ALL AROUND THE TOWN
September 12, 1991 -- Ridgewood, New Jersey
During the Mass, Sarah kept glancing sideways at Laurie. The sight of the two casket sat the steps of the sanctuary had clearly mesmerized her. She was staring at them, tearless now,seemingly unaware of the music, the prayers, the eulogy. Sarah had to put a hand under Laurie's elbow to remind her to stand or kneel.
At the end of the mass, as Monsignor Fisher blessed the coffins, Laurie whispered, "Mommy,Daddy, I'm sorry. I won't go out front alone again."
"Laurie," Sarah whispered.
Laurie looked at her with unseeing eyes, then turned and with a puzzled expression studied the crowded church. "So many people." Her voice sounded timid and young.
The closing hymn was "Amazing Grace."
With the rest of the congregation, a couple near the back of the church began to sing, softly at first,but he was used to leading the music. As always he got carried away, his pure baritone becoming louder, soaring above the others, swelling over the thinner voice of the soloist. People turned distracted, admiring.
"'I once was lost but now am found...'"
Through the pain and grief, Laurie felt icy terror.The voice. Ringing through her head, through her being.I am lost, she wailed silently. I am lost.
They were moving the caskets.
The wheels of the bier holding her mother's casket squealed.
She heard the measured steps of the pallbearers.Then the clattering of the typewriter.
"'... was blind but now I see.'"
"No! No!" Laurie shrieked as she crumpled into merciful darkness.
Several dozen of Laurie's classmates from Clinton College had attended the mass, along with a sprinkling of faculty. Allan Grant, Professor of English, was there and with shocked eyes watched Laurie collapse.
Grant was one of the most popular teachers at Clinton. Just turned 40, he had thick, somewhat unruly brown hair, liberally streaked with gray.Large dark brown eyes that expressed humor and intelligence were the best feature in his somewhat long face. His lanky body and casual dress completed an appearance that many young women undergraduates found irresistible.
Grant was genuinely interested in his students.Laurie had been in one of his classes every year since she entered Clinton. He knew her personal history and had been curious to see if there might be any observable after effects of her abduction. The only time he'd picked up anything had been in his creative writing class. Laurie was incapable of writing a personal memoir. On the other hand, her critiques of books, authors and plays were insightful and thought-provoking.
Three days ago she had been in his class when the word came for her to go to the office immediately.The class was ending and, sensing trouble, he had accompanied her. As they hurried across the campus, she'd told him that her mother and father were driving down to switch cars with her. She'd forgotten to have her convertible inspected and had returned to college in her mother's sedan. "They're probably just running late," she'd said, obviously trying to reassure herself. "My mother says I'm too much of a worrier about them. But she hasn't been that well and Dad is almost 72."
Somberly the dean told them that there had been a multi vehicle accident on Route 78.
Allan Grant drove Laurie to the hospital. Her sister, Sarah, was already there, her cloud of dark red hair framing a face dominated by large gray eyes that were filled with grief. Grant had met Sarah at a number of college functions and been impressed with the young assistant prosecutor's protective attitude toward Laurie.
One look at her sister's face was enough to make Laurie realize that her parents were dead. Over and over she kept moaning "my fault, my fault," seeming not to hear Sarah's tearful insistence that she must not blame herself.
Distressed, Grant watched as an usher carried Laurie from the nave of the church, Sarah beside him. The organist began to play the recessional hymn. The pallbearers, led by the monsignor,started to walk slowly down the aisle. In the row in front of him, Grant saw a man making his way to the end of the pew. "Please excuse me. I'm a doctor," he was saying, his voice low but authoritative.
Some instinct made Allan Grant slip into the aisle and follow him to the small room off the vestibule where Laurie had been taken. She was lying on two chairs that had been pushed together.Sarah, her face chalk white, was bending over her.
"Let me..." The doctor touched Sarah's arm.
Laurie stirred and moaned.
The doctor raised her eyelids, felt her pulse."She's coming around but she must be taken home.She's in no condition to go to the cemetery."
Allan saw how desperately Sarah was trying to keep her own composure. "Sarah," he said. She turned, seemingly aware of him for the first time."Sarah, let me go back to the house with Laurie.She'll be okay with me."
"Oh, would you?" For an instant gratitude replaced the strain and grief in her expression. "Some of the neighbors are there preparing food, but Laurie trusts you so much. I'd be so relieved."
I once was lost but now am found...
A hand was coming at her holding the knife, the knife dripping with blood, slashing through the air.Her shirt and overalls were soaked with blood. She could feel the sticky warmth on her face. Something was flopping at her feet. The knife was coming...
Laurie opened her eyes. She was in bed in her own room. It was dark. What happened?
She remembered. The church. The caskets. The singing.
"Sarah!" she shrieked, "Sarah! Where are you?"
Copyright © 1992 by Mary Higgins Clark