Friday, November 17, 2017

News at Eleven - Chapter 8

Chapter 8
Home Fears 

“I am so glad you and Daddy are home,” Clisty exhaled in relief later that day. There, in her parents’ living room, with the comfortable deep, down-filled pillows of the couch supporting her, she was at home and felt safe. Her apartment, stripped clean of color and memories, except for the Prayer Angel that sat on her spotless mantel, was far different from her parents’ home. Nearly every inch of the tables and bookshelves held memories displayed in pictures, a multitude of books, her mother’s pottery collection, and the little clay self-statue Johnny Swanson had given his favorite elementary school teacher.
“Usually, I just pick up my phone and call you,” Clisty admitted, “but ... now I see how fragile life can be. I want you close by; then I know, God is in his heaven and all’s right with the world.”
“Well, I know God can make all things right, Honey. But, speaking of your phone, you do use it a lot. I’m more concerned about that thing. I bet you sleep with it.” Concern for her daughter was just part of who Carol was. Her smile was so much like Clisty’s anyone could easily see that the daughter was part of the mother as well.
“I don’t sleep with it,” Clisty protested reluctantly. “Actually, it’s on the bedside table.”
“See, I told you.” Carol Sinclair threw both hands up in victory. “I read an article about how all this technology is actually making people feel less attached, rather than more.”
“Mother, I’m not playing games on the thing. Rebecca, or the station manager, has to be able to reach me when there’s breaking news.” She felt her cell vibrate in her phone pouch, pulled it out and checked the message.
“Putting that thing in a pretty Vera Bradley cell phone cross-body does make it easier to keep it close-by, but it makes it harder to get away from, too.”
“Mom, I can’t get away from it.” She shook her head as if to correct what she had said. “I don’t want to get away from it.” Clisty didn’t want to argue, and the truth was they rarely did. Still, she often had a sense that her mother didn’t think her job was “real work” because she did it in front of a camera. “The station depends on me to deliver the news, not just about the birth of baby lion cubs, but about a standoff between police and a bank robber, with a dear friend caught in the middle.”
“You certainly experienced all of that, didn’t you?” her mother agreed. “Clisty,” her voice grew soft, “I don’t say it often enough, but I am so proud of you. The part you played in Faith’s story yesterday was amazing.” Then she added, “And the cute little lion cub named Scruffy was great too.”
Clisty laughed. “You were watching in your hotel room, Friday night, weren’t you?”  She glanced at her text message again. “It’s not over,” Clisty sighed with mixed emotions and a tinge of giddy joy. “I’ve just been given permission to follow this story to the end. Becca just texted me.” Her fingers flew over the touch pad as she typed in out loud, “Yes, Becca. Wow, yes!”
“What’s the end gonna’ be?” Albert Sinclair asked as he came into the living room from the back of the house. He carried a bundle of sundresses and shorts over his arm.
“Hi Daddy,” Clisty paused and gave him a welcome home hug. “The ‘end’ to Faith’s story is as far as we can get, in our efforts at finding where she has been held captive all these years ... and, hopefully, why she was taken?”
“That’s quite a task. How long will it take to find the answers do you suppose?” He brushed some stray hair from Clisty’s eyes as he had always done.
“I think we can do it—Becca and the team and I. We hope to get more location information from Faith, if she can remember.”
“Does she have amnesia?” her dad asked.
“Maybe. I’m no doctor, but, it might be something else, if we could really talk to her. Now, she just answers, ‘I don’t know,’” Clisty said and then thought for a moment. “When we do get a lead, Jake will go with Becca and I and the camera man to see if we can track them down.”
“Jake?” Carol and Al looked at each other with raised eyebrows.
“Okay, okay,” she blushed.
“Who’s Jake?” her mom asked.
“Detective Jake Davis, Mom. He’s with the police department. Laws have been broken.”
“You called or texted us almost every day we were in Florida. Why haven’t we heard about your detective before this?” Al asked with a stifled grin.
“He’s not my detective,” Clisty protested, but inside, she remembered she had denied their growing closeness just yesterday when Becca teased her.
“Why don’t you invite him over for dinner later, here with us? You two can strategize on the progress of the story.” Carol slapped her knees with both hands like she always did when she had made up her mind about something.
“Mom, you and Daddy just got home. Dad’s still cleaning out the car. I will take you two out for dinner.” Clisty smiled to herself. She had finally turned the corner from being a receiver to becoming a giver, and she liked it.
“We do appreciate it, Honey, truly. But, we’d like to visit with you and I really don’t want to go back out on the road, not even down to George’s Diner or the Coffee Emporium.” She sighed as she stood up and took the hanging clothes that Al had brought in from the car.
“Here, Mom, I’ll help you with those” Clisty offered. “You take the ones on hangers and I’ll take the folded pieces.”
As they walked toward the hall that led to the bedrooms, Al called after them. “It makes me no never mind. You two decide and let me know. I’ll get the car-vac going.”
As Clisty passed the bathroom door, she slowed and grabbed the door jamb. Her heart began to pound and her breath caught in her throat. “Oh ...” she closed her eyes as she felt her head spin.
“Honey, are you all right?” Carol hurried and dropped the clothes on her bed inside the bedroom and turned back to Clisty. “You don’t look so good. Let me help you.” She took the clothes that Clisty carried, put her other hand around her daughter’s waist and tried to help steady her balance.
“I feel ... so funny,” she leaning on the wall just outside her parents’ room. She didn’t move, hoping the hall would stop swaying like a swinging bridge.
“What happened?” Her mother asked as she helped her into the bedroom and onto the bed. “Lay down a minute, until you feel a little better.” After Clisty sat down on the bed, Carol reached down and pulled her daughter’s legs onto the covers.
“The bathroom ...” Clisty began but could not finish her thoughts. “I don’t know ... something. It felt like I couldn’t breathe, like I couldn’t take in any more air.”
“Oh, Clisty, I am so sorry. I had forgotten how you reacted when they took Faith. It was a terrifying experience for you. They nearly grabbed you right along with her. You fought off that horrible man. Now, with Faith’s return, along with the memories of the home invasion, your reaction to that fearful day has invaded your thoughts again.” She sat down on the side of the bed beside her daughter and pulled the down-filled duvet across her arms.
“How I reacted when it happened? I don’t remember much afterward, just the kidnapping itself. That is burned in my mind.” She pulled the cover more tightly around her forearms and closed her eyes. “I remember how his rough, dirty hand felt when he grabbed my arm. It was like a vise that nearly cut off my circulation. And, his foul breathe,” she almost gagged as her senses filled with the memory of his odor. “I slipped on the Monopoly game and fell,” she began to wring her hands and her lips were so dry, the words stuck in her mouth. “I’m so sorry I didn’t put the game away, Mom.” She reached up and threw her arms around her mother’s neck. “It was my fault. If I hadn’t fallen, I could have rescued her.”
“Honey, if you hadn’t slipped on those cards and fell out of his reach, you would have been taken, too.” She patted Clisty’s shoulder as she had done for so long. “Try to rest.” Her mother let go so Clisty could lay back, touched her hand and held it in her own.
“I can’t rest, Mom. I can’t remember anything after Faith was gone.” Clisty thought out loud. “What happened?”
