Jane instantly jumped up, her posture defensive and alert as she stepped close to Maura.
Maura took a breath to calm her racing heart before putting a restraining hand on Jane’s arm. “It’s only Susie; remember I told you she was coming? It’s okay, just wait here for a moment.”
Jane scrutinised Maura’s expression before backing off enough to allow Maura to move to the door.
Maura paused at the door, taking a calming breath before opening the door with a worried expression. An agitated Susie Chang stood on her doorstep holding an armful of files and didn’t wait to be invited in, talking frantically as she moved. Maura tried to get a word in but Susie didn’t notice.
“Maura! What happened to you today? Did you get the reports finished? Dr Franklin arrived, he seemed particularly grumpy today. He’s started the autopsies; Detective Rizzoli is there with him. I brought the preliminary findings; I figured you might want to get up to date in case…”
Susie finally glanced up and realised they weren’t alone. Jane was standing in the middle of the room, scrutinising the frazzled scientist warily. She appeared to find nothing out of place, her posture relaxing as Susie stopped talking.
Maura moved next to Susie, taking in her bewildered expression and realising she hadn’t been able to recognise Jane as she had. Glancing at Jane she understood; the scars, the bald head, the hardened expression. Superficially there was very little left that resembled the loud, vibrant detective Susie remembered.
Maura gently put a hand on Susie’s arm, feeling her jump slightly. “Susie, this is what happened today. It’s Jane. She’s alive, she’s here. She isn’t quite herself at the moment, but it’s her. Susie?”
Susie’s mouth had fallen open in shock, her eyes wide. The stack of folders crashed loudly to the floor, startling all three of them. Susie glanced down at them before returning her eyes to Jane, tears beginning to form. Her voice was shaky and high. “Detective Rizzoli?”
Jane didn’t react to the mention of her title, instead returning to her usual posture and fixing her gaze back on Maura with a question in her eyes. After a few moments her head dropped into its ‘waiting for instructions’ position.
Maura was about to move when a suddenly sobbing Susie threw herself at Jane. Jane’s eyes widened as flailing arms drew her down into a bone-crushing hug, the stoic woman unresponsive as Susie wailed into her chest. Maura watched as Jane stood completely unaffected in Susie’s hug, her eyes never budging from Maura.
After a few moments Susie composed herself enough to pull away, her eyes immediately finding Maura. “How? Where? You were right, she was alive!”
Maura found herself yanked into a hug, her face finally falling into a smile as she was infected with Susie’s enthusiasm and happiness. Jane looked on in confusion as the pair burst into nervous laughter, Susie pulling away suddenly to look at Jane again, this time studying her appearance carefully.
Maura took another calming breath to compose herself before starting to explain. She couldn’t look away from Jane as she spoke; retelling the story bringing up all her feelings of awe and relief that Jane had found her. Susie looked between the pair with growing confusion, Jane’s silence becoming more noticeable as the minutes passed.
Maura glanced at her as she finished explaining and saw the look Susie was giving Jane. She jumped in before she could ask and possibly trigger Jane’s fear response again. “We’ve been communicating non-verbally Susie. It’s taken some figuring out but we’re managing.”
Susie took the hint, moving to her next question. “So, what do we do now? If there’s someone looking for her we can’t tell anyone she’s alive. Does anyone else know?”
Maura shook her head. “No, you’re the first. I want to run some tests in the lab, and I need your help to make sure nobody questions where the samples have come from. They can’t be tied to any open cases. We need to make sure nobody else sees the results.”
Susie nodded thoughtfully. “I can move some files around, create some dummy records. I can say I’m doing a test run for a new filing system if anyone notices the extra files so it won’t be a problem. Do you want to do the tests yourself?”
Maura considered. “I do, but I don’t want to leave Jane alone. I’ll take the samples now; can you run them in and do the tests? Start them tonight if you can, but don’t leave anything unattended. Bring everything back here when you’re done.”
Susie returned her gaze to Jane, who hadn’t shifted during the entire exchange. Maura realised Susie was starting to get unsettled by Jane’s manner, which was completely understandable. Maura had been so happy to find Jane again that she had just accepted whatever behaviour she could get, but Susie was reacting to the stark difference between the woman she’d known and the stranger with them now.
Maura moved over to Jane. “Please go sit on the couch; we want to take some samples. Is that okay Jane?”
A nod was the response, Jane moving and sitting as instructed. Susie glanced between them curiously, not understanding Jane’s mental state at all despite Maura doing her best to explain. Maura left Susie waiting with Jane while she retrieved the necessary equipment to take the samples she wanted, wanting to see how Jane might react. When she returned neither of them had moved; Susie was staring openly at Jane who was still staring at Maura.
When Maura returned and started to set out the equipment, Susie finally spoke. “Maura, do you mind if I try to take the samples?”
