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         Deanna blinked, confused, and fighting back the urge to give in to the hope that Alexis's words inspired in her. Her mind and heart were on emotional overload. In only one day, she had gained a daughter, and lost her again before ever regaining that feeling of having her. The thought that she could have that back again was just too much to let herself hope for.

 

         Will watched the torment in his wife's eyes, wishing at once that he could somehow ease her pain, while at the same time knowing exactly how she was feeling. After all, he himself had only discovered his oldest daughter's existence hours ago, and now, events he had never even considered were unraveling faster than he could absorb them. One thing he was certain of however, was that Deanna was in no condition to play twenty questions. So, he asked the obvious questions for her. "I'm sorry, I don't understand. Impossible how? We, that is Deanna, KNOWS what happened."

 

         Alexis shook her head, exhaling slowly. "Look, I'm not trying to make this more difficult that it already is, but I spent a very long time with that woman. As much as I'd like to forget everything that I leaned in those years, the truth is that's impossible. I know how she operates, and everything about your story fits her M.O., except for that. It's just not the way she works."

 

         By now, Alexis had everyone's attention. Even Deanna had begun to focus again. Will silently motioned for her to continue her story.

 

         "I know that woman unfortunately better than I know my own name." A bemused smile crossed her face as she considered her last statement. "Of course thanks to her games, that's not saying much of anything, since I don't actually know my own name, but that's another story all together, isn't it? The point is, Jackie is....motivated by self interest, cold, ruthless in pursuit of a goal, dangerous if crossed, certainly, sadistic definitely, but she wasn't taking these kids to kill them, that much I can vouch for. Whatever twisted motivations the woman had, murder of innocents wasn't among them."

 

         "I always assumed it was some sort of accident." Deanna's quiet, intense voice startled the others. "There were no traces of the kidnapper after.....well, though the police couldn't prove it, they seemed convinced that she had somehow botched a simple ransom kidnapping."

 

         "Deanna, they spent years forcing me to prefect my ability to get inside other peoples heads. What they forgot was that it works both ways. Jackie is as cunning as a fox, and her strike was quick and clean as a cobra. She never learned the meaning of mistakes. Every move was calculated to serve a purpose."

 

         Deanna nodded in understanding of her words. The woman naturally had a classic criminal mind, used to acts of evasion. But that still didn't explain the facts. "All right, but what motivation would a woman have for torching a building so badly that she killed not only a child she had gone to great lengths to have kidnapped, for whatever her purposes, but her own operative as well, all to the point of leaving nothing behind?" Just stating the circumstances of her daughter's death took more strength from Deanna then she even dreamed she had left in her. Once again she found herself fighting to retain control of her rampant emotions.

 

         All thoughts of her own pain and discomfort fled her mind however, as she watched the younger woman's reaction to her statement. Alexis's face went first a deathly pale, then flushed just as quickly with a heat that reached her eyes and burned like fire in their icy blue depths. The sudden and rapid changes frightened the three witnesses, and it was Mandy who finally broke the sudden silence. "Are you OK?" she asked uncertainly.

 

         Alexis never directly answered the question. Instead she looked straight at Deanna and whispered, "That's it! That, that monster.....she faked her own death, and she used your little girl as a cover."