Carol swallowed hard. She too had tried to forget the tragic events in her own safe home during the few moments she had been gone. “I found you in the bathroom when I got home from the store with the milk. You had curled up into a ball. You were hiding behind the door. When I asked you where Faith was, you said, ‘I don’t know.’”
“She was here when I left,” I reminded you. “Did she go home?” Carol patted Clisty’s hand. “Again, you said, ‘I don’t know.’ I didn’t know how you could forget such a thing.”
“When the police came, you told them about the treasures you and Faith had found when you two were out exploring. You said Faith had a little trouble with her bike chain, but nothing else.”
Al came in and placed Carol’s hotel one-night-bag on the floor in the corner. “Faith’s bicycle was still in the yard when I got home. When I checked it, there was nothin’ wrong with the chain or anything else on the bike.” He sat down on one of the bedroom chairs and listened.
“Oh Mama, I didn’t help the police at all?” Clisty was devastated. “I thought I remembered that I gave them valuable information.”
“You did,” her mother assured her as she smiled. “They said you were repressing the memory of the kidnapping, so they called in a psychologist to talk to you.”
“Dr. Phillips,” her dad added.
“Did the psychologist help me remember?” Her eyes blinked and she squinted as if she were trying to see into a past long forgotten.
“Yes, the repression was there but she helped you anyway. Since you were a minor, your dad and I sat in the corner of the room when she interviewed you. We had our lawyer with us. They treated the interview like a deposition, recorded it and then they transcribed the recording.”
Al reached into the dresser drawer beside him, sorted through the gold foil-covered, jewelry gift boxes and pulled some papers from the bottom. He handed the few sheets of paper to his wife.
Carol took the legal size type written papers and smoothed out the fold lines with her hands. “This is the transcript of the interview. We saved it all of these years. That was such a difficult time for all of us.”
“Read what it says, Mom. I have to know.”
Carol lifted her reading glasses that hung from the chain around her neck and put them to her eyes. At first she hesitated and then began to read the dialog printed by the court.
Transcript of the eye witness account of Clisty Sinclair, age 9:
Dr. Yvonne Phillips: “Hi Clisty. What can you tell us about the man who kidnapped your friend, Faith? It was a man, wasn’t it?”
Clisty Sinclair: “I don’t know what you mean.”
Carol placed the paper in her lap for a moment. “Dr. Phillips tried to reach your memory using a normal interview method. She quickly saw that wouldn’t work, so she began in a different way.”
Dr. Yvonne Phillips: Someone stopped by your house to pick up a package, didn’t they? Was the person a stranger?”
Clisty Sinclair: “What did you say? There wasn’t any package.”
Dr. Yvonne Phillips: “The package was wrapped in pink ribbon, Honey. It was a sweet package.”
Clisty Sinclair: “I didn’t like him.”
Dr. Yvonne Phillips: “Why didn’t you like him? Was he mean?”
Clisty Sinclair: “He nearly broke the package he was supposed to pick up.”
Dr. Yvonne Phillips: “Did he put the package in the basket of his bicycle, like you and Faith do when you ride?”
Clisty Sinclair: “No, he had an old truck.”
Dr. Yvonne Phillips: “Oh, a truck. How do you know it was a truck if you were hiding?”
Clisty Sinclair: “’Cause it sounded like Grandpa’s truck and Grandpa said his truck made such a racket because it was as old as he was.”
Dr. Yvonne Phillips: “That’s good, Clisty. I’ll bet the man said nothing about where he was taking the package.”
Clisty Sinclair: “He said if the package didn’t stop making so much noise, he’s drop it in the lake, ‘cause he’d drive right down Michigan Avenue.”
Dr. Yvonne Phillips: “So you know where Faith was taken?”
Clisty Sinclair: “What? I don’t know what you mean. I just heard him yelling about driving a hundred-sixty miles away, no one would look for the pink package in another state.”
Carol looked up from the paper and added, “Then you began to cry. When she started
to walk out of the room, you whispered to her, ‘He’ll come back for me. I have to hide again.’ She told me that you gave them a lot of information that they needed, information they didn’t already have. Before she left the room, she told us that you were repressing all the bad memories because they were too frightening for you to remember.”
“But, I did remember a little when she didn’t ask me directly?”
“That’s right. She asked in such a way that you corrected her seeming misperceptions, which gave them a little information. After she talked to you, they realized that the man took Faith into Illinois, maybe to the Chicago area. They would never have found that out any other way.”
Albert had been listening, shook his head and then changed the subject. He must have heard all he could hear. “So, what’s the plan about food, you two? I’d like to eat early, so I can go to bed equally early.”
“We’ll think about dinner in a minute, Al,” Carol got him back on track and stood up. Tears gathered in her eyes as she turned to Clisty. “You had nightmares for months after Faith disappeared. Actually, as frightening as those terrible dreams were, they helped you remember what you had protected yourself from. That’s why the memories are so vivid to you now and that’s why you healed after a time. Faith has lived through it every day. She has never started healing because she has never stopped living it.”
“Then, I know how Faith feels, Mom.” Clisty swung her legs to the side of the bed and stood up. “I feel better now. I’ll call Jake and he can come over after his shift.” She thought for a moment and added, “Faith doesn’t have amnesia, Mom. She’s suffering from the same crippling fear I felt on that terrible day when he stole her. And, we know where she was taken.” 
• • • • • 
The doorbell rang around 4:30 at the Sinclair home. They had gathered in the living room to decide about food. Clisty hurried to the door and looked through the beveled glass. Although the prisms distorted the image with a rainbow of colors, Clisty recognized Jake Davis’s face as he waited on the porch.
“Wow,” she swooned when she opened the door, “that smells wonderful.” He carried a bucket of original crust chicken with potato wedges, green beans and yummy smelling biscuits into the house. In the other hand was a small pie; and a package of soft drinks was tucked under his arm. “Jake, how wonderful!” She gasped as she inhaled the perfume of the Colonel.
“Jake?” both Al and Carol perked up at the same time.
“Mom, Dad,” Clisty began as she took the chicken and placed the bucket on the table. “This is Detective Jake Davis and we have solved our dinner dilemma. Jake is treating and we don’t have to go out. And ... just for you, Dad, we can eat early. We’ll be out of your hair by 6 PM for sure.”
Albert Sinclair’s smile nearly spilled off his face as he jumped up and offered his hand. “Detective,” he squared his shoulders, “I am so happy to meet you. We have heard absolutely nothing about you.”
“Dad!” Clisty blushed and everyone laughed. They all shared great pats on the back and robust handshakes.
Jake looked at Clisty and shrugged. “All I’ve heard about you two is that you were smart enough to get out of our weather and spend your winter in Florida. What I want to know is how did a young man like you manage to retire so early?”
“Retire?” Al questioned.
“If you’re not retired, how were you able to spend two months in Florida?” Jake questioned as he removed the cardboard lid from the bucket.
“I had a month’s vacation; that was March. Then, winter decided to stick around up here. I’m the purchasing agent for Bontrager Manufacturing. Walt Bontrager told me to stay where it was warm and work from my laptop down there.”
“Maybe you can convince the boss of that next year, too,” Jake suggested as he slipped his arm around Clisty’s waist.
Carol smiled as she watched the new couple together. “We hoped that Clisty would finally get away from her work and sterile apartment, come down and stick her toes in the sand; but, it didn’t happen.”

