Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Missing Katy by Natasha J. Stillman


“So now he’s seeing things.  Wonderful.  Didn’t we close his case a couple years ago?  You know we can’t afford to spend the center’s scant time and money on people who refuse to help themselves.”

Eva held her hands folded tightly in her lap.  She always hated these confrontations with her boss.  “He’s been completely sober for four whole years now.  I know it sounds strange, but he’s really worried.”

The Director of Social Services drummed her fingers lightly on the computer keyboard.  “Eva, he’s no longer our responsibility.  Let the police handle it.”

“But…”

“We’re done.”

Eva gritted her teeth and nodded.  When she was at the door, her boss spoke again.  This time, she could hear the tiniest bit of empathy in her voice.

“We can’t help everybody, Ms.West.  We try our best, but sometimes it’s just not possible.  Accepting that will make your life and my life much easier.”

Eva shut the door behind her, walked to her desk, and slumped into her seat.  Not for the first time, she thought about quitting.   She started counseling at The Monmouth Centre right after receiving her Master’s degree in social work.  Five years later - with the daily barrage of addicts, homeless, jobless, alcoholics, sickness, abuse, and domestic conflicts - she felt like she was living in a constant state of battle.  The job began taking its toll on her personal life within the first few months.   She lost practically all of her good friends simply because she was too exhausted to keep up with the social obligations.  Eva sighed.  She’d been through all this in her head before.  She’d give it just a few months more, and then give serious thought to applying to law school.  Resigned, she turned her attention to the pile of manila files on her desk.

A few minutes past eight, Eva stretched her arms overhead and took a deep breath.  Looking around, she noticed that she was the only one left in the office.  Pulling her shoulder bag out from under her desk, she opened a drawer and withdrew a folder.  Tucking it into the bag, she rummaged around for her keys while slipping her feet back into her sandals.  A wave of dizziness swept through her as she got up to leave.  “I have to quit staying so late,” she muttered to herself.

<><><>

One hour later, Eva was sitting on the couch in front of the muted T.V. in her third floor apartment, picking at the sweet and sour pork from the takeout down her street.  The air conditioner was running on high from the vent above, cooling her down in the hot Arizona summer night.  On the coffee table in front of her lay open the file she had brought home from the office.  The label on the tab read Tan, Martin. Eva couldn’t stop thinking about the case.

Nine years ago, Martin Tan lost his wife in a horrific accident.  His wife, Emily and daughter, Katy, were walking two blocks away from their house when joyriding teenagers lost control of the car, which careened across the street and plowed into the sidewalk.  Emily shoved her daughter clear of the oncoming vehicle before being hit head-on by the white Dodge Ram pickup.  She died instantly.

Martin, a high school teacher, was consumed with grief - so much so that he lost his job within two months - and then started drinking when it became evident that Emily’s wealthy parents were taking legal steps to gain permanent custody of Katy, who was twelve at the time of the accident.  Unfortunately, Martin continued drinking uncontrollably until his finances failed and he lost the family home.  Emily’s parents were unsympathetic.  Martin once told Eva that they had never wanted their bright and beautiful daughter to marry a schoolteacher eleven years her senior.  Finally realizing that he didn’t want to go through the rest of his life without watching his daughter grow up, Martin turned to the Monmouth Centre for help.

Through the efforts of his caseworker, Martin made a little progress.  He found a job doing the accounting at a manufacturing plant and made enough money to pay rent on a small studio at the edge of town.  However, he was still unable to visit Katy without supervision by his in-laws, who had won permanent custody of his daughter.  As a result, he rarely saw her for more than a couple of hours a month.  Then, two years after Martin walked into the center for the first time, his caseworker transferred to another office.  In the redistribution, Eva inherited Martin’s case.

Upon meeting Martin for the first time, Eva didn’t mention to him that he had been her seventh grade math teacher, and decided it was for the best that he seemed not to remember her.  Eva thought it was hardly surprising since she’d been a fairly average student and did nothing in school to stand out among her peers.  But, Martin was a good teacher, and Eva was saddened to see him reduced to such circumstances.  So, she resolved to make him her personal mission.

