“I turned off the lock function,” Yumi says. “If it locks up again for some reason, I reset the passcode. It’s 1234.”
She walks away without another word. Zeke shakes my hand and gives Dylan a strange little salute. “It was a pleasure doing business with you,” he says before hurrying to catch up with Yumi.
I watch them leave with Erica’s unlocked phone in my hand. I hope that whatever’s on it will be worth the high price.
Dylan and I return to the Ladies Pavilion, sharing a bench this time, the two of us crouched over Erica’s phone. Both of us know the answer to what happened to her—and, by default, to Ingrid—could be hidden somewhere inside it.
“Part of me doesn’t want to know if something bad happened to her,” Dylan says as he cradles the phone in his palm. “Maybe it’s better to just assume she ran away and that she’s living this amazing new life somewhere.”
I used to think the same thing about Jane. That she had escaped, trading our sad Pennsylvania town for some far-off locale with blue water, palm trees, and nightly fiestas in a cobblestone square. It was better than the alternative, which was assuming she was murdered within hours of hopping into that black Volkswagen.
Now I’d give anything to know where she is. Grave or tropical villa, I don’t care. All I want now is the truth.
“That will change,” I say. “You might not think so now, but it’s true.”
Dylan pushes the phone into my hands. “Then let’s rip the fucking Band-Aid off now, I guess.”
“Where should we look first?”
“Her call log,” Dylan says.
I swipe to the phone’s call history, starting with outgoing calls. The first one listed is a number with a Manhattan area code. Seeing it brings a tightness to my chest.
This is the last place Erica called.
I look at the time and date the call was made. Nine p.m., October fourth.
“That’s just hours before she vanished,” Dylan says.
“Do you recognize it?”
I dial, my heartbeat knocking at my rib cage as the phone rings once. I hit the speaker button so Dylan can hear the second ring. Still, he presses against me, our shoulders touching.
On the third ring, someone answers.
“Hunan Palace. Takeout or delivery?”
Immediately, I hang up.
Dylan pulls away from me, his hopes dashed. “She ordered us Chinese food that night. I forgot all about that. Fuck.”
Undeterred, I scroll through a month’s worth of Erica’s outgoing calls. Nothing stands out to me. There are a few calls to Dylan. Some made to a woman named Cassie and a man named Marcus. I see another call to Hunan Palace made a week earlier, and a second one to Cassie a few days before that.
The rattle of my heartbeat slows to a disappointed crawl. I’m not sure what I expected. A frantic call to 911, I guess. Or a goodbye call to Dylan.
I move on to Erica’s incoming calls. The last one she received was from Dylan.
Yesterday. Three p.m. He didn’t leave a message.
But he did the night before, when he called shortly before midnight.
I play the message, watching the clench of Dylan’s jaw as he listens to his plaintive voice blare from the phone.
“It’s me again. I don’t know why I’m calling because it’s clear you no longer use this phone. I hope that’s the reason and that you’re not avoiding me. I’m worried, Erica.”
Dylan says nothing as I play the other messages he’s left in the past two weeks. In each of them, I note the way his voice wavers between worry and defeat.
It’s the same with messages from other people. Cassie and Marcus and a woman who doesn’t give her name but sounds vaguely British. Tension tightens their voices. An aural tug-of-war between forced hopefulness and barely contained concern.
Tucked among those messages are ones from less well-meaning sources. Visa calling to remind Erica that she’s sixty days late with her payment. Discover calling to tell her the same thing. A man named Keith calling from a collection agency asking where the hell their money is.
“If you don’t contact us in the next twenty-four hours, I’m going to call the police,” he warns.
That was eleven days ago. How wonderful it would have been if he’d followed through on that threat.
I search the text messages next. Again, Dylan is well-represented. He’s sent dozens of them. So many that my index finger cramps up before I get through the past week.
The most recent was sent shortly after midnight, two days ago.
Please tell me where you are.
It was followed a minute later by another.
I miss you.
Two of the people who left voicemails also texted.
Cassie: Haven’t heard from you in a while. You OK?
Marcus: Where you been?
Cassie again: Seriously. You OK?? Text me as soon as you get this.
Cassie a third time: PLEASE!
There are even two texts from Ingrid, made the day after Erica disappeared.
Um, where are you?
Are you around? I’m worried.
I swipe back to the main screen, taking inventory of her most-used apps. Missing are the usual suspects. No Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.
“She didn’t—” Dylan catches his use of the past tense and stops to correct himself. “She doesn’t believe in social media. She told me it was a huge waste of time.”