I have amnesia. They say it may be temporary. I hope so. I feel weird.
"Hello, dear. How are you feeling today?" said the nurse as she entered my room.
"I feel weird. Lost. Confused. Disappointed. How is it possible I know stuff like my multiplication tables and not my life? Go ahead ask me any multiplication problem," I said.
"No really, ask me a multiplication problem," I insisted. I wanted to prove to myself and someone else that I did know something.
"Oookay, dear. What is 8 x 7?" asked the nurse.
"It's 56. Ask me another, or better yet, did you know the country Belize is located in Central America?" I asked.
"I didn't even know there was a country called Belize in the world."
"There is, and what about the country Romania? It's located in Eastern Europe. Did you know that?" I asked.
"I have heard of Romania. They speak Russian there, I believe," replied the nurse.
"Actually, they speak Romanian there. It's a romance language rather than a slavic language. How do I know these things and can't remember that I have a husband and three kids?" I was beginning to whine and sound a little desperate but it was really frustrating.
"Honey, I don't know how you know all those things but if I get much further away from home than Palm Springs, I get lost even with Siri so it's not very surprising that I don't know where all those places are," said the nurse.
"Who's Siri?" I asked.
The nurse laughed. "Siri isn't a who it's a what, and you probably don't know who Siri is because you're married to a Microsoft employee. Apples and Microsoft don't mix too well. It's a little like oil and water," said the nurse. Oil and water I understood but the rest was too much.
I don't remember my husband who works for Microsoft and doesn't use Siri. The hospital staff told me my husband is staying at a hotel with our three kids. I don't remember him but I did meet him yesterday. He looked like a nice enough man. I had one short conversation with him but it made my blood pressure rise so much that the doctor had him leave the room. I guess I have three kids -- two boys and a girl. I'm told they're all teenagers, 17, 15 and 13. The girl is in the middle. I don't remember them. I haven't met them yet. The doctor thinks it might be better for everyone to wait a few days and see if my memory comes back. You'd think if I'd birthed three children I would remember. I hear birthing is a memorable event but I can't remember one labor pain or any funny breathing. Of course, I can't even remember what happened to cause this amnesia. The doctor said I had a large bump on the back of my skull and some deep cuts and bruises. All anyone knows for sure is, I went out to go shopping near my home in Bellevue, Washington and disappeared for four days before I turned up at this hospital in Pasadena, California.
“I’ll check in on you again in an hour or so,” the nurse said, as she finished up taking my blood pressure for what seemed like the hundredth time over the past few days. “Let me know if I can get you anything.”
“How about my life back…?” I murmured as she exited through the hanging curtain that separated me from my roommate on the other side. I could hear her checking in with him and listened curiously.
“How are you today, Mr. Smith?” she said a little loudly. She got no response, but I could hear her bustling around the room regardless. “The doctor wants to run a few more tests on you, Mr. Smith, so I’m going to need to draw some blood. Don’t worry, I can take it through your IV hookup so I won’t have to stick you again.”
Still no response, but that wasn’t unusual. Since I woke up in this antiseptic, white-washed space three days ago, I haven’t heard a word come from his mouth, only people talking to him.
The nurse left a few minutes later. I wondered what was wrong with him. Did he have amnesia too? Maybe they group psych patients together.
Looking down at the simple gold wedding band resting heavily on my left hand, I contemplated my situation once again. Why couldn’t I remember who I was? How did I end up in California? Why couldn’t I recognize anyone who should be the most important people in my life? What if I never recover, never regain those precious memories again? How can I go “home” with perfect strangers?
The nurse returned to check in on me, as promised, about an hour later. She brought in a tray with what I supposed was meant to be lunch. It was a bowl of broth, low sodium and no flavor, with a small packet of crackers and a tiny cup of green jello. The jello was the only splash of color in this place.
“When can I have a normal meal?” I asked, smelling the lukewarm contents of the soup bowl. I hadn’t had any real food since I woke up.
