Two Places At Once

Two Places At Once

A Story by Demetri J
"

How could a young woman be in a coma, laying in a hospital bed, yet be seen walking around town casually? J DeMarcus' latest puzzle.

"

His name is J DeMarcus, and he’s a detective. I’ve known him since I was a little girl, and he may be young but he can do amazing things. He asked me to be his assistant and since then we’ve tackled all kinds of mysteries together, and this story is one of many. The case I’m about to recount for you is important to us for a lot of reasons; I’d always known J had his secrets and a complicated past, but I didn’t realize until these events how much of it I didn’t know…



“I hate hospitals…” I groaned to myself as we walked to the front desk. The smells of sick people and depression flooded the air. J was acting professional about it, but I knew he was uncomfortable as hell on the inside, the germaphobe he is.

“Come on, Tee,” he said, being the antithesis of my cynicism as usual. “Be glad you’re just visiting and not one of the patients. Imagine being here, day in day out, stripped of your independence, hooked up to machines just to survive. Picture this being your home.”

I nearly gagged at the thought. Maybe I was overindulging my own problems; these people here were really the ones who had it rough.

“It’s weird though,” J said, at this point thinking aloud. “I never get cases outside Dakota.”

“I guess business is spreading.” I replied. Since the last big case J had taken on, that of the disappeared six-year-old Leyla McLaren, his name was becoming even more prominently talked about than before. Previously, his existence was more of a novelty, a prodigy crime solver kid the news could exploit for a few months before moving onto the next disruption of everyday life. Now, it was beginning to grow into something more, thought of as less of a momentary spectacle and more of a respected talent within his profession. Not to toot my own self-indulgent horn, but I like to think these little memoirs circulating around had something to do with that.

“Who exactly was it that reached out to you?” I asked as we stepped out of the elevator and began our way to the patient’s room.

“No idea,” he answered with a shrug. “They called in anonymously on behalf of the hospital staff.”

“Couldn’t narrow it down, detective?” called a young, female voice from behind us. J and I met eyes for a second, then turned around to see who this was. I raised a brow trying to figure out what to make of it; there stood a teenage girl who looked only about a year or two older than me, in nurse scrubs, stethoscope and everything, holding a clipboard. She was a few inches taller than me, had an olive skin tone, sharp green eyes, dark black hair cut stylishly short. For a few seconds I tried to comprehend the sight of this stranger, then I looked over to J, shocked to read on his face that she wasn’t a stranger to him. The look in his eyes was as if he was seeing a ghost.

“Surprised?” the green-eyed girl said, with a passive aggressive, almost taunting smile. J searched for words but it was obvious he couldn’t find any as I waited for him to say something.

“What are you doing here?” he finally stammered. She sighed as if the answer was obvious.

“Uh, J,” I interjected. “Mind introducing us?”

“Nurse Milonas,” she answered. “Soon to be doctor, hopefully.”

You’re going to be a doctor?” I uttered without thinking. She rolled her eyes, as if that was the hundredth time she’d heard that today.

“Nurse Milonas?” J repeated.

“That’s what they call me around here. Took them forever to respect me enough; people in the medical field have such big egos, they just hate working under someone who hasn’t even hit eighteen yet.”
She looked back at me. “You’re his tech support right? You must be a hacker or information gatherer.”

“What?” replied, caught completely off guard. “How did you know that?”

“Your eyes,” she explained. “The average person blinks six to eight times a minute, but those who regularly spend long amounts of time looking at a screen have eyes that adjust and don’t need to as much. You’ve only blinked three times since we started talking. And since you’re following this wannabe detective around I can only assume he keeps you around for your useful computer skills.”

I didn’t know what to say. This girl had something about the way she spoke, something in her hard eyes that seemed to stare right through you.

“You don’t have to address me by my work title,” she continued. “You can call me B.”

Things suddenly began to line up in a way. J still had a dumbfounded look plastered across his face.

“You never thought you’d see me again, did you?” B asked, her tone getting colder.

“It has been about three years.” he finally answered.

“Three years since you left. Time flies when you turn your back on the people you grew up with.”

J sighed in a defeated, apologetic way.

“As nice as it is to see you, B, I know you didn’t just call me down here to catch up.”

B sighed back, and spoke as if the next few words would hurt her to say.

“This case… If this were a situation that made any logical sense to me, or at least didn’t challenge my grasp on reality, you wouldn’t be here.”

“But you think I can figure it out?”

“Your work speaks for itself, detective. Getting back in touch with you was the very last thing I wanted to do, but life’s full of sacrifices.”

J raised a brow. “Do you just practice condescending scowls in the mirror every morning? Enough with the formalities, show me the case.”

B lead the way through the hospital, onto an elevator, and into a hallway on the third floor. I caught glimpses of miserable looking patients suffering an variety of illnesses and injuries on their hospital beds with each half-opened door we passed. Eventually, we reached the destination. B opened the door with a special key from inside her coat, and we followed her in.