“Okay, okay,” Clisty halted the jabs as she raised her hands in a time-out signal. As the laughter settled like warm gravy dripping over potatoes, she added, “I’m glad my three favorite people have finally met, especially when another long lost friend has found her way home.”

Friday, November 10, 2017

News at Eleven - Chapter 7

Chapter 7
Faint Memories 

The next morning, Clisty returned to the hospital and settled into the chair in the corner of Faith’s room. “I’m glad it’s Saturday. I won’t have to be at the studio this afternoon.” The aroma of freshly baked sugar cookies filled the room. Roma had artfully arranged them on a small platter and placed them on the over-the-bed table.
“Your parents will be home from Florida this afternoon, won’t they, Clisty?” Roma asked as she fluffed Faith’s bed pillow.
“Yes, and I’m glad.” Then she smiled sheepishly. “I’m an adult with serious adult responsibilities, but with everything that happened yesterday, it feels good that they will be home.”
“When life becomes complicated, it’s nice for us to pull our family and friends closer around us, isn‘t it?”
Clisty smiled the smile of sweet memories. Outside, the April day was magnificent. There was no evidence of snow remaining in black, left-over piles along curbs. Pale green tree leaves had pushed out and demanded consistent spring temperatures.
“Yes, it’s always nice to have family around,” Clisty said, “but especially when the world seems to have tipped a little and things are listing to starboard. I’m glad it’s such a beautiful day. Everything about it is glorious, from the blue sky to the fact that Faith is home.”
Roma started to respond, and then her eyes grew large in pleasant anticipation. “Well, Pooky, I wondered when you would wake up.” She walked over to the bed, reached out and gave her granddaughter a long hug. “It’s nice that the hospital allowed you to curl up and nap with your mama this morning.” She smiled as she watched her new granddaughter yawn and stretch. When Pooky spied the platter of cookies, Roma added, “I don’t usually serve children cookies for breakfast, but this is a special occasion.”
“Hi, Miss Sinclair,” Pooky collected the biggest cookie on the plate, bounced down off the bed, went over and planted her feet in front of Clisty. She was so close, the toes of her shoes touched Clisty’s brown, lace up Saturday shoes. “Grandma said you’re a friend of Mama’s.” She bit into the sweet smelling, iced cookie as crumbs fell into Clisty’s lap.
“That’s right. I hadn’t seen her in a long time and I really missed her.” She brushed the cookie specks from her jeans and smiled.
Pooky pressed herself against the side of Clisty’s leg and silently slipped up onto her lap. “Mama talks funny, but I can understand her, a little. She said I could trust you.” The girl snuggled back on Clisty’s arm and rested her head on her shoulder.
“Disinhibited Reactive Detachment Disorder,” Roma whispered without looking at Pooky. “This whole thing must have set her back. She seems to let anyone get close to her, except Al.”
“Maybe she always did. Who knows what her life was like?” Clisty suggested.
“Who, Grandma?”
“Someone Miss Sinclair and I know, Honey.” Roma brushed off the question as she perked up and listened. “It sounds like your mama may be finished with her shower. I heard the water turn off.”
“She’s taking a shower?” Pooky asked as she picked up the locket Clisty wore around her neck.
“Yep. Do you want to shower when she’s finished? I’m sure it will be okay with the nurse. She’s kinda kept her eye on you too this morning.”
“Maybe.” Pooky turned the locket over to see the engraved flowers on the back. “I want to stay with Mama.”
“Do you want to see the picture?” Clisty watched Pooky’s eyes and curious fingers inspect the necklace.
Pooky nodded and tried to force her chewed fingernails down into the place where the front clasped to the back. “I ain’t got no fingernails.” She hung her head in resignation, her bottom lip protruded like a perch outside a bird house.
“So I see,” Clisty tried to ignore the pads at the ends of Pooky’s fingers that stood proud of her nails, gnarled down to nothing. Clisty looked up at Roma. “Maybe Grandma has some pretty pink fingernail polish. Would you like that?” Pooky nodded vigorously. “You might have to stop biting your nails if you want to keep them pretty.”
“Can we Grandma?” Pooky jump down, ran to her grandmother and grabbed her hand.
“Can you what?” Faith shuffled a little as she came into the room in a clean shirt and jeans. She had gained enough energy to wrap her arms around her daughter as she eased onto the side of the bed. “What are you planning to do?”
“We were talking about painting Pooky’s fingernails a pretty, Petal Pink. Is that okay?” Roma asked as she placed a cup of coffee on the bedtable. She had brought it in a thermos from her own coffee pot at home. “I assume you drink coffee. I can find some tea if you prefer.”
“No, coffee is wonderful. Steven and I drank coffee each morning.”
“Steven?” Clisty asked as Roma handed her a cup from the basket she had brought in.
“Who?” Faith asked as Pooky hopped over and tried to help her mama lean back on the elevated hospital bed.
“Steven. You said you and Steven drank coffee each morning. Was that before he went to work?”
“Steven, where did he work, Faith?” Clisty tried again.
“He …,” Pooky began.
“No, Pooky,” Faith whispered in frightening gasps. “Nothing.” She sipped silently from her cup and glimpsed out the window with darting eyes.
“Can you tell us about the man who brought you to Fort Wayne?” Clisty asked.
“I don’t remember,” Faith stated flatly. Suddenly, the coffee began to slosh a little in the cup she held in trembling hands.
