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Bonus Serial: Virgin Territory, Ch 4

May 25, 2010

Chapter 4

To keep themselves entertained on the way to Roscommon, they made a game of Andrea identifying objects she saw. “A pine tree,” she said when he indicated a tree on their right. “Come on, give me something harder.”

He saw a house approaching on the left with a plastic flamingo on the lawn. “What kind of bird is that?” he asked.

She leaned over him, her hair blinding his right eye. As she squinted at the lawn ornament, Gary slowed down to give her more time. “A flamingo,” she said at last.

“You’re a natural.”

“Give me something else,” she said. She bounced into her seat, scanning for another object to identify. “Oh, there’s an old woman on a bike. You think she’s a wicked witch like in that movie?”

The Wizard of Oz? You remember it?”

She shrugged and then began to hum the Wicked Witch of the West’s theme. He made a mental note to rent a copy of the movie to show her. If the police can’t help her, he added. He couldn’t get too attached. For all he knew, someone had been looking for Andrea and reported her missing.

“Five McMiles ahead,” Andrea said, reading a billboard promising a McDonald’s in Roscommon. “Can we go there?”

“Maybe later. Right now we have to visit the sheriff.” She crossed her arms, pouting like a child. Gary’s stomach rumbled, joining the argument on Andrea’s side. “I guess it wouldn’t hurt to stop for breakfast.”

He pulled into the McDonald’s parking lot, watching Andrea’s eyes go wide at the sight of the sign with its golden arches touting billions served. She bolted from the car the moment he stopped, running into the path of a minivan entering the drive-thru. The minivan stopped within inches of Andrea, the driver honking at her. Andrea stood frozen in place, staring into the minivan’s headlights until Gary dragged her away. “You have to be careful,” he said.

“I’m sorry,” she said. She leaned against him as they went inside and when he asked what she would like, her voice sounded hollow. “I’m not sure. Can you pick something for me?”

“Of course I can. Why don’t you sit down over here and I’ll be right back. I promise I won’t be gone too long.”

He decided on two Egg McMuffins with orange juice for her and a black coffee for himself. When he returned to the table, he found her staring out the window at the car. “It’s all right,” Gary said. “Everything’s OK. Nothing happened.”

“Do you know how they say in the moment before you die, your whole life flashes before your eyes? I didn’t see anything, Gary. Not one thing.” As she began to cry, he put an arm around her shoulder. If Dr. Hagen could see her like this, he would know there was no way Andrea was faking.

“You didn’t see anything because you weren’t going to die,” he said. “It’s a dumb saying anyway.”

“But what happened to me? Why can’t I remember?”

“I don’t know, but I’m going to help you find out.” He brushed hair from her face so he could look into her eyes. “I promise we’ll find out.”

She nodded and then wiped at her eyes. “I’m sorry to act like such a baby,” she said.

“Don’t worry about it. Now come on, breakfast is getting cold.” He unwrapped the Egg McMuffins, pushing one towards her. She studied the sandwich a moment before taking a bite. Her face brightened with a smile. “Good, huh?”

She nodded. He spent the remainder of breakfast describing every item on the menu to her. She wanted to try everything, refusing to leave until he promised they’d come back later. On the way out, she took his hand before crossing the parking lot to the Shadow. He blushed at the thought of how they must appear like a couple to others. “Is something wrong?”

“Not at all. We better get going.”

When they arrived at the sheriff’s station, Andrea didn’t move after Gary stopped the car. Gary stared at the walls of the station, a nervous lump forming in his stomach. What if the sheriff didn’t believe his story about finding Andrea naked on the shores of Dagger Lake? They might decide he’d done something to her and hold him for questioning.

He looked over at Andrea and tried to sound calm as he said, “I need you to do something for me.”

“What is it?”

“When they ask how I found you, I need you to tell a little fib for me. I need you to say that you woke up in those clothes and came to my door for help. Can you do that?”

“You want me to lie? Why?”

“Well, policemen get a little suspicious when they hear about a man finding a naked woman. They might think I hurt you and put me in jail.”

“Why would they think that? You wouldn’t hurt me.”

“I know, but it might be hard for strangers to understand.”

“I guess it wouldn’t hurt to lie a little bit.”

“Great, let’s go.” He took her hand again as they went inside the sheriff’s station. The desk clerk looked up from some paperwork to ask what they needed. “I’d like to file a missing person report.”

“All right. Wait right here and I’ll get someone to help you.” The desk clerk left, returning a minute later in the company of a square-faced officer.

“I’m Deputy Babcock. Let’s go over to my desk.” The deputy’s desk was a disaster area of folders, loose papers, and foam cups. Deputy Babcock rummaged through a drawer for a pen and then peeked into several of the folders until he found the right one. “OK, so first off, who’s the missing person?”

“I am. My name is Andrea. It’s nice to meet you.” She offered her hand to the startled deputy, who shook it.

“I don’t understand. You’re missing?”

“She has amnesia,” Gary said.

“Yes, I woke up by Dagger Lake just like this. I couldn’t remember my name or family or anything, so I knocked on Gary’s door for help.” She turned to Gary with a sly smile.

“I see. Have you seen a doctor?”

“He said I was healthy as a horse,” Andrea said.

“We thought someone might have reported her missing,” Gary said. “Is there any way you can check?”

“I’ll look through our computer system. You don’t remember anything? Your birthday or where you were born?” She shook her head. “So this happened recently?”

“Last night.”

“I don’t remember getting any calls about anyone missing last night, but it might be too soon. Usually people wait twenty-four hours before filing a missing person report.” Deputy Babcock typed something into the computer and then grunted. As he worked, Andrea snatched a picture from amongst the rubble on his desk. In the picture, a teenaged girl with Babcock’s square face sat on a rock with a waterfall in the background. From the wet ends of the girl’s red hair, Gary could tell the waterfall was no fake backdrop.

“Is this your daughter?” Andrea asked. “She’s pretty. I wish I could get my hair curly like that.”

Deputy Babcock snatched the picture from Andrea’s hands. Andrea’s face turned red and her lower lip trembled as if she were about to cry. “I’m sorry,” the deputy said. “I didn’t mean to scare you.”

“It’s all right,” Andrea said. “Did something happen to your daughter?”

Babcock set the picture facedown on his desk. “She ran away five years ago.”

“How terrible. I’m so sorry.”

“No, don’t be. You didn’t know.” Babcock cleared his throat and then said, “I don’t see anyone reporting a missing person that matches your description. If you give me a number to reach you, I’ll let you know if I find anything.”

Gary wrote down his address and telephone number on a piece of paper and then Babcock gave him a business card. “If you remember anything that might be helpful, call me. In the meantime, I’ll get this out on the wire.” Babcock glanced down at the photograph on his desk and then up at Andrea. “It’s always important in a case like this not to get your hopes up. These things take time, so try not to get too discouraged if we don’t find anything right away.”

Andrea reached across the desk to shake the deputy’s hand again. “Thanks for all your help. I know you’ll do everything you can. I hope you find your daughter.”

“I hope we find your family.”

Gary led Andrea out to the car, allowing himself a smile as he took the wheel. “Let’s go home,” he said.

The story continues on Thursday with Chapter 5!

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