Fingers drummed on the table of the small café a block from Willow's home. Robin paid for her purchases before joining her best friend at the corner table.
"Can I ask you a question?" Willow stopped tapping on the table and fiddled with the napkin dispenser.
"Uh oh," Robin smirked against the rim of her coffee cup, "Willow's got her thinking cap on. Does this mean that I have to think too? ‘Cause you know my brain doesn't function well without at least two cups of caffeine loaded beverages."
"What number are you on now?" The doctor noted the numerous empty sugar packages on the table.
"Three." The dark-haired woman smiled guiltily. She took another gulp from her cup and motioned for her friend to ask her question.
"Alright, so, of all the people you've helped prosecute, how many of them were actually criminally insane?" Taking a sip from her mocha, Willow waited for her friend to answer.
"And by insane, you mean the little talking elves made me to do, I was only following orders, insane?" Robin asked. Willow nodded, rolling her eyes playfully as her friend went on. "Well, you'll always have people who would easily plead insanity for a lesser or least harsh sentence. But," she paused, unsure on how much to reveal, "There have been one or two clients that were legally identified as insane."
"Well, how did you really know?" The doctor frowned, clarifying herself, "That they were insane?"
"You're the doctor, you tell me." The grin on Robin's face fell away when her joke failed to raise a smile on Willow's lips. "It's hard to say," her eyes took on a faraway stare, "I've known some pretty good actors and not one of them has ever come close to showing the amount of madness I've seen in the courtroom."
"And you've never doubted or questioned what you saw?" Willow asked as her mind filled with unanswered questions
Robin pushed her coffee aside and closely regarded her roommate. "What's this about, Willow? Is something wrong at the hospital?"
"No, no nothing's wrong. I was only wondering," the redhead shrugged and Robin's instincts told her to leave it be. If something were truly bothering the doctor, she was sure Willow would come around to telling her when the time was right.
"I have some things to take care of," Willow pushed away from the table, "I'll see you at home, okay." The prosecutor nodded and watched her friend leave the restaurant.
It took Willow less than twenty minutes to walk home. Once through the door, the young woman went straight to her room and the note that lay partially covered by a black diskette. While her laptop booted up, Willow's mind drifted toward her patient. She couldn't imagine that Tara, or anyone in Pines View, was being abused, and the simple thought sickened her. Mentally searching through the past couple of days, her minds eye couldn't remember seeing any visible signs of mistreatment. In fact, other than the often rudeness from some of the staff, the hospital appeared to be following the rules. Or so it seemed. The doctor knew that she was completely ignorant of what happened once visitation hours were over.
Leaning back in her chair, the redhead sighed gently. Less than two weeks ago she was a young doctor yearning for a chance to prove herself and now that she had finally been given the opportunity, Willow wasn't sure where to start. Her eyes connected with the cryptic note before scanning around the room while her computer finished loading.
Typing in the necessary commands, Willow's mind drifted out of its daydream and toward the task at hand. Deciding that the first half of the note would only be solved once the last section was completed, the doctor searched for the completion to the possible address. She started by searching through the online directory and found several possible street names beginning with the first three letters given.
Luckily there was only one "328 W" listed. The search turned out easier than expected, almost too easy based on what Willow had been thinking. Jotting the address down on a scrap piece of paper, the redhead focused her attention on the first "clue".
"And the angel which I saw stand upon the sea and upon the earth lifted up his hand to heaven," she slowly spoke the words several times. A soft knock vibrated on her door.
"Come in," Willow called, half focused on Robin and half determined to figure out the line.
"Sorry," the young woman grimaced at her interruption. "You have a message on the machine. I saved it for you."
"Is it from Giles?" Thinking she forgot to erase the old message from the home answering machine, Willow looked back toward the door.
"No, I don't think so. I only listened to the first half then saved it." Robin shrugged, preparing to leave the room.
The red-haired doctor nodded, her mind already back on the note. She repeated the phrase for what seemed like the fourth time.
Robin stopped outside the hallway and peeked back into the room. "You know, I never thought I'd see the day that Willow Rosenberg was quoting the Bible." She smirked.
"Wait, what?" Surprised, Willow looked from the paper to her roommate.
"That line," Robin stepped fully into the room and leaned against the doorframe, "it's from the Bible."
"Are you sure?" Brows furrowed, the doctor frowned.
"Oh yeah, I'm six years of Bible-study, sure." The prosecutor nodded, remembering her childhood years.
"Are you going to be here awhile?" Willow asked and gathered her notes, hurriedly packing them into her shoulder bag.
"I might step out a little later, but yeah, I should be here most of the day." Robin watched her best friend scramble around the room.
