PREVIOUSLY: Carrie vanished during the school talent show. Everyone has parts of the puzzle…
PART 81a: MUM’S THE WORD
Hank Waterson opened his front door almost before his visitor had a chance to knock. “I’m sorry to have called you so early,” he apologized, opting to get straight to the point. “But I couldn’t sleep. I don’t know what to think about this, but her note mentions you, so I thought you might have more information. I don’t want to leave the house either, lest she come home…”
“It’s fine,” Luci assured him. “But like I said, I’ll need to see what Carrie wrote for myself.” She gestured to her companion. “And I hope you don’t mind, but I brought Julie along. She, um, specializes in cryptic Carrie notes.”
Julie gave him a quiet wave.
“That’s fine,” Hank said, beckoning them both inside. “At this point, I’ll take all the help I can get. From what I can gather, Carrie was last seen at the talent show? Is that why she insisted to me that I not be there? How far in advance had she planned her trip? Why didn’t she tell me about it, and when is she coming back?”
The two teenagers exchanged a glance, Julie offering Luci a small shrug.
“We’re not sure about any of that stuff,” Luci hedged. “Aside from yeah, she was last seen at the talent show. Maybe we don’t know that much more than you. Can we see the note?”
Unable to get any sort of read on their expressions, he nodded. “It’s upstairs, in her room. I left everything the way it was. I’d appreciate if you’d do the same, in case we need to open any sort of police investigation into her disappearance.”
“Why, do you think Carrie was coerced into writing whatever it was?” Luci wondered, as they ascended the stairs.
“I don’t know what to think,” Hank admitted. He let them into her room, gesturing at Carrie’s desk, over by the window.
Both Luci and Julie walked over, peering down at the note. Almost immediately, Julie turned to speak for the first time. “How long has Carrie been using this stationery? With the little pocketwatch in the corner?”
Hank shrugged. “I don’t know. I think maybe she bought it a couple of months ago?”
As the brunette considered that, there came a knock at the front door. Hank turned and ran back down the stairs, but instead of seeing Carrie when he opened it, he saw Chartreuse instead. She had a redheaded girl with her, whom he belatedly identified as Laurie.
“H-Hi, sir,” the pink haired teenager said nervously. “Sorry if we’re, like, disturbing you…”
“Did Luci tell you about the note as well?”
Chartreuse tilted her head to the side. “Note?”
Dear Dad, (it read)
Some things have been happening in my life recently that I… I can’t deal with. So I have to disappear. Please know that this isn’t because of anything you’ve done, or didn’t do – I like how things have been getting better between us. I really do. But I don’t think I can go on, not with the path that’s been laid out for me. That said, my leaving? It means she can return. All the best to both of you,
PS- Luci, if things DO go horribly wrong, do NOT hesitate to use the item that you found in that safe!
Julie crossed her arms. “It’s Carrie’s handwriting,” she confirmed for Luci. “And the ‘disappear’ remark would seem to confirm what Chartreuse said.”
“While the postscript obviously refers to the gun. But what about ‘she can return’? Surely that doesn’t mean…” Luci’s voice trailed off as footsteps approached, and moments later, Mr. Waterson was showing Chartreuse and Laurie into Carrie’s bedroom as well.
Chartreuse looked better than she had the previous night. Of course, Julie reflected, it would have been difficult to look worse. After Carrie’s girlfriend (should she now think of Chartreuse that way?) had run off, the rest of them – minus Glen, obviously – had waited around in the hall, making awkward small talk.
Eventually, they had gone back into the auditorium. No one had seemed to know what to say, Julie least of all, given how little she’d spoken to any of them of late. Chartreuse and Laurie hadn’t returned. They’d all left separately, and Julie probably wouldn’t have made any efforts to talk with them today if Luci hadn’t called her.
Julie watched silently as Chartreuse and Laurie read over the note, emitting twin gasps as they got close to the bottom. With Chartreuse though, there seemed to be a dawning realization, if not yet a complete understanding.
“Mr. Waterson?” Luci was speaking again, and pointing to Carrie’s dresser. “That empty picture frame. Do you know what picture used to be in there?”
He turned to look. “Yes, of course. It was Carrie’s mother. My wife, Elaine.”
Chartreuse’s eyes got even bigger than they had the previous night. “Oh my GOD,” she gasped. “She was trying to–”
“Mr. Waterson,” Julie said, cutting off Chartreuse. “We’re developing a working theory here. If you can give us a little time to network with the rest of our friends, we might be able to provide you with some answers by –” She looked from Luci, to Laurie, to Chartreuse, and then back to him. Based on their expressions, this wasn’t going to be straightforward. “The end of the weekend.”
Carrie’s father shook his head. “I can’t wait that long. If my daughter is out there, in trouble…”
“We’ll talk to you sooner if we can, but here’s the thing.” Julie rubbed her forehead. “Did it occur to you that Carrie’s letter might have been referring to the return of your wife?”
“It sort of did,” Mr. Waterson admitted. “But that’s ridiculous, since Elaine disappeared back when Carrie was only three years old.”
Julie nodded slowly. “Thing is? Rather a lot of ridiculous stuff happens at our school. And it’s going to take us some time to figure out where that possibility ranks on our events scale of ‘pop quiz’ to ‘van totalling the library’.”
Lee was the last person to arrive at the LaMille mansion. Julie couldn’t think of a time when they had all been together – herself, Frank, Luci, Clarke, Corry, Laurie, Tim, Chartreuse, and now Lee. Of course, there was one notable missing person.
She fingered the small jade figurine in her hands before placing it carefully back onto the table. At least this time, they knew Carrie couldn’t arrive and object to their gathering.