“The doctors just want to keep things easy on your stomach after the concussion,” the nurse explained, patting my hand sympathetically. “I imagine that you will be able to eat solid foods in a day or two.”
“A day or two…?” I whined. The broth and jello routine was getting old. Really old.
“Let me see if I can slip you a few graham crackers, Honey,” she whispered conspiratorially, with a wink.
“Thanks,” I muttered, but found myself devouring them greedily when she delivered them an hour later.
After dinner, Dr. Randall came. He looked at my chart, pulled up my x-rays and scans on the computer monitor by the wall, and typed up a few more notes.
“Any changes today?”
“No, nothing yet…” Suddenly my frustration seemed to burst from me. “Doctor, why am I not remembering anything yet? It’s been three days now since I woke up, and all I know about myself is what people have told me. My name is Sarah Wheeler. I live in Bellevue, Washington, and am married to Tony Wheeler. We have three children….but they are all strangers to me! I am a stranger to me!!” My voice broke in a sob. “I just want my life back.”
“I know this is difficult for you, Sarah. It’s a lot to take in. The brain is an extremely complicated organ. Any kind of disturbance, especially trauma, can interfere with how the brain processes information. But as complicated as it is, the brain is also quite remarkable. It is able to create new pathways for synapses to fire, essentially opening the doors that are currently shut.”
He had already explained this to me before. Be patient. The brain usually will take care of itself. My memories should return. I just need time.
Something told me that patience never had been a strong point of mine.
Dr. Randall continued on. Pulling out a large manila envelope, he handed it to me tentatively.
“I have asked your husband, Tony, to collect some pictures. I am hoping that over time, they may jog your memory a little. Maybe unlock some of those doors.”
I opened the envelope and pulled out a small stack of pictures. The top picture portrayed a smiling couple, beaming at the camera. The man had his arm around the woman’s shoulders, and they looked like they were laughing at something. Since I met him yesterday, I recognized the man to be my husband, Tony. The laughing woman was me, but I only knew this because I had snuck a peek at myself in the bathroom mirror. I looked different now. My unwashed blond hair was matted around my face, I looked pale, and there were dark hollows under my eyes. I was shocked to see how fresh and…vibrant…I looked in the picture.
The next one was of three smiling teenagers. My children, who I have yet to meet. A boy, seventeen, with a purple football jersey on, had his arm cuffed playfully around the neck of the fifteen year-old girl, who was laughing, looking up at her brother. They both had dark hair and eyes, like their father. The youngest boy, thirteen, was standing a little to the side, looking quietly at his siblings. He had blond hair, curling around his ears, and glasses perched in front of his silvery grey eyes.
He looked like me.
A lump formed in my throat. How could I not know my own flesh and blood? I pushed the stack away, not wanting to look any more.
Dr. Randall quietly took the stack and set it on the counter close to the dividing curtain. He seemed to have anticipated my reaction.
“It’s a lot all at once,” he reassured me. “Give it some time, Sarah. Your pictures will be here for you when you’re ready to try again.”
I didn’t sleep well that night. I kept dreaming of dark shapes encircling me, suffocating me. I would scream but there was no one to hear my muffled cry. I was so cold, feeling a trickle of ice creep up my arm, making my heart seem to race even more. Finally I awoke, opening my eyes to the gray light of morning. My vision seemed hazy, and I tried to rub the sleep from them. Sitting up, a wave of dizziness swept over me, followed by a rush of nausea. Maybe there wouldn’t be any solid foods for me today after all.
Looking around for the call button to signal the nurse, I glanced toward the counter against the wall. The dividing curtain was hanging close to it, and in my dizzy state appeared to be moving. It was then that I noticed.
The stack of pictures which contained my life were gone.
