Recap: Corey’s parents had an argument about her and were found dead the next morning. Corey then meets Detective Skylar Adams. She is later adopted by Helen and Andy. Two years later, Corey is in school and meets a friend, Terese, and the class bully, Sandra. One day, two students are found dead and Corey meets Detective Adams again. Corey starts 2nd grade, which brings her face to face with a terrifying new teacher. As you can expect, her teacher does not last long. And then neither do her adopted parents, but things look up as Corey may have found a forever family. Corey moves in with Detective Adams and his wife and learns Terese lives across the street. One Friday night, Corey has a typical, happy evening with her mom, but seems out of sorts when Skyler comes home looking haggard. One night, Terese is sleeping over, but it doesn’t stop Skyler from working on the strange murder case. Corey and Terese get an interesting ski lesson and Corey provides some important information regarding the murders. Skyler and Dimitra go on an overnight trip, leaving Corey with a babysitter who does not meet with a happy end.
The following day, Corey looked tearful as she and Terese hugged. Dimitra felt something tug at her heartstrings. The little girl had already lost so much in the past four years. Dimitra was starting to change her mind about moving. Corey seemed so happy to have her best friend living right across the street. Even though Vicky had died in their home, Dimitra felt it would be even worse if the two girls had to be pulled away from each other.
“What are you thinking about?” Skyler asked as he came up behind her.
Dimitra was standing at the front window, looking outside, using a cup of tea to warm her hands. Corey and Terese were bundled up and working hard on building a snowman. She could hear their light laughter as they threw clumps of snow at each other and ducked each pellet. Dimitra turned slightly as her husband approached with a fresh cup of coffee. He had been working in his office all day.
“Would you be terribly mad at me if I decide we shouldn’t move?” Dimitra asked softly as she turned back to watch the girls.
Skyler hesitated before answering. “Why do you ask?” he asked cautiously.
“Look at them, Sky. Terese is Corey’s best friend. She’s the one stable thing Corey’s had since her parents died. She’s thrilled to have her best friend living right across the street. Can we really be cruel and tear them apart?”
“We won’t be tearing them apart,” Skyler replied, confused. “They’ll be in the same school still. We won’t be moving that far away.”
“I know. But she’s built up a structure, a routine, that involves Terese and Terese’s family. And that involves all of us living close together. Look, Sky, they’re like sisters now, they’re so close. I couldn’t bear to tear them apart even by moving one house down the street. They’re comfortable and that’s what Corey needs more than anything else.”
Skyler sighed. “For you and Corey I would do anything. But a woman died in our home.”
“On a couch, Sky. We can replace the couch. We can even replace the carpet. But we can’t replace Corey’s home, a home that means more to her than a place to live. Here, she has a stable family for the first time in her entire life. She has her best friend right across the street. I can’t take that away from her. Can you?”
“Well, when you put it that way…”
“Look. We can eradicate anything associated with Vicky. Corey seems to have gotten over it. We may not have, but she has, and that’s what’s important.”
“She has gotten over it pretty fast,” Skyler murmured, gazing out the window.
Dimitra looked over at him sharply. “You’re not implying Corey’s been killing these people.”
“Oh, no. Of course not, Dimitra. She’s far too young to have killed all those people like that. She didn’t even know one of the girls that well and couldn’t possibly have known where the girls and the teacher lived. The other deaths happened while she was sleeping. Even if she were sleepwalking, I don’t think she could have done that. And we found no evidence to implicate her. No, I don’t believe Corey did it.”
“Then what do you think?”
“I think someone’s been killing the people around her. I don’t know who or why, but I really think someone out there is trying to either get to her and hurt her or trying to protect her.”
Dimitra turned slowly so she could fully face her husband. “Those are two very different ideas, Sky. Which is it?”
He shrugged. “That’s the thing. I don’t know, and I don’t know if I’ll ever know. But someone is killing the people Corey comes in contact with. Most of these people have been a caretaker for her in some sense or another. To get to Corey, this person would have to get through the caretakers.”
“But all those people meant her harm in some way,” Dimitra said quietly.
“Hence the protector part. Maybe this person knows all about Corey and wants to protect her. The only way they know to do it would be to kill anyone who threatens her.”
“But who is it?”
“I don’t know. And I don’t know if Corey knows. Because she’s now been in four different homes and has had three sets of parents, it’s difficult to say who it might be, or who she’s been in contact with her entire life. Maybe she doesn’t even know this person.”
Dimitra looked up at him for a moment before she cracked a small smile and shook her head. “Sky, this is starting to sound ridiculous. Maybe these murders have nothing to do with Corey after all.”
“Dimitra, she’s the only common denominator. These murders have to be connected to her in some way.”
Gently, Dimitra put a hand on his arm. “Sweetie, maybe you should go take a nap. You’ve been working for hours. I doubt you’ll solve this today. Do yourself a favor and take a nap until dinner time, okay?”
“I’m fine,” he said emphatically.
“Okay, then. For my sake, take a break.”
Skyler sighed. “Fine. I’ll go get my coat and go out to play with the girls.”
Dimitra nodded and kissed her husband’s cheek. He went over to the coat closed and pulled out his winter coat. Pulling it on, he opened the front door and stepped out. Dimitra turned back to the window and watched as the girls started throwing crude snowballs at him. She smiled to herself. No, those girls couldn’t be separated. And, yes, Skyler’s theories were a little more than crazy. But she loved her family anyways.
