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While moving home, Helen reflects on love.
s who reminded her of Sandy, so she could pretend it had all never happened and Sandy was still a part of their lives?
Worse, the one that made him shudder in fear, he wondered if Barbara was hiring girls who looked like Clarice and was thus using them as surrogates to punish in place of Clarice, the poor girl on whom she laid all of the blame for Stevie's death?
"I've got to talk to Mark," he said, his lips tight.
Clarice's lips tightened. "I'm still not too sure he's ready to have any meaningful contact, David."
"You've got to try," he begged her. "Please."
She bit her lip, then stood and disappeared into the kitchen. He heard her talking on the phone, but couldn't make out the words. When she came back into the room, her face betrayed nothing.
"He's not home yet. Sandy said she'd try to get back to me."
"Will she talk to me? Sandy?"
Clarice shook her head. "She doesn't want to do anything that will betray Mark. Not even remotely."
Seeing the look of panic on his face, she came over and kneeled next to him, putting her hand on his forearm. "You need to understand how tough it's been on them," she said, her eyes begging with him to understand. "Both of them. It hasn't been all sunshine and roses. They've had some real rocky patches since she came up here. They're settling down now, especially since she got pregnant, but there are still times when it's difficult."
She looked at him, her face full of conflict on how much to say. "I can only say that there are still some real issues there. Sandy has to tread real carefully or Mark can fly off the handle."
"There can't be the slightest hint of manipulation in anything she does. It was real bad early on, but I think they're both dealing with it better."
"I'm sorry," he said, putting his hand atop hers, "I know you're probably already saying more than you should. Still, I'm not really sure what you mean."
"The little things," she explained. "All those things that would seem innocent enough in a normal marriage? They're all questionable now. If she offers something out of the blue, he wonders what she wants in return. At first, she could barely do his laundry without him asking her what she wanted for it."
"Aw Jesus," he said, sinking back into the chair. "We never--I never--none of us ever thought about what would happen."
"I know," she said. "I think Mark knows, too. And Sandy. But it's still a problem sometimes."
Roberts took a breath and then tried to set his face in steely determination. "You need to call her back. Please. Call Sandy and tell her I think that little girl working for Barbara may be in real danger."
Clarice's eyes widened. "Then why don't you call the police?"
"And tell them what? Tell them my wife's hiring maids that look like her daughter-in-law or like you? They'll laugh at me."
"Then why don't you just go back there and stay?"
He shook his head. "Because, I need someone else there with me, someone who won't tell anyone else, either. My friends--our friends--they're not like normal friends. They'll sell me out in a heartbeat if they think there's something in it for 'em. Mark's the only one I've got."
"But he hates her. He'll never go back just to help her."
"Then he has to go back to make sure nothing happens to this poor girl living there now."
Clarice just stared at him, her mind working through his logic. Then, without another word, she went back into the kitchen and phoned Sandy again.
Returning a few moments later, she said, "Seven o'clock. Sandy can't promise he'll see you. Says he may slam the door in your face. But she says to be there at seven and she'll try to prepare him for seeing you."
Roberts's chin went to his chest as he said a silent prayer for the first time since Mark had disappeared.
Please, God, let him see me.
* * * * *
Sandy was pensive when Mark walked in the door at ten past six. Her lips were pressed tightly together, and her eyes seemed skittish and afraid to look him in the face.
"What is it?" he said, his body tensing.
"Your dad wants to see you."
"Is that all," he sa