The bag went over his head, arms went around his torso and his body was thrown into a vehicle that was cold beneath his thin, pajama bottom-covered legs, all before he could even think about struggling. What was happening? Why was this happening? And why now? He was worried; could it have anything to do with that website he had accessed from his Dad’s Sky Drive account last week? He thought he had kept his IP address undetectable, that he had entered and left without being noticed. Maybe he was wrong. He may be a computer genius but he was only 13 years old after all. Terror filled his mind and dread packed his guts. Then everything went dark.
Jason awoke in a strange bedroom sparsely furnished with the thin mattress, a small broken lamp, a bookcase filled with old Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys mysteries and a plastic bucket in the corner. He wondered if that was for his consumption, his hygienic needs or his elimination needs. Right now he really needed something to relieve himself in and saw no other alternatives but didn’t want to ruin future feeding opportunities. Deciding to wait a while longer, he pushed that need from his mind, as well as his fear of what was going on and got up to check out the room. The door was locked, as he suspected it would be. There was one small window behind a blind.
As he opened the blind, he discovered the window was painted shut and covered with blackout film. There was no way to look out and try to figure out where he was or signal someone for help, or try to escape from. He could feel the panic beginning to build again.
Sitting down on the thin, lumpy mattress, he went over the events of the last several days again in his mind. The only thing that stood out that could have started all of this crap was that website he’d accessed and the information he’d seen there. It hadn’t made complete sense to him but he could tell that a lot of money and people were involved and that he shouldn’t be seeing it. He covered his computer tracks as best he could, hiding who had accessed it and from where, at least he thought he had. But then, his mom had gone missing, that strange man had been taking photos of them, his mom was found in California with amnesia and now his kidnapping. It was all his fault. He might never know if his mom recovered her memories or not, if she would ever remember him and the special bond they shared. He might never get to tell her how much he loved her again, even though he thought he was too old for that stuff – he knew it meant so much to her to hear him say those simple words. And now, because of him, his family and their lives were all ripped apart.
Just then the doorknob rattled as a key was inserted and the door began to open. His limbs shaking from fear, he waited for his kidnapper to enter the room. His relief was so consuming when he saw his sister as she walked in, he didn’t notice the alarm that haunted her eyes. Just behind her was his brother. As soon as he entered the room, the door was slammed shut and locked, leaving him stunned as he found himself now locked up with Rosemary and Rory. Great. Now who was going to rescue him?
“What happened to my pictures!” I demanded when the nurse came in for another blood pressure check.
She looked bewilderedly around the room. “I don’t know dear. Maybe housekeeping accidently threw them away. I wouldn’t worry, I’m sure your husband can print you more copies.” She paused while she checked my vitals yet again. “Your blood pressure is not what we were hoping. I’ll page Dr. Randall to come look in on you.”
No surprise my blood pressure isn’t what they were hoping. My one little tenuous connection to my past was mysteriously missing from my room. Maybe Dr. Randall would know something about my pictures. I gave a giant sigh and flopped my head onto my pillow. I hated feeling so out of control of my life even if I didn’t know what that life was.
The nurse busied herself with some paperwork and then smiled. “The memories should come Sarah, just give it time. Lots of rest. Let your brain heal. Hopefully you can get a little more peace and quiet around here. We’ll be leaving this as a private room for you.”
Private room? “What happened to Mr. Smith?” I asked.
“You don’t remember last night?” The nurse gave me a funny look. “There was a bit of commotion in here. Mr. Smith coded and we all came in to try and save him.” A long pause. “Mr. Smith passed away. You really don’t remember? Huh. I’m definitely going to get Dr. Randall up here.”
Without waiting for a response she bustled out of the room. Along with not remembering my old memories, was I incapable of making new ones too? But no, I remember my husband’s visit the day before yesterday and all the pictures just fine. I remembered what the nurse said my kids’ names were. Now I was angry and scared.
I was feeling pretty sorry for myself when Dr. Randall entered the room. With him was an unusually tall woman, probably in her early 60’s with glossy black hair down to her waist. On most people her age, the hair would have looked childish or frumpy, but she looked amazingly sophisticated with her tailored clothing and heels. Was that a cashmere scarf she was wearing? Bold choice in a hospital. I was very aware of my own bedraggled state. I wondered if this was another person from my past. A relative? Could she be my mother?
