a Bat & Jody novel
Bat Garrett happens to be on hand when the Native Sun Trading Post blows up. Two bodies are found in the rubble, presumed to be the owners of the trading post. But Jody has seen them before. Jody knows that, if there’s anyone in the world with motive to want the two shop-owners dead … it’s her.
Years before, Jody was kidnapped and brainwashed to think she was the child of Robert and Helen Alexander. When Bat discovered her and rescued her, the Alexanders disappeared. Most assumed them dead, but Jody was never sure. Now, to find out that they had been living near her has Jody rattled. She, with Bat’s help, has to find out just why the Alexanders have stayed so close to the one person who had the most reason to hate them.
I have missing time of my own, but doesn’t everyone? The afternoon that was so boring it might as well have never happened. The time you had the flu that lasted a week and all you can remember of it is one gross blur spent in the bathroom. Some people have holes in their memory thanks to alcohol or drugs. That wasn’t my problem.
I had a whole year missing from my life—a little more in fact. And I mean gone! One moment I was one place and the next I was somewhere else and I haven’t the foggiest what went on in between. If not for people around me telling me that a year disappeared in that short time, I never would have known—or cared.
Bat can’t imagine that I don’t care now, but I swear I don’t. I remember one time when I had to have surgery and they put me under for it. I remember the anesthesiologist saying, “Countdown from one hundred” and I got to ninety-seven. Next thing I knew, I was waking up in another room with my leg all bandaged up. The big difference was that no one around me ever asked, “But don’t you worry about the missing hour?!?!” the way they ask, “Don’t you worry about the missing year?!?!”
Maybe, somewhere, deep down inside, what I feel almost rises to the level of curiosity. But seriously, as soon as I “woke up” I saw a doctor and they confirmed for me that I had not been violated, all my (healed) broken bones had been broken before my missing year and I carried no scars. Even visits to psychiatrists—complete with hypnosis—told me that I had no memories or anything of that missing year. At some point, I don’t remember the exact day, it just seemed like it was better for my future sanity to just go on with my life.
So I got married to the man I loved, we settled into married life, and then we decided to uproot to a whole new state and start a family. To be honest, the prospect of being a mother was far more alarming and intriguing to me than some blank spot in my memory. Doing my best to raise the child in a Christian home, to “give it a hope and a future” seemed way more important than obsessing about the unknowable.
As for the known present, I was in the process of cleaning up the apartment because our church was having a “Missions Weekend” and I had volunteered Bat and I to take in a couple for the weekend who were newly arrived to work at the nearby Hopi and Navajo tribal lands. We didn’t have a large place, but it was a two-bedroom apartment and we hadn’t had anyone use the guest bedroom since we had moved in. Part of the reason I had volunteered for this particular couple was that the husband was a graduate of the same college all of Bat’s siblings had gone to. Bat didn’t recognize the man’s name, but we figured he would probably remember Bat’s sisters or brother or maybe have some other names in common. Not to mention that the church Bat and I had attended while living in Dallas had been on the college campus—maybe even while this couple had been there as students. I thought it might be somewhat cramped quarters to have four adults in that apartment for a weekend, but the up side to the small quarters was that it didn’t take me long to clean.
There were times when I was envious of my sister Carley and her enormous house, but all I had to do was start cleaning and I was quickly reminded that I didn’t want a house I couldn’t clean from top to bottom in less than half an hour. If Bat or I ever made big money at anything, I frequently told people, we were going to give most of it away and spend the rest on vacations. We would not, I would say with emphasis, spend it on a spacious abode!
I was just finishing up the restroom when the phone rang. Waddling as quickly down the hall as my expanding girth would allow and grumbling that I hadn’t brought the phone to the restroom with me, I got there just as the third ring was finishing and answered breathlessly, “Hello?”
“This is Sonya Brockton,” came a voice with a lovely British accent. “Is this Jody Garrett?”
“Yes,” I replied, somewhat uncertainly as I hadn’t been expecting an accent even though the name should have registered on me.
“I understand my husband and I are staying with you this weekend,” she told me politely, still with that incredible voice.
“You are?” I asked, then kicked myself as I remembered and said, “Oh! Sonya Brockton? Yes. Yes you are staying with me. With my husband and I.”
“We are about fifteen minutes out of Flagstaff and I was wondering if you could give me directions to your place?” the voice asked.
