Robin reached her desk just as her answering machine finished recording her latest message. The attorney had been in conferences for the better part of the morning and wanted nothing more than to lock her door and steal a few moments of sleep.
She looked at the light blinking on the machine and then toward her office couch, knowing that if the messages were important, she would never find a moment of rest. After another longing glance at her sofa, she pressed the playback button.
The first two messages were from her assistant reminding her of more meetings but the last message caught her attention.
Paula Evan's voice was clear on Robin's machine; her tone slightly distracted as she described a visit she had received a few weeks back. Robin knew from Paula's description that the visitor who had been asking questions about Tara had been Willow.
Willow had not given her many details about her visit with Mrs. Evans, but Robin was certain that her roommate had not revealed too much information.
Briefly, Robin silently questioned the older woman's timing and why she was broaching the subject of Willow's visit weeks after the fact. Had something happened to trigger her sudden revelation?
Despite her busy schedule, Robin had managed to gather some names in her investigation into Nadia Evans disappearance, and although there was little to go on, she knew that people just didn't disappear without a trace or a reason.
After his original search had turned up unsuccessful, Daniel, Robin's friend with the local police, had called her back with some information from the year prior to Nadia's disappearance. Most of the young man's information had been gathered from Oregon's local database and public school alumni records, but it was a starting point.
The first name on her list belonged to an old classmate of the missing woman; a Scott Lee. The most recent address and telephone number were also neatly written next to the name. And even though only an address was listed for the next person on Robin's list, she was thankful that Tacoma was less than an hour outside of Seattle in case she was unable to locate a number.
With thirty minutes to spare before her next meeting, Robin dialed the number for Mr. Lee. As she waited for the line to pick up, the attorney wondered how she would bring up the subject of Nadia without causing alarm. She could take the reporter writing an article for the local paper approach or even advise him that she was searching for an old family friend.
Regardless of how she decided to bring up the topic, she needed to do it without sending off warning bells to the man who still lived in Tara and Nadia's hometown.
"Hello?" A scratchy voice repeated.
"Hello, may I speak with Scott Lee?" Once Robin was given confirmation that she was speaking with the right person, she continued.
"My name is Robin Hawthorne," for a brief moment, she wondered if she should have given a false name but continued. "I'm looking for a family friend and came across your name in the Jefferson High database; I was hoping that you could help."
"Okay," the young man said, hesitantly.
"Her name is Nadia Evans. I believe she was in your graduating class and I was wondering if you knew how I could get in touch with her." It was probably a long shot but the school's population allowed Robin to hope that he remembered the name.
She heard the volume of the television decrease and exhaled the air she didn't know she was holding when Scott spoke, "Sure. Yeah, I remember." He muffled a cough and went on, "But I wouldn't know how to get in touch with her. I haven't seen or heard from her since they left."
"They?" Robin softly repeated to herself, jotting the information down on her notepad. "Do you remember who she left with?"
"Her sister... Tara, I think that was her name." He muffled another cough as he remembered the last time he had seen his old classmate.
They had completed many of the same courses in school but did not become close friends until after graduation. Nadia had even been staying with him and his girlfriend for a few days until she decided where she would go next.
"Did she say where she was headed?" Robin asked, briefly interrupting Scott's train of thought.
"She always talked about going to San Diego. Even brought up Mexico a few times, but I don't think she ever told me for sure." Scott continued, a new memory surfacing, "I remember they had another fight before they left; just got in the car and took off. She even left a few things here. I thought she would come back for them but she never did."
"Okay," Robin said, copying his words onto her notepad. "Thank you so much for your help."
"No problem, I hope you find her," Scott said before adding, "And could you give her my number once you do. I'd really like to catch up." Robin agreed and disconnected after another 'thank you.'
Hanging up the receiver, the attorney stared at the notebook in her hand. Her telephone conversation hadn't given her much information about Nadia's whereabouts; however, it had provided an interesting detail. For all she knew, Tara was the last person to see her sister before she disappeared.
The courtyard at Pines View was lush with flowers and trees. Christianson pointed out the institutions various accomplishments while Giles, at his side, observed the small group of patients gathered amongst each other.
Noticing that Giles was no longer paying attention to one of their new facilities, Christianson motioned toward the group the doctor had been observing. "Ah, these are our more 'mild' patients," he said, smiling as he made quotation marks in the air.
"So they don't require supervision?" Giles asked.
Christianson had also noticed the lack of several staff members but tightened his mouth into a smile, "We need most of our employees caring for the more severe cases. As you may know, most budgets allow a certain amount of supervision for specific patients."