It was a small room probably only suited for one patient. It was cramped and looked as if it hadn’t been used in decades. There was no TV or radio hooked up, just a chair against the wall, a small table, and a hospital bed. On that hospital bed lay an unconscious woman. She was young, I would say her late twenties or early thirties, had a thin frame and beautiful light brown skin and dark, curly hair. She was clad in a hospital gown, with the blanket drawn up to her waist.

“She’s alive, right?” J said, raising a brow at the girl.

“What great deductive skills,” replied B, rolling her eyes. “She has a cerebral hemorrhage. She’s not dead yet, but it can happen any time.”

J continued looking the girl up and down, I could tell he was mentally analyzing every detail of her.

“Her name’s Stacy Hill,” B explained. “She was a barista at a cafe a few blocks downtown. I used to go there for my lunch break every shift, and she served me. Nice girl, she always had a smile on her face and asked how everyone was doing. Then, about a week ago, some random joggers found her in an alley unconscious and called an ambulance, then she ended up here.”

“Well that’s a shame,” J thought aloud, his gaze upon the unconscious girl becoming less scrutinizing and more sympathetic. “So you need help figuring out how she winded up with internal bleeding in her head?”

“No. That happens, I can figure it out myself. I didn’t consider this a case that needed a second look, until two days ago.”

“Did she get worse?”

“No, better.”

J raised a brow. B dug into her pocket for her cell phone.

“Two days ago, I went to the cafe for my break like normal,” she explained. “But when I sat on the bus to get back I so happened to glance out the window. And I saw Stacy taking a smoke break. The bus took off before I could get off. And when I got back here, I came back to this room and yet here she is.”

J gave his usual skeptical sideways look.

“And you’re sure it was her?”

B frowned, almost looking offended that he asked. “Would you be here if I wasn’t?”

“Maybe the stress from work and the familiar location of the cafe made your mind imagine-”

Before he could finish it, she raised her phone to his face. On the screen was a candid snapshot of a young woman leaning against the wall of a cafe. B expanded the image with a pinch of her fingers and zoomed in. J and I could both see it was clearly Stacy Hill, alive and well, cigarette in hand and eyes drifting off into space. My brain immediately contorted itself trying to make sense of it, and I instinctively looked to the detective to make sense of it all.

“Point taken.” He said, still wide-eyed and in awe.

“I went back to the cafe,” B continued. “The manager told me that right before I showed up, Stacy suddenly quit her job and ran off. Needless to say, when I got back to the hospital here she was again. I tracked down her parents and told them about her condition, they’re from out of town but her father came down yesterday to see her. I haven’t told anyone about seeing her walk around town so far.”

J thought silently for a moment, the look of contemplation on his face seeming just as eager and fascinated as it was confused. His expression then fought a smile, nearly laughing to himself.

“So that’s what we’re dealing with,” he said, realizing now why B had called him. “No big deal, this chick is just in two places at once sometimes.”

“No big deal?” B repeated. “It’s impossible!”

“Yet the picture’s right there on your phone.”

She had no answer.

“There’s no such thing as ‘impossible’,” J started. “Terra…-”

“Look for her background history and check her online accounts to see if she’s still active?” I filled in for him. He shot me an impressed but seemingly undermined look. I took off my backpack and reached for my laptop.

“Hey, B,” he said. “Another dumb question, but you asked her parents if she had a twin, right?”

B rolled her eyes, not even bothering to answer. I took off my backpack and took a seat in the chair against the wall, pulling out my laptop and setting it on my lap. I got connected to the hospital’s wifi and within minutes I was pulling up information on Stacy Hill’s personal life.

J walked over to the table near Stacy’s bed, where a plastic bag sat.

“What’s this?” He asked, pointing to the bag.

“The clothes she was found in.”

The door swung open, and entered a handsome young guy who must’ve been an intern or something. He had curly blond hair and innocent-looking green eyes.

“Hey, B,” he said in a trepidatious tone. “Do you have a minute?”

“Not really, Randall.” B uttered dismissively.

“Well, Dr. Stewart needs you to answer questions about some patient or something?”

“Can’t it wait?”

“Not from how it sounds. Sorry…”

“Ugh.”

B rolled her head over to J and I.

“I guess I’ll leave you two to work for a few minutes,” she said. “Hopefully Stacy won’t be any closer to being dead when I get back.”

“Oh,” Randall tried. “And B-”

“Nurse Mills.”

“Nurse… If you have a minute during lunch break did you maybe wanna go grab coffee or some-”

“That’s the furthest you’ve gotten into that sentence without stuttering and running away. I’m proud of your determination, Randall, but I’ll pass. You can go now.”
With that, the Randall guy awkwardly cowered away.

“Nice to see after all these years you’re still great with people.” J said once the door closed. B ignored him and headed out to do whatever she was called to do. J shrugged and walked over to the unconscious woman’s side.

“Well, she’s clearly not getting up anytime soon,” he began. “Even if she was faking her sleep, she couldn’t get to the cafe and back without anyone noticing. So there has to be two Stacys somehow… Though that doesn’t really make anything clearer, does it?”

His gaze remained locked on Ms. Hill as he rose a finger to his lips.

“Any thoughts?” He asked me.

“Just one,” I replied, closing my laptop for a second. “Who is she?”

J raised a brow at me. “Just a barista from what we know.”

“Not her,” I said, unintentionally impatient. “Who the hell is that B girl?”

“Oh, her.”

He sighed and stared off into space.

“The details aren’t important, she’s just someone from the past.”

“She’s someone in your present now. Could you give me the cliffnotes version, and at least explain why she seems to hate you?”

He got quiet, as if about to recount a story he never thought he’d tell me.

“She’s an orphan,” he began. “Just like me. There were three of us, together in what I guess you’d call an experiment. We were like family, and for a while we were all each other had. But then things got complicated. I had to get away, go back to Dakota. I thought B would understand, but she never did.”

I’d never seen his expression so broken down and vulnerable before.

“That story wasn’t too detailed.” I said, though having a semblance of clarity on it all.

J shrugged. “You get the gist. Maybe you’ll hear the rest later, but what’s important right now is the case. Found anything on Sleeping Beauty?”

I opened my laptop again.

“Using the hospital’s information on her as a starting point, I’ve got her job history, credit card activity, and even a home address.”

“Woah, that was fast.” J remarked, sounding taken back and impressed.

“Like B said, she is from out of town,” I reported, eyes scanning my screen once more. “It looks like she moved her from Chicago three months ago.”

“Well there’s something of note.”

“What do you mean?”

“Chicago isn’t exactly a hop and a skip away. She’s living on her own, far away from where she grew up. No family here, no connections; the perfect target for a long list of crimes.”

“Including impersonation apparently.”

J walked over to the bag of Stacy’s clothes again. He pulled out each article carefully. It was  fashionable ensemble of thin, studded jeans, leather heeled boots, a burgundy sweater, a shiny little silver bracelet, and an indigo-ish scarf I recognized.

“That scarf,” I began. “I have the same one. It’s a limited edition from one of my favorite designer’s in last month’s catalogue. My mom got it for me, for my collection.”

He gave me a look, as if waiting for me to explain how that information could be useful.

“If she’s wearing it, we know she likes fashion a lot and makes a stable amount. That’s something about her, right?”

He smiled. “You’re learning, Tee.”

He held up the scarf and examined it for a second, then shifted his attention to the boots. He turned them over and looked at their soles.

“These shoes are brand new,” he reported. “They have a few dirt stains and scratches but no creases or stretch marks from being worn. It looks like she put them on only once and immediately started running in them, for whatever reason.”

“Why would she do that?” I wondered aloud.

The door to the room opened up, and in entered Randall again, along with a burly, grizzled man in a coat that looked like it was from the 50’s. The man carried himself in a timid, reserved manner as he walked in, and was taken back immediately by the sight of Stacy Hill on the hospital bed. His eyes were filled with worry as he walked over to her, his expression shocked as he tried to process the sight of her laying there.

“This is Mr. Hill,” Randall introduced. “Stacy’s father.”

That’s what I had guessed. He looked over to J and I as if he just then noticed we were in the room.

“Are you Stacy’s friends?” he asked us. His tone was soft and his voice was weary.

“You could say that.” J answered with a shrug. Mr. Hill reached out his hand.

“I’m J,” the detective introduced as he shook the man’s hand. “She’s Terra.”

I awkwardly waved to him from my seat, before meeting eyes with J and exchanging a glance that said it all: maybe we shouldn’t tell this worried father that his unresponsive daughter has a doppelganger running around.

“Do you know if she’s getting any better?” Mr. Hill asked, struggling to make sense of the situation.

“Not yet,” J answered. “Nurse Milonas is doing her best.”

“You mean the girl?”

The man walked up to the side of Stacy’s bed, gently moving a strand of hair from her face. That’s when the door opened and the ever-endearing B returned. Randall nervously scuttled out of the room.

“Mr. Hill,” B said, surprised. “You didn’t call to say you’d be visiting today.”

“I wasn’t going to,” he sighed. “But I thought… I don’t know, maybe something might have happened.”

He closed his eyes and sulked, looking as defeated as I’d ever seen a concerned parent look. J and I met eyes, wondering if one of us should say something. He took the initiative.

“Fishing, huh?” he said of all things. “You like to fish a lot down in Chicago don’t you?”

The man looked at him curiously. “How could you-”

“Your hands,” J answered, prompting Mr. Hill to look down at his own hands. “You have thin scars and scrapes on them, I noticed when we shook hands a minute ago. Guys who fish have to hold those sharp hooks all the time and they get so used to it they don’t notice the marks it leaves.”