“Sarah,” Dr. Randall began. “I’d like to introduce you to Dr. Golding. She’s a psychiatrist who is nationally known for her work with amnesia patients. Despite what the soap opera storylines would have you believe, total amnesia like yours is actually very rare. Dr. Golding heard about your case and volunteered her services. Research shows there’s frequently emotional conflict that accompanies amnesia cases. Judy reported that you were very agitated earlier and your vital statistics confirm that. It can help to talk to a professional about the anxiety you’re feeling.” Dr. Randall patted my hand kindly. “It certainly can’t hurt to talk to someone.”
Dr. Golding settled herself on a hard chair next to me. “Do you mind if we chat, Sarah?” I think her smile was supposed to put me at ease, but it put me on edge.
The conversation started out mildly enough, but by the end I felt like I was under investigation. No, I don’t remember why I was in California. No, I couldn’t remember anyone who might want to hurt me. Seriously? I only knew my children from yesterday’s pictures, how would I know if someone wanted to hurt them? Yes, I would very much like to see my children. No, the brief reunion with my husband had not gone well. Absolutely nothing about seeing him face to face had sparked a memory; he was a total blank to me. No, I couldn’t remember anything about my job or Tony’s job either.
Despite Dr. Randall’s reassurance, Dr. Golding had done nothing to alleviate my anxiety. I was feeling more distraught with every second spent in her presence. I finally closed my eyes and shook my head telling her that I needed to rest. She left without another word, only the staccato of her heels marking her departure.
The door banged open without warning and Jason, Rosemary, and Rory all flinched backward. They hadn’t heard anyone coming. Likely the room was soundproofed. The woman who entered didn’t wear a mask like the others previously had. Jason couldn’t help thinking that this was a bad sign. As long as their captors were trying to conceal their identities, it gave Jason hope that they would be released at some point. The woman strode across the room, her stiletto boots echoing on the cement floor. She towered over the trio sitting helplessly on the thin bed. She pierced them with her stare and angrily threw her long, black hair behind her.
“If your mother isn’t willing to talk, then our options become very limited,” she announced. She paced the room while the three watched helplessly. “Or rather,” she continued midstride, “I should say, can’t talk. The head injury and subsequent amnesia were an unintended side effect of methods which are typically very effective at coaxing information out of our . . . informants.” She moved in closer to the siblings and gave them a wolfish grin. “Perhaps the three of you can help us and your mother out.”
The woman’s bold movements belied her age; Jason realized, as she leaned over them, that she was probably the same age as his grandmother. There was nothing matronly in her actions or words though and Jason’s fear rose to a whole new level. Even with all he had been through in the last few days, he hadn’t felt this hysterical and out of control since the panic attack at his father’s funeral four years earlier. Jason grabbed on to both Rosemary and Rory in an effort to calm his dread.
The dark haired woman questioned them about their father.
“He’s dead,” Rory said evenly. “He has been for four years.”
Jason could see the muscles in Rory’s jaw working. He was struggling to maintain his composure. He was sometimes bossy and annoying with his attitude that he was in charge of them, but Jason was grateful Rory was there. He was grateful all the questions seemed to be addressed to Rory too.
“Do you know anything about what he was working on when he died?” the woman asked.
“He worked for Microsoft,” Rory said.
“And who else?” she demanded, her eyes bulging.
“What do you mean?” Rory asked.
“Who else did he work for?” she demanded.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about. He worked for Microsoft.”
“Fine,” the woman said, “Fine. We’ll talk another day.”
Once they were alone in the room, Rosemary asked, “Why is this happening? Who are these people?”
“I don’t know,” Rory said.
“I…may know something,” Jason said. Rory and Rosemary turned to face him.
