“But it doesn’t.”
The girl looked up from the wing chair. “What now?’
Carol thought for a moment, then said, “I suppose we ought to have the authorities check out the Hayenswdod identity.”
She went to her desk, picked up the phone, and called the Harrisburg police.
The police operator referred her to a detective named Lincoln Werth, who was in charge of a number of conventional missing-persons files as well as the Jane Doe case. He listened to Carol’s story with interest, promised to check it out right away, and said he would call her back the instant he obtained confirmation of the Havenswood identity.
Four hours later, at 3:55, after Carol’s last appointment for the day, as she and the girl were about to leave the office and go home, Lincoln Werth rang back as promised. Carol took the call at her desk, and the girl perched on the edge of the desk, watching, clearly a bit tense.
“Dr. Tracy,” Werth said, “I’ve been back and forth on the phone all afternoon with the police in Shippensburg and with the county sheriff’s office up there.
I’m afraid I have to report it’s all been a wild-goose chase.”
“There must be some mistake.”
“Nope. We can’t find anyone in Shippensburg or the surrounding county with the name Havenswood. There’s no telephone listed for anyone of that name, and-”
“Maybe they just don’t have a phone.”
“Of course, we considered that possibility,” Werth said. “We didn’t jump to conclusions, believe me. For instance, when we checked with the power company, we discovered they don’t have a customer named Havenswood anywhere m Cumberland County, but that didn’t discourage us either. We figured these people we’re looking for might be Amish. Lots of Amish in that neck of the woods. If they were Amish, of course, they wouldn’t have electricity in their house. So next we went to the property-tax rolls at the county offices up there. What we found was that nobody named Havenswood owns a house, let alone a farm, in that whole area.”
“They could be tenants,” Carol said.
“Could be. But what I really think they are is nonexistent. The girl must’ve been lying.”
“Why would she?”
“I don’t know. Maybe the whole amnesia thing is a hoax. Maybe she’s just an ordinary runaway.”
“No. Definitely not.” Carol looked up at Laura— no, her name was still Jane—looked into those clear, bottomless blue eyes. To Werth, she said, “Besides, it just isn’t possible to lie that well or that blatantly when you’re hypnotized.”
Although Jane could hear only half of the conversation, she had begun to perceive that the Havenswood name wasn’t going to check out. Her face clouded. She got up and went to the display shelves to study the statuettes of Mickey Mouse.
“There is something damned odd about the whole thing,” Lincoln Werth said.
“Odd?” Carol asked.
“Well, when I passed along the description of the farm that the girl gave—those stone gateposts, the long driveway with the maples —and when I said it was off Walnut Bottom Road, the Cumberland County
sheriff and the various Shippensburg policemen I talked to all recognized the place right off the bat. It actually does exist.”
“But nobody named Havenswood lives there,” Detective Werth said. “The Ohlmeyer family owns that spread. Really well known around those parts. Highly thought of, too. Oren Ohlmeyer, his wife, and their two sons. Never had a daughter, so I’m told. Before Oren owned the farm, it belonged to his daddy, who bought it seventy years ago. One of the sheriff’s men went out there and asked the Ohlmeyers if they’d ever heard of a girl named Laura Havenswood or anything even similar to that. They hadn’t. Didn’t know anyone fitting our Jane Doe’s description, either.”
“Yet the farm is there, just like she told us it was.”
“Yeah,” Werth said. “Funny, isn’t it?”
In the Volkswagen, on the way home from the office, as they drove along the sun-splashed autumn streets, the girl said, “Do you think I was faking the trance?”
“Heavens, no! You were very deeply under. And I’m quite sure you aren’t a good enough actress to fake that business about the fire.”
“I guess you don’t remember that, either.” Carol told her about Laura’s screaming fit, the desperate cries for help. “Your terror was genuine. It came from experience. I’d bet anything on that.”
“I don’t remember any of it. You mean I really was in a fire once?”
“Could be.” Ahead, a traffic light turned red. Carol stopped the car and looked at Jane. “You don’t have any physical scars, so if you were in a fire, you escaped unharmed. Of course, it might be that you lost someone in a fire, someone you loved very much, and maybe you weren’t actually in a fire yourself. If that’s the case, then when you were hypnotized, you might have confused your fear for that person with fear for your own life. Am I making myself clear?”
“I think I get what you mean. So maybe the fire— the shock of it—is responsible for my amnesia. And maybe my parents haven’t shown up to claim me because. . . they’re dead, burned to death.”
Carol took the girl’s hand. “Don’t worry about it now, honey. I may be all wrong. I probably am. But I think it’s a possibility you ought to be prepared for.”
The girl bit her lip, nodded. “The idea scares me a little. But I don’t exactly feel sad. I mean, I don’t remember my folks at all, so losing them would almost be like losing strangers.”
Behind them, the driver of a green Datsun blew his horn.
The light had changed. Carol let go of the girl’s hand and touched the accelerator. “We’ll probe into the fire during tomorrow’s session.”
"You still think I am Laura Havenswood?”
“Well, for the time being, we’ll keep calling you Jane. But I don’t see why you’d come up with the name Laura if it wasn’t yours.”.
“The identity didn’t check out,” the girl reminded her.
Carol shook her head. “That’s not exactly true. We haven’t proved or disproved the Havenswood identity. All we know for sure is that you never lived in Shippensburg. But you must have been there at least once because the farm exists; you’ve seen it, if only in passing. Apparently, even under hypnosis, even regressed beyond the onset of your amnesia, your memories are tangled. I don’t know how that’s possible or why. I’ve never encountered anything quite like it. But we’ll work hard at untangling them for you.
The problem might lie in the questions I asked and the way I asked them. We’ll just have to wait and see.”