“You’re right,” the man replied, with a faint remnant of a smile. “Good observation, son.”

“Don’t worry,” J said, with a reassuring smile of his own. “The people in this place know what they’re doing, pretty soon Stacy’ll be back on her feet. You should invite her back home for a visit, maybe you could fish together. Not that I would know, but I hear that’s a good bonding activity.”

“Hey, J,” B interjected, in a sugary sweet tone that wreaked of passive aggression. “Could I talk to you real quick?”

She held open the door to the hallway. J motioned at me to come along, so I placed my laptop back in my bag and followed them out.

“Nice pep talk,” said B as she shut the door behind us. “But do you wanna not make promises on behalf of our staff? Especially the kind we don’t know if we can keep.”

“I thought I should say something,” J replied with a shrug. “There’s already more to this going on that he knows about, a worrying parent looming over the situation’s not gonna be of any help.”

“I guess you’re right,” B sighed, rubbing her eyes stressfully. “What do you think we should do now.”

“Well, there’s not much more we can learn here. Terra found the address Stacy Hill was staying at, maybe we should visit.”

“And look for what?”

“Anything. Who knows. Maybe we’ll find the other Stacy. Either way it’s doing something, as opposed to sitting around here.”

“Uh, J” I began. “How are we supposed to get there.”

B gave her mischievous smile again. “I have an idea.”








J flipped through the stations on Randall's car radio while B and I manned the GPS navigation from the backseat.

“So how long is this gonna take?” Randall asked, his eyes still on the road.

“What did we agree on?” B reminded.

“Right,” he sighed. “No questions.”

J cranked the volume on a contemporary hip hop station. “Sure beats taking the bus everywhere, huh, Tee?”

I looked down at my phone to make sure we were still going the right way.

“Make the next left then we should be there.” I instructed. Our sadly-smitten chauffeur complied.

Stacy Hill didn’t live in the wealthiest of neighborhoods but the area wasn’t a slum or anything. Her apartment complex was on the small side, but it didn’t seem like a place a young woman living on her own would have to fear for her safety.

“Cross your fingers, guys.” said J as we exited the car.

“What are expecting to find exactly?” B asked.

“Who knows. Anything could be a clue. Let’s just hope we find something in time to get back before Randy’s lunch break is over.”

“Speaking of which, you wait here.”

Randall sighed in disappointment yet acceptance as the two one-letter named smartasses and I made our way to the apartment complex. Up close, I could see the buildings looked old, their bricks faintly discolored and a broken window here and there.

“Her building should be this way.” J announced, taking the lead into the nearest alleyway.

We followed, counting the numbers of the doors we passed until we finally stopped at the one listed in her financial records.

“This is it.” I confirmed. The mailbox was full and the shades on the windows were drawn. J walked up to one of the windows and peered through it.

“It looks like no one’s been living here,” said B. “Probably because she’s back at the hospital. So coming here was a waste.”

“I wouldn’t say that just yet,” J answered, his face still mounted against the window. “I can’t see much but it looks like the inside’s empty. Like all her stuff has been cleared out.”

“What does that mean?” I asked.

“Who would’ve done that?” B tried to make sense of it.

J turned around and shrugged. “Just add to the list of questions, I guess.”

“Ugh,” B groaned, closing her eyes and pressing down on the bridge of her nose. “We’ll never figure this out. Just great, the way my week’s been going this is exactly what I need.”

All the stress she tried her best to hide seemed to bubble to the surface at that point. It took J off guard, as he stood there for a moment, staring at her with concern.

“B,” he said finally. “Do you think maybe you need a break from the hospital?”

“I’m trying to get my next degree,” B replied, collecting herself. “If I want to be a full time doctor there’s no such luxury as ‘breaks’.”

“You haven’t been sleeping much, have you?” J persisted.

“You know me,” B replied. “I make sacrifices for the sake of productivity. I have since we were little.”

“And since we were little you got so wrapped up in trying to be the best you forget to take care of yourself.”

“I know my limits.”

“Do you? Judging by your eyes you get four hours a night and you spend unnatural amounts of time looking at a screen. Judging by your breath you’ve got a borderline caffeine addiction going on.”

B scoffed. “I’d tell you I appreciate your concern, but I don’t. When I want your life advice I’ll ask, and don’t hold your breath for that.”

“We get it, you’re tough and independent,” J replied. “Now you’re pissed at me for caring? How long are you gonna keep this up?”

B stared at him, almost in disbelief, shaking her head as she searched for the words she was feeling.

“You really don’t get it do you? After all this you still don’t get it. And you’re the detective. You lost all privilege to care about me the day you left us.”

J fell silent, a look of confused guilt on his face and empty vulnerability in his eyes.

“I didn’t want to leave you, B,” he tried. “I had to leave Mathias. I needed to get away, you know that. I needed a normal life.”

“Is this what you call ‘normal’? Running around with your friend solving mysteries like the goddamn Scooby Doo kids? Being in a newspaper every week?”

