Higgins Clark

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She had inadvertently furnished me with a response that was at least partly honest. “We know someone will
snap up this place in a heartbeat,” I said. “I never intended to stay in the studio indefinitely. I'm going to look around for a bigger place myself. You'll let me have my pick of any furniture you don't take with you, right?”

“Of course. Let Elliott know. A decent one-bedroom is an expenditure he'll certainly approve.” Elliott was the trustee of the money my grandfather had left me.

Mom took the last gulp of tea and stood up. “I'd better rush. Helene will have a fit if I'm late for my hair appointment. For the kind of money she charges, she could stand to possess a little more humility.” She gave me a quick kiss on my cheek, then added, “If you find an apartment you like, make sure it has a doorman. I never have been comfortable with you living in a place where you have to let yourself in. I've been checking the news. There's no sign of that girl who lived next door to you who disappeared. God help her family.”

I was glad Mom had the salon appointment. Now that I was determined to find Mack, I had the sense that I must not lose a minute in my search for him. Geographically, he had been so close to us when he left that note on Sunday. The meeting with the Kramers had left me desperately uneasy. Memories do fade, but when I spoke to them, they had contradicted each other about what Mack was wearing and exactly where they had seen him last. Also, Lil Kramer had been absolutely shocked when I told her he had been at the Mass. Why? Was Mack a threat to them? What did they know that scared them so much?

I had taken the report of Investigator Reeves from the file drawer in Dad's desk. Now I wanted to get the addresses
of Mack's former roommates, Bruce Galbraith and Nicholas DeMarco. Nick had kept in touch with Dad regularly, in the beginning. Naturally, as time passed he heard from him less and less frequently. The last time I saw him was when he attended Dad's memorial Mass, but that day is a complete blur to me.

Dad's study isn't large, but as he used to say, it was big enough for what he needed. His big desk dominated the paneled room. To my mother's horror, the faded nine-by-twelve carpet that had been in his mother's living room was on the floor. “Reminds me of where I came from, Liv,” he would say after one of her periodic efforts to get rid of it. A worn leather chair with a hassock was his favorite spot in the morning. He always got up very early, made himself coffee, and settled in that chair with the morning papers before showering and getting dressed to go to the office.

Bookcases covered the wall opposite the windows. Scattered on them were framed pictures of the four of us from those happy days when we had been together. Dad had a presence that showed through even in casual pictures: the determined jaw, softened by the wide smile, the keen intelligence in his eyes. He had done everything possible to trace Mack and would still be trying if he were alive. I'm sure of that.

I opened the top drawer of his desk and took out his phone book. On a slip of paper I wrote down Bruce Galbraith's phone number. I remembered he had gone into the family real estate business in Manhattan. I copied both his home and business numbers.

Nick DeMarco, the son of immigrant parents who owned a small storefront restaurant in Queens, had been a scholarship student at Columbia. I remembered that after he got his MBA from Harvard, he went into the restaurant business and, I understand, has been very successful. Both his home and business phone numbers and addresses were in Manhattan.

I sat at Dad's desk and picked up the receiver. I decided to call Bruce first. There was a reason for that. When I was sixteen, I had a fierce crush on Nick. He and Mack were particularly close friends, and Mack regularly brought him home for dinner. I lived for those dinners. But then one night he and Mack brought a girl with them. Barbara Hanover was a senior at Columbia and lived in the same student apartment building, and it was immediately clear to me that Nick was crazy about her.

Even though I was absolutely crushed, I thought I had kept up a good front that evening, but Mack could read me like a book. Before he, Nick, and Barbara left, he pulled me aside, and said, “Carolyn, I know you have big eyes for Nick. Forget it. He's got a different girlfriend every week. Stick to guys your own age.”

My angry denial only caused Mack to smile. “You'll get over it,” were his parting words to me that night. That was about six months before he disappeared, and it was the last time I stayed home when Nick was coming. I was embarrassed and didn't want to be there. The fact that it was obvious to Mack that I had a crush on Nick made me sure it had been obvious to everyone else. I was grateful neither of my parents ever referred to it.

I got through to Bruce's secretary at Galbraith Real Estate and was told that he was on a business trip until next Monday. Did I care to leave a message? I gave the secretary my name and phone number, hesitated, then added, “It's about Mack. We just heard from him again.”

Then I called Nick. His office is at 400 Park Avenue. That's about a fifteen-minute walk from Sutton Place, I thought, as I dialed. When I asked for him, his secretary picked up and crisply told me that if I was from the media, any statement would be coming from Mr. DeMarco's lawyer.

“I'm not from the media,” I said. “Nick was a friend of my brother's at Columbia. I'm sorry, I didn't realize he was having legal troubles.”

Maybe the sympathy in my voice and the use of his first name was the reason his secretary was so frank. “Mr. DeMarco is the owner of the Woodshed, the place where a young woman was last seen before she disappeared the other night,” she explained. “If you give me your telephone number, I'll have him return your call.”

13

A
aron Klein had been working for Wallace and Madison for fourteen years. He had started there directly after receiving his MBA degree. At that time Joshua Madison was chief executive of the privately held wealth-management company, but when he died suddenly two years later, his partner, Elliott Wallace, had taken over as chairman and CEO.

Aaron had loved the gruff Josh Madison, but initially he had been intimidated by Wallace, whose formal manner was completely the opposite of his own easygoing style. Then as Aaron continued to rise steadily through the ranks, working with higher and higher–profile clients, Elliott had begun to invite him to lunch in the executive dining room of their office on Wall Street, a clear sign that he was being groomed for a top job.

