Chapter 1 It starts, as always, in the crowded cooler of the old Cook County medical examiner's office. A worker in coveralls and a mask loads the rough wooden boxes stacked against the wall onto a dolly and trundles them, three at a time, down the hallway to the loading dock, where a truck is waiting. He hums to himself, steadying the topmost box with one hand, and doesn't notice the fluid that looks like antifreeze dripping from the corner of one of the boxes. I follow the unmarked panel truck through South Side neighborhoods, into the suburbs, and to the cemetery, where a long trench is open near the back fence. The grass here is brown and sparse. Broken roots reach like bony fingers through the newly dug earth and a cracked drain pipe drips rusty water. Two men unload the boxes and lower them in, nudging them close together to save space. Each box has a round brass tag nailed to one endno names, just numbers. When the last one is in place, lying unevenly because it barely fits, an old black man in a suit clasps his hands and mumbles a prayer before scattering a handful of dirt, which patters down on the plywood with the sound of rain. There's a moment of quiet, just the rustle of the wind and the hum of traffic on a distant highway. Then he turns away and the backhoe starts up, making a shrill, insistent racket. Only it wasn't a backhoe, it was the phone. I picked it up, feeling the familiar knot of sorrow in the center of my chest that always came with that dream. "Hello?" "Anni? Is that you?" "Yeah." "You sound funny." I recognized that low rumble: Father Sikora, the priest at St. Larry's, the Catholic church and community center four blocks from my house. "I was asleep." I picked up my watch and squinted at it. Not quite 6:00 a.m. "What's wrong? Is Sophie" "Not Sophie. It's someone else. She needs help. You got a car now, right?" "In a manner of speaking." "What does that mean?" "It runs most of the time." "Oh. Well, listen . . ." I heard him take a breath. "Take care of her, okay? I'm counting on you." Click. I stared at the phone for a moment before I put it down. Father Sikora wasn't much for small talk, but this was cryptic even for him. I'd met him ten years ago, when I was a rookie police officer assigned to the Wood District, where his church was an anchor for the community. When I needed some insight into why there was a spike in vandalism or how residents would respond to a new policing initiative, he had the answers. He was in his late sixties now, a barrel-chested Pole with a bald head, a boxer's mashed nose, a rolling gait from an arthritic hip, and gnarled hands that could wield a nail gun for hours of hard manual labor or cup the head of a newborn with immense gentleness. The sole priest in a busy parish, he offered three Masses on the weekends, one each in English, Polish, and Spanish. He'd never asked for my help before. Maybe another troubled teen had gotten lost in the big bad city. That seemed to be my specialty these days. Between that dream and the strange conversation, I felt disoriented and in sore need of coffee. I pulled on a pair of cutoffs and ran water into the old stove-top percolator, scooping in some of the Puerto Rican coffee that I buy at the local corner grocery. I filled a bowl with Little Friskies, went out on the porch, and left it at the bottom of the steps for the three-leggedFister, Barbara is the author of 'In the Wind' with ISBN 9780312374914 and ISBN 0312374917.