Gone for Good Page 53

“Where did she move to?”

“An apartment off campus. Sheila stayed there too.”

“So when exactly did Sheila Rogers drop out?”

Rose Baker pretended to think about it. I say pretend, because I could see that she knew the answer right away and that this act was somehow for our benefit. “I think Sheila left after Julie died.”

“How long after?” I asked.

She kept her eyes down. “I don’t remember ever seeing her after the murder.”

I looked at Katy. Her eyes, too, were on the floor. Rose Baker put a trembling hand to her mouth.

“Do you know where Sheila went?” I asked.

“No. She was gone. That was all that mattered.”

She would not look at us anymore. I found that troubling.

“Mrs. Baker?”

She still would not face me.

“Mrs. Baker, what else happened?”

“Why are you here?” she asked.

“We told you. We wanted to know—”

“Yes, but why now?”

Katy and I looked at each other. She nodded. I turned to Rose Baker and said, “Yesterday, Sheila Rogers was found dead. She was murdered.”

I thought that maybe she had not heard me. Rose Baker kept her gaze locked on a black-velvet Diana, a grotesque and frightening reproduction. Diana’s teeth were blue, and her skin looked like a bad bottle-tan. Rose stared at the image and I started thinking again about the fact that there were no pictures of her husband or her family or her sorority girls—only this dead stranger from overseas. And I wondered about how I was dealing with all this death, how I kept chasing shadows to divert the pain, and I wondered if maybe there was something like that going on here too.

“Mrs. Baker?”

“Was she strangled like the others?”

“No,” I said. And then I stopped. I turned to Katy. She had heard it too. “Did you say others?”


“What others?”

“Julie was strangled,” she said.


Her shoulders slumped. The wrinkles on her face seemed more pronounced now, the crevices sinking deeper into the flesh. Our visit had unleashed demons she had stuffed in boxes or maybe buried beneath the Di accoutrements. “You don’t know about Laura Emerson, do you?”

Katy and I exchanged another glance. “No,” I said.

Rose Baker’s eyes started darting across the walls again. “Are you sure you won’t have some tea?”

“Please, Mrs. Baker. Who is Laura Emerson?”

She stood and hobbled over to the fireplace mantel. Her fingers reached out and gently touched down on a ceramic bust of Di. “Another sorority sister,” she said. “Laura was a year behind Julie.”

“What happened to her?” I asked.

She found a piece of dirt stuck on the ceramic bust. She used her nail to scratch it off. “Laura was found dead near her home in North Dakota eight months before Julie. She’d been strangled too.”

Icy hands were grabbing at my legs, pulling me back under. Katy’s face was white. She shrugged at me, letting me know that this was new to her too.

“Did they ever find her killer?” I asked.

“No,” Rose Baker said. “Never.”

I tried to sift through it, process this new data, get a grip on what this all meant. “Mrs. Baker, did the police question you after Julie’s murder?”

“Not the police,” she said.

“But someone did?”

She nodded. “Two men from the FBI.”

“Do you remember their names?”


“Did they ask you about Laura Emerson?”

“No. But I told them anyway.”

“What did you say?”

“I reminded them that another girl had been strangled.”

“How did they react to that?”

“They told me that I should keep that to myself. That saying something could compromise the investigation.”

Too fast, I thought. This was all coming at me too fast. It would not compute. Three young women were dead. Three women from the same sorority house. That was a pattern if ever I saw one. A pattern meant that Julie’s murder was not the random, solo act of violence that the FBI had led us—and the world—to believe.

And worst of all, the FBI knew it. They had lied to us all these years.

The question now was, why.


Man, I had a good head of steam going. I wanted to explode into Pistillo’s office. I wanted to burst in and grab him by the lapels and demand answers. But real life does not work that way. Route 95 was littered with construction delays. We hit terrible traffic on the Cross Bronx Expressway. The Harlem River Drive crawled like a wounded soldier. I leaned on the horn and swerved in and out of lanes, but in New York, that just raises you to average.

Katy used her cell phone to call her friend Ronnie, who she said was good with computers. Ronnie checked out Laura Emerson on the Internet, pretty much confirming what we already knew. She’d been strangled eight months before Julie. Her body had been found at the Court Manor Motor Lodge in Fessenden, North Dakota. The murder received extensive though vague local coverage for two weeks before fading off the front page and into stardust. There was no mention of sexual assault.

I veered hard off the exit, drove through a red light, found the Kinney parking lot near Federal Plaza, pulled in. We hurried toward the building. I kept my head high and my feet in motion, but alas, there was a security checkpoint. We had to walk through a metal detector. My keys set it off. I emptied my pockets. Now it was my belt. The guard ran a wand that looked like a vibrator over my persons. Okay, we were cleared.

When we reached Pistillo’s office, I demanded to see him in my firmest voice. His secretary appeared unintimidated. She smiled with the genuineness of a politician’s wife and sweetly asked us to have a seat. Katy looked at me and shrugged. I would not sit. I paced like a caged lion, but I could feel my fury ebbing.

Fifteen minutes later, the secretary told us that Assistant Director in Charge Joseph Pistillo—that was exactly how she said it, with the full title—would see us now. She opened the door. I blasted into the office.

Pistillo was already standing and at the ready. He gestured at Katy. “Who is this?”

“Katy Miller,” I said.

He looked stunned. He said to her, “What are you doing with him?”

But I was not about to be sidetracked. “Why didn’t you ever say anything about Laura Emerson?”

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