Ten years ago their relationship had taken a giant leap forward when Elliott let down his guard and confided to Aaron the grief and pain he was experiencing at the disappearance of Charles MacKenzie Jr. Elliott had been managing the MacKenzie money for years, and after Charles
Sr. died on 9/11, he spoke of Olivia MacKenzie and her children with an air of fierce protectiveness. From everything Elliott had ever said about the missing young man, Aaron knew that he looked on Mack as a surrogate son. The fact that Aaron's mother, Esther, had taught Mack in one of her drama classes at Columbia only strengthened the bond between them.

Then, a year later, when Aaron's mother was murdered during what was determined to be a random mugging, the bond had tightened further still. Now, it was generally accepted in the company that Aaron Klein was the chosen successor of Elliott Wallace.

Aaron had been away visiting clients in Chicago on Monday and Tuesday. Late Wednesday morning he received a call from his boss. “Aaron, do you have plans for lunch?”

“None that I can't change,” Aaron said promptly.

“Then please meet me at twelve thirty in the dining room.”

I wonder what's up, Aaron asked himself as he replaced the receiver. Elliott isn't usually this last-minute about lunch. At 12:15 he got up from his desk, went into his private bathroom, ran a comb through his sparse head of hair, and straightened his tie. Mirror, mirror, on the wall, he thought sardonically, who's the baldest of us all? Thirty-seven years old, in good shape, not bad-looking, but at the rate I'm going, by the time I'm fifty I'll be lucky if I have six hairs left on my head. He sighed and put away the comb.

Jenny tells me that's part of the reason I've done so
well, he told himself. She says I look ten years older than I am. Thanks, honey.

Friendly as they had become, Aaron was always aware that to the blue-blooded Elliott Wallace, the fact that he, his chosen successor, was the grandson of immigrants had to be disappointing. That thought was in his mind as he walked toward the dining room. The kid from Staten Island approaches the privileged descendant of one of the first settlers of New Amsterdam, he thought. Never mind that the immigrants' grandson graduated from Yale in the top ten percent of his class and has a master's degree from Wharton; it still isn't the same as having classy ancestors. I wonder if I'll hear the “cousin Franklin” story again.

Aaron acknowledged that he both hated and was bored by Elliott's oft-repeated anecdote of FDR's having invited a Republican woman to host an event at Hyde Park when his wife, Eleanor, was away. When he was chided by the Democratic chairman, an astonished FDR replied, “But of course I asked her to be my hostess. She is the only woman in Hyde Park who is my social equal.”

“That was my father's favorite story about his cousin Franklin,” Elliott would chuckle.

As he reached the table and a waiter pulled out a chair for him, Aaron immediately sensed that anecdotes about his revered relatives were the last thing on Elliott's mind today. He looked thoughtful and concerned—in fact,
preoccupied.

“Aaron, good to see you. Let's order quickly. I have a couple of meetings. I assume you'll have your usual?”

“Cobb salad, no dressing, and iced tea, Mr. Klein?” the waiter asked, smiling.

“You've got it.” Aaron did not mind letting his boss think that his salad luncheon was a sign of self-discipline. The fact was that his wife, Jenny, loved to cook, and even her most casual dinners far surpassed the sterile menu of the executive dining room.

Elliott ordered, and when the waiter was out of earshot he got right to the point: “We heard from Mack on Sunday,” he said.

“The usual Mother's Day call?” Aaron asked. “I was wondering if he'd stick to form and phone this year.”

“He did that, and more.”

Aaron did not take his eyes off Elliott Wallace's face as he listened to the account of the written communication from Mack.

“I've advised Olivia to respect Mack's wishes,” Elliott said. “But oddly enough, she seems to have come to that conclusion on her own. She referred to Mack as ‘absent without leave.' She's going to join some mutual friends of ours for a cruise around the Greek islands. I've been invited to be with them and may go for the last ten days.”

“You
should
,” Aaron said promptly. “You don't give yourself nearly enough time off.”

“And on my next birthday I'll be sixty-five. In a lot of companies I'd be pushed out at that age. That's the benefit of owning this one—I'm not going anywhere for a long time.” He paused, as if preparing himself, then said, “But I didn't ask you to join me to discuss vacation plans.”

Surprised, Aaron Klein watched as Wallace's eyes clouded with worry.

“Aaron, you've gone through the experience of losing
your mother in a random crime. If the positions were reversed, if your mother was the one who had disappeared and then kept in contact, would you respect her wishes or would you feel that you should keep on trying to find her? I find myself absolutely uncertain and troubled. Did I give Olivia the right advice, or should I have told her to renew and redouble her efforts to find Mack?”

Suppose Mom had disappeared ten years ago, Aaron asked himself. Suppose she phoned once a year, then, when I told her I needed to find her and was going to track her down, she sent me a note telling me to leave her alone, what would I do?

The answer was not hard to reach. “If my mother did to
me
what Mack has done to his family and to you, I would say, ‘If that's the way you want it, Mom, so be it. I have other fish to fry.' ”

Elliott Wallace smiled. “ ‘Other fish to fry'? That's a strange way to put it. But thank you, Aaron. I needed to be reassured I'm not failing Mack or Olivia . . .” He paused, then corrected himself: “I mean his mother and sister, of course.”

“You're not failing them,” Aaron Klein said emphatically.

That night, as he was sipping a predinner glass of wine with his wife, Aaron said, “Jenny, today I realized that even stuffed shirts are like schoolboys when they fall in love. Elliott can't mention Olivia MacKenzie's name without getting stars in his eyes.”

14

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