First, I’d like to thank blackrandI1958 for inviting my participation in, “Hanging by a Thread.” As anyone knows by reading my stories, I am not a professional writer, but I do love to write, and these invitationals are always a challenge and fun to work on.
I hope you enjoy the story, and as always, I enjoy reading your feedback.
As he left the apartment for work that day, Morgan Johnson had no idea of the events that would show him how much of life he took for granted, and how greatly things could change.
He had always considered himself appreciative and thankful for life’s blessings; after all, both his and his wife’s parents were alive and healthy, for the last three years he’d been happily married to his high school sweetheart, and he loved being a press photographer for, The Tribute, one of two major Chicago newspapers.
Nodding and saying good morning to the various reporters, Morg, as everyone called him, navigated his way through the newsroom to get his assignments for the day. Andy, the photo editor, wasn’t at his desk, but Morg’s assignment cards were all there so he grabbed them and started his retreat.
“Morg, hold on, I’ve got one more for you, here.”
He turned to see Andy walking his way with another assignment card in hand. He glanced at it as he took it from his boss. “Is this the girl who’s in the coma?”
“Yeah, well, I guess she came out of it a few days ago, but now she’s got amnesia; poor girl can’t remember a thing. The cops want us to get a full face and a profile shot of her and run it on the front page to see if anyone recognizes her. We said we would.”
Morg looked at the card a little closer. “There’s no time on it.”
“She’s not going anywhere. Any time you can work it into your schedule is fine,” Andy replied.
Morg shuffled through the rest of his assignments. “Okay, I’ve got some time around one. I’ll scoot over there after I grab some lunch.”
“That’d be great. I’ll call the hospital and let them know you’re coming.”
It was about ten minutes after the hour when Morg checked in at the front desk. They gave him a pass and let him know the room number. He was surprised to see one of Chicago’s finest standing guard outside the woman’s door. Getting to know most of the cops on a first name basis was one of the perks of the job.
“Charlie, what are you doing here?”
“Hi, Morg, you here to take pictures of our mystery girl?”
“Yeah, I guess. I wasn’t expecting to see you here, though. Is she wanted for something?”
“No, no. She’s not a perp; she’s a victim. I really don’t agree with this picture idea, but we can’t talk her out of it, so...”
Morg was perplexed. “So? So what, I don’t get it. I thought the paper was doing you guys a favor by showing her picture on the front page.”
“No, you’re doing this at her request, not ours. Even my lieutenant tried to talk her out of it.”
“Because we don’t know what kind of danger she might be in. She was shot in the head.” He saw Morg’s jaw drop. “It looks like she was attacked, gang raped, then shot in the head. We think the attackers left her for dead. We’re afraid they’ll try to finish the job if they know she’s still alive.”
“Who’s handling the case?”
“Detective Nobles, but Lieutenant Ashwood is taking a special interest in it, too; I think because of the violent nature of the crime.”
“Did you ever find out who dropped her off in front of the emergency room?” Morgan asked.
“No,” Charlie replied. “We think some Good Samaritan found her and dropped her off, but he obviously didn’t want to get involved. When we checked the CCTV footage, we saw he smeared mud over his license plate and wore a Cub’s baseball cap. How many of those are there in Chicago?” He chuckled.
“Well, if no one thinks this is a good idea, who came up with it in the first place?”
“Some idiot nurse, and once it was mentioned, the girl has been adamant about it.”
It didn’t make sense to Morg. “That’s nuts. She’s putting her own life in jeopardy.”
“I know,” Charlie said with a shrug of his shoulders. “Why don’t you give it a shot? Maybe she’ll listen to you.”
“Consider it done,” Morg stated with conviction as he walked passed Charlie and into the mystery woman’s room.
She didn’t look nearly as bad as Morg had anticipated. He expected her entire head to be wrapped in bandages, but the bullet had caught her from behind and grazed the side of her head, cracking her skull and taking off a small part of her right ear. He could see where they had shaved her hair in a couple different places but some of it had grown back in already. She had a pretty large bandage on the back of her head, but from the front, had a very pretty face, even without make-up.
She literally lit up when she saw him walk in. “You’re the photographer from the paper?”