“Ready for school?” Dimitra asked as Corey was finishing her breakfast.
The winter break was over and it was back to school. Oddly enough, Corey didn’t mind and actually seemed excited to go back. Dimitra attributed this to Corey being able to see Terese after nearly a week apart since the blond girl had been away visiting family. Corey also seemed to adore her teacher, so Dimitra and Skyler never had any problems getting their daughter to school.
“Ready!” Corey said as she swung her legs and raised her spoon, splashing milk over the table. “Oops.”
Dimitra suppressed a sigh. Corey was a little too excited. “You know what to do.”
Corey nodded and hopped down from the chair. She hurried over to the counter and grabbed a handful of paper napkins. Then she went back over to the dining table and dutifully mopped up the milk.
“I’m all done, Mom. Are we leaving soon?”
Dimitra glanced at the clock. “In just a few minutes. I’m going to finish your father’s coffee and then we’ll head off, okay? Why don’t you go get your backpack?”
Eagerly, Corey nodded and took her spoon and bowl over to the sink. After carefully dropping them in for her mother to wash, Corey scurried back to her room and snapped up her backpack. Slinging it over her shoulder, she headed back to wait by the front door.
“Give me just a minute,” Dimitra said as she dried her hands. “I’m going to go tell your father we’re off first.”
Corey nodded and waited impatiently by the door. She had a feeling something exciting was going to happen today, something she’d been waiting for, but she didn’t know what it was. She just knew she’d been waiting for this day all her life. She wished her mother would hurry up and get them into the car.
“Okay, pumpkin,” Dimitra said brightly, heels clicking against the floor and briefcase swinging from one hand.
“Do you have to go to court today?” Corey asked, looking her mother’s dark suit over.
Dimitra laughed and pulled open the door. “When am I not in court? I guess that happens when you’re working for the District Attorney. Let’s hop to it. I have to be there at nine.”
Corey nodded and ran for the car. Thankfully, the ride was short and Corey was waving good-bye to her mother twenty minutes later. Dimitra drove off and Corey hurried through the school gates. She quickly wound her way around excited, milling students until she got to her own classroom. Terese was already there.
“Corey!” Terese shouted happily. “I’m so glad to see you again!”
Terese ran over to her friend and gave her a tight hug. Corey returned the embrace and then joined her friend in line.
“How was visiting your family?” Corey asked. “You know, I missed you a lot for the past week.”
Terese sighed dramatically. “I know! I missed you so much, too! Family’s boring. It’s always boring. We couldn’t even go outside because there was so much snow and my aunt thought my cousins and I would catch colds and be bedridden all week. So, we had to stay inside the whole time. I watched so many movies and watched my cousins play so many video games. Are my eyes still in my head? Good. It sometimes feels like they must have fallen out. I was ready to come home after one day! I hate visiting my aunt. She’s so controlling.”
Corey laughed as Terese finished her tale.
“Well, it was pretty boring here without you,” Corey said. “I’m glad you’re home.”
Terese gave her friend a bright smile as their teacher opened up the door and invited her students in. All twenty-something of them pushed their way in, chattering all the way. They caught up to Stacy as they headed for their seats.
“How was your break?” Terese asked the other girl.
Stacy laughed and set her bag down. “Noisy. My family was so noisy and almost all of my cousins stayed with us all two weeks. It was so loud. I couldn’t wait for them to leave. They left yesterday. And now we’re back at school.” Stacy sighed and sat down heavily at her desk.
“Aren’t you happy to be back at school?” Corey asked, turning in her seat to look at her friend.
Stacy just blinked at Corey. “You mean you’re excited to be back at school?”
“Of course,” Corey said. “I love Mrs. James and I missed you and Terese a lot. I’m so glad to be back at school. My break was pretty boring. My parents have small families, so there aren’t really any cousins to play with.” Corey made a face. “The closest in age is almost sixteen and she doesn’t want to have anything to do with me.”
“Okay, class,” Mrs. James said, clapping her hands. “I’m sure you’re all happy to be back at school.” Her remark was med by light laughter and a few groans. “I’m certainly glad to be back to see all of your beautiful faces. I hope you had a happy holiday season. Welcome back to fourth grade. Before we get started today, we have two new classmates.”
Mrs. James made a gesture and two kids rose from their seats at the front of the classroom.
It was a boy and a girl who looked almost identical, except the girl’s jet black hair was longer. The boy’s hair was a little long, but didn’t fall anywhere close to the girl’s waist length hair. They were both slim and dressed in black and red, the boy in a blood red T-shirt and black pants and the girl in a black dress striped with red. They both had piercing black eyes. All four eyes roved the room and settled on Corey.
A shiver went through Corey, but it wasn’t one of fear. It was a thrill of anticipation, of joy. This was what she had been waiting for. She had been waiting for these two kids to come into her life. But she had no idea who they were.
“Class, meet your new classmates. Meet Aiden and Cate Asphodel. Their family moved here from across the country a couple of weeks ago. I hope you make them feel welcome.” Mrs. James smiled at the twins. “You can have a seat now.”
As one, the twins pulled their gazes from Corey and took their seats. Terese turned in her seat and excitedly mouthed, “They were looking straight at you!”
Corey gave her a distracted smile before her gaze wandered over to the new students. She couldn’t wait until recess.