Prologue: “Meet Riley Connor”

My name is Riley. I’m named after my mom – well, her maiden name. I’m sixteen, and I live with my sister. My mom died from complications after having surgery two years ago. My dad’s an SAC with the FBI, and too busy to look after an active teenager. Original, I know. Nevermind that I’m so busy myself that it wouldn’t matter if he was home more or not, but it was the idea of me being parentless that bothered him. So he asked my sister Cara to take me.

Cara is divorced; her husband left her three years ago to be with some secretary he was having an affair with. He moved across the country and didn’t even ask for time with their daughter Kelley, who’s now seven. So Cara went from being married with a toddler, to being single with a preschooler, to losing her mom, to being a single mother of two girls. I try to be as little of a nuisance to her as possible; I help out with Kelley and around the house whenever I can.

Cara’s a lawyer, a District Attorney, to be exact. So it’s not like she’s unoccupied either. But while she has learned and adopted the same Irish work ethic we all did from our parents, she’s always been good at maintaining balance; and since having Kelley, she’s made balancing work with her personal life a priority.

We have three brothers, who all fall between us in age. Patrick is the oldest, then Sean. Logan is the youngest, before me. He actually got to be the youngest for ten years, and spent my early childhood years reminding me that I was the reason he was no longer the baby of the family. But for all his brotherly torture, he was almost overly protective of me. In fact, when Dad sent me to live with Cara, Logan put up just a bit of a stink. Which was silly; he was a single guy in law school, still living at home. I guess he thought Dad should trust him to be able to look after me, but it really was kind of illogical. Between his work and graduate classes, he was home about as much as Dad was.

Anyway, Dad told him I was better off with a female parental figure than with two men. Logan made one last appeal for me to stay with Patrick and his wife Emily, because they lived around the corner from Dad; but Dad said no, it was already settled with Cara. For my part, I was irritated that no one bothered to ask what I wanted, but since Cara was the one I would have chosen anyway, I didn’t see any reason to say anything about it.

Oh, back to the part where Logan was ten when I was born. That’s right, I was the “surprise” baby. My siblings are ten, thirteen, fifteen, and eighteen years older than I am. If I thought Logan was bad, Patrick and Sean were almost worse. I would always be a baby to them. Even their wives scolded them for the way they sometimes still treated me at family gatherings. Just a few weeks ago, Sean actually talked to me in baby talk. Of course, he has a newborn, so that might have had something to do with it; but you didn’t see him doing that to Logan. Seeing his wife Courtney slap him upside the head was almost worth it though.

So what is life like for me. Well, generally I go from home to school and back again. But in between are all sorts of fun and exciting extracurricular activities. Like being a journalist for our school newspaper and a writer on the yearbook staff. I’ve never been the athletic type; writing is my serious passion. I don’t know what kind of writer I want to be when I grow up yet, but I know I want to be a writer, and my experiences with journalism so far have me leaning in that direction.

When I was little, I used to sit outside my dad’s mostly-closed office door and listen as he held secretive conversations related to work. He thought no one could hear – and he was mostly right, since he always took these calls when the rest of the family was out in the yard enjoying a neighborhood barbeque, or down in the dining room watching the birthday kid blow out their candles, or gathered around the Christmas tree in the family room taking turns opening presents. But from the age of four or five, I had a knack for noticing whenever he slipped out of the room; and the idea of his job so intrigued me that I always wanted to know more about what it was that he did. So I listened at doors, even though for years I didn’t understand a word of his conversations.

As I grew older, and my general comprehension developed to include the language he used in his discussions, I began speculating on what his work might entail at any given time. I spun ideas into wild stories in my head and occasionally on paper; and the older I got, the more of the stories found their way onto paper. When I entered sixth grade and discovered that our middle school had its own newspaper, I was thrilled to learn that what I’d been doing for fun actually had a name and vocation. I’d been a journalist my whole life and not known it.

By the time I entered high school, I’d expanded my affinity for journalism to include mystery solving. Though I didn’t exactly think of myself as a detective, I loved puzzles, particularly the process of solving them.

So the journalist in me is constantly watching everything going on around me, the writer in me always seizing the details and seeing mysteries everywhere, and the investigator relentlessly working to solve those mysteries.

Oh, one last thing. I have this… gift… and it makes doing what I do a thousand times easier.