They rode in silence for a moment, and then the girl said, “I half hope we don’t get things untangled too quickly. Ever since you told me about your cabin in the mountains, I’ve really been looking forward to going up there.”
“Oh, you’ll get to go. Don’t worry about that.
We’re leaving on Friday, and even if tomorrow’s session goes well, we won’t be able to untangle this Laura Havenswood thing that fast. I warned you, this could be a slow, complicated, frustrating process. I’m surprised we made any progress at all today, and I’ll be twice as surprised if we make even half as much headway tomorrow.”
“I guess you’ll be stuck with me for a while.”
Carol sighed and pretended weariness. “Looks that way. Oh, you’re such a terrible, terrible, terrible burden. You’re just too much to bear.” She took one hand off the steering wheel long enough to clutch her heart in a melodramatic gesture that made Jane giggle. “Too much! Oh, oh!”
“You know what?” the girl asked.
“I like you, too.”
They looked at each other and grinned.
At the next red light, Jane said, “I’ve got a feeling about the mountains.”
“I have this strong feeling that it’s going to be a lot of fun up there. Really exciting. Something special. A real adventure.” Her blue eyes were even brighter than usual.
After dinner, Paul suggested they play Scrabble. He set up the board on the game table in the family room, while Carol explained the rules to Jane, who couldn’t remember whether or not she had ever played it before.
After winning the starting lottery, Jane went first with a twenty-two-point word that took advantage of a double-count square and the automatic double score for the first word of the game.
“Not a bad start,” Paul said. He hoped the girl would win, because she got such a kick out of little things like that. The smallest compliment, the most modest triumph delighted her. But he wasn’t going to throw the game just to please her; she would have to earn it, by God. He was incapable of giving the match away to anyone; regardless of the kind of game he was playing, he always put as much effort and commitment into it as he put into his work. He didn’t indulge in leisure activities; he attacked them. To Jane, he said,. “I have a hunch you’re the kind of kid who says she’s never played poker before—and quickly proceeds to win every pot in the game.”
“Can you bet on Scrabble?” Jane asked.
“You can, but we won’t,” Paul said.
“Terrified. You’d wind up with the house.”
“I’d let you stay.”
“How decent of you.”
“For very low rent.”
“Ah, this child truly has a heart of gold!”
While he bantered with Jane, Carol studied her own group of letters. “Hey,” she said, “I’ve got a word that ties right in with Jane’s.” She added LOOD to the B in BLADE, forming BLOOD.
“Judging from your words,” Paul said, “I guess you two intend to play a cutthroat game.”
Carol and Jane groaned dutifully at his bad joke and refilled their letter trays from the stock in the lid of the game box.
To Paul’s surprise, when he looked at his own seven letters, he saw that he had a word with which to continue the morbid theme that had been established. He added EATH to the D at the end of BLOOD, creating DEATH.
“Weird,” Carol said.
“Here’s something weirder still,” Jane said, taking her second turn by adding OMB to the T in DEATH.
Paul stared at the board. He was suddenly uneasy.
What were the odds that the first four words in a game would be so closely related in theme? Ten thousand to one? No. It had to be much higher than that. A hundred thousand to one? A million to one?
Carol looked up from her unusual letters. “You aren’t going to believe this.” She added three letters to the board.
“Kill’?” Paul said.. “Oh, come on. Enough’s enough. Take it away and make another word.”
“I can’t,” Carol said. “That’s all I have. The rest of my letters are useless.”
“But you could have put ‘lik’ above the ‘e’ in
‘blade,” Paul said. “You could have spelled ‘like’ instead of ‘kill.”
“Sure, I could have done that, but I’d have gotten fewer points if! had. You see? There’s no square with a double-letter score up there.”
As he listened to Carol’s explanation, Paul felt strange. Bitterly cold inside. Hollow. As if he were balancing on a tightrope and knew he was going to fall and fall and fall...
He was gripped by déjà vu, by such a strikingly powerful awareness of having lived through this scene before that, for a moment, his heart seemed to stop beating. Yet nothing like this had ever happened in any other Scrabble game he’d ever played. So why was he so certain he had witnessed this very thing on a previous occasion? Even as he asked himself that question, he realized what the answer was. The seizure of déjà vu wasn’t in reference to the words on the Scrabble board; not directly anyway. The thing that was so frighteningly familiar to him was the unusual, soul-shaking feeling that the coincidental appearance of those words aroused in him; the iciness that came from within rather than from without; the awful hollowness deep in his guts; the sickening sensation of teetering on a high wire, with only infinite darkness below. He had felt exactly the same way in the attic last week, when the mysterious hammering sound had seemed to issue out of the thin air in front of his face, when each thunk! had sounded as if it were coming from a sledge and anvil in another dimension of time and space. That was how he felt now, at the Scrabble board: as if he were confronted with something extraordinary, unnatural, perhaps even supernatural.
To Carol, he said, “Listen, why don’t you just take those last three letters off the board, put them back in the box, choose three brand-new letters, and make some other word besides ‘kill.”
He could see that his suggestion startled her.
She said, “Why should I do that?”
Paul frowned. “Blade, blood, death, tomb, kill— what kind of words are they for a nice, friendly, peaceable game of Scrabble?”
She stared at him for a moment, and her piercing eyes made him a bit uncomfortable. “It’s only coincidence,” she said, clearly puzzled by his tenseness.
“I know it’s only coincidence,” he said, though he didn’t know anything of the sort. He was simply un
able to explain rationally the eerie feeling that the words on the board were the work of some force far stronger than mere coincidence, something worse. “It still gives me the creeps,” he said lamely. He turned to Jane, seeking an ally. “Doesn’t it give you the creeps?’
“Yeah. It does. A little,” the girl agreed. “But it’s also kind of fascinating. I wonder how long we can keep going with words that fit this pattern.”