Afterward, Miranda would find it remarkable how quickly she and Emily realized something must have happened to Andrea. The first sign was easy to ignore. The streets around Elias-Clarke were in constant gridlock due to some major repairs going on. Miranda had to start half an hour earlier from the townhouse every morning to reach Runway on time. When Andrea wasn't back from her errands at Donna Karan and Hermes, everyone assumed the towncar was caught in traffic.
At 10.30 am, when the run-through was only ten minutes away, Miranda ordered Emily, her first assistant, to call Andrea. When there was no answer, which Emily said with a trembling voice, Miranda hissed, "Then call the towncar. Put it on speaker."
Emily blanched but dialed again. The towncar driver clearly wasn't the usual chauffeur as he answered with an indifferent "T'sup?"
"Where are you?" Emily snarled. "You're more than forty minutes late back at Elias-Clarke!"
"Hey, don't have a cow," the voice of a young man said, his voice lazy and unimpressed. "I'm still waiting for that chick. She ran off to some store more than an hour ago and I don't know what's wrong with you women and shopping—"
"What?" Miranda stood and rounded her desk. "Andrea is not in the car?" She had no idea why, but her heart was suddenly racing.
"As I said, lady, I'm still waiting. I don't care. I get paid either way." The young man chuckled.
"If you still have a job, which I doubt when I report your deplorable manners to your employer." Miranda placed a hand on the door frame to steady herself. Where could Andrea have gone to? She had done these particular runs so many times now; she usually was back within twenty minutes. Even with the traffic, forty minutes was plenty. "Where are you parked?"
"Two blocks from where the chick was going. What was it? Donna something," the driver said. "Traffic's crazy here."
Two blocks? Miranda's stomach did a slow somersault. That didn't make sense. If Andrea had run into trouble at Donna Karan, if the skirts and tops weren't ready, she would have called Emily to warn Miranda before the run-through. For her to go off the grid and not answer her phone—it wasn't like her. At all.
"Stay where you are until we call you." Emily hung up the phone and dialed yet another number. She put it on speaker again.
"Donna Karan, Ms. Fellini's office," yet another young man answered, but this one with impeccable politeness.
"Hello. I'm calling for Miranda Priestly," Emily began, but was forestalled by the man's gushing voice.
"Oh, my God. We've been sitting here on pins and needles waiting for Andy. She's never late and we know how important it was for Runway to get the garments in time. We were just going to call you."
Miranda frowned. "This is Miranda Priestly. Are you certain Andrea hasn't come into the store today?"
"M-Miranda Prie—Oh. Wow. I mean. Yes, I'm certain. My desk is just inside the door and she has to pass it to reach Ms. Fellini and the clothes racks in the back. Is…I mean, has something happened?" He sounded truly concerned.
Miranda didn't answer, but Emily regained the initiative. "We don't know. As you say, Andy is prompt and dependable. We'll send someone else for the clothes. Please let us know if she shows up. We'll make further inquiries in the meantime."
"What's up?" Nigel strode into the outer office area with Serena, Paul, and Jocelyn. "You all look like someone stole The Book."
"We can't find Andy," Emily said as she hung up the phone, her eyes huge. "She's very late and she's not answering her phone. Her driver saw her wake toward Donna Karan, but the assistant there hasn't seen her and she hasn't picked up the clothes." Gripping her pencil hard, Emily stared at her hand when it snapped in two.
"That's not like Six," Nigel agreed, his sorrowful eyes even more concerned. "She's so dedicated, so eager to be the perfect assistant, she drives me nuts." He walked up to Miranda who still hadn't found her voice. Or at least, she wasn't sure she could trust it to be steady enough to speak without alerting everyone to her inner turmoil.
"All right," Emily said and pointed at Andrea's empty desk. "Serena. Call the police and ask if they know anything. I'm calling the main emergency rooms in Manhattan."
"What—what about her studio apartment?" Jocelyn said timidly. "Does she have a landline we can try?"
