Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Chapter Thirty-Nine

Carl Stone was angry, very angry, but he was careful to keep his voice calm. “I need those credentials, Max. It’s important.” He clenched and unclenched his right fist as he held the phone tightly with his other hand. “I need them tonight. Tomorrow might be too late….Okay. Call me back. I’ll be here.”

Stone paced from one end of the room to the other. He had to get into that hospital room tonight. He had no way of knowing how long it would be before that woman’s memory would come back and what she would start saying when it did. Failure was not an option. He had never failed the Jaffe’s. He never would.

At that moment, eight miles away in room 411 of the Washington Hospital Center, Fanny Britt was studying the photographs on her bedside table. The men who had met that afternoon – her husband and her son – had gone home for the evening leaving her alone in an unfamiliar room. Of course, the room was no stranger than the rest of her world.

She got out of the hospital bed and walked to the window in her bare feet. Harold had forgotten to bring slippers. He’d seemed like a kind man. A little nervous and unsure of what to say. Obviously concerned. Peter seemed much more in control of his feelings. Did Peter take after her? Fanny didn’t know what was more disconcerting – not being able to recall events or not knowing herself. Peter had mentioned she was a writer.

“You’ve actually written a couple of books, Mom. One actually won an award of some kind. Pop keeps waiting for you to write a best seller so he can retire.”

If she was a writer, maybe she could write her way out of this puzzle. She just needed to get her hands on a pen and paper.

She put on her robe and went to the door. When she opened it she was startled to find a policeman sitting there. “I thought I’d been released,” she stammered. “Why are you here?”

“It's for your own protection, Mrs. Britt. You were at the scene of the murder. Whoever did it might think you saw or heard something.”

The idea that someone actually thought it was necessary to protect her from a killer left her shaken but, at the same time, more determined to regain her memory. “Officer, do you think you could ask one of the nurses for a pad of paper and a pen? I can’t sleep and I thought it would help if I could get some of my thoughts down on paper.”

“Sure. I guess that would be okay. You go back inside.” The nurses’ station was just a little more than fifty feet away. The door of room 411 wouldn’t be out of his sight. A few minutes later he was back with a yellow legal pad and a couple of ballpoint pens. “Here you go. The nurse said not to stay up all night.”

“Thank you, officer. And thank you for watching out for me.”

“No problem. Goodnight, Mrs. Britt.”

Fanny got back into bed, turned on her lamp and began to write.

“They tell me my name is Fanny. I don’t remember anything that happened before yesterday morning when I woke up in a ditch. Since then I’ve discovered a dead body, been arrested, released and met a man who tells me he has been my husband for almost twenty-five years. I am going to just list all the things that come to my mind about the last day and a half: Tatoos. Cinamon tea. Woman with red hair…Lilly. Running. Must have run for a long time. Being lost. People staring at me. A homeless man. He tried to help me. A candy bar. Broken glass. Talking to a man on the sidewalk – he was drunk. George. His name was George.”

Fanny stared at the words she had written. Not much of a writer, she thought. She pushed the legal pad aside, got up and began pacing around the room. It was all there, somewhere in her mind – just out of reach. Every now and then where was a memory – from before. When she closed her eyes, faces swirled in her mind. Faces of strangers.

There were things that were almost decipherable – like being in AA. She remembered that when the nurse had told her she was going to give her something to help her relax, her response had been to argue. “No, I can’t take that. I’m…” She knew there was a reason she didn’t want to take the pills the nurse was offering her, but she couldn’t remember what it was. Now she realized that her twenty-five years of attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings had resulted in that instinctive response.

She went back to the bed, picked up the pad again and began to write: “My name is Fanny and I am an alcoholic…”



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