Maura was surprised at the request but couldn’t see any reason to object. “Sure Susie. Would you care for some tea?”
Susie nodded, moving to continue setting up the gear. When Maura was in the kitchen she spoke to Jane. “Detective Rizzoli, I’m going to start by taking some blood. Is that okay with you? Detective Rizzoli? Jane?”
Jane didn’t appear to have heard Susie, her head twisted around to follow Maura with her gaze again. Susie touched her arm gently to get her attention to no effect before moving to firmly grasp her shoulder to move her around. Jane resisted before turning back to Susie, her expression confused as she looked at Susie.
Susie had always been intimidated by Jane, and she still was, but she tried to be assertive. “Jane, I need to take some blood. Please put your arm out for me? Like this? Jane, can you hear me?”
Jane continued to look at Susie blankly, showing no sign of comprehension. Maura finished making the tea and brought it over, observing the frustration on Susie’s face. “What’s the matter?”
Jane’s head spun around to find Maura again, her features settling into a more content watchful state. Susie looked between them, still not quite understanding but realising that Jane was fixated on Maura. “Can you try asking her to cooperate? She doesn’t seem to hear me, or understand me.”
Maura was surprised but obligingly tried. “Jane, please put your arm out for Susie, we’re going to take a blood sample if that’s okay with you.”
Jane immediately mimicked the demonstrated position with her arm held out obligingly. Susie’s eyes widened in surprise but she stepped in to take the sample, not wanting to delay in case Jane changed her mind. Jane didn’t flinch when the needle pierced her skin, as Maura had expected from her observation of Jane’s lack of pain response.
Susie finished collecting the samples and arranged them all carefully into a carry bag. She glanced back at Jane, who hadn’t reacted during any of the tests except to respond to Maura’s requests. Frowning in worry she caught Maura’s eye and nodded towards the door.
Maura took the hint. “Jane, please stay here while I see Susie out.”
A curt nod was her only answer. Maura joined Susie at the front door, knowing her friend would have some interesting observations of Jane’s behaviour.
Susie didn’t disappoint. “Maura, she’s not acting like herself at all! Are you really sure that’s Detective Rizzoli?”
Maura was surprised at the question, although after a moment of consideration she realised she shouldn’t be. “Yes, I’m sure Susie. I know she hasn’t said anything, but she has done things that tell me the old Jane is in there somewhere. I know it’s Jane.”
Susie looked back at the silent woman on the couch. “Okay. Well if that is Detective Rizzoli she obviously has been subjected to some radical and inhumane procedures. There’s no telling what sort of damage has been done to her psyche. She could be dangerous, Maura. She might not even realise it, but she could hurt you. I don’t think you should be here alone with her until we know what happened to her.”
Maura followed Susie’s gaze. She remembered the protective way that Jane had stepped between her and the door when Susie arrived. She remembered the gentle way Jane had asked about her bruised face. She remembered the insistent way Jane had made her go to bed and rest.
Maura turned back to Susie, her mind made up. “No, I don’t think she could hurt me. I know she’s different, but she still cares about me.”
Susie’s brow furrowed in worry. “I’m not just worried about that. She seems really fixated on you. It’s like after she decided I wasn’t a threat she didn’t even acknowledge I was here, she just stared at you. And she seems to obey anything you ask like an order, without any hesitation.”
Maura frowned as well. “You’re right. She’s almost like a soldier obeying commands. She was doing it before you got here too.”
Maura considered their options before sighing. “I don’t see any alternative until we have more information. We need the results from the samples to start figuring out what’s been done to her.”
Susie nodded her assent, moving to leave. “I’ll call when I’m on my way back. I don’t want to alarm her by showing up unannounced.”
Maura smiled and opened the door. Susie paused in the threshold. “It’s so great that she’s alive Maura. You were right to keep looking. You never gave up hope, did you?”
Maura sighed sadly. “I’m not sure Susie. I don’t think I would have ever lost all hope, but….Well it doesn’t matter now. She’s back, and we need to help her.”
Susie smiled before departing, glancing around the darkening street cautiously. Maura watched her go before closing the door, ensuring the locks were secure. She took a moment to think about her options for the rest of the day before turning back to Jane.
Her gaze was met with attentive eyes, Jane’s head cocked waiting for orders.
Maura frowned at the implications.
She realised it was time to interject some scientific methodology into their interactions. She had been reacting to Jane emotionally, as a friend, but what Jane needed right now was help. Maura needed to know more about Jane’s current mental state if she was going to be of any use to her.
Maura walked back to the couch and sat next to Jane, contemplating her options while returning Jane’s constant gaze. She let her mind traverse the events of the last 24 hours, itemising all the instances of Jane behaving anything like her old self.