Eva continued her attempts at getting Martin into a counseling program for alcoholics, reminding him that getting sober was the only way he was ever going to be able to have a relationship with his daughter.  She arranged bi-monthly group therapy sessions with the center’s psychologist which Martin hated but attended.   After another couple of years - and months of staying sober - Martin was rewarded with a schedule of unsupervised weekend visits with Katy, then sixteen.  His employers had promoted him at the plant and he was, at last, financially stable.   Martin was ecstatic that his daughter was allowed to stay with him in his two-bedroom apartment close to the university.

Eva met with the pair for a few evaluations after the ruling and was heartened to observe that the father-daughter relationship, which had been extraordinarily close before the accident, was beginning to reassert itself.  After a couple more months, Eva had no need to meet with Martin again in an official capacity.

It wasn’t until today that Eva saw Martin in person again.  Finished with her Chinese takeaway, sipping from a can of orange soda, she thought back to the events of earlier.

Eva had arrived to work at eight am, and upon seeing the new files on her desk, felt a familiar fatigue settle in.  Large black coffee in hand, she sipped and stared unseeingly at the open file on her desk until a shadow crossed her desk and made her look up.

“Martin?”

“I think Katy’s in trouble and I need your help.”

Eva looked him over.  It had been two months since she last saw him and his appearance troubled her. Martin was disheveled and shaking and his clear blue eyes casting desperately about the room, as if searching for something.  He looked like he hadn’t slept or taken a shower in days.

She stood up and glanced around.  “Let’s go into the meeting room.”

Steering him into the office space, she shut the door and motioned for him to take a seat.

“Okay.  Now…start from the beginning and tell me what’s going on.”

“My Katy - she’s in college now – at the university.  She’s going there to be close to me.  She’s doing a degree in Art History.   She’s such a talented artist.  We’re heading to Europe together next summer to visit all the famous museums.  She’s nineteen and happy to spend three months backpacking through Europe with her dad.”

Martin’s voice broke as he struggled visibly to compose himself.

Eva stayed silent, listening as Martin’s words came out in a rush.

“Last weekend, she told me she was going camping with a friend.  Monday night, she didn’t show up for dinner.  We cook dinner together every Monday night and kind of shore ourselves up for the week – for her studying and my staying sober.  I didn’t worry.  She probably got held up at her grandparents’ and forgot to call me.  But, on Tuesday night, one of her friends called and asked if Katy wanted her to bring her notes over since she wasn’t in class that day.  Katy has a pretty full load and would never miss two days in a row.  So I called her grandparents and asked them if she was there.  They’d just gotten back from a long weekend on Monday night and found a note from Katy telling them she was staying with me for the weekend and not to worry.  That’s when I started to panic.  I ran out to check all places where she might be - the library, the cafe, the bookstore - but she wasn’t anywhere.  When I got home, there were a couple of police officers waiting for me and they questioned me for two hours.  Asked me if they could look around.  I didn’t have anything to hide.  They searched her room, searched my room.  Treated me like a suspect.  I told them to call her grandparents.  They said that’s who sent them.  Anyway, they left after searching through all my kitchen cupboards – probably for alcohol.  They didn’t find any because I’ve been sober for years.”

“Is she officially reported missing?”

“Yes, she is.  I went to bed last night and I couldn’t sleep.  I wracked my brain trying to think of all the people she might be with and all I could think of was to ask her friends if she’d been seeing anybody.  Then, out of nowhere, I got the overwhelming smell of jasmine.  You know, Katy’s favorite scent. And, I heard crying.  I jumped out of bed and ran into the living room yelling for Katy.   I ran into her bedroom.  It always smells like lavender.  It’s what she wears.   Anyway, there she was.  I could see right through her!  She was sitting on the floor with her head buried in her arms sobbing her eyes out.  Then she looked to her left, like she heard someone coming, and she just disappeared.”

“Did you speak to her?”

