Select Page

My younger daughter, a twin, is a convicted killer, her sister, two minutes older, brilliantly successful, considered a genius, but I love them both the same.  What kind of father wouldn’t, even though I’m their father in blood only?

            Two more minutes made that much difference, who would have thought it? I held Jenny when she first arrived and was preoccupied with her when Carrie emerged so the nurse held her. I remember Carrie stayed an extra day because her bilirubin count was down, but not long after that as I was out of the picture, we having agreed to separate when the babies were born.

            As a result, I knew very little about either of them, and, as per our pre-arranged agreement, have had no contact with them since I left. In essence, I was a surrogate father, before the term had ever been used, and that was fine with me. I’d never wanted to have children in the first place, even more so when I found out what a nut-job I’d married. What did I get out of it? A quickie divorce with no strings attached.

            Over the years I often wondered how they were doing, and every day  (I took an out-of-town subscription to their local paper) I would look through the papers (including those from years back on microfilm at the Central Library) seeing if by some miracle I could glean the slightest information about them: articles announcing school graduations, sports accomplishments (it was possible, I’d been quite the athlete in my day and they could have inherited that gene), various church doings, for a laugh the society pages (again, it could have happened, the ex could have married some rich chump, although I doubted anyone else would have her, or she them for that matter), any articles of local color pertaining to children at their particular ages, especially those about abuse or neglect, which I’d never put past her. I also read as many articles as I could on twins; it made me feel better knowing the bond they likely had formed, that they were probably very alike and with similar interests, that they would always have that connection with each other no matter what.

            It was in this way I found out about Carrie’s crime. My heart jumped into my mouth when I saw the inch-high headline: TEEN MURDERS CHILD. I didn’t recognize the face I saw underneath it, but as I read along, sure enough, it was Carrie. My first thought was what a pretty girl she’d turned out to be, slim and dark-haired, slightly resembling Natalie Wood. My next thought was my god she’d been in prison for almost a decade, sentenced to life, and I’d had no idea. It was too cruel. I was surprised their mother hadn’t gotten in touch with me, if only to gloat, or somehow blame me, though as far as I knew there had never been a murder in my family.

            She needn’t have worried on that score because as I thought about what could possibly have happened to cause this, the only things I could come up with were things for which I ludicrously blamed myself:  the fact that I held Jenny first; or that I’d secretly wanted one of them to be a boy, though I’d never admitted this to anyone; that I’d been an absentee as well as a surrogate father; and finally, that I’d married their mother in the first place. I still couldn’t fathom why I’d done that.

            Thanks to good old capitalism, I’d made a pile in the auto industry by patenting a quicker, more efficient and precise machine and method of die casting. Who knew I’d turn out that well, and that my days in metal shop in high school would lead to this?

            None of that mattered now, of course, as I needed to leave as quickly as I could to visit my daughter. As soon as I arrived, I immediately went to the prison where she was incarcerated and was told I couldn’t see her, as she was in solitary confinement under suicide watch, and that even then, only family could visit. I didn’t even bother to protest, as I had no proof she was my daughter.

            I got a hotel room, hired a lawyer the next day, and, after some negotiation, was finally allowed to see her. I’d never been in a prison before and it was worse than anything I’d ever imagined. Talk about what goes on behind closed doors, the manifestation of everything that had ever transpired inside there was palpable, yet I was confident I could reach Carrie and that somehow she would be all right.

            I approached the interview room with trepidation, not lessened by the beefy corrections officer standing by the door. I showed him my pass but before he let me in I asked if he could wait a second. He looked at me like I was daft but merely shrugged his shoulders. I stood in front of the narrow chicken wire-reinforced window to look at Carrie, not knowing what to expect, perhaps even to make sure it was her. She didn’t look much different from the picture I’d seen in the newspaper, except thinner, her face pale and so care worn I almost had to look away. But I merely nodded at the officer who jangled his heavy ring of keys and opened the door.

