"How can that be possible?"

The larger police officer looked as if his patience was just about gone. As he scribbled on a notepad, his partner sat down next to Clara and Nicholas. The bench was backed by a floor-to-ceiling window on the rear side of Fithian Memorial's main visitor's area. Behind it, moonlight still illuminated the hospital grounds.

The seated officer pointed to one of the security cameras mounted above. "Look, I don't know why it isn't there," he said, "but I saw all the footage myself. The only thing recorded by these things was static."

"What a joke," said Nicholas. "Why even have security cameras if they don't work?"

The standing officer kept writing as he spoke up. "This is one of the oldest buildings on the island. Everything in here is outdated. These cameras were put in back in the eighties. The staff we talked to said they only use them as a closed circuit system that they monitor from the guard's station."

Clara jumped up and shouted, "Except there was no one in that guard's station! At any point!" Nicholas laid a hand on her arm, but she ignored it. "And I would know – I ran by it at fifty miles per hour while three maniacs were chasing me!"

"Miss... please," the standing officer said. It seemed to be more of a warning than a request.

A nurse entered the room, breaking the tension. She knelt down next to Clara and dabbed at the cut on her leg with a wet gauze pad that smelled of alcohol.

"Sorry for the sting," the nurse said.

Clara looked down at her. "I don't even feel it. Can you just tell me how my aunt is? When do I get to see her?"

The nurse continued dabbing. "She's awake and stable at the moment, but the doctor still needs time to finish looking her over. He did just tell me that she seems to be unharmed."

"'Unharmed'?" Clara repeated. "I saw a bolt of some kind of... electricity or whatever shoot into her body. I saw her levitate off the bed! 'Unharmed' is a bit tame of a word to use, don't you think?"

Nicholas and the officers looked at Clara, though no one seemed to have anything to say. The nurse finished working on Clara's leg and stood up, meeting her eyes.

"Miss Tuffney," she said, "I'm afraid that 'unharmed' is the most clear I can be right now. There were no injuries on your aunt's body, and her vital signs are all fine."

"And her mental state?" Clara asked. "She hadn't been awake before this happened. Does she remember anything?"

The nurse looked less confident now. "Your aunt is... confused," she said.

Clara's mouth opened slowly, but she didn't speak. Nicholas waited a few seconds before asking the nurse, "How confused is she? What is she saying?"

The nurse answered Nicholas' question while still looking at Clara. "She doesn't know where she is. And she doesn't remember anything that you described happening. At the moment, she's still getting her bearings. She didn't remember her name when the doctor asked her."

Clara's shoulders went limp. The nurse continued. "That's really all I can tell you now. She's okay physically but disoriented mentally – at least for the time being."

Clara nodded a few times, then laid her head on Nicholas' chest and started to sob. The nurse left the room.

The standing police officer looked at his partner. "Miss Tuffney," he said. "We're going to head to our car and finish writing up our report. We have all the information we need right now, so we'll try to get you some information on the incident when we have it. Okay?"

Clara made a sound acknowledging that she heard him, but it was soft and weak.

The first officer left the room. As the second stood up, he said in a quiet voice, "Good luck with your aunt," before leaving.

With no one else in the room, Clara melted into Nicholas. She couldn't stop thinking about what might have happened to Aunt Maureen if she'd arrived any later from the art show. Then her mind flashed back to a boy named Gary who was hit while riding his bike along a highway that didn't have a shoulder. He'd been in her grade though Clara didn't know him well. She remembered telling Jerilyn, "It's so sad," when she'd heard about his death, and Jerilyn saying that the really sad thing wasn't when a person dies – it's when everyone who knew that person is gone, too. Because then they were really dead – there wasn't anyone left on the planet to remember them. Jerilyn said it made her imagine all the stars in a constellation winking out one at a time.

She went back to thinking about Aunt Maureen, focusing on the tiny frog tattoo she'd had on her ankle since she was a teenager. Her mother had told her about the daring trip they'd planned to get their tattoos – but Aunt Maureen went through with it while Clara's mother backed out at the last minute, worried about their parents finding out. Clara thought about all the people who knew that story, and how one day Aunt Maureen and her frog tattoo would be gone, and some day after that all the people who knew about her would have disappeared as well. As sad as the thought made her, the sorrow fortified her. She wiped her eyes and looked up at Nicholas.

"We really saw that," she half-asked and half-told Nicholas. "That really happened."

He gently lifted her head and gave her a serious look. "Yes," he said. "It really did."

A shadow crossed them. Clara flinched, startled. She and Nicholas looked up to see Dr. Bihlmeier standing in the doorway.

"Miss Tuffney," he said in an ominous tone, "I need to speak with you about your aunt."

------------------

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- Steve


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