“I called out her name, but she didn’t come back.  She looked so scared.  Somebody’s hurting her and I don’t know where she is.  I’m not telling the police about it.  I’m not stupid.”

“What have you done so far to try to find her?”

“I waited outside all of her classes to talk to her friends.  Most of them didn’t know anything.  Except her friend, Melissa, said that Katy had been seeing someone since last summer and that she recently broke up with him because she’s been too busy with school.  Melissa never met him, but said that Katy mentioned something about him being older…”

Martin dug into his pockets.

“It was an unusual name, so I wrote it down.  Melissa said it was the only reason she remembered it.  She only knew his first name.”

He pulled out an old bank receipt and turned it over to read the writing on the back.

“Emerson.  That’s his name.  Emerson.  It’s familiar, but I can’t place it.  I ran it through the university’s online student directory this morning, but didn’t find anything.

He paused, ripping the small piece of paper into rectangular shreds.

“How could I not know that she had a boyfriend?  She tells me everything.”

He pounded at the arms of the chair.

“It’s been three days already.  I don’t think the police have a clue, especially since I seem to be their prime suspect.  They even told me not to leave Tucson!  I cannot lose her.  I lost her mother.  I will not lose Katy.  Not now.”

“Martin, I don’t know what I can do, but I’ll do something.”

Eva thought for a minute.  “Have you gone your daughter’s things yet?” she asked tentatively.  “Things stored in her bedroom at your apartment, maybe, that she wouldn’t want the grandparents to see… or you to see?  Does she have a computer at your place?  Or a laptop?  Have you checked her emails?”

“I never snoop in her room when she’s gone.  I trust her.  I know that Katy would never take drugs or anything like that.  She’s way too focused. But,” he acquiesced, “I see where you’re going.  I guess if she’s been hiding anything, it might be in her room at my place somewhere.”

He got up to leave. “I’d better get started then.”

“Martin, let me know if you see her again.   It was probably wise not to tell anyone else about that.”  Eva tried to give him a reassuring smile.  “And I’ll call you if I find out anything, okay?”

“I do remember you from class, you know,” Martin said, with his hand on the doorknob.  “Thanks for believing me.”

<><><>

Back at home on the couch, Eva played the conversation over and over again in her head and finally zeroed in on one word.  With a yelp, she shot out of her lazy position, knocked the can of soda over onto the hardwood floor and, bending over, smacked her head on the coffee table trying to mop it up with a napkin.

“Dammit!” she yelled.  “Dammit!”

There was a scurrying sound from the other side of her living room wall and then Eva heard a door slamming.  She walked to the front door, holding the back of her head and opened it.  Her neighbor stood at the door - one hand holding a large cast iron frying pan and the other hand raised to knock.  Eva, taking in the shrunken white tee-shirt and bright red, University of Arizona soccer shorts, couldn’t help grinning through her pain.

“Hello Drew.”

The tall, spindly, blonde gallantly twirled the frying pan around in his ridiculously huge hand and said, “I thought you might be in trouble and I was coming to your defense.”

“Were you actually going to knock first?” asked Eva.

“Well, you know, I kinda hurt my foot at work today.  Kicking the door in didn’t seem like a great idea.”   Drew turned his suave, dazzlingly white smile on her.

“And you might as well put that away, Doctor Casanova.  You know it has no effect on me.  I do not plan to become one of those poor gullible girls you snare,” she said grumpily.

“Problems with the masses?” asked Drew.

Eva looked at him standing hopefully at the door and rolled her eyes.  “You might as well come in and have a cup of coffee or something – but no funny stuff!”

She stood aside to let Drew in, closed the door, and swiftly took a mental inventory of her appearance while running her fingers through her long, tangled, honey-brown hair.  Clear, medium-latte skin, red-rimmed eyes and dressed in a thoroughly wrinkled linen button-down sleeveless blouse and faded capris.  Eva scoffed to herself and wondered why she even bothered.

“What was that?” came a voice from the kitchen.

“Nothing.”

