Time is mischievous.
09/23/2006: Stranger Still
Saturday morning Bailey drove me home before he headed out to LA, and insisted on coming inside to check everything out before leaving me.
“I’ll call you later when I get back.” He leaned in to peck me on the cheek, “I love you.” He lingered in the doorway a moment before turning to leave.
I locked the door behind him, and I pondered why I still hadn’t said it back until I realized that my cell phone was blinking with a message. The missed call log indicated it was the police station, and upon checking the message I learned they wanted me to come back down to the station to sign a formal statement. So I scrapped my plans for writing that morning, got ready and headed out.
At the station, the desk sergeant showed me to an interview room, which was nothing more than a ten foot by six foot space with one way mirrors along two walls. “Ramirez and Marks will be in with you shortly,” was all he said before he shut the door.
After five minutes of sitting there, I began to feel like an inmate, and got up to pace around the room. I bumped into Jake as he came in the door. “I’m so sorry,” I blurted as Marks followed him into the room, “I was lost somewhere in thought.”
Smiling, he said, “It’s all right. Sorry we kept you waiting so long.”
“No, no. Please, what can I do for you?”
Jake continued, “It’s all pretty cut and dry, really. He is pleading guilty to impersonating a police officer and kidnapping. This will be his third strike in fact; he’s going away without a fight.”
“We just need to take down your official statement about what happened, and clarify any discrepancies.” Officer Marks chimed in.
“What discrepancies?” He wasn’t letting go of his story.
“Look, Ms. Marquet, we understand if you didn’t want to say anything to Jake in front of your boyfriend, but….”
Jake picked up for him, “Morrison insists there was a man who rushed him, nearly strangled him and cracked him over the head with his own pistol.”
Deny, deny, deny my gut said, so I shook my head and gave them my best wide eyed innocent look. “I have no idea what he’s talking about.”
Marks continued to lean on me, “Ms. Marquet, Morrison has sustained injuries that corroborate his version of the story, are you going to tell me you knocked him down and strangled him? Then hit him so hard his skull nearly cracked?”
His skull was probably injured when he hit the pavement, and my Shadow Watcher had definitely been the one to strangle him. “No, it happened as I told you. Maybe he got into a fight with someone else earlier? You said he was strung out of his mind.”
The officers exchanged looks, and Marks sighed, “That is plausible. The problem is Morrison wants to sue the guy.”
I laughed, “He wants to sue the imaginary bad guy who stopped him from attacking me?” They were both trying not to laugh. “I really don’t see of how I can be of any help with that, as I’ve said, no one else was there.”
Jake turned to his partner, “This is coked out crazy vs. upstanding citizen Marks, let’s have her sign the statement and let her move on with her day.”
“Will I have to testify in court?”
“Not if he sticks with his guilty plea. I suspect he will with or without this mystery hero he wants to sue.”
“I don’t see what good suing anyone would do him anyway, if he’s going away for life?”
Jake shook his head, “He said it was ‘the principle of the matter.’” He was furious with the whole thing, I could tell. “The nerve some of these scumbags have.”
Marks excused himself to attend to other reports while Jake stayed with me while I looked over the report, and wrote out my official statement. Then he walked me back out to the reception area, “I’ll call you if there’s anything else we need from you Sam.”
“Thank you Jake,” I smiled.
“Want me to have an officer drop you off at home?”
“No thanks, you already got the bad guy.” I winked and headed out the door.
The bright sunny morning gave no hint of trouble lurking, which is why I decided to walk to the Police Station when I left. It was safe enough to walk those four blocks at any time of day or night in Novica. Nothing happens here, ever. Well, except for that unfortunate incident with Raymond Morrison.
So imagine my surprise when, on my way home, a black Yukon pulled up next to me on the curb, its rear window rolled down, a thin straw poked out, and I was struck in the leg with a dart.
Whatever the drug was, it kicked in immediately. Darkness swirled around the perimeter of my vision, staying at bay long enough for me to see the two pairs of black gloved hands reaching for me from the Yukon’s back door, before swallowing my sight. I hit the pavement, and felt the hands take hold, but then I felt a third set of hands pulling me the opposite direction. There were some loud noises, and then the first two sets of hands let go. The next sensation I had was that of being swept up into the air and away.
When I came around, I was on my couch again. This time, my Shadow was staring at me from across the room, without his glasses on. His eyes were a striking grayish-green, and seemed for a moment as though they had already seen decades more of life than his face. I felt them looking straight into my soul.
With that thought, I was fully awake, and sat straight up. “How long was I out?”
“Just an hour.”
“How are you always where I am?”
