Experiment #283

The Disappearance of Lilly Cole Part 4

Two hours later James opened his old front door only to find a strange family sitting at the dinner table. The father stopped with his fork in midair. “Can I help you?” He asked in a tone suggesting he wouldn’t. James mumbled an apology and left. Three hours, two more wrong doors and a call to Information later he opened the door to find Cassy with her angry face on.

“What on Earth took you six hours to get here?”

“Time travel,” he said with a sad grin. It was an old joke between them.

“Inept time travel is more like it.”

“I’m sorry…I got lost.”

“For six hours? The worst part is Jimmy.”

James looked at her with an inquisitive stare.

“I had to cancel the trip,” said Cassy. “I couldn’t find you anywhere.”

“The trip?” James asked. His mouth had gone dry.

“Yes, the opera. You’ve been planning it for weeks.”

James raised his eyebrows. “I like opera?”

“No, but you like Jimmy. Or at least I thought you did, till you stood him up today.”

“I…”

“You’ve been out a lot lately. What’s going on with you?”

“I don’t know.”

A knock came at the door. Cassy breathed out her frustration and walked past James to the door.

“Ronnie?” she said as she opened it. “What are you doing here?”

Ronnie, her brother, stood dressed in his police uniform. His partner stood behind him.

“Ronnie?” James whispered.

“I’m sorry to bother you, Cass,” Ronnie said. “Is James here?”

She nodded and led them toward the living room.

“You all right, James? You look like you’ve seen a ghost,” Cassy said.

“Ronnie,” James whispered again. “But O-O-Occoquan Lake?”

“Occoquan?” Ronnie asked. “I haven’t been back there since you two started dating.”

“But you…” James stammered, “you were-”

A woman pushed past the officers and into the room.

“Henry?” She gasped. When she saw James, she ran to him and jumped into his arms. “Oh, Henry, I was so worried about you. You mustn’t disappear like that.”

She came out of the embrace and kissed him long and hard on the lips. Then she looked up at him and his expression. “Henry, what’s wrong?” she asked. She reached up and put her hands on his face. “You look so young…”

“Who is this?” Cassy asked, with a warning in her voice.

James took the woman’s hands from his face.

“I swear I don’t know,” he said, looking at Cassy. “I’ve never seen her before.”

Tears came into the woman’s eyes.

“Sorry,” James said reflexively.

“It’s okay, Henry. I know it’s the disease talking.” She wiped the tears from her eyes and turned with matriarchal grace to Cassy as she extended her hand. “I’m Ariadne Cole, but you can call me Aria.” She put her hand on James’s arm. “I’m his wife.”

To Be Continued…

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