Clisty Sinclair froze as she stared into the monitor. It can’t be her. It’s been too long.
The television camera zoomed in as Clisty’s eyes filled with tears. Shaken, she was numb to the fact that viewers were watching her relive a terrible memory.
The news director’s eyes widened. “Go on!” she mouthed.
Clisty felt nine years old again, frantically grabbing her friend’s hand. But, in the desperate tug-of-war with evil, the muscular man won and dragged her friend away.
She composed herself. “Help police find the witness visible on the ATM’s surveillance camera,” she reported. “Call 555-2020. Let’s roll that again.” Clisty stopped breathing as she watched the jerky video. A huge figure in dark clothes ran from the bank, nearly knocking down a disheveled woman. The woman paid no attention to him, but focused on the ATM. At the surveillance camera, she looked directly into it with guarded, anxious eyes.
“Those eyes,” Clisty murmured.
Dan Drummond, the senior anchor, waited as Clisty remained silent. Finally Drummond intervened. “Well, that’s the news from the Fort. WFT-TV . . . Fort Wayne, Indiana. More news at eleven.”
“Good show, people.” Rebecca Landers waved her arms in the air. “Everything all right?” she asked Clisty.
“Sure Becca.” But, she muttered, “It can’t be her.”
“Who?” Becca jerked the headset from her ears and handed it to her assistant. “Here, George, stow these until eleven, please.”
“No one. Just my imagination,” Clisty whispered then changed the subject. “Maybe they’ll find that witness in time for the eleven o’clock news.”
“Maybe, but that’s only four hours from now. It could happen, if she walks into police headquarters by herself,” Becca answered. “What happened up there?”
“Nothing,” she brushed the question off.
“Don’t forget the envelope for Clisty.” George put the headset on the desk. “I’m going to run out. I’ll be back.”
“What envelope?” Clisty asked as she stood up slowly.
“Fellow said his name was Phil and left it for you.”
“You’re slowing down. Are you okay? I’ll call a stand-in.”
“No, Becca, don’t do that. I don’t want someone else to look good. I still have to prove myself.” She had risen from intern, to fill-in, to junior-anchor in record time. “I don’t want anyone to think they made a mistake in hiring me.”
“Okay, but you need to talk about it.”
“George said you have a letter for me?” Clisty asked.
Becca withdrew the message from her hip pocket. “Here ya go. Hope I didn’t wrinkle it.”
Clisty pushed dark blond hair from her forehead and studied the envelope. The handwriting looked familiar and yet not. “There’s a pot of coffee at my apartment. Can you run out with me for a while? I think I’d better eat something. I’m shaking.”
“Sure. We have nothing until eleven.”
• • • • •
“Looks like you painted last weekend,” Becca observed as she walked around Clisty’s living room. “It’s still white though isn’t it?”
“No. It’s cream,” Clisty insisted.
“Cream?” Becca said with a wry smile. “Maybe off-white . . . but, not cream.” She studied the pictures clustered above the sofa. “The girl on the right looks like you.” The gangly girl in the photo had skinned knees that stuck out below pale blue summer shorts. Play equipment in the background revealed an active child.
“It is,” Clisty agreed. She placed the envelope on the shiny black coffee table. “I’ll get us some coffee and yogurt.” She walked over to the open kitchen.
“That’s great. It’s Jason’s poker night. He’ll stop at the drive-through.” She glanced back at the picture, then around Clisty’s space. “I’m surprised you hung that picture in a room with white walls.” Becca raised her eyebrows. “Sorry, cream walls, white area rug.” She looked down. “I know I was right that time, cream sofa and side chairs, and end tables with absolutely nothing on them, no tchotchkes, nothing.” She looked again at the fireplace. “I take that back. There’s a little angel on the mantle.”
“That’s my prayer angel. At church, Grandma picked my angel and I got hers that Christmas before she and Grandpa moved to Florida.” She smiled defiantly. “Besides, no-clutter settles the mind and makes my space manageable.”
“You don’t strike me as a control freak.”