He smiled, “It’s my job to be where you are.”
“So someone pays you?” I inquired further.
Hesitantly, he responded. “Yes, I suppose you could say I have a patron, or sponsor.”
Finally, I had an honest and direct answer. “And why do I need your protection?”
“After the last two days, do you really need to ask me that question?”
“You’re right, allow me to clarify. Why are these people after me?”
He stared out the window behind me.
“All right then. Who is your patron?”
This pause was much longer; I could feel the weight of the answer before he gave it. “Your father.”
My father died when I was ten - almost eleven - in a plane crash. “That’s impossible.” I took several gulps from the glass of water on the end table to my right.
“The arrangement was made long ago.”
I had a flash of recognition, a memory of my father’s funeral and my Shadow standing at the back of the gathering. What struck me as strange was in seventeen years he had not aged a day. I thought he might look even younger now, and wondered aloud, “How is that possible?”
As if he read my mind, he said, “You wouldn’t believe me if I told you.”
"Try me.” Suddenly I felt very drowsy, and the room was getting darker.
“I’m sorry, Samantha, not today.” Almost before he could finish, I passed out from whatever it was he put in the water.
I was still conscious enough to hear him as he whispered “You need to sleep and I need to go without you following.” He brushed my hair away from my forehead, and covered me with the blanket. “I promise I will explain soon. I’m afraid we have no choice.
The landline was ringing, and the answering machine picked up. “Sam, it’s me,” Bailey sounded irritated. “I’m getting off the freeway; I’ve been calling your cell, home, the bar, your mom. Where are…”
Jarred from my sleep, I scrambled to find the handset and hit talk, “Bailey, I’m here. I’m sorry I was asleep.”
He half growled, half sighed with relief. “Some sound sleeper you are. You had me worried,” he scolded.
“I guess I needed it,” I paused to yawn, “I’m sorry.”
“I’ll be there in five minutes.”
I didn’t want him to come over. “Bailey, please, don’t. I’ve lost a day and a half already; I need to get some work done.”
“Sam, you shouldn’t be alone,” he persisted.
I refused. “Tomorrow night, I’m yours, I promise. I’m staying in, not going anywhere until you come get me for dinner.”
“Promise me,” he insisted.
“Again.” He wasn’t letting go.
“I promise I have enough Pepsi, food and smokes to get me through until tomorrow evening.”
“At least call me later?”
“How later, I don’t even know what time it is.”
“It is 4:14 p.m.,” he was precise, to the minute. “How about around ten?”
“Okay, ten it is."
“And don't you ever go not answering my calls and worrying me like that again,” he scolded, before adding, “Please?"
"I'm sorry, Bailey..."
"No, I am. I'm just rattled by what happened."
"I know, me too." He had no clue.
"I guess I'll just go home and try to get some work done myself."
"I'll call you at ten, promise."
"You better. I love you." This time he didn't wait for me to say it back and disconnected the call.
I grabbed a Pepsi from the fridge and sat down at my desk in the corner to work on my desktop. Somehow I find I write better on this old keyboard, rather than the one on my laptop. Then again maybe it's just the sitting upright at a desk that does the trick. Whatever it is, my intention at sitting down was to work on my revisions for Dave Grier, my agent. Due to the circumstances, I was understandably distracted.
My Shadow Watcher was an enigma I was compelled to solve. I knew he wasn't just a figment of my imagination, as I had believed when I'd seen him those few times years before, that Morrison guy saw him too. Why the mystery? I decided to make some notes, so I opened a blank doc and started typing.
What I know:
• Seems to be wherever I am
• Appears only when I'm in trouble
• Doesn't seem to ever be without trench coat or shades
• Likes to mess with my head
• Thinks that I'm naïve
• He hasn't aged in 17 years, could even look younger
What I don’t know:
• Why is my father having him protect me?
• Protect me from what?
• How has he not aged?
• Who is he?
• How does he know when I'm in danger?
Then I realized I could go on typing questions forever. I opened Internet Explorer and went to Google, but I had no idea what to look for. My brain spun around in my head for a while, and I found myself thinking back to when I was a little girl, when my father would read to me before bedtime. We loved fantastical adventures, both fictional and historical. His favorite tales were of the Early North American expeditions and the quest for the "Fountain of Youth" in particular.
We’d taken a few road trips as a family before Dad’s crash, and stopped at all of the historical landmarks along the way. Dad would tell me the stories of this battle, or that expedition, and sometimes there was a spark in his eyes that made me think he’d really been there to see it. He would speak reverently of the men, and women, involved, but in a way that gave the impression he knew them personally.