“Um, yes. Yes, of course,” I replied, finally getting my brain around an idea that shouldn’t have been that hard to grasp. I gave her directions, then told her I would see her in a few minutes. After hanging up, I called Bat on his cell phone and told him our guests would be arriving soon. He told me he was back at the station and putting up mail for the next day, but that it would probably still be an hour before he got home.
I quickly told him I understood, and I did. The issue—or near-issue in question—was one of his coworkers who seemed to find a reason four days out of five to “slip off early”. There was always a sick kid at home, a Little League game that needed to be coached, or something. According to Bat, the scuttlebutt around the station was that a] the guy was close to getting canned and b] everyone else was making sure to work a few minutes extra every day so as not to appear to be one with the slacker.
A few minutes later, I heard a car pulling up outside and a knock at the door. Taking one more look around the apartment—and realizing my homework was still on the coffee table (how had I missed that?!?!)—I opened the door to a smiling young couple. Somehow, I had had it in my mind that they were a middle-aged couple, but these two looked to be three or four years younger than Bat and I.
The man extended his hand and said, “My name’s Andy Brockton. You must be Jody Garrett.” I shook his hand and assured him I was. He was a couple or three inches shorter than Bat’s six-one, with dark curly hair and a fairly dark complexion. Somewhat stocky of build, but not overweight, he looked like a football player. I prided myself inwardly on the sports reference, thinking Bat would be proud of me.
“I hope we’re not too early,” he apologized. “It didn’t take as long as we were expecting to get here.
“It’s just fine,” I told him. “Won’t you come in?”
Taking his wife’s hand, he introduced, “This is my wife, Sonya. You spoke on the phone.”
I hugged her and she returned the hug as Andy said, “You two look like you ought to be sisters.”
He was being generous and I think he only said that because of our hair color. But where mine was more of an auburn, Sonya’s was a deeper red. A beautiful red. And she had this fine, creamy complexion and tall, lithe build (she was almost as tall as he was even in flat shoes) that it was hard not to be envious of. As for clothes, they were both dressed in blue jeans and T’s, with tennis shoes on their feet, but Sonya looked like one of those women who would be right at home in a ball gown and a tiara. She wore no makeup that I could discern … and needed none!
“Thank you for having us,” Sonya said politely as we let go of the hug.
“You’re welcome. And, I know you probably hear this all the time, but I just love your accent!”
“Thank you. I don’t really think about it,” she said with an airy chuckle. “It’s just the way I talk.” She looked at me and asked, somewhat timidly, “Would it be impolite of me to ask how far along you are?”
“About to start my eight month,” I replied, turning sideways and smoothing my shirt so she could get the full view of my expanding belly. (Which, on some days, felt as if it were expanding right before my eyes!) “Do you have children?”
“Not yet,” she replied, with a wink toward her husband.
“I can’t help but ask what that look meant,” I commented.
Sonya blushed and Andy replied, “We’re trying,” and then blushed himself. I couldn’t help but smile, for we (Bat especially!) had often been fumble-mouthed about the same admission. Personally, I thought it was silly that a married couple would be embarrassed to admit they were having sex … but I still blushed.
I invited the couple to sit down and they joined me in the living room which, for an apartment, was pretty good sized. “So,” I opened the ball, “Where are you two from?”
“I’m from Oklahoma,” he replied.
“London,” she told me.
Most of us find it rather silly to meet someone for the first time and then have them tell us, “You remind me of … “ yet we still say things like that to other people. For myself, I tried to apologize first as I said, “Sonya, you just remind me of … someone. I know that’s silly. I’m sure we’ve never met before. You just remind me of someone, but I can’t think of who.”
Sonya shrugged and, I thought, made a conscious effort not to look over at her husband right then. I was thinking, at the time, that she probably had been told before that she looked like someone famous and it was either a running joke or a running point of exasperation among the two of them. For myself, I had been known to grow tired of short jokes (though I had a few witty rejoinders filed away and ready for use).
“How did you meet?” I asked, then quipped, “Because if I’m not mistaken, the halfway point between London and Oklahoma would be somewhere in the Atlantic.”
They chuckled and it was Sonya who answered, “I was visiting my cousin, who just happened to set me up with her best friend.”
“Oh really? She didn’t want you for herself?” I chided Andy.
