Cal looked stung by that. “We’re not geeks.”

“Yeah,” Peanut said, exhaling smoke. “You’re grown men who think other men in tights look good.”

“You make us sound gay.”

“Hardly.” Peanut laughed. “Gay men have sex. Your friends wear Matrix costumes in public. How you found Lisa, I’ll never know.”

At the mention of Cal’s wife, an awkward silence stumbled into the room. The whole town knew she was a run-around. There was always talk; men smiled, women frowned and shook their heads at the mention of her name. But here in the police station, they never spoke about it.

Cal went back to reading his comic book and doodling in his sketch pad. They all knew he’d be quiet for a while now.

Ellie sat down at her desk and put her feet up.

Peanut leaned back against the wall and stared at her through a cloud of smoke. “I saw Julia on the news yesterday.”

Cal looked up. “No kidding? I gotta turn on the TV more.”

Ellie reached behind her head and pulled off the mask. When she set it on the desk, she couldn’t help sighing. It had only been a matter of time before they came around to the subject of her brilliant younger sister. “She was dismissed from the lawsuit.”

“Did you call her?”

“Of course. Her answering machine had a lovely tone. I think she’s avoiding me.”

Peanut took a step forward. The old oak floorboards, first hammered into place at the turn of the century when Bill Whipman had been the town’s police chief, shuddered at the movement, but like everything in Rain Valley, they were sturdier than they appeared. The West End was a place where things—and people—were built to last. “You should try again.”

“You know how jealous Julia is of me. She especially wouldn’t want to talk to me now.”

“You think everyone is jealous of you.”

“I do not.”

Peanut gave her one of those Who-do-you-think-you’re-fooling? looks that were the cornerstone of friendship. “Come on, Ellie. Your baby sister looked like she was hurting. Are you going to pretend you can’t talk to her because twenty years ago you were homecoming queen and she belonged to the math club?”

In truth, Ellie had seen it, too—the haunted, hunted look in Julia’s eyes—and she’d wanted to reach out and help her younger sister. Julia had always felt things too keenly; it was what made her a great psychiatrist. “She wouldn’t listen to me, Peanut. You know that. She considers me only slightly smarter than a pet rock. Maybe—”

The sound of footsteps stopped her.

Someone was running toward their office.

Ellie got to her feet just as the door swung open, hitting the wall with a crack.

Lori Forman skidded into the room. She was soaking wet and obviously cold; her whole body was shaking. Her kids—Bailey, Felicia, and Jeremy—were clustered around her. “You gotta come,” Lori said to Ellie.

“Take a breath, Lori. Tell me what’s happened.”

“You won’t believe me. Heck, I’ve seen it and I don’t believe me. Come on. There’s something on Magnolia Street.”

“Yee-ha,” Peanut said. “Something’s actually happening in town.” She reached for her coat on the coatrack beside her desk. “Hurry up, Cal. Forward the emergency calls to your cell phone. We don’t want to miss all the excitement.”

Ellie was the first one out the door.

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