“I was asleep,” Pooky said, as Faith pulled her onto the bed beside her.
“Let’s rest a little, Honey,” Faith gently patted her daughter’s forehead. She leaned back on the bed and closed her eyes.
“I’d better leave and let you sleep.” Clisty started to place her cup on the windowsill. “I can come back after you have napped.”
“No, please,” Faith reached out her hand. “I ... I think I know you.” Her eyes, rimmed in red, shed fresh tears that flowed down her cheeks. “I’m sorry.” From her pocket she pulled a tissue and blotted the corners of her eyes. The plastic covered clover fell out with it. She picked up the “lucky piece” and then looked at Clisty. “No, no ... I do know you, Clisty. But ... I was told that you were killed the day I was taken.” With her hand held flat on her chest, she began patting herself as a mother would calm a child. “I ... don’t know what’s true anymore.”
With eyes still closed, Pooky reached up and stroked her mother’s cheek. “It’s okay, Mama.”
Faith patted her daughter’s hand. “I know only what they told me. I lived in one room.”
“Not all the time, I’ll bet,” Clisty cautiously coaxed. “You said Pooky went to school for a few weeks.”
“But, I never went out of the house,” Faith sighed. “Just Pooky.”
“That was when Grandpa was gone,” Pooky’s eyes snapped open. “I don’t know where he was.”
“Jail ... I think,” her mother said softly, with little expression or concern, as if she were talking about a stranger.
“Did Mama teach you to read and write and work numbers?” Roma asked. “You know I was a teacher for a long time.”
“Yes,” Pooky’s eyes flew open in amazement. “How did you know?”
“Because I taught her when she was little.”
Clisty’s heart jumped as she thought of a question that demanded an answer, but she didn’t know how to ask it. “You know I have to ask you, Faith,” she began with a smile and compassionate tone. “Where did you go to school?”
“School?” her eyes blinked and stared into apparent nothingness. “I don’t remember,” she stammered.
Clisty’s heart hurt for her friend and she choked on the next question. “You don’t remember school?”
“I don’t remember leaving the house, ever,” Faith sighed deeply. “I saw children from my upstairs window. They played in some yards down the block, but I could see them down there. I could hear them, too. I saw some of them play tennis in the street once. Our house was on a road that made a circle a few streets down.”
“A cul-de-sac?” Clisty asked.
“I don’t know what that is,” Faith’s voice drifted off. “He caught me standing near the window one time and beat me.”
“Who did, Faith? Was it that man who kidnapped you?” Clisty thought of the smelly man with rotting teeth.
“Kidnapped? What do you mean ... kidnapped?”
Clisty searched for words that clearly were not in Faith’s vocabulary, to explain what had happened. “Do you remember, a long time ago, when we were watching television at my house? A man burst in the door and tried to take both of us, to steal us. I got away.”
Great moans of grief heaved up from deep inside Faith as her face twisted and distorted. “Why didn’t you come with me, Pooky?” A flood of tears angrily raced down her cheeks. “Why did you abandon me?”
“What?” Clisty gasped.
“You ran away and let him take me,” Faith sobbed.
“We were nine years old, Faith,” Clisty cried.
“Honey,” Roma quickly interrupted, “a child can’t fight off a full grown man.”
“I know ... I know,” Faith sobbed. “But ... I was so lonely,” she whispered as she closed her eyes. “He told me that Momma and Daddy sold me to them.”
“Oh, Sweetheart, you didn’t believe them did you?” her mother threw her hand to her mouth in shock.
“No ... they told me every day ... but I didn’t believe it one time.” A faint smile crossed her lips. “I was the winner every day that I didn’t believe their lies.”
Clisty cleared her throat and tried to not sound hurt by what her friend had said. “Then, I bet it became hard to know how to tell the lies from the truth.”
“It was hard, I guess,” Faith swallowed and cleared her throat. “Clisty, I never really blamed you. I just couldn’t stand not having any friends. I did my studies in my room, read, everything in the one space. I could come to the table in the kitchen for dinner sometimes. My mother,” she stopped and looked up at Roma, “my other mother came to my room to teach me. Once in a while, we’d play games.”
“It sounds like she cared for you,” Roma offered softly.
“I guess.”
Clisty knew she had to gather more information if they were ever going to find those who took her friend. “What was her name?”
“Name?” Again, Faith stared with a blank expression. “I ... don’t know.”
Clisty tried another approach. “Did you have a TV or radio in your room?” The questions continued but Faith’s response was always an empty gaze.
“Television,” Faith remembered with a smile. “I could watch Mr. Rogers when I was little. It was an old TV set. I couldn’t watch very often. They would come in and take a tube out of the back when they didn’t want me to watch anymore.”
Clisty fished for words when all the ones she had used were all the ones she could think of. “What did you do the rest of the time?”
“I slept a lot ... I guess. I don’t know,” she closed her eyes again. “Oh,” she opened her eyes and, for a moment, they sparkled. “I wrote letters to you, almost every day, for about a year. I couldn’t mail them, so I found a hole in the wall of my closet and put them in there. I pretended it was my mailbox.” With Pooky in her arms, she snuggled and kissed the top of her head.
“I wish I had gotten them,” Clisty whispered.
“You did ... in my dreams,” Faith said as her voice danced in the space between awake and asleep. “We would play and laugh and ...” she drifted off and her breathing seemed to become normal again.