“Yeah, how are you doing?”
“Oh, just fantastic.” She laughed.
“Listen, I was talking to Charlie out in the hall. He thinks this is a bad idea and I completely agree with him.”
Her small smile turned into a frown. “What’s your name?”
“Morgan,” he answered. “Morgan Johnson, but people call me Morg.”
“Nice, isn’t it?”
He was a little confused. He’d never thought of his name in those terms before. “Nice?”
“Yeah ... to know your name, I’ll bet you also know where you live, and how old you are, too. You obviously know what you do for a living. Do you know if you’re married, your wife’s name, who your friends are, who your parents are? Got any kids? Can you remember their names, how about where you went to school? You have any memories of growing up?”
He just stood, staring at her. He couldn’t even contemplate not knowing all that stuff.
She could tell what he was thinking. “Yeah,” she said, “now you have a small idea of what my world is like. I don’t care about the danger. If there’s a chance of someone out there being able to tell me who I am or help me remember something, I’m going to take it.”
Morgan was still trying to come to terms with what she was saying. “I ... you’re right, I can’t even imagine how hard that would be, but...”
“But nothing,” she interjected. “This should be my decision, not yours. Your paper already said they’d do it.”
“Yeah, I know, but I’ve got a personal stake in this, too, you know. What if something happens to you because of the pictures I take? How do you think that would make me feel? At least give it some time. Maybe your memory will come back on its own.”
She let out a big sigh of frustration. “Fine, if you’re not going to take the pictures then get out. I’ll call the other paper. I’ll find somebody who’ll do it.”
That angered him. “There’s one thing you haven’t forgotten: how to be pig-headed,” he growled.
She couldn’t help but chuckle under her breath. “Well, are you going to take the pictures or do I get the nurse to call the other newspaper?”
Obstinate in his own right, Morgan just stood there staring at her.
“Fine!” she said, not waiting for him to answer. “Go on, get out. Nurse!”
“All right, damn it, okay, I’ll take the fricken pictures, but I still think you’re nuts.”
Suddenly, her face glowed with a huge smile. “Look, the cops said they can set up a hotline. All the calls go straight to the police department so they can check out the callers.”
“Why didn’t you tell me that in the first place?”
“Why didn’t you ask?” she responded with a smile.
“At least that will offer you some protection. I assume you’ll be working with a therapist when you get out of here?”
“I’m not sure,” she revealed. “The hospital has been trying to get some Medicare Emergency Fund to pay for the hospital expenses, but without even a social security number, they’ve been having a hard time. One of the nurses told me they might have to write it all off. If they’re not going to pay the hospital, I doubt they’ll pay for therapy.”
“Well, somebody’s got to do something. They can’t just let you wander the streets with no food or shelter. Hell, you can’t even apply for a job.”
“You’re not telling me anything I don’t know, Morg. I’m praying I have family or friends in the area who will take me in. That’s the reason for the photos. The hospital will have to release me in three or four days. I’ve got that long to find someone.”
“What about a shelter? Surely, there has to be somewhere you could stay.”
“Not as many as you think,” she replied. “Most of them are for battered women and they’re filled.”
Until that point, she’d put up a tough front, but now Morg saw the tears. In all his experiences on the paper, he’d never seen anyone quite so helpless or vulnerable. He completely understood the reasoning behind posting her pictures, she literally had no choice. He walked over to the little table next to her bed and pulled a tissue from the box. “Here,” he said as he handed it to her.
“Thank you.” She felt a little embarrassed as she took it.
Morg adjusted his camera settings for the lighting in the room. “All right, look right into the camera. Perfect,” he announced after snapping off a few exposures. “I’ll Photoshop all the tubes and medical equipment so you can’t see them in the picture. That way no one will be able to tell you’re in a hospital.” He snapped off a few more for a profile. “Okay, that should do it,” he told her. “They’ll be in tomorrow’s paper. I hope it helps.”
She thanked him profusely before they said their goodbyes.
Charlie stopped him as he exited the room. “Well, did you talk her out of it?”
“No. She has no choice, Charlie. I just hope it works and she finds someone.”
“Yeah, I know. Lieutenant Ashwood has someone at the station calling the shelters and human services, but so far it’s a no-go. Everybody’s filled to the max.”
