"Long time, no see, eh?"
Hearing a long forgotten voice, Paula Evans turned and locked eyes with Donnie Maclay. Her eyes squinted against the fading sun, "Donnie, is that you?" She fumbled with her shopping bags as her eyes came into focus.
"Mrs. Evans," Donnie plastered a smile on his face, "here, let me help you with those." Before Paula could protest, he had already taken both plastic bags.
Ricky finally caught up with the pair, catching his breath as he faintly recognized the woman standing beside his cousin. He remembered his mother's hushed conversations over the phone and recalled hearing Mrs. Evans' name several times when nobody knew he was listening. He had only met her once or twice but he could never forget the lost expression that the woman always seemed to have on her face.
"Hello." Paula briefly nodded in Ricky's direction before facing Donnie. "What are you doing here?" She hadn't meant for the words to come out so unkindly, but seeing the young man came as a bit of a shock.
"Sightseeing," the single worded answer was a lie and he knew Paula wasn't buying it from the hue of her face and the way she fidgeted, her eyes darting every now and then to the bags he was holding. "How far are you going? We'll give you a hand."
"No, it's okay. It's not that far, I can take them," Paula reached across, intending to take back her grocery bags. She was growing irritated and wanted to get away from the boy as fast as she could. Seeing him only reminded her of her past... and how much she had lost.
Donnie took a step back. "We insist." He was in no hurry to let the woman go. After all, she may know something about Tara. It even occurred to him that she was probably in a hurry to get back to his sister.
Donnie's smile unnerved Paula. The way his lips stretched into a grin that never reached his eyes reminded her so much of Donald Sr.; the smile of a salesman as you unexpectedly sign over your soul. What was Donnie really doing there? And, Paula suddenly wondered, did he know something about Nadia?
Paula glanced over to Ricky, who had kept silent the entire time, and tried to guess his involvement in the situation. What did he know?
"Well? Which way are we going?" Donnie asked, showing his impatience. He hated waiting. Paula had been staring off into space for what seemed like forever. He wanted to go. The sooner he got to Mrs. Evans' house, the closer he would be to finding Tara. He just knew the old woman had to be hiding his sister somewhere. Why else would she be here?
"What about the truck?" Ricky finally spoke. "What if it gets towed?"
Donnie rolled his eyes at his cousin. For the hundredth time, he asked himself why he had decided to bring him along. "Don't be an idiot, it's a library. They won't tow us."
Paula had broken out of her reverie at the sound of Donnie's voice. She decided that it couldn't hurt to have the two young men help her. After a hot cup of coffee, she might even get the answers she needed.
"It's this way." She pointed down the street.
The trio started down the cracked sidewalk toward Paula's house. Two people both thinking that they had the upper hand and one that was simply along for the ride.
Doctor Christianson made another bold, red checkmark on a spreadsheet clipped to his patient's folder. One down, three to go. Maybe he could actually leave on time when his shift ended tonight.
Giles spotted the young doctor making notes on his clipboard and quickened his pace before he could disappear behind another door.
"Excuse me," Giles reached the doctor just as he was about to start down another hallway. "Perhaps you can help me," the elder doctor began, "I'm looking for a Doctor Christianson."
Charles Christianson's forehead crinkled a little, "Do I know you?" He surveyed the man, eyes landing on Giles' name tag. "Doctor Giles?"
"I presume you're the man I'm looking for," Giles also gave the other man the once over. He was young; almost as young as he had been when he started his residence. "And no, we haven't met. Rupert Giles." He extended his hand and was surprised to receive a firm grip.
When it was clear that Christianson wasn't going to say anything, Giles continued. "I'm actually here on a brief visit. I've heard a great deal about the progress you've been making here at Pines View."
Flattery was a great conversation opener and it worked just as Giles had intended it to. That he had heard of the doctor wasn't a lie; however, he hadn't heard of Charles because of his recognizable work. The young doctor blushed, "Well, it's a pleasure to have you. What institution are you from?"
"I'm independent," Giles answered, quickly. "Perhaps, if it's not too much trouble, you could show me around. I've been thinking of writing an article featuring different psychiatric facilities."
"Oh, yes, of course. I was just about to make my final rounds," Doctor Christianson beamed, eager for the opportunity to make his name internationally known. He placed his pen into his coat pocket and straightened his posture just a fraction. "What are your interests? We have quite a few patients here at Pines View, ranging from mild to extreme psychological disorders."
"You lead, I'll follow," Giles said, simply. Charles nodded and smiled as he led them down a side corridor. They stopped at a large, metal door where an orderly patiently waited for the cue to unlock it.
Everyone wants something. In most cases, it was only a matter of time... and how far you were willing to go to get the answers you wanted.