“Shhhh,” Rosemary said, “They may be…listening.”
Rory motioned for them to walk over against the window, as far away from the rest of the house as possible.
“I found some stuff,” Jason said, “On Dad’s computer. I ran across it on Dad’s Sky Drive. I was looking for some missing family pictures. There was a file that no one had accessed since just before Dad’s death so I opened the file. It was a URL for a website so I checked it out.”
“What?” Rosemary said, “How do even know how to access Dad's Sky Drive? Who gave you the password?”
"I figured out the password. It was really quite simple and didn't take me very long," said Jason.
"How did you do that?" Rosemary asked.
“It doesn't matter right now. So what did you find?” Rory asked, ignoring Rosemary.
“Dad was working on something,” Jason said, “It was like he was a…spy.”
“But who are these people? How is this connected?” Rory asked.
“I was trying to figure it out,” Jason said, “I clicked around on the website. It appeared to give access to a server that linked computers throughout the world. It looked like it involved a lot of people, a lot of money and a lot of things they were trying to cover up. I couldn’t figure out what they were doing but I figured out I could get in a lot of trouble if anyone knew I had access to this information so I got out. I covered up who had accessed it and when. I tried to be really careful.”
Rory looked like he was going to kill him. “You did what?” he asked in a fierce whisper.
“That’s so…dangerous,” Rosemary said accusingly.
“You think?” Rory said sarcastically.
“I’m sorry,” Jason said and he started to cry. He hated himself for crying. He knew he had screwed up and now Rosemary and Rory were turning against him and each other.
Rosemary put her arms around Jason, “It’s OK,” she said soothingly.
“No it’s not!” Rory said, “You IDIOT!”
Jason cried harder and Rosemary glared at Rory.
“OK, sorry,” Rory said, “Tell us. Tell us everything.”
Sarah woke up with a start. She had had a dream, about Tony. Tony! She remembered him. They were on a beach. Maybe it was their honeymoon? He was laughing down at her, the wind blowing his hair, his arms wrapped around her waist.
Her feelings of elation were quickly replaced with something else.
She didn’t know who the man was that said he was her husband, but it wasn’t Tony. Tony had died four years ago.
Monitors beeped frantically. I felt so strange. Lost in a world between realities. I couldn’t catch my breath and my heart was racing. I heard my nurse page Dr. Randall over the intercom. I couldn’t find my way through the mental fog. A light shined into my eyes and my vitals were checked repeatedly. I waited for Dr. Randall, but he never came. I heard the slow clack of heels and felt the presence of Dr. Golding before she even spoke.
“Sarah. Sarah. It’s Dr. Golding. Tell me what’s going on sweetie.” There was something about this woman I didn’t like. When she spoke there was a hint of venom on the tip of every saccharine word. I wanted her out of my room. I closed my eyes and pretended to pass out. She leaned in close and took my vitals. She opened my eyes one at a time to look at my pupils. I stayed limp.
Her phone rang and she walked to the door to answer it. “She isn’t strong enough to interrogate.” She hissed into the phone. “It won’t do us any good to move forward if we don’t have what we need.”
She hung up the phone sharply and pulled a nurse inside the doorway. She spoke to her in a language that seemed so familiar to me and yet I couldn’t place it. The nurse winced as Dr. Golding dug her nails into the helpless nurses’ arm. When the nurse finally scurried away, Dr. Golding walked slowly back to my bed and leaned over me. “You can’t hide forever Sarah.”
I lay there frozen; listening to the cadence of her heels as she walked away.
My anxiety lasted for hours after Dr. Golding’s visit. The laconic click of her heels kept echoing in my mind. It made my mind race like a hamster on a wheel. Spinning faster and faster, but going nowhere. Just the thought of her was disorienting me. Click….Click…..Click….Click. Like a metronome pacing the speed of my heart.
I vaguely remember the nurse walking in and injecting an anonymous clear liquid into my IV. Sleep reached for me and I couldn’t avoid its grasp. And then a dream….. no a memory….found me in my hiding place.
