She waited for the police in the living room, staring at the images on the television screen with a dull sense of awareness. Twelve days. She had jumped twelve days into the future, had been nonexistent in the lives of everyone who knew and loved her, somehow managing to control her destination with perfect precision. Maybe Lauren had been right, and there was something different about her.
For the first time it hit her, and Nina felt the grief. She drew in a shuddering breath and lowered her head into her hands. Her companion was kind and permitted her to draw in shuddering breaths, patting her shoulder and saying, "There, there," for she knew it had been an ordeal. The police soon arrived and she was treated carefully, one of the young officers asking for her statement when he was certain she was unharmed. Nina told them what they wanted to hear, that she could not remember much after having been taken, and they drove her to the hospital to run some rudimentary tests. He seemed less inclined to believe her than his partner, her, regarding her with faint suspicion. He stayed with her as his companion got out of the squad car in front of the hospital and Nina looked at him.
"What is your name?" she asked.
"Lt. Broyles." He had dark skin like polished stone and could not have been much older than she was.
Her brow went up slightly and she gave him a tired smile. "And you think I am lying, don't you, Broyles?"
"Yes, ma'am; about what, I don't know, but you're not telling the entire truth."
She leaned her head against the window, tired and feeling ill. "You think I had something to do with her death?"
"Not with her death but with his… maybe." He had a deep voice and impressed her with his tenacity, for he had sharper instincts than they gave him credit for. "There are a few things that don't add up, like how he was able to disappear for so long, or where he kept you, or the fact that you don't remember anything that happened over the last week and a half. That is convenient. Not that I blame you, after what he did to your friend. I would have run over him myself."
"So you think I did what, threw him in front of the car?" Nina felt the slightest chill creep up her spine, for he was dangerously near the truth. He considered her in the rear view mirror for a moment and shrugged. Her car door opened and she stepped out at the invitation of his partner. Across the parking lot a familiar voice shouted her name and she turned as Walter ran toward them. The police let him through and until his arms were around her, she had not realized how much she had missed him or how she had feared she would never see him again. "Oh, thank God," he said, drawing back to look at her. "When William told me…" His head rested against hers and he said softly, "We've done nothing but bicker for the last twelve days. He's been an utter bear."
This made her smile.
Keeping one hand where they could see it, the other slid into her pocket. "Inject it," he whispered. "It will make them think you've been given enough tranquilizers to knock out an elephant over the last week. I will wait for you in the lobby. Bell is here too, speaking with the police. He has spent a lot of time with them of late." He released her as a female officer came to escort her into the hospital and glancing across the parking lot, Nina saw the tall, slender man she loved conversing with two officers. He saw her and hesitated but returned his focus to their faces as he deliberately refrained from revealing his emotions. She had seen the look in his eyes and it warmed her as she entered the building. Nina slid her hand into her pocket and slipped the cap off the needle, waiting until the nurse put her in a room and asked her to wait. A curtain was pulled across for privacy and rolling up her arm, Nina positioned the needle where he was most likely to have injected her and drove it in. Walter had not been kidding. The effect of his drug cocktail was powerful and immediate, making her feel slightly dizzy as she dropped the syringe into a nearby trash container filled with similar instruments. She climbed back up onto the waiting table and fought to stay awake, putting on a brave face when the doctor came in.
"Tired?" he asked.
"This won't take long."
He rolled up her sleeve and drew some blood, checking her vitals. He examined her, looking for indications of abuse. Nina was surprised at the toll traveling through time had done on her. She was beginning to bruise and it was painful to breathe. "What on earth did he do to you?" the doctor asked. "It looks as if he beat you half senseless. You really don't remember?"
She shook her head.
"Well, that may be for the best."
He clipped his pen to the clipboard and went around the curtain, his voice murmuring with another one, much deeper and more serious. Nina felt dazed but her exhaustion faded as Bell entered the space. Her arms went around him and he held her close but gently, breathing into her hair. "I thought I had lost you," he said.
"Take me home."
Arm around her, he assisted her down and walked her out, putting her in the car and sliding into the front. Nina lay down against the seat and as Walter got into the front, she asked, "What did you give me?"
"Oh, it's my own special little concoction, quite potent but harmless." He smiled at her.
They argued all the way home, first about one thing and then another, and for once she did not tell them to shut up. It was pleasant to listen to them as she went to sleep. She barely stirred when they stopped and Bell carried her indoors, taking her into his room and placing her on the bed. Drowsy but conscious, she felt him remove her shoes and cover her with a blanket. "William," she murmured and held out her hand to him. His fingers curled around hers and at her invitation he lay down beside her. Nina rested her head against his chest and went back to sleep.
