by Joe Zabel

Chapter 12

At 12:30 PM Kathy called. 'Sally, I'm tied up, are you ok about lunch?'

'I guess so. I'll be at loose ends-- Margo called to cancel too.'

'Why don't you go down to the cafeteria? You'll probably see someone you know-- and if not, just introduce yourself.'

Sally exhaled. 'I already know all of them-- from when I was Jen. But none of them know me now...'

'We'll talk about it tonight. Just remember that you're Sally, now. And people want to know Sally because she's a valuable human being!'

'Thanks, Kathy. I'll see you tonight.'

Kathy hug up the cell phone. 'I hated to lie to her, but I had to talk with you, and it's about her.'

'Don't worry,' said Margo. 'I know you've got her best interest at heart. Is this about how you and Sally met? I have to admit, I'm intrigued.'

'It's about how we met-- and it's about WHO Sally THINKS she is!'

'...And that's how it's been. She hasn't mentioned Jen or alluded to the situation, until today, when she said, 'None of them know me now!''

Margo was incredulous. 'If it was anybody but you, I would think they were joking! But now I don't know what to think!'

'I've been going over it in my mind for weeks, and I'm no better off than you.'

Margo considered. 'I felt just like you did about Jen's death. There was something wrong, something that was concealed. Knowing Jen for a year, I didn't learn anything I haven't told you; but I sensed there were... things about her she was afraid to reveal.

'And now, what you're saying about the keys, and the resume. The other day when she and I went to lunch together, I kept being reminded of Jen. It almost makes sense. I mean, the girl's clearly out of her mind, but there's more to it. It's like she's been coached in advance.'

Kathy glanced about, to see if anyone in the restaurant was listening in. Margo asked, 'Have you tried questioning Sally about it more? She might start remembering something.'

'I've been so preoccupied. For one thing, I was sick.'

'I remember!'

'And I've had to deal with a major public relations disaster!'

'You mean the Hollister hiring? It's been the talk of the office. Alan is fit to be tied-- and he's not gonna go out quietly, either!'

'It feels like my whole life is falling apart!' said Kathy.

'All the more reason why you've got to keep it together! Come on, Honey, chin up, shoulders out!'

She put her arm around Kathy's shoulder. Other diners glanced over with passing interest.

On the way home from work, Kathy and Sally stopped at the store. Back at the apartment, they exited from the garage loaded down with grocery bags. The snow was piling up, and the two negotiated along the narrow channels of the tire tracks.

Sally started up the fire-escape, but Kathy cautioned her. 'Let's take the inside steps-- I slipped on those this morning, nearly broke my neck!'

They crossed the basement, where a set of washers and dryers were installed. An elderly woman was sorting her laundry. 'Hi, Kathy,' she said. 'Hi, Ruth,' said Kathy. Sally smiled at the woman and nodded.

'Might as well get the mail while we're here,' said Kathy at the front lobby. 'Bills, bills, junk, junk,' she said, sorting it on the spot. Then she unlocked the stairway door, and the two headed up.

When Kathy swung open the door, an indicator lit up in the van parked outside.

One of the van's occupants wrote, '7:30 PM-- K.S. and J.M. return to apt.'

'Are you really deciding on that place on Cummings Street?' asked Kathy.

'Yeah... it's available right now, and I can move in tomorrow.'

Kathy eyed Sally perceptively. 'You don't have to be in such a hurry, you know. You weren't thrilled about the place.'

'It did have a few roaches, but...'

'It's not like I'm throwing you out.'

'You've been really good to me,' said Sally. 'I'll never be able to repay you. I mean, I can pay you back your expenses, but you've been so generous with your time, letting a stranger stay at your home.'

'That didn't cost me a thing,' said Kathy. 'As a matter of fact, I was really glad to have somebody around last weekend. I don't know what would have happened to me if I was alone!'

Sally nodded in acknowledgement.

'I just wish you were able to tell me more about where you came from.' said Kathy. 'You still believe you're Jen Marriott?'

'I can't help it,' said Sally. 'But the entire world seems to disagree with me! And today I met someone claiming to be my-- Jen's mother.'