            I stepped tentatively into the room and when Carrie lifted her head and saw me, all those years we’d been apart seemed to fall away for both of us. Whether it was the circumstances or blood will out I wasn’t going to question it. There was no time to “catch up,” no time to “measure” each other, and physical contact wasn’t allowed; we needed to accept one another just as we were, and that was plenty good enough for now. She said nothing, her only reaction was to shake her head emphatically ”no” at every question I asked about the crime, and I couldn’t help but believe her. I told her I’d hired an attorney, a good one, and he would begin reviewing her case first thing in the morning. Her face changed from doubt to relief to fright in a matter of seconds, and I didn’t know what to say. Finally, I made ready to leave when the guard said “time’s up”.

            “Don’t go” were the first words she spoke and my heart sank, but determined to be strong, I said I’d take care of things and be back as soon and as often as I could.

            While I was able to visit Carrie a few times (to our mutual benefit), not much headway had been made on her case, as the court records had been sealed since she was a minor when the crime took place, and it would take some time to get access to them.

            In the interim, my visits had been curtailed when the prison got an injunction after the trial transcript request was filed. Although my lawyer reassured me this was all gamesmanship, and their doing that meant they may have something to hide, I was skeptical. The only thing that made this remotely palatable was that I wanted to be able to bring Carrie some good news next time I visited her.  

            While awaiting a decision, I decided I might as well try and locate Jenny, about whose whereabouts Carrie had no idea. There was no way I’d give the ex the satisfaction of being beholden to her by calling and asking where I might find her; I’d even stressed that Carrie not breathe a word of my visits to her mother.

            “I won’t- can’t- even if I wanted to,” she said, “she hasn’t visited once since I was sent here. Jenny, either.”

                                                                        —

            Looking through some city directories at the local library, I found a potential candidate, a “J. BADDOUR” in the city, although there was something strange about the long string of addresses under that name, as well as the occupations, which began at “prof,” then gradually declined with each job, the last listing being “dncr.” “What kind of dancer?’ I wondered. Could this even be the same person, much less my daughter, I wondered? I would have thought she would have wanted to make a clean break at such notoriety and make a new start in another city. And if she was still here, why had she never visited her sister or tried to help her?[TE1]  But the name (the ex had kept her maiden name as had my daughters) wasn’t very common and was the only one listed, so I had to assume it was her.    

            What next, I thought? By this time I was anxious to find her and not knowing where to begin decided to hire a P.I. I soon found one randomly in the phone book and went to see him immediately after hanging up the phone. His name was Jim Holton, his office was on top of a storefront on the eastside of the city. Young guy, though he seemed more mature than his years, mop of brown hair, dead serious, which was somehow reassuring. I gave him the information I had (which wasn’t much, just name, age, address, and possible occupation) and the modest retainer he required, then signed the boilerplate contract he issued me.

            “I’ll take it from here, you just sit tight,” he said, “your money back if I don’t find her, minus expenses.”

            “Money is no object,” I said, “how soon do you think you’ll find her?”

            “Hard to tell in these cases,” he said, “but if she’s still in the city, shouldn’t take long. I’ll contact you the minute I find something.”

            He shook hands with me and as I left, for no particular reason I looked up at the sky just as I hit the street.

            I felt a bit better after that, though I sensed an urgent need to find her soon, helpless that it was out of my hands but at the same confident I had picked the right man and relieved that things were moving forward. Nothing left for me to do but go back to my hotel room and wait for word either on Carrie’s case or Jenny’s whereabouts, hopefully both. I hated having all this time on my hands, I was used to being busy. My job as an CEO of an up and coming business, with its many hats to wear, kept me busy 24/7.

            One of the reasons I was nervous about having downtime is I’d been on the wagon for a month or so. I did lot of traveling in my line of work, and every hotel had a bar, which normally I took full advantage of. So far so good, but I could feel that old tenseness return and figured a nice thick steak and a Manhattan would take the edge off, and a couple more Manhattans after that might help me sleep.