He also read me Tuck Everlasting - the tale of a family who drank from a small spring, and then went on to live forever. While it seemed like such a fantastical idea, they were frozen in time, never aging, and suffered through seeing people they loved grow old and die. They had to move from place to place so no one would catch on to the fact that they weren't aging as those around them. There was a kind of sadness to that story I could not shake.
It hit me out of nowhere: from the pictures I had seen taken of him before I was born and what I remembered of him before his death, my father didn’t appear to have aged either. Not past his early thirties, and he should have been fifty-four at the time of the accident. His body burned so badly in the Cessna wreckage that he was cremated. I was either crazy or on to something: my Shadow Watcher knew my father, and both of them either had a fabulous genealogy, or they have some secret to the aging process.
Going after someone because they have good genes is something I wouldn't put past some people. A woman I knew was let go from the bank because she got more compliments on her appearance from clients and co-workers than the manager, at least that was the real reason behind it. I didn't think it merited causing anyone physical harm though, like killing my father, or whatever Morrison and the men in the Yukon had in mind for me.
It was more logical to conclude there was something tangible that my father and my Shadow Watcher knew about, or had in their possession, which kept them young for an unknown amount of time, and someone else knew about it, too. Perhaps it was a tree, like in the story? If my Shadow Watcher is real, couldn’t the same be said of the tree? I knew I was on to something, and at the same time, I was no closer to finding any answers.
By then, I was pacing around the room, and probably on my way to wearing a track in the carpet. Then I looked at Artemis, perched atop the couch, “I wonder what, if anything, Mom knows about all of this?”
Artemis cocked her head to the right, said, “Mraow,” then yawned.
“You’re right, I should call her.” I picked up my cell phone and dialed hers.
She answered on the second ring, “Sam, I was just thinking about you. You would love the colors on these trees.” I had forgotten she was off cruising in British Columbia. Since I was grown, she was always flitting off here or there across the globe. The C.I.A. would have a hard time keeping track of her movements.
“Isn’t it too dark to see them there now?”
“Yes, but in the daytime! Oh, and you should have seen the sunset, it was just - I can’t even describe it.”
“I’ll bet.” How on Earth do I broach this subject? I stalled, “So how has the weather been there? It’s finally cooling off here.”
“Oh, much cooler here than at home, and I only packed clothes for warmer weather, so I’ve had to do a bit of shopping.”
“Of course,” I teased. She always she bought too many new clothes on her trips, and would have to ship a box home to make room in her luggage. “So have you met any hot single men?”
“Why?” she gasped. “Don’t tell me you dumped Bailey?”
“No, Mother, I meant for you,” I really wished that she would consider dating.
She yawned, “No honey, I’m just here for the trees. What’s going on at home? Anything exciting?”
I told her about Bailey’s project, his invitations to go with him and to move in, and then took a deep breath and sighed before giving her an edited recounting of my encounter with Raymond Morrison.
“Samantha! I’m getting on a plane first thing in the morning…”
“No Mom, I’m really ok. Bailey’s more shaken up than I am, though I don’t know how much of that is because I said I wasn’t ready to move in with him.”
“I really think I should come home,” she persisted.
“No, I don’t want to spoil your trip; I know how much you were looking forward to it.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yes, Mama, I’m sure.”
“What else aren’t you telling me?”
“Nothing, I swear,” I paused a moment. “Well,” it was now or never, “I guess something else did happen, sort of.”
“Do I want to know?”
“Nothing bad, just, I happened to run into someone at the book store.”
“Someone who said he used to work for Dad. He was tall, with longish dark hair, and grayish green eyes. Oh, and he was wearing a trench coat. Does that sound familiar?”
She sighed, “Honestly, I don’t know. Your father had a lot of people working for him, try as I might, I can’t remember them all. A name might help, did he give you one?”
“No, I didn’t think to ask.” Maybe she didn’t know anything after all, “Oh well, I didn’t remember him, I thought you might.”
“How did it come up, that he worked for Dad?”
Think fast Sam, “He asked if I was Daniel Marquet’s daughter, which caught me off guard. I said ‘yes,’ and he explained that recognized me from when I was younger, and said
my eyes reminded him of Dad.”
“You do have his eyes,” she mused.
“Oh well, I just thought maybe he was someone you knew too.”
As I spoke there was a knock on my door. Actually more of a pounding, followed by a female voice mocking an authoritative tone, “I know you’re in there.”
“I’m sorry Mom, Jayden is at the door.”
“Say hello, I have to go to bed anyhow. I love you.”
“I love you too, sweet dreams.”