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         "What?" No one was ever really certain afterward exactly who had voiced the question. All they were sure of was that they had all been thinking the same thing in the moments following Alexis's odd behavior and sudden announcement.

 

         Alexis, however, was very clear headed, and finally able to answer a few of the dangling questions. "Jackie was arrested today. I hadn't even heard a word about her since I left, over 17 years ago, until I read an article on the newscom this afternoon. It seems that one of the other girls finally turned evidence on her. The odd thing about it was that according to the report, Jackie was supposed to have been dead for 30 years. Now, that was odd, because I can tell you personally that she was very much alive for almost half that. So, If she was the one who was supposed to be in that fire, and she's alive then it's possible that your daughter is too, right?" The rushed explanation came out in a sudden tangle of excitement.

 

         "Hold on." Will once again found himself having to act as a rational voice. "In the first place, Deanna has already said that they were never even sure that there was another person in that building, and even if there had been, it would have been the girl he too her, and she wouldn't have been any older than Amanda. Certainly, that couldn't be the woman you are referring too, she'd be too young I would think."

 

          Deanna shook her head vigorously. "But....I was only assuming....I mean I barely remember, except that they seemed sure that there must have been someone else....that they wouldn't leave her there alone to possibly get away from them. I guess I just always assumed that it was the girl who took her. After all, it was supposed to be a simple case of....at least, I think....but, I'm only just remembering, and it....all of it is just so blurry." She shook her head again. "My God, I just don't know what to think anymore!"

 

         Alexis crossed the room quickly, and put her arms around Deanna without really thinking about it. "Deanna, I'm sorry. I really never meant to confuse you, and definitely not to upset you. I guess, I'm just so sure that Jackie was involved because it's almost like I can feel her all over it. It sounds strange to say that, but it's the truth."

 

         Deanna pulled slowly from the unexpected embrace. "Lexie, I understand what you are saying, really I do, and let's assume for now that it is true. I need to know one thing. You said before that you hadn't known until today what she did with these children. I want to know what you found."

 

         "Deanna," Will began cautiously, "we can't even be sure that any of this is related to us, to her. It would be better to wait until we can be sure --"

 

         "No!" The anger rang clearly in her voice. "If this, this maniac was even possibly near my daughter, if she had chance of hurting her, or worse....I need to know."

 

         Alexis knelt in front of Deanna again. "He's right. You don't want to put yourself through all of this, and then find out it was all for nothing. And you've been through so much in just one day, it isn't good for you to --"

 

         Deanna took Alexis's hands firmly in her own. "This isn't about me, it is about my daughter. If anyone hurt her, if anything happened to her I need to know. I'm still her mother, and I am going to find out what happened to her, whether anyone else here likes it or not."

 

         Amanda felt her breath catch in her throat as she thought of all the time she had heard her mother speak to her in that same unwavering voice, saying that she was her mother, and that everything she did was because she loved her. That she knew what was best for her, and that one day Amanda would understand that. And now, hearing the conviction in her mother voice, she finally did. ~Go for it, Mom. I'm right behind you, all the way.~

 

         Deanna looked up at Amanda then, and offered her a weak smile, then turned back to Alexis. "Please, she was my baby. Whatever you know, tell me, please."

 

         Alexis paused for a moment, hesitating, then nodded silent agreement.