Murdo Girl…Living the dream, 33, A long night

Jack continued to stare at the three photographs on the coffee table. He had just learned that Annette had been his wife, Jennifer’s younger sister.

Jack would never forget the day he got the call telling him that Jennifer had been badly burned in a fire and was in grave condition in a little hospital in Danfield. Jennifer’s mother and stepfather were at the hospital with the girls. By the time Jack got there, Jennifer was gone. The police said it had been a terrible accident involving a fire that got out of hand at a picnic.

Jack had quickly made the arrangements to have his wife’s body brought back to Brewster and then he took his distraught daughters home.

As soon as the funeral arrangements had been made, Jack called Jennifer’s mother, but she was so consumed with grief, she couldn’t come to the phone. He asked the stepfather about the aunt Jennifer had lived with in Seattle and was told she was out of the country and couldn’t be reached.

Jack had always wondered why Jennifer, after all those years, had decided to take the girls to see her mother and stepfather. She hadn’t even mentioned Annette who hadn’t been at the hospital or the funeral.

Maybe he should have helped the girls remember. The truth is, he did want them to.

Jack was brought back to the present by something Kat was saying.

“Where does this leave us?” Kat asked. “I can’t think about what all these family connections might mean right now. The fact is we’re no closer to finding the girls.”

Jack’s phone was sitting on the coffee table near the photographs. Suddenly it rang, startling everyone in the room.

“Hello Jack. This is Annette. I know where the girls are. Oh Jack…I didn’t mean for any of this to happen. The girls are with my mother at our cabin nine miles from Danfield. At least they were. Jack, the police were following a fire truck up there. They said there is a cabin on fire in that location and there is a terrible storm that is getting worse. I have to go. Please get here as soon as you can. Come to the Roadside Cafe.”

With that, the phone went dead.

Vanessa was doing her best to keep moving. Poor Alice was moments from collapsing. She desperately wanted to lie down in the snow and sleep. The girls were both getting disoriented, but the lights were getting closer. It had to be Danfield. They surely had gone five miles since they saw the sign.

“Keep walking, Alice,” she said. “The lights are getting closer. We’re almost there.”

But it wasn’t Danfield they saw. It was a car. The driver rolled down the window and Vanessa could feel the warm air coming from the inside.

“Get in the car,” a voice said. “It’s nice and warm in here. I’ll help you both get in.”

The last thing Vanessa noticed before she drifted off to sleep is the smell of smoke. The last thing she heard was a voice whisper. “Why did you leave me?”

The policemen turned on their siren and headed for the Danfield Hospital.

Murdo Girl…Living the dream, 32. Can it be?

Stella stared at the photographs in front of her. The only people she thought she recognized were the two little girls in the white dresses. They looked like Jack’s daughters when they were younger. Then she looked more closely at the photograph that, because of the way the two ladies were dressed, must have been taken in the 50’s.

She was sure the one on the right was Miss Claire. She had no idea who the other lady was nor did she recognize the girls in the fancy dresses… though the one on the right looked familiar. Stella decided to put the photos in the “keep” box.

Maybe she should call Kat. Something didn’t seem right.

Annette was finishing up her third cup of coffee when two policemen walked into the cafe. The waitress met them at a table with two cups and a pot of coffee.

“What are you two doing up this way? You’re not going to try to make it any further up the mountain are you? The road must be getting pretty bad by now.”

“Well, Sandy, as a matter of fact, we’re just stopping by to fill our thermoses. A fire truck is on it’s way. A couple who live close to the top of the mountain were able to get through on their short-wave radio. They saw a lot of smoke coming from a cabin down below them. They seemed to think the cabin isn’t occupied by anyone, but we need to make sure.

The two men took their full thermoses, thanked the waitress, and headed to their car, just as the firetruck went by.

Annette threw some money on the table and ran out to try to catch the policemen.

“Stop! You have to take me with you! My mother and two young girls are in a cabin up there. What if it’s the one on fire?”

“I’m sorry lady,” the policeman said before he hopped in the car. “You’ll have to wait here. If it’s them, we’ll come back here to let you know the status. We might not be able to get that far, anyway…good thing we have chains on the tires.”

For a minute, Annette thought about getting in her car and trying to make it, but then thought better if it and went back inside. She had another thought.

