Sarah, Returned

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Chapter Fifteen

I was inches, maybe centimeters, from being smashed to a pulp against the stones. If Matt hadn’t said something, or if I’d been too far away or too lost in my thoughts to hear him….I have no words. Like, literally, no words come from my mouth when I try to ask him who did it. Who wanted so badly to hurt me? I want to know. I just can’t say it.

Also, I can’t stop shaking. Why is that? Will I ever stop shaking, or is this my life now, just one shaking mess?

I want to tell Matt I’m sorry, tell him I love him, promise to go to the psych ward or wherever else he wants me to go. Whatever he wants, I’ll give it to him. He saved my life. Why won’t the words come?

“I think she may be in shock,” Matt calls down to someone I can’t see.

“Here,” the unfamiliar voice calls back, and a blanket suddenly appears on the ground in front of me, where Matt cleared a space. “Wrap this around her, lay her down, and get her to look you in the eye. Make sure she keeps looking, while you talk to her. Once she’s able to talk, she’ll be fine. We’ll take care of things down here.”

“And if she still can’t talk by the time you’re done?”

“We’ll take her to the hospital and get her a shot of tranquilizer. It will fix her right up. She’ll be just fine, Mr. Morgan.”

Matt does as the disembodied voice says, and soon, I am laying in the grass, snug and warm in a dusty gray blanket, Matt sitting cross-legged beside me, gazing into my eyes.

The blanket is probably filthy, but it feels good. Maybe I’ll stop shaking after all.

I wonder if the owners of this house are home. It seems they would have noticed the commotion in their yard and come out by now if they were. Or, maybe they are out here with us, and I just haven’t noticed yet. It’s hard for me to notice much right now, except Matt’s concerned face, and the blessed fact that the shaking is starting to ease up.

I guess I won’t be the first to find out if the earth is really hollow, after all. That’s okay.

“Everything’s all right, Sarah,” Matt murmurs softly to me, like Grandma used to when I was a kid and wasn’t feeling well. “The police captured the bad guy. He won’t be able to hurt you now. They’re on the sidewalk, trying to get a motive out of him. They may ask you if you know why he would want to hurt you, but you don’t have to worry about that now. Just focus on me, you and me alone here in the hedges, where no one can ever hurt us again. Nowhere is safer than right here, right now, Sarah.”

That’s true. The police have whoever it is, and I’m safe with Matt. In the end, he put our differences aside to do what he could to save me. My life was worth more to him than anything else, even being right. That’s worth something.

I would still be safer with Joshua. He wouldn’t kill the man himself, being a Quaker and all, but he would sure find someone who would. Jail would be too risky to him. He’d make sure there was no chance the man would ever bother me again.

Man. Matt distinctly said “him” several times. That means it wasn’t Karen, after all. It’s almost disappointing. I so wanted to see the bitch get some comeuppance. I guess she really is just a manipulative shrew. Damn.

Well, if it’s a man, then who is it? I can’t think of any men who would want to hurt me.

“Who?” I open my mouth to make the sound, and it feels like I’m controlling my body from somewhere far away. The one word comes out all squeaky, like I’ve just been in a dust storm and need a drink of water.

“Carter,” Matt says, stroking my hair, pushing the tendrils off my forehead.

Carter?

Carter? What the….?

And, just like that, I’m back in my body and fully myself once more. I push the blanket down and struggle to prop myself up on my elbows, intending to use the leverage to get into a standing position.

Matt puts his hands around the backs of my shoulders and helps me sit upright.

“Carter?” I demand, not quite sure if I believe it. Why on earth would Carter, of all people, want to kill me? Our relationship has been nothing but warm and affectionate, if a bit distant. We both said we didn’t want to get too serious yet, and I’ve only been gone a month from his perspective. He can’t think I was cheating on him; we’re not even officially exclusive, though it’s kind of been an unsaid thing. And, he tried to hurt me before I disappeared, by tampering with my car’s brakes. What could his reason possibly be?

“It’s definitely him,” Matt says, nodding. “I saw the police drag him out of the car. And, it was his car, Sarah. I recognized it before the cops even got here, when I saw it barreling toward you on the sidewalk. The police were right behind me on Central, though I didn’t know it at the time. They saw the whole thing, too.”

“But, why?” The question comes out a little more plaintively than I intend, but it’s a hell of a confusing situation.

“Do you feel like asking him?”

