What Was Lost
That Secret That You Know
The nurse is just leaving after checking Jenny over when there's a light knock on her hospital room door. She cranes her neck up to see her visitor. Even with the early morning daylight streaming in through the window obscuring her view, she knows who he is. She'd know that silhouette anywhere.
"Hey Chuck," Jenny says, giving him the best smile she can muster in her condition. And even with her head wrapped in bandages, and even with her arm in a sling, and even after that strange dream, Jenny is genuinely happy to see him. There were moments during the accident she was convinced she wouldn't get this opportunity again.
Chuck's at her bedside in a flash. He has a drink holder with two cups and a bag that smells like something delicious that he promptly sits down as he pulls a chair up to sit next to her bed, taking her good hand in his.
"I'm sorry I wasn't here when you woke up," Chuck says. When they fight, he's always the first to apologize. He's the first to apologize even when they don't fight, even if it's not necessary, like now. It's a trait that would annoy Jenny if he wasn't so charming about it.
"You don't need to apologize, Chuck. I under—"
"No, I mean, I wanted to be here, but they're kind of strict about visiting hours here, and they made me leave, and really, you should talk to someone about your insurance, because I told them to take you to Westside so Ellie could take care of you, but they said you weren't covered there because of where the accident happened, and—"
"Chuck," Jenny says gently, interrupting his rambling, which she also has always found oddly charming. "It's okay, I promise. Now, I think I smell breakfast."
"Oh, right," Chuck says, jumping from the chair, releasing her hand and fumbling with the bag he brought in earlier. "Since I couldn't get in to see you, I thought you might want something to eat. You know, something decent, because if there's one thing I've learned from having a doctor for a sister, it's that—"
"Hospital food blows?" Jenny asks.
"Yeah, pretty much," he answers. "So for you, milady, there will be no hospital food. Just a chocolate croissant and a nice cup of coffee from that place you like, just the way you take it."
"Double shot Americano, no cream, no sugar?" Jenny asks.
"Please, who you think you're talking to?"
Jenny loves the way Chuck puts her at ease. Loves the way he takes care of her. Things between them are just so beautifully simple. Still, as much as all that is true, Jenny is unsure if she should tell Chuck about the voice that spoke to her after the accident. She doesn't know if she can tell Chuck about the woman that appeared to her in her memory, or dream, or whatever it was.
Would he understand? He's always been so understanding of Jenny's other quirks and issues, but could this be the one thing that pushes him over the edge, makes him think she's crazy? Often times, throughout her search for her true self, Chuck has been the only one that's supported her. He's been the only one in her corner. She can't afford to lose him now.
"It's good," Jenny says through a mouth full of pastry, drawing a chuckle from her fiancé. She's doing her best to mask the whirlwind of emotion and thoughts running through her head, and for the moment at least, it seems to be working.
"Oh, I spoke to the nurse at the front desk. She said that your attending was running late, but as soon as he can get in and look you over one last time, you'll be discharged so I can take you home," Chuck says.
"Good," Jenny answers. "I can't wait to be out of here. I'll probably rest much better when I can sleep in my own bed. And see Gracie."
"You didn't sleep well?" Chuck asks, suddenly concerned.
Jenny chews her lip contemplatively. It would be an obvious tell if she was playing poker or something, but Chuck doesn't seem to pick up on it. He sucks at poker anyway. But he's given her the perfect opportunity to tell him about her dream, about the voice, and she really wants to talk to him about it, to confide in him. He's the one she's chosen as her life partner, and she knows she really should let him in on things like this.
"Well, see," she starts, then stops. She still can't work up the courage to tell him. "I was just worried about Gracie. And you."
Chuck's expression at this point is one full of sympathy, and concern, and love. He's bought her lie.
"You don't have to worry about us," he says softly, pushing a stray lock of hair out of her face, behind her ear. "It's our turn to take care of you. We just want you to get better."
She should feel touched, and she does, only more than that, she feels the pang of guilt. Guilt that she's lying to him. Not overtly, of course, but lies of omission are lies still the same.
"Why are you so good to me?" she asks. The question, she knows, is loaded with the guilt she feels. That's what makes her voice almost crack as she says it.
"Because I love you," he answers, only making Jenny feel worse. Why does he have to be so sweet, so genuine right now? It makes hiding the truth from him even harder.
"I love you too," she says softly.
Jenny thinks for a moment. She's going to tell Chuck the truth, the whole truth. She's going to tell him about the voice that saved her as she was set adrift in a dark lake. She's going to tell him about the woman that came to her in her dream. She's going to tell him everything, and he won't judge her, because he loves her.
She's going to tell him. Later.
"And we'll leave you tonight with a happy story. A real Holiday Miracle," says the television news anchor. The prisoners at this secure facility are brought into a common room to watch television for one hour every day. More often than not, bringing the criminals together only leads to fights, but it gives the guards cause to inflict pain on those prisoners, and that's the real reason this hour even exists.
"Last night, an accident on Glendale Boulevard left Jennifer Burton, of Burbank, hospitalized when her car swerved into a bridge railing. Burton was thrown clear of the gar and into Echo Lake in what authorities claim should have been fatal. Fortunately for her loved ones, this story has a happy ending for Burton. I'm sure they're glad to have her home this Christmas. Her passenger, Jeffrey Barnes, also of Burbank, was treated and released with only minor injuries."
For most, this would be a feel-good story. For the inmates in this top-secret government holding facility, however, feel-good stories don't exist. Most of the prisoners ignore the report completely. All of them do, in fact, until the final shot showing a picture of this "Jennifer Burton."
