Authors: Nancy Loyan
Tags: #Romance, #paranormal
“When we pulled it out of the bay, we had the car thoroughly inspected. It was discovered that your clutch had been tampered with.”
“Oh no!” She drew her hands up to her ashen face. “Bradley. He had the car serviced the day before the … mishap.”
The detective nodded with a glimmer in his eyes. “Did you know about the life insurance policy?”
“The what?” she asked, fearing what revelation the detective might uncover next.
“Seems that Bradley took out a million-dollar life insurance policy on you a few months ago, with a double indemnity clause. You know, in case of accidental death.”
This was beginning to sound like a classic Alfred Hitchcock movie. She was cold, clammy, and faint. If the heart monitor hadn’t been disconnected, she was certain it would have gone off.
“I … I — ”
“There’s more.” He smirked.
“What do you know about Mr. Donahue’s business practices? About his clients?”
“I … I really don’t know much. He’s a partner in a big litigation firm handling injury claims, personal lawsuits, some defense, some corporate stuff. His job was basically his business and he rarely discussed it with me … always said he had enough of it at the office and wanted it left there.” Just as he had left his paramour there, she realized. Two separate lives.
“I just wish wives would take a more active role in their husband’s affairs. There would be less work for the detective bureau and the courts.” He shrugged his shoulders, and continued, “Mr. Donahue has been under investigation for his involvement with the mob.”
“Been doing a little consulting for them. The way I figure it, he had one of their goons try to do you in.”
“I … I thought it was a freak accident.”
“Nothing in this world is ever accidental. Mind if I take a seat?”
“Help yourself.” She pointed to a white resin chair.
Detective Schmidt eased himself into the chair with a sigh. His burly form just fit. He sat for a moment analyzing her.
“One mystery remains. What happened to you after your car ended up in the bay?” he asked.
“You see, witnesses at the restaurant said they saw a woman behind the wheel of the car as it plunged over the cliff. Was that woman really you?”
“Yes,” she answered without hesitation. She proceeded to explain her escape from the sinking car. “The last thing I remember is thinking how peaceful the night was when I surfaced.”
“Remember anything else?” His eyes bore into her.
She hesitated, wondering whether she should mention the unusual experience of going back in time to 1906. After all, it was her only explanation for the time lapse. One look at Detective Schmidt’s stoic face made her realize how absurd it would sound. She wasn’t even sure if she believed it herself.
“No,” she replied, staring into his eyes, wanting him to believe her. “I just remember waking up in this hospital room after some sort of head injury.”
The phrase, “going home” seemed silly. In a way, Faith felt she had been home all along, just 100 years earlier. The short ride from Presbyterian Medical Center to 92 Sacramento Street was a time of reflection. The contrast of grand old Victorian homes set against the city’s backdrop of skyscrapers was much like the way she felt. A hundred years earlier, no one would have imagined the towering Transamerica pyramid just as she would not have envisioned going back in time. She sighed, if she had gone back in time.
Clarice navigated the Camry into a tight space in front of the house. Faith rolled down the window and gazed out at the Queen Anne Victorian with its loft gables, conical roof tower, ornamentation, and expansive front porch. Goose bumps traveled up her arms as she looked in admiration at the grand old lady. The house was as pristine as in her prime. The gray and mauve color scheme she had selected a few years earlier, she realized, was original to the home.
The one thing that was not original was the police car parked in front, assigned to protect her while the investigation into her accident was resolved.
“Well, ready to go in?” Clarice asked, a pensive smile on her face.
“Sure,” Faith replied, taking a deep breath for confidence. Thoughts of Brad and the mob made her hesitate.
Clarice reached over and patted Faith’s trembling hand. They had been friends a long time, through both good times and bad. This time seemed like a mixture of both.
“Like they say, ‘there’s no place like home.’” Clarice opened her door and slid out of her seat.
Slamming her door shut, she moved around to Faith’s side and opened the passenger side door. She leaned over and offered her hand.
“I’m not an invalid, you know.” Faith met her concerned narrow gaze.
“I just want to help.”