“Oh, you bet I do,” I seethe, shock turning to fury. I scramble to get my feet out of the blanket and stand up, aching to march down there and ask that little twerp what his problem is. Matt once again comes to my rescue by picking me up off the ground, and gracefully setting me back on my feet.

“Are you sure you’re feeling up to it? You were shaking so hard before.” He’s concerned, I can tell, and I would be, too, if the positions were reversed. But, any shock I had at nearly being squished is long gone, replaced with a heaping of curiosity and a mountain of anger.

“I’m fine,” I assure him with extreme firmness. “Let me to talk to my so-called boyfriend.”

That last word came out with the perfect amount of dripping sarcasm. Ha! Boyfriend, my ass. If I was the type to use air quotes, they would have been all over that word.

Matt backing me up, I walk down the steps on the side of the yard to the sidewalk and around the corner to face Carter McKee. It’s time to get to the bottom of all this once and for all.

The two middle aged, male police officers on the scene are just cuffing Carter and sticking him in the back of their squad car as I march up to them, hands menacingly on my hips.

“Ms. Morgan,” the shorter of the officers exclaims as I arrive, surprise written all over his face. “Are you all right? Are you sure you should be standing up right now?”

“Maybe you should go home and lay down,” the other one suggests. “You won’t need the protection at your house anymore. You’re safe now. Get some rest, and we’ll have you come down to make a statement later.”

“I’m fine,” I insist. “If it’s possible, I would like to speak with Mr. McKee.” I make sure my tone brooks no argument. One thing about Dover, it’s small enough that most everyone knows or has heard of everyone else, and the memory of my grandmother still looms large here. Neither officer looks like they want to risk offending her in the spirit world by naysaying her granddaughter.

“By all means, if you’re up to it,” the taller one says, backing away and extending a hand toward Carter. “We’re right here if you need us.”

“Matt,” I call over the top of the car, where he has his cell phone in his hand, talking to someone. That was quick. My back was turned for what, a minute? I actually thought he was still right behind me. Eh, he’s probably calling Jacob to let him know what’s going on.

“Yes?” He covers the speaker on the phone and lifts his head up to see what I want.

“Can you come over here, please? I want you to be a witness to this conversation.”

“Sure. One second.”

He says something indecipherable into the phone, turning his head just slightly so I can’t even try to read his lips. Conversation finished, he disconnects the call and comes to me, where I’m standing by the corner of the car’s trunk.

“I just want to make sure he can’t change his story later, assuming he tells me the truth now,” I tell him. “If you hear whatever he has to say, that’s his word against both of ours, if it comes to it.”

“Got it. Sorry about the call. I just wanted to let someone know they were off the hook as a suspect.”

“Jacob?”

“Yeah.” He pauses just a bit before replying, which is kind of odd. It’s almost like he wanted to say something else. Oh well. If it’s important, I’m sure I’ll find out about it, if I stay in this century long enough.

I walk around the corner of the car to the open back door, where Carter is still sitting, hands firmly cuffed behind his back. He looks uncomfortable.

Good.

I stand there with my hands still on my hips, glaring at him, hoping he will take the initiative and start talking. He owes me at least that consideration. However, after a moment of awkward silence, with him merely scowling back at me, it is clear he’s not going to break the ice.

“Do you have anything to say to me?” I demand, more loudly than I intended, as impatience pulls the words from my mouth.

“No,” he mumbles, still staring daggers at me. Yeah, he definitely wanted me dead, and is disappointed that he didn’t get the chance to make it happen. Well, too bad. He tried three times and failed at each one. Three strikes and you’re out, Carter.

“Oh, come on,” I say, the sarcasm so sharp I’m surprised it isn’t putting scratches in the paint job on the police car. “You went to all this trouble to off me, and you’re not even going to tell me why? It’s obvious you tried to run me over, so we can just assume it was also you who tried to cut the brakes on my car, and attempted to break into my house last night. Why, Carter? We had a nice thing going between us. Why would you want to do it? What could I have possibly ever done to you to make you this angry?”

His green eyes practically glow red, and his upper lip curls into a hateful sneer. “You didn’t love me.” There is some pointed accusation in that tone.

Okay, now I’m even more confused.

