Written by Inês Costa
“How am I going to tell him? To tell them both? ”
Diana was reaching her loft after the art exhibit. She instantly started doing a cup of tea, but her hands were shaking so much that she had to sit down for a moment by the kitchen table. She rested her forehead on her hands and shivered, while she started talking to herself.
- How am I going to solve this? What if she isn’t Catherine? I could be opening up wounds that aren’t meant to be opened.
She then remembered Jacob and his reliance in saying that his mother was alive. Maybe some of the instincts that Vincent had before had passed to him.
And then, she realised something even more serious…that meant that Mary was his sister and Vincent’s daughter. Now it all made sense: The look in her eyes, the similarities in her face, the sense that she was certain to have a father somewhere, the proximity to Jacob…
Diana left the boiler on the stove and took the picture and other information that Mary had given her. She looked at the picture once more and her heart just started pounding in a way that she thought it would come out of her chest. There she was. With some lines on her face, that the years had managed to put there, but she was the same, except for the scenario. It was the backyard of a country house, and she was gardening. Mary took her mother by surprise when she took the photograph, since she didn’t like to take pictures, accordingly to Mary.
-All right, first I need to be sure that this isn’t just some strange coincidence. I need to see her up close. I’ll think of something later…
Diana ran to her bedroom and started packing some random clothes. She was even seeing what she was packing. She seemed to be doing those actions automatically, without even thinking about them. Her legs seemed absent and she couldn’t even feel her arms. It was a strange sensation. Suddenly there was a tap up in the window.
“Oh No!. He will see my state. Calm yourself down Diana, please!”
She closed her eyes and breathed a couple of times, with her eyes closed. She tucked the pictures and Mary’s address in Montana under her clothes and went calmly to the roof top. Vincent was waiting her.
- Diana! I’m sorry to come this early, but I was hoping you could tell me how the show went.
-The show? The art show? It was great, great…
There was an awkward silence, while Vincent waited for her to speak. Diana wasn’t really aware that Vincent wanted more information.
-…and Jacob’s work?
- Oh! – she nervously laughed – His work was great. He has very good potential, said his teacher. You should really be proud. I think that he even sold some work. At his age is a very good thing.
There was a silence, again. By this time Vincent was starting to get suspicious.
- Tell me Diana, something happened? You seem nervous.
Diana froze. She was thinking on something to say, but the more she tried the more she got confused. She wanted to burst out what she had discovered, but no…she couldn’t. What if she wasn’t Catherine? That would probably devastate him…he would probably do something crazy. No…for his sake, she couldn’t tell.
Vincent closed on her and grabbed her by the arms.
- Diana, you’re my friend. Tell me, what is bothering you?
She looked the other way, avoiding a confrontation.
- Nothing…troubles with a case.
- I thought you have quitted research.
She managed to release his grip and walked away from him.
- I’m doing a special favour for a friend. You know, getting back on the saddle leaves you nervous…
Vincent paused and turned to her.
- Not really…you always seemed such a relaxed person. I never seen you this nervous.
- Well, I am. I am nervous.
This last remark was made at a loud voice. Vincent looked surprised. Never Diana had raised her voice for that purpose. Diana recognized her mistake and put on a much smoother and reassuring face.
- I’m sorry Vincent. I’m sorry I yelled. You sure aren’t to blame…I’m, I’m just indisposed.
She paused and looked at him.
- Listen, can we talk some other time? I’m going away for a few days and I need to catch my sleep.
- You’re going away?
- Yes…just for a couple of days, don’t worry. I’ll be back in a flash.
“I’m driving for too long now.”
The empty road ahead of her was becoming darker and darker. Diana slapped her face.
-Come on! Don’t fall asleep! You’re close now!
She looked again at the map, where Mary’s hometown was signalled with a red circle.
-It should be around here somewhere…
Sure enough, after a tight curve, Diana could see the road bending down and in front of her midway a valley, she started seeing some houses. She sighed, relieved. She continued to follow the road and following Mary’s instructions, she drove to a very nice bead-and-breakfast that the girl and recommended. Diana was in need of a rest before the big confrontation.
She pulled up near the big house. It was a very large one, typical Victorian style, with very large windows, high rooftop and lots of balconies. There was a light at the front door. She grabbed her backpack and closed the car. She walked up to the stairs and knocked on the door. An old lady came up.
She looked at the backpack and smiled, as she knew what Diana was there for. She was quicker asking.
-Hello, good evening. Sorry to trouble you, but a friend of mine recommended your place to stay for a couple of days.
-Yes, yes dear, come on in!
Diana smiled and entered the house. The hallway was narrow, with a set of stairs. At her left she could see the dining room, with the old lady’s food still placed on the table.
-I’m sorry, I can see that you were having dinner. Sorry to trouble you.
The old lady nodded her head.
-Oh no! Don’t be! I’m glad that you came actually, I was needing a company for dinner anyway.
Diana smiled, while the lady opened up the register book.
-Now, you’re name please?
-Diana Bennett, but please, call me Diana.
The lady smiled.