            I achieved those objectives forthwith but still managed to get up fairly early feeling none the worse for wear. I’d have to watch it from here on out, though, I’d almost reached the blackout point, from which, for me, there was no return. I had to remain strong for my girls.

            Jim got back to me around noon, saying Jenny was definitely still in the city, and that all those addresses I’d seen were a cover, for what he wasn’t sure yet. I wanted to ask him if the occupations listed were too and how he’d ascertained that in such a short time but he’d already hung up. He was all business, which I appreciated, but not much on the social skills, when I could have used someone to talk to.

            As I said before, having idle time on my hands wasn’t a good thing, I’d either drink or brood. Again, I tried to think of what could possibly have happened to lead Carrie to kill (I refused to call it murder, if she even did it, which I highly doubted) someone (not to mention a child) and naturally drew a blank, because I knew nothing about her. Not that I didn’t think she was capable of it, I believed everyone was under the right circumstances, and if she had near the craziness and temper of her mother it wasn’t all that far-fetched. Boy, we’d had some beauts in our time, her mother and I, real knock-down drag-out affairs, but that all ended when she conceived, as did our marriage. We no longer had the one thing we’d fought most about, and realized there wasn’t anything else to keep us together any longer.

            Just for old time’s sake I decided to revisit some of our old haunts throughout the city. Not that there were any good memories attached, it was just a way of killing time, of getting my mind off things. Still, visiting some of the places brought to mind the brief happiness my ex and I had together, and the hopes we used to have as well.

            We met in a bar, naturally, as the city we lived in was a shot and a beer town with not a lot of other social options back then, but it certainly wasn’t love at first sight or a drunken pickup. In fact, although we hung around with the same group of friends and frequented the same bar, we didn’t really even notice each other, but only got together as a result of being fixed up because we were the last unpaired individuals left in the group. The pregnancy, however, was the result of a Saturday night special, and, I agreed to make it legal only after the pact we agreed on was made.       

            Not a good way to start out, her nefarious scheme and my equally naïve compliance being a recipe for disaster, but in the end we both got what we wanted, although my share of the denouement seemed more like addition by subtraction. Nevertheless it meant a fresh start in a different city and that was the best I could hope for at that point, and, although the resultant aridity of my life was sometimes difficult to bear, it sure beat the alternative had I stayed.

                                                                        —

            And now my life had a dual purpose, literally and figuratively, and I evinced a resoluteness that surprised even me. This was buttressed with some very good news from my lawyer who informed me that the injunction had been quashed and a hearing scheduled that very week, presided over by a judge who was reputed to be fair-minded and even-handed.

            “Everything was all set for the hearing,” he said, “we just have to be there on time. As I said, this is all pretty much a formality.”

            And he was right, pretty much. We could have access to the trial transcripts but would have to view them at the County Court House, and there was a time limit- we had a week. The lawyer wouldn’t have time to help me because he had his law practice to run, but I had no doubt I could do it alone.

            “The key is to find something—anything at all unusual,” he said, “pay particular attention to the evidence, the witnesses, and of course the lawyers (particularly their opening and closing statements), and read carefully the responses of the judge to objections, or other court procedures, and his final statement regarding the sentencing. Anything you see that looks fishy, or out of what you think would be the ordinary, write it down. All we need is the slightest irregularity and we have a case. You might also compare what’s in the trial transcripts to the accounts of the case in the newspapers.”

            It looked like I was going to be hunkered down at both the courthouse and then the library. Not that I minded, if that was the way I could contribute so be it. It was difficult to know where to begin, but I skimmed the entire transcript to see if anything jumped out at me (and nothing did), then painstakingly began on the first page. I was getting pretty discouraged as it all seemed like so much mumbo-jumbo to me. If I could just find the thinnest lifeline to hold on to; as it was I hadn’t yet found anything I even felt was worth noting down.