“Excuse me, what?” I demand, my voice going up into that involuntary screech that happens when I’m especially exasperated. “Love you? Carter, we only went out for four months before I took off. I liked you. A lot. Given time, it very well may have turned into love. We were in a good place. It was certainly possible. And, yes, I’m aware other couples fall in love sooner than that, sometimes at first sight. But, we were purposefully keeping it casual. It’s what we both agreed we wanted. How could there be love in that type of relationship?”

“Please,” he spits, bitterly. “You were never going to love me, even if we dated for years. I’m not stupid, Sarah. I could tell you didn’t have a deep well of feeling available for me.”

“You never gave me a chance! Carter, you never even said you wanted to take our relationship to the next level. I had no idea. We could have discussed it.”

Of all the stupid reasons for wanting to kill someone. If Matt wants someone to take in for a psychiatric hold, I think he needs to start looking at the guy in the handcuffs.

“I gave you hints,” he grumbles, hate filling every word. “Bought you little gifts, remembered our four month anniversary with that special dinner out at The Library in Portsmouth, put extra romance into the relationship. I called you every night to say goodnight when you weren’t staying over at my dorm. You were clueless. You didn’t pick up on a single thing, never reciprocated, and never treated me as anything other than a casual boyfriend.”

“And so you wanted to kill me because you failed to communicate your desire for a change in status?” I shout at him, incredulous. “I was open to it, Carter, but you said from the beginning that you wanted it to be casual. You were the one who told me on our first date that you weren’t looking for anything serious yet. Excuse me for not being able to read minds.”

“You didn’t even call me when you were gone for a whole month,” he says sullenly, his voice suddenly soft, and he looks down at the floor of the car. “You could have called. It shows how much you didn’t care.”

Okay, he’s got me on that one, but it’s still no reason to try to kill a person. “I’m sorry I didn’t call,” I say, and it’s genuine. It seems so long ago, but I do remember thinking about calling him that night, when I was hiding in the thicket on top of Garrison Hill. Would it have made a difference if I did? “Are you in love with me, Carter? Or were you?”

“No,” he admits, still looking at the floor.

“Then, why was it so important for me to love you?”

I know the answer as soon as I ask the question.

“Because, then you would marry me, and I could have access to your share of your grandmother’s fortune. If that wasn’t going to happen, I didn’t want you to have it, either.”

I slap my hand to my forehead. This is crazy. He dated me for four months in the hopes I would marry him and he would become rich by association? He’s not even from Dover. I didn’t tell him about my inheritance until about two months into our relationship. Good lord, it’s not just this town. All of southern New Hampshire is ridiculously small. I guess a fortune like Elizabeth Morgan’s is a story that gets told for miles around.

Like Karen with Matt, Carter had me targeted for a lifetime of wealth from the beginning.

“Oh my God,” I moan, overcome with the idiocy of it all, and the betrayal. If I wasn’t a married woman and madly in love with someone else, I’d be really hurt right now. Instead, all I feel is angry and violated.

“Wait a minute,” Matt says, stepping up to the car. He’s been just a step or two behind me the whole time, letting me take the lead on this one. “You said you were upset because Sarah didn’t call you when she was in hiding. But, you tried to cut the brakes on her car. When she went missing afterward, you should have been happy she was gone. You’re telling me you tried to kill her, and then got mad when it didn’t work and she didn’t call you?”

Carter looks up at us in confusion. “I tried to break into your house last night, and apparently all of Dover saw me try to run her over just now, but I had nothing to do with the brakes. I know I’m going down for what I did, but I won’t take the blame for something that had nothing to do with me. I suspected Sarah would never love me. When she disappeared and didn’t call, and barely spoke to me when she came back, I knew it for sure, and decided to do something about it and failed miserably, both times. The brakes, though? That one’s not on me, man.”

Matt and I turn to each other, alarmed. It doesn’t need to be spoken, but I say it out loud, anyway, just to make sure the police hear. “You’re seriously telling me you didn’t try to cut the brakes on my car?”

“No.”

He’s quite emphatic.

“Then, who did?”

“I have no idea. That’s the God’s honest truth.”

“Matt….” I begin, shaking a little again.

“I know,” he comes over and puts his arms around me. “Whoever did it is still out there.”

The two police officers have been standing respectfully to the side, but I know they’ve heard every word of this conversation. They needed to, for their report. At this point, the shorter one, whose name tag has some scratches on it that makes it almost unreadable, but I think says “Smith” or something similar, comes over.