“I’m not.” Clisty removed her shoes, sat cross-legged on the sofa and pealed the lid from the raspberry yogurt. She put it on the saucer.
Becca watched and did the same, except for the leg position. “You could fool me,” Becca mused as she glanced around the spotless room. “You take minimalism to an extreme not often seen.”
“It’s just my home that has to be sterile.” She scooped out a spoonful of the creamy treat. “Don’t laugh. I don’t know why, but my house must be stripped of all clutter.”
“You know . . . one person’s clutter . . .” Becca sighed as she sipped the hot coffee. She sat the cup on its saucer and glanced at the envelope.
“Has it grown larger than the room?” Clisty teased as she watched Becca’s expression.
“I don’t know why you’re not interested in what’s inside!”
“Oh okay,” she chuckled softly. “But, it was fun for a few minutes. I watched your curiosity rise to hyperventilation level.”
“Open it!” Becca yelled.
“All right, all right,” Clisty drew out slowly. Once opened, the envelope appeared to be empty. She shook it and a square piece of plastic fell out. Pent-up grief crossed her face. She frantically snatched up the piece from the polished floor.
“What is it?”
“It’s a four-leaf clover, sealed between clear contact-paper.” She held the piece between her index finger and thumb. “My mother lines her closet shelves with clear contact.”
“But Clisty,” Becca stared at her. “What does it mean? You recognize it. I can tell.”
Clisty gently lifted the photo from the wall. “The other sweet child is Faith. She was my dearest friend. We investigated everywhere. Mom’s only rule was to be home by suppertime. We kept the treasures we found in our clubhouse.”
“Where is she?”
“Did they move?”
“Her parents still live over on Oak Street.” Clisty sank back on the thick, sofa pillows. “She’s . . . gone.”
Clisty tried to shut out the terrible pictures in her mind. Suddenly, her eyes widened. She glanced at the mantle clock. “It’s seven-thirty. There’s time.” She waved the clover back and forth in anxious hands. “I have to see Jake.”
“Jake? Jake . . . your cop . . . Jake?”
“No . . . yes. No, he’s not my cop.” She jumped up. “I found this four-leaf clover while we played. We took it home and sealed it between the contact-paper. I wrote the date on it with magic Marker and gave it to Faith. She put it in her pocket. I told you. We were nine years old.” Clisty paced. “We started to play Monopoly then sat on the floor and watched TV.” When her eyes filled with tears, she pulled a hankie from her pocket.
“No,” Becca grabbed a tissue. “You’re still in camera-makeup. Now, slow down, breathe, and tell me what happened.”
She blotted her tears with the tissue. “Mom had gone to the grocery. We started watching TV before we put our game away.” She sniffed and tried to clear her throat.
“Someone . . . a big man in a sweaty shirt . . . I can still smell him . . . stormed into our house.” She cringed as terrible mental images invaded.
“The man had a heavy beard and yellow teeth,” she shuddered. “He grabbed us both by the wrist and dragged us toward the door.” Clisty’s voice drifted to a whisper while a horror-film played in her head. “I broke free, grasped Faith’s hand and tried to pull her back; but, he was too big. I slipped on the Monopoly board and slid on a few cards and game pieces. I fell but scrambled to my feet, ran into the bathroom and locked the door. I heard the man snort something like, ‘I got what I came for,’ and stormed out the door with Faith.”
“Oh Clisty, how horrible! Where did they find her?”
“They didn’t,” she whispered. “She just vanished. It’s been eighteen years. Her family has never given up,” Clisty choked with tears. “I tried to save her.” With a raspy voice she added, “With my angel on her kitchen windowsill, Grandma prayed for me every day.” She closed her eyes and slipped back into dark, frightening memories. “I know the prayers helped.”
“Clisty, you were a child.”
”I know. But, Becca, that witness in the surveillance video . . . those eyes . . . that was Faith. I’m positive of it.” She looked at the clover in her hand and shouted, “This four-leaf clover proves she’s alive! She sent it to me so I would look for her. Becca, I know where she is!”