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The International Writers Magazine: Missing

Dormant
John Tompkins
“I’m just pulling onto route 93 North,” said Stan. He was talking to his sister Heather, the twin, who was already at the spot. “Look I’m driving, I can’t talk right now.”

Jeans

His experiences in the Mass General ER made him acutely aware of how frail the human body was, and how easily it could be torn apart like a poached chicken in an accident. But Heather would not be put off.
“It's Mary’s birthday and I want to make sure that everything goes off without a hitch. Do you have the Balloons?” Ah, twins he thought, always thinking about their mirrored image.
“Yes, I have the balloons. Did you remember to pack the helium?”
“Yes of course, don’t be late Stan, ok? This is a special day. Ellen is coming.”
“Ellen the psychic?” Seeking Ellen out had been the idea of his father, a retired Delta pilot who had lost an eye five years ago in a car accident.
“Stan?’
“Yes, don’t worry I’ll be there.” He still had a hard time accepting the fact that his father had a psychic working for him. He clearly remembered his father openly ridiculing them. “If they can see into the future then why don’t they predict the next Lotto numbers?” He had asked. Of course Ellen, a dark skinned woman with a mid-western accent, had told them at last year’s meeting that her powers didn’t work that way. Yes, how convenient, he had thought at the time. He drove on and passed a camper van that had a small Scottish flag snapping in the wind from its radio antennae. He knew that the Scottish Highland games were taking place at the Loon Mountain Ski Resort. He wondered what it would be like if all of them were up there to go the games to listen to the bagpipes and eat haggis. He sighed.
“Oh, if only it were so...” he said out loud. When he pictured his father in a kilt he laughed.

He watched the landscape slowly morph from hilly farm country to tree covered mountains that loomed in the middle distance. He recalled coming up here with his friends the year he had graduated from Boston College Nursing School. They had rented a chalet and had spent three days skiing and driving to the scenic turn outs. It was beautiful up here; he could see how someone could get lost.

“Wouldn’t you like to just get lost?” Mary had asked him once. They had been in his apartment in Boston and he had just written her a check for $575. The cost for an abortion. He relished the idea that she had come to him and not the rest of the family for help. That meant that she trusted him, then any way.

He glanced out of the passenger side window just in time to see a bundle of blue cloth lying in a heap on the shoulder. His throat tightened. He tried not to look in his rear view mirror, to keep going, but he found himself slowing down. He stopped put on his hazard lights and got out of the car. He approached the bundle warily, as if it was a sleeping animal. As he drew close, he saw that they were a pair of jeans. He found a stick on the other side of the Jersey barrier and used it to unroll the pants. They were a pair of women’s Levis. He was certain of this because they had appliqués running up and down the pant seam. He patted the pockets with the stick, loath to touch them himself, to see if there was anything in the pockets. There was nothing, no way to identify the owner. He got back into his car and stared to drive towards Lincoln, but he could not get Case #57 out of his mind.


It had been December 17th of last year. He had been kind enough to work a shift for another nurse whose mother had suddenly passed away. He had been working on the Gerry-psy ward when he had heard the code blue coming from the emergency room. At first he had been glad that he was not working in the ER or it would have been him hustling down the hallway to see what the ambulance had brought. Later, when he had gone to the vending machines downstairs he had run into a chubby nurse named Ronda who had the bluest eyes he had ever seen.
“Remember that code blue?” she had asked plunking quarters into a machine that dispensed candy bars.
“Yeah, “
“It was a teenage girl, pretty young thing,”
“Is she going to be ok?”
For a moment the only sound had been the vending machine humming and then the slap of a Sinkers Bar falling into the tray.
“She coded out ten minutes ago, it’s a pity, couldn’t have been more that 16 or so.” Rhonda had then unwrapped her Snickers bar, bit off a good three inches of it and stood there munching thoughtfully.

On his way back to the file room he had found himself walking as quietly as he could towards the Emergency Room. He had slipped in through the back and made his way to the bays. In the last one he had found Bob, the nurse with the California accent and perfect teeth. He was always so cheerful, that at times he nauseated Stan. But then he had stood solemnly next to the sheet draped gurney, and had nodded to Stan when he had entered the bay.
“Hey,” He had said.
“Hey, is this the code?”
“Yeah the Doctor just filled out the certificate so; you know its official, look I have to mark the time in the nurse’s log, if the doctor is looking for me I will be at Avalon station.
“Sure.”