            Discouraged, I went back to my hotel room where the desk clerk told me I had a message to call back Jim Holton. Nothing urgent, just to call him back when I got the time. I had all the time in the world and called immediately from the phone booth in the lobby.

            “Say Jim, this is John Ames returning your call. You got something for me?”

            “Not a lot, frankly,” Jim said, “and I’m very perplexed about that. Do you have a recent photo of her by any chance? I’m trying to narrow the list of possibilities down. She might even be using an assumed name, as none of the potential targets seemed to fit what little description I do have. Also, do you know where your ex lives now?”

            “Gee, no I don’t to either,” I said, and explained our family situation, then had an idea.

            “She’s a twin,” I said, “and if she looks anything like her sister, you should be able to identify her.”

            Holton had already taken the initiative and had a copy Carrie’s picture some friends of his in the police department had given him. I wanted to ask him why he wanted to know where my ex was, but I could tell Holton was eager to get off the line so I let it go at that.

            “Shouldn’t be long now,” he said, “I think I got a bite on it.”

            Enabled by this bit of positive news, I was back at it first thing the next morning at the court house, feeling as though I was looking at the transcript with fresh eyes, hopeful I would find something this time. And I did. It seems that at one point in the trial it was questioned as to whether they had the right twin. Being identical who was to say who was whom? There was no confession, no eyewitnesses, and the evidence was otherwise purely circumstantial. Now this didn’t mean it wasn’t one of them and I didn’t want to get Jenny involved if I didn’t have to, but there seemed no other way but to find out. I felt it was enough to at least request a hearing and my lawyer agreed with me.

            “And there’s still the newspaper accounts,” I said, “which might contain something even more definitive.”

            With renewed purpose, I went to the library, but I’d never had to deal with microfilm before. I had to request the reels by date, could only get five at a time, and the machine readers were quite old and clunky, the film got twisted several times or wouldn’t load, and one time broke completely and had to be spliced back together. Not to mention I cut my fingers several times on the metal reels. But enough about me. There were two local papers at the time, so I had to compare accounts from both. One (the morning) seemed to provide greater detail, so it became a matter of taking notes from them and checking the notes against the much briefer articles in the evening edition. The work was so monotonous I will admit I got sidetracked, taking periodic breaks by looking at old baseball box scores, advertisements, and local crime blurbs.

            There had been substantial coverage of the crime, it having been compared to the Lindbergh kidnapping. It was amazing how much I learned about Carrie and Jenny and all the things I’d missed while they were growing up, as well as some not too flattering things about my ex. [TE2] All in all, it was extremely painful reading, as you might imagine but I forged on through, paying especial attention to the accounts of the murder and the trial. It turned out they had brought both of my daughters in for questioning as suspects in the murder at the same time, putting them in separate rooms to see if their stories jibed. The ex raised holy hell about that, saying there was no way Jenny could have been involved, and if anyone had done it Carrie had, she’d been trouble for her since the day she was born. Imagine a mother turning on her daughter like that, but while I wanted to try to be objective, I couldn’t give just Carrie the benefit of the doubt either.

            According to the newspaper account they’d gone their divergent ways at an early age. Turned out the ex had wanted it that way, keeping them in separate classes in school, making sure they wore entirely different clothes, even giving each their own room. Divide and conquer I suppose. Her only response when the police had told her what happened was, I’d always figured there was something wrong with her. That really pissed me off, her throwing her kid (my daughter!) under the bus like that. I began to wonder what else she’d done to them.

            It continued just the way it was meant to, Jenny being the popular, smart, successful one, and since she was such a hard act to follow, Carrie’s life had been pretty unremarkable, that is until the murder took place, of course.