Her sense of self emerging seemed tied to experiencing familiar situations from her old life. Jane had reacted differently to the pancakes this morning than she had to the salads, becoming excited at the prospect of the treat, as opposed to complacent about unpalatable food.
She had also reacted strongly to Maura being hurt or upset. She had asked in her own silent way what had hurt her, she had shown concern when Maura became fatigued. She had shown compassion. She cared. It was just a matter of figuring out why that part of Jane kept being suppressed by the passive persona that waited for instructions like some kind of automaton.
Maura decided to try testing the first part of her theory by attempting to trigger Jane’s reactions with some more familiar items. She thought over her options, knowing she had kept a lot of Jane’s possessions after her disappearance. Suddenly she realised she had the perfect thing.
Maura indicated that Jane should follow her and stood, moving to the kitchen. Again she would be embarrassed to admit to anyone else why she had this particular item in her fridge, but when Jane’s eyes widened and a tentative smile appeared on her face, Maura knew the indignation would have been worth it.
“Jane? You remember this? You remember why I keep this here?”
Jane glanced back at Maura, her face softening. A scarred hand pointed to her chest.
Maura smiled. “Yes, that’s right. I keep these for you. For when you come and visit. Here, take it.”
Jane’s gaze flitted between the cold beer and Maura, uncertainty being slowly replaced by excitement. She slowly reached for the bottle, Maura holding it steadily and patiently. Jane grasped the cool surface, her face showing wonder at the familiar label.
After a long moment Jane’s expression started to drop into agitation. She tilted the bottle, as if trying to figure out what to do next. Maura realised the problem, having seen Jane’s similar reaction to cutlery. She moved to the fridge and pulled out another beer, making sure Jane was watching her before she twisted off the cap and took a swig of the amber liquid.
She coughed lightly, having not tasted beer in more than four years. She had never felt right drinking it without Jane, and had thrown out several unopened batches over the years as they expired. She had always replaced them however, unable to imagine not having a cold beer ready for Jane.
Jane’s face lightened in amusement at Maura’s reaction to the beer. Maura smiled back, indicating that Jane should open hers and try it.
Maura was thrilled. Her hypothesis seemed correct. If she could continue to introduce elements of Jane’s old life into her environment she might be able to keep Jane more present, and hopefully prevent that passive personality from re-emerging. She would need to start buying Jane’s favourite foods, discuss familiar topics, recall familiar jokes, possibly tell her family so they could come and see her.
Jane looked back at the bottle and brought her other hand up to grasp the cap. She twisted with too much force and at the wrong angle, the entire bottle neck shattering under her grip and spraying crimson droplets across the pristine kitchen bench.
Maura gasped in shock, slamming her bottle down on the bench and grabbing a nearby towel. Jane looked distraught, her eyes locking with Maura’s, clearly full of fear. Her body had gone rigid, holding her hands steady even as blood continued to leak out of the cuts on her fingers.
Maura took a breath and moved slowly, realising that Jane looked close to another panic attack. “Jane, it’s okay. You didn’t do anything wrong. It was an accident. You aren’t going to be punished. Do you understand?”
Jane didn’t relax, but she didn’t panic either. “Jane, I’m going to take the bottle. It’s okay, you can give it to me.”
Jane glanced down at Maura’s hand gripping the bottle. She released the glass but didn’t move her hands, forcing Maura to manoeuvre the sharp edges carefully around long fingers before placing the bottle on the bench.
“Okay, now please don’t move Jane. I need to clean out the glass, then I need to clean up the shards on the floor. If you move you’ll cut your feet. Can you stay still for me?”
Jane seemed to be calming slightly. She nodded almost imperceptibly. Maura let out a small breath, moving closer to Jane so she could see her hands. There were two large shards stuck in her fingers, the deep slices both bleeding sluggishly around the glass. Maura frowned at the speed of the blood loss; the rate may indicate an anomaly in her blood chemistry. Resolving to ask Susie later, she carefully wrapped the towel around the wounds, moving Jane’s other hand to apply pressure.
Maura looked back at Jane. “Okay, now please stand still, I’ll be back in a moment.”
Maura carefully stepped around the glass and spilled beer on the floor, hurrying to grab a mop and her medical kit. She quickly mopped a clear path out of the kitchen before leading Jane to the couch. Jane had regressed back into her passive state, the spark of personality she had shown at the sight of the beer gone.
Maura pulled out tweezers, gauze and disinfectant and laid them out ready. With steady hands she carefully unwrapped the towel, feeling several pieces of glass sitting in the folds that she cautiously kept contained. Placing the stained cloth aside she picked up the tweezers, gently holding Jane’s hands and looking for the shards she had noted earlier.
She couldn’t see any glass.
She also couldn’t see any cuts.
Jane’s hands had somehow healed completely.