After Bob had left, Stan had moved closer to the corpse. He had felt an almost palpable feeling of light headedness as he had pulled back the sheet. The girl was a dirty blond, pretty. Her eyelids were half open so Stan had noticed see that she had green eyes. The left side of her face was purple and swollen. He had shivered even though a single drip of sweat crawled down his back.

“What happened to that code?” he had later asked Rhonda. Their shifts over the two of them had been walking through the darkened hospital parking lot.
“The report said that she was found on a section of 93, just south of the intersection of 128. Apparently she was thrown from a car.” She said. They had stopped near her Ford Explorer and Rhonda had started to rummage through her bag for her keys. “She had no identification on her. But we are going to post her picture on the Revere State Police Barrack’s missing person’s web site.”

Later, the next day he had checked the web site and there was her picture along the following description.

Case # 57
Unknown white female approx: 18 years.
Found unconsciousness on Route 128 in Revere.
Died in ER of Boston Mass General. Injuries consistent with
Having jumped or been pushed from a moving motor vehicle.

As he took the exit for Lincoln, he wondered if anyone had claimed her yet. He figured the chances were probably fair, what with DNA and all. At the bottom of the exit he took a right and drove down the Kancamagus Highway. He reset his car’s trip odometer to zero and drove on. He would have to go 5.7 miles down 112 to get to the spot. He drove on feeling as if he were driving through one of his dreams, the ones that came to him in his sleep after a double shift in the ER. When he had driven the distance, and had rounded a small bend in the road, he saw his father’s blue Cadillac pulled off to the right. He drifted in behind it and parked. When he got out of the car his mother approached him.
“Stan,” said his mother looking grayer than when he had seen her last. When she hugged him he noticed that she was shaking. Then Heather came over to him her green eyes were swollen from crying.
“I’m just about to put up a new sign,” He hugged her, somehow being here made him close to his family and yet further from Mary.
“Hey, chief," said his father, he walked over with Elle. “Did you bring the balloons like I asked.”
He hated it when he called him chief, but chose not say anything.
“Hello, Stan,” said Ellen, she was wrapped up in a red shawl and was wearing a round embroider hat.
“Hi,” he said hearing the words, but not feeling them. He tossed his keys to his father.
“All the stuff is in the truck.” He then joined Heather near the tree. He could still make out the damages Mary’s Honda had done to it. However the skid marks on the road were gone. Heather handed him the new poster. His hands were shaking as he looked at Mary’s picture and read Mary’s description and then how her car had been found abandoned on Rt. 112. It also stated that she had been involved in a minor traffic accident and that she had refused help from a passing motorist who had then driven to his nearby house to call the police. When the police cruiser arrived her 2003 Honda Civic was there but no Mary.

Then there was that horrible meeting at the Lincoln Police station. The lead Detective, Lt. Shays, who was balding and smelled of processed sugar, had assured them that most missing cases resolve themselves in a few days.
“Kids take off for a variety of reasons.” He had told them in his cramped first floor office. He had then rattled off the reasons: drugs, forbidden love, unwanted pregnancies. Stan remembered glancing nervously at his parents when he had heard that.
“But our Mary wouldn’t just leave,” pleaded his mother.

The days turned into weeks then into months. And there was still no sign of her. By that time the police were monitoring her cell phone and checking account for activity, but both remained dormant. They had also searched the area with infrared sensing helicopters, and even cadaver dogs. But there was no sign of her, not even footprints in the snow. His father had driven to North Conway, a distance of 32 miles at ten miles and hour so he could scan both sides of he road for any tracks. Heather had taken it upon herself to make up a poster and set up a web site. He still had not visited it yet, although he had told his family he had. From some reason, he could not bring himself to find Mary online.

He looked at the picture of Mary: dirty blond hair, green eyes. Was she laying out there somewhere?
“It’s strange,”
“What?” Said Heather. She took the back poster and slipped it into the clear plastic holder nailed to the tree.
“Before I came up here, we had a girl in the ER who died and we can’t identify her. She reminded me of Mary.
“Really?”
“Yeah she could have been her twin.”
“Stan, I’m her twin.”
“I didn’t mean anything by that. It’s just that we had a body with no name."
“And here we have a name and no body.”
“Right, did I say this before?”
“No, but I know in my heart that my twin is dead. All dad had to do was ask me, instead he hired this weird stranger.” She squeezed his hand. “Come on let’s help with the balloons.”
© John Tompkins August 2010
homer1962 at aol.com

JT is a 47 year old case manager with the Massachusetts department of Mental Health.

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