He smiled, might have blushed a little, then replied, “Lynette and I had tried dating a couple times but … “ he shook his head and laughed, “We were such good friends, it was kind of like trying to go out with a sister.”
We visited on, then, and I learned that Sonya came from a family with eight children, Andy had only the one brother, and I told her about my sister and Bat’s family of five children. I was eager to hear about their ministry but also knew Bat would want to hear those details as well and didn’t want to jump the gun on him.
We were just about to the subject of favorite family pets when the front door opened, revealing my wonderful hubby in his Post Office uniform. “Who’s car—oh! You’re here,” he said with a smile. There was a brief round of handshakes, then he said, “I hate to be picky, but you’re going to need to move your car. The slots are assigned and, well, you’re in the slot for the guy next door.”
When he had pointed out to Andy where he could park, Bat asked, “Would you mind if I darted away and took a quick shower? I have spent this wonderful Arizona day in a vehicle with no air conditioning and I’m afraid I’m probably a little ripe.” We all agreed that that was acceptable, especially me, who had actually hugged and kissed him.
Bat slipped away and soon I could hear the water running. In relatively short order, he was in the midst of us, washed and dried and wearing an Astros T-shirt and a pair of shorts and holding a cold drink. He smiled widely and, making that motion as if snapping his fingers but producing no noise, suddenly asked, “I have to ask, Sonya, but how does one go from winning an Oscar to working as a missionary on an Indian reservation?”
“What?” I asked before I could fully engage my brain. Then, still disbelieving, I asked, “You—is that where I’ve seen you? On the movie screen?”
Sonya blushed even more than earlier, then replied, “Yes, ma’am.”
“Wait!” I demanded. “First off, no one over ten years old is allowed to call me ma’am. It’s Jody. But second, is he right?”
It was Bat who answered, though in a somewhat questioning way, “You’re Sonya Kiel, right? ‘Across the Andes, “Napoleon’, ‘American West.’”
“Actually, I’m Sonya Brockton,” she corrected. “But, yes, my maiden name was Kiel and I did act in those movies.” She said it like someone who was embarrassed by the fact, maybe even ashamed.
“Pardon me, but that still sounds like a really interesting story!” Bat told her in his most encouraging voice.
She grimaced slightly, which led Andy to tell us, “It really is, but, well, I don’t necessarily mean to speak for my wife, but she–”
“No, let me, Andy. He’s always trying to protect me. I just … I don’t want what I used to be to overshadow what I am now. It’s just so easy—not only for me but for the people listening—to start telling tales of making movies and red carpets that, um, a couple things start to happen. I kind of get a big head and we get completely sidetracked.”
“She’s being modest,” Andy injected. “Sonya is one of the most humble people I have ever met, but once she tells one story about the movies, soon people want more and pretty soon—“
“It takes the focus off my—our ministry.” She smiled apologetically and added, “In a setting like this, I’ll tell you anything you want to know. My life is an open book. But at the Mission’s Fair tomorrow and Sunday, I really want to put all the focus on what we’re trying to do on the Big Rez.”
She laughed then, a warm, friendly laugh that was somehow also in her accent, and told us, “I went through a period—more than a year, actually—where I wouldn’t go to the movies. And then I wouldn’t watch the telly, even the news. I told myself it was because I was like an alcoholic and didn’t want to get sucked back into the acting thing but, well … maybe that’s how it was when it started. But then, I moved from avoidance to being rather a pain about it to everyone around me—especially Andy.”
“What changed?” Bat asked with interest.
“Nothing big. Andy liked watching his sports, for one thing, and I saw no reason he should be deprived of that. But part of it was when we started doing ministry. We would be over at someone’s house and they would have the telly on. I realized I was starting to be ridiculous about it.” She demonstrated as she said, “Turning my chair so my back was to the set even if it were off. Talking louder in restaurants to drown out the telly in the room. I had to come to terms with the idea—fact, really—that acting is not, in and of itself, evil, nor are the mediums. But I am extremely … protective of what I will allow in my mind. I realized I can debate ideas, and sometimes enjoy picking apart those that are contrary to my faith, but I have a very low tolerance for foul language or gore.”
Bat smiled and said, “You realize turning off the TV is considered a cardinal sin in some households anymore, right?”
“I notice yours isn’t on,” came Sonya’s rejoinder.
