Albert Moser sat in his worn easy chair with his daughters' photo album on his lap. It bulged with photos, snapshots and small remembrances of happy times and places.
Christmas Leigh and Autumn Lynn, each named for the time of year they were born. Moser slid his fingers along the edge of the pages. The first half of the album was about his daughters' lives. He'd devoted the last half of the book to something else entirely.
He looked up at the calendar he'd hung on the wall next to his TV so he could watch the months, the weeks, the days go by. And they had. Somehow, he'd made it through another year. Somehow, it was October again.
He flipped over to the back of the album, where he'd pasted newspaper clippings, notes and baby photos. Behind them, stuck between two pages, was a small stack of insurance forms. Four years ago, the stack had seemed huge. During his career, he'd sold a lot of life insurance policies to parents for their newborns. Then, when Rudolfo Gomez had retired, Albert had taken over his customers, too.
Once he'd culled out the males and the people who had moved away or died, the stack had dwindled to ten. He counted. Only six were left. Six policies taken out at birth on six baby girls. Now they were grown. Young women with their lives ahead of them, just like his Autumn.
And like his daughter, they had no idea that one of them had only a few days to live.
Albert Moser sighed. He didn't want to do it. The weight of the women's lives was heavy on his shoulders. He wasn't sure he could stand under the weight of another one. It had been four years.
For a brief moment, he considered turning himself in and begging them to find his daughter's killer. He'd tried begging. But the police had dismissed Autumn's murder as a mugging. He knew it wasn't. He just knew it.
The telephone rang. Albert started and almost dropped the album. He didn't have to wonder who was calling. It was Christy. His older daughter was the only one who ever called him. He picked up the handset.
"Dad? Hi. How are you?"
"I'm okay. How're you doing? Is it cold in Boston?"
"Always," she said with a laugh. Her low, slightly husky voice reminded him of her mother. "So how are you doing? Are you eating? Taking care of yourself?"
"I'm doing okay."
"Dad, you need to get out. Why don't you call some of your buddies and play some golf?"
Albert didn't answer. Christy had been pushing him ever since Autumn's death to get out, get some exercise, see some of his old friends.
"Well, I just wanted to call and see how you are, and--"
"Autumn's birthday's in six days," Albert interjected. "She'd be twenty-six now, you know."
"I know." Christy sighed. "Dad, I called tonight because I'm leaving for Germany tomorrow. I'll be gone for a week. I'm speaking at the Children's Health Issues Summit in Munich."
"Think about coming to Boston for Christmas, Dad. I can't get time off. Christmas is always a busy time for pediatricians. But we could sightsee, go to some good restaurants."
"I'll see," Albert said. He shuffled the insurance forms he held, looking at the birth dates on the policies. "You know, Christy, the police still aren't doing anything about Autumn's murder."
"She was murdered. You know how scared she was of that man she was seeing. He...
Mallory Kane (Author)
Mallory took early retirement from her position as assistant chief of pharmacy at a large metropolitan medical center to pursue her other loves, writing and art. She is multipublished in short- and novel-length romance and in science fiction and fantasy.Her short stories and novels have been nominated for and won numerous awards, and have garnered praise from such outstanding writers as Tom Easton, Judith Ivory, Kinley MacGregor, Charles Wilson, and Gayle Wilson.Mallory credits her love of books to her mother, who taught her that books are a precious resource and should be treated with loving respect. Her grandfather and her father were both steeped in the southern tradition of oral history, and could hold an audience spellbound with their storytelling skills. Mallory aspires to be as good a storyteller as her father.She loves romantic suspense with dangerous heroes and dauntless heroines. She is also fascinated by story ideas that explore the infinite capacity of the brain to adapt and develop higher skills.Mallory lives in Mississippi with her husband and their dauntless cat.