Julie cleared her throat, drawing everyone’s attention. “Okay. We all have various pieces of the puzzle, but I don’t think any one person knows everything, so we’re going to have to tackle this in pieces until we’re all up to speed. Make sense?”
Corry looked like he might want to say something, fidgeting with the cane he was using owing to his twisted ankle, but he kept silent.
“Okay,” Julie concluded. She sat down in the last available chair and pointed to Luci, perched on the arm of the couch. “Carrie’s letter to her Dad. Go for it.”
Luci outlined what had been in the message that had been left at Carrie’s house, adding that the photo of Carrie’s mother had been missing from her bedroom.
“Meanwhile,” Chartreuse piped up, “I, you know, saw Carrie with a photo as Glen was putting her into that trunk. And Tim saw her with a photo the night she, like, destroyed the chip.”
“You mean Carrie was using her mom’s photo as a focus,” Laurie reasoned. “To strengthen her resolve.”
Frank drew his gaze up from the floor. “There’s another link. That time, in the hospital, with Shady? When Carrie first went a bit crazy? She told me that the presence of her mother had been a strain on the timeline. That, after giving birth, her mom had to disappear, that she and Carrie couldn’t co-exist.”
“Whacky,” Lee mused. “But no more so than the rest of it, I guess. So when did her mom end up instead?”
Frank shrugged. “Carrie couldn’t see it. All we know for sure is that Elaine Waterson disappeared 14 years ago, on a flight from Miami to Bermuda, in the so-called Bermuda triangle.”
“So last night, Carrie went back to get her,” Clarke concluded.
“It would TOTALLY explain why she was so scared,” Chartreuse agreed. “On top of the, you know, issue of seeing her missing mom again, she would also have had to deal with airports or airplanes. She hates those.”
“She managed it not TOO terribly on one of our first time trips,” Frank admitted. “But yeah, point granted.”
“And since neither Carrie, nor her mom, are currently back in the present,” Luci remarked. “The trip can’t have gone well.” Frank nodded, and resumed looking at his shoes.
“Can I say something as the designated jerk in the room?” Corry remarked, waving his cane in the air.
Julie half smiled. “Please do, I rather like that you’re offering to take that title before I end up claiming it.”
“What’s the damn point in knowing when Carrie went? We don’t have a time machine to chase after her.”
“D-Don’t we?” Tim spoke up. As his gaze went to Julie, many of the others looked to her as well.
Julie let out a long breath. “Yeah, not presently. But Tim’s right, in that maybe we could.” She grimaced. “With Mindylenopia’s help.”
“Mindy?” Laurie gasped. “But she’s the one who crashed that van at school! She made Corry and Frank miss two days back in October and she… didn’t Carrie, um…”
“Mindy was banished through time,” Clarke finished. He looked curiously at Julie. “Right?”
“Here’s where it gets fuzzy again,” Luci said. She hopped down from her sofa perch and began to pace. “Frank found an article in the local paper five years ago, a poem simply signed ‘Mindy’, which told us not to trust Glen. Good advice, all things considered.”
Frank picked up the tale. “Then last weekend, Julie got a call from someone claiming to be Mindy. They said that they could help with rebuilding the time machine. But it was a ‘don’t call me, I’ll call you’ thing, and she hasn’t called back – has she?” Julie shook her head.
“Soooo, this is a Mindy with a time machine then?” Lee asked.
“Unlikely,” Luci said. “Our current theory is that she’s the same banished person, who has been in town for the last fifty years or less. Possibly waiting for the chance to get her hands on a time machine again.”
“But then how did Mindy find out about Julie’s work?” Tim protested.
Julie threw up her hands. “However Glen found out, maybe? I swear, I should have taken out a billboard for all the good my secrecy did. But Carrie’s letter TOLD me that I was to–”
“What did THAT letter say?” Corry interrupted. “Do you have it?”
Julie sighed. “No, sorry. I ripped it up. Then burned it. It said I should do that. But give me a second, I’ll see if I can remember…” She closed her eyes trying to see the words again. Recalling the last time she’d looked at them, on that day, before taking off her rose brooch… damn, at this point, she really should get that back out of her drawer.
“Okay, it said, ummm, ‘Please help. It has to be you. You need to watch me now, and when I dispose of the time machine, save the key pieces. Then rebuild it. In secret. Please. Now destroy this note. Yours, Carrie.’”
“Kinda vague then,” Lee remarked.
“And that, like, makes no sense!” Chartreuse asserted. It was chiefly the tone of her voice that drew Julie’s attention – along with that of most of the others. Chartreuse winced under the scrutiny, and began fiddling with a crystal in her hands.
“Chartreuse, why does it make that much of a lack of sense?” Laurie asked, resting her hand on Chartreuse’s leg.
Chartreuse sighed. “It’s… oh boy. See, in timeline three? The one where the old time machine was, you know, still around? Um, Frank died.”
Frank’s posture straightened as he gave up on the plan of mostly staring at his shoes. Luci froze in her pacing. Many of the others present either inhaled or exhaled sharply.
“When?” Tim gasped.
“That time when Carrie was in hospital,” Frank realized. “Oh, geez, it had to be. Since that’s when she destroyed it.”
Julie rose to her feet again. “But my note WAS written by Carrie! Why would she want me to restore a timeline where one of you DIED?”
“Ohh. Oh no. I have a really bad thought,” Luci said. She waited until all eyes were on her before continuing. “What if Julie’s note was written by Glen’s ‘Future Carrie’? The one who wanted our Carrie to run off with him, and who would be extremely annoyed otherwise? Maybe she was trying to restore her timeline.”
NEXT: Do You Mindy?
ASIDE: Last chance to speculate before some massive revelations. Also, consider TWF voting if you didn’t on Friday?