I’m in a wooded park or trail. Tony, my Tony, sneaks up behind me and kisses my cheek. He wraps his arms around mine. He smells woodsy… like a campfire. He spins me forward and kisses me, discreetly tucking a manila envelope in my inside coat pocket. He walks past me, turns and winks. It happens so fast. I don’t want him to go. He knows it, but he keeps walking…whistling the theme song to Mission Impossible. That was his way of saying he loves me. It always made me laugh. Our lives were an impossible mission.
I wait to open the envelope until I am in my car. It contains incriminating documents and pictures of our three main targets but no web address. Where’s the web address?
The dream fades and a nightmare replaces it.
I am running. I’m splattered in red. It’s warm and smells metallic. I find my way to a tunnel, hidden by moss and an old tree stump. I wade through knee high water until the tunnel spits me out into a small retention pond. I clumsily climb out, and search frantically for an old tree shaped like a shepherds crook. I pull out the “go bag” we left inside its trunk. It’s stockpiled with money, passports and weapons. I peel off my blood stained coat and toss it in the pond. I lift my shirt and check for injuries. None. The blood is not mine. And then I remember Tony. They shot Tony…and they are after me.
In an instant, the dam burst and all of my memories were flooding in faster than I could process them. I remember the emptiness that filled me at Tony’s funeral. I never recovered his body. It was too dangerous to go back for him. There was no viewing because there was nothing to view. Rather than tell the kids, I explained I didn’t want them to remember him like that and displayed a sealed, empty casket. I filled it full of memories. Memories, and the manila folder he had given me, filled with all the information that had already been passed onto other operatives. I figured it would be safer six feet under. I had “him” buried behind the church where we were married.
Tony was adamant that I keep the information safe at all cost. It was proof that foreign governments were hiring US intelligence operatives to smuggle terrorists into the country. Their goal was to overthrow the government. Unfortunately, the URL for the website was missing. That was what we needed. It purportedly linked thousands of computers throughout the world allowing them to legitimize documents, encrypt sensitive files, and clean up the messy details. The folder did list several officials that had hired contract killers to secure their own positions…and the bank accounts that funded these interests. Information that they would kill to hide. Literally.
It was enough information to bring down a lot of people but not all of them. I was still living the nightmare that had taken Tony.
Memory after memory emerged like a sudden storm. Clouds of darkness, filling a once empty sky. My heart was racing. I was in between memories. Everything was smeared together. I started to wake up. My eyes flickered. Dr. Golding was standing over me and I remembered her. I remembered everything.
My eyes shot open from the shock and surprise I felt as the memories were still flooding over me. I remembered. It seems like I remembered everything. I have to get away. I have to escape. I turned to the left and look right into the eyes of Dr. Golding. I wished my eyes were still closed so I could hide and think. The cold, calculating eyes seem to realize I have my memories back. She assesses me while next to her stands “Tony”, my fake husband. I remember him too. His name is Jake and he worked with us before. I never would have thought he would turn against his country. At the end of the bed was Dr. Randall who I have no memories of before I woke up in this hospital. Perhaps he was a legitimate doctor but I cannot count on it. He could just as easily be a rogue agent and this room, this hospital room I have laid in for the last couple of days, could be a fake. What was I going to do? I have to escape and get to my children but I don't even know if I can walk let alone fight my way out of this room.
“Sarah,” said Dr. Randall, “It’s good to see you awake again. It’s been awhile but the body needs a lot of rest after trauma and we can only imagine what you’ve been through. Do you remember anything?”
“No, not really,” said Sarah.
“Well, it will come with time,” said Dr. Randall
“Dr. Randall, with your permission, I would like to try something to jog her memory. I think she may be able to remember more than she thinks but I’ll need the room empty except for me and the patient. Do you mind coming back later to check on her?” asked Dr. Golding.