            The most striking thing was how much alike they looked. They were identical twins, so that would seem natural, but usually there was one “tell” that identified one from the other, but not so here. Even their mother couldn’t tell them apart, which is one reason why she dressed them in different clothes, not just different in style and color, but in quality, with Carrie, of course getting the inferior clothing. And while their personalities were polar opposites, with Jenny being, as mentioned before, aggressive, outgoing and very social, Carrie was timid to the point of being a recluse. Which is why it seemed so strange that she could have been capable of kidnapping someone and ultimately murdering them. In addition, as they’d learned from teachers, friends and acquaintances—even the police— Jenny was a chameleon, often pretending to be Carrie when it was to her advantage, i.e. to get out of trouble.

            What the source of her antipathy to Carrie was I didn’t know, and couldn’t even speculate. The only thing I could think of was that it was the total surprise (shock was more like it) they were having twins, having had no idea until the last minute, and being woefully unprepared physically and mentally. Jenny, as in all things, was born first, with Carrie following exactly two minutes later.

            As it said in the psychiatric report, while every twin is a complementary twin, as the two words are semantically interrelated, Carrie and Jenny, on the other hand, while they looked exactly alike, were complementary only in the broadest sense of the word, so much that, except for their looks, they were complete opposites. And while Carrie, ever the deferential one, would never think of impinging on her sister’s psyche, Jenny was liable to run rampant on hers.

            As you might imagine, this wreaked havoc with Carrie’s whole being, one of the things they imputed to her at the trial: the psychiatrist consulted by the state concerning the crime stated the suspect was very confused and disoriented, which was exactly how she was when they found her standing in a wooded area on the edge of town, not far from where the murdered boy’s body would be found.

            So, it was all circumstantial evidence. Even I could see that after a quick glimpse at the trial transcript. Which meant it could be overturned. It wouldn’t be easy, but then, just a few days ago, before becoming involved, I had thought it would be impossible to free her. I was already making progress. I needed to stay positive for Carrie.

                                                                        —

            Back at the hotel, I was buzzed on my room phone.

            “Hello?”

            “Hello, Mr. Ames, Jim Holton here.”

            “Call me John,” I replied, “h-have you got something?”

            “Well, I do have something, just not sure what it is yet. Would you like to meet for a drink so we can discuss it further?”

            I hesitated for a moment, then said, “Sure. Downstairs in the lounge OK?”

            “Certainly,” he responded, “I’ll be there in ten.”

            After we hung up my mind started racing. Had he found Jenny? I wasn’t sure about that; he probably would have just come out and said if he had. Maybe there were some complications. I hoped not. He did say he had something, so let’s go and see what it is. I took my shirt and tie off, went in the bathroom and washed my face, wet my hair and combed it. Then I donned a more casual shirt and took the elevator down to the lounge.

            After I was seated, I told the waiter I was expecting someone and would wait until then to order.

            I hadn’t been there long when I saw Jim enter the lounge. I stood up to greet him and signaled the waiter over.

            “Hello, John,” he said, as we shook hands.

            When the waiter arrived, Jim ordered a vodka gimlet. When it was my turn, I hesitated before I ordered a coffee. I saw Jim’s eyebrows rise slightly in surprise.

            “You don’t mind if I…?

            “’Course not,” I answered a little too quickly, “I promised myself I wouldn’t have a drink until this is all settled. Kind of regretting that now,” I added with a wry smile when his cocktail arrived.

            I looked at him expectantly as he took a drink. I laced my black coffee heavily with cream and sugar.

            “I do have something pretty definitive,” Jim said. “Not sure you’re going to like it.”

            “Just give it to me straight,” I said, slightly on edge.

            “We located her. She works at a strip club,” Jim said, “not exactly where we were looking, which is why it took so long to locate her.”

            ‘OK’, I thought, ‘not so bad. Totally unexpected, but nevertheless…’

            “What does she do there?” I asked.

            Jim hesitated before replying.

            “She’s a stripper,” he said.

            “No!” I practically shouted, catching myself, choking on my coffee in doing so. “Do you have pictures?”

            “You want pictures of your daughter…?