“Valid point. Maybe it’s not so much ‘normal’ but it’s the life I chose on my own, without a sociopath trying to control every step. I thought you’d respect that.”

“You’re a very difficult person for me to respect.”
Written words could hardly describe the animosity in her voice. I’d gone years thinking my father hated J DeMarcus, but now I knew the old man had nothing on this chick. She looked over to me again, a scary little chuckle turning her expression to a grin.

“Poor thing,” she said to me. “You probably have no idea who it really is you’re getting yourself involved with here. I’ll bet you don’t even know what J stands for, huh?”

She back to him.

“Does she, Juh-”

“That’s enough,” J exclaimed, as if that were crossing a line. “I tried to get through to you, but if this is how you wanna be, fine. Go ahead, live in the past forever. I’ll leave you to your hospital and we’ll be out of each other’s lives for good this time. But first, we have a case.”

“Uh, guys…” I spoke sheepishly, raising a finger and motioning my head behind them. “Stacy’s here.”

The two of them turned with dumbstruck expressions at the sight of Stacy Hill, standing awake and alert across the street. She was wearing a jogging sweatsuit, with a hood drawn over her head, almost as if to conceal her identity, though failing. Out from the front of her hood spilled the scarf J found in the bag at the hospital, and around her wrist was the same silver bracelet. It was most definitely her, staring back at us with a bewildered, fearful look.

For a moment, we stood there in silence as we maintained this awkward eye contact, neither her or us knowing what to do. Then, before anyone could process what was going on, she took off running. She bolted around the corner we had turned to get here and was gone in a second.

“Don’t just stand there!” J called impatiently to B and I as he began to sprint after her. “Come on!”

B and I exchanged a glance, then followed suit. We ran down the block, back to the front of the apartment complex, and all the way back to Randall's car. Unfortunately for us, Stacy No. 2 didn’t wear jogging gear just to be trendy. She was gone without a trace.

“Dang it!” J said, stomping the ground.

“And now we’re back to square one.” B sighed, crossing her arms.

“Woah,” Randall exclaimed, joining in the conversation. “Was that B’s patient?”

“Either that or the world’s best impersonator.” J replied.

“Where’d she go?” B demanded.

“She got into a car and drove off.”

“You didn’t stop her!?”

“What was I supposed to say?”

“Valid point.” J interjected. B groaned and rubbed her temples.

“I got a picture of her if that helps.” Randall blurted, pulling out his cell phone. J’s eyes widened.

“Yeah, it just might.”

B and I huddled over J’s shoulder as he looked at the photo. The camera caught her mid-jog, and though the shot was pretty blurry we could still see the look of genuine fear in her eyes.

“Got anything, J?” I asked, somehow feeling even more stumped than I already was.

“She’s taller,” he replied. “Now with multiple pictures and seeing her in person, I’m sure of it. This girl is two or three inches taller than the one in the hospital bed.”

“So she’s not a perfect imitation.” said B, raising a brow.

“This isn’t getting any easier.” J lamented.

“What now?” I asked. J’s eyes locked on something behind me. I turned to see a man walking in our direction, coming from the area of Stacy Hill’s apartment building. He was an older man, heavyset and walking at a relaxed pace, and was carrying a fishing rod and a cooler.

“Well,” J began. “Maybe if we ask one of Stacy’s neighbors they might know why she suddenly moved out of her apartment.”

“No one at her job knew why she suddenly quit.” B replied.

“It’s worth a shot.” I said with a shrug. Randall waved the man over to us. He looked confused at first, but shrugged and came over anyway.

“What’s up kids?” the man spoke. The rasp in his voice sounded like he’d been chain smoking for years.

“Woah there,” he reacted, getting a look at the nurse scrubs under B’s jacket. “You goin’ to a dressup party or somethin’?”

B shifted her mouth and looked away in annoyance.

“We need to ask you about something,” J explained to the man. “You live in that building over there, right?”

“Yes I do. Been here a few years now.”

“Have you ever seen the woman that moved in three months ago?”

The man looked up and scratched his beard. “You mean the young one? Tracy or something like that?”

“That’s the one.”

“Sweet girl from what I can tell. You her friends?”

The four of us awkwardly exchanged glances.

“Something like that.”

“What d’ya wanna know?”

“Did you know she suddenly moved out not long ago?”

He looked up in thought again. “I heard someone was moving out, I didn’t know which of them it was though.”

“Has anything weird been happening around here lately?”

“I ain’t personally experienced anything, but a few of the tenants were complainin’ to the landlord about someone suspicious tresspassin’ at night. Rumors about a stalker, but the landlord man said it was under control.”

“Someone suspicious?” B repeated curiously, looking over to J. “Do you think the stalker could be the impersonator woman?”

“Uh, guys,” Randall nervously piped up. “My lunch break’s almost over.”

B and J met eyes, him shrugging and her sighing.