That night, Morgan told his wife about the young lady with no memory. He just kept shaking his head and talked about how horrible it had to be for her. “There are so many things that we take for granted and don’t even think about. Can you imagine not even knowing your own name?”
“Not really,” Brea replied.
She didn’t seem to be as sympathetic as he was and couldn’t grasp the scope of the girl’s problems, but then, neither did he before meeting the mystery woman. “God, I hope she has family that recognizes her.”
“If not, I’m sure they’ll be able to get her in some shelter someplace,” Brea responded.
“Yeah, but she really needs family or friends, somebody that can help her remember.”
The next morning, Morgan got to work early. His first stop was usually the newsroom to collect his assignments, but he bypassed the elevator to the fourth floor and continued to the press room where the day’s papers were still coming off the line. He smiled and waved at one of the press operators as he grabbed a paper.
The fourth floor was about half empty, but Andy was at his desk going through the day’s photo assignments. He glanced at his watch when he saw his favorite photographer step off the elevator.
“Jeez, Morg, you’re almost an hour early. Got a hot date or something?”
“Kind of,” he chuckled. “I want to run by the hospital real quick and give the mystery girl a paper. I feel so sorry for her. She can’t remember anything, Andy, not her name, where she’s from, nothing.”
“Yeah, I hope the mug shots work for her. Give me a few minutes, Morg; I’m still going through these,” he admitted while shuffling the assignments cards around on his desk.
“I was going to give this to Ross, but since you’re going to be at the hospital, I’ll give it to you. It’s at the Mayor’s office. He’s scheduled a ten o’clock press conference this morning. That should give you a little time to spend with your mystery girl. Busse will be there, too.”
“Yeah, that works out great. Thanks, Andy.” He left as soon as his boss handed him the rest of his assignments.
“You still here, Charlie?”
“Hi, Morg, yup, still here, all day, not very exciting. McMaster’s relieves me at three-thirty. It looks like they’re going to release her day after tomorrow, then I’m back in a patrol car. Is that the paper?”
“Yeah,” he answered, opening it up to the front page so Charlie could see it.
“Nice. Let’s hope it does the trick.”
“Yeah, do you know if they’ve found someplace for her to go, just in case?”
“I don’t think so,” Charlie replied.
She had her eyes closed when Morg walked in. Not wanting to disturb her, he gently laid the paper on top of the sheet. Feeling his presence, she opened her eyes and smiled at him.
“I thought you’d want to see it,” Morg explained, gesturing to the paper.
Her eyes lit up and she excitedly opened it to the front page. “You take good pictures, Morg. Thank you. Is it out yet or is this hot off the press?”
“It’ll be hitting the street in another half hour.”
“Okay—good. Keep your fingers crossed for me, Morg.”
“I am. I really hope this works out for you, everybody’s pulling for you; just in case though, do you have a backup plan?”
“Not really, I know the cops are still trying to get me into a shelter, but so far I don’t think they’ve been very successful. Charlie out there told me several have had to close for lack of funding and the ones still open are filled to capacity. They’re taking up a collection for me at the precinct so I’ll at least have a little money to start.”
“That’s a great idea. I could do the same thing at the paper.”
“I’m not sure if I would normally take charity,” she said with a small smile, “but I’m in no position to turn anything down. Anything you could do would be greatly appreciated.”
Morg was ashamed that he didn’t think of it himself. Time was of the essence and there was no way he’d make it back to the paper before mid-afternoon, so when he saw reporter Rick Busse at the mayor’s press conference, Morg asked if he would get the ball rolling when he returned to the office. By the time Morg made it back to the paper, Rick had already been throughout the entire building and collected more than four hundred dollars. Morg had stopped at his bank during the day and added a hundred of his own to the kitty.
After dinner that night, he poured a glass of wine for Brea and himself and suggested they sit and listen to music instead of watching the boob-tube. He waited until they cuddled together with his arm around her before starting the conversation he’d been rehearsing.
“They took up a collection at work today for that woman with amnesia.”
“Oh, and how much did we donate?”
“A hundred dollars,” she snapped.
“We can afford it.”
