Sunday Serial: Virgin Territory, Ch 3
He spent the next three hours in Dr. Hagen’s study. Pictures of horses lined one wall with another taken up by the heads of deer, moose, and even a bear. As he paced the study, Gary felt the glass eyes of the animals watching him, their antlers and teeth ready to strike. What was taking so long?
He listened for any sounds, but couldn’t hear anything through the heavy wooden door. He opened the door a crack to listen, hearing only muffled voices that sounded like Dr. Hagen and the girl. He closed the door and resumed his pacing.
Outside the window behind the doctor’s antique desk, the sun began to rise. Except for the brief nap while waiting for the girl to wake up, he hadn’t slept in almost twenty-four hours. Maybe if he asked, they would let him pass through to the kitchen for a soda or cup of coffee. He needed something to keep him awake.
The door opened on its own, Dr. Hagen’s wife appearing with a tray of coffee as if she’d read his mind. “I thought you might need a pick-me-up,” she said.
“Thanks. How is everything going out there?”
“They’re getting along fine. That poor dear. How are you holding up?”
“I’m fine.” He took a cup of coffee. The doctor’s wife sat in his chair behind the desk. Gary sat across from her, feeling sleep threatening to overpower him the moment he sank into the chair.
“You really found her on the shore of the lake?”
“And she was stark naked?”
“How awful. It’s a good thing you found her before she froze to death out there.”
“I guess so.”
“I’ve been telling the mayor for years now we need to have regular patrols of the beach to make sure kids aren’t fooling around the lake like that.”
“You think that’s what happened?”
“I can’t see any other reason for her to be out there naked at night, can you?”
“No,” he admitted. His own first suspicions had been to think she was a drunken college student, but now that he’d been around her, he wasn’t so sure. She didn’t seem like the type of girl to go skinny-dipping late at night. This girl seemed too innocent, too sweet to be so reckless. There had to be another explanation for how she’d gotten out there.
“Maybe now the mayor will listen. Could you imagine what would have happened if no one had found that girl out there? We’d have reporters here from all over the country to dig up dirt on our town. We’d be the laughingstock of the country!”
“I don’t know about that,” Gary said. He wanted to remind Dr. Hagen’s wife there was more at stake than Dagger Lake’s standing in the eyes of the public. There was a girl’s life to think about.
“More kids come here and they get rowdier every year. We should have our own police department like Pine Cove, but the mayor’s too cheap—”
The door opened and Dr. Hagen entered the room. “Doris, why don’t you stop badgering Gary and look after his friend.”
“She’s not really my friend,” Gary said.
“You know what I mean.”
“I wasn’t ‘badgering’ Gary. We were having a discussion about the safety of our town.”
“You’ve been harping on that for twenty-five years now. It’s not going to happen,” Dr. Hagen said.
“We’ll see,” his wife said before slamming the door.
Dr. Hagen sat behind his desk and then reached into the bottom drawer for a bottle of whiskey. He offered a glass to Gary, who refused. “Do you know what’s wrong with her?”
“Indeed I do. Let me ask you something, Gary: have you ever met this young woman before?”
“I hate to say this, Gary, I really do, but I think someone is yanking your chain.”
“What do you mean?”
“There’s no sign of head trauma. No cuts or bruises to indicate a struggle. No signs of sexual activity. She has no problem with memory retention. She doesn’t have any speech impediments or trouble with motion or balance that would be signs of brain damage. In short she’s healthy as a horse and sharp as a tack. There’s nothing medically wrong with her.”
“So what are you saying, that she’s faking this?”
“I’m afraid so.”
“No, she can’t be.”
Dr. Hagen tossed his glasses onto the desk and then rubbed his eyes. “I’m sorry, Gary. The only thing I don’t know is whether she’s doing it on purpose or not. Either your friend is playing a trick on you or she’s mentally disturbed.”
“Disturbed? You mean crazy?”
“That’s one way of putting it. Or like I said, she might be having a little sport at your expense. Back in college, I had to eat a whole jar of rotten eggs as part of a fraternity stunt. Damned near killed me.”
Gary shook his head. “No, this isn’t some kind of sorority prank. And she’s not crazy.” He stood up, slamming his coffee cup on the desk. “I’m going to find her family.”
“Suit yourself. Just be careful around her. She may seem all sweet and wonderful right now, but you never know when she might turn on you.”
“I’ll take that chance.” He stomped out of the study and found the girl chatting with Dr. Hagen’s wife about the living room furnishings.
“The chair you’re sitting in came over from Sweden with Howard’s grandfather,” the doctor’s wife said.
“Sweden? That’s really far away.” When the girl saw Gary, she smiled, but not for long. “Is something wrong, Gary?”
“We’re leaving,” he said.
“Oh, all right. It was good to meet you, Mrs. Hagen.” The girl followed Gary out the door, saying, “They were both so nice. I was scared at first when the doctor asked me to take off my clothes, but nothing bad happened.”
“What’s wrong, Gary? Is it something I did?”
“No, of course not. We just have to go up to Roscommon to visit the sheriff’s office. They might be able to help us find your family.”
“Really? You think so?”
“I hope so.”
When they got into the car, she pulled down the sun visor, looking into the mirror. “I need a name,” she said.
He looked her over, noting again how much she looked like a smaller, younger version of Andrea. Before he could stop himself, he blurted out, “How about Andrea?”
“Andrea. That’s a pretty name.” She smiled and stuck out a hand for Gary to shake. “Hello, my name is Andrea.”
“It’s good to meet you,” he said and then started the car towards Roscommon to learn her true identity.
Since I will be in the Great White North on Tuesday, the story will continue with Chapter 4 on Tuesday!