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But as soon as she pushed open the front door, she sensed Laura’s presence. She could hear the TV in the back bedroom, and the kitchen light was on. The smell of fresh coffee wafted through the air.

She heard a thud followed by happy meows as Apollo ran to meet her. Cassie knelt and stroked his back, allowing his purrs to relax her. He flopped down by her feet and rolled back and forth in what she had christened his happy cat dance. Maybe he’d sensed the tension in the house and wanted to alleviate what he could.

Laura emerged from the back bedroom with her arms crossed over her chest. She stayed silent.

Cassie tossed her purse on the ground and made a beeline for the coffee. “Thanks for making a fresh pot.”

Laura’s words were curt. “You’re welcome.”

Cassie didn’t know how to start, so she jumped right into the middle. “Was Michael mad at me?”

“No, he was worried he upset you. I spent half an hour reassuring him he did nothing wrong, and that you had a lot going on.”

“Did you tell him anything?”

Laura threw up her hands. “What would I have told him? I have no idea what’s going through your head, Cassie, because you’re not sharing that with me.”

Cassie stirred her coffee with a spoon, but she’d suddenly lost any taste for it. “I’m sorry.”

Laura tipped her head back in exasperation. “Sorry for what? Running out on us? Making Michael go out of his way to take me home? Scaring me half to death?”

“All the above?”

“Don’t be cute. I was worried.”

“You could’ve called or texted.”

“And would you have answered?” Laura crossed her arms over her chest.

They both knew she wouldn’t have, but she wasn’t about to admit that out loud.

“Exactly.” Laura crossed the room and put her hands on her hips. “Where did you go?”

“You know, you look just like Mom when you do that.”

“Answer the question.”

Cassie threw up her arms. “I called my friend, Detective Klein. We went to his former Captain’s house to ask him if he’d purposefully looked the other way when a bunch of addicts were being murdered back in the nineties. He kicked us out, so we went to a dead serial killer’s house to poke around to see if we could find any evidence corroborating our theory. Turns out, we did. Then I came straight home, I swear.”

Laura’s jaw went slack. “Are you serious?”

“Yes. Now, can you stop yelling at me so I can apologize properly?”

When Laura nodded, Cassie led her over to the sofa in the living room. “I’m sorry I ran out on you at breakfast. That was wrong, and I regret doing it. I was overwhelmed and afraid, and it was an automatic reaction.”

“Why were you afraid?”

Cassie chose her words carefully. She wanted to be truthful without painting the entire picture. “I don’t remember a lot about Sarah’s disappearance. You talk about things that I should remember, but they’re blank spaces in my head.”

Laura crossed her legs and leaned forward. “Why does that make you afraid?”

Cassie couldn’t stop the laugh that escaped her mouth. “All you need is a pen and a notebook. Want me to get you one? What’s your hourly rate?”

Laura tossed her curls over her shoulder. “You couldn’t afford me.”

“That’s true.” A grin broke out over her face. “Hey, if you ever go back to school, you’ll have to go by Dr. Quinn.”

“You know, you’re not the first person to make that joke. You’re not as clever as you think.”

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