“I know, but don’t you think that’s a little extravagant for somebody we don’t even know?”
Okay, here goes nothing, he thought. “Ah, about that...”
“Now what? No, you can’t adopt her,” Brea snarked.
He chuckled. “I wasn’t thinking of adopting her, but how about letting her stay here for a little while.”
With that, Brea pushed herself away from him, sat up, and looked him straight in the eye. “Are you crazy?”
Morg knew it wasn’t going to be an easy sell, but he was determined to give it his best shot. “Only until she can find someone who can help her,” he explained.
“Honey, we got this three-bedroom apartment so we could have a home office and your parents would have a room when they came up to visit. In three years, they’ve been here four times and every time they get a hotel room. That bed in there has never even been slept in.
“Maybe somebody will recognize her from the paper, but if not, she has nowhere to go, honey. She can’t even rent a room because she has no ID. We can’t just let her wander off and die in a gutter somewhere.” He knew he was laying it on a little thick.
“Morg, you don’t know anything about her. She could be a serial killer, for all we know. Didn’t you tell me her life might be in danger? What about us? If she’s living here, we could be collateral damage.”
“I talked to the cops. They think she’s pretty much out of danger by now. It’s been a while since she was dropped off at the hospital, and with all the publicity about her losing her memory, they think it’s highly unlikely that anyone would take a chance at trying to get to her after this length of time. Besides,” he continued, “nobody’s even going to know she’s here.”
Brea still wasn’t convinced. “I don’t like it, Morg. What if she begins to remember things and starts going crazy on us? I’ve heard that can happen.”
“Honey, even with amnesia, she’s one of the most level-headed people you’d ever want to meet. Believe me, if she starts getting her memory back, she’s not about to go off her rocker.”
“Morg, I just don’t see why she’s our problem all of a sudden. There are all kinds of charity services and shelters out there for people like her. What about all your cop friends? Can’t one of them take her in?”
“They’re still trying to find someplace for her to stay, but nobody’s stepped forward and offered her a place to live.”
“No one except my lonely hearts club husband,” she snarked.
“Please, honey?” he asked.
Brea laughed at his miserable attempt at looking like a lost puppy. She sighed, miserable as it was, the lost puppy face was working. “Morg, you have to promise me that if it doesn’t work out you’ll find her someplace else to go.”
He straightened his back. “Cross my heart and hope to die,” he said, completing the hand gesture across his chest, “but I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if you two didn’t wind up as best of friends.”
“Yeah, right,” she smirked. “You’re going to owe me big-time for this.
The next day, Morg asked Charlie if they’d found a shelter for the patient yet.
“Not yet,” he answered. “For the time being, the lieutenant used his ID to get her a motel room. She’ll have to pay for it, but we all came up with almost six hundred bucks for her, so that’ll help her out some, anyway.”
“I’ve got another five hundred in here,” Morg announced, holding up an envelope.
“Oh, jeez, that’s great. That’ll give her a little cushion, anyway. What do you have in the bag?”
“One of Brea’s work out outfits. I wasn’t sure if she had anything to wear out of here.”
Charlie laughed. “Well, we went through the station’s lost-and-found, but there wasn’t a lot in it. We did come up with a shirt and a guy’s pair of pants that we thought might fit her, but I’m sure she’d rather wear women’s clothes.”
“I also talked Brea into letting her stay with us for a while.”
“Nope, we have a third bedroom in our apartment that’s just sitting empty. We figured, hell, we’re paying for it, we might as well use it.”
“Jesus, Morg, everyone in the station will be happy to hear that.”
“You ... ah, you think they’ll be happy enough to drive by the apartment occasionally? Brea’s a little nervous that somebody might still be after our mystery woman and that we might be in danger then, as well.”
“Oh, hell yeah,” Charlie responded. “No problem. I’ll ask the lieutenant to set up a regular patrol. He was going to do it for whatever motel she stayed in, I’m sure he’ll have no problem just switching it to your complex.”
“That would be greatly appreciated, Charlie. Seeing a patrol car drive by now and then will make both ladies feel a lot better.”
The mystery girl was sitting up with a smile when Morg walked in. Although she couldn’t hear what he and Charlie were saying, she recognized his voice. “Hi, Morg, come to see me off?”
