Sarah, Returned--Chapter 26 (A Steemit Original Novel)
I relax back into the sofa as much as I can, and turn my tongue over to that hidden part of my mind once more.
“I didn’t want Matt and Karen to find me until I was ready to deal with them,” I say, feeling far away and disconnected from my own voice. It really is like floating outside myself, and putting my body and voice on autopilot.
I continue, words flowing smoothly, and no idea what I'm going to say next. The story is being gifted to me by the universe. It's the most reasonable explanation. “You have to understand how much stress I was under, between losing my grandmother, trying to fend off Karen’s threats to me, and my own cousin not taking my side against her. To put it bluntly, I was extremely upset. Can you blame me? I thought for a long time about what to do. Eventually, I decided the best thing was to make it look like I vanished. So, I took the cash I had in my purse and walked to the nearest 24-hour drug store. Once there, I bought some pre-paid credit cards and a pre-paid cell phone, none of which could be traced. I kept some cash back, called a cab, and had the driver take me to a hotel in Boston. I stayed there a few days, then moved on to another hotel in Connecticut, then one in Rhode Island, Delaware, New Jersey, and a couple in New York. I only stayed three or four days in each place, using the pre-paid cards to pay for everything except cabs, which I always paid for with cash. When I finally felt like I was emotionally strong enough to fight Karen for control of my life and inheritance, which she's made clear is what she’s after, I came back. I paid a cab to drop me off at the top of Garrison Hill, because I wanted to see if anything I left behind was still there. There was an opal ring that is quite special to me that fell off my finger when I was in the thicket, and I didn’t realize it was gone until later. That’s why I was so dirty when Matt found me. I’d been digging around up there trying to find it. When I didn’t locate it, I walked to the nearest gas station and called Matt.”
Hey. What do you know? My subconscious is pretty creative. I had no idea I was going to say any of that, but it is the perfect tale. It's an excellent plan; if I hadn't ended up in 1685, I would probably have done something just like that.
“And your odd clothing?” Sgt. Baker asks, squinting at me with suspicion. “Your cousin tells us you were dressed in colonial garb when he picked you up.”
“Not colonial,” I insist. “Just old. It might be someone’s discarded school play costume. I don’t know. I bought a few outfits at local thrift stores to avoid being too recognizable. Look, I didn’t know if Matt and Karen may have hired a private detective to find me. I was doing everything I could to throw them off my trail."
Sgt. Baker nods, as if that makes perfect sense to him. Good job, subconscious. I would totally give you a high five if I could.
“Why did you leave so many of your belongings behind on the hill?” Lt. Daniels wants to know.
“To make it look like someone took me. I thought it might buy me some time to be able to come back on my own terms. It was the right decision, because it obviously worked. The things I left can all be replaced, of course, except the ring I lost. The idea was to leave things like my phone and purse, the things everyone would be sure I would bring with me if I left of my own free will. If they were left behind, I must have been taken."
“And the keys in your car?” Sgt. Baker raises an eyebrow as he holds the recording device closer to me.
“An accident. I didn’t mean to leave them there. I was so upset, I didn’t think about it. I had no idea until Matt told me. Ask him. He’ll tell you it’s not uncommon for me to lock my keys in my car when I’m distracted. I've given the locksmiths of Dover plenty of business since I was old enough to get my driver's license.”
Both officers smile at that one.
“And you’re fine?” Lt. Daniels inquires; she sounds concerned, and it is genuine. “No one hurt you in any way while you were gone? No one was keeping you against your will?”
“No, not at all. It was all my own doing. I’m so sorry for the trouble. I had no idea the police were looking for me, much less any federal agencies. I honestly thought Matt and Karen would search for me on their own, or hire someone, because, to me, this seemed too trivial for the police to get involved in. I see now I should have called you myself as soon as I left the house, and let you know I was purposefully avoiding contact with my cousin and his fiancée. It seems a bit ridiculous, doesn’t it?”
“Normally, yes,” Sgt. Baker agrees. “You are an adult, and are legally entitled to go where you want, whenever you want, without telling anyone. Most of the time, we at least give a cursory look into any missing persons report after the required amount of time has gone by, but unless there is evidence of something bad happening to someone, we usually let it go and chalk it up to that person wanting to be left alone. Your case was different, because there was evidence you might have met with foul play. Leaving your belongings on the hill, along with the keys in your car, indicated reasonable suspicion you were taken against your will. Couple that with you being an heiress to an extremely large fortune, and, well, you can understand the increased resources we placed on the situation. When we found someone tampered with your car, it became an even more serious matter, and yes, we brought in the FBI. You didn’t see any of the reports of your disappearance on TV?”
“No,” I reply, honestly this time. “I didn’t watch any television during my sabbatical.”
“Well, we’re just happy you’re safe,” Lt. Daniels says, giving me the barest hint of a smile to let me know she means it. “Of course, there is still the matter of who tampered with your car.”
“Of course,” I agree.
“As we see it,” she continues, “there are a variety of people close to you, and even a few who are only acquaintances, who have reason to want you out of the picture. These are people who either genuinely could have, or believe they might have, a claim to your inheritance if you were gone. The person who tampered with your car is still out there. In a way, you were lucky you left the state for so long. It meant whoever did this did not have another opportunity to try to hurt you. Now that you’re back, however….”
“They might try again,” I finish for her, nodding. Yet another reason to get the hell out of Dodge as soon as possible.
“Exactly,” Sgt. Baker replies. “Now, you know your cousin is the main suspect. Do you have any reason to believe he might want to hurt you?”
“None at all.”
“So you feel safe staying with him in this house tonight?”
“I do. Completely.”
“Karen is our next most likely suspect. How do you feel about her?”
“I think she could have done it.”
Saying those words out loud to the police feels even better than the shower and the grilled cheese, I swear.
Though I don’t look at her, I can feel Karen’s eyes trying to bore holes through my skull from across the sofa.
“So do we,” Lt. Daniels agrees. “Now, we understand she’s moved in here during your absence. Do you feel safe with her in the house tonight?”
I knew it. I knew the bitch moved in. No one said anything, but she’s been acting like she owns the place since the moment I walked in the door. Matt, I love you, but you are so stupid.
“No,” I say, firmly, making sure they get my point. “I do not.”
Catch up with the entire "Sarah, Returned" series here: