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What I Remember Most

Cathy Lamb

  Books by Cathy Lamb









  Published by Kensington Publishing Corporation




  All copyrighted material within is Attributor Protected.

  Table of Contents

  Also by

  Title Page

























































  Copyright Page

  For Brad


  I hear his voice, then hers. I can’t find them in the darkness. I can’t see them through the trees. I don’t understand what’s going on, but their horror, their panic, reaches me, throttles me.

  They scream the same thing.

  Run, Grenadine, run!

  It’s them.


  I needed to hide for a while.

  To do that, I had to change my appearance.

  I went to a cheap hair salon and had them cut six inches off, to the middle of my shoulder blades, then I had them cut a fringe of bangs. I went home and dyed my hair back to its original auburn color, from the blond it had been the last ten years. I washed it, then dried it with my back to the mirror.

  I turned around and studied myself.

  Yep. That would work.

  For the last year I had been Dina Hamilton, collage artist, painter, and blond wife of Covey Hamilton, successful investor. Before that, for almost twenty years, I was Dina Wild. Now I would be Grenady, short for Grenadine Scotch Wild, my real name, with auburn hair, thick and straight.

  Yes, I was named after ingredients in drinks. It has been a curse my whole life. There have been many curses.

  I am cursed now, and I am packing up and getting the hell out of town.

  Central Oregon was a good place for me to disappear from my old life and start a new one.

  I drove south, then east, the fall leaves blowing off the trees, magenta, scarlet, gold, yellow, and orange. It would be winter soon. Too soon.

  I stopped at the first small town. There were a few shops, restaurants, and bars. It had the feel of a Main Street that was barely holding on. There were several storefronts that had been papered over, there were not a lot of people, and it was too quiet.

  Still, my goals were clear, at least to me: Eat first, then find a job.

  I had $520.46 total. It would not last long. My credit and debit cards, and my checking, savings, and retirement accounts for my business and personal use, had been frozen. I had the $500 hidden in my jewelry box and $20 in my wallet. The change came from under the seat of my car. To say I was in a bad place would be true. Still. I have been in far, far worse places than this. At least I am not in a cage. Sometimes one must be grateful for what is not going wrong.

  I tried not to make any pathetic self-pitying noises in my throat, because then I would have pissed my own self off. I went to a park to eat some of the nonperishable food I’d brought with me.

  I ate a can of chili, then a can of pineapple. When I was done, I brushed my hair. I pulled a few strands down to hide one of the scars on my hairline. I put on makeup so I didn’t look so ghastly. I put extra foundation on the purple and blue bruising over my left eye, brushed my teeth out the car door, and smoothed out my shirt.

  I was presentable.

  I took a deep breath. This would be the first job I had applied for in many years. I started selling my collages and paintings when I was seventeen, and I had not required myself to fill out an application and resume.

  I looked into the rearview mirror. My car was packed full of boxes, bedding, bags, and art supplies. My skin resembled dead oatmeal. “You can do it, Grenady.”

  My green eyes, which I’ve always thought were abnormally and oddly bright, were sad, tired, and beat, as if they were sinking into themselves.

  “Come on, Grenady,” I snapped at my reflection. “You got a moose up your butt? Get it out and get moving.”

  I went to every business up and down Murray Avenue and asked for a job. I hoped they would not be thorough in the criminal background check department. That may have been a foolish hope.

  I heard the same thing again and again. “We’re not hiring.” They were all kind, though. A woman at a café offered me a coffee and pastry while I waited to talk to her. I was hungry, again, so I ate it. She told me, “This town is dying. We’re on our last gasp. Ya hear it?”

  A man at a hardware store said he would hire me but his “no-good, big-footed son-in-law needs a job because he got my daughter knocked up. I would like to knock him up with my fist, but The Wife says I can’t because it’ll make Christmas awkward.”

  I looked for a job for two hours—up and down the street. By the time I dumped myself back into my car, the sun was setting.

  I drove to a rest stop. I scrubbed my pits, face, hands, and teeth in the restroom before I went back to my car. I changed into sweats, then ate a can of corn and a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

  I don’t like living out of cars. I’ve lived in cars before, many years ago, many times. Sometimes the car was mine, sometimes it wasn’t. I can do it again, but I don’t like it.

  The car I have now, an Acura MDX SUV, where the back two rows were collapsed for my stuff and could also provide a cramped but doable bed, is much better than the cars I’ve slept in before.

  The other cars were small and tight. The seats were broken on one, so they wouldn’t recline, and the passenger door wouldn’t lock on another, which made me nervous in the middle of the night.

  Oh, and then there was Clunker. Clunker was a long, black beast and the most comfortable to sleep in, but the steering was loose and sometimes the brakes would lock up. Made for an exciting ride.

  I rolled out my sleeping bag and blankets and lay down, my mind reeling as if someone had stuck a firework in it.

  I hardly slept. Fall is cold outside, and rest stops are not restful, even late at night. There were sixteen-wheeler trucks roaring in and out, people in and out, and a group of teenagers partying.

  I finally went to sleep around three in the morning, after watching two drunks duke it out with each other. They hit each other so hard they both collapsed flat backward onto the grass, exactly like in the movies. A perfect outcome, I thought. Now they’ll shut up.

  There was a family with a baby a few parking spaces down, and the baby woke me up twice. Two semis roared i
n way too fast around four. I woke up with a start and had a vision of a snake wrapped around a knife. I have had this vision since I was a kid and I don’t know why.

  Sometimes I don’t want to know why.

  I missed sleeping in a bed. I didn’t miss who had been in it with me, but I did miss the mattress part of it.

  The next morning I drove south, colorful leaves flying through the air, as if they were racing to get off the trees. I stopped at several towns. The last one was called Silver Village. I had the same poor result as I schlepped door to door, trying to hide my desperation.

  I applied in a factory, restaurants, four bars, the library, and two gift shops. I did not apply at the strip club. I am not there yet and probably never will be. I am way too old, anyhow. Strip clubs usually like women whose boobs are in the right place, preferably large. I was stacked on top, but they weren’t young boobs anymore, and my ass wasn’t exactly as tight as a whiskey drum. The scars on my back would not be seen as sexy, either, unless their clients were into S and M.

  The people I talked to were all polite, except for one scraggly lady who told me there was no way she’d hire me, ironically, “with a big rack like that. My husband works here, too. I only hire ugly women.”

  There were no jobs. I spent another night in a rest stop. Once again, I hardly slept because two women truckers blared the entire sound track to Phantom of the Opera while they played cards at a table lit by a lantern. I drove away from them, but then a mentally ill man pounded on my windows and yelled, “The CIA is chasing me!”

  I felt sorry for him. I handed him two chocolate candy bars. He said, “Cupcake Man thanks you and so do I.” He took off again, waving the candy bars and shouting into the air, “They’re coming!”

  Three teenage girls sat near my car and cried because their car wouldn’t start. I called AAA for them and gave them a pack of gum. They hugged me when they left. They were way late getting home and said, “Our moms are gonna kill us. Kill us!”

  I thought they should be grateful to have moms who would be so worried that they would “kill” their teenage girls for being late, but I didn’t say it.

  I ran to the bathroom when I saw two other women going in at four-thirty in the morning, so I wouldn’t risk getting attacked, then tried to sleep again. A barking dog woke me at five-thirty in the morning.

  This was not good.

  I looked at my face. Car living is never good for the complexion.


  Lincoln County Police

  Incident Report

  Case No. 82-9782

  Reported Date/Time: June 10, 1982 12:30 a.m.

  Location of Occurrence: Hwy 43, mile marker 15

  Reporting Officer: Sgt. Joey Terrerae

  Incident: Found Girl

  On Friday night, trucker Alan Denalis saw a girl running along Highway 43 about midnight. He stopped the truck, then ran after the girl. She screamed and kept running, like she was afraid of him, so he kept a distance until she became too tired to run. He estimates that they ran close to a half mile.

  When he caught up with her she was hysterical and crying. Her head was bleeding profusely. Mr. Denalis has children and said it was as if she was caught up in a night terror and didn’t know where she was.

  He tried to calm her down, then carried her back to his truck. She kept pointing at the forest, but he did not know what she wanted him to do. She was too upset to speak. Twice she tried to get out of the truck when he was driving.

  He brought her to Helena’s Café on Highway 99 where he met police. The waitress, Darlene Dilson, brought the girl a hamburger and shake, but she began screaming again. The waitress said it was like she wasn’t inside herself, like she wasn’t there. She kept trying to run out the door.

  We worked with county and state police, as we thought that maybe she’d been in a car accident and had managed to escape. We also thought that perhaps she’d been running from an abusive home or situation, perhaps she’d run from a car, but there are no homes where she was found and we found no one who was looking for a lost girl. We didn’t know whether she spoke English.

