Sitting at his desk, Jason pored over memos and project reports. He signed off on some, rejected others, and wrote questions in others. Over on a couch, using the coffee table, Jessica had her own papers spread out in relatively neat piles.
The intercom buzzed. A glance told Jason it was the reception desk and it was being relayed from Jessica's desk. Jason tapped a button. “Yes?”
“Mr. Scott, there's a woman here that would like to speak with you. A Mrs. Palmer. She doesn't have an appointment.” With the tap of another button Jason's monitor lit up. With a few more tappings Jason was seeing the security feed from reception. Standing at the front desk was Marlene's mother.
“I'll have Jessica escort her to my office.” Hearing her name, Jessica began piling up her papers.
“Yes, sir,” came the response from the intercom.
Jason tapped another button. “Beth.” He watched Jessica walk out.
“Five minutes.” Jason broke the connection.
* * * * *
By the time Beth got to Jason's office he was standing at the window staring out. He barely acknowledged her presence when she entered. She slipped into his chair, brought up her own desktop on his monitor and resumed her work until Jessica returned with Meredith Palmer.
A flash of sunlight on silver caught her eye. Jason held a chain and was rubbing his thumb on the stone. “You're thinking about her.” Jason nodded and drop his chin. His fingers slipped into his vest pocket and the chain disappeared. “I should have taken that away from you.”
“You're more than welcome to try. You should have let me make you one.”
Beth smiled. “Pass. On both counts.”
When Jessica opened the door, Beth rose. “Hi, Mom,” she said smiling.
“Beth?” Mrs. Palmer gave her a questioning look before looking at Jason. “Jason.”
Turning slowly to face her, Jason greeted her with, “Mrs. Palmer.”
“May I get you anything, Mrs. Palmer?” Jessica asked. “Coffee? Tea?”
“No, thank you.”
“So, what can I do for you Mrs. Palmer?” Jason asked.
Standing a little bit straighter, she said, “You can do for me the truth. Where is my daughter?”
“Don't give me a repeat of the song and dance you gave me and my husband! Where is Marlene?”
“...please, have a seat,” Jason finished. “Jessica, a pitcher of water and glasses, please.”
“Yes, sir.” Jessica left to get the requested items.
“Mom, please,” Beth said indicating a couch, “sit.” Sighing, Mrs. Palmer sat and slipped the strap of her bag off her shoulder. Beth sat with her.
Looking pointedly at Jason, Mrs. Palmer said, “I used to like you. I want to like you. I need to know where my daughter is.”
“Mrs. Palmer, I didn't lie to you or your husband. I do not know where Marlene is.” Jason sat across from the women. “The last she was seen was in my apartment in New York.”
Opening her bag, she pulled out a journal. “Do you know what this is?” she asked, holding it towards Jason.
“Sandy and Marlene fell in love with the design. Summer between our junior and senior years I got each of them a case of them.” She set the journal on the table between them. “Sandy stored most of hers at the cabin. Marlene was still using hers.”
“I've been keeping Marlene's house clean.”
“I sent a cleaning crew for that.”
“It was appreciated, but it is my daughter's house. I will keep it clean for her. Until she comes home. But this journal,” she tapped the book, “it tells...Marlene wrote about you. It tells about what happened before you left for New York.”
Jason nodded. “And what do you plan on doing with the knowledge you now have? Blackmail me?”
“You, your friends, you're heroes. Why aren't you looking for Marlene?”
“They are. I'm not.”
“My friends.” Jason shrugged, “Also Marlene's friends. They're heroes. And if I know them at all, they haven't given up searching for Marlene.”
“But you have.”
Beth reached for Meredith's hand. “Mom...”
“No, Mrs. Palmer, I haven't given up. I haven't stopped looking for her. And I won't.”
Beth gave Jason a guilty look.
“Find her! Whether to marry her or to bury her, you find her! You bring her home! You owe her that much!”
“Then why are you sitting here? Why aren't you out looking?” Mrs. Palmer gripped Beth's hand.
“Because I have responsibilities here. After the explosion I withdrew. A friend gave me some information that gave me a direction to look. And I went. I caught hell from some people for taking off,” Jason explained.
“I was one of them, mom. Jason didn't say anything to anyone. He just disappeared,” Beth said.
Jason gave Beth a quick smile. “That's not exactly true, Beth. Learned a long time ago to leave a trail of bread crumbs. Kris knew where I was. Not necessarily what I was doing, but she knew where I was. When I got more information that sent me elsewhere, she knew where I was going.” Jason leaned forward, forearms resting on his legs. He pressed his fingertips together between his spread knees. “I have a penchant for doing things my own way. We all do, really. We have our own contacts and connections that we foster. Kris, being a doctor, has the medical community. Also others she can reach out to. Other heroes. Some villains.”