"As I understand it," Giles paused, "Many institutions receive financial support depending on the number of patients they," he paused again, "Acquire."
Christianson barely concealed his frown," Well, yes. Most institutions do. But I'm not an accountant so I wouldn't know all that much about our books."
"Have you ever had any problems with patients not returning to their rooms?" Giles asked, motioning again to the thinly supervised patients. Inwardly, he told himself to slow down but his eagerness to catch Christianson off guard was getting the best of him.
As expected, Christianson fumbled with his clipboard as he answered, "A few. Nothing we cannot handle." He paused before continuing, "Mr. Giles, we may not have the latest technology or funds that you're accustomed to, but I can assure you that each patient is given proper time and treatment."
For a brief moment, Christianson's mind wandered to the young blonde patient that had recently gone missing before his attention refocused on Giles.
"Of course, I apologize," Giles smiled in an attempt to ease the other doctor's apprehension. "I appreciate your time, Doctor Christianson," he said, glancing at his wristwatch, "Would it be possible to schedule another visit? Early next week, perhaps?"
Grinning inwardly as if he had just won an argument, Christianson patted Giles on the back as he motioned him toward the main office.
Once in the parking lot, the doctor switched on his phone and winced at the number of missed calls. Not bothering to listen to his voicemail, he pressed speed dial on his phone and waited for the line to pick up.
"Willow-," cut off before he could finish, Giles silently listened to the worry in his protégés voice.
"Giles? I've been calling you all day!" Willow kept her voice low as not to wake Tara, "Where are you?"
The older doctor put his car into gear, "I'm leaving Pines View," before Willow could utter a single word, Giles continued, "I'm on my way there," he said, paused again, "Have you kept up with your, uh, computer skills?"
Willow hesitated, surprised by the question, "Sort of, maybe... Yes." She frowned, "Giles, we are talking about my not-so-legal computer skills, right?" She asked, scanning the room for her laptop.
"Yes, I believe we are," Giles answered, glancing toward the folder in his passenger seat. Christianson had been kind enough to give him a list of current and former physicians at Pines View for his 'article', and although Giles was not exactly sure what Willow could find out, if anything, it was worth taking a look.
Willow found her laptop beneath a stack of papers and immediately powered up the machine. She wasn't exactly sure what Giles wanted her to do but if it helped Tara, she would do it.
The doctor focused her mind on the blonde sleeping in the next room. She knew that whatever Tara was dealing with was internal for her and until she felt comfortable enough to acknowledge her thoughts for what they were, she would never be ready to let anyone in.
The hard part was providing that comfort and asking the right questions was no guarantee. She had enough common sense to treat Tara like a normal person, but wasn't Tara normal already? Everyone had demons, pasts, and things they wish they could forget. How was Tara any different?
Wanting to check on the blonde before Giles arrived, Willow closed the lid of her laptop and tucked it under her arm. The door to the spare bedroom was cracked but Willow knocked lightly before entering.
Tara immediately looked up as she gently pushed the door open. "Hi, how'd you sleep?" Willow asked, noticing that the smile on Tara's face contrasted the worry around her eyes.
"Okay," Tara sighed, softly. Her eyes fell to the laptop beneath Willow's arm but she remained silent; the remnants of her dream still fresh in her mind.
"Giles is on his way," Willow said, stepping further into the room to lean against the wall. "He was at Pines View; I think he has some information." Her smile quickly turned into a frown when Tara's eyes widened in fear. "Oh, no, it's good information... I think." She crossed the room and sat on the edge of the mattress, facing Tara. "He didn't tell them anything. You're safe here; he wouldn't do that."
Willow realized that she hadn't given Giles much of an opportunity to fully explain why he was at Pines View or what he had found but she was sure that he hadn't mentioned the blonde's whereabouts.
"I promise," the doctor said, smiling to reassure the woman sitting in front of her. "Do you want to come down with me?" She stood and held out her hand.
Tara stared at Willow's hand for a moment before grasping it. The softness of the redhead's skin against hers dispelled any previous doubts as they made their way downstairs.
"I'll get us some tea," Willow said, setting her laptop on the side table. Tara's hand felt small within hers but the long fingers squeezed gently before releasing.
"Thank you," Tara said, already missing the contact when Willow disappeared into the kitchen.
While in bed, Tara had promised herself that she would try harder. The frustration of not being able to control her own thoughts was tiring but she had to try. It was instinct to push back those images that bled into her consciousness; those webs of what was real and what wasn't. It was a trait she had learned before Pines View...before any of it. She only hoped that the truth wasn't something she and Willow would both regret knowing.