“Do you have phone service?” She asked the waitress.

Vanessa and Alice could see lights ahead of them. They had walked so far and they were beyond cold. “Please, God help us make it to the lights,” Vanessa whispered. “Keep walking toward the lights, Alice.”

“I need to go to sleep, Vanessa. I can’t go any further. Please let me lie down and sleep.”

Back at Jack’s house, he and Kat were trying to pull the Truth or Consequences team together. They wanted each of them to fill everyone else in on what they knew about Annette Morris and her family. They had just gotten started when Kat got a phone call. It was Stella.

“I don’t know what it could possibly mean, but I’ve been up in the attic looking through some boxes. Your mother had a photograph of Jack’s daughters. I would say it was taken four or five years ago. There are some other pictures you might want to see as well.

“Okay, Stella. I’ll send someone to pick them up…thank you.”

When Kat got off the phone, she heard Carolyn say that Annette’s mother had been diagnosed with Alzheimers.

“That was a few years back,” Carolyn said. “I would be surprised if she’s still able to function alone.”

“Did you work with her, Carolyn, in your capacity as an Alzheimer’s advocate and volunteer?” Kat asked.

“No, but I met her once. She was with Annette and your mother. They were having lunch together.”

The doorbell rang and Jack went to answer it. Agent Black had gone to Kat’s and picked up the photographs from Stella. Jack took them and walked over to the coffee table so he could put them where everyone could see them.

“That looks like Annette’s mother,” Carolyn said. “And that’s your mother standing next to her isn’t it, Kat? It sure looks like a younger Claire.”

All the blood had drained from Jack’s face. “Those two little girls are my daughters. Why would Claire have this picture? She barely knew them.

I know who the other young girls are, too, though the photo must have been taken before Jennifer went to live with her aunt. That was long before I knew her, but it’s her. It’s the girl who became my wife. If you look closely, you’ll recognize the other girl.

“The other girl is Annette isn’t it, Jack? “Three sets of sisters.”

Kat said the words more to herself than to anyone else.

Murdo Girl…A new tailwagger

I might be getting up in years but birthdays never bothered me. As long as I can wag my tail, I’m as happy as can be.

My eyes can’t see you like they used to, but I can smell you anywhere. Have you seen how good I look, since I let them wash my hair?

I bet that I can find a quail and point to where I know he’ll be. When my hunting job is done, I hope that you will play with me.

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I really like my new home. I really liked my old one, too. I’m so grateful to my families… both the old one and the new.

My new humans changed my name. Don’t you think that’s kind of strange? They said it had to end with ie. I’m pretty old to make that change.

 I used to have a hen and a rooster. They both got in my doghouse. I kind of miss them now and then, but not enough to leave my couch.

Yup, I really can’t complain. I’ve had a good life overall. I know I have some good years left. Instead of birds, I’ll chase a ball.

Meet Lilie Dale aka Yipper. She’s a short haired German pointer.

Murdo Girl…Living the Dream, 31, The storm

“I’m cold and I’m scared,” Alice said as she and Vanessa trudged through the growing snow drifts. “How do we even know if we’re on the road? I can’t see anything.”

“We’re on the road,” Vanessa tried to assure her little sister. “I saw a sign about a half mile back that said Danfield is five miles ahead of us. It has to be a town. All we can do is keep going…and Alice…if you see car lights behind us, get off the road and hide. It could be Mrs. Morris.”

What the girls didn’t know was that Mrs. Morris wasn’t going anywhere right now. The loud noise that woke her in the night was from the explosion of a gas cylinder that was sitting just inside the kitchen door. It must have been leaking and a spark from the little heater she had turned on before going to bed, had started a fire.

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Regardless, the fire was spreading fast and Edith Morris was so stunned, that at that moment, she didn’t have the presence of mind to get out.

Annette was on her way to the cabin and had made it as far as Danfield. She saw a little cafe on the side of the road and decided to pull in and wait out the storm with a hot cup of coffee. It probably wouldn’t be long before they closed the road to the cabin, anyway. She only hoped her mother and the girls were safe inside. It seemed that more and more her mother’s mind drifted back to the past and that was not a good place for her mind to be.