Eva returned to her seat on the couch and stared at orange soda-soaked napkin on the floor.  Drew walked out of the kitchen with a can of Beamish and a glass.

“Hey, I was saving that!” she protested.

“For what party?  I’ll buy you another one.”

He moved the coffee table out of the way, pulled the beanbag in front of the couch and collapsed into it.  Then, leaning over, he picked up the napkin and threw it into the empty takeaway carton.

“Speak,” he demanded.

It was a familiar a weekly routine.  Drew would regale her with stories from medical school – mostly his flirting with the other med students.  Eva would tell him about her latest trouble case.

As she recounted the case, Drew, limbs took swigs of his beer and listened carefully.  When she finished, he mmm’ed for a few seconds, refilled his glass and then asked, “So, what was all the banging and swearing about?”

“Well, I realized why the name, Emerson, might have sounded familiar to Martin.  It was vaguely familiar to me too and then it came to me.  Emerson Lake is the name of one of the teachers up at the high school Katy went to.  A couple years ago, I picked her up from school for a court date and had to wait at the office.  I happened to glance at the teachers’ mailboxes and I remember seeing Emerson Lake on one of the labels and thinking that it was such a literary sounding name, wouldn’t it be funny he was an English teacher.  I was going to ask Katy about it, but I forgot as soon as I saw her.

“We could look him up,” suggested Drew.

“The school must have a website.  We should check if he’s still teaching there.  Just a sec.”

Eva fetched her laptop from her bedroom and set it up on the coffee table.

“Ok, I googled the school.”

“Do you think Katy would go out with an older man?” asked Drew.

“Well, she’s always been really mature,” Eva mused.

“Ok, here it is.”  She clicked on the website.  “Let’s see…”

She clicked on the Teachers link.  “We got him.  Picture and everything.”

Drew moved next to her one the couch.

Eva read the blurb underneath the picture.  “He teaches choir.  Katy was in choir all through high school.  Martin has definitely been to a few concerts.”

She reached under the table and retrieved a phone book.

“How many Emerson Lakes can there be in Tucson?” she asked no one in particular as she leafed through the L’s.

“Here we go.  1818 E. Lester St.  Where’s that?”

“I have a friend who lives on N. Campbell.  I think E. Lester is one of the roads off of Campbell.”   Drew finished his beer and moved to the couch.  “Why do you want to know where he lives?”

Eva stood up and put her sandals on.

“Oh no!”  Drew exclaimed.  “You can take those right back off, sit down and call the police.

Eva turned to Drew.  “What day is it today?”

“Thursday.”

“And the weekend is coming up, right?”

“Uh-huh.”

“So, I’m thinking, even if Emerson Lake abducted Katy last weekend, he must be back and teaching, right?  So, he’s probably still keeping her around.”

“Hold on. How do we know any of this?  Except from the ‘sighting’ Martin told you about.  Are you sure he hadn’t been drinking?  You’re taking really big leap here.”

 “Look, there is such a thing called Astral Projection.  It’s when the astral or spiritual consciousness of a person leaves its body for some reason or another.  People do try it on purpose.  Katy could just have done it out of sheer desperation.”

“Where are you getting this stuff?  It’s completely crazy.  ”

She ignored him and continued.  “Well, for one thing, a person technically has to be in a sleeping state.  Katy could have been crying in her sleep every night, hoping for someone – her dad for instance – to rescue her.  So, she ‘travelled’ to the safest place she could think of - her bedroom at her father’s house.”

Drew was silent.  Eva looked at him, willing him to just go with it.

“Assuming I don’t think you’ve completely lost it, and that I’m going to go along with your theory… You’re saying that Katy could still be alive – at least if she appeared last night in her room.”

“Exactly!” said Eva.  Then, she grabbed her keys, and headed for the door, looking thoughtfully at her old hockey stick in the corner.

Drew followed her.  “Where are you going?”

“What day is it tomorrow?” she asked.

He groaned, “Haven’t we already been through this?”

“Tomorrow is Friday.  The last day of school for the week.  Emerson can take off for another weekend, take Katy miles and miles into the desert and into the wilderness, kill her, hide the body, and be back on Monday – none the wiser.”

