Warning: This chapter contains strong language.
O Shit! O Shit! What the f… are they doing here? With fear gripping her heart, Mary Ellen Schuster knew she had to get out of that room, and fast! There was only one way of doing that without being caught.
“Lester,” she whispered under her breath.
“Yeah, kiddo I see ‘em.
“Lester, she whispered, “he’s succeeded in tracking you down.”
“Damn SOB finally weaned himself off the booze long enough to put two and two together. You gotta give him kudos for that, girlie, I thought that SOB would drink himself into an early grave over that slut wife of his,” Lester Schuster whispered back. And look, he’s brought those two niggers”.
“Lester”, she interrupted him, we, … no, I mean, I never use that word, she whispered back. I’m still a lady and daddy taught me, never to use that word in public.”
“Yeah, your daddy taught you a lot of things, girlie, the least of which was not using the ‘n word’ in public.” And regardless of what you call’em, they’re gonna be here in a minute. It’s best you and I not be here when they do, or our little buddy might begin to put the rest of the puzzle together, and we don’t want him doing that, do we?”
“No! No, we don’t!”
It was the one thing they were sure of, that no one had it figured out. It was their ace in the hole. Not even Rebecca Schuster, herself, knew that housed within her thin mousey frame existed two other beings.
Rebecca didn’t have a clue to what she, Mary Ellen Schuster, and Lester Schuster had been up to these past few years. She was as much in the dark now as she ever was. Their number one rule was never, ever talk to each other while Rebecca was out. And Lester had told her not to let Rebecca out except for when it was absolutely necessary, like now. Rebecca’s pathetic child-like innocence was what kept people, i.e., her fellow law officers, from suspecting her of any wrong doing.
As the threesome moved ever closer, Mary Ellen Schuster slipped quietly out of the room. The switch was so subtle not even a trained psychiatrist would have caught it – a flicker of an eyelash, the tilt of the head, the faded confidence.
“Rebecca Schuster?” Frank asked.
Terror, absolute terror gripped Rebecca Schuster’s insides with icy cold fingers. She blinked three times rapidly as if coming out of a dark tunnel into the bright light. Where was she? What day was it? Was it day or night? She didn’t know. She tried to feign off her bewilderment because of the man standing in front of her desk, but her eyes darted back and forth across the room for any hint as to the date, time and where she might possibly be.
She lowered her head and cast her eyes to the right. Yes, this was her office, she recognized the two-toned green walls flanked by a row of tall gray filing cabinets, that one had to be especially careful to close the bottom drawer before opening the top drawer, otherwise the damn things would tilt over onto you. She’d spent a week at home resting a sore arm after a cabinet had fallen on her during one of her black-outs. She must have had another one. They were coming more frequently now and lasting longer.
The last thing she remember was going into the neighborhood bodega to pick up the few items she needed for Thanksgiving dinner and here she was at work with three strangers staring her in the face. Had she had Thanksgiving dinner? She had no idea how or when she gotten from the bodega to here. Nor did she know what day or time it was. Another black-out! What had she done during this last black-out, that these strangers were here? Those damn black-outs always meant trouble.
“Rebecca Schuster?” The forty-something man asked again. He stood straight with no sign of a stoop to his shoulders. He was wearing a dark brown tweed jacket, white shirt, and jeans. His dark short hair was beginning to show signs of gray and his face was streaked with past pain. Pain. Now that was something she knew and understood.
The blood rose to her cheeks. She could feel the hot flush of blood rush to her face and knew that her face was as red as her hair. She was nervous because rarely did strangers come down to ‘The Dungeon’, i.e., the basement file room. She spent most days working quietly in her cubicle rarely venturing out to socialize with the three other file clerks with whom she shared ‘The Dungeon’.
“Yes, I’m Rebecca Schuster. How can I help you?”
Rebecca, it’s Frank. Frank Roberts from the old neighborhood.
Rebecca’s brow narrowed and two rows of deep furrows arched across her forehead as she considered the stranger’s statement. “Franky, from Sterling Place?”
“Yes. It’s me.
Rebecca jumped up from her chair, flung her arms wide and enveloped Frank in a hug as squeals of delight escaped her throat.
Monica, Dawn, and Stephen, the other clerks, who worked in ‘The Dungeon’, were shocked at Rebecca’s familiarity. In all the years they’d worked with her, they’d never heard Rebecca say anything above a whisper. Something which she did all the time, while alone in her cubicle.