“We’ll leave the guard on your house,” he says with kindness. “Just when you think you’ve got one problem solved, huh? I’m sorry. We thought we could put an end to this for you today, and let you both get on with your lives. But, hey. At least we’ve got one menace off the streets. This one won’t be bothering you anymore.”

“That’s really comforting,” I sniff, leaning my forehead into Matt’s shoulder.

I hear a car pull up to the curb a few feet away, probably just behind the police car, but I don’t lift my head to look. It hardly matters who it is. I’ve got an ex-boyfriend who tried to kill me, someone else out there who presumably still wants to kill me, a room that needs more searching to find the key to getting me out of here, and a cousin who still might want to put me in an involuntary psychiatric hold. Too many problems, and so far, not a solution to any of them in sight.

I’m overwhelmed into semi-immobility.

A car door slams, then another. Two people approaching, then.

“Matt! Sarah!” Karen’s shrill voice calls. “Thank goodness you’re both all right.”

Oh no, he didn’t.

I immediately jerk away from Matt, taking two big steps back from him.

“You called Karen?” I accuse, furious. How could he?

“Mr. Morgan,” the taller officer says, “wasn’t Ms. Morgan supposed to be filing a restraining order on Ms. Bateman today? I don’t think it’s a good idea for her to be here, since we still have a suspect at large.”

“I didn’t call her,” Matt says, confused, looking from Karen to the officers to me. Karen runs up to him and puts a hand on his shoulder, standing on her tiptoes as if to kiss him, but he pulls away in disgust. Karen furrows her eyebrows, angry, and looks like she’s about to tell him off, when the second occupant of the car joins us.

“I called her,” Great-Uncle Jacob says, smiling, like calling my worst enemy….well, I guess second-worst enemy now….is the most natural thing in the world to do in these circumstances.

“I only called you,” Matt protests. “Why would you call Karen, and worse, bring her here?”

“So I could officially be removed from the suspect list, silly,” Karen says, forcing her glare into a smile once more.

Great-Uncle Jacob smiles like someone who’s just won the lottery and can’t wait to tell everyone.

“Well, that,” he says, slowly, grinning widely, “and also to let them know you’re the one who tried to cut Sarah’s brakes. I figured, the cops are here, they’ve got one bad guy. May as well give them the chance to take in two.”

What?

Everyone stares at Jacob in stunned silence for a moment, even Carter.

Karen’s mouth is agape, like she doesn’t know whether to confess or angrily protest.

Poor Matt looks like he’s just stepped through Alice’s looking glass and is wondering why a caterpillar with a hookah is talking to him. He must feel like he got pulled into a bizarre alternate universe.

Well, he’s not the only one.

Feeling like I have every right to be hysterical, but knowing I have to hold it together until I get my chance to go back to my husband and kids, I break the silence, gritting the words out from between clenched teeth. I have to clench them, as I’m trying very hard to keep my jaw from shaking so they don’t crack a tooth.

“Care to explain, Uncle Jacob?”

“There is no need to explain,” Karen snaps, jutting her chin away from me. “He’s lying. We have the culprit right here.”

“He didn’t try to cut the brakes, Karen,” I say, arms crossed, daring her to contradict me. “Oh, he did some evil things for stupid reasons, and he will pay, but he did not tamper with my car.”

“Oh, how do you know?” she practically spits at me.

“He confessed.”

Her face falls, the smugness slipping right off like butter. I’m surprised it’s not in a puddle on the ground.

“Ms. Bateman, if you will step over here, please,” the taller officer says, taking her arm, “we would prefer if you were a few feet away from Ms. Morgan. You are still a suspect in the car tampering. Then again, so are you, Mr. Morgan.” He nods toward Jacob, who gives him a dazzling, pearly-toothed smile.

“If I may be allowed to explain?” Jacob asks the officers.

“Please do.”

Karen looks like she’s going to protest again, but the tall officer tightens his grip on her arm, and she stands down. Instead, she turns her gaze to Jacob with an unusual mixture of interest and hatred. Does he really have something on her?

“I came across Ms. Bateman in the back yard of my dear sister-in-law’s house when I arrived for her celebration of life,” he begins, addressing everyone assembled at the police car in turn, even Carter. “She was just sliding out from under Sarah’s car as I entered the yard, and it was still daylight enough I could see her fingers were wet and black with some kind of soot or oil. I didn’t want to startle her, so I stayed back and watched her go inside. I didn’t even know it was Sarah’s car at the time. That was only revealed later, when Matt, Karen, and Sarah had their argument, and Sarah drove away in the vehicle in question.”