“You’ve been watching way too much C.S.I..  It’s kind of farfetched, don’t you think?”

Eva bit her lip.  “I have a bad feeling about this, Drew” she said stubbornly.

“And do you get these feelings very often?” said Drew, jokingly.

Eva stared at the ground.  She did, actually.  She had a sense about things, from when she was six years old and felt the exact moment her father died peacekeeping in Bosnia in 1995.  She was usually right, but she wasn’t about to tell him that.

“Look, why don’t you go find the detectives in charge tomorrow first thing and let them handle it.”

“And tell them what?  That I think Katy is being held captive by an ex-boyfriend who happens to be her former high school teacher, because her alcoholic father saw her astral projection crying in her bedroom last night?  You already said it was crazy.”

“I see your point,” conceded Drew.

Drew snatched his cast-iron frying pan back up.  “What the heck.  I don’t have the early shift tomorrow.  I got nothing else to do.  If you’re determined, I’m coming with you.”

Eva allowed herself a small smile.  “Then you might want to put some clothes on first.”

<><><>

“You do know this is totally illegal,” hissed Drew.

“Shhhh.  Give me a minute.”

They were sitting in Drew’s pickup truck, a few doors down the street from a neat, white stucco house.  The lights were off and there was no activity in the house.  A large, white Nissan Pathfinder was parked in front of the garage.

“I take it you have a plan?” whispered Drew.

“We should split up and walk around the house.  Stay under the windowsills.  Listen for anything out of the ordinary coming from the house.  Look for anything weird…”

“Like a knife with blood all over it?”

“Not funny,” said Eva.  “Look for any sign of a basement – windows at ground level, storm door entrance.  Let’s meet over there.”  She pointed directly across the street from the house to a swing set on a green section surrounded by a wire fence.  “That way, we can decide if we have to go in or not.”

“Go in?  Are you out of your mind?”

“Only if we find something,” Eva implored. “I swear.”

 “I can’t believe I’m going along with this,” Drew muttered as they walked quietly up the sidewalk leading to the house.

“Shhhh.”

Both sides of the house were lined with a tall, dark-green hedge.  Eva and Drew were able to creep up to the house, undetected, at opposite ends of the yard.   Then they exchanged quick nods before Drew disappeared around the corner of the garage.

Once around the other side of the house, Eva quickly shuffled close to the side of the house and ducked beneath the view of three windows - a small, higher window flanked by two large windows equally spaced across the wall.  Eva waited, nervously listening for sounds from inside, comforted a little by the fact that Drew was doing the exact same thing on the other side.  Then, she carefully peeked over the ledge of the window into the living room and breathed a sigh of relief when she saw no one sitting on the couch in front of the T.V..  She glanced around the room, bathed in moonlight and saw nothing out of sorts – an empty glass on a table to the side of the couch, books piled up next to the front door.  From her vantage point, she could see the kitchen entrance on the far side of the room and ducked back down.    Shuffling further, she investigated the small, high window on her tiptoes and found herself looking into the bathroom.

Suddenly Eva heard a low rumble coming from the next window.  She sank quickly back into a crouch, pasting her back to the wall.   Holding her breath, she froze.  Then she almost laughed out loud.  She sidled up to the open window and peeked through the screen.  Blinking once, she focused on the snoring, man-sized lump on the bed, which was situated headboard against the opposite wall, facing the window.   Eva lowered herself to a crouch and sidled very carefully around the back corner of the house and settled on the concrete of the back patio.   Sitting directly under the second bedroom window, she turned her head to the left and noted the back entrance to the house.  The backyard in front of her was small but tidy, with only a standing barbecue and a reclining lawn chair placed on the patio.  Eva was a little disappointed that there was no shed.   She chewed on her lower lip, gathered the remnants of her courage and made her way back underneath the windows, down the front yard, and to the playground.

Drew was already there, hanging off the top bar of the swing set.