I want to scream that he should never leave me alone with this lady but that would definitely give me away. Instead I sit up, which took more energy than it should have.
“No problem Dr. Golding. Sarah, I’ll be back later to check on you and I wanted to talk to you about adding solids to your diet.”
Dr. Golding turned to my fake husband, “Tony, I’m going to need you to leave as well. You don’t mind standing outside the room for a few moments while I talk to your wife. I think this technique might really work. Do you have the second set of pictures for her to look at?” She was still using her silky doctor voice. Was this man involved and what did he know?
I looked at Tony or Jake, as I now remembered him, and he handed over the pictures to Dr. Golding. She turned toward me and that’s when Jake waved at me but not a regular wave, a five fingered wave that ended in a fist. It was a signal, but I didn’t know for what. “Bye honey, I’ll see you in a few,” said Jake as he left the room.
Dr. Golding turned to me and said, “I know you have your memories back. I can tell that last drug I had the nurse administer worked. It usually does if it doesn’t kill you. Let’s make this short and sweet shall we. I’ll show you the pictures and you tell me what I want to know.”
I didn’t try to protest. I had my memories. What could I say? I just looked at her and stayed mute.
Dr. Golding pulled out a picture and showed it to me. She laid it in my lap and I picked it up. It was my son Jason with a bag over his head. I recognized the pajama bottoms immediately. They were the ones I had given the kids the last Christmas Tony had spent with us. They’d been Rory’s pajamas then. I must have let out a little gasp because Dr. Golding just smiled. She knew she had what was important to me. She pulled out another picture and laid it again in my lap. I didn’t even have to pick it up to see that it was of Rory and Rosemary. They were in the back of a car with their mouths gagged and their eyes covered. The next one was of Jason sitting on a cot in a room with a single light on.
“Should I go on. We have more pictures,” said Dr. Golding.
"How do I know these pictures aren't fake? Those pictures of me and my happy family were faked somehow. These could just as easily have been faked as well. That man that just left this room is not my husband Tony."
"It's good to see you have your memory back. I thought you might be resistant to helping us so I recorded a short message for you. I'll play it for you now," said Dr. Golding.
Dr. Golding hit play, "Mom, it's me Rory. I'm here with Rosemary and Jason. We're all fine so far but we are scared and don't know what's going on. We just want to come home and we want you to be okay. We love you." The recording stopped.
"Are you ready to tell us what we need to know?" asked Dr. Golding.
I nodded. What else could I do? That was Rory's voice. They had my kids.
Dr. Golding continued, “Okay, I need some information. We know your husband stole important papers and contact information from our organization four years ago. We thought that we had tied up the loose ends of that episode..”
“Tied up loose ends. You killed Tony,” I gasped.
“He was a loose end. It seems we shouldn’t have stopped with just Tony. We should have hunted you down too. You have compromised more than you can possibly know by accessing that web site last week. Our entire organization is at risk. Where is the information you used to access the site?” asked Dr. Golding.
What could I say? I didn’t know what she was talking about. Everything had been buried four years ago. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
Dr. Golding laid another picture on my lap. This picture was of Jason, his hands and feet were tied and looked to be bloody. He was laying on the ground and his pajamas were torn. My heart broke a little for him. I needed to be cautious.
“I don’t remember accessing any websites last week that could have resulted in this happening. I don’t know if it’s the amnesia or if I really didn’t, but I can’t help you. I want to but I don’t have any memory of it.”
Dr. Golding did not look sympathetic to my circumstances. She continued, “Our website was accessed from your house last Tuesday and the only two people home were you and your son Jason. Do you expect us to believe that it was Jason, a thirteen year old boy, who accessed the website? Think a little harder, I think you can remember.” She laid another picture on my lap. It was my oldest son Rory. He was tied to a chair and he didn’t have his blindfold on anymore. Terror and fear filled his eyes.
