Familiar Face

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Chapter 16

Chapter 16

At five o’clock, Anna received a text from Sam informing her that her dinner date with Ben had been canceled. As upsetting as the news was, his insistence that she not go to her car, was even more disquieting. What possible reason could he have for making such a demand? The only viable reason she could come up with was that someone had vandalized her car. Surely Sam didn’t consider Ben a suspect. Her favorable impression of Ben couldn’t be that far off base. Could it?

She didn’t get any work done during the hour and fifteen minutes before the appointed time for her to meet Sam. Per his instruction, she found his car parked in a visitor’s parking space in front of the Foundation’s office. She lit into him, as soon as she scrambled into his car. “I can’t believe that you canceled my dinner date. I was hoping to learn a little more about the Summerfield’s during dinner, and now Ben will probably mark me off as a nutcase. And, what’s this about not being able to go to my car? We’ve had almost no communication in the two and a half weeks you’ve been trailing me, and today you have the temerity to send me a list of demands. Who do you think I am? A spineless creature who follows instructions like a well-trained seal.”

“Whoa. Sorry, I offended you. That wasn’t my intention. I would have called and explained if there had been time. The situation changed, and decisions had to be made. If you are unhappy about your dinner plans, speak to Mark. As for your car, I made the decision.”

“Sorry, Sam. I realize that you are just doing your job . . . It’s unfair of me to take out my anger on you, but I really needed to vent. Otherwise, I was headed for a complete meltdown. Let’s back up and start this conversation again. Hi, Sam. I’m glad that I can finally put a face with the voice I’ve been hearing for the past two and a half weeks. Thanks for looking out for me.”

Sam chuckled. “No need to apologize. It's better to let your anger out. Your tone of voice tells me that you’re still furious with both Mark and me. Just be sure that you don't let your angry stall the investigation. Mark and I both need your co-operation. If you want answers, Anna, you need to deal with the inconveniences that you are having to face.”

“I can deal with inconveniences, Sam. What I can’t deal with is being kept in the dark. I already have too many unknowns in my life.”

“And, you have a heavy stress load with your job. I advised Mark to be honest with you, but he felt that you were under too much pressure already. I warned him that having to be on alert to danger, can lead to panic attacks, and panic attacks can lead to PTSD.”

“I was warned by my therapist. Mark talked to her, so he’s aware that I had panic attacks as he child.”

“When did the panic attacks end?”

“At the same time my nightmares ended. I was fifteen at the time.”

Sam said, “From reading your bio, I’m inclined to think that you were suffering from PTSD. That especially holds true if you are Jessica Summerfield. There is a possibility that the child Jessica witnessed the murders of her parents. I can’t imagine a more horrific experience for a child. My guess is that you stopped communicating. Am I right?”

Anna nodded. “My therapist called the condition selective mutism. I could speak, but I chose not to when I felt threatened. My selective amnesia complicated the condition. Without being able to identify the root cause of my condition, my therapist feared that the panic attacks and nightmares would return. And obviously, that's what has happened."

“I’ve personally experienced PTSD, Anna, so I understand.”

“I should have suspected. Sorry, Sam. If you’ve suffered the terrors of hidden threats, you should understand my need for clarity. I can be flexible, but I need to know why my life is being turned upside down.” Anna was still angry, but she managed to modify her fiery tone. “I don’t get it, Sam. I haven’t been spied on for weeks, or been the victim of a second hit and run driver. Now, all of a sudden, I’m being restricted. No dinner plans, and no going to my car? What’s up?”

Sam shrugged. “I’ve probably already said more than I should. I’ll let Mark explain.”

“That’s a good idea.” She took out her cell and started to punch in Mark’s number.

“He’s going to SKYPE at seven o’clock.”

She gritted her teeth. “You might have to do the talking. Right now, I’m furious with the man. I’ve worked with him for five years, so he knows how I feel about being kept in the dark about matters that are important.” She paused before adding, “Besides, he’s busy with his own projects. He doesn’t have the time or desire to listen to my complaints. He did his part by hiring you.”

“What are you talking about, Anna? The only project Mark is working on is you. He’s been trying to track down the person or persons who have been harassing you.”

Anna was stunned. “Not according to what he told me. He said that the Foundation was not where he needed to be. I was shocked, because he was walking away at the busiest time of year, and he’s always been the go-to person. The staff will be short-handed for all of the seasonal events.”