            “Of her face! How do you know it’s even her?” I barked, growing more exasperated by the minute.

            “It’s her all right”, Jim said. “Got an anonymous tip, and followed it up immediately. Checked with the management and got her name. I do have some head shots”, he said, spreading a few pictures out on the table like a hand if cards, “if you’d like to verify…”

            “Put those away!” I said, looking around the near-empty lounge to see if anyone was looking. I knew right away it was her, but couldn’t believe it.

            “It’s her,” I said, defeated. “Do you know anything more?”

            “That’s it, for now,” Jim said. “They clammed up pretty quickly once I began asking questions.”

            “What’s our next step?” I asked.

            “I can do some more digging, if you like, see if there’s some kind of back story,” Jim replied.

            “Of course, I want you to. Did I give you the impression I didn’t? Find out all you can, and keep a tail on her. Take your time. Get back to me whenever you have something you think I’d want to know.”

            “Will do, John,” Jim said, “and thanks for the drink.”

                                                                        —

            When my lawyer finally had time to go through the transcript with a fine tooth comb, he found no exculpatory evidence, which was devastating to me, but he told me to hold on, and kept pointing to the fact that Carrie had an alibi, that she never left the house that day, rarely ever left it, as a matter of fact, which the neighbors corroborated. The sole reason she had been charged was because she had been near the scene of the crime around the time the murder was said to have been committed…but that was merely a matter of the detectives who caught the case not doing their jobs and not enough for even a new hearing much less a new trial.

            Still, we had enough hope to go on and pursue the matter further, and the first step in that was identifying Jenny and get her to talk to us. I called Jim to get the name and address where the girl worked. It was a place out on the boulevard called The Jolly Jug (s), which told you right away what kind of place it was. Jim told him to meet him there in a half hour.

            Now we were getting somewhere, though I admit I want there not without the slightest bit of trepidation, not knowing how she would greet me or what she would be like. I had this image of Sybil with multiple personalities in my head though I didn’t believe in such things. I met Jim outside in the tiny parking lot in front of what definitely looked like a joint.

            “Brace yourself, Jack,” Jim said, “it ain’t gonna be pretty. Very sleazy in there, you can tell because it’s as dark inside in the day as the night. For now we’re gonna proceed cautiously, not need to rush things. Scope it out, see what kind of vibe you get about her and the place in general.”

            “You’re the boss, Jim,” I said. “Lead the way.”

            I could see Jim was right about several things and there might have been a few things he missed as soon as I walked in the place: it was dark as a cave, there was no one in there except some old serious drinkers, and a pervasive smell of beer and urine hovering in the air. I couldn’t imagine the place livening up much at night either, and couldn’t help but wonder if maybe Jim wasn’t mistaken and it wasn’t Jenny he saw. ‘How could she have ended up in a place like this was’ another thought that came to mind, but I stifled it stillborn. ‘This actually seemed more like a place the ex would haunt,’ I thought, remembering she’d had a penchant for dive bars when we dated, and started to get paranoid.

            “Hey,” I let slip out, “you sure it wasn’t my ex you saw in here?”

            “Does she look like your daughter?” Jim said dubiously.

            “No,” I said, “but she’s a bit of a shape-shifter, so that doesn’t matter. Jenny inherited that from her.”

            “Let’s see if the palooka over there can help us,” Jim said, nodding over to the bar.

            ‘He sure does look like an ex-boxer,’ I thought, ‘right down to the with the cauliflower ears, flattened nose, and welts on his bald pate.’ The military and mother tattoos on the beefy forearms completed the picture.

            “Let me do the talking,” Jim said in a stage whisper. “Say, barkeep, is Jenny Baddour in right now?”

            “Don’t know anyone by that name,” stevedore arms replied.

            That momentarily threw us for a loop, but Jim pulled the photo of Jenny out of his jacket and said, “How about her?”

            “Who wants to know?” he said.

