Camera Obscura

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Chapter Fourteen

Sunlight was streaming through cracks in the window shade when Larry finally opened his eyes. The sound that had bored through the deep sleep and had awakened him was Jill entering the room with a sack that rustled as she placed it on the table. She unpacked the doughnuts and coffee as quietly as possible, setting the table with paper napkins, sugar packets, and stir sticks.

Larry lay propped on the pillow with his hand behind his head. He smiled as he looked at her. He considered what he was feeling. Aroused? Yes, of course, but it was more than that. Love? Could love happen that quickly? Whatever it was, it felt good, and for the first time in longer than he could remember, he was at peace with himself. If he couldn’t remember everything right now, so what? He would in time, and for now, he was happy just to have Jill with him.

“The mighty huntress goes out, kills breakfast, and brings it home to her mate,” he smiled at her.

She looked at him and grinned. “Believe me, these doughnuts put up a terrific fight.” There was no hint in her face of the terrible dream of the night before. “Want to eat over here? Or do you want me to serve you breakfast in bed?”

“I’m really no good until I’ve had my first cup of coffee in the morning.”

She carried a doughnut to him and sat on the bed while he wolfed it down.

“Oh, I don’t know,” she said in mock seriousness, “You were pretty good earlier this morning.”

He laughed and reached for her, remembering the passion of the early morning hours when she had clung to him in desperation, begging him to drive away the memory of the dreadful dream with his kiss. It had been unbelievable!

She stood and walked to the table to get her own coffee. She sipped it before turning back to him. “I’ve been thinking, Larry.”

“A dangerous sign,” he laughed.

“I think we should leave the investigating to the police.” He started to say something, but she rushed on. “This is getting serious now.”

“You didn’t think it was serious before?” Larry said, sobering.

“In the beginning, I didn’t really know if something was going on or not. Remember, I never saw anything. But now. . .”

“Now that Mike is dead and Luis is in the hospital, it’s not fun anymore. Is that what you’re saying? This was just a game to you?”

“No, of course not. But. . .”

Larry got out of bed and walked to her. He put his hands on her shoulders and looked deeply into her eyes.

“I don’t blame you for being scared. God knows I am too. We don’t know what we’re up against except that these are very bad men.” He took her in his arms and held her gently, then he suddenly he pushed her away. “Jesus Christ! What am I thinking? I can’t let you stay. It’s too dangerous. This time I mean it, Jill. You’re going home and that final.”

“You’re going to get yourself killed.” Fear was etched on her face.

“Don’t worry. I’m not going to do anything stupid. But you’ve got to know I can’t let this drop now. Mike and Luis deserve better.”

“But,” she paused, not wanting to go on but unable to stop, “what if. . .what if they weren’t the targets?”

“Not the. . . Then who?” He stopped, and then it hit him what she was suggesting. “Me? You think they were after me? That’s ridiculous!”

“Why? If those men actually kidnapped a woman and you were a witness, isn’t that reason enough to try to stop you?”

“Maybe. If they knew who the witness was, but they don’t. How could they? Besides, according to the media, not to mention San Francisco’s finest, no one was reported missing, ergo no witness. And. . .”

“But. . .” Jill tried to interrupt.

“AND,” he continued, not letting her speak, “it couldn’t be because we followed them from the Wainwright house either, for the same reason. They never saw my face and even if they did, they wouldn’t know who I am. Last point, Jill; those guys went into the Bay and only one came up, dead. There is just no way, Jill.”

He dropped his hands at the finality of his argument. Jill tried to look at him but couldn’t meet his eyes. She closed her eyes at the enormity of what she knew she had to do. She walked to the window and looked at the street below.

Across the street a woman stopped to buy a bouquet of fresh flowers from a vendor. She pushed her face into them, sniffing their fragrance, and then with a smile she walked on. A storeowner stepped out of his front door with a broom and swept away the litter carelessly dropped by passersby.

People moved up and down the street, completely unaware of the torment in Jill’s mind. She was about to change two lives, and she had doubts whether it was for the better or not. But he deserved to know; she couldn’t go on living the lie.

She turned to him with a sigh, “I think maybe there is.”

“How could that be? I don’t understand.”

Jill looked him squarely in the eyes, “Honestly, you don’t act like a man just out of the hospital, much less. . .”

“Much less a mental hospital?” He was afraid of her tone. It was unlike anything he had heard from her before.

She ignored the barbed comment. “They wanted me to keep an eye on you, Larry, just to make sure you didn’t have trouble adjusting. It seemed the smart thing to do, after all, you’d been sick for a very long time. But I never dreamed. . .”

“Keep an eye on me? Who? When?”

“They said it would be a long time before you’d remember. . .everything.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about, Jill. This is crazy! Who said? Why won’t you answer my questions?”

“The doctor, the people who care about you.”

“McNamara, my editor? The paper? I hardly think they’d. . .”

She reached up to place her hand on his face, but he jerked back and stared at her. She sighed with resignation.