The last thing Annette wanted was to do harm to anyone. She only hoped to bring Jack Stein down a notch. She really didn’t care about Kat one way or the other. And then there was dear Aunt Claire. She died and left a mess for everyone else to clean up.

Jack and Kat left Kat’s house and went back to join the two FBI investigators at Jack’s home. They brought all of the files on the members of Project Truth or Consequences with them just in case. Stella was at her wits end. She was left there to take care of the two dogs and the house. To pass the time, she decided to go up in the attic and start to clean out some of Miss Claire’s boxes. It was a project she had planned to start weeks ago. The first thing she opened was a box of photographs.

 

 

 

 

 

Murdo Girl…Yram helps out Queen E.

Hi…I’m Yram Sicnarf, crack-up reporter from Gun Barrel City. I snagged an interview with Queen E. who has always been Mum, but recently, she’s  been a mum mum where Merry (Megan and Harry) are concerned. You can overeavesdrop on the interview.

Yram: So Queen E, how’s the world been treatin ya? I haven’t seen you since MG ran for Next Pres.

QE: Chip, Chip Cheerio, Yram…Too bad she didn’t get signed up in all fifty states. It could have made a difference. It sure was a fun campaign, though. I guess you know about my monarchy mess. Do you know how old I am Yram?

Yram: Don’t you?

QE: I’m 93…ninety plus three… Meg wants to do a voice-over for Disney. I was offered that part 69 years ago. I sure wish I would have taken it.

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Yram: I’m pretty sure there’s been more than one. Say…why don’t give Meg a run for her money? You should audition for the part. Never give up on your daydream Queen E.

QE: You mean a run for MY money. I’ll do it. Do you mind if I call my agent?

Yram: Uh, no. When was the last time you talked to him?

QE: 69 years ago but I’m sure he’ll remember me. (Queen E dials the number. Someone answers. We only hear the Queen’s side of the conversation. “What do you mean he’s in the slammer?” The Queen hangs up the phone.) Well, Yram…YOU can get me that part. Cam can run things around here for a while.

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“BUT I HAVE A HEADACHE!”

Yram: I’ll get Airy Airhart and Windy Berg to crank up the Cesna. Could you lay a few pounds on us, Queen E? We barely had enough gas to get over the pond, today.

Later

Windy: Well…It looks like we’re almost ready for take-off, Airy. All we have to do is wait for Yram and Queen E. to show up… and I still have to file my nails. Are you ready?”

Airy: I just have to put on my Jr. Pilot pin. I’ve had this thing since third grade. Yram said we’re going to Disneyland. Can we land on the Matterhorn? 

Windy: Sure, sounds like fun.

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We made it! Look! There’s Minnie and Mickey. “Will you get us out of here Mickey and Minnie?”

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“WHEEEEEEE”

 

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Yram: Excuse me sir…Can you please take me to see Walt Disney? He thinks his little Princess Elsa is cool, just wait until he gets a load of Queen E! She’s got this job in the bag. Have fun in Canada Merry!

Hey! What’s Lav doing in that hot-air balloon?

HOLLYWOOD…HERE WE COME!

 

 

Murdo Girl…Living the dream, 30, big news for Jack

While Vanessa and Alice searched in the darkness for the road that would take them to civilization, their father and Kat arrived at Kat’s house. They were trying to get more information about Annette Morris’ family. It was suspected that Annette had something to do with the disappearance of Jack’s two daughters. She appeared to have a grudge against both Jack and Kat and had been acting strange recently.

Kat recalled her mother giving her a folder for each participant in project Truth or Consequences. Until a few days ago, Annette had been a part of the group.

“Here it is,” Kat was holding an envelope with the name Annette Morris on it.

“Do you mind if I take a look at it, Kat? I’ve begun to realize that I know very little about Annette. I’m not even sure what an Art Therapist is. She was the most recent addition to the group, but I will say, she was becoming very effective.

It says here that her father died when she was very young. She was adopted by her mother’s second husband, but her older sister was not. The step-father’s name was Alfred Morris.”

“Wasn’t the older sister raised with Annette?” Kat was trying hard to piece this all together.

“No, she was estranged from her family and lived with an aunt in Seattle, WA.” Other than that, Jennifer isn’t mentioned again in this report.”