“Why did you come to the back door?” Matt wants to know, and I think the short officer was just about to ask the same thing, the way he leaned forward, and back again. It’s a reasonable question. Everyone but the people who live in the house, meaning Matt, Grandma, and me, uses the front door.

“It was years since I’d been to the house, at Lizzie’s request,” Jacob continues, “but I always came in the back door when I used to visit. It was a force of habit.”

“You’re lying,” Karen cries at him. I think if the tall officer let go of her arm right now, she might jump on Jacob and try to tackle him to the ground. You’d think her youth would be to her advantage, but I’m not sure. Jacob appears remarkably healthy and strong for someone his age. I think he could take her.

“Oh, you think so?” Jacob asks, turning to Karen for the first time, as if she was irrelevant to the conversation up until this point. “Then, maybe we should show the police the video I took of the whole thing. It’s right here on my phone. I didn’t know who you were or what you were doing when I walked into the yard, but I decided it is always a good idea to get video of someone coming out from under a car, especially at a house where two heirs to a fortune live.”

He reaches into his back jeans pocket to retrieve his phone. Waving it delightedly under her chin, he asks, “Shall we have a look?”

Karen’s sharp, angled face turns bright red for just a moment, before fading to almost pure white. All the fight goes out of her, and she becomes limp in the tall officer’s grip; he has to use his second hand to hold her up.

“Karen?” Matt asks with a mixture of rage and concern. He just broke up with her. Even though he knows what she really is now, all those feelings he had for her can’t be turned off immediately. I get it. If this was really only a month later for me, and not 14 years, I would still feel some affection for Carter, even after what he just did. Lucky me. I got my time to heal. I just hope I don’t have to heal from Joshua, too. I don’t know if I can.

“Let’s have a look at that phone, Mr. Morgan,” the short officer says, reaching for it. Jacob starts to hand it across.

“Wait!” Karen shouts, suddenly upright again, though the tall officer maintains his grip on her. “I did it. Okay? Are you all satisfied? Yes, I attempted to cut the brakes on Sarah’s car. I read a book on car maintenance, and thought I knew what I was doing, but apparently got the lines confused. There. There’s my confession. Will things go easier on me now that I admitted it?” She looks to the tall officer for confirmation. He just stares back at her, stony faced.

“Why?” Matt demands, glaring at her, then looks at me with apologetic eyes. I just shrug. Her confession does not surprise me in the least. Carter surprised me, but not Karen. And, I think I know why she did it, but I want to hear it from her.

“Well, because I love you, of course,” she says, her words all tumbling out in a waterfall of explanation, doing anything she can to make it sound not so bad. Saving her own skin is her number one priority right now.

“So you decided to express that by trying to kill my cousin?” Matt shouts, truly angry now. Whatever feelings he had for her were extinguished by that one simple admission.

“It’s not as bad as it sounds, Matt,” she insists, almost pleading with him to understand. “Sarah was holding you back. You deserved all of the fortune. It wasn’t fair that you had to share it with her. You were working so hard as a teacher, while she lived the easy life of a college student. You sacrificed your entire twenties to take care of her. And, did she appreciate it? Did she understand what you were giving up to be there for her? I don’t think so. With her out of the way, we could have gotten married and shared the whole fortune together. You deserve it all, Matt. Not her. She’s just a spoiled brat who always got everything handed to her.”

“Did you ever consider Sarah was living the life she was supposed to, Karen?” Matt hisses at her. “She’s 20, for God’s sake. She’s supposed to be living a carefree life at school. And, I wanted to take care of her. Until we met Jacob, she was my only living relative. Her safety and happiness meant everything to me. I didn’t want to see her go into foster care when Grandma was no longer able to care for her, and Grandma wouldn’t have wanted it, either. I didn’t give up my twenties. I spent them exactly as I wanted to, and yes, taking care of Sarah was a big part of that, but it’s not like it’s all I did. As for teaching, I had to earn a living until I came into my part of the inheritance, and I genuinely liked it. I didn’t feel burdened at all. Good God, Karen, the fortune is $80 million. A mere $40 million wasn’t good enough for you?”

“She didn’t deserve it.”

“Yes, she did. Admit it. You just wanted her out of the way, so you could totally control my life and my money. As long as Sarah was around, there was another voice in my life, guiding me in directions you may not have liked. You were selfish. Next time, find a wealthy orphan to sink your claws into who has no other relatives.”

