night.” He put his hands up in a don’t-blame-me gesture. “Your call.” Then he pointed at the screen. “So, hey, what’s the story with that e-mail you were so excited about? There’s nothing there.” He was right. Dorrie’s e-mail account was open before me. The Inbox was empty. Zero new messages, zero old ones. I quickly clicked through the other folders. They were all empty too. Like someone had gotten there before me and wiped the place clean.
Chapter 10 It was the only possible explanation. Even if you assumed that Dorrie had been in the habit of deleting all her mail as soon as she read it and hadn’t kept copies of any of the messages she sent, even if Dorrie’s last Craigslist ad was old enough by now that responses were no longer coming in, even if none of her existing clients who knew to contact her at this address had written to her since the last time she’d checked her mail—even if you assumed all that, and it was a hell of a lot to assume—it was still impossible for her mailbox to be empty. Because I knew one person who had definitely sent a message to this e-mail address since Dorrie had died. Me. Less than an hour ago. And that meant someone had gone into her account in the past hour and erased everything in it. A lot, a little—I’d never know how much. But whatever it had contained was gone. Minutes. I’d missed it by minutes. If I’d been able to guess her password when I tried, or if I’d thought of coming down here sooner, or if I’d spent less time talking to Michael or hadn’t called Kurland...maybe I’d have beaten my invisible opponent to the punch. Or maybe not. Maybe he had some high-tech way to snoop on the e-mail account and had gotten an alert as soon as my message showed up, had raced in and erased everything within seconds. All that mattered was what I saw: the box was empty. I’d gotten in too late. Michael was still watching me. I told him it was nothing, that I’d been expecting a message that hadn’t come. It probably sounded like a lie, but what the hell, he was used to being lied to in his line of work. I was getting into something over my head, I could tell that’s what he was thinking; but it was, in the end, my problem, not his. He’d given me all the warnings he could. Now it was up to me to listen or not. He rose from his crouch and headed for the kitchen, cursing and limping because his leg had fallen asleep. I started to swing the laptop closed. But a sad temptation stopped me. Dorrie had had another e-mail address, her real address, the one she’d used when she was being Dorrie rather than Cassandra. And it occurred to me that if she’d set her computer up to automatically enter the password for one address, she’d probably have done it for the other as well. I told myself I needed to check it to be thorough, to find out if maybe there were some useful leads there. That’s what I told myself, and there was even some truth to it—but it wasn’t the reason I wanted to do it. Not really. I went back to the main Yahoo Mail page and entered “dorrie_burke” into the ID box. Sure enough, a line of asterisks appeared in the password box below. I clicked “Sign In.” This Inbox was as full as the other had been empty, the messages dating back more than a year in some cases. There were messages from her mother, from Lane, from students whose names I recognized. There were automated reminders from Columbia’s bursar about tuition payments coming due and there was junk mail touting penny stocks and Cialis. I saw my own e-mail address crop up here and there, messages I’d sent Dorrie over the months; things about school and short personal notes, answers to questions she’d asked me and random links I’d forwarded her when I thought she might be interested. I’d sent one of the earliest messages in the folder ( Subject: Restaurant Dan? ) and one of the last—just a couple of days back I’d finally dumped on her all the materials I’d