“About that,” Bat said uncomfortably. “Would it be rude of me to slip into the bedroom just to watch the opening of the local news?. There was a fire—I actually reported it—a couple days ago and, well, I’m curious if they’re saying anything about it.”
“Please,” Sonya said, gesturing at the TV, “It wouldn’t be my place to tell you not to.”
“But I don’t even want to interrupt the conversation,” Bat told her deferentially.
“Bat. Like those things in caves.”
“Bat,” she corrected with a smile, “You’ve got me curious now. Whether they show the story on the news or not, I’d like to know how you came to report a fire. You didn’t start it, did you?” she asked with mock suspicion.
“Go camping with me sometime and you’ll see that I have never been accused of being a fire starter,” he told her. Then, taking up the remote, made certain, “You’re sure?”
She gestured toward the TV, so Bat turned it on. Fortuitously, the newsreader was just saying, “Out of Flagstaff this evening we have the following report on the fire that claimed two lives earlier this week. Let’s go to Courtney Lyons, live in our newsroom.”
A young woman who looked to me like she couldn’t be more than a year out of high school looked nervously into the camera and said in a flat voice, “Thanks Ralph. The Flagstaff Police have released these pictures—taken from the security camera at a Flagstaff convenience store—of the two people they believe were killed in the inferno.” (She pronounced that final word as if sounding it out off a teleprompter.)
“Are you OK?” Bat asked me.
“What? Why do you ask?” I wondered, my mind having gone blank for a moment.
“You gasped when you saw the picture of the Jamesons,” he told me.
“I did?” A moment later, I patted my tummy and said, “Junior kicked just then. I think he’s going to have your feet.”
Bat nodded with a smile, then turned his attention back to the TV screen.
You know how in old cartoons they would show someone having an idea by having a light bulb appear over the character’s head? I finally knew what that felt like.
Except that a one-hundred thousand watt halogen spotlight had exploded in my brain.
I think I was coherent for the rest of the conversation and evening with the Brocktons—can remember some of the details even as they told more of how they met and just what their ministry consisted of—but I can’t be sure. Back in college, I was a cheerleader and—other than some problems with my elbows, which were congenital—I came through it all pretty well. While other cheerleaders occasionally broke a bone, the worst I ever got was a few sprains.
Except for one time, when the people who were supposed to catch me were a little out of line and I somehow managed to knock the back of my head against another girl’s collarbone. She had an enormous bruise for about a week and I had a lump, but we both shook it off and eschewed any medical attention.
The way I felt the rest of the day, I’m pretty sure I had a concussion, though I never mentioned it to anyone. (Hey! My pride is just as stupid as anyone else’s!) While no one had hit me during that evening with the Brocktons, looking back, it was a lot like I had a concussion. I’ll blame my not telling anyone on the fact that, when you’re suffering the effects, you don’t always know you’re suffering the effects.
I made up excuses, blaming it on both the baby and some sort of shake-up at the idea of two people dying in a fire, and the Brocktons might have believed me, but I doubt that Bat did. He knew I was hiding something, but he also knew me and loved me enough not to press it, assuming I would tell him what was going on when the time came. All he knew was that my mind was somewhere far away.
That’s how it felt from the inside, anyway. As I did things like make sandwiches—side by side with Sonya, who had offered to help—and answered questions and asked some of my own, I was just an automaton. My mind was several hundred miles away. I knew where it was, but tried my best to ignore it, to shove it aside, to do anything I could to keep from thinking the thoughts my mind wanted to focus on.
Sonya was a pretty woman and incredibly well-balanced. After leaving an unbelievably promising acting career, she had gone to Bible college in Dallas (at the same college Bat’s brother and sisters had attended), majored in Missions, married Andy, and even when their original plan for missions had fallen through, had stayed with it until they believed God had directed them to Arizona.
Under it all, though, I got the impression that Sonya was really a very shy person who would like nothing more than a life that never focused on her. For one thing, in all of this, the “star” of the story was her husband. She gave him the credit for leading her to Christ and leading their marriage and ministry and—again, this is my impression—she didn’t resent that at all. She seemed grateful to … not be in his shadow, but to have found a partner.
I had always thought Bat and I had the best marriage I knew of, but an evening spent with Sonya and Andy Brockton made me think we might only be in second place. Or, maybe I just told myself that to keep from thinking about the light that had exploded in my head and was still trying to overwhelm me.