“Of course. I also come bearing gifts,” he said, holding up the bag.
“What’s in there?”
“Well, I wasn’t sure if you had anything to wear out of here so Brea, my wife, donated some workout clothes and a pair of sneakers. I think you and her are about the same size.”
“Oh, Morg, please thank your wife for me. The police gave me a man’s shirt and pants but they’re way too big for me. I’d look like one of those scarecrows in the farmer’s field,” she joked.
“Well, that’s another thing,” Morg replied. “You can thank her yourself if you want.”
“What do you mean?”
“We have a large three-bedroom apartment. The third bedroom has never been slept in. Brea and I talked it over and decided you can stay with us until you get your feet under you.”
She just looked up at him, waiting for the punch line. “You’re kidding, right?”
“No, not at all. It’s up to you, of course, but it won’t cost you anything and Brea doesn’t work, so you won’t have to worry about being alone most of the time.”
She couldn’t help but wonder if there wasn’t some ulterior motive for his offer; after all, she’d only known him a couple of days. She searched his face for any underlying signs of malevolence but saw only caring and kindness. “Are you sure, Morg? You don’t know me at all. Hell,” she chuckled, “I don’t know me at all.”
“We’re sure. Now, I’m going to go out and talk to Charlie while you get dressed. They’ll be coming in to take you downstairs any time now. I’m going to take you shopping for some clothes. Oh, that reminds me, one of the guys at work took up a collection for you,” he said, pulling the envelope out of his pocket. “There’s a little over five hundred bucks in here for you.”
“Oh, Morg, this is too much,” she said, being a little overwhelmed. “I ... I...”
He saw the tears welling up in her beautiful green eyes. “Hey, none of that,” he told her. “I’d say you deserve a little good fortune for a change, wouldn’t you? Now get dressed,” he said as he left her room.
“She all set?” asked Charlie.
“Yeah, she’s getting dressed. I’m going to take her to the mall so she can buy some clothes.”
“You’re not working?”
“I switched with one of the night shift photographers. I want to make sure she and Brea are properly introduced before I leave them alone together.”
“Good idea,” Charlie replied.
Just then they saw a nurse approaching, pushing a wheelchair. She asked Morg if he was a relative. Once they explained the situation, the nurse left the two men in the hall and went into the room to check on her patient.
“Well, I don’t see any white horses in the parking lot, but it sure looks like you’ve got your own knight in shining armor out there,” she commented to a smiling patient. “All dressed, I see. So ... you ready to leave us?”
“To tell you the truth, I’m a little scared.”
“Yeah, I can imagine. That guy who’s going to take you home seems like a really nice guy, though. He says his wife will be with you most of the time, so it sounds like you’re in good hands.”
“Yeah, everybody’s been so nice: you, the cops, Morg; please make sure you thank everyone for me.”
“I will,” the nurse assured her. “Now, hop in so we can get you out of here,” she said, taking ahold of the wheelchair.
Charlie and Morg followed the nurse as she wheeled the mystery woman down to the first floor. “I’ll bring the car up and meet you by the door,” Morg told them.
The imposing looking figure of syndicate crime boss, Vito Generissi, stood on the balcony of his Chicago high-rise apartment, looking out at the lake.
“You wanted to see me, Vito?” Tony, the button, Spinoso wasn’t nearly as impressive looking, but as Vito’s enforcer and hitman, he was no one to mess with.
“Yeah, did you see the picture of that broad in the paper?”
“The one who can’t remember anything? Yeah, I saw it.”
“You think she could be the one you shot at when you whacked Johnny?”
“Vito, stop worrying. I’m telling you, she couldn’t identify me from that far away even if she was still alive ... which I’m sure she ain’t. She’s probably still lying in the woods where she fell; most likely, the maggots have her half- eaten by now.”
“I hope you’re right. I still can’t believe you screwed up so bad.”
“Vito, there wasn’t anything I could do. Jesus, we took him out to the most desolate stretch of road around. I put two in the back of his head and all hell broke loose. That broad came out of nowhere. I got one shot off at her and we had traffic coming from both directions. I couldn’t help it. I threw Johnny’s body in the trunk and got out of there.