“I don’t know a McNamara, Larry. Only what you’ve told me.”

“Then who, Jill? Who?”

“Your godfather, Larry. Senator Marley.”

“Marley?”

“Francis X, Marley. He’s a United States Senator.”

“No, Jill, that’s just not possible,” Larry said, his voice clouded with confusion, “I never had a godfather. Certainly not one named Marley.”

“Oh, Larry, when you remembered Mike and Luis, I thought. . . But I should have listened; they said you would be confused,” the despair in her voice was palpable. She took a deep breath and continued, “They told me you haven’t seen Senator Marley for years, but he has followed your career. He cares about you”

“Even if all this were true, Jill, and I don’t for a minute believe it, that still wouldn’t mean I’m a target.”

“I didn’t think so either, at first. He said it was just a nasty coincidence.”

“Who, Marley? When?” and then it dawned on him. “Ohhh. Yesterday morning at the pay phone.”

“No. I mean yes, it was yesterday morning, but it was the doctor I was talking to.”

“And when I bumped into you at Cliff House, it was a set up?” Larry’s eyes were like stone as he glared at her. “What about the guy on the cliff? Part of the game?”

“I swear I don’t know, Larry. I never saw anyone on the cliff. The doctor said it was just a coincidence, and I believed him. But after what’s happened, I believe he lied. You did see someone.”

“Big of you. ‘Maybe he’s not crazy after all.’ That what you’re thinking now?”

“No, of course not. I never thought you were crazy. “

“Then, tell me this, why’d they kidnap a woman on the cliff? Or what was it, just something to confuse me some more? And how’d they know I’d be watching?”

“I. . .don’t. . .know!”

“You told them where I was, what I was doing.”

“No!”

“You have a cell phone.”

“I kept in touch with the doctor, of course, but just to tell him how you were. I swear!”

“And where I was.” He turned from her in frustration and anger. “I don’t believe any of this. It’s insane.”

He started pacing the room, glaring at her as he said, acid dripping from his voice, “And what about you? Are you the Senator’s private whore? You sure do put your all into your work, lady.”

“That’s not fair! It isn’t like that.”

She put her hand out to stop his pacing, but he wrenched his arm away.

“I am a nurse, just like I told you. I was only at the clinic a couple of weeks when they told me about you.

“About what I’d been through,” he snorted derisively as he continued his pacing.

“They game me no details, Larry,” she answered, “Only that you’d had some kind of trauma, but they said you were getting better. The doctor didn’t want you to leave the clinic, but you insisted. He was afraid you’d relapse, so they paid me to make sure you were all right. That all, I swear!”

“Yeah, right.”

“Please, Larry, listen to me.” Her voice shook with emotion, “When we went to. . .you know, that place?”

He stopped his pacing and faced her.

“Go on, Nurse Nan, you can say it,” he said, sarcasm dripping from his voice, like acid, “ Morgue.”

“Larry, please. This is very hard for me.” Her hands twisted into a knot,

“Go on. I’m listening.”

“I knew him.”

Larry grabbed her by the shoulders and shook her violently. “You what?”

“His name was Dennis Ritchie. He worked at the hospital too, one of the orderlies. When I saw his body, that’s when I realized they lied to me. I don’t know why, but I think it was you they were after.”

“Dear god!” Larry shouted. “Do you realize what you’ve, what we’ve done? If even part of what you say is true, then I’m responsible for what happened to Mike and Luis. If you had told me. . .us, we could have been more careful. I would never have let Mike go to the apartment alone.”

Jill looked at him in horror, “But, Larry, it never entered my mind. Honestly!””

“God! I can’t believe it! I trusted you!”

“Trust?” Jill lashed back at him. “You’re a fine one to talk after that cock-and-bull story about a wife and child,” she responded in indignation.

“What do you mean?” His face was an angry scowl. “What do they have to do with it? I just find out that I am to blame for my best friend’s death, and you have to remind me that I killed my family too. What kind of coldhearted bitch are you?”

“Oh, come off it! That’s quite a touching story, but it doesn’t work anymore. Mike told me you were never married.”

“He what? How could he say that?” He turned away from her in confusion and pain.

Jill’s anger disappeared as suddenly as it had come on. Larry’s face was a mask of bewilderment.

“You really believe it, don’t you?” She stepped to him and put her hand on his arm. “I don’t know why you were in the hospital. You’re the one that told me about your family, but according to your best friend they never existed. Oh, Larry, I’m so sorry. I’d give anything. . .”

He shook her off, and refusing to look at her said, “I don’t know who you really are what you’re trying to do, but I wish you would just leave me the hell alone and get the shit out of my life!”

“Larry, please, I want to help.”

He turned back to her, his eyes cold and his voice hard. “Whatever the truth may be, my life is my business. There is only one thing you can do for me. Go back to your boss and tell him to go fuck himself.”

Feeling totally helpless, Jill reached out to touch him, but he shrugged her off and turned to stare out the window.

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