Trying to ease herself out of the passenger seat, Faith realized how weak she really was. Her legs felt as if weighted down with concrete, her head felt light and dizzy. She reached up to grasp Clarice’s hand and let her help pull her up and out of the automobile. She clung as Clarice closed the car door and led her to toward the front gate. Unlatching the picket gate, they ambled, arm-in-arm up the front brick walk.
Faith glanced at the yard. The garden she had tended sprouted multicolored azaleas, bougainvillea, and crisp daffodils. Cherry trees stood in fragrant bloom. She shook her bandaged head, hidden beneath a floppy cloth hat. Even the scent was eerily familiar of another springtime either real or imagined.
As they stepped up on the front porch, Faith surveyed the antique white wicker furniture and hanging swing, the puffy floral cushions, the hanging baskets of ferns, and pots of scarlet geraniums.
“Doctor Forrester didn’t have any furniture on the porch. It looks so much nicer with than without,” Faith whispered.
“Who? What?” Clarice asked.
“Brad hated this porch,” Faith mumbled.
“He liked all that funky contemporary stuff.”
“Yeah, and I always liked antiques.”
“Opposites always seem to attract.”
“With disastrous results,” Faith said, thinking about Brad and what the detective had implied. “The key’s under the mat.”
“The what?” Their eyes met.
“The key. I always keep an extra under the front doormat.” Faith pointed to the glossy wooden floor.
“Under the mat? That isn’t safe.”
Faith shrugged her shoulders. “I figure, because it’s such an obvious place, a thief would overlook it.”
She stooped down, turned up the doormat, and removed the brass key. She stood, smoothing her linen slacks.
“See, I haven’t forgotten everything.” Faith winked.
Clarice jiggled the key in the heavy brass lock, pushed, pulled, and opened the heavy oak door rattling its leaded glass insert.
As she stepped into the foyer, Faith felt as if she had stepped into a stranger’s home. The uncluttered contemporary design and sparse furnishings seemed as though they belonged to someone else. She closed her eyes, remembering how the house should have been.
“Oh, Bridget,” she murmured.
Clarice helped her upstairs to her bedroom, another alien environment filled with cold chrome, brass, and glass. After tucking Faith in the squishy waterbed, Clarice placed a steaming cup of tea on the glass and brass nightstand, and deposited a book on her bed. Somehow
Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil
didn’t seem appropriate. Clarice sighed. Maybe it was too appropriate under the circumstances. Faith looked up at her like a sick child needing reassurance and Clarice smiled.
“Now, you rest. Remember if you need anything, give me a call,” Clarice said, pointing to the phone on the nightstand. “I’ll come back tomorrow morning with some groceries.”
“Yes, ma’am,” Faith saluted. “Go home to your family. I’m sure Reggie and the kids need you more than I do. You’ve done enough for me already.”
“I’m just being a friend, that’s all. Now, you just behave yourself and stay put.”
“Don’t worry. I do intend to stay in this century, for now.” She winked.
Faith watched Clarice sashay out of the room. She listened as her footsteps faded down the hall, the front staircase, and foyer. She heard the door close and the lock click.
Clarice was the closest she had to family. Thoughts of how Brad made her move to California, away from her parents, made her bitter. Syracuse was far from San Francisco and their visits had been few and far between. She felt alone then. Now that they were gone, she felt more alone than ever.
She closed her eyes. She didn’t know when she drifted off to sleep. Images whirled through her mind like an ever-changing kaleidoscope.
The earth trembled beneath her feet, causing her to dance against her will. Hungry cracks opened in the street anxious to gobble up everything in its wake. She shrieked in blood-curdling terror as the earth heaved and buildings toppled over like children’s building blocks. Other screams pierced the angry dawn. Mutterings of disbelief followed and then, silence. Tears streamed down faces of young and old, rich and poor as they watched orange flames engulfing the rubble and turning it into a fiery hell. The ocean’s breeze billowed the smoke, causing the flames to leap and dance from building to building.
She looked up and saw them.
Their faces were as vivid as a Technicolor movie. Black curls framed an innocent cherub face, a pudgy finger stuck in a rosebud mouth, twinkling dark eyes focused on her. Nestled in his father’s arms, Andrew reached out to her.
“Miss Donahue!” the child cried.