He turns away from her, crossing his arms, hanging his head low. I’m sure he’s wondering how he could have been so stupid to let her as far into his life and mind as he did. I would be wondering the same thing in his shoes. Heck, I’m kind of wondering it about Carter at this very moment. I guess neither of us has good judgement when it comes to romantic partners. Well, I didn’t. But, that changed. Somewhere out there in the mists of time, I have Joshua, and there’s no question he is the one for me. Joshua wouldn’t care if I only had one cent, or no cents. In fact, he married me with nothing to my name except an acre of cleared land left to me by Richard Otis, and a two year old girl who wasn’t even mine. Oh, man, I miss him and the kids so much. I have to get back to them.

Putting those thoughts aside before they make me cry, I look back up at the crazy scene in front of me. I’ve nothing to say to Karen or Carter at this point, but good on Jacob for being smart enough to film the crazy bitch. I wonder why he waited until now to mention he had the evidence. He was a suspect the whole time I was gone. Showing that video would have gotten him, Matt, and even Carter off the hook weeks ago.

“May we have your phone, please, Mr. Morgan?” the short officer asks Jacob. “We’ll need to download the video as evidence. You can get it back in a few days, once it’s been processed through the station.”

“Oh, I don’t actually have a video,” Jacob says, chuckling. He sticks his phone back in his pocket.

“You don’t?” Karen and the short officer ask at the same time, both gaping at him.

“No, my dear. I don’t.”

“Then, why did you say you did?” the short officer asks.

“I suspected Karen was the one trying to hurt my niece. In fact, I was sure of it, from the night Sarah disappeared. I spent most of that day and evening watching the two of them interact, and it was obvious to everyone but poor love struck Matt that his fiancée hated Sarah, and the feeling was mutual. When Sarah disappeared, I suspected Karen was involved. When it was discovered the brakes were tampered with on her car, I was sure of it. Admittedly, I was surprised to find young Carter out here, also having tried to hurt her. But, when you all said he wasn’t the one who tried to cut the brakes, it occurred to me that a little ruse might force a confession out of the lady.” He nods toward Karen, indicating she is the lady in question.

“That’s a risky game, sir,” the tall officer holding onto Karen says, shaking his head in disbelief, while keeping his tone neutral. “What if she hadn’t confessed, and demanded you show the video?”

“Well, that would be a whole other situation entirely, wouldn’t it, boys? Good thing she did just what I thought she would, eh?” He gives them one of his huge, sunny smiles. I don’t think there’s an unhappy bone in that man’s body. No one I’ve ever met has consistently exuded so much joy at everything, even during weird moments like this one.

“It certainly is,” the tall officer agrees. Then, addressing Karen, “You’ll have to come with us, ma’am.”

Karen looks absolutely stunned as they cuff her and stick her in the back of the car with Carter. I think she really believed confessing and professing her pure love for Matt would get her off. I don’t doubt for a minute her family’s money and high connections will ensure she only gets a brief period of house arrest and a permanent restraining order keeping her away from both Matt and me, but it’s enough. Carter will suffer more, not just because what he tried to do was worse, but because his family doesn’t have the means to secure a legal dream team for him. He’ll do jail time. I almost feel bad for him.

Almost.

After their prisoners are safely in the car, the officers ask Matt, Jacob, and me to come down to the station and give our statements as soon as possible. Matt agrees, but wants to get a doctor to check me out first. He’s concerned about the effect the earlier shock and general stress of the past day and a half has had on me. He kindly avoids mentioning anything about a psychiatric hold in front of the officers, but I know it’s what he’s thinking. He’s still going to push that point with me now? Really?

“Are you okay?” he asks me, once the officers are gone, Karen staring at us out the back window as they drive away, her expression one of stony hatred toward us all. Well, she can just hate us from a distance from now on, I suppose.

“I’m fine,” I say, unable to keep a hint of sharpness out of my voice. I know what he’s going to say next. It’s odd how you can love someone so much, and want to drop them off a cliff at the same time.

“Then, you’ll come with me to talk to the doctors now?” He puts a gentle hand on the small of my back. I jerk away with such force, a muscle spasms briefly in my hip. That’s going to be sore later.

“Doctors?” Jacob questions, raising a white eyebrow at us.