            “Persistent fellow,’ I thought, about ready to yank him over the bar by his cauliflower ears, fighter or not.

            “We do,” Jim said, calmly and authoritatively, flashing his PI badge, hoping the human punching bag would think he was the police.

            He paused before he said, “She don’t come in ‘til tonight.”

            “What time?” Jim asked.

            “You guys drinkin’?”

            “I’ll have a draft,” Jim said. “Jack?”

            “Just a ginger ale for me,” I said, not wanting to chance the water.

            The baboon gave us a deprecating look as he went to get our orders.

            “Helluva personality,” I said.

            As he set the drinks down the bartender said, “You gentlemen can show yourselves out when you’re finished.”

                                                                        —

            Jim drove me back to the hotel, promising to pick me up at 7:30, as Jenny’s “performance” began at 8, I had heard a few bar patrons say. I could tell they were talking about Jenny and it wasn’t flattering (just them talking about her at all was enough to piss me off, regardless of what they were saying) and I was of a mind to get up and sock the speaker in the jaw so he wouldn’t be doing any talking for a while, but Jim tapped my arm and motioned to the exit and we got up and left.

            Back at the hotel I was about to get a drink to calm my nerves I was so overwrought. What would I say to her? More importantly, what would she say to me? I decided instead to do something I rarely did, lie on the bed and take a brief nap.

            Three hours later I was awakened by the phone. It was Jim telling me he was on his way, and to be waiting outside the hotel.

                                                                        —

            The time has come the walrus said, to talk of many things, that line kept running through my head as we drove over to the place. I hadn’t thought about Alice in Wonderland, one of my favorite books, in years. It somehow didn’t seem any crazier than the situation I was in now. Down the rabbit hole I went.

            When I saw Jenny I almost fell over. To see her in the flesh was to know how exactly alike she and her sister looked, even from a distance.

            I motioned for Jim to stay where he was, then began walking toward her. As I approached, she showed no sign of recognition.

            “Jenny, I’m your father,” I said, holding out my hand.

            “Yes, I know,” she replied, shaking my hand with a hand as cold as a dead fish. “What brings you here after all this time?”

            “I only found out about Carrie’s plight recently,” I said, “and came as soon as I could.”

            “And my plight?” she asked, “what about that?”

            I looked at her uncomprehendingly, thinking she was spoofing me.

            “They think I did it, you know,” she continued.

            “Did what, and who’s they?”

            “They think I framed Carrie, “Jenny said, “there’s a newspaper reporter who’s been following me around for years that says he can prove it. That’s why I had to give up my professorship, and finally ended up here. I’ve been running away from that. Oh, my colleagues at school supported me well enough, but the people in the town where I worked read the articles and were convinced I did it. I couldn’t bear even one person thinking I could do that, so I’ve been on the go, moving from town to town, job to job, trying to keep one step ahead of that reporter. I don’t think he knows where I am, but it’s only a matter of time before he finds me, and then off I go again.”

            Jenny didn’t act or seem one bit like I thought she’d be. Here was no conniver, no haughty, entitled woman (I almost said girl), like her mom. And certainly no stripper. In fact, she seems in as bad shape as Carrie, even though she’s not in prison. Their circumstances seemed eerily similar, although seemingly different. She definitely seems to be in straitened circumstances. No wonder, leading the peripatetic life she has been. It must be hell on her.

            “What does your mother have to say about this?” I asked.

            “I wouldn’t know, Jenny said, “I haven’t seen or heard from her in years.”

            ‘That’s strange,’ I thought, ‘I could see her cutting ties with Carrie, given the predicament she was in, but not with her fair-haired sister.’

            Just then bozo came over from behind the bar and told us to break up our little powwow.

            “It’s time for you to go to work, missy,” he said.

            “She’s done here,” I said, “come on Jenny, let’s go.”

            “Wait just a minute,” the big guy said, “she’s got a contract—I own her.”      

