Authors: James Kipling
“What can I do for you, detective?” She asked, but did not invite them into the house.
“We came to see you, Vivian and speak to Stanley,” David said with a smile.
“I thought we agreed that you will leave us alone?” The woman said angrily.
“Believe me, Vivian, it is important,” the detective insisted.
Mrs. Douglass reluctantly opened the door and let them into the living room. “I will call my husband and son,” she said to them and left the room.
Charles and Stanley entered the room a few minutes later, the first looking angry and the second serious and reserved. “What is this all about?” Charles asked the detective.
“Stanley,” David looked at the son instead at the father. “Look who we found!”
Stanley looked at the other young man and obviously did not recognize him. John stepped closer and extended his hand. “Hi, I am John,” he said.
Stanley watched him suspiciously and everyone in the room could tell that he had no idea who John was. Carefully, he took the extended hand and said. “Hi, do I know you?”
“I am not sure,” John said. “I was Stanley’s roommate at the university, who are you?”
“I am Stanley Douglass,” the other man said firmly. “I returned home…”
“But, you did not recognize me?” John wondered.
“It has been too long,” Stanley dismissed his comment. “And anyway, we weren’t so good friends.”
“No, we were best friends.” John disagreed. “We used to do everything together, don’t you remember?”
“All I know is that Doctor Chen and Detective Wilson are trying to prove something that no one else wants them to prove.” Stanley said, using irony to hide his discomfort.
“Stanley, we want to help you, that is all,” Detective Wilson said. “We brought John here, hoping that he could help you to remember the past. The truth is that we still want to find out the truth about your disappearance and if there is someone, responsible for that, put him to justice.”
“I already told you that we don’t need your help anymore,” Mr. Douglass interrupted him. “My son is home and all we want is to be left alone. Doctor Chen, you promised me that you will forget about the case.”
“Mr. Douglass,” Lydia tried to defend herself. “I want to help…”
“We don’t need your help,” Stanley shouted at her. “I don’t want to listen to you, to be part of your session, to be interrogated as a criminal… I am Stanley Douglass… I am Stanley Douglass…” He started yelling. “If you have prove of the opposite, show it, but if you just come here to harass me, get out and never come back again.”
There was obviously something wrong because Stanley started to act out. John had said that he didn’t really recognize him and that his behavior was inconsistent with how Stanley used to act. But, Stanley’s family was feeling totally betrayed and now they were yelling at Lydia and David to just leave them alone.
The three of them walked out of the house alone, leaving the Douglass family in the living room. Stanley continued to yell, Vivian Douglass was crying, while Charles was trying to calm both of them.
The next few days, neither Lydia nor David contacted the Douglass family and also saw very little of each other. That was the reason, why Lydia was surprised to receive a call from Detective Wilson on Monday. The policeman wanted her to come to the precinct, because he had some new clues to share with her. Lydia was surprised and a little bit excited to see David again and to have something new to consider about the Stanley’s case.
“Hi,” she greeted him and David stood up and went to kiss her. The kiss was almost feather-like and Lydia was glad for the closed door, because the precinct was full of people at that hour.
“Hi,” David answered, when their lips separated and smiled down at her. “You look very beautiful today.”
“Thank you,” the woman smiled at him and caressed him on the cheek. “You also look fine.”
They shared another kiss and only then did David start talking about business. “Do you remember the boy Stanley went to visit ten years ago, just before disappearing?” He asked Lydia and waited for her to shake her head. “That was Timothy Sands, or Tim as everyone is calling him. Stanley and Tim had been friends for a while when Stanley disappeared, but Timothy had very little to say then. Actually, he was mostly unavailable for interviews or comments during the investigation.”
“Did you find him?” Lydia asked, excited.
“No, he was reported to be away on a class trip the entire time of the investigation, back then,” David explained. “And, when it become obvious that we were not going to find Stanley, we forgot about him too. Yesterday, when I looked through my old notes, I found out information about him. So, I thought that we could go and see if we can find him.”
