“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.”
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.”