Doctor Forrester held on tight to the boy. Eyes that were glazed over in fear and disbelief gazed at her, questioning, wondering.
“You knew! You knew! You were right!” he screamed.
As he moved toward her, he called out, “Faith! Faith!”
Suddenly, he froze in his tracks. His mouth gaped open, his eyes wide as if he had seen something unfathomable.
“Faith! Faith, come back!” His voice was a muffled cry that grew louder and clearer. “Faith, come back!”
She awakened, shivering in a cold sweat, his dusky voice resonating in her mind. Reaching up to swipe beads of perspiration from her forehead, she whispered, “Doctor Forrester. Dearest Andrew.”
The two figures seemed too real to be a figment of her imagination. She tried to rethink the scene that had just flashed in her mind. What did the doctor witness? Had she, indeed, traveled back in time, she would have returned after having been struck in the head during the tremor. He would have seen her vanish right before his eyes. Not only had she told him about her coming from the future, warned him about the earthquake and fire, but disappeared in an instant. She reasoned that it had to have been a frightening scene. People just don’t disappear like characters in Star Trek being “beamed up.” Even though he was a scientific man, she knew he wouldn’t have an explanation. She just left without a trace.
She drew a deep breath to calm her frazzled nerves and slowly exhaled. Was her brain still playing tricks on her or did this Doctor Forrester really exist? The sooner she uncovered the truth, the better.
Being home required more of an adjustment than Faith anticipated. As she regained her strength, she explored the house from cellar to attic. She paced each room feeling melancholy and ill at ease. Everything was wrong. The furnishings were inappropriate, stark, and uninviting. The home’s true character lay hidden beneath layers of wallpaper, wall-to-wall carpeting, and shiny chrome fixtures. Rich architectural detail and moldings were disguised or painted over. The home reminded her of a center for contemporary art, a museum of Dakota furniture, Dali prints, freeform sculpture, and neutral hues.
The house was like Brad, cold. She hugged herself to warm the shiver that tingled down her spine.
Her mind held a snapshot of how each room was supposed to look. She envisioned the home’s interior restored to its original cluttered Victorian splendor. As she stood in the front parlor, she noted the carved mantel. Thoughts of warm wood and jewel tones, thick fabric, plush rugs, scattered pillows, and lacy plants filled her mind. She could picture a lived-in house where a little boy could scamper and where his father could read sunken in a worn leather chair. She wanted the home to exude a comfort she once knew. She sought her own place to call home.
Floor-by-floor and piece-by-piece, she shoved the modern furniture out into the halls. Beginning in her bedroom, she crawled on the floor on her hands and knees. At the perimeter of the room, she pried up the carpeting from the tacking strips. Each yank revealed the polished wooden floor hidden underneath. She rolled up the carpet and pushed it in the center of the room. After, she peeled the neutral wallpaper from the walls. She clawed at it, getting personal satisfaction from each rip and shred. When the paper was removed, she collapsed on the wooden floor finding strange comfort in the wood and the bare walls.
When Clarice stopped by, her eyes bulged at the sight of Faith’s home. Each room was in total disarray. Carpeting was rolled up, wallpaper peeled off, furniture piled up like discarded refuse. Amidst all of the chaotic mess, Faith sat smiling with contentment. She was proud of her handiwork and wore it like a badge of valor.
“What the hell … ” Clarice began, stepping over materials in the parlor.
“Isn’t it exciting?” Faith was beaming and giggling like a schoolgirl.
“It’s a mess. Your house used to look like a feature in
. Now, look at it.”
“This is just the beginning,” Faith said, standing. She brushed paper shreds off her tattered jeans and faded sweatshirt.
She met Clarice’s stunned gaze. “Of what this home was meant to be. I’m going to return it to what it once was. In 1906, it was splendorous. None of this contemporary trash.”
“Trash? Honey, this stuff is expensive.” Clarice surveyed the furniture chosen by one of the city’s finest interior designers. Brad had spared no expense on the house.
“I’m selling this furniture and all the accessories. The sooner it’s out of here, the better.”
Clarice placed her hands on her hips and looked at Faith. “I see. You want Bradley’s influence out of your life.”