Eva sat down dejectedly on a swing.  “Nothing.  I found nothing.  No little window on the ground.  No sign of a girl.  And he’s snoring as loud as a Mack truck.”  She looked up at Drew hopefully.  “What about you?”

“The garage had a door close to the front corner.  It’s locked.  That’s not a crime.   And there was a high window along the side of the garage, near the middle.  It’s practically pitch black in there – couldn’t see anything.”

“What about the rest of the house?  Was there a bedroom on the other side?  And what about the kitchen?”

Drew sat down on the swing next to her.  “The kitchen was spotless.  The bedroom had no furniture in it at all except for a bed and a dresser.  There weren’t even sheets on the bed.”

Eva ground the heels of her sandals into the dirt underneath the swing.  “Damn.  I was so sure…”

Drew stood up and gallantly extended a hand, “Well, all in all, I think a good result.  Shall we end this adventure and go home to bed?”

Eva frowned morosely at the dirt and brush around her and thought of Martin frantically looking for clues in his daughter’s bedroom.  Suddenly, her eyes caught a glint of something winking at her from the earth not six feet away.  She abruptly stood up and walked towards a section of the wire fence.

 “I mean to our separate beds in our separate apartments,” stammered Drew hastily.

“No,” she said, distractedly waving one hand behind her, “it’s not that.”

Squatting down, she began to gently but purposefully brush away loose dirt from the area.

“What are you doing now?” asked Drew, coming up behind her to see.

Eva stood up slowly and turned around in a daze, something clasped in her closed fist.

“What…” began Drew.

Eva unclenched her fist and held an object out to Drew.  “Open it,” she whispered.

Drew carefully opened the intricately carved heart-shaped gold locket on a gold chain and revealed two tiny pictures – one on each side of the locket.

“The girl on the right is Katy…”

“And the woman on the left is her mother,” finished Drew as they both scrutinized the locket.

“Her mom was wearing it when she died.  Katy replaces her own picture each year, so her mom can see her grow up.  Otherwise, she never takes it off.”

“The chain has been broken,” said Drew.

“It was ripped off her neck,” said Eva.

Drew stared at her.  “You knew.  How did you know?”

Eva cleared her throat.  “The SUV is outside.  Why would you keep your car outside if you had an empty garage?”

They glanced across the street at Emerson Lake’s house.

“Because the garage is not empty,” Drew answered.

“We have to get her out,” said Eva.  “How far up is that window?  Could I fit through it?”

“Hold on.  We don’t even know if she’s in there.  And if she’s not, we’d be breaking and entering.”

“And if she is, and we do nothing?” asked Eva.

Drew sighed in resignation.

“Fine, just let me go back to the car for a second.  You stay here and make sure no lights go on in the house, okay?”

Eva nodded.

A few minutes later, Drew came back with the frying pan and the hockey stick.  “This is what we brought them for, right?”

Eva took the hockey stick from him.  “Let’s go.”

Once again, they made their way quietly up the yard to the left side of the garage.  They laid their “weapons” on the ground against the side of the house and looked up at the high window.

Drew threw Eva a measuring glance.  “Technically, you could fit through it, but it’s shut pretty tight and I don’t see any way of getting it open without making a huge amount of noise.”

He then studied the door, tapped it experimentally and nodded.  “The hinge pins are on the outside.  This may be doable.”

Eva watched in amazement as Drew pulled a screwdriver and a tiny can of WD-40 out of his back pocket.

“I’m going to take the door off the hinges by removing the pins.  The door isn’t heavy – it’s hollow.  I need you to stand in front of it, ready to catch it if it falls.”  Drew turned and faced Eva.  “This is really important.”

She raised her eyebrows at him.

“What?  I always carry a tool kit in my truck.”

As Eva took her position, Drew sprayed WD-40 around the pins, stuck the can back into his pocket and knelt down to work on the bottom hinge.

“Here goes.”