Sally described the encounter with Mrs. Marriott.

'I don't remember having a mother,' said Sally. 'I've always been an orphan!'

'That's right, that's what Jen herself said... I wish I could talk to the woman.'

'I gave her your card-- she said she'll be in touch.'

'I wonder if she knows anything about who Jen was associating with. A religious cult seems to be involved, but I have no idea who they are. And you don't seem to remember... I just thought of something!'

Kathy went to the bookshelf and fetched a hardback. The title was 'The Dreaming Gateway.'

'Sally, look at this picture.' She held up the back of the book. 'Do you recognize this man?'

The picture was of Dr. Roger Hollister.

'It's...' said Sally, transfixed with wonder. 'It's the Visionary!'

'The 'Visionary? What are you talking about?'

'He's revered by everybody! One of mankind's greatest geniuses!'

'Who told you that, Sally? You've got to remember, dear. Who were you with before you became Jen Marriott? Who gave you those KEYS? And who sent you to this apartment? Even Jen herself didn't know where I lived-- all she had was my telephone number!'

'They told me to come here,' said Sally.


'They told me you'd take care of me,' said Sally, tearfully. 'They... they said you'd WANT me to be with you!'

'WHO told you that? WHO SENT YOU HERE?!?' Kathy was hold Sally by the shoulders, almost ready to shake her.

'They said I should never tell you. NEVER NEVER NEVER!'

Sally seemed to be ranting to herself now, as if in a trance. 'Model yourself after the obedient ones. Obedience and humility are the keys to Heaven...'

Kathy shouted at her, 'SALLY! WHAT ARE YOU SAYING?'

Suddenly there was a sound in the living room. It was the familiar snapping sound of the front door lock being disengaged by a key. Then the low skree of the door swinging open.

Kathy stared expectantly at the living room entryway. It was empty, and for a second Kathy thought that her ears were playing tricks on her.

Then Walter moved into to the entryway and smiled at her. She hadn't seen him since that day in front of the Hunt Building, but his confident, staring eyes brought the unpleasant memory back.

'What are you doing??' she exclaimed.

'It's time for someone else to return to the fold!' he said ironically.


He stepped forward. Behind him, another man stepped into the entryway, a thin-faced youth who Kathy didn't recognize.

Kathy backed away. She moved behind a dining room chair. Walter continued to advance towards her.

She pushed the chair at him and fled for the kitchen. He dodged the chair and caught her at the entrance. She twisted out of his arms and pushed him away.

He caught her again in the kitchen as she was pulling open the back door. He grabbed her around the waist and pulled her away from the door. He kicked it closed while struggling to keep a grip on her.

'HELP! HEELLPP!!' she screamed.

He pinned her down on the stove and tried to clamp his hand over her mouth. She groped behind her and grabbed the metal frame around one of the burners. She hammered him in the back with it.

He pulled her up from the stove and pushed her over by the refrigerator. He clutched her wrist and hammered her hand against the refrigerator door until she dropped the metal frame. Then he squeezed her in a bear hug, pinning her arms to her side.

He dragged her out of the kitchen, and she saw that the other man had gotten hold of Sally, who was screaming.

'SALLY! shouted Kathy. The other girl turned and cried, 'KATHY! HELP!!!' But there was nothing she could do-- she was helpless in Walter's clutches.

Then the whole apartment began to shake. Pictures fell from the walls. A bookshelf overturned.

Kathy saw cracks appear in the ceiling and the walls. Part of the ceiling collapsed, raising clouds of plaster dust.

Then a chasm opened up between Kathy and Sally. A deafening tumult arose as the apartment building rent itself apart! Kathy watched in horror and disbelief as Sally and her assailant fell away, and a jagged cross-section of the building opened up...

Then Kathy awoke with a start, and sat up in her bed, gasping. She looked around her, The bedroom appeared normal and intact.

She got out of bed, and ventured into the living room. The apartment was in one piece.

But Sally wasn't in it, and Kathy could find no trace left of her having been there.



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