“We have to get back.” B said, sounding defeated.

“Nothing left to see here anyway.”



The sun was setting by the time we’d gotten back to the hospital. Randall returned to sweeping the floors or whatever he did there, as J, B and I returned to Stacy Hill’s room. When we walked in, Mr. Hill was still there, along with another, appropriately aged nurse. The woman was standing over his shoulder as he sat in the chair, showing her a picture of Stacy he kept in his wallet.

“I used to be a photographer,” he explained. “Stacy would always be the perfect model when she was back home.”

“She’s beautiful.” the nurse replied, before they noticed us enter.

“Hey again.” J said to Mr. Hill, closing the door behind us. The nurse woman immediately looked annoyed.

“Hope you enjoyed your break, B.” she said, in the dryest, most condescending tone possible.

“That’s Nurse Milonas,” B corrected without skipping a beat. “But thanks for keeping an eye on my patient, Marcy.”

“That’s Nurse Brown.”

J walked over to the other side of Mr. Hill’s chair.

“Hey,” he said. “Can I see that picture?”

Mr. Hill shrugged and handed him the wallet. J looked at it for a second, then his eyes lit up. He handed it back, then immediately rushed over to Stacy’s bag of clothes. Both Mr. Hill and Nurse Brown were visibly confused, staring at the kid like they thought he was crazy. Then their eyes shifted to me, as if for an explanation. I awkwardly shrugged.

“Do you mind if I see too?” I asked Mr. Hill, hoping maybe I’d figure out what J was reacting to. I walked over and he held the picture up to my face. It was a high quality photo of Stacy in a garden of some kind, posing and looking off into space. She was wearing the same scarf, but her hands weren’t in the shot so I couldn’t tell about the bracelet. I also couldn’t tell if she was taller or shorter than she was at the apartment complex twenty minutes earlier.

B began asking the nurse and Mr. Hill miscellaneous questions, as if to distract them. As soon as their eyes were off of me I walked over to J, who was now holding Stacy Hill’s various articles of clothing to his face and smelling them as hard as he could.

“What’s going on?” I whispered.

“I’m so dumb,” he whispered back, sounding annoyed at himself. “I had it wrong before. I made such a stupid mistake.”

“Wait, did you figure it out?”

“I think so, but I wanna make sure. Smell this.”

He shoved the dark red sweater in my face. Opting to comply, I didn’t ask questions and instead took the biggest whiff I could.

“What does it smell like to you?” he asked, his eyes wide with anticipation. I wasn’t sure what answer he was hoping for, but I was sure I didn’t have it.

“Nothing…” I said with a shrug. His anticipation didn’t go away, instead an excited smile spread across his mouth.

“Solved!” he cried out. All the eyes in the room turned toward him.

“What are you tal-” Nurse Brown began to ask, being cut off immediately.

“Nurse lady,” J demanded. “Go call 911.”

“What?”

“It’s for the patient. Tell them it’s a case of kidnapping, medical malpractice and a bunch of other stuff.”

The woman remained puzzled.

“Don’t just sit there, go! Go!”

With no time to take it all in, she got up and ran out of the room.

“What’s going on?” Mr. Hill demanded. J scoffed.

“You know exactly what’s going on. You thought no one would put it together, didn’t you?”

“Excuse us, J,” B cut in. “Wanna explain yourself?”

J simply pointed to the man in the chair.

“I don’t know who he is,” he answered. “But he’s the cause of all this.”

“How?” B replied, still unclear.

“I made a mistake earlier,” he reported with a grin. “A fisherman can be easily identified by the callouses and cuts on their hands, caused by pulling the rod and dealing with hooks. I thought this guy liked to fish, but I was wrong. When we went to Stacy’s apartment and I saw the real fisherman’s hands I noticed it. This man’s scratches are slightly different, because he got them a different way.”

“I don’t follow.” B shot back, her tone not getting any less annoyed.

“Think about it, B. You’ve seen scratches like that on people’s hands before, haven’t you?”

B reflected for a moment, then her eyes suddenly widened and her expression went blank with fear.

“Get it now?” J asked.

“Oh my god…” B mustered. Now I was the only one still lost.

“What? What is it?” I asked, trying to catch up to them.

“Surgeons,” B answered. “Surgeons usually have cuts and calluses on their hands, from the scalpels and needles.”

Mr. Hill jumped up from his seat.

“You’re not her father,” J said coldly. “I know that for sure.”

“If he’s a surgeon,” B uttered in realization, turning back to the unconscious Stacy Hill in the hospital bed. “That means this girl could’ve been someone else… He could’ve performed plastic surgery on her to make her look just like the girl from the cafe!”

“No doubt about it,” J confirmed. “He even bought her the same clothes she wore.”

“You mean those clothes aren’t hers?” I asked, pointing to the bag on the counter. ‘Mr. Hill’ was really starting to sweat now, his eyes darting around the room, circulating to the three of us.

