CHAPTER FOURTEEN

BA parked in the only shade available, and waited in the van while Amy and Murdock headed into the old brick building that housed the local historical society. Amy glanced at her watch as they entered, noting they were running a little late.

They found the door to the director's office with little problem, but when Amy knocked there was no response. She tried the door, and it swung open to reveal an empty office.

"I didn't think we were that late..." Amy looked around, but there was no one in sight.

"I'll take a walk around, see if I can find someone. You wait here in case she comes back." Murdock headed off into the maze of shelves and exhibits.

Leaving the door open, Amy stepped back into the office and sat down. She glanced at her watch again, feeling a bit of anxiety building. She knew the guys weren't really buying this whole scenario, but were confused as to what had really happened. She wasn't sure she believed it any more herself, even though she'd lived it. If it weren't for Face...

He was the only thing really keeping her going right now. If she had been alone, it would be so easy to push the whole thing off as a bad nightmare, something she ate, hell, leaking exhaust fumes. Anything to explain it away. But she couldn't explain away that knife wound, or Face's reaction. Her vision blurred for a moment, thinking of the way he was reacting. Hell, who wouldn't, thinking you'd brutally murdered three innocent little girls...

She heard a soft cough at the door and looked up. The light from the hallway shadowed the figure standing in the door, but Amy could make out a rather tall, thin woman, somewhat older than Amy. She stood, embarrassed.

"I'm sorry, Mrs Wherry? I was late getting here, but the door was open, so..."

"That's all right, my dear. I understand you're looking for some local history, on the Merringer family."

Amy frowned. She hadn't known about the Merringers when she'd made this appointment. Then again, Detective Dresser had known whom she was looking for.

"Yes, I am. I'm looking for information that wouldn't have made it into the police report." She blushed, hoping Mrs Wherry didn't think she was a scandal-monger. "I'm just trying to understand what really happened."

"Come with me." The administrator turned and started down the hall, and Amy hastily followed.

They walked past several exhibits and then turned into a small alcove. Amy stopped short, staring at a large painting.

It was the house.

"You may want to look through this."

Amy brought herself back to the present with difficulty, and took the old photo album she was handed. She began turning the pages, a horrible fascination drawing her to the pictures of the family.

"The Merringers were a very prominent family in the area. Mr Merringer had many business interests, and was quite...involved in all them. He married while middle-aged, to a much younger woman. Too young, some said. Perhaps they were right. She bore three children, all girls. The oldest was Mary, followed soon after by Linda and Barbara.

"As was the fashion among the wealthy in those days, the Merringers hired a nanny to watch over the children. Unfortunately, that left the young wife with a lot of time on her hands. That, coupled by the fact that her much-older husband was away on business frequently, caused her to look for avenues of entertainment more suited to her age. She was not totally...discreet.

"Just when her husband discovered her infidelities, I'm not sure, but he apparently put up with it for some time, preferring to ignore it rather than have his image tarnished. However, he started having some business problems, and together with her behavior, it led him to drink. He began arguing with her, and eventually came to believe that the children were not even his.

"One night, he came home and found his wife was, once again, out with 'friends'. He drank himself into a rage, and attacked first the nanny, who apparently tried to protect her charges. Then he took the girls to the widow's walk at the top of the tower, and threw them off. Whether he was overcome with remorse or simply could not stand to live under the circumstances of his life, he returned to the bedroom, and shot himself."

Amy looked up from the album, staring blindly at the painting. She had easily recognized the children, but the few photos of the parents were blurred. Even so, she was quite sure it was the wife she'd met at the house. Which, of course, was ridiculous. The woman in the photo would be in her seventies by now.

"What happened to the wife?"

Amy looked over at the administrator, and frowned. She was looking out of the window, and the light framed her features. Almost a silhouette, but not quite. Amy looked again at a photo of the wife.

"You have a personal interest in this family, don't you, miss?"

Amy nodded, a familiar buzzing at the back of her head. "Yes, I do. A friend of mine and I..."

"Have you ever thought about the nature of miracles?

"I'm not sure I understand."

"When we think of miracles, we think of the basket of fish feeding the multitude, Lazarus, the blind made to see...all wonderful and mysterious. But we sometimes forget when the waters turned to blood, the Great Flood, the Red Sea. Monstrous destructions, and yet, done for the greater good.

"Sometimes, we do things in life that affect others. In terrible ways. And then we find a way to...atone. We can't lose that opportunity, even if the means are...less than perfect. Like those...destructive miracles. We use the tools we have. And sometimes those tools are...damaged."

The woman turned to face her now, and again, the buzzing in the back of Amy's head increased. Amy stared at her, unable to speak.

"I'm sorry for your friend. I hope you can make him understand...it was necessary. For the other children. I could only do so much. There were limitations, and...requirements. I, too, had a price to pay. To watch, and see, finally, exactly what my actions had caused."

Amy forced herself to look away from the woman, her brain felt like it was swirling in rings inside her head. She closed her eyes and grabbed her pounding head, dropping the album heedlessly to the floor.

"Amy?"

The buzzing stopped, and Amy blinked as she looked up at Murdock.

"Are you okay?"

"Yeah, Murdock, I'll be okay." She sighed, feeling suddenly tired. So tired. But she had more work to do, now that she knew. She reached down and picked up the photo album. "I have to make some copies, and then we have another stop to make. But first we have to get Face."