Forging Forever

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Chapter 24

Nissequogue, NY

August 24, 2015

George and Alex Johnson pulled into the driveway of Alex’s childhood home. Their hearts dropped when they saw Catherine’s SUV parked in front of the house. It had been over a week since they had heard from Catherine. The text message she sent them had been cruel and forceful, but it was nothing out of the ordinary. They had received texts like it before. Usually Catherine would stew for a few days then contact them as if nothing had happened. After five days, Alex began to worry. She called Catherine’s school only to find out she had never shown up. After that panic had set in. They attempted to track her cell phone but received no signal. Finally, George contacted On Star and had them track the location of her car. They had been shocked to hear that her car was located here. The moment they found out the location they jumped into their car and made the drive to Nissequogue.

George shut off the engine, then he and Alex went inside the house. The house was silent, just as they had expected it to be. But the atmosphere had changed. There was something heavy and haunting that hung in the air. “Catherine,” Alex called out. There was no answer, not that she expected one.

The house had been turned upside down after Annie’s disappearance. Fingerprint powder covered nearly every hard surface of the huge house. The search had revealed nothing. Alex’s heart dropped at the realization that their other daughter had now disappeared. She had not bought the theory that Annie had been a mere victim of a robbery gone badly. If she had been kidnapped they would have either received a ransom call, or, more terrifying, found a body by now. Now Catherine had disappeared in virtually the same circumstances. There was something about this house that was making her girls disappear. As fantastical as it sounded, it was the only explanation that made any sense.

Alex made her way through the first floor of the house while George went upstairs. For a moment she thought that perhaps the house would swallow them too, make them vanish off the face of the planet. She did not care. If it brought her to her girls she would be happy.

She found herself in the library. Annie had loved this room. Ever since she learned how to read, she would spend hours locked in here, reading the copious tomes that occupied the walls. It was in this room that her love of history and literature were born. The mysteries and puzzles of the past called out to her inquisitive little mind. Alex had always loved watching her read, she loved the play of emotions that crossed her face. She strolled over to one of the bookshelves, running her fingers along a leather bound volume of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes, which had been a particular favorite of Annie’s. She walked further down the wall, examining each book. Each volume was accompanied by a rush of memories. Tears were streaming down her eyes by the time she reached the last shelf. Here were the collected works of Jane Austen, Shakespeare, and Charlotte Bronte. When she reached the end of the shelf she noticed a book that she had not seen before. There was no title emblazoned on its spine. Alex pulled it from the shelf, then went to a chair and examined it. It appeared to be some sort of a journal, and an old one at that. Tenderly she opened it. She was immediately assailed by the familiar handwriting on the page.

August 24, 1780

Mom and dad, it is my hope that this journal somehow finds its’ way into your hands. If you are reading this journal then I have not returned yet from my journey. I fervently hope that this journal reaches you on the day that I want it to. Something tells me that fate guided you to this journal at the appropriate time. If I am correct then you are reading this journal on August 24, 2015, a month after my disappearance. I must ask you a favor before I begin this journal: please do not read this whole journal at once. The events in this journal are in some ways heartbreaking and definitely life changing. Do not burden yourself any more than you must.

Now, I must apologize for the agony you must be experiencing. My disappearance was not at all planned, at least not by me. In this journal I will explain the circumstances that led to my disappearance and why I had to stay in the past. It will give you comfort to know that Catherine is here with me, and as of now she is unharmed. Although her reasons for coming to the past were far less noble than mine, but I will touch on that later.

Alex dropped the journal. “George! Get down here!” She heard George’s feet fly down the stairs and into the library.

“What’s wrong?” He was out of breath by the time he reached his wife’s side.

“I found something.” Alex picked up the journal and handed it to George. He scanned the page, his face going white with fear. “We need to read it. We need to find out what happened to our daughters.”

George nodded then sat down next to his wife. Together they read through the first entry of the journal. Through her words, Annie described the encoded notes and cipher she had found in the attic. She spoke of the arrival of a Cameron Evans. She talked about the visitation from her grandfather and the escape that she and Cameron were forced to make on the night of her disappearance.

I had no intention of going back to the past with Cameron. While the thought intrigued me, I knew I had too much to give up in the present. I could not imagine leaving behind all those that I cared for. I was going to find a way to give Cameron the necessary information then send him home. But the circumstances of that night forced my hand. Originally I had no idea who had broken into the house or why. Now I suspect that it was Catherine and the motive for her visit was the same as the motive she has for being here in the past: she wants to kill me. I knew our relationship was strained and that she held some sort of grudge against me, but I had no idea her animosity ran so deep.

Alex had to stop reading for a moment. She felt the page. Remnants of a centuries old tear wrinkled the page. She could imagine Annie sitting at a desk and crying over the irrevocable words that she was writing.

It is my hope that I can dig deep and find the root of the problem. Once that is discovered I can find a way to resolve it and perhaps Catherine and I can be sisters again. Until then I will have to keep my guard up so that I can complete the task that I was sent here to do. Once that task is complete I will return home with Catherine, then we can go about putting the pieces of our lives back together.

About an hour later George and Alex finished reading the journal. Alex felt a heavy ache in her heart for the situation that Annie had been forced into. The dilemma she felt regarding ensuring Major Andre’s death wore heavily on her. His kindness and caring have influenced me in ways that I did not anticipate. I had thought that I could go through the motions, that I could put on a convincing show for the rest of the participants to trust that my information is true. I thought it would be easy. It turns out the opposite is true. Alex knew that when Annie returned she would be broken, hopefully not beyond repair.

Alex held onto the journal. It was her only connection to her daughter. Oddly enough she had no doubt that the journal was authentic and that it had been written by Annie. Alex had always loved this house, but she had always felt that something mysterious hid within its walls. It had never caused her fear. If anything it had inspired a cautious wonder within her. Several times she had thought about uncovering the mysteries that were closed within these walls, but her desire for safety and security had always beaten out her curiosity.

They decided to stay at the house. The two of them had taken a leave of absence from their respective jobs once Annie had gone missing, so as of now they had nowhere to go. They wanted to be there when their daughters returned. After they finished the journal entry, Alex and George climbed up the stairs and into their bedroom. The journal had been a comfort to Alex. Yes, her daughters were still gone, still held by the past. But Annie had written the journal and had found a way to bring it to the house, which meant she was alive. As Alex drifted off to sleep that night, the closing words of Annie’s journal repeated through her head. She could hear her daughter saying them as if she were sitting right next to her.

I know that after reading this journal your instinct will be to come to me, to rescue me from this mess I’m in. I beg you to stay where you are. Your presence here will only make my task more difficult. Know that I love you and I miss you. I will return to you, somehow. Until then stay strong.

All my love,

Annie

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