As Eva watched nervously, Drew tapped upwards lightly on the bottom edge of the head of a pin with the tip of the flat part of the screwdriver.  Luckily, with a few taps the pin eased out and Drew pulled the pin up and out of the hinge socket.  Then he turned his attention to the top hinge and repeated the process.  This time, he shoved the screwdriver hastily into his back pocket before he pulled the pin out, and motioned Eva to support the other side of the door as he removed the pin and separated the halves of the hinges.  Then together they lifted the door free, set it carefully against the outer wall and cautiously entered the garage.

Eva drew in a sudden breath, walked slowly to the far left corner of the garage, and knelt down.  She covered her mouth as she struggled to silence the sobs that were welling up from her throat.

“Oh no.” said Drew.  “Anything but this.”

In the corner lay a young girl, dressed in blue denim shorts and a yellow t-shirt, seemingly asleep, except for the ghastly pallor of her skin, the faint odor, and the bruising around her neck.

Drew crouched before her and felt for a pulse, shaking his head.

“That bastard!” Eva whispered fiercely, tears flooding her eyes.  “Poor Katy.”

“She wanted to leave me,” came a cold voice from behind them.

Eva and Drew both started to get up when Drew was hit and collapsed on the floor.   The screwdriver flew from his pocket and Eva snatched it up and whipped around.

Emerson Lake stood in front of her, holding the frying pan.   He smirked.  “You people aren’t professionals, are you?”  He threw the pan against the garage door.

Eva flinched and held the screwdriver up, trying in vain to remember her self-defense.

Emerson surged forward and she struck, only to have her hand caught and crushed.  Emerson grabbed the screwdriver, pulled her to him and aimed it at her at her neck.  His smile was terrifying.  “Are you one of those girls?  Those girls who use me and then throw me away like I’m garbage?  Perfect, precious Katy thought she could leave me – just like that.  I listened to her, comforted her, screwed her all summer and she had the nerve to dump me because she had too much going on and didn’t need me any more…”

Eva heard an anguished roar coming from the doorway.  Then she was shoved to the floor and momentarily stunned.  She cleared her head and pushed herself up on her arms.  By the worktable, two men were fighting as if their lives depended upon it.

“You.   Will.  Never.  Hurt.  Anybody’s.  Little.  Girl.  Ever.  Again.”

“Martin!”  Eva yelled as Emerson stabbed him repeatedly with the screwdriver.

Eva frantically cast her eyes about, searching for something she could use to help her former teacher.  Suddenly, a silence fell.  She was afraid to turn around.  When she did, she saw that Emerson had halted his attack and was staring in horror at something above him.  She caught a glimpse of a willowy form standing over Martin’s prostrate body, but then she blinked and it was gone, and after that everything was a blur.  Suddenly Emerson Lake was on his back, a screwdriver sticking out of his chest.  Martin lay next to him, face down and motionless.  Eva stumbled forward, crying jaggedly.  She knelt down beside him, turned him over and cradled his wounded body in her arms.

Drew was slowly stirring a few minutes later when light flooded the garage.  A shadow fell across Eva and she looked up as the police officer shouted, “I need assistance here…”

Then she fainted.

<><><>

At the hospital, in the early hours of the morning, Eva was questioned by the police.   Still in shock, but otherwise unhurt, she numbly went through the events of the last twelve hours of her life as well everything she had guessed about Katy’s disappearance.  The female officer who took her statement was sympathetic, but warned her that both she and Drew could be charged with interfering in an investigation.  Eva didn’t argue, too depressed that their efforts had been too late to save Katy.

The police finally left after questioning Drew, who suffered a mild concussion and was staying overnight for observation.  Eva checked out, but managed to persuade the nurses to allow her to visit with him before she went home.

“Hey,” said Drew, as she entered his room.  “I’ve been asking for you.”

“You look…” she began.

“Like hell.”  Drew smiled weakly.  “I look worse than I feel.  When they learned I was hit with a cast-iron frying pan, they decided to keep me in longer just in case.  I can blame myself for that,” he said wryly.

Eva swallowed, “We tried.”

“Do you know about Martin?”

“That bastard killed him.   I saw the whole thing.  He died saving my life.”