Sam took his eyes off the traffic for a split second. “Come on, Anna. Aren’t you exaggerating? Hasn’t the planning for the events been completed?”

“Yes . . . but the events need to be staffed. If we don’t have enough help, things have a way of going haywire.”

“Have a little faith, Anna.”

He turned into one of the visitor’s spaces in the condo’s parking lot. “Maybe we should finish this conversation over dinner.”

“Oh, are you replacing Ben as my dinner guest?”

“Sorry, but that’s the plan. The good news is that I stopped by Carolina Bistro before I picked you up. I hope you like turkey subs.”

When they entered Anna’s great room, Sam’s eyes widened. “Wow.”

“Is that a good or bad wow?”

“Definitely good. This is the kind of room that makes you want to kick off your shoes and relax.” He crossed the room and stood in front of the Shaker Huntboard. “I love this piece of furniture. Do you mind if I ask where you found it?”

“My parents found it at flea market in Columbus, Ohio years ago. They refinished it, but Mom didn’t add the designs on the front panels until we moved to Clarksville. It’s a Shaker piece, and the Shaker’s frown on any kind of ornamentation or design. An antique dealer would tell you that Mom desecrated the piece, but I think it’s beautiful. Mom doesn’t always follow tradition.

“It was my favorite piece of furniture in our home in Clarksville, so when my friend Lindsey moved out of the condo two years ago, the great room was practically bare. Mom and dad came bearing gifts, one of which was the Huntboard. I love it for many reasons, but mainly because it reminds me of home.”

“It’s a beautiful piece of furniture and a charming room. I’m delighted that I’ve had the privilege of seeing it. But, as much as I would like to kick back and relax, we should probably eat so that we can be available when Mark SKYPE’s.”

“What can I get you to drink. I have tea or I can make coffee. I don’t drink soda, and I don’t have beer.”

“Tea’s fine.” He took the subs out of the bag and placed them on the paper plates that Anna handed him. “I bought potato salad instead of chips. I hope that’s okay.”

“I never complain when someone else provides the food. Thanks, Sam.”

“My pleasure.”

“Now that we’re settled, why don’t you tell me about my car. Was it vandalized?”

“I’m waiting for a call from a mechanic friend of mine. It’s possible that the person I saw either getting into your car, or out of it, didn’t have time to do any damage. I spotted him when I drove into the parking lot earlier today. Jim will check your brake line. He’ll also check to make sure that there is no explosive or tracking device attached to your car. When Jim gives me an okay, I’ll arrange for your car to be delivered to your condo.”

“Can you give the police a description of the man?”

“I know who it was. It’s the same man who has been tailing you for the past week and a half.”

The first words out of Mark’s mouth were, “Have you guys had dinner?”

“Thanks to Sam. He stopped by Carolina Bistro and picked up subs. What’s going on, Mark? Is all of this cloak and dagger stuff really necessary?”

“Yes, it is. I know that this isn’t what you want to hear, Anna, but you need to leave Raleigh.”

“I had a feeling you were going to say that. The Foundation has a benefit tomorrow night. I can’t leave Marian in the lurch. Natalie is doing great, but she wasn’t in on the planning for this particular event.”

“I’ll be there to stand in for you.”

“Are you in Raleigh?”

“No, but I’ll fly in on an early flight tomorrow morning. I’ll contact Marian, and let her know about the change in plans.”

“Mark, Marian has been more than patient with my situation, but I’m afraid I’ll lose my job in I leave now.”

“No, you won’t. Remember what we discussed? The Foundation doesn’t need any negative publicity. Marian knows that you’ll be doing her a favor if you wait this out in Clarksville.”

“Maybe I should go somewhere else. I don’t want to frighten my parents.”

“I’ve already talked to Bertie and John, Anna. They want you there. Sam has agreed to go with you, so you’ll be well protected.”

“When are you going to tell me what you suspect?”

“Soon. That’s a promise.”

“Ben and Beth aren’t involved, are they?”

“Definitely not. Ben said to tell you that he’ll be in touch as soon as this is over.”

“When do Sam and I leave?”

“As soon as you are packed, and I give Sam a few final instructions.”

“Mark, I’m sorry I’ve disrupted your life.”

His voice softened, “Honey, you haven’t.” He paused before adding, “We should have had this conversation a long time ago. Let me assure you of one important thing; when you are threatened, I’m threatened. If you felt that I abandoned you, I’m sorry. It won’t happen again.”

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