“You were in my dreams too,” Clisty added. But, what she didn’t say was, her dreams were actually nightmares.

Friday, November 3, 2017

News at Eleven - Chapter 6

Chapter 6
White on White 

Everything looked white and colorless when Clisty walked into Faith’s hospital room. Life and color, nearly sterilized out of the entire building, lay barely breathing in front of her. It was true, Clisty did like simple, monochromatic d├ęcor in her own home, but in this room it was different. The crisp white cover on the hospital bed hardly moved. Clisty studied the body of the stranger, yet friend, who didn’t appear to have enough energy to breathe. Stranger—yes—but oh how Faith looked like her mother now that she was an adult. Clisty’s own blue eyes filled with tears.
“If you study her closely, you’ll see she’s still with us,” a familiar voice spoke softly from the corner of the room.
“Jake!” Clisty gasped in a hoarse whisper and jumped. “You startled me.” She didn’t take her eyes off her friend. “Do you think she’s asleep or in a comma?”
“I talked to the nurse when I got here. She said that Faith is lost inside herself right now, trying to heal by sleeping. The nurses come in every half hour, rouse her and direct her to breathe more deeply.”
“Imagine, being so exhausted you forget to breathe,” Clisty shook her head.
“Come and sit here beside me.” He patted the empty chair beside him and then rested his hand on the back. “It’s about eleven-thirty. You should be at home but I know you want to be here. They’ll come back in a little while to talk to her.”
Clisty removed her coat and placed it over the arm of the chair and, with one motion, sank onto the cushion. “What are you doing here?” But, she didn’t look at him. She fixed her gaze on Faith.
“I watched your late newscast here in Faith’s hospital room,” he gestured toward the television that glowed from its mounted brackets on the wall. “I turned it down so it wouldn’t bother Faith. But, I can still hear it.”
When Clisty adjusted her senses to the lower volume, she could also hear Faith’s shallow respiration. The room was quiet. Everything was still. Faith didn’t move, but all eyes were on her. “Then you heard my pledge to follow the story into the past,” she whispered.
“I did. That’s why I’m here, too. If she tells you anything, it might help us apprehend her captor.” He reached above the chair back and rubbed Clisty’s shoulder.
His closeness felt warm and inviting, but she couldn’t relax yet. “Then, we can work together on this?”
“Absolutely.” He sipped from the coffee vendor cup he held and looked inside as he swished it around the rim. “Besides, I wanted to see how you’re doing. It’s been a long day for you. I knew you would come here before going home.”
“I’m okay.” She brushed off Jake’s concern. While she liked his interest, she would not give in to her exhaustion. Then she turned and saw his skeptical expression and changed the subject. “Where did you get the coffee?”
“From the machine in the lounge; I’ll get some for you, but it’s not very good,” he offered as he studied the cup in his hand. “How about some cocoa?”
“That would be even better,” she agreed and then added, “I admit ... I am very tired but I really am fine.”
As he started to stand up, he smiled and slowly removed his arm from around her. “I’ll be right back.”
“Thanks, Jake.” She leaned her head back and closed her eyes.
“You’ll be asleep by the time I get here with your hot chocolate,” he said as he paused at the door.
“I hope not. I want to be awake when they rouse her again.” Clisty didn’t open her eyes but smiled as Jake closed the door.
It felt so good to finally relax, she fought her body’s need to let go and sleep. Her muscles twitched as mental pictures of two happy girls danced in her head, riding their bikes to the park and skating on Miller’s Pond in the winter. One day, she and Faith rode in her dad’s truck with him as he drove out onto the thick ice to where his friend, Ed, had set up a small fishing shack. All four of them sat on small wooden stools around the hole in the ice through which he fished. The images warmed her like the camp stove that stood in the corner of the shack, where Ed made gooey marshmallow s’mores over the heat.
Ring! The room phone dissolved the precious images and rattled Clisty’s rest. She may have nodded off a little she admitted to herself. She jumped up and paused first, to steady her sleepy legs before she moved, then darted across the room to answer it before Faith awakened. “Hello?” she said softly.
The caller said nothing at first. All Clisty could hear was the dead air of an open line and ... just perhaps, some breathing on the other end. “Hello?” she said again.
“Let me talk to Jocelyn,” a rough male voice demanded.
“Jocelyn? You must have the wrong room,” she started to replace the receiver when she heard a female voice on the line.
“Please, Ma’am, put ... Faith on the phone,” the person pleaded with a tremor in her voice.
“Who is this?” Clisty nearly dropped the receiver as her heart pounded.
“Never mind that,” a scuffle was heard on the line. “Gimme that phone,” the man shouted at the woman.
Just then Jake came back into the room carrying a cup of hot chocolate. Clisty motioned for him to come to her side. She had to be strong, to keep her wits about her, so she held the receiver away from her ear, allowing Jake to listen in. Jake put the cocoa on the bed table and waited. Clisty pointed to the receiver and grabbed his shirt in her fist to draw him closer.
“You listen to me, girly,” the gruff man barked. “You put Jocelyn on this phone right now.”
“I’m sorry, there is no Jocelyn here.” She thought quickly and asked, “Where are you calling from?” Hoping to get some information, she waited frantically for the answer.