  She was brought to St. Clare’s Hospital, where she was examined. She has a concussion and a deep cut near her hairline that will probably scar. The doctor put in fourteen stitches. She continued to scream on and off and was not able to talk for a long time. She has green eyes, and they were blank, like she was staring off into the distance.

  We will be working with local media to see if we can figure out who she is and who her parents are and what happened. We’ll be sending her photo to the FBI to see if she is a kidnap victim or missing child . . .

  Lincoln County Police

  Chief Liovanni,

  I know you wanted me to keep you up-to-date about the girl who was found on Highway 43. She says her name is Grenadine Scotch Wild and she is six years old. When I talked to her after a couple of days in the hospital, she was still almost hysterical and begging me to find her parents. I told her we would.

  We have not been able to locate the parents, despite help from city, county, and state police and the FBI. (For once I didn’t get any back talk from Jerry.) Grenadine doesn’t remember what happened. She said she remembers they were at a festival, she and her parents; they were going to fly her red kite, there was another man, and that’s it. Zip. Nothing else. She described her parents but could not describe the man except to say that he had curly brown hair and a big forehead.

  As you know, her picture has been on local and statewide TV, but no one seems to know who she is. We are unable to locate any relatives. We asked her if she had grandparents, and she said no. A huge part of this problem is that she says her parents’ names are Freedom and Bear Wild. There is no record of anyone named Freedom Wild or Bear Wild.

  The parents most likely made the names up. Plus, they named their kid Grenadine Scotch Wild? Who does that?

  There is no record of Grenadine’s birth anywhere in America or Canada. It’s like she appeared out of the fog that night.

  Grenadine is in a foster home and under the care of the Children’s Services Division. We will continue our search and work with CSD.

  She seems like a good kid. It’s a terrible situation.

  Sgt. Joey Terrerae


  I stopped in a town named Pineridge next.

  Pineridge is surrounded by mountains. Brothers, three mountains in a row, tower in the distance, lined up like mountain soldiers. Ragged Top, with a jagged peak, and Mt. Laurel round out the incredible view. The view would not buy me a job, but it’s always better to be broke in a beautiful place than an ugly place.

  Pineridge was designed to resemble the Wild, Wild West. It had 4,500 people. It was a small town, but not too small. I could be there and not be noticed much. It was also almost four hours from my home and no one knew me, which is exactly what I need.

  The 1850s buildings lining Main Street were somewhat fakey, with their cowboy and Indian days façades, but still appealing. There were balconies and boardwalks, brightly painted store fronts, old-fashioned lampposts and hanging flowerpots. A steel statue of a cowboy on a bucking horse divided the main street. You could almost see the horses, carriages, women with bonnets and bustles, and gunfights in the middle of the street, if you had an imaginative imagination.

  Pineridge was charming, but within the charm I needed to find a job. I brushed my hair and pulled it back into a braid. I changed my shirt, as the other one had chili on it. I changed my jeans, as I’d worn them for two days. I pulled on my cowboy boots. I put on mascara, liner, blush, and lipstick to hide the gluelike color of my skin. I applied foundation to the purple and blue bruises.

  I started at the grocery store. The manager said they weren’t hiring now, but she had a lot of employees, some of them teenagers, and said, “You never know when they’re not going to show up in favor of a kegger.”

  I went to a quilting and crocheting shop. In the back corner they had shawls. I saw a red, crocheted shawl. I ran my
fingers down it, and my eyes burned. I scooted out of that shop before I became too emotional about the red shawl. I could not work in a shop with a red, crocheted shawl, anyhow. Heck, no.

  I turned the corner and sat down in a park on a bench in front of a fountain. The fountain’s base was a wagon wheel. I picked up the newspaper beside me for distraction. It told the usual—wars that shouldn’t be fought, budget issues, and another serial killer guy on death row appealing his sentence. The thought of the serial killer made me nervous.

  I stood back up. Restaurant. Café. Hardware store. Another restaurant. A bookstore. Pawn shop. Antique shop. A sign shop and a copying place. An optician’s, a dentist’s, a doctor’s office, pharmacy, art galleries. All said no, in a friendly way. Hours later, I trudged back to my car, tired and discouraged. Rejection made me feel stupid, a familiar feeling.

  “Lose the whine, Grenady.” I drove out into the country as the sun went down over Ragged Top, parked my car off a deserted street, and ate a can of pineapple and a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. I peed out the side, brushed my teeth with bottled water, then climbed into my sweats and sleeping bag in the back.

  I hoped an ax murderer wouldn’t come along when I was sleeping. Couldn’t have been more than two hours later and I was woken up by cars flying by, engines roaring, music blasting.