For one of the prisoners, prisoner number 77142135, Vincent Smith, that face has a meaning. Vincent, a large, bald, intimidating man reaches up and fingers a scar on his own face that runs from the corner of his left eye all the way down to his jaw. Then he erupts.
"How is that bitch still alive!" he shouts, rushing toward the television, which is kept in a solid iron cage. "No, I fucking killed her!" Vincent starts shaking the box holding the television angrily, drawing the attention of the guards.
The first guard that tries to subdue the man is maybe half the prisoner's size. The angry inmate easily takes this guard down with one swing. That's all it takes to induce a full scale riot.
Every prisoner in the room jumps into the fray, attacking the nearest guard they can find. Complete mayhem reigns supreme as prisoners and guards alike attack every warm body in reach. For the prisoners, it's a fight for freedom and revenge against their sometimes abusive captors. For the guards, it's a fight for survival. And for the man that started the entire mêlée, it's a distraction.
Stealthily stepping out of the mass of humanity, Vincent drags one of the felled guards into a corner. He changes into the guard's uniform, takes his keys and gun, and leaves the unconscious prison guard in his underwear in the corner of that room.
Using the mass confusion to his advantage, Vincent is able to walk out the front gate to the prison building. One of the guards at the front entrance waves to him as he passes, and he waves back, faking a smile.
"That was too damn easy," Vincent mutters to himself once he's outside.
Fortunately for him, the guard he ripped off left his car keys in his pocket, complete with keyless entry. A short stroll around the employee parking lot while pressing he "unlock" button yields exactly what he wants. An escape, a location, and now a car. "This is too easy," Vincent repeats to himself as he pulls out onto the main road.
"Hey, boss," Anna Wu says as he walks in the door. She barely looks up from whatever paperwork she's reviewing.
Private Investigator is still not a title John Casey is accustomed to having—in fact he's only had it for two years—but at least he finally has a capable assistant. Anna's a damn fine worker, and tough to boot.
"Wu," he greets her gruffly. "You got anything for me?"
"Got everything you need for Mrs. Kane's case," Anna says.
"Everything?" Casey asks, raising an eyebrow skeptically.
"I got pictures, I got audio, I got video, hell, I think I could've gotten a signed confession, if I wanted," Anna says, shrugging.
"Wait, so you organized a sting yourself?"
Anna shrugs again. "I got bored watching, so I figured I'd get the job done myself. For a software magnate, that Mr. Kane? Not that smart. I had him wrapped around my little finger before we even left the hotel bar."
Casey's laugh rumbles deep in his broad chest. "You know Wu, it's a shame I didn't meet you years ago." He doesn't tell her why. Doesn't tell her that had he met her years ago, she wouldn't be working as an assistant P.I. in some ratty spy shop in a second rate shopping center.
"If you'd met me too many years ago, we'd be going after pedophiles, I think," Anna quips. "I'm only 21."
"Fair enough," Casey says. He lets her think he was talking about private investigator work. "Anything else?"
"Is there?" Anna says excitedly, picking up a file from the table in front of her. "I got a hit on the 'Crazy Amnesia Lady' file."
"Don't you know her personally?" Casey asks. "Why would you call her that?"
"That's how you labeled it," Anna says, turning the file folder to show that that is indeed the case. "And I call her Jenny to her face. But yeah, I got a hit on that other name you told me to use."
"Yeah?" Casey asks.
"Yeah, an overdue library book in Bethesda, Maryland, of all places." Anna pauses, shaking her head. "Who would've thought it? The key to cracking this case could be a book she forgot to return."
"This business is all about the details," Casey says, taking the folder out of Anna's hands.
"Where'd you find that name, anyway? There's nothing in the file about it, and I've never heard Jenny mention it before," Anna says.
"Sources, Wu. It's all about your sources," Casey says vaguely. Once again, there are some things he just can't tell his assistant. "Anyway, good work. On both cases, good work. Looks like there might be some money to throw around here soon, and just in time for Christmas."
"I do like money," Anna says wistfully.
"Anyway, I'll call Ms. Burton up later to let her know we might have something. Right now, I'm gonna step out for a few. Go get a coffee. You need anything?"
"Nah, I'm good," Anna says, waving him away.
Casey realizes that his assistant has long learned that asking for anything during his daily coffee run will generally end in disappointment. His mind, on these trips, is never in the right place to remember. But she doesn't ask where he goes anymore, and she doesn't try to follow him, which Casey respects. He knows Anna knows something goes on while he's away. He figures she probably thinks he has some steamy affair going on, but the truth is, he just goes for pie and coffee.
Of course, it's not really that simple. There's a very specific reason he goes to the same diner every day, and it's not the quality of the pie, as he tells his regular waitress. The reason he goes to that diner is the same reason he's stuck working as a P.I. now. The same reason he came to Burbank to begin with. The same reason he doesn't go when that waitress isn't on shift. It's a reason he's not ready or willing to share with anyone. Not Anna, and certainly not the waitress herself, even if she deserves to know more than anyone.
"Hey, John," the cute server greets him. "Let me guess, apple pie, and coffee, black and bitter?"
"You can read me like a book, Alex," he says affectionately. An affection most people don't realize John Casey possesses. But then, no one knows John like Alex does, even if she doesn't know it yet. Maybe one day he'll tell her, but first he needs a better ending to his story. "You know I love that pie."
Note: I really have to thank my friend Bridget again. She's been editing for me all along, but she completely reworked part of this for me, and it's so much better for her efforts. And for those that have been asking, I hope you enjoyed Casey finally joining the fray. He'll be a major, major player in this story. That's why he got his own point of view portion. And finally, thank you to everyone who has taken the time to read and review my story!