            I was just about to let him have it when Jim rushed up and intervened.

            “Let’s just go,” he said, shepherding me away.

            “You coming?” I asked Jenny.

            “But what…?”

            “Just come with me, I’ve got a hotel room and I’ll get you one too. Let’s try to sort this out and see if we can make any sense of it,” I said.

            As we were leaving, I introduced Jenny and Jim, then asked him in a stage whisper, “You know what’s next, right?”

            “I’m way ahead of you,” Jim said, “I’ve already got an operative on it. I believe she’s right here in town.”

            “Good,” I said, “take us back to the hotel. We’ll lay low for a while, like I said, try to sort this out as much as we can. Let me know right away when you find her.”

            “With what?” she asked, “my good looks? And what’s wrong with the stuff I already have?”

            “I’m sure there’s nothing wrong with them, I just don’t want you to go back to get them, wherever they are, is all. I don’t want anyone to know where you are.”

            Jenny said nothing when I handed her the key to her room, fortuitously right next to mine.

            “Let me know when you’re ready to go, “I said.

            Jenny gave no response as she unlocked her door and went in.

            ‘She’s gonna be a tough one,’ I thought. ‘She’s probably mad at both of us, her mother for neglecting her, and me for just showing out of nowhere. That’s to be expected, though, I only hope I can get through to her.’ said, try to sort this out as much as we can. Let me know right away when you find her.”

            “Will do, Jack,” Jim answered as he dropped us off. “Shouldn’t be long now. Nice to meet you, Jenny.”

            As soon as we got inside, I booked Jenny a room at the front desk. She hadn’t said a word to me yet, but as we rode up on the elevator, I realized we’ left so abruptly Jenny hadn’t brought anything with her.

            “We’ll go shopping after you get settled, and you can pick up the things you need for tonight,” I said.

                                                                        —

            When I began asking her questions Jenny seemed confused about everything.

            “I’m no Sybil,” she said, “those high school pranks where I pretended to be Carrie to get out of trouble were just that- high school pranks. I’m surprised anyone took them seriously, except for Carrie, of course, and I’m sorry I did that to her. I haven’t visited her because mom said she didn’t want me there. She kept us apart all those years, you know, although I don’t suppose you’d know that, not having been there. It was just easier to do what she said rather than risk her wrath.”

            Was she blaming me or letting me off the hook? I wondered.

            “The trial was a joke, Jenny said, “the prosecution was bound to find Carrie guilty while the defense was trying to say it was me, a case of mistaken identity.”

            “Are you sure you haven’t seen or heard from your mother? I asked.

            “No, of course not. Why would I lie about something like that?” Jenny replied.

            “Just the same, I’d prefer if you stayed with me for a while,” I said, “at least until your mother can be found. I don’t think she’s through with you yet. And what about the newspaper reporter, why do you think he has it in for you?”

            “I don’t know that he has it in for me,” Jenny said, “although it was peculiar how much information he had about our lives. I don’t know how he got that.”

            Jenny and I looked at each other with a shock of recognition.

            “We’d better find her!” we said in unison.

                                                                        —

            In the end it didn’t matter. Jim had found his ex in the psych ward at a local hospital. The reporter had figured it out. She’d been feeding him information all along, and when he finally confronted her about it, she caved like a mine shaft. She’d orchestrated the whole thing, had even driven Carrie to the scene of the crime and left her there, then called in an anonymous tip. No longer able to control herself, she’d killed the child, and not only blamed Carrie, but also cast suspicion on Jenny with the multiple personality gambit the reporter had played up in the press. She was ultimately diagnosed with multiple personality disorder herself as well as Munchausen syndrome by proxy.

            None of this was reported in the press, it was quietly settled out of court, with Carrie awarded a tidy sum in a civil suit for her false imprisonment. The natural father and his daughters have been reunited and moved to an undisclosed location where, it is assumed, they will live happily ever after.

                                                                        THE END


 [TE1]Plot point