“Anything else that stands out to you? We really don’t have much to go on. I hope we’re not wasting our time. Even though Annette lied about her mother’s whereabouts when questioned by the FBI Agents, it doesn’t really confirm any of our suspicions.”

Jack gave the report one last glance and started to hand it back to Kat when something stood out to him. Whatever he saw caused him to look very distressed.

“What is wrong? Kat asked, “You look like you’ve seen a ghost.”

“Not exactly. I’m sure it’s only a coincidence that Jennifer’s last name is the same as my late wife, Jennifer’s maiden name. It couldn’t be that my wife and the mother of my daughters was Annette Morris’ sister.”

Annette decided she should check on her mother and the girls. She was sure the two agents wouldn’t be back tonight. As she was driving to the cabin, it began to snow.

Mrs. Morris, who had fallen asleep in her room at the cabin, was startled awake by a loud noise. She quickly ran to the girls’ bedroom and discovered they were gone.

Murdo Girl…Living the dream, 29, Be brave

“Can we go back to the cabin?” Alice asked. “That fire is scaring me.”

The wind had come up and instead of letting the fire die down, Mrs. Morris had continued to stoke it and throw more pieces of firewood on it.

“We’re almost out of wood and we haven’t even had our picnic yet,” Vanessa said. “Would you like Alice and me to take the wagon back to the cabin and get some more? The walk isn’t that far.”

“No! Mrs. Morris’ was becoming aggitated. “We’ll eat now. The days are still short and it will be getting dark, soon. We’ll let the fire burn down some and then before we leave, you can help me put it out, Jennifer.”

“My name is not Jennifer, It’s Vanessa, and I’m not your daughter.”

This drew a stern look from Mrs. Morris. “Hush Jennifer, ” she said. By the way, I’ve decided you should go live with your aunt. You were always a daddy’s girl, and now that he’s gone. she can deal with you for a while. Now, let’s unpack this lunch and eat. I’m getting weary, and we should all be heading back to the cabin.”

Later that evening, after they all went to bed, Vanessa left Alice sleeping in their room, and tiptoed to listen at Mrs. Morris’ door. She dared to open it a crack and saw her in what appeared to be a deep sleep.

Back in their room, Vanessa woke her little sister and told her to hurry and dress. “We have to try and find our way to the main road,” she said. “Mrs. Morris won’t be keeping such a close watch on us tonight. The walk in the woods really tired her.”

Finding the road would not be easy. The girls had been blindfolded on the drive there. It was as black as coal outside and they had only been able to find one flashlight.

“Don’t worry, Alice,” Vanessa tried to reassure her little sister. “Daddy is looking for us and I’m sure he’ll find us, soon.”

Murdo Girl…Kitty Reynolds

Do you remember all of the times I wrote about Kitty Reynolds in my little Murdo Girl stories? When I gathered all of those stories about my memories of growing up in Murdo and put them in a book, I didn’t have a single picture of Kitty. Thanks to my cousin, Mark, I now have two. I couldn’t believe it when I opened the envelope and saw her again after fifty-four years. I was only fourteen when Kitty moved away.

My first memories of Kitty go back to before I started first grade. She made all of my Easter dresses, most of my school outfits, my baton twirler outfit, and my long red formal. She made countless dresses for several of the ladies in Murdo, including my mother. She also made clothes for quite a few other children in town.

Of course Kitty made the infamous twinsie skirts for Mom and me, the twirler dresses (I’m pretty sure she made those for the high school twirlers, too) and the long red formal. She made a pleated skirt which I had on in the photo with baby, Karen Lindquist. Under the skirt, I wore the petticoat Kitty made for me to wear under a yellow flower girl gown. I was going to be a flower girl in her granddaughter, Judy’s wedding. We thought I wasn’t going to be able to go, so the dress was given to another little girl, but I got to keep the petticoat, I think she made another one for the girl who replaced me. Lois Lilibridge was also a flower girl for Judy. Mom and I ended up going. I got to keep the white patent leather shoes, too.

I recall standing on a little stool in one of kitty’s upstair’s bedrooms while she pinned patterns on me. I was so excited when later she revealed the dress and I got to try it on right before she completed it. She was an extremely talented seamstress.

