My mother was swaying back and forth as she continued to cry. I removed one hand from the wheel. “We don’t know they’re dead.” I squeezed her hand. “Let’s not lose hope.”
She glanced at me and then nodded, “If they haven’t-” she couldn’t bring herself to finish the words. She started again, “Then why say it?” She looked at me and I saw the fear in her eyes. “Liz, if something happened, you can tell me.”
“Mom, you know I’d never hurt Daniel or Chris.” I stopped at the traffic light. “Someone is out for revenge and they want to cause me as much pain as they can.” I just prayed that didn’t include murdering my family.
“But who would do that to you?” my mom looked unconvinced; probably thinking this was another element of my supposed mental issues.
“I don’t know but I’m going to find out. I hope the footage we got gives us some clues,” I added. My mother remained silent for the rest of the trip. The thought of my little Daniel dead made me sick to my stomach. I fought down the nausea. Even worse was the fact that my mother still wasn’t convinced I hadn’t played a part. Don’t think about it. Daniel and Chris are alive. They have to be. The person that wrote the note wants you to suffer but they wouldn’t kill, would they? I shivered despite the hot sun beating down through the windows.
I got out of the truck and unlocked the motel room door. The laptop was sitting on the bed. “Did you watch me all night?” I asked my mother.
“No, I fell asleep at some point,” she replied.
“Do you know about what time that was?”
She thought for a moment. “It was after midnight. I woke up around four this morning.”
I flipped through the footage noting the time stamps. I moved through the clips quickly. It plainly showed I’d never left the room. I dug out the security system manual I’d hidden under my shirt. I turned to the section about viewing the camera footage remotely. I was glad I’d remembered the salesman’s pitch about being able to check the house while we were on vacation. He’d launched into the system’s benefits before he realized he had a customer that was a sure thing due to my circumstances.
Mom gasped when she saw the figure in black unlock my door and lay the latest note on the kitchen island.
“Obviously, that’s not me,” I pointed out to dispute what Emily had said earlier.
“No,” Mom agreed slowly. “But whoever it is, she’s trying again to make it look like you.”
I glanced at my mother. At least she believed me now. “What do you mean?”
“Rewind it,” Mom said. “Stop there,” she pointed at the screen where an arm was visible. A dangling bracelet with a large circle flashed into view. It was illuminated by the flashlight the intruder had used. I could read my initials.
“It’s the bracelet I picked out for Daniel to give you for your birthday last year. I didn’t notice it was gone when I went through your jewelry. All the expensive pieces were there. I didn’t check the bottom drawers of the wardrobe where you keep the rest. I figured if they didn’t take the real stuff, they’d hardly bother with costume jewelry.” My mother pointed to the screen once more. “Rewind it again.”
We watched the footage another time. It looked as if the person meant to light up the bracelet with the flashlight. They tried to make it look accidental but the movement was stiff. “They’re either the worst burglar ever or they were trying to make it look like I’d left the note again.”
My mother shook her head, “It doesn’t make sense.” She sat down on the bed, “You wouldn’t leave a note implying you’d…done that.” She’d paused, unable to say the words, killed them.
“But I’m supposed to be crazy, remember?” I said. I noticed her wince. “Maybe they’re trying to act like I have multiple personalities and not schizophrenia.” The thought occurred to me as I remembered someone calling the front desk pretending to be me and even going so far as to pay my bill.
“We have to call Emily,” my mother said. “She has to see this.”
“No, not yet,” I replied. “Don’t say a word about this to anyone.”
Mom looked confused and I could see her again questioning whether I had anything to do with Chris and Daniel’s disappearance.
“There’s something I have to do first,” I said. “Then I’ll call Emily.”
A new idea struck my mother, “Do you know who it is? Are you going after them?”
“No,” I replied quickly. “I just have a hunch and I’d like to be able to hand Emily some pieces of evidence that might help her.”
“I don’t think that’s a good idea. If Chris and Daniel are still alive–”
“Trust me, Mom,” I interrupted. I realized it was the wrong thing to say the moment the words left my mouth. Instead of looking reassured, she appeared scared. “It will be alright,” I added. “I’ll drive you back to the house.”
We started for the truck. I drove fast and we didn’t talk. My driving probably made her even more nervous than before. When we reached her home I asked, “Can I borrow your laptop for a little while longer?”
“Sure,” she said. “Where are you going now?”
“I have to pick up a few more things at my house and the store. Then I’m hitting the road.” I could tell she was less than thrilled with me returning home. “I’ll keep in touch, I promise.”
“I really wish you’d call Emily,” she said again.
“I will,” eventually, I added mentally. I gave her a small wave goodbye and backed the truck onto the main road again. I felt a shiver of unease myself as I went back into my home. I ran into the bedroom and grabbed a suitcase. I threw some clothes and toiletries in it but that wasn’t my goal in returning. If anyone was still