“That ain’t got nothin’ to do with nothin’, Missy,” he growled. “You don’t need to know where I am. You just need to put Jocelyn on this phone, now!”
“Well, if you’re calling long distance ...” she thought fast, “I wouldn’t want to keep you on the line very long and run up your phone bill.” She looked at Jake for assurance.
“Please,” the woman begged again.
“There is no Jocelyn here,” Clisty repeated. When she saw Faith stir a little, she hurried the conversation. “Sorry. Have a good evening.” With the receiver replaced on the phone cradle, she buried her head in Jake’s chest. “He asked for Jocelyn, Jake. But, the woman asked for Faith. She knew her real name.”
“Try to remember all they said, Clisty,” Jake coached her. “I’ll write it all down.” He pulled a small notebook from his inside jacket pocket.
“They really didn’t say anything,” she tried to clear her tired head so she could think. “The man asked to speak to Jocelyn and when that didn’t work, the woman asked for Faith. That was him! I’m sure of it. I will never forget his meanness.” Her eyes darted from Jake to the hospital bed. “They’ve found her,” she gasped.
“But, it didn’t sound like they were here, not in Fort Wayne,” Jake assured her. “Since he took her so many years ago, he may suspect that she would have tried to come home.” He put his arms around her and rocked her back and forth. “Was there anything else?”
“No information really but ... flavor, a sickening taste in my mouth, bitter, awful.” She reluctantly pulled back from him and stared out the window into the night. “He was gruff in manner, demanding, cold. He used poor English, ‘ain’t’ and ‘girly.’” She rubbed her forehead and tried to force herself to think. “The lady was gentler. She caved in to the man’s demands. She sounded a little more educated, maybe ... oh, I don’t know. They were on the line for such a short time.”
“You did great, Babe. You learned a lot in a matter of a few sentences.” Jake gathered her in his arms again and pulled her close.
“No,” Faith gasped with a frail voice. With closed eyes, she kicked and flailed her arms like she was fighting someone off.
“Faith, Honey,” Clisty soothed her by trying to stroke her forehead.
“No,” Faith fought her off and slapped her hand away.
“Faith, it’s me, Pooky,” she tried again but was careful not to touch her this time.
“Pooky? Where is she? Where’s Pooky?” She rose up slightly on her elbow and looked around the room with eyes that didn’t seem to see.
“It is a very long story, Faith. But, your daughter, Pooky is safe. She’s with your parents.” She wanted desperately to hold her friend but didn’t make another attempt for fear of frightening her.
“Mama and Daddy?” she asked with a strained expression, her eyes large with fear. “No, no!” She looked around the room, searching every corner.
“You’re in the hospital in Fort Wayne, Indiana, Honey,” Clisty assured her.
The lost child-woman nodded, like the words sounded familiar but her surroundings were foreign to her. “Where?” She nodded again. “Where am I? Where is Pooky?”
“Who is Faith?” she questioned as she drew her fists up to her temples and massaged them frantically. “I don’t know Faith anymore. I don’t know what you’re saying,” she cried.
A nurse in a blue uniform came crisply into the room. “Oh good, you’re awake. I’m Kim and I’m your nurse tonight.”
“But, she’s so …” Clisty whispered through her tears.
“I know ... confused. She’s been through a lot.” Kim came over to the bedside and reached for her wrist but Faith immediately jerked away. “I’m sorry,” she spoke gently. “I was just so happy to see your big beautiful eyes, I moved too quickly.” Kim patted Faith’s arm.
“Try ... calling her Jocelyn,” Jake offered.
Faith’s expression softened a little. “Jocelyn,” she agreed.
“All right then.” Kim placed her hand slowly on Faith’s forearm. “I would like to pick up your hand, Jocelyn, and take your pulse. Is that okay with you?”
Faith said nothing at first. “Pulse? I ... I don’t understand.”
“I’ll hold your hand just above the palm,” Kim began slowly, “then touch your wrist gently. Okay?”
Faith nodded as she laid her head back in an attempt to catch her breath. Suddenly, she threw her hand to her chest as a look of panic crossed her face.
“Nurse ...?” Clisty covered her mouth with her hand as she tried to gain composure. Frightened by what she saw, she feared for Faith’s ability to come back to her mentally.
“She’s hyperventilating,” Kim explained. “She has been breathing very shallow since she came in and now she’s panicking.” To Faith she explained, “I’m going to put my hand on your diaphragm. I want you to breath by pushing on my hand.” Slowly, Faith began to calm and breathe normally. “Good. Now, see there. Your respirations are much better.”
With her patient stabilized, Kim spoke to Clisty and Jake in hushed tones on the other side of the room. “Except for the episode just now, she is doing as good as can be expected. Before she can remember who she is, she has to have more energy. Her crushed spirit is very fragile. Our first goal is—we want her to be able to inhale and exhale.”
Then she turned to her patient. “Jocelyn, I’m going to put an oxygen cannula on your nose. You don’t need to be frightened. It will help you breathe.”
Faith watched the cannula come close to her face and nodded. “Lady, too,” she said as she began to breathe more naturally. She looked up at Clisty and gasped in a moment of recognition. “Pooky?” she asked.
“Yes,” Clisty nodded as tears streamed down her cheeks. She reached in her pocket and pulled out the clover sealed in frayed, wrinkled plastic. Folding it into Faith’s hand, she closed her fingers around it.