"No. Just her private cell phone, which I've tried along with the work phone—a multitude of times." Emily was already dialing and turned her chair to the side as she pulled up a notepad.
Miranda stood silent as the young women she employed took charge. Part of her wanted to maintain they were all overreacting. Of course they were. Who in their right mind asked the police for information when a person had been missing for, she checked her watch, fifty-five minutes? It was ridiculous. Then again, she couldn't disregard her gut reaction. For Andrea to be an hour late equaled anybody else being a day late.
After ten minutes, when Miranda had gone back to her desk and browsed the local news for anything that might explain what was going on, Serena poked her head in. "The police have no reports of anything happening in that neighborhood, nor have they any information regarding a young woman fitting Andy's description or with her name. Nothing."
"I suppose that is good news." Miranda curled her hands into fists. "Try any of her friends that you know of. Even that young man she used to live with."
"All right. They're on her phone book on her computer as far as I know. I think Emily has her passw—" Serena closed her mouth around the last word. "On it, Miranda."
A minute later, Emily appeared, looking pale. "No luck, if you can call it that, at any of the ERs. God. I even asked if they have any Jane Does that look like her. They didn't."
Miranda could hardly breathe. Why was she completely panicky? Of course Andrea was going to show up—any minute now. She could picture the curvy young woman tearing through the glass doors, hangers with clothes flapping behind her. No doubt, she would balance several trays of Starbuck coffee for everybody and insist on delivering it with a face-splitting smile.
Standing up, Miranda turn her back to the outer office and remained still with her arms wrapped around her waist. The busy street below was too far away for her to be able to identify which brunette down there could be Andrea.
"Miranda?" Nigel came up to her and placed a gentle hand on her shoulder. He rarely touched her, despite their long friendship.
"What?" she whispered.
"I can tell this is hard on you." Nigel spoke quietly, glancing over his shoulder. "It might not be obvious to anyone else, but you've taken a greater interest in Six than you've done with any of your other assistants."
"You presume to understand too much," Miranda said coolly. "I am naturally concerned for an employee that I have high hopes for. Andrea has impressed me more than most, considering how deplorable she looked when she started out here. What is it now? Ten months ago?"
"Almost to the day in fact," Nigel said casually. "And I agree. She's going to go far."
All Miranda wanted was for Andrea to show up. For her to not call in, from any phone, was unheard of. The girl was just too caring and conscientious. More than once had Andrea performed impossible tasks and done so with that special light in her eyes shining when Miranda had to concede her brilliance.
"All right." Serena entered Miranda's office and read from her pad. "Andy's friend Lily was rather standoffish and she hasn't heard from Andy in months. Doug, I mean Douglas," she added with a quick glance at Miranda, "is usually in contact with her several times a week, sometimes daily, but not today. He had texted her forty-five minutes ago and he also tried texting her while we talked. She usually answers within half an hour but not today. Andy's former boyfriend, Nate, hasn't talked to her since just after she got home from Paris Fashion Week. He is in a new relationship with some French woman, but he sounded worried when I told him about her silence." Serena hesitated. "I haven't checked in with her parents—"
"And you shouldn't do that either. Not yet." Miranda tried to reel her emotions in and by doing that; she hoped she did the same with the worry for the rest of them."
"So what do we do now?" Nigel asked cautiously. "How long do we wait until we pull all the stops?"
"And by that, I assume, you mean we report her missing?" Miranda shivered at the idea. Once they decided to do that, she was…she was uncertain how she might feel. Right now it was bad enough. Her chest constricted as if someone had fused her ribs. In the pit of her stomach, a lump of ice and gravel shifted back and forth even if she tried to remain as unflappable as she usually was.
"Is there any way to see if her cell is on?" Emily asked, literally wringing her hands. "Like you would do if it was stolen?"
"Good idea. Do we need someone from tech-support?" Nigel asked.
"Nah. I can do it. Brilliant idea, Em," Serena said and pulled her phone out. "Remember we all got those fitness bracelets? We hooked them up to a site that saves our movements so we could compete with each other. You know, who walked or ran the most steps, who rode around town on errands and so on. As we all approved each other as friends on the app, we can also track each other's routes when the app is active."