“I got it handled though, didn’t I? Nobody will ever find Johnny and that broad went down like a sack of potatoes. When have you ever seen me miss?”
Vito took a deep breath and let it out with a sigh. “I hope you’re right, Tony, for your sake, I hope you’re right.”
When the mystery woman stood to get in the car, Morg noticed that she filled out that workout suit almost as nicely as his wife did.
“Got your money?”
“Yep, right here,” she replied, holding up the envelopes.
“Any idea where you want to go, any brand names come to mind?”
“No, not really. I don’t think I can even name a store, someplace where the clothes aren’t real expensive. I need to conserve as much of this as possible,” she said while looking in the envelopes.
“Okay, Target it is. There’s one not far from here. What name do you like?”
She didn’t understand the question. “Ah, Target is fine, I guess.”
“No, I mean for you. You’re going to have to pick a name, at least temporarily. We can’t keep calling you Mystery Woman.”
“Oh ... yeah, I ... I haven’t thought of that. Gee, I don’t know. How ... how about Linda?”
“Linda? That’s it? You don’t want something more exotic like Lucrecia or Barbarella?”
She chuckled. “No, that’s okay, just something simple, something I can remember,” she said with a small laugh. “I’m praying I won’t have to use it for very long, unless it’s my real name, of course.” She chuckled for the third time.
Morg wondered if he could keep a sense of humor in her situation.
In the store, Morg noticed that her practical attitude carried over to her shopping habits as well. She picked out two pairs of jeans suitable for working around the house or in the yard, two pair of casual slacks, and two nice skirts. Next, she found several tops, all different styles, but everyone could be worn with any of the slacks and skirts. When it came to underwear, Morg gave her some privacy but assumed she picked substance over lace. Lastly, she went to the shoe department and chose a pair of sneakers and two pairs of casuals with low heals.
When they checked out, Morg thought she was going to cry as she paid the three-hundred dollar tab. It was almost a third of all the money she had in the world.
Brea was waiting for them when they walked into the apartment. Morg introduced them, using Linda’s newly chosen name. She was still overwhelmed with their kindness and generosity.
“Brea, I’m not sure how I’ll ever be able to thank you and Morg. I never expected anything like this,” she told them both.
“Well, we’re happy to be able to help out,” Brea responded. “Listen, Morg has to go to work in about an hour, so I was just making us all some lunch. Are you hungry?”
“Oh, wow, yeah, I’m starving. All I can remember eating is hospital food.”
“Ewww,” responded Brea while making a sour face. “Well, it’s just soup and sandwiches, nothing fancy, but I’m sure it’s better than hospital food.”
She had never thought of it before, but as they all sat down to eat, Brea realized how hard it was to make conversation with someone who has no memory ... what the hell do we talk about? She wondered. Luckily, Linda had an inquisitive mind.
“So, how long have you been married?”
“Three years,” Brea happily volunteered. “Three long, dreadful ye...”
“Hey,” Morgan interrupted. He knew she didn’t mean it, but he still had to voice his objections.
Brea laughed. “No, I’m just kidding. I couldn’t ask for a better man. I love the silly goof to death.”
“I’ve only known him for a few days, but I agree. He’s been incredible.”
“All right, ladies, you’re...” just then his phone rang. He finished his sentence before answering... “going to give me a big ego.
“Yup, it’s me.”
“Morg, this is Jerry Wilson.” It was another of Chicago’s finest. “I understand the mystery woman is staying with you.”
“Her name’s Linda. Yeah, she’s here right now.”
“Linda? Is her memory coming back?”
“No, it’s a name she picked out for herself. We couldn’t keep calling her, “Hey You,” he said while smiling across the table at her.
“Oh, okay, that makes sense. Anyway, my sister-in-law is a psychiatrist. I just got off the phone with her and she’s willing to work with her pro bono. Her guess is that the woman’s lived a hard life and that getting raped and shot is only the most recent tragedy in a life-time of traumas. She thinks that since the brain decided to block out her getting shot, it opted to go for it all and block out her whole life.
“She asked me how stable the woman is. She said once she starts to remember things, it’s going to be extremely emotional for her. What do you think, Morg, will she be able to take that kind of psychological pain?”