“Eva,” Drew said gently, “Martin went into surgery the second the ambulance got here.  He’s in intensive care.”

“He is?”

“I’m wondering how he found us.”

“The police said they got a call that a break-in was occurring at the house, but Martin could have figured it out the same way we did.  Or maybe he saw something while going through her stuff.”

Drew grunted, “Remind me not to get involved with your cases again.”

“Why did you?” asked Eva, studying his gold-flecked green eyes.

He flashed her his killer smile.  “I told you. Nothing better to do.”

Eva allowed herself to smile back. “I’m going to check on Martin,” she said.

“They’re not going to…oh never mind.  I’ll be here.”

“I’ll be back,” said Eva, squeezing his arm.

The Intensive Care ward was quiet when she slipped unnoticed into Martin’s room.  Eva stood for a second by the bed, watching his chest gently rise and fall, noting how pale his haggard face seemed as his eyelids fluttered in what she hoped was a dreamless sleep.  Then, she rolled the chair from the corner of the room to the bedside and sat next to her former teacher, massaging his right hand with both of hers.

“I’m so sorry,” she whispered.

Blinking the tears from her eyes, she focused on the EKG machine on the other side of the bed, taking small solace from its steady, constant blip.  Eva didn’t know how long she sat there, stroking his hand, regretting, thinking.  Suddenly she felt a slight pressure, as if he squeezed her hand.  She looked up, searching his face for signs of consciousness, but his eyes were still closed.

“Martin, I need you to live,” she said simply, her voice wavering.  “I need you to live, even if you don’t want to anymore.  I know you think you’ve lost everything, but you haven’t.  You saved my life.  You have me.”

She took a deep breath.

“My dad died when I was six.  I barely saw him, he was away so much.  But, when he was home, we had precious time together.  I miss him horribly.  Then you came along and you reminded me of him. You brought up memories of my dad I had forgotten and I thank you for that.  You are a good man, Martin.”

Martin’s hand jerked and his eyes slowly opened.  Eva lifted his hand to her cheek and looked him in the face.

“We can get through this together.”  She told him, resolutely.  “Don’t give up.”

Suddenly, the monitors began fluctuating wildly.  Eva dropped Martin’s hand and backed away trembling as a nurse ran into the room.

<><><>

“You know, they used to drop pigs’ blood and intestines into this river.”

“That’s disgusting,” said Eva, leaning over the railing of the Ponte Vecchio, half expecting to see bloody entrails floating on the surface.  “And definitely not appropriate talk after the amazing dinner we just had.”

“Mmmm!” exclaimed Drew, rubbing his stomach.  “I won’t need any more food for a while.”

“Uh, huh,” said Eva skeptically.  “At least not until tomorrow morning.”

Drew checked his watch and then bent over to kiss her.  “That is for getting into law school.”

She smiled and kissed him back.

“I’ll see you back at the room?”

“Soon,” she answered.

Drew winked at her and waved as he disappeared into the crowd.

Eva returned to her contemplation of the water.

“Rule One: When you’re in Italy: Always leave space for gelato.”

She took another lick at her cone and grinned at the man next to her, “Damn straight.”

They stood companionably on the bridge, listening to the bustle of the strollers and shoppers around them.

“Katy would have loved Florence,” Martin said quietly.  “She would have loved all of Italy.  She wanted to paint everything in it.  She spent hours poring over pictures, going to the museum’s websites, planning everything we would do and see when we got here.”

Eva reached into her bag.  “I was waiting for the right time…”

Martin looked at her questioningly as Eva drew out Katy’s tiny, heart-shaped locket and held it out to him.

“Oh, there it is.  I know exactly what to do with this.  I have been missing Katy so much,” he said, in a voice filled with emotion.

Eva smiled at him through her tears.

As Martin leaned over and kissed her forehead.  “Thank you for making this trip with me.”

Eva closed her eyes as the sweet scent of jasmine washed over her.  When she opened them, Martin and the locket had vanished.

“Goodbye, Mr. Tan,” she whispered.

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