“They can’t be,” J answered. “The real Stacy Hill is a smoker. She had a cigarette in her mouth in B’s picture. And when people smoke regularly the smell gets on their clothes. The clothes in that bag don’t smell at all. And the shoes hardly have any scratches or dirt on them, but I’ll get to that in a sec.”

“But why?” B asked, her horrified eyes returning to the mysterious man before us. “Why would you make a replica of a girl?”

“The fisherman guy said there was a stalker on the property,” J continued to explain. “The real Stacy Hill moved out and even quit her job. When she came back, presumably to get some of her stuff she forgot, she saw us standing outside her door and immediately got scared. She ran for her life, probably because she was the one the stalker was after and thought we were with him. Take a wild guess who the stalker really was.”

The man was still silent, as if in disbelief that this was happening, as if trying to plot his way out of this situation, but coming up short.

“He’s a creep, and a crazy one at that, watching her from a distance since she moved to the area. He was obsessed with her, so made his own version of her. I don’t even wanna think about what she was intended for. Any idea on where he got his model from, B?”

“She would have to have been a comatose patient. People with her condition have been reported to wake up unexpectedly for short periods of time. It’s just as likely they flatline in their sleep. It could be plausible she was comatose in a hospital somewhere, probably the hospital our surgeon worked, and he reported her as dead so he could secretly do his work on her.”

“He would’ve brought her away from the hospital, somewhere no one could find her.”

“And she woke up while he was gone…”

“Alone in someplace she’d never been, no idea how she got there. Anyone in that situation would be scared, maybe even try to escape.”

“If she ran in that condition, the adrenaline rush could cause her head trauma to get worse. Tired, malnourished, adrenaline going crazy, aneurysms in her head, she could pass out, maybe even slip right back into the coma.”

“She was dressed in newly bought clothes, and ran for the first time in those shoes, which explains why they look like they’ve only been worn once. And if she passed out in the middle of running, some joggers could find her there and report an unconscious girl to the police. They take her to the nearest hospital, and the crazy surgeon poses as her dad, probably planning to secretly sabotage her treatment and let her die before the hospital staff could figure out anything was wrong. Then he’d assumedly make the real Stacy Hill disappear to cover his tracks, then skip town.”

By this point in the conversation, the man had started breathing manically through his mouth, backing up to the door.

“The only thing that would screw up his plan,” J continued. “Is if anyone on the hospital staff saw the real Stacy walking around town while she was in custody. What terrible luck.”

“That’s it,” B realized. “He probably tried to attack her immediately after finding out his clone was in the hospital. She got away, but she knew someone was after her, that’s why she quit her job and moved out. That’s why she was so scared back there.”

“Right,” J said, momentarily staring off and pondering it. “She’s probably staying with a friend laying low, having no idea a clone of her’s in this hospital.”

“That’s enough!” The fake Mr. Hill cried out, breaking his silence for the first time. “You can’t base all that off of a handshake! Even if I am a surgeon, you can’t prove any of that!”

“Well,” J said, with a cocky grin and a shrug. “A squad of police are on their way to arrest the crap out of someone as we speak, so it’d be pretty awkward if I was wrong.”

“You’re not,” said B, with a stern and sullen tone in her voice. “You’re right, you have to be. There’s no other way all this could be explained.”

“That’s what I say, too.” J replied. “A more thorough background check on Stacy Hill than the one the hospital staff gave will turn up her real father, who probably has no idea any of this is going on since you showed up before they could reach him. You knew they’d eventually realize you weren’t her dad, but by then she’d be dead and you’d be long gone, right? Well, I can prove you’re not her real father right here, right now.”

“You can?” B asked, suddenly lost again. “How?”

“That picture in his wallet.” He answered. He took a step forward to the man and looked him right in the eye with more conviction than I’d ever seen him give.

“According to your BS story, you live in Chicago and haven’t been up here to see your daughter since she moved three months ago. Three months without seeing her. If that’s true, how could you have taken that picture of yourself, when in it she’s wearing a scarf that wasn’t sold in stores until one month ago?”

The man’s face went nearly white, and it looked as if he’d stopped breathing as he dropped down to his knees.

I’m so stupid, I thought to myself. I’m the one who told him about the scarf and I didn’t even think about that.

A few minutes later, sounds of sirens and flashing lights were blaring from outside, below us.



In summary, the fake Mr. Hill dragged out of the hospital, opting to go out peacefully. They found out he worked in a hospital about an hour away, and the story lined up exactly with J’s explanation. They contacted the real Stacy Hill and explained the situation to her; she was relieved her stalker had been caught, but still wasn’t sure if she’d be ready to live alone again. They couldn’t identify the unlucky comatose girl that was chosen to be a replica, but said they were working on it.

Several members of the hospital staff were outside of the building being questioned by the police, along with J. Through the crowd, I spotted B walking back into the building. I didn’t know why exactly I started following her, but maybe it was because I knew our knowing each other couldn’t just end like that.

