Elaine Gardner sat upright and motionless on the sofa in her parent’s living room, holding the small, orange bottle given to her by the stranger. She turned it slowly in her hand, and came across the word “Codeine” printed in small, black type. The word seemed to magnify itself against the guilt she felt.
Without warning, the front door flew open, and Elaine shoved the bottle between the cushions as her mother entered the room.
“Oh my God! My God! Elaine, I just can’t even–she’s gone! The baby’s gone!”
“Ma, ma slow down! What–whose baby?” asked Elaine.
Laura sat down beside her on the couch and took Elaine’s hand in her own. “Oh dear, that’s right! We couldn’t get a hold of you to tell you but– the baby came! Annette and Red had a little girl…” Laura’s face frowned, “It was just awful how the whole thing happened…but she’s gone now! That lunatic Samantha Flint posed as a hospital nurse and kidnapped the baby! Right as they slept!”
The old woman burst into tears and fell on her daughter’s shoulder. “Oh God, Mom, oh God. I just– I don’t know–How could she have done it? They must’ve noticed it was her!”
Laura’s tear-stained face met her daughter’s. “I saw the photograph they had of her. She dyed her hair brown, wore glasses, lots of heavy makeup, looked a little bigger too…I never would’ve known,” Laura paused briefly, remembering her daughter knew all-too-well about Samantha Flint. “I’m sorry, Elaine.”
Her mother left the room, leaving Elaine alone and aching once more. Fishing around in the cushions, she found the bottle again. She loosened the cap and removed a single pill.
“Just for now. Just until it gets better.” She swallowed the capsule hard and left the room, taking the bottle with her.
Annette lay entangled in the hospital bed sheets, trapped like fly in a spider’s web. She desperately wanted to escape and find her daughter, but there were formalities that needed to be taken care of. Detective Marcia Worth sat beside her with her notepad, readying herself to ask questions Annette did not want to hear.
“Mrs. Gardner, I know this is tough for you, unbelievably tough, considering what you’ve gone through the past few days. We have another detective asking your husband about Olivia, splitting the work,” said the detective, trying to muster a smile, “I’m here to handle your other case.”
The new mother shifted uncomfortably. “I’d rather talk about how to find my daughter.”
“I know, I’m so sorry about, well, all of this. But, for the time being, we’ve got to do what we can to make sure you’re okay to go look for her,” said the detective, “That’s why I want to talk to you about Dr. Matthews. You see, Mrs. Gardner, he’s deceived everyone he’s ever known. All of his documents, diplomas, degrees, they’re all forgeries. He created an entirely new identity for himself.”
Annette frowned, knowing what she was going to hear. “He’s not a doctor, is what you’re saying.”
“No, he’s not. In fact, his real name is Martin Rusk, and he’s wanted for forgery, as well as sexual assault in several states. He’s gone as far as embezzling money from the companies he’s worked with to maintain a high standard of living, all for the sake of making a…good impression.”
“What’s all this got to do with me?” asked Annette, irritated.
“It means,” said the detective, “He uses that money and charm to impress women. When they see through his carefully crafted playboy persona, he becomes unreasonable. He’s mentally unstable, to be blunt. He relies on the money and charm to attract women. When he is rejected, he becomes violent, as you witnessed yourself, first hand.”