When a call came in from her sibling's cellphone days after she went missing, Amanda Barthelemy didn't know what to think.
"Is this Melissa's little sister?" a man asked.
"Yes," replied the 16-year-old girl.
"Do you know what your sister is doing?" he said. "She's a whore."
The call, police believe, was made by a sadistic serial killer who abducted and strangled Melissa Barthelemy, an aspiring hair stylist, sometime after she left her Bronx apartment on July 10, 2009.
But not before extracting a secret from the 24-year-old victim, who moved to New York from Buffalo in 2007.
Melissa had not told her mother she was turning tricks to pay her bills, though she'd been booking clients on Craigslist and meeting johns for sex for more than a year.
She lied and said she was an exotic dancer. Only Amanda got the truth.
"No one else knew," said their mom, Lynn Barthelemy.
It was the first real clue about the twisted psyche of a predator who stalked and choked to death at least eight prostitutes in the last five years, and possibly murdered four others.
That's the body count after cops this week linked the murder of Melissa Barthelemy and three other prostitutes found near Gilgo Beach in Suffolk County in December to four dead sex workers left in a ditch near Atlantic City in 2006, sources told The Post. All died from strangulation, their corpses stashed before being dumped.
"It's the same guy," said one law-enforcement source.
A third cluster of four bodies discovered a few miles from Gilgo Beach last week has fueled speculation that a Long Island serial killer used the sandy south shore as his burial ground.
There are conflicting reports about a possible suspect. Suffolk officials said they don't have one, but a police source familiar with the investigation said cops are focusing on a man who lives in the county. They've been watching him for days, the source said.
And they're re-examining every bit of evidence in the cases, including that first call to Amanda, which was followed by a half-dozen more during the next six weeks.
The killer always phoned in the evenings, spoke briefly and in a low voice -- and only to Amanda. He calmly spewed taunts and allegations. He sent text messages.
"He wouldn't talk to anybody but her," said Lynn Barthelemy, who documented the barrage in a journal she gave police. "One time I answered, and he hung up as soon as he heard my voice."
Cops began to triangulate the phone, pinpointing the caller's location to Times Square, Madison Square Garden and Massapequa, a short drive from Gilgo Beach. They showed Melissa's picture around at strip clubs. Did her murderer work in Midtown and commute from Long Island?
The girls were close, and their family wondered: Had the killer gotten a glimpse of Amanda, who twice came to stay with Melissa?
"When Amanda went down there, the first thing they did was to get a manicure and pedicure," said their mom. "They went to the zoo and the Statue of Liberty."
But the sister did not recall anyone who might have been a suspect.
The calls abruptly stopped in August 2009 after a Buffalo TV station revealed their existence.
But by then, police believe, Melissa was already dead. The stories of others would soon emerge.
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