One of Judy Dykstra-Brown’s sisters had a costume party when she turned thirteen and Judy remembers the complete southern belle, ruffled, hoop-skirted, costume  (complete with picture hat) that Kitty Reynolds made for a friend, (Cheryl Lilibridge) to wear. It was made out of crepe paper! 

You can see the crepe paper dress second from the right in the background. Judy is Little Bo Peep. Isn’t she a cutie!
Some of the ladies Kitty played bridge with… First picture, from left, Harriet Parish, Mom, Elsa Peck and Florence Murphy…Second picture from left, Harriet Parish, Marce Lilibridge, Florence Murphy, Evie Johnson, and Mom. I believe Irma Sanderson was the photographer. 

Kitty was the first lady from the South I had ever known. I loved how she talked with her southern drawl. She dressed to the nines and wore heels even though one of her legs was shorter than the other. At least I think that’s why she walked with a distinct limp.

Anyway, Kitty was a favorite with all of the ladies in town. Between sewing, bridge playing, and going to their coffees, I’m sure she knew all of the latest gossip. She was a real hoot!

The Reynolds lived down the street from us (south of highway 16) and Kitty was one of the food swap ladies I wrote about. That’s what I called the ladies who traded the left-overs my brother had to take to everyone before we could eat our supper that night. Kitty’s specialty was ham and beans with crusty cornbread. She also made the best peach cobbler I had ever eaten before, or have eaten since. She made it with fresh peaches and homemade flaky pie crust, cut into little strips and layered inside the cobbler so you got a piece of crust with every bite. I can still see the big glass bowl she baked it in coming out of the oven in her little kitchen.

Kitty’s husband, Kelly, had a wooden leg that I was afraid of. Sometimes, when he came home from work, he would take it off and stand it in a corner by the door in the living room. Here I was, staring at this surprisingly real looking, fake leg, with a shoe and sock still on it. It looked to me like it could walk right off at any moment. I made Mom come with me when I had to go by it.

Kelly died very unexpectedly of a heart attack. One of Kitty’s daughters from Vernal, Utah came and took Kitty home to live with her. They left a day or so after the funeral. We went to Utah once to see Kitty and that was the last time we saw her before she died several years later.

The pictures below are the two my cousin, Mark Sanderson, sent to me. They were taken the day before Kitty left for Utah, in July of 1966.

I so fondly remember that lady.

Kitty Reynolds and Mark Sanderson
Kitty Reynolds – taken in July of 1966 at the home of Irma and Jeff Sanderson

Murdo Girl…Living the dream, 28, the picnic

It was a cold January day, but Mrs. Morris insisted the three of them have a picnic in the woods. Vanessa and Alice watched as their captor loaded a little wagon with firewood. Both girls were trying not to show how upset and afraid they were. Mrs. Morris had been acting strangely. It seemed as though sometimes she thought Vanessa was her daughter, Jennifer, and other times she was aware that both girls belonged to one of her daughter, Annette’s, co-workers.

When she finished loading the wagon with firewood, Edith Morris turned to the girls and smiled. “Follow me,” she said. “My goodness, you’re both shivering. Don’t worry. You’ll soon be warm and toasty.”

Annette

“My mother is away visiting friends,” Annette said in response to Agent Stedman’s question. As soon as she said it, she realized she should have given her answer more thought.

“But you just said she was ill and you were her only caregiver.” Agent Stedman was trying to back her into a corner and Annette knew it.

“They decided I needed a break and they volunteered to care for her a couple of weeks.”

Until now, Agent Black had not spoken, but he was taking notes. “Where do your friends live?” He asked.

Annette couln’t give him an answer. It would be a lie and what if he checked it out? “I wasn’t telling you the truth,” she said. “My mother was upset with me and she left. I have no idea where she is.”

“You said her health was bad. Is that not true?”

“Mr. Black, my mother is just suffering from the effects of aging. I’m sure she’s fine. Now if you don’t mind, I’d rather not answer anymore questions. You must realize I had nothing to do with the girls disappearance.”

The two agents left Annette and returned to Jack’s home. When they rang the bell, Kat answered the door. They could see that Jack was on the phone. When he hung up, he shook his head indicating he hadn’t gotten any closer to finding out the whereabouts of his daughters.

