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.