“Wow, I don’t really know, Jer. I’ll have to sit down and talk it over with her. Did your sister-in-law say when she wants to start treating her?”
“No, and there’s one other thing, she’s in Des Plaines. If you or Brea can’t take her she’d have to take public transportation, but Stacy’s office is only two blocks from the Amtrak station.”
“Yeah, I’m not sure how she’ll feel about that. Can I get back to you tomorrow?”
“Well, here, take her phone number down and you can call her direct.”
“Good idea, hold on a second.
“Honey, can you get me a pen and paper, please.”
Brea jumped up and returned from their home office within seconds, laying the items on the table in front of Morg.
“Thanks, honey. Okay, Jerry, shoot.” He wrote down the psychiatrist’s name, phone number, and office address while everyone else around the table was anxious to see what the call was all about. “Thanks, Jer. If this works out we’re all going to owe you.”
Time was getting short. Morg had to leave for work, so he gave them the Reader’s Digest version. “That was Jerry, he’s another Chicago cop. His sister-in-law is a psychiatrist and says she’ll work with you on getting your memory back, at no charge, but it doesn’t sound like it’s going to be all milk and honey. I have to run, but we have to talk about this tonight when I get home, okay?”
“Yeah,” Linda almost yelled with excitement.
Brea put a comforting hand on Linda’s arm. “Oh, wouldn’t that be wonderful,” she commented.
That night, when he got home, the three of them sat down to discuss the call. Morg wanted to emphasize how hard it might be for her. Would she be able to handle the trauma they would uncover in the meetings?
Linda was undaunted; she was determined to do whatever it took to find out who she was and regain her memory.
The next day, Brea helped her make the call. They both sat at the kitchen table as she dialed the number and set the phone on speaker so they both could talk. A secretary picked up on the second ring.
“Doctor Wahlburg’s office.”
“Yes, Hi, my name is Briana Johnson. I’m calling on behalf of a woman who has amnesia and can’t remember who she is. The doctor’s brother-in-law told us to call.”
“Oh yes, the doctor said you might call. I know she wants to talk with you, but she’s with a patient at the moment. Is the amnesia victim with you now?”
“Yes, she’s staying with me and my husband.”
“Good, would it be okay to have the doctor call you back in about twenty minutes?”
“Yes, that would be fine,” Brea replied, before ending the call.
Linda got up and walked to the coffee pot. Her hand was trembling as she poured them both a cup.
“Not nervous or anything, are you?” Brea joked.
It was no joking matter to Linda. “I ... I just don’t know what I’m going to do if this doesn’t work out. I can’t stay here for the rest of my life. I don’t even know if I have any skills or degrees. Hell, Brea, I could be a psychiatrist myself and not even know it,” she derided.
“Huh,” Brea laughed as she thought about it. “Wouldn’t that be something? Listen, whatever you do, whoever you are, I’m sure you’ll find out. I’m obviously not a doctor, but I know they’ve come a long way in medical science. They can even hypnotize you and bring your memory back that way,” she said, remembering something she saw on TV.
As the two sat, sipping their coffee; about all they could do was wait. As she watched the minute hand on the kitchen clock, Brea was becoming as nervous as Linda.
After what seemed like an eternity, Brea’s phone finally rang. She hit the speaker icon and answered it. The doctor introduced herself. Brea started the introductions on their end, informing the doctor that she was on speaker and that Linda was listening in. Doctor Wahlburg again emphasized the emotional pain she expected her patient would have to endure. Linda bravely expressed her willingness to do whatever it took. Next, they deliberated over schedules and logistics.
By the end of their conversation, Linda had a good idea of how difficult it was going to be. She had her first appointment for the following day and Brea said she could drive her.
When Morg came home later that night, Linda was already in bed, but Brea brought him up to date. She also admitted he was right about their developing friendship. She expressed her admiration for Linda’s strength and resolve. “I don’t know how she copes,” she told Morg, “I’d be a total basket case.”
The next morning, Morg was already at work by the time Linda came stumbling toward the kitchen. Brea was sitting at the table. “You look tired. Didn’t you sleep well?”