“You never spoke to him?”
“Never,” David confirmed. “As far as I can tell, nobody has really heard from him since Stanley’s disappearance.”
“That looks suspicious,” Lydia commented.
“I was thinking that we can go to his house and ask about him, but, unfortunately, I was assigned a new case and it is impossible for me to leave now. Can you go by yourself?”
“Yes,” Lydia agreed, without thinking too much about it. If there was a way for her to find the truth, she was going to take it no matter what. “I can go, just give me the address and all the information you have about Timothy Sands.”
Lydia enjoyed her lonely drive to Tallahassee and used it to think about her new life and the case that was influencing all her decisions. Only a few weeks ago, she was a lonely, abandoned-by-everyone woman. Without a job, friends or boyfriend. Now, however, she had found a new home for herself, a few people to call friends and a man she could relate to and maybe even love. All she needed to feel complete again was to succeed in her job. Lydia needed to find the truth about Stanley Douglass disappearance. She need it as much as she needed to breathe.
The case had long ago become part of who she was now and the young doctor could not imagine letting it go. Stanley had become an enigma to her, a mystery she longed to solve. She knew what it meant to be all alone and avoided by everyone, so if that young boy had had to go through all that alone for ten years, she needed to find out why.
Lydia was very much confused by his behavior; she could tell that he remembered things from the past, but was unwilling to speak about them. There was something in his eyes that spoke about intelligence and superiority, about secrets and plots. She simply could not let that pass. Stanley’s parents were easy to understand, they were clinging to the hope that their son was back and that made them unwilling to even think about other possibilities. They had Stanley back, that was enough for them.
Lydia arrived in Tallahassee a few hours before midday and immediately went to look for Timothy Sands on his last known address. The house, however, was owned by another family and all they can tell her was that they remembered Timothy’s parents, but could not tell anything more about him or his family. Lydia went to search for any record of an address or employment of Timothy Sands, but nothing was to be found.
Baffled by the absolute disappearance of the man, Lydia went once again through the town’s records and even asked for assistance. According to Mrs. Shone, this lack of information could mean only one thing – someone had deliberately wiped Timothy Sands’ records. The lady told her to try at the college, where they were sure, Timothy had attended, but Lydia found again nothing.
Exasperated and tired, Lydia decided to eat something and think of her next step. She had even tried to search for information from the people living in the old neighborhood of the Sands’ family, but with the exception of an old lady, no one else remembered them. Mrs. Simons, on the other hand, was able only to tell her that Timothy’s parents were very negligent one and the boy had pretty much raised himself alone. According to her, Tim had almost no friends and was an angry and resentful boy.
As a last resort, Lydia decided to go and see again Stanley’s former roommate and ask him about Timothy Sands. John remembered the boy vaguely, but he told her that Stanley and Timothy were on the chess team together. “Stanley, often spoke about Tim, but I saw him only a few times,” John told her. “He was a very closed boy, and I always found strange that Stanley was his friend. But, on the other hand, that was Stanley – he was a friend to everyone and especially to those, who had no one. If I remember correctly, Tim had difficult parents and some anger issues.”
“Do you have any idea where I could find him?” Lydia asked him hopefully.
“Sorry, I haven’t seen him for years,” John said with regret. “We were never friends and I could honestly say that I have not thought of him since then.”
“Thank you for your help and please, if you remember anything else, call me,” Lydia said and left him her phone number.
Fortunately, John had managed to give her an idea that gave new hope to Lydia and she went right back to the college. If Stanley and Timothy were on the chess team together, there should be some photo of him in the yearbooks. At the school they gave her all the information she needed and with the help of the librarian, Lydia was able to find a picture of Timothy. The picture was clear and showed a young boy with sad eyes and a firmly set mouth. He was standing right beside a young and smiling Stanley and Lydia was able to find a few physical similarities between the two boys. The librarian found for her the electronic copy of the yearbook and Lydia used Photoshop to age his features.