- I’m Sara Adams, but you can call me Sara. I want nothing of that Mrs Adams! I’ve got tired of it.
-May I ask why are you tired of your own name?
The old lady accompanied Diana on her laugh, and picked up the key for her guests room from a drawer on the left of the small table.
- I used to be a nurse in the local hospital. Now I’m retired, but I was so tired of people call me Nurse Adams that I thought “Nurse” was my first name. Even my granddaughter used to call me Nurse, when she was little.
Diana giggled. The old lady was a person someone could deeply feel found of.
After leaving her bag on top of her bed, she accompanied Mrs. Adams to the dining table, where she sat on one of the chairs. The table was set for one, but Mrs. Adams quickly placed a plate, cutlery , a tall glass and a napkin in front of Diana, too fast for her to get up and help.
-Don’t, dear! You must be exhausted and hungry!- the lady finally sat down and served the vegetable soup that was resting in a metal container in front of Diana. The soup smelled divinely and Diana felt her stomach rumble in need of food.
-So, where are you from, my dear?
-I’ve came form New York.
The old lady couldn’t prevent a astonished face.
-And you came driving all this way? You have a courage of a lion!
Diana couldn’t prevent gasping on her last spoon of soup. Of course that remark reminded her of Vincent, and the matter that have sent her there. She began thinking about a way to lead the conversation to the place that she wanted.
-Yes, I took some weeks off, holydays, you see, and like I said, a friend of mine said that this place was very nice to rest.
-Oh! And may I ask you you’re friends name? Probably I know her or him! There isn’t a soul that passes this town that doesn’t stay here or goes to my daughters cookie shop, that I don’t know of! Of course, don’t take me as a nosy woman, but this is a small village…
Diana smiled and understood that everybody there could be like that lady-with a certain amount of nosiness, of course.
- Actually it’s my nephew’s friend. He’s at college in New York and sometimes he brings his friends to dinner at my house.
-New York college…New York college…..Oh! You mean Laura Smith’s daughter, Mary!
Diana shuttered…Laura Smith? She quickly disguised her anxiety and answered positively.
-oh, she is a nice kid! Tell me, how is she doing there? It’s a long way here so she doesn’t visits us...
-She is fine, she is one of the best art students. The other day they held a art exhibit and her paintings where very….revealing ….of a great talent. A little ruff on the edges but they’re coming out fine!
-That’s a relive to hear! – Mrs. Adams face turned somewhat sad – After all that she went through…
Diana knew that the woman was trying to “pinch” her curiosity. She acted like she didn’t knew anything and faked some sort of concern.
- She went trough bad times?
The woman adjusted her seat and got closer to Diana.
- Has she told you about her mother?
- Well, she asked me to visit her, to bring her some news and some letters, but other than that…
-I guess I can tell you, it’s nothing much. Her mother is one of the sweetest persons I know, she couldn’t hurt a fly! But she as always been.. I don’t know, absent. Like she knows that she doesn’t belong here, but simply doesn’t want to leave, afraid of want may come to her. Her daughter is the exact opposite. Mary has always been a open kid, always happy, unafraid of discovering new places.
- But why that absence in part of her mother?
Mrs. Adams head bent slightly over Diana’s shoulder, like she was seeing if there was someone listening.
- Twenty years ago, when I still practiced nursing at the hospital, Deputy Mitchell, the local policeman, found Laura at an empty road near here, carrying Mary on her lap. He brought them to the hospital and we soon found out that she was…well…amnesic.
Diana opened her eyes and looked to her empty bowl of soup. A stir of thoughts went through her head.
Amnesic? How could that be? She was dead! She was!
-Anyway- Mrs. Adams continued – Deputy Mitchell arranged for some psychiatric help, but none of the doctors could help. Her amnesia is very, very deep. I mean 20 years have passed and she still doesn’t remember nothing…or at least she doesn’t want to remember.
Diana stopped talking and crossed her hands on top of the table. She now knew what to do. She had to find Deputy Mitchell and ask him a few questions. Of course her identity and purpose had to be revealed to him, but only to him. Afterwards she would go see Catherine.
Mrs. Adams sighed at Diana’s silence.
-It’s a sad story, isn’t it? Well, at least her daughter has a chance to be happy. Laura on the other way…
-Why do you call Laura? Is it her name?
-No, no. She couldn’t remember her name, so we had to provide her with some temporary identification. After a while, when we saw that Laura wouldn’t leave town and on the contrary settled herself here, we never discussed the matter of her true identity. She is just Laura Smith to us.
How Laura Smith was different from Catherine Chandler, Diana thought. Both in name and in attitude. For what people had described, especially Vincent, Catherine was an restless spirit. Those things couldn’t disappear with amnesia, could they?
After dinner, Diana went upstairs, to her bedroom. Once tucked inside her clean white sheets, she took out her glasses and her notebook and started writing what she had discovered so far. Next morning the first step was the sheriff’s office.
It was a lovely morning. After breakfast, Diana entered her car and drove to the sheriff’s office. The town was small, but every building recognizable. There was the high school, the town hall, and sure enough, a few meters ahead there was a signboard indicating the police station. There were police cars parked outside and so Diana knew that she couldn’t be wrong about the building.