What was I going to do? I had no idea about the website she was talking about. I remembered everything, everything I did last Tuesday and accessing a top level secret spy network hadn’t been on my list between cleaning toilets and folding laundry. I didn’t think the amnesia had taken only that part of my memory from me so the only other answer was that somehow Jason had done it. I couldn’t let her know that and I definitely needed more information.
“I don’t think my memory is all back yet. Did you check the computers at home? They should have had the information you were looking for.”
She rolled her eyes at me. “Yes, we checked those. Do you think I would be standing here with you if we’d been able to find what we needed? You must have accessed it from a laptop that you hid somewhere. We’ve torn the house apart looking for it but nothing. Think.” She laid another picture on my lap. This one was of Rosemary. She was curled up in a ball on a bed. She looked to be trying to hug herself, as if she needed reassurance that she would be okay. I wanted to reach through that picture and hug her and tell her I loved her. There were no ropes to tie her down. That worried me the most.
I proceeded with caution. This lady held all the cards. I needed my kids safe. “I will tell you where the computer is located, if you let my kids go. You must deliver them to the closest CIA department. You will make a video of them entering the building so I know they were delivered safely and then, and only then, will I tell you where the computer is located.”
“You make a lot of demands for someone who can’t get out of the bed to use the bathroom.”
“Those are my terms. How badly do you want that computer?”
“Badly enough to let those kids go. It’s just too bad they’ll be orphans.”
She smiled at me as she delivered her death sentence. She was a monster.
Just then the door to the hospital room burst open and men streamed into the room, guns raised and aimed right at Dr. Golding. My fake husband Tony, or rather Jake, was in the front and yelling at Dr. Golding to get on the ground.
She looked around for an escape route and found the room lacking. I saw in the slump of her shoulders that she knew there was nothing else she could do. She’d been betrayed. She very slowly kneeled down, her eyes never left my face.
“You will regret this,” was the last thing she said and then she was flat on the ground.
The next thing I knew, I was being pushed at a frantic rate through a hospital, a real hospital. It hadn’t all been a ruse for my sake. I looked up and there on my left side was the nurse who’d given me the contraband graham crackers. She introduced herself as Susan, nurse and part-time CIA agent. She was smiling at me, telling me this wouldn’t hurt much and then she stuck me with a needle and it did hurt, a lot.
On my right was my fake husband, Jake, gun still drawn. He told me that they got the kids out and they had been taken to a safe location and that I would be joining them soon. Relief. I felt relief and a bit woozy. We entered the elevator and Susan hit the top button. Jake said he was sorry they hadn’t gotten me out earlier. They’d tried but a certain Mr. Smith had gotten in the way. I guess he wasn’t a patient but rather a guard. My woozy brain felt sorry for Mr. Smith. The elevator stopped and we were through the doors as soon as they opened. We were on the rooftop deck of the hospital. I saw the military helicopter with its propellers whirling in the air. My last thought was that I was safe and then I went to sleep and dreamt of better days.
When I first woke up, I heard curtains rustling as a warm tropical breeze blew across them. It felt heavenly, like a dream world and I worried at first that I was dead. I looked around and there were my children. I knew wherever I was, I'd be okay and then I went back to sleep. I finally woke up the next day and my children explained everything to me. We were in Belize. Their dad Tony, the real Tony, had set up safe houses for us in both Belize and Romania. Tony's old CIA handler had known about it so he got the information to Jake when he found out we were in danger. Jake worked out the escape plans shortly after I appeared on an interrogation table with June Locke, a.k.a. Dr. Golding. Jake was in the middle of his undercover investigation. It turns out I escaped somehow from their safe house but didn't make it very far before I passed out. Lucky for me I was found by a good Samaritan who took me to the hospital. I didn't remember everything but I remembered some of it.
The kids told me Jake had let them choose between Belize and Romania and they all thought a place that spoke English, had wonderful weather and was close to the beach was the place to go. I agreed, although I had special memories of Romania from a job that Tony and I had done there. Belize was going to be the perfect place to recover and start over.