“Oh, God!” she exclaimed, when the picture was ready.
“What is it?” The librarian asked. “Did you know him?”
“Yes, I think I know him…”
Lydia returned to Savannah as fast as possible, eager to share her findings with the Douglass family and Detective Wilson. Finally, she had found something essential that could help the case. It looked to her that Stanley and Timothy were the same man. She still had some doubts, but the photo she had seen showed clearly that even when young, the two boys had looked alike. Both Timothy and Stanley had light brown hair, brown eyes and typical Caucasian features. She supposed that if no-one had seen either of them for ten years, it would not be difficult to mistake one for the other.
The DNA test was keeping her in check, however, as Lydia still had no explanation how the new Stanley had managed to find blood that will match Mr. and Mrs. Douglass. Excited and once again confident in her abilities to read people, Lydia went straight to the precinct to talk to Detective Wilson.
“David,” she burst into his office. “I have found something…”
“Lydia,” David greeted her and walked around her to close the door. “Before you say anything, I have to tell you something. Stanley Douglass has disappeared again.”
“What?” Lydia asked. “Wait! He disappeared again? That does not make sense…no, it does…”
“What are you talking about?” David asked, confused by her behavior.
“I was not able to find Timothy Sands. All records and traces of him had been carefully erased, but I managed to find a photo of him. He was together with Stanley in the chess club and I managed to find a photo of them together.”
“So? What is so important about that photo?”
“Wait! The photo shows that Stanley and Timothy looked very much alike and when I aged the photo of Timothy, he looks a lot like the man who claims to be Stanley Douglass.”
“Is that even possible?” David asked her, already thinking how he could use the new information.
“Yes, I don’t know why or how, but it seems that Timothy took Stanley’s place. We should tell the Douglass family.”
“Now that he had disappeared again, I am not sure how they will react,” David said. “Maybe, we should let them be for now.”
“Are you looking for Stanley?”
“Yes, but so far we had found nothing. Charles told us that he had left during the night, taking the car that he had just given him. Stanley had left no message for them and is not answering his phone.”
“Please, I think that they should know,” Lydia insisted and David agreed to take her to the Douglass home.
Unsurprisingly, Mr. Douglass almost closed the door in her face, once he saw who was ringing on his door. “What do you want now, didn’t you do enough already?”
“Mr. Douglass,” Lydia spoke quickly. “I went to search for information about Timothy Sands and I found only one photo of him and Stanley together. They looked very much alike. When I used the computer to age the photo, Timothy looked a lot like the man who claims to be your son.”
“Shut up, shut up, do you hear me?” Charles Douglass shouted.
“Charles, calm down,” David placed a hand on his shoulder. “She is saying the truth.”
“I don’t want to hear anything else from you,” Charles continued to yell. “You insulted and hurt us enough. From the moment you came into our lives, the only thing you wanted was to rob us of our son. Why is that, Doctor Chen? Why do you hate us so much?”
“I never wanted to hurt you, Mr. Douglass,” Lydia protested. “All I want is to help you and your wife.”
“We don’t want your help,” the man shouted. “If I see you near my house again, I will file a restraining order against you.”
“Okay, Lydia let’s go now,” David took her by the hand and tugged her away. “Charles, we will not disturb you again.”
“This is madness,” Lydia cried, when they were in the car. “How can he refuse to listen to all these facts? This man is clearly not his son.”
“I know, Lydia, but it will take time for Charlie and Vivian to accept the truth. Come on, let's get our minds off the case.”
A few hours later, Lydia gaped at the dining room. The room looked different from what she remembered. Large chandeliers hung from the ceiling. Soft classical music was playing, only to give a surreal effect to the whole dining experience. David had taken her back to the hotel for a dinner.
The centerpieces were magnificent, scented candles burning away gloriously. Ice sculptures of dolphins, mermaids, castles, and Greek gods greeted the incoming crowd. Lydia was living the dream. She paused to look around. Everything looked magnificent and David was the most beautiful thing of all.