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Joline knew she’d have to tell her Mom the whole story, and she’d have to do it soon. It was only fair. She knew it would cut her Mom like a knife. Because that’s when the “if only” would begin in earnest. If only I would have done this or that, lives could have been saved. It’s my fault. If only . . . She was going to have to handle this carefully. Perhaps Claire should be there when this goes down.

This whole thing was surreal. Had she not found those photos, she would have never met Derek. And if she hadn’t met Derek, Claire never would have shown up at her Mom’s door. And now, a family divided was a family reunited. How does one even begin to explain this? Coincidence? I don’t think so!

“Mom, we need to talk. You, me, and Claire. Just the three of us. OK?”

“Of course, hon. Why Claire?”

“Trust me, Mom. It’s important.”

So they set it up. They didn’t want to do it in front of the others, but they weren’t sure if meeting in public was wise either. What if Janice lost it? That wasn’t likely but there was nothing normal about any of this. But they worked it out and travelled together to the venue. Any attempt at small talk was futile, and the radio mercifully filled the void.

Janice wasn’t sure what to think about this. Why didn’t they just tell her what they had to say? And why did Joline insist on having Claire join them? Jeez, how’d they get so close? I’m starting to get peed off. And they finally arrived. Janice was the first out of the vehicle. “Come on, hurry up!”

“Oh, oh, Mom’s losing it.” she whispered to Claire.

And indeed she was. They were finally seated, but Janice was having no more of this cat and mouse game. “Spit it out! Now!”

And spit they did! “Mom, do you remember when I told you that I thought something was wrong and you blamed it on your tour schedule? That was a long time ago but I knew in my gut that something wasn’t right. Do you remember that?”

“Of course, hon, but I was freaked out over the tour. That’s the truth!”

" I knew you were but there was more to it than that. I just knew it!”

“I did to. But I didn’t know what and I didn’t want you to worry about me. It’s not like you didn’t have enough on your plate already!”

“But then I kind of forgot about it; figured my imagination was acting up as usual, and if there was anything really wrong, that you’d tell me. And you never did, so I kinda forgot about it.”

Janice decided that she might as well tell them everything. Right down to Jason’s strange behaviour on their honeymoon. “It’s weird talking to you like this.”

“I know Mom, but it’s important.”

“Ok, well that really floored me but Jason really opened up then, and I decided to just let it go. I admit, I started watching a little closer after that, but he was so loving. He’d do anything for me, and I finally just forgot about it. Well, maybe not forgot about it exactly, but I quit holding it against him. We all have our hang ups and he’d had a terrible life growing up. Anyway, that’s what happened.”

Joline continued “Mom, I know you’re wondering about Claire but please bear with me. You need to hear this. From me. I only came up a couple of times over the next couple of years, but I knew in my heart that something was just not right. I couldn’t put my finger on it, and you seemed so happy and I didn’t want to jeopardize that. So I left it. But Mom, every time I came home it always felt too perfect. That’s what freaked me out. He was always really nice, but I just got bad vibes when I was around him.”

“Hon, why didn’t you say something to me? You know you can tell me anything!”

“I know Mom, but this was different!”

Joline wanted to talk. Janice bit her lip. Claire listened. Her turn would come soon enough. So far, this was going pretty smoothly.

Ok, it was time. “You know how you were always on me about taking pictures.”

“I wasn’t on you . . .”

“Sorry! I didn’t mean anything by that, but you always want me to take pictures, right?”

“Right, and?”

“And I did. Lots every time I was home, especially at your Anniversary.”

“So?” Where was this going?

“Well, I was going through my photos one day and something kept bugging me and I couldn’t figure out what it was. I must have went through those photos fifty times! I didn’t even know why or what I was looking for but I kept going over them, again and again. Finally, I just went to bed. But three or so, boom, I was wide awake and I knew what I was looking for!”

“What?” Janice interrupted.

“This.” and Claire slipped the photos in question to Janice.

“I don’t understand. What am I missing?”

And that’s where Claire took over. Janice was even more confused.

“Just hear me out.” and Claire told her about Derek.

“Derek the detective? The guy that I met the other day?”

“Yes. He’s the lead detective on the Latino case.”

“I’m sorry. I’m missing something here.”

Joline butted in. “Mom, When I saw these photos of Jason, I knew that I’d seen that cross that he wears somewhere before. I just knew it! But I couldn’t figure out why I knew, or even what the big deal was. And then I remembered where I’d seen that cross before.”

On she went ” you know I’m always researching everything. Well, I was flipping through a magazine when I saw that cross.”

“Jason’s cross?”

“Yes! I knew it! So I dug up the article and I printed off those photos I’d taken at your guys place, and sure enough, they were a match! That’s when I freaked out! I wanted to call you but I was scared that you’d confront him and he’d kill you!”

Janice got up and headed straight to the bathroom. “Should I go with her?” Claire to Joline. “No, give her a moment.”

Within a few minutes she was back. “Go on.”

So I decided to send the photos and the article to the lead detective on the case. I gave him my number and asked him to meet me before they confronted Jason. Mom, I was so scared! But I didn’t know what else to,do!”

Janice could only shake her head, back and forth she went, head in hands, mumbling to herself. “Oh my God!”

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