Faith glanced down at the small scrap of her childhood she had shielded for eighteen years then looked at her friend with tired eyes. Taking Clisty’s hand, a flash of fear crossed her face and she pulled her close. “Pooky ...” she begged, “keep Little Pooky safe. He’ll be coming for us. He always said he would.” She closed her eyes while tears ran down her face. “He’s coming again you know.”

Friday, October 27, 2017

News at Eleven - Chapter 5

Chapter 5

When the camera lights went out, the night seemed even darker to Clisty than it had been before the spotlight shone on the little house on North Gramercy. The stand-off between the suspected bank robber and the police was over. Firearms were quickly stored in the SWAT van and protective vests removed and stashed. Faith Sterling had walked out of the house on her own, finally free from a past she had endured for eighteen years. But, was it possible she had escaped her nightmares that easily?
Becca sighed deeply and blew the fresh air out slowly. “Wow! What a story,” she said as she started to help Clint load the camera equipment. “Not so sure I’m ready for another one of those, though. I think my heart stopped beating twenty minutes ago.”
Clisty still held the WFT-TV microphone in her slender fingers when she grabbed Faith in her arms and sobbed. “You’re home! Where have you been?” She pulled back at arm’s length to look at her lost friend. Clisty gasped loudly, the shock was more than she could silence. She felt chilled from the penetrating night wind. What she saw when she searched Faith’s face for the friend she use to know, frightened her.
Faith’s beautiful eyes were lost in sunken, dark gray pools of fear and emptiness. With trembling hands, she tried to brush matted hair from her forehead, leaving streaks of smeared perspiration behind. She looked at Clisty with a flat, glassy stare and then stiffened as she stuffed her hands in the pockets of her long, faded cotton skirt. A rumpled, heavy knit sweater hung open around her wrinkled peasant blouse. Her clothes smelled like musty socks.
“Oh Faith,” her mother cried as she approached her with open arms. “Thank God! Thank God!” Her words dissolved in the tears that streamed down her face. She too clung to the daughter she had not seen since Faith was nine years old. “How can it be? Only God could have brought you home.”
Pooky stood behind the three women, outside the circle of love. She patted the small of her new grandma’s back. “What’s wrong with Mama?” she whispered as she tried to get close to her. But, her mother said nothing. Faith seemed frozen except for her hands. “Why are your hands shaking, Mama?”
Faith’s glistening eyes darted to her daughter. Her tears seemed to refuse to stop flowing and she fixed her expression on some distant memory. “Shaking?” she asked, seemingly unaware of her surroundings, lost in the fear and trauma of hours of staring into the barrel of a revolver.
“She’s a little overwhelmed right now, Honey,” Roma explained as she turned and bent down to her granddaughter’s level. She touched the soft cocoa smudged cheek of the grandchild she didn’t know existed.
“Did Miss Sinclair say you’re Mama’s mama?” Pooky asked with a puzzled expression that began to grow stern. “Mama told me to find you. Where have you been?”
“Yes, Sweetheart,” her grandmother said as she finally started to shed eighteen year old tears. “I’m your grandma and,” she clasped the tips of her husband’s fingers, “and this is your grandpa. We have been right here, waiting for you. We didn’t know where you were.”
“Grandpa?” Pooky asked, quickly jerking back a step as her eyes grew large and fearful. A dog’s distant bark caused her to startle.
“It’s all right, Pooky,” Clisty soothed. “I have known your mama’s daddy all my life and he’s a good man. He has waited a long time to be a grandpa. I’ll bet he’s rehearsed it over and over.”
Pooky eyed the man who would be Grandpa. “Like, when I played Red Riding Hood at school?”
“Just like that,” Clisty patted her head. “Where did you go to school?” Like any broadcast journalist, she began to collect the details she would need to pursue the full story of Faith’s abduction. But, the news story was only part of it. She had to know where her friend had been. She had imagined every possible location in the years since she was gone. Except for a twist of fate that freed her from the grip of the man who captured Faith, she too would have vanished those long years ago.
Pooky folded her arms and closed herself off to the people around her. “I don’t go to school any more. I only went there a couple of weeks. Daddy said I could go, but then Grandpa said, no.” Her voice faded as she turned her chin up, defiantly, at Ralph. “I never got to be in the play after all.”
“I’m sorry to hear that,” Clisty said as she tried to think fast. “Can you remember the name of the school or anything you saw?”
“The name? No.” She twisted back and forth and wrinkled up her nose.
Becca watched her and coached, “You’re a good observer. When you’re as old as I am, you’ll need glasses to see what’s around you. I’ve noticed you see everything. Did you see anything that would remind you of the school?”
“There was a sign out front with a big dog on it,” the child’s eyes shone with pride. “I remembered some. That was good, wasn’t it?”
Becca smiled and encouraged her. “Yes, it was. I wouldn’t have noticed that, I’m sure.”
“That was very good.” Clisty put her arm around Pooky’s shoulder.
“You smell good,” she blurted out as she nuzzled a little longer under Clisty’s arm.
“Thank you. I’ll share a little bit of my perfume with you and your mama in a few days.” Things were going too fast for Clisty’s tired mind. She wondered how a young girl could possible keep up. “Your mother is going to go to the hospital in the ambulance now. I’m going back to the studio for the last newscast of the day.” She looked up at Faith’s parents and smiled. “You can ride with your grandparents.”
“No!” Pooky announced and pulled out of Clisty’s embrace. “I want to go with Mama.”
The first responder reached out and took Pooky’s hand. “That’s okay. You can ride in the ambulance with your mother. Your grandparents can follow us in their car. You’ll see Grandma and Grandpa when we get to the hospital.” He guided Faith onto the gurney.
Clisty watched the little girl’s face. “I’ll stop by after the newscast and make sure everyone is all right,” she whispered as she leaned down to hug the young girl. “Okay?”
“Okay.” Pooky’s eyes darted from her mother to all the new faces around her.
“It’s okay, Honey,” Faith’s words escaped from her mouth like they were riding on the last breaths she would take. She turned to her old friend and motioned for her to come closer.