She did not stir until almost two the next afternoon, waking to find light streaming through the far windows. Turning over, she found him seated in a chair nearby, watching her. Twelve days had passed for him; for her, it had only been a matter of hours and the memory of Lauren's death was still vivid in her mind. She drew in a shuddering breath and he took her into his arms, letting her tremble and dissolve into tears against his chest. She cried until there was nothing left, no emotion that could be drawn out of her, until her head hurt so bad she could no longer think. He rocked her back and forth, murmuring words of comfort that were meaningless but quieted her, allowing her to experience her grief.
Memorandums for Lauren were spread throughout the campus, candles, flowers, and photographs of her tucked into a main corner as a shrine. No one mentioned Garret. And as much as she hated what he had done, Nina felt sorry for that, for the parents too ashamed to release the details of his funeral to the newspapers, for his friends who had to pretend they had never known him but mourned all the same. It all came out, or at least the parts the public would believe, that he had been obsessed with a classmate and attempted to conduct an experiment on her on two separate occasions, the second leading to her death. He was considered a "madman."
The one person Nina dreaded seeing most was Marilyn and when the day came, she asked William to go with her. He agreed, each of them sharing a burden of responsibility as they parked in front of the house and rang the bell. Marilyn welcomed them in and embraced Nina, leading her into the front room. Photos of her sister lined the mantle and the baby was cooing in her bassinet. Marilyn looked older than when Nina had seen her last, more tired, the lines deeper around her face with sadness as she said, "I'm so glad you came. I wanted to tell you that… I'm sorry; I know you must blame yourself. I put too much responsibility on you to look after her. There was nothing you could do."
Nina did not know what to say and looked at the floor. Marilyn moved away from her as the baby started to make a fuss and picked the infant up, rocking her. "I want to thank you for being so kind to her. Lauren thought the world of you. She was always talking about how determined you were; how hard you studied. I think she wanted to be like you in her own way, which is why my husband and I would be honored if you would be Olivia's godmother."
This lifted her eyes from the carpet and her mouth dropped open.
Marilyn was smiling at her. "I know it's an enormous responsibility and you don't have to do it, but Lauren would have wished it. If anything happens to us, I don't want her going to a foster home."
The floor dropped out from beneath her and Nina was grateful to be seated. William's fingers closed over hers in a gesture of reassurance. "I don't know what to say," she answered.
"Say you will do it, or at least think about it."
The doorbell rang and craning her neck to see a delivery van parked in front of the house, Marilyn said, "I need to get that. My husband is expecting something. Would you hold her for me?" She lowered the baby into her arms and left the room.
Bell reached forward to tuck the blanket beneath the baby's chin, his brown eyes warming as he looked at them both. "Holding her suits you," he remarked.
The baby was staring up at her with enormous, contented eyes and her mouth curved into a smile as she gurgled. Nina could have sworn she was remembered, or perhaps it was the light streaming off her auburn hair that struck the child with such delight. "I don't want to do this," she said.
"Then don't. I'm sure they will understand."
She chewed on her lip and he offered his finger to the baby. She latched onto it and continued to grin at them, moving her tiny arms and legs up in down in jerky movements. The murmur of her mother's voice was distant in the background. William leaned his head against hers and said, "It is all right to feel intimidated, but Lauren wanted you to be part of this family. Whatever you may think of yourself in all of this, they have faith in you, and so do I."
He kissed the top of her head and stood as Marilyn returned. "Sorry about that, John had a few boxes shipped over from the base. I think he's being transferred again, hopefully somewhere warm."
"Nina and I should go," Bell said, holding out his hand. "I am so glad to have met you."
Marilyn shook his hand and turned to Nina as he left the room, granting them privacy. Nina returned the baby to her mother's arms. "I am honored," she said. "And if you ever need me to, I will take care of her."
"Thank you, Nina." Putting her arm around her, Marilyn said, "For everything."
Understanding passed between them and Nina went out to the car, turning to look back up at the house. An eerie feeling came over her. It was if Lauren's ghost crept up behind her and whispered, "Look after them. Look after her. Make her strong."
"I will," she said.
Lauren smiled at her in her imagination and drifted into nothingness as Nina got into the car. They pulled away from the curb and Nina watched the house in the rear view mirror until it faded from sight. Whatever happened, she would make sure the child would be able to defend herself.
It was a nice name, she thought. Olivia. Olivia Dunham.