I walked into the main lobby and looked around until I spotted her sitting on a nearby bench in front of a snack machine. Her head was buried in her hands. I quietly walked up behind her, not wanting just yet to let her know I was there.

“He’s pretty amazing isn’t he?” she sighed, lifting up her head and looking up at me. Well, there goes that.

“It’s funny,” I said. “I’m the one who told him about the scarf, and I didn’t even think about it when I saw the picture.”

“What’s the use,” she lamented. “When we were little I would work so hard to stay at the top of our class. I was so proud of the place I earned, but when I would watch him excel in ways I never could and not even care about reaching his full potential, I sometimes wondered what the point of being number one was. Now, all these years later nothing’s changed. Except the way we talk to each other.”

For the first time since meeting her, I saw something beneath this girl’s hard exterior. It was a vulnerability she must always be working so hard to hide. I didn’t know what to say, so I walked around the bench and sat next to her.

“Look, B,” I said, my eyes on the hospital’s floor tiles. “I haven’t known J as long as you. I don’t even know his full name. But I do know that whatever happened between you two before he and I became friends, he’s not a bad person. He spends his time trying to stop bad people, like Stacy Hill’s crazy stalker. I haven’t even been tagging along with him that long and already I’ve seen him do so much. I’m not saying you have no right to be mad at him, I’m just saying maybe… Well, he does still care about you after all. And I may not be a super smart detective like him, but I think I see that deep down you care about him too.”

She looked over at me, those green eyes seeming less hard and scary than before.

“Tell me,” she began. “Does he ever do that thing to you where he figures out something you did from some small detail and tells everybody about it to annoy you?”

“All the time,” I answered. “Isn’t he petty?”

“And cocky?”

“And a smartass?”

“Doesn’t he always think he’s right about everything?”

“Doesn’t it piss you off that he usually is?”

She busted out laughing, something I never thought I’d see. I tried not to, but I immediately started laughing too. We sat there for a moment, cracking up to ourselves. When we caught our breath it was a lot less tense.

“Tell me,” I began, one last question. “All that stuff we just said about him, would you change any of it if you could?”

B sighed, leaning her head back into the cushion and staring up at the flickering light panel on the ceiling above us.

“Probably not,” she said. “But don’t ever tell him that.”



When the police finished getting their information and made their way out, next was the media. A small crew of journalists showed up, per usual, for J’s routine article. He invited not only B and I to be in the picture, but even the awkward assistant, Randall.

“We couldn’t have done it without transportation.” J laughed. Randall more than anything seemed happy to be a part of something. He stayed the whole time, from the picture to the brief questioning. He even stuck around to walk J and I out.

“Thanks for your help today, J,” B said once we were outside of the building. “You may not always be there, but you’re always there when it counts.”

“Does that mean you won’t hesitate to get in touch if you need help again?”

“If we stumble upon another mystery here, you’ll be the first person I call. That, or if it gets too creepy here alone.”

“You’re not necessarily alone…” Randall mustered, talking semi-confidently to B for the first time. She smiled at him.

“You did good today Randall. We should work together more often.”

“Does that mean you wanna get that coffee sometime?”

“Alright, let’s not get carried away now.”

Randall frowned, and J and I stifled laughs.

“One more thing,” J said. “While we’re catching up on lost times, what ever happened to Y?”

“No idea,” B answered with a shrug. “He got taken out of the program a few months after you left, right before it fell apart. The old man said he’d get back in contact with us one day.”

“We’ll see what the future brings I guess.” J said, disappointed but still optimistic.

B smiled at us. “Until we meet again, Detective DeMarcus.”

J smiled back at her. “See you around, Nurse Milonas.”

“Nice meeting you too, Randall.” I added. He gave a dry wave of his hand, before turning around and heading back to the building to continue working. B gave us a warmer wave and followed suit, and like that J and I were headed back to the train station

“So...” I said as we began walking. “When am I getting the full version of that story?”




© 2018 Demetri J


Advertise Here
Want to advertise here? Get started for as little as $5

Author's Note

Demetri J
I promise these will come out regularly at some point. If you were reading along and invested, let me know if you figured it out before J did.

My Review

Would you like to review this Story?
Login | Register




Reviews

A very good story. I would recommend. Break into chapters. You would get more readers. I like the story line and the characters. You set-up each situation with skill and I like the flow of the story. Thank you for sharing the excellent story.
Coyote

Posted 3 Years Ago



Request Read Request
Add to Library My Library
Subscribe Subscribe


Stats

661 Views
1 Review
Rating
Added on November 30, 2016
Last Updated on February 23, 2018
Tags: mystery, detective, medical, teen

Author

Demetri J
Demetri J

Manhattan, NY



About
I have aspirations of writing and a dream of getting played for it. I write screenplays, short stories, and whatever else I feel like in the moment. I don't write, read or review poetry. more..

Writing