“Jack,” Blake Stedman said. “What do you know about Annette Morris’ family?”

Jack sat down. He had been up for days and it was beginning to show. “I don’t know anything. The only time we were all together in a social setting was at Kat’s Thanksgiving party. Annette didn’t bring any family members with her.”

“Wait,” Kat said. “My mother gave me a file on each member of Truth or Consequences. She told me I should review them, which I did. Annette’s mother is still living, but her father is deceased. She also had an older sister who died tragically. I don’t believe the file contained any information about when or how she died. I’d be happy to go and get it. I can be back in an hour.”

“I’ll go with you,” Jack said. “I need to get out of here for a while. Blake…Tom, please stay here and wait for us.”

Murdo Girl…Living the dream, 27, Stolen

“I’m scared, Vanessa. Mrs. Morris thinks your name is Jennifer and she wants me to go away. What is wrong with her?”

“Don’t worry, Alice. I won’t let anything happen to you. Mrs. Morris thinks I look like her daughter whose name must be Jennifer. Let’s try to act as normal as possible, but stay close to me, Alice.”

The two girls quickly got ready for the day. Everything they needed to shower and dress was easily found in the closets, drawers, and bathroom. As soon as they were ready, they ventured downstairs where they heard humming coming from the kitchen.

“Good morning, girls,” Mrs. Morris said. “You’re just in time for breakfast. I’ve prepared pancakes and sausages. Sit down at the table and I’ll pour you each some juice.”

The three of them quietly ate their breakfast after which, Mrs. Morris told them to go get warm jackets from their closet while she cleaned up the kitchen.

“I made a picnic lunch,” she said. “We’ll go for a walk in the woods. There is a little picnic area a couple of miles from here that has a place to build a fire. We’ll take a little wagon of firewood with us. I used to take Jennifer and Annette there for picnics. They loved it.”

Annette

Oddly enough, Annette was calm as she waited for the real detectives to arrive. So far, everything had gone as planned.

Poor Jack must be so confused. She had to smile at the thought of Kat and Jack discovering there were two men out there posing as detectives Stedman and Black. That was brilliant on her part. Kat had told them all Annette needed to know. Kat was not planning to press charges against her and for entering her house with a gun. She was also considering staying on board with the Truth or Consequences project. Annette’s involvement had been terminated as a result of her recent behavior and it appeared Jack was more than a little dissolusioned as well.

“Good afternoon Ms. Morris,” Agent Stedman said as he flashed his FBI badge. “This is Agent Black. May we come in? We have some questions we would like to ask you.”

“Of course. Come in. Apparently you don’t recall meeting before. You’re friends of Jack Stein aren’t you?”

Tom Black and Blake Stedman both nodded. “We’re here on a different matter and time is of the essence. Are you aware of the disappearance of Mr. Stein’s two daughters?”

“Oh, no,” Annette sunk down in the chair closest to where she had been standing. “What do you mean by disappearance?”

“The two girls were in school yesterday, but never got on the bus. No one has seen or heard from them since.”

“Jack must be devastated, but what questions could you possibly have for me?” Annette sounded a little more defensive than she had intended to.

Agent Stedman watched Annette for a minute. He was trying to determine what her reaction meant.

“We’re checking out every possible lead. I understand you have been unhappy with Mr. Stein recently. You and a man who spent time in prison because your team, (then led by Claire Spencer), outed him, confronted Claire’s daughter, Kat. I see motive to hurt Jack Stein coming together here.”

“That’s ridiculous,” Annette became even more on edge. “I harbor no Ill will toward Jack or Kat. It’s just…just that I’ve been under a lot of stress lately. My mother has been Ill and I’m her only caregiver.”

“Where is your mother? Does she live here?”

Jack and Kat

“I can’t think of anyone who would want to take the girls,” Jack said.

“Jack,” Kat said. “Where is their mother? You’ve never told me how you came to be a single parent.”

“Jennifer was badly burned in a fire while visiting her parents. She had been estranged from her family for years, and then one day she decided to take the girls to meet their grandmother and grandfather. She saved our two little girls from injury, but she did not survive. Neither Vanessa nor Alice have any memory of what happened. I don’t want them to ever remember.”