“I think Sarah needs to talk to some psychiatrists after everything she’s been through,” Matt says, reaching for my hand, which I promptly snatch away. “It’s a lot for anyone to deal with. I’d feel better if she got some professional counseling.”

“Right now, though?” Jacob is confused. “Shouldn’t we all go to the police station and give our statements? Get it out of the way? I’m sure we’ll all be called to testify in court later, but the sooner we give official statements to the police the better, don’t you think? Surely counseling can wait.”

“I don’t think it can.”

“Oh, yes it can,” I growl, looking past Matt and right to Jacob. “He thinks I’m crazy because I said I’ve been living in the 17th century for the past 14 years.”

“Sarah,” Matt gasps, stunned I would say such a thing in front of Jacob. “I’m sorry, Uncle Jacob. She’s not herself, as you can see.”

“Well, of course,” Jacob agrees, nodding thoughtfully. “Anyone who has traveled through time once needs time to adjust to their new surroundings. I can’t imagine the disorientation doing it twice would cause. I know my sister was not herself for years after it happened to her.”

“What?” Matt and I both exclaim in confusion, but for extremely different reasons.

“You mean, you know about this time travel nonsense?” Matt barks, angry at Jacob now. “Did you put ideas in her head? My God, was she actually with you the whole time she was gone?”

“No, Matt,” I pull away from him and go stand beside Jacob. “I was exactly where I said, in the 17th century. Uncle Jacob didn’t tell me anything about time travel, though he hinted he knows it exists, but that was only after I came back. Grandma herself confirmed it, just before I left.”

“What are you talking about?” Matt puts his hands up to either side of his head, like he’s about to get the world’s worst headache from all this crazy talk coming from his only two remaining relatives.

“There was talk of time travel in Grandma’s memory box,” I explain, wishing he’d given me a chance to tell him all this earlier at the house, and not on the open street. Even in the 21st century, people still talk in Dover. There’s already going to be crazy gossip about what just went down in public with Karen and Carter. “I took it with me when I left the house, and looked through its contents while I was hiding on top of the hill. It was mind-blowing, Matt. No wonder she never let us touch the thing without her supervision. There were daguerreotypes inside of her as a little girl in the mid-1800’s. I know it’s true, because she labeled them all. Grandma traveled to 1938 from 1864 when she was 19. All the proof was there in the box. There were even letters she exchanged with a physics professor at UNH about it, where she straight up said she was a time traveler. And, when I accidentally touched an earring in the box she brought with her from the past, it opened up a portal that pulled me through to 1685. It also made me about eight years younger. I had to live through puberty again, in an era where tampons are not a thing.”

“Okay, okay, that’s enough,” Matt begs, putting his hands over his ears. I laugh out loud. If anything was going to subdue him, the word “tampon” was it. Any talk of menstruation always makes him squirm.

Seizing my opportunity, I whirl on Jacob. “And, you. Your sister travelled through time? You didn’t tell me. Did she go forward or back? Did she come back? Where is she now? Did she know Grandma was a traveler, too?”

“I think I need to have you both committed,” Matt moans, outnumbered and emotionally threadbare after such a trying couple of days.

“That won’t be necessary,” Jacob assures him, gently pulling one of Matt’s hands away from his ear. “Come, you two. Let’s go make our statements at the police station. We’ll take my car, since you’re both on foot. Once that’s done, I’d like to bring you to my house. I have some things there that will convince you Sarah is telling the truth, Matt. And Sarah, you will be exceptionally interested in these things, as well, especially if there is anyone you’re hoping to go back to in the past.”

My heart leaps into my throat. Oh my God. Does he have what I need to travel again? Does he know how it works?

It suddenly dawns on me that Jacob has known more than he was telling the entire time. If I hadn’t travelled the exact night I met him, he might have explained more about this time travel thing to me. I would know much more about it, about Grandma, about so many things. Then again, if I’d stayed, I wouldn’t have met Joshua.

No. I wouldn’t change a thing I did in the past.

But, I do want to change them now. For the better.

“Matt,” I say, turning to my cousin. It’s not a question, but rather a command, only thinly masked as a statement. He’s going to go along with us in this. If he still questions anything after our visit to Jacob’s house, he can have us both examined. Personally, though, I don’t think that will be necessary.

“Fine,” Matt says, throwing up his hands in defeat. “You’re both insane, but whatever. I give up. Obviously, I’m outnumbered here, so you can have anything you want. By all means, let’s go to Jacob’s house.”

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