Clisty leaned down toward her. “I love you, Faith,” she said and rubbed the back of her hand against Faith’s cheek.
“I … I ...,” Faith stammered, as her chin quivered and her voice choked.
“I know, Honey,” Clisty tried to help.
“I have to ... ah ... ah ...,” she rattled in aimless monotone, “... tell you.” She closed her eyes hard and slowly warned. “He’s coming, you know. He’s coming ....”
“Who, Faith ... who’s coming?”
“I’m sorry, Clisty,” the EMT worker urged. “She needs to be evaluated.”
“Evaluated?” Faith mumbled. Her voice was thin and weak. “Like a test? I ... don’t like tests.”
“You rest,” the attendant said as he patted her shoulder. “We gotta go,” he warned Clisty again. Faith lay back on the gurney and seemed to disappear on the mat, like she had eighteen years ago, a ghost among the living.
“I know,” Clisty watched with shock. “I can see.” Bending near her friend’s ear she whispered, “I’ll go to the studio and finish the broadcast. This breaking news tape will roll again on the eleven o’clock news. Then, I’ll stop by the hospital and check on you.”
“That will be terribly late,” Becca reminded her, then shrugged. “Maybe sleep is over-rated.”
“I’ll stop by,” Clisty repeated. “It can’t possibly be too late for me. I promise I won’t awaken you.” 
• • • • • 
Clisty slid into her chair behind the news desk at WFT and quickly clipped on her lapel microphone, racing the clock. It was ten-fifty-five. Her hands trembled. She took a deep breath and held it in her lungs for a few seconds. She didn’t have stage-fright. She had been running on one-hundred percent adrenaline since the six o’clock news exposed the grainy ATM video of her friend. Faith had been lost so long ago she remained the pigtailed girl in summer cotton shorts and stripped t-shirt in Clisty’s mind. When she closed her eyes, she could still hear the faint laughter of two nine-year-olds on a sunny afternoon adventure.
“Two minutes, team,” Becca called from behind the camera.
The junior anchor exhaled slowly, blowing the air silently through her lips. She had to keep her wits about her. She had to tell the story without telling it all, to keep details about Faith’s rescue for police use only, without the public’s awareness of the lack of transparency.
Suddenly, the hot lights flooded Clisty’s face and the newscast began. She looked down momentarily while the film from the remote broadcast ran again and was amazed to see she was still wearing what she had on at 6 pm. It had only been five hours, but a lifetime had caught up to her in those few hours. Her mussed skirt hid under the desk but the collar of her shirt that should have stayed beneath her suit jacket, refused to lay flat. She quickly tried to finger-iron it.
Clisty began on cue. “The stand-off between the police and the person, who may have held up the bank, lasted for more than hour. The police have identified the man as Melvin Dean Fargo. As you saw from the footage that just re-aired from our on-the-scene breaking news report, the woman who came out of the house ahead of the suspect, probably saved Fargo’s life,” Clisty reported. “She warned the police that he was surrendering, which avoided a barrage of bullets if authorities believed the woman was still a captive.”
Dan Drummond fidgeted in the chair beside her; his hand was itchy on his pen as he anxiously flipped it up and down. “Yes, Clisty, and—”
“... and, the police consider her a hero, Dan,” she smiled into the camera.
Dan began, “She is the woman, who, eighteen years ago—”
“I’m glad you brought that up,” Clisty deliberately interrupted. “Police are keeping the woman’s identity from the public at this time.”
Dan paused and shook his head slightly. “In case the suspect had accomplices?”
“That could be a reason for withholding her name,” Clisty suggested, then quickly added as Drummond opened his mouth to say more. “I pledge to bring you the entire background surrounding this event in the days to come.” Clisty was afraid if permitted to speak Dan could have given too much information and would have hijacked the story from her capable hands.
Dan’s jaw dropped. With a skillful recovery he added, “We will all be waiting to hear the details of these remarkable events.”
“And, in other news,” Clisty began again, “the Park Service has announced a new member of the lion pride at the Fort Wayne Zoo. A male cub named Scruffy was born at eight-twenty this evening, a fitting addition to our evening of new beginnings.”
Dan stared into the camera with a forced smile and set jaw. “Thank you for watching. That’s the news at eleven.” 
• • • • • 
“Well,” Dan started cautiously as he jerked the mic from his shirt, “it sounds like you have scored quite a story for yourself.” He pulled his tall lanky legs from under the desk and unbuttoned his suit coat from around his middle-aged belly.
“Dan,” she began slowly to maneuver around the minefield of news-room protocol. Clisty knew that the senior-anchor has first chance at significant stories. A junior anchor simply does not grab stories from the top of the pile and run with them. “I am sorry,” she started again, “but the backstory of this woman’s life is my story as well.”
“Your story? I thought that was up to
“No, I didn’t mean it that way.” She fumbled with words to express the unique situation she was in. The set cleared, Becca waited in the back of the studio. “Dan, you don’t understand,” Clisty tried to explain.
They left Studio-A silently and walked into the outer hall. Dan collected his hat and coat with a snap and an attitude. “I can easily see I don’t.” Then he turned, “How is it that this woman’s story is magically yours?”
“Dan,” Clisty looked around cautiously, to see if other ears could hear. “The woman is Faith Sterling. She was my childhood friend-of-the-heart. A man kidnapped her right out of my grasp, in my own living room, when we were both nine-years old. Then ... she just vanished. While the police apprehended the suspected bank robber, they haven’t tracked down and brought to justice the man who took Faith all those years ago. She is very confused and fragile right now, and may be in danger from her captor. The police want to keep the circle small of those who have contact with her. They hope she will remember me and trust me, since we were inseparable as children. So, I will be getting her story. I hope you understand.”
“Clisty,” Dan removed the hat he had just put on and crumpled it in his hand. “I understand now. Her backstory is indeed your story, too. If there is anything I can do to help, just let me know. I’ll be praying for both of you.”

“Thanks Dan. You’re the second person who said that to me tonight.” Her mind followed a tangential path back to the Christmas angel that sat on her spotless mantle. “I appreciate your prayers.”