She parked her car and entered the station. The place was very quiet, and she imagined that there wasn’t very much work to be done there. A woman dressed in full police outfit was typing away at some computer and noticed her coming in.
-May I help you?
Diana stopped looking around and faced the police woman. She steeped towards the balcony.
-Yes, hello. May I talk to deputy Mitchell?
The woman noticed that Diana wasn’t local and more like a big city type, by the way she was dressed. She frowned her face a little bit.
-And who wants to talk to him?
-Diana Bennett. I’m a investigator form New York.
The matter seemed strange to the woman, but she reluctly picked up the hone and pressed a button.
-Frank, there’s someone her to see you.
She hung up the phone and turned to Diana.
-He’ll be here soon.
And plunged herself once more into the computer’s keyboard, where she continued her frenetic stomping, not once looking at the screen to see if everything was all right.
Diana waited for the deputy, standing beside the balcony. A few seconds later, she heard a door opening and someone walking down a long corridor. A man appeared, also in a officer’s uniform and looked at her, top to bottom. She could see that he wasn’t expecting any strange visitors and looked puzzled. Diana was determined to break that ice and projected her hand forward, awaiting an hand shake.
-Deputy Mitchell? Diana Bennett, form New York.
-She’s and investigator, said the woman, without lifting her eyes up.
The man seemed even more puzzled, but nevertheless, he greeted Diana, returning her handshake, and noticing her strong grip of the hand. Frank Mitchell could certainly evaluate character, and a strong determined grip always demonstrated strength and confidence. He knew the case was serious.
-Please, step into my office.
Diana was lead inside Frank’s office and he asked her to seat down. He sat afterwards, in front of her. A pile of cases, a computer and a black phone were resting on top of his desk, and Diana noticed the mug of coffee, still fumigating. Frank noticed her eyes.
-I’m sorry, do you want some coffee?
Diana smiled, like she was expecting this.
-No thank you, I’m fine.
There was a 3 second pause and the Deputy started talking.
-So, Miss Bennett from New York…what’s your business these parts?
Diana resented the look and tone of the words and adopted a more firm look. Frank noticed it right away.
-Deputy Mitchell, first I have to ask you discretion about the matters that I am going to discuss with you. This is a delicate case and I must be discrete.
The serious look on his face reassured Diana.
-The matter is Laura Smith.
Frank’s face turned concerned and expectant at the same time.
At first he thought that something had happened to her daughter.
-Is something wrong with Mary, Miss Bennett?
-No, no. Mary is fine. She was the one to ask me to do this, actually.
-To do what?...Oh! The amnesia.
-Yes. She asked me to find out something about her mother’s past, to help her remember.
-As crossed over your mind that Laura Smith doesn’t want to remember nothing, Miss Bennett? I’ve seen it happen all the time. Abused mothers that run away and that are so shocked by the eternal years of terror that the mind just blocks. I’ve seen it a couple of times happening on TV.
-Yes, but this is real life Deputy Mitchell. Laura may have a family out there, don’t you think?
-If there was someone out there missing her, I bet that they would have found her by now.
- Why haven’t you posted her on the Missing Person section of the police’s conjunct network? After all , she was amnesic and a stranger to these parts…
Franks started to become nervous, at took a sip of his coffee.
-I was going to do that, but Laura herself asked not to. After a while she was so accustomed to her new life that she didn’t want to learn about anything more about her past. She was going so well, that I thought it wasn’t necessary.
-That wasn’t a good call and you know that Deputy.
-When I found her on that road, miss Bennett, all bruised, cut and even burned. She was more dead than alive! Whatever life she had, it wasn’t a good one, believe me!
-And the baby?
-Mary was fine, Laura was holding her with a superhuman strength. It was hard for us to take the baby at the hospital. Laura couldn’t stop screaming…she was a mess.
Diana sympathised with Deputy’s reasons for withhold the information about Catherine from the police files on missing persons. However, it would have solved the problem, twenty years ago. She wouldn’t have missed it, for sure.
How things could be different now!, Diana thought.
- All right Deputy, said Diana getting up, I think that this is sufficient for now. I’ll get back to you as soon as I have some new information.
Diana extended her right hand and expected Frank’s hand in return. Her hand stood in the air for a few seconds still, while Mitchell got up and stood still. Finally he pushed his hand forward and sensed a even more firm and strong handshake by Diana’s firm hand. Her eyes were cold and shook Frank to the bone.
- Good morning, deputy, and Diana turned and walk through the door.
Frank was still recovering from the harsh handshake and he nervously rubbed his hand. Still a little bit shaky, he reached for his right drawer and, pulling out a small key form inside his pocket he opened it. Inside there were a few papers, important documents and other things. Among them there was a small black book, which he open and searched for a certain phone number. He quickly grabbed the telephone and pressed the right buttons. He waited, has someone picked up on the other end.
-Yes?- a deep voice asked.
TO BE CONTINUED IN PART V
"REUNITED" belongs to Inês Costa Any distribution, copy, shoul be made under her consent. Thanks