It was the Saturday of Thanksgiving weekend. On November 28, 1981, Eastern Airlines Flight 960 out of Newark touched down at Boston’s Logan Airport shortly after 10:30 pm in a raw wind. On the plane Joan Webster, a second-year graduate student at Harvard University Graduate School of Design, grabbed her coat, purse, and brown leather totebag, filled with textbooks, and waited in the stuffy cabin for the plane to empty. It had been an uneventful hour-long flight as Joan chatted with other passengers about the holiday spent with her parents in her home in Glen Ridge, New Jersey, and the architectural program she was enrolled in at Harvard. She was, her family would later say, in a buoyant mood, excited about a design project she was working on with two of her classmates. The project she was working on was of particular concern to Joan. She had decided to leave New Jersey after a cocktail party planned for that Saturday night. She needed to get back to Boston that evening because of a meeting she had scheduled early Sunday morning to discuss the project with her colleagues, she told her parents. The news didn’t sit well with Terry and George Webster, who wanted their youngest child to return to Boston by car the next day with her older sister, Anne, who worked in the Boston area. When Joan insisted, the couple gave in. After the cocktail party at the home of family friends, her parents and Anne drove her to Newark Airport, handing her twenty dollars to take a cab from Logan Airport in Boston to her dormitory in Cambridge. Wary of her daughter becoming the victim of a mugging, Terry cautioned her to remove the gold charm bracelet she was wearing on her wrist. Joan took off the bracelet, filled with charms from years of childhood travels, and slipped it into her purse. With no way to know that she was saying good-bye to her parents and sister for the last time, Joan stepped into the airport terminal to board her Boston-bound flight. By the time her plane touched down that Saturday night, Joan was exhausted. Dressed in the same black suit and red paisley shirt she had worn only hours before to the cocktail party, the attractive young woman stood by the baggage claim area with her Chesterfield coat slung over her arm, waiting patiently for her dark plaid Lark suitcase. She grabbed the bag, stuffed with a weekend’s worth of clothing as it slid past on the luggage carousel, walked out of the terminal into the chilly night air, and simply disappeared.From the Hardcover edition.
Excerpted from The Paradiso Files by Timothy M. Burke. . Excerpted by permission of Steerforth, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.