Miranda stared at Serena. "Who among you were in on this app?"
Serena blinked. "Andy, Emily, Jocelyn, and I. And…and…"
"Who else?" Miranda looked at them all pointedly. What was going on that made Serena go pale? She was the one among the young women who was the least afraid of Miranda.
"The twins persuaded Andy to friend them on the fitness site." Serena spoke quietly. "I thought you knew, Miranda. She made them part of our closed group."
"My girls? They're on some online app that tracks their movements?" Her ire raging now, Miranda stepped closer to the others. "Why am I only hearing about this now?"
"Andy said they had asked your permission." Standing her ground, Serena clutched her cell phone. "And she made them promise only to turn it on while they had gym class at Daltons."
"I will talk to the twins." Miranda, a master at compartmenting, tucked the information away for now. "So, is her phone on? Can you track her?"
"Let me see. You try too, Em…Jocelyn." Tapping with frenzy at her phone, Serena stared at the screen. "What the…?"
"That's impossible." Emily glanced up from her cell at Serena and then simply handed her phone to Miranda. "It says she's moving very fast. On Interstate 78, southbound from Newark."
Miranda stared at the moving dot. "She's in a car. Or her phone is. Someone might have—must have—stolen her phone." She swallowed hard. Why hadn't Andrea contacted them if someone stole her purse…or…Miranda's brain stalled. "This does it. We contact the police. Now. Get me Captain Elisabeth North at the 18th precinct."
"Yes, Miranda," Emily said quickly and hurried back to her desk. Miranda saw her cast an unreadable glance at Andrea's empty one. Clearly her assistants got along better these days. Nobody had been more relieved than her when the Emily finally warmed up to Andrea and stopped hissing and snarling at her. Not that she truly cared if the girls were friends or not, but she had found Emily's animosity tiring.
"I have Captain North," Emily called out.
Gripping the phone with ice cold fingers, Miranda pulled herself together. "Captain North? Miranda Priestly here. I'd like to report a missing person. Possibly an ab-abduction." Miranda closed her eyes hard for a moment.
There was a stunned silence and then the stern police captain responded calmly. "Give me the initial information and I'll transfer your report—"
"No. No. I want you to handle it. This concerns my second assistant and we have reason to believe that she's become victim of a crime about less than an hour ago. While we debate the correct command structure, the few leads we have of her whereabouts become less useful."
"Then by all means," Captain North said. "Give me the short version. I'm going to send uniforms to…Elias-Clarke?"
"Yes." Miranda told the captain what they knew so far. At first, much like the Runway staff, Elisabeth North didn't seem too concerned, but her voice changed when Miranda told her about the cell phone tracking.
"Send me a photo of Andrea Sachs. I'll have it sent to all the black-and-whites in Manhattan and Newark. See if your assistant can do a screen capture of the tracking. The officers enroute will be joined by detectives and they will take more detailed notes. Right now I need to know what she's wearing, her height, etc."
That was no problem. Miranda only had to close her eyes and she saw every detail of Andrea and her current outfit. She listed them and when she finally hung up, she saw Nigel standing by the door, his eyes full of compassion.
It was dark and a foul smell made her gag. Andy blinked into the darkness, trying to get her eyes to acclimatize to it, but it really was pitch black. Whimpering, she tried to move, but something weighed her down. Something hard and heavy, wrapped in…plastic?
"Hello?" Andy tried to call out, but the heavy weight on top of her constricted her breathing and all she managed was a wheezing sound that ended in a coughing fit. "Please," she said huskily. "Anybody? Hello?"
She strained her ears and thought she could hear muffled sounds of traffic, but she wasn't sure. Her head hurt and her back too. One arm was pinned against her abdomen by the weight on top of her. The other, the left, was free and she tried to move it around. She touched something cold and rough and yanked her hand back. Where was she? Why couldn't she remember anything? How long had she been here?
Was anyone looking for her?
To be continued in part 2