“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.”