“No, I just couldn’t turn off my brain last night. I kept thinking about today,” she said as she walked over to the coffee pot and poured herself a cup. I also realized I forgot to buy something at the store.”
“Oh, you know what, I have an old one hanging in the back of my closet. You’re welcome to it.”
“Really, are you sure? You’ve already given me so much.”
“It’s yours,” Brea told her.
“Thank you. I hate getting fully dressed before a shower. Is Morg gone already?”
“Oh yeah, a long time ago. He starts at seven when he’s on days.”
The two ladies talked a little longer before Linda got into the shower. When she came back out there was an old, but perfectly adequate, terrycloth robe draped over the corner of her bed along with two lipsticks and some eye make-up.
It took Brea about thirty-five minutes to drive to Dr. Wahlburg’s office. They were about fifteen minutes early as she parked the car. Linda just sat, staring out the window without saying a word.
Brea finally broke the silence. “You want me to go in with you?”
“No, it ... it’s not necessary. I ... I’m just a little scared, I guess. Maybe ... no, I’m going to do this,” she affirmed, mainly to herself. “It’s ... it’s just that actually being here ... I mean, what if I find out something really terrible about myself?”
“I doubt very much that’ll be the case. Now go, you can do this,” Brea told her.
Linda turned her head and looked at her new friend. “You’re right,” she said with a sigh. So, what are you going to do while I’m in there? You’re not going to wait out here in the parking lot, are you?”
“No, there’s a neat little shopping center not far from here. I’ll probably just walk around and do some window shopping. I’ll be back in an hour to pick you up though.”
“Okay,” said Linda while reaching for the door handle, “see you in an hour.”
Brea watched as her friend straightened her back and marched into the office building. Once inside, Linda looked up the room number for Dr. Wahlburg. A nice looking young woman greeted her as she entered the office.
“Hi, you must be Linda,” she said with a friendly smile.
The new patient smiled back. “That’s me, at least for the time being,” she chuckled.
The young lady hit a button on the intercom. “Doctor, Linda is here for her appointment.”
From a doorway behind the receptionist’s desk, emerged a very professional looking woman who appeared to be in her mid-forties. She approached Linda with a smile and an extended hand. “How do you do, Linda? I’m Doctor Wahlberg. Come right in,” she said, leading the way.
Offering her a glass of water, the doctor made her patient comfortable before starting the session. “Linda, have you recalled anything from your past since we last spoke?”
“Okay. As we get further along in our sessions, your memory will most likely start coming back in quick flashes. It might last only a couple of seconds, then again you may remember entire episodes of events. Rarely does someone’s total memory come back all at once. It’s usually in bits and pieces. If this does happen, should you have a flash of memory, no matter how quickly it comes and goes, try to determine what triggered it, something you saw or heard, a smell maybe, or possibly a feeling of déjà vu, something that provoked the memory. Keep a journal with you at all times. If you should remember something, write it down, along with what you think triggered it.”
This was all very encouraging for Linda. Her doctor sounded like she knew what she was doing. “Doctor, what, ah ... what are the chances ... you know, that I’ll be able to remember things.”
“Very good, actually,” she answered right away. “Now, there may be things that your mind will refuse to remember, but I’m confident that we can restore most, if not all, of your past, anyway.”
“My friend mentioned hypnotism.”
“Yes, it’s called regression therapy, but there are several different types of treatments and different people respond in different ways. The most general is what we’re going to start with. It’s called cognitive therapy. It’s like exercising your mind. I will give you things to read, puzzles to solve, problems to work on, situations where you must make decisions, things like that. At first, it won’t seem like it has anything to do with regaining your memory, but as the mind expands its thought process to comply with the additional work you’re giving it, it starts to stimulate the unconscious and wakes up parts of the mind that are currently dormant.
“It takes time and I don’t want you losing your patience. You need to trust me. Can you do that?”
“Yes, of course,” Linda responded. “Any guess at a timeline, when I might start remembering something? My real name would be nice.”
“No, I’m afraid not. It could happen next week, next month, or next year. Are you ready to get started?”
“Absolutely,” she stated with enthusiasm.
For the remainder of the hour, the doctor played word association games with her. From the answers Linda was giving her, she knew she was right about the young woman having a hard life.