"Will you be up for a movie and some ice cream?" Willow asked, feeling the need to spend some time with her roommate.
"Ooh, double scoop?" The other woman's eyes lit up with childlike anticipation. The redhead grinned, nodding as they moved down the steps.
"I'll be back in an hour or two," Willow smiled, hurrying through the door and completely forgetting about the flashing light on her machine.
Willow's silver car pulled along the curb of a small house just outside of downtown. 328 West Dennison, she checked her slip of paper and looked up at the house. A mixture of brick and wood, the house appeared abandoned from the outside. The windows were closed as were the curtains, and the untidy garden spilled onto the concrete pathway.
"Paula Evans?" The doctor asked once the door opened to reveal an older woman wearing a green and purple sweater littered with what Willow thought was cat hair.
"Yes," Mrs. Evans arched a curious yet friendly eyebrow toward the unknown woman standing at her door.
"Willow Rosenberg, I'm a friend of Tara Maclay-."
Before Willow could continue, the older woman interrupted her. "Is something wrong?" The fingers of a shaking hand gripped the hem of the worn sweater.
"No, Tara's fine," sensing the woman's panic, the doctor answered quickly although her words weren't completely true. "I, um," Willow rubbed her arms as if she were cold, "do you mind if I come in?"
Paula hesitated a moment before letting the younger woman inside. "What's this about?" Motioning for Willow to have a seat, Mrs. Evans slowly lowered herself into her reclining chair.
"I just have a few questions, if that's alright." The redhead's jeans slid against the plastic covering of the couch. A white kitten tiredly watched the two women before lowering its head and returning to sleep.
Stuck between suspicion and interest, the older woman nodded somewhat happy for the company. If this woman was a friend of Tara's, Paula saw no harm in talking with the stranger. Besides, she was learning to become more trustful, and the young redhead seemed nice enough.
"How long have you known Tara?" Willow asked as she took her notebook and a pen from her bag. She saw the other woman curiously looking at the items before answering the question.
"Let's see," Paula leaned back into the cushion of her chair, "Elizabeth died when Tara was nine, and I became their Nanny shortly after. I just about raised her until she turned eighteen."
"Then what happened?" The doctor leaned closer to show that she was interested in what Mrs. Evans was saying.
"Well, then, uh," she paused as if remembering something, but the memory passed just as quickly as it came. "Well, I moved here to Seattle."
Willow noticed the brief change but chose to continue with her questions. "What about Tara's father and her brother? What happened to them?"
Paula frowned, "If my memory's right, her father's still preaching out in Rose County." Her expression turned grim, "And Donnie, well, I suspect he's in jail somewhere, or worse."
"Why would you think that?" Pen in hand, the redhead waited for the woman to answer.
"He was never the one to stay out of trouble." Mrs. Evan's shook her head disapprovingly, "That boy was always in some sort of mess, nothing like his sisters." Willow's hand froze against the notepad.
"Sisters?" The doctor tried to hide her surprise. The file that was currently in her bag stated that Donald Jr. was Tara's only sibling.
"Oh yes, those two were always close," a faint smile crossed Paula's face before it disappeared and was replaced with an odd expression at Willow's next question.
"Mrs. Evans, when was the last time you saw Tara, or her sister?" Inside, the redhead's mind was reeling.
The older woman scooted forward until she rested on the end of the chair. "Where did you say you know Tara from, again?" Her grayish blue eyes searched Willow's face.
Fumbling with her notebook, Willow hurriedly stood. She was the worse liar she knew, and by the piercing stare Paula was giving her, she was sure the other woman would see through what ever she decided to say. The option of revealing herself as Tara's doctor, however unofficial, was not a risk Willow was willing to take without having more knowledge of what was truly going on.
The woman sitting on the chair took Willow's silence and movement as the only answer she needed. "I don't know who you are, but I think you better go before I call the police." She stood as well, eyes flickering from the redhead to the telephone nearby.
"Sorry to have bothered you," Willow managed to get out before quickly moving toward the door.
Paula Evans watched the young woman get into a silver car before speeding away. Once the automobile was out of sight, nervous hands reached for the telephone.
Willow inwardly smacked herself. Not only had she given the older woman her real name, which Mrs. Evans was probably repeating to the police by now, but she'd asked too many questions. She was not a detective; she was a doctor, albeit a very snoopy doctor, but a doctor nonetheless.
However, even with the possible involvement of the police, Willow was overall happy with her mild interrogation. Tara had a sister. The missing detail changed everything, adding to the rising list of unanswered questions. The doctor shifted into a faster gear and sped through downtown as